House of Commons
Monday 4 July 2016
The House met at half-past Two o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
Academies: Teacher Pay
1. What assessment she has made of the effect of conversion of schools to academies on teacher pay scales. 
Academies have the freedom to determine their own pay arrangements. They are not bound by the provisions of the “School teachers’ pay and conditions document”, and can set the pay of their staff at the level they consider appropriate to recruit and retain the high-quality teachers they need. Academies’ freedoms also extend to other areas, including the curriculum, enabling them to develop approaches that better meet the needs of their pupils.
For local authority maintained schools, teacher pay scales are nationally agreed, as the Minister has just said, and they give teachers a clear indication of how their salaries will increase. However, allowing academies and academy trusts to set their own pay scales means that staff pay is very variable. What assessment has the Secretary of State carried out of the effect of deregulating pay scales on teacher morale and retention?
May I first welcome the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) and congratulate her on her appointment as shadow Secretary of State? She follows in the footsteps of the long-serving hon. Member for North West Durham (Pat Glass), and I suspect she was more surprised than I was by her appointment. Having worked with her in seeking to raise standards in Oldham schools, I know how able a shadow Secretary of State she will be.
In answer to the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows), flexibility is of course important. It enables academies to flex their salaries and to recruit and retain the top-quality graduates they need. It is a very worthwhile policy, and it is working.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is essential that headteachers have the ability to flex salaries to retain the very best staff? Will he also comment on whether resigning after 48 hours in the education sector sets a new record?
I think it must be the record for the shortest-serving shadow Secretary of State. I am particularly offended, though, that there is no one to shadow me, and I wonder what I have done to deserve that offence.
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will bear up stoically and with fortitude under the burden.
Could the Minister now answer the original question? Is he advocating the abolition of national pay scales, because that is what it sounds like he is saying?
What I am saying is that, with the new freedoms academies have, they are able to pay salaries to attract the best teachers. That is a very good policy; it enables them to retain and attract the graduates in maths, physics and modern languages that schools and headteachers are telling us they need to recruit.
The School Teachers Review Body reported a very long time ago, and we are nearly at the end of the academic year. What is holding up the Government’s response to this report?
Ah, so there is my shadow, sitting on the Back Benches. He is very welcome. I wish he were sitting on the Front Bench and not there. However, in answer to his question, we are currently considering the STRB report, and we will publish it shortly, together with the Government’s response.
24. It is likely that academies in better-off areas will be able to access more funding and therefore pay higher salaries and attract the best teachers. What will that do for staff morale in academies in poorer areas? How will they be able to attract the teachers needed to close the attainment gap? 
Academies’ funding rates are the same as those for the area in which they are situated. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will say something shortly about the national fair funding formula, which we hope will make funding across the country fairer.
It is a pleasure to face the Minister for the first time today. As he mentioned, we have discussed education issues in one of the areas in my constituency, in Oldham. It has been an interesting week, and I am really pleased that there are still two women at the Dispatch Box overseeing education; that is really good news.
We face a crisis in the teaching workforce, and it has not been made any better by the potential problems with teachers’ pay. Almost 50,000 teachers quit this year—the highest figure ever. More teachers left than were recruited, and applications are still falling. The crisis has left academies spending nearly £200 million more on supply teachers in the last year. Is the Minister now prepared to apologise for the Government’s accusation that the Opposition were scaremongering in raising this issue?
The truth is that there are record numbers of teachers in the profession today. There are 456,000 teachers—15,000 more than there were in 2010. Some 43,000 teachers left the profession in 2015, but they were replaced by 45,000 coming into it. Talking down the teaching profession does not help to encourage graduates to come into it. Wherever I go, I talk up the profession. I hope that the hon. Lady, in her role, will do the same.
I think that every single teacher does an absolutely superb job. Ministers should listen to teachers when they talk about the issues that teachers face every single day in the classroom. On today’s evidence, it seems that Ministers are failing and not coasting. They are not prepared to apologise. Where is the evidence that devolving terms and conditions to school level will lead to higher standards? Can the Minister tell us of any other high-performing country in which this has been done?
Academies are improving their standards at twice the rate of local authority schools; that is particularly the case for primary schools that have been underperforming and have been turned into academies. After two years, they are improving their standards by 10 percentage points—twice the rate of local authority schools—and using their flexibilities to ensure that they can recruit the best teachers into their classrooms.
Academies are able to pay higher rates of pay to keep teachers, but deregulation of pay scales means that staffing budgets can also be slashed, with the key resource—the teacher—becoming a second-class asset. What steps has the Minister taken to protect pay scales to ensure that teachers have a nationally guaranteed level of pay?
It is odd to hear people complaining that we are going to cut teachers’ salaries and at the same time saying that there is a shortage of teachers and that it is difficult to recruit. The free market will ensure, of course, that salaries—the jobs market—[Interruption.] We are living in a strong economy. We have to compete for our graduates with companies up and down the country. That is what will secure high salaries for the teaching profession.
Tomorrow’s planned strike by members of the National Union of Teachers has come about as a result of the ongoing erosion of teachers’ pay and conditions, with entitlements such as sick leave and maternity rights under threat. How does the Minister plan to protect teachers’ maternity rights under the academy system?
The strike is based on a ballot in which under 25% of teachers in the NUT voted. I agree with Deborah Lawson, the general secretary of Voice, which is a non-striking teachers’ union, who has called these strikes a “futile” and “politically motivated” gesture. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, this strike will
“harm children’s education, inconvenience parents and damage the profession's reputation in the eyes of the public”.
Does the hon. Lady agree with that assessment?
2. What steps her Department is taking to assist teachers in managing their workload. 
8. What steps her Department is taking to assist teachers in managing their workload. 
First, I add my welcome to the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner). I look forward to engaging with her on our mutual interests: education and, I understand, women and equalities. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) for her work as shadow Education Secretary. I think it is fair to say that we did not agree on everything, or perhaps even much, but I do pay tribute to her hard work, and that of the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), who I have also worked with over the years.
We are continuing our extensive work to remove unnecessary workload for teachers. As part of my commitment to taking action in this area, we established three independent review groups to tackle workload relating to marking, lesson planning, and data management. We have accepted all their recommendations to Government. We urge school leaders and others in the education system also to act on those recommendations, and we will continue to work on this.
Has my right hon. Friend considered lengthening the school day to allow teachers the space to plan and mark during the school day, rather than during evenings and weekends? That would also give pupils the opportunity to engage in subjects such as art, music, drama and sport that may not be part of their curriculum at the moment.
My hon. Friend will remember that in the Budget the Chancellor mentioned support for a longer school day. Many schools already offer extra activities as part of a longer school day. We are keen to support this, and hope that they will broaden their range of activities. However, if we have a longer school day, there is no requirement for teachers to increase their workload to accommodate that. We will come forward with more details in due course.
Having spoken to many teachers in Taunton Deane, it is clear to me that a significant number feel under continual pressure to adapt to a constantly changing system, and there are worries that more changes are on the horizon. Will the Secretary of State give assurances that following the White Paper, teachers will begin to see greater consistency? Will she meet me, and perhaps some local teachers, to discuss these issues?
Of course I will be very happy to meet my hon. Friend and any teachers or headteachers she might like to invite from her constituency. Our aim is to give schools and colleges as much stability as possible to deliver the ambitious reforms set out in the White Paper. We want to give teachers and leaders the confidence to make changes based on their own professional judgment. We have a workload protocol that gives schools the time to prepare for significant changes, and we are making sure that it takes fully into account the implications for workload.
I have raised on the Floor of the House on a number of occasions the problems in west Cumbria with teacher recruitment and retention, which are leading to workloads building up, to the detriment of our children’s education. I am concerned to see that figures provided by the National Union of Teachers project that Cumbria will see a 4.5% real-terms cut in funding under the Government’s new national funding formula. What is the Secretary of State doing to address that, and to ensure that there is no detriment to children in my constituency?
We are aware of issues relating to recruitment in certain parts of the country and in certain schools. I am pleased to say, as the Minister for Schools has said, that we have recruited more teachers to teacher training for the start of next year. The hon. Lady is right to say, however, that among the reasons that teachers often struggle to stay in the profession are workload, behaviour and other expectations. We will have more to say about the national funding formula. I ask the hon. Lady to wait for the consultation and to make sure that she takes part in it, but I think she will agree that it must be right that pupils with the same needs attract the same amount of money, regardless of where they are based.
If the Secretary of State really does want to help teachers with the workload pressures that they are under, she has to do much more to tackle the serious shortage of teacher colleagues in schools and the duplicative paperwork that teachers are coping with, and not rely so much on the Minister for Schools, who sees the wonders of the free market as the solution.
The Minister for Schools does a fantastic job, and it is a delight to have his sunny outlook in all of our ministerial meetings. There are schools across the country that manage workload issues. When I visit schools, I always ask about workload, and it is interesting that there are some schools—they are very similar—where teachers are supported in terms of workload, and others where there clearly are issues. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to make sure that when he next visits schools in his constituency, he takes with him, or looks at, the workload report, and asks teachers and heads in the staffroom how they are getting on with implementing the recommendations. I accept that there are recommendations for Government, Ofsted and school leaders; between us all, I am sure that we can make progress.
Academies: Parent Involvement
3. What steps her Department is taking to ensure that parents have greater say in the running of their children’s schools when they become academies. 
The White Paper set out our commitment to ensure that parents have a more significant voice in schools. We will build on existing effective practice in academies to strengthen the expectation that they will listen to the views and needs of parents. We will also launch a new parent portal, setting out key information that parents need to know about schools.
Parent governors play a vital role in schools across the country and in my constituency of Gillingham and Rainham. The excellent portfolio holder for children’s services in Medway, Councillor Mike O’Brien, asks the Minister to confirm that the parent governor role will continue under the Government’s new plans for academies.
I agree with my hon. Friend and the excellent Councillor Mike O’Brien, whom I know well and wish all the very best, that parents play a very important role in the governance of our schools. I fully expect that to continue as more schools become academies. High-quality governance is vital for the success of our schools, and boards need governors with the right skills to perform the role well. Many parents have the skills to make them effective governors, and boards will continue to appoint them as governors for that reason. There is nothing in the White Paper proposals to prevent academies from continuing to have elected parent governors if they wish to.
The Secretary of State sought to ban parents from becoming school governors. She has blocked Ofsted from inspecting academy chains, and she refuses to have any democratic oversight of regional school commissioners. In her final days in office, with school improvement stalled, according to the chief inspector, has she not realised that the command-and-control, “Whitehall knows best” approach to schools and education does not work?
This seems like an upside-down House: the Labour Front Benchers are on the Back Benches, and its Back Benchers are on the Front Bench. We intend to increase academy engagement with parents by creating an expectation that every academy will put in place arrangements for meaningful engagement with parents and for listening to their views and feedback.
23. Will the Minister use this occasion to reassure parents of pupils at the Europa School in my constituency that they will still be able to play a part in the running of their school? 
Yes, I am very happy to give my hon. Friend that assurance. Of course they will. The Europa School provides an excellent education. Since it became a free school in 2012, it has been rated good by Ofsted, and it continues to provide a very high-quality education.
Parents in my constituency have been left feeling bewildered and angry after an academy order was issued for Sedgehill School but was withdrawn for six months because the regional schools commissioner could not find a sponsor. What does this uncertainty say about the state of the Government’s academy programme, and how can this uncertainty possibly be good for pupils?
What it says is that the regional schools commissioners are very selective about the sponsors that oversee our academies programme. That is why two thirds of secondary schools are now academies, one in five primary schools is now an academy and standards are rising faster in academies than in local authority schools.
I would also like to pay tribute to my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), and her team for the work that they did with MPs from across the House to convince the Secretary of State that full-scale forced academisation is not right for our children or our communities. As glad as we are that the right hon. Lady was for turning, she still plans to convert schools into academies across vast swathes of our country. Will she now rethink her description of parents as “vested interests”, which added insult to injury?
May I correct the hon. Lady? Her predecessor was not the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell); it was the hon. Member for North West Durham (Pat Glass), and I regret that she felt it necessary to resign. The academies programme is very successful, even without taking the powers that we had suggested. The programme is moving at pace—there were 200 academy conversions last month—and sponsored academies are improving faster under this arrangement. I hope that the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) will support a programme that began under the Labour party, although it began under a new Labour Government, not this old Labour Opposition.
4. What progress her Department is making on ensuring that funding is fairly distributed across schools. 
11. What progress her Department is making on ensuring that funding is fairly distributed across schools. 
14. What progress her Department is making on ensuring that funding is fairly distributed across schools. 
A fairer funding system is crucial to deliver our aim of educational excellence everywhere. It was a proud moment when Her Majesty said in her most recent Gracious Speech:
“There will also be a fairer balance between schools, through the national funding formula.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 18 May 2016; Vol. 773, c. 2.]
The first stage of our two-part consultation on a national funding formula closed in April, and I thank everybody who responded to it. We are carefully considering the many responses we received.
As the funding formula consultation progresses, will my right hon. Friend listen carefully to the voices of parents in Staffordshire—a county that has done relatively badly out of former formulas because it has areas of social deprivation—so that schoolchildren from the Kerria and Glascote estates in Tamworth have the same opportunities as those from Wolverhampton?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and I know that he is a powerful champion on this issue. Of course we will listen to the views from Staffordshire, and I know that the Schools Minister has met a number of delegations from Staffordshire already. As I said earlier, the intention is that children with the same needs do not attract different amounts of money simply because of where they live. The new formula will ensure that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds receive additional funding. The reforms are significant, so we are determined to get them right, which is why we will consult extensively.
I am interested in that answer. What steps will the Secretary of State take to ensure that the new funding arrangements for high-needs blocks are implemented promptly, and that low-funded counties such as Suffolk do not have to wait many years until they receive the level of funds to allow them to meet the needs of vulnerable learners?
My hon. Friend demonstrates the desire of Members from all parts of the House and from different counties to ensure that the funding formula is looked at. We are distributing additional high-needs funding. This year, Suffolk will receive an extra £1.2 million. As I have said, we are considering carefully the responses to the first stage of the national funding formula consultation on high needs, because we are determined to ensure that those who have been underfunded in the past benefit as quickly as possible.
I warmly welcome the announcement that South Gloucestershire and Stroud College has been successful in its application for the SGS Pegasus free school. It will be an 80-place school for autistic pupils, opening in September 2017. Can the Secretary of State assure me that Pegasus and other schools in South Gloucestershire and in my constituency of Thornbury and Yate will receive their fair share of funding following the introduction of the new formula?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. My Ministers and I want to ensure that all schools receive their fair share of funding. South Gloucestershire and Stroud College has indeed been successful in applying to open the SGS Pegasus free school. Free schools form an integral part of the Government’s education policy to improve choice and drive up standards in schooling.
I did not expect to be on the Back Benches today, having resigned from a job that I relished doing over the past few months, but we are where we are.
Yesterday on the television, the Secretary of State again presented the illusion that school budgets have been protected over the course of this Parliament, yet she and I both know that school budgets are facing significant cuts in real terms, which are having a huge impact on the frontline. Given that the Chancellor has all but abandoned his fiscal approach, will she be the first person at his door to ensure that our schools have the real-terms budget protection they need?
I pay tribute to the hon. Lady, because I could see how much she loved doing her job as shadow Secretary of State for Education. The truth is that we have protected the overall schools budget in real terms. This year, the core schools budget will be over £40 billion, which is the highest amount on record.
What would the Secretary of State say to Schools NorthEast, which represents 1,000 schools in my region and has said that
“the Government risks fuelling the North-South divide in education by proposing to fund schools with similar characteristics differently, based on their location.”?
I would completely disagree with that assertion. I ask the hon. Lady to ensure that she and the schools in her area take part in the next stage of the consultation. She should not forget the funding that has already been allocated by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor as part of the northern powerhouse fund for schools.
I am afraid that the Government’s claim that they are providing fair funding is unravelling as fast as the pledge of £350 million for the NHS on the Vote Leave bus. Will the Secretary of State confirm that analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that the new funding settlement will implement an overall cut of at least 8% in school budgets?
I applaud the hon. Lady’s activity today and her grip on her brief, but the answer is no. In 2016-17, the dedicated schools grant will total £40.68 billion, which is an increase of more than £4 billion since 2011-12 and the biggest amount any Government have ever spent on schools.
The Secretary of State will know that the Education Committee is very keen to press the Department on fairer funding to ensure that it delivers what it says on the tin. Does she agree that another important element of reform is ensuring that schools can plan ahead, and that it would be good if fairer funding enabled schools to do exactly that?
I pay tribute to the work that my hon. Friend and his Select Committee have done on this issue. I know that the Minister for Schools is due to meet Members shortly to discuss it further. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) is absolutely right: not only do we have to get the formula correct and make it much more transparent, I am also very keen that schools are able to plan ahead, like we would ask any other organisation to do, so that they know how they can manage their budgets in the years ahead.
When the Government redraw the funding formula to make it fairer, as they say they will, they must remember that fair does not necessarily mean equal and that many schools face differing challenges, particularly in respect of teacher training. Will the Secretary of State therefore look at ways in which we can change the funding formula to help areas and schools with a history of low teacher recruitment rates?
I pay tribute to the work the hon. Gentleman has done to represent schools in Bradford, and I know that other Bradford Members of Parliament are also very committed to raising educational standards in their area. In talking about fairer funding earlier, I spoke very specifically about children with the same needs attracting the same amount of money. It is right that children from disadvantaged backgrounds should receive more money. I would ask him to engage with us on things such as the “achieving excellence areas”, which were outlined in the White Paper that was published earlier this year.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. Progress this afternoon is very slow. I will take a couple of supplementaries, but they must be very brief and so must the replies.
20. Will the Secretary of State, in reaffirming her commitment to fairer funding, set out the timetable for the consultation process and say when it will eventually be implemented?
I hope to be able to consult extremely shortly. This is complicated and I want to give local authorities time, but my hon. Friend is right that we need to make progress.
Is there not a danger for the Secretary of State that some schools will risk losing funding and that those that gain from the new funding settlement will not gain nearly enough to offset both the freeze in the education grant and the national insurance increases?
I do not want to pre-empt the consultation. There are always dangers for Secretaries of State, but there is a danger in inaction, too. We have had an unfair national funding formula for well over a decade, and probably longer. I am not going to go down as the Secretary of State who had the opportunity to try to right that wrong but did not take it.
21. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that small rural primary schools, which are currently on the margins of financial viability, will be as secure under the new formula with academy status as when maintained by the local authority? 
We are very aware of the specific demands for rural schools. There will be specific funding to recognise their characteristics, including sparsity in particular. I hope my hon. Friend will take part in the consultation.
Deferred School Starts
5. What progress her Department is making on giving parents of summer-born and premature children the choice to defer their child’s start at school. 
Subject to parliamentary approval, we have decided to amend the school admissions code to support summer-born children in delaying entry to the reception year. We are now considering how to implement that change, and what other changes it would be appropriate to make to the code at the same time.
I thank the Minister for that answer. He will know that the delay to the consultation on the code is causing some concern, because of inconsistent responses from local authorities. May I press him further: can we ensure that the code covers the difference between actual dates of birth and due dates?
My hon. Friend has been a strong campaigner on this issue. As a consequence of his representations, and as part of our review of the code, we are considering whether it would be appropriate to use the due date of premature children rather than the birth date to determine when they start school.
Pupils from Non-UK EU Countries
6. If she will make it her policy that all school children who are non-UK EU nationals retain access to the education system in the event of the UK leaving the EU. 
As a matter of principle all children resident in the United Kingdom receive a free state school education. That provision goes back to 1880, when compulsory attendance at school to age 10 was introduced in England and Wales. The UK remains a member of the EU until the article 50 negotiations have concluded, which could take two years or more. Until the process is completed, nothing will change. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman my view, because the Home Secretary is about to make a statement on this issue: I think that EU citizens already here, including children, should have the right to remain.
I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, but does she recognise the impact that such uncertainty is having on young people and their education? The First Minister, the National Association of Head Teachers and others are seeking precisely these assurances, so can she give an assurance that children from EU countries will be allowed to complete their education and will not be used as bargaining chips in negotiations about Brexit?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very powerful case. There is obviously an awful lot to discuss in the light of the result of 23 June, which is not the result that I campaigned for. I completely accept his point that we should of course make sure that children of non-UK EU nationals resident here are educated.
7. What steps her Department is taking to ensure that young people develop character at school. 
As some Members of this House have discovered in recent days, character—whether that be perseverance, respect for others, bounce-backability or the ability to build strong relationships—is an important attribute that should not be underestimated. That is why we are working with schools to ensure that all young people can develop the character traits that will support their future success. We are investing £6 million to test approaches to character education and are delivering character awards to highlight the excellent practice that already exists.
I thank the Minister for that answer. I chair the all-party group on the British Council, which is about to launch an inquiry into the causes of extremism and radicalisation. I am sure that my hon. Friend well understands the crucial importance of the arts in developing breadth and depth of character—we will be debating arts education later today. How is the Department working to ensure that schools are provided with the right tools to build tolerance, balance and understanding in our young people?
I commend my hon. Friend for launching his inquiry. I know that there is a debate later in Westminster Hall on the EBacc, and I am sure many of these issues will be discussed. In many ways, schools provide the best protection from radicalisation by ensuring that pupils are encouraged to explore and debate ideas, and to test each other and themselves, so that they leave school with the resilience and critical thinking skills they need to challenge extremist views. To that end, we have launched the educate against hate website to provide practical advice to parents, teachers and school leaders on how to protect children from extremism and radicalisation.
18. Child abuse is rife in the UK, and I welcome the comments about character. Will the Secretary of State support my call for all primary school children to have statutory resilience and child protection lessons to prevent child abuse? 
The Secretary of State is very aware of the hon. Lady’s campaign, as well as of the need to ensure that children are as resilient as they can be to the greater dangers that face them in the world in which they live. Those matters remain under review as part of personal, social, health and economic education, and we will return to them in future.
I call Karl MᶜCartney.
19. Thank you for spotting the link, Mr Speaker. The original question about character is all very good, but what is the Minister doing to ensure that young people have sound moral judgment and a tough backbone, so that they pick the right side of an argument and accept democratic decisions, supported by their peers and the wider populace? 
Perhaps I could pick out two traits that would be well worth considering: one is common sense, and the other is kindness—two things that we would do well to try to instil in every young person as they grow up in the society we have created for them.
We would all agree that participation in sport at school is character building, and the Chancellor announced in his Budget that moneys raised from the sugar tax will be spent on sport in schools. How much money is expected to be raised from the sugar tax, and what talks have taken place on how those funds will be spent?
The hon. Lady is right to highlight that money from the sugar levy will be spent directly on sport and physical activity. There is also a commitment of £500 million to help up to 25% of secondary schools extend their school day, and we have doubled the PE and sport premium for secondary schools from £150 million to £300 million per year, which is already making a significant impact on the quality of PE in many of our primary schools.
Character development includes turning young people to the outside world and helping them to gain confidence when thinking and working with people. Work experience in the teens is crucial, and it is damaging that Ministers scrapped the key stage 4 requirement in the curriculum. No wonder business groups urged them to do more, as did the skills commission on careers advice; and a five-year policy and funding vacuum has failed to prepare young people for that world of work. Will Ministers use the new Education and Adoption Act 2016 to restore work experience to the curriculum?
Many of us have had the benefit of work experience—I am sure some Members are enjoying that right now on the Opposition Front Bench—and we know that it provides people with a better understanding of the opportunities that they have in later life. The Careers and Enterprise Company is an important development because it seeks to open up those opportunities and create better links between schools and business.
9. What steps she is taking to increase access to mindfulness programmes in schools. 
Good mental and emotional health is a key priority for this Government, and it is crucial if we want all children to fulfil their potential both academically and for their general wellbeing. It is for schools to decide how best to provide appropriate mental and emotional health to support their pupils, and the Department is undertaking a national survey to find out what activities schools offer, including mindfulness, to help us decide how best to support schools in practice.
Having visited schools in my constituency that are running mindfulness programmes in the classroom, I know how much such programmes are appreciated by young people. Given the growing mental health crisis, there is a real urgency to innovate, and mindfulness can be part of that. Will the Minister agree to meet a cross-party group to discuss the availability of such programmes?
I am happy to meet the hon. Lady and a delegation to discuss the matter further. I am all for greater innovation in schools and for deciding how we can better support children so that they are strong and stable emotionally, which we know is a better backdrop to them being academically successful. I am sure we can arrange a meeting to discuss that further.
Mindfulness can be an important component of a wider PSHE programme, which our good and outstanding schools already implement. What progress is being made towards making PSHE statutory in all our schools?
I refer my hon. Friend to the earlier answer on this subject. At the core of this issue is ensuring that we have the highest quality PSHE possible. We continue to keep the matter under review, and will return to it shortly.
Does the Minister agree that mindfulness can be helpful not only with the social and emotional aspects of learning but in improving the attentiveness of pupils in schools, and therefore their academic achievement as well as their personal wellbeing?
There is a small but increasing amount of evidence that backs the hon. Gentleman’s claim. That is why we want to look at this area more carefully, hence the national survey that is under way to enrich the evidence and knowledge to see what really works so that we can improve all the aspects of a child’s life to which he refers.
School Funding Formula (London)
10. What plans she has to ensure that reform of the school funding formula does not have a negative effect on schools in London. 
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue and for contributing to the recent debate on education funding in London. The second stage of our consultation will detail the impact of the formula on schools. I understand the importance of giving schools stability and budget security, but in advance of that consultation it would not be appropriate to speculate on the specific impact of the formula. That would be unfair to schools and parents.
As a long-term governor, and having visited the outstanding Bevington school in Kensington this morning, can I ask the Minister to talk about the area school cost adjustment in respect of meeting the higher costs and vulnerability of schools in London?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. That is why in the first stage of the consultation we propose to include an area cost adjustment in the national funding formula—an increase for schools facing extra costs from higher wages, which will be important for London schools. We have also protected the pupil premium at current pupil rates, so every school knows that they will receive that funding on top of their core budget. London receives over 20% of the whole pupil premium budget.
Educational standards improved dramatically in London under the previous Labour Government, a timely reminder of the virtue of Labour winning elections. In the Minister’s attempt rightly to increase funding to levels needed across the rest of the country, will he confirm that school budgets in London will not suffer, thereby setting back the enormous progress that has been made?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: educational standards and attainment have improved dramatically, in London in particular, over the past decade or so thanks to teachers, parents and pupils in London. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made very clear, the purpose of the funding formula reforms is to fund need, so where there is need in London it will be funded on the same basis as need in other parts of the country.
Is the Minister aware that schools in my constituency in west London are already having to implement the biggest cuts to their budgets they have ever made? Will he assure the head teachers I met this morning that there will be no further cuts when fair funding comes in?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made it very clear: the core education budget of £40 billion is the highest amount ever invested in education. We are supporting our schools to achieve educational excellence everywhere. We are reforming the funding formula to ensure that that excellence can be delivered across all schools, rather than it being determined by a postcode lottery, as it is at the moment.
12. What steps her Department is taking to improve schools in parts of the country where there has been persistent underperformance. 
Our strategy for what we are calling “achieving excellence areas” will tackle entrenched underperformance in areas where low school standards are reinforced by a lack of capacity to deliver and sustain improvement. We want to eradicate pockets of underperformance in our school system, and we will do so by targeting leadership and other school improvement programmes in areas of greatest need. We look forward to working with the first areas from this autumn.
I thank the Minister for his reply. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, has called on the Welsh Assembly Government to introduce academies in Wales, saying that they improve performance. Does the Minister agree with me that raising standards is vital to helping the economy, and that it is important that political boundaries do not get in the way of business growth in my own area of north-east Wales?
How wise Sir Michael is, on this and on so much else! Raising standards is key to helping the economy grow and to improving productivity. Officials at the Department will be more than happy to hold discussions with their counterparts in the Welsh Government on how academies are raising standards. We would also be happy to discuss our education reforms over the past six years, which are raising standards and expectations in reading, writing, maths and the whole curriculum, in sharp contrast to what is happening in Wales under a Labour Administration.
13. What steps her Department is taking to increase the uptake of languages at GCSE. 
The Government have acted to halt the serious decline in the number of pupils taking language GCSEs—40% of pupils in 2011 took a GCSE in modern foreign languages, down from 76% in 2000—and thanks to the EBacc, the proportion of pupils in state schools entered for a modern foreign language GCSE increased by 20% between 2011 and 2015. Our ambition is that 90% of pupils in mainstream secondary schools will enter GCSEs in EBacc subjects, including a language.
The internationalist manufacturing and business base across Rossendale and Darwen needs people with modern language skills if it is to continue to compete and succeed. What steps can schools take to co-operate with local businesses, such as those in my constituency, to ensure that the menu of language skills that pupils leave school with matches business requirement?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and one of the key goals of the Careers and Enterprise Company is to increase that engagement with business. The CBI’s recent report found that 77% of businesses valued foreign language skills and that nearly one third rated Mandarin as a useful language.
Will the Minister make sure that Punjabi continues to be available at GCSE for many years to come?
Yes, I can make that commitment.
Child and Family Social Work
15. What plans her Department has to improve child and family social work. 
Excellent social work transforms lives, which is why we are establishing a regulatory body to drive up standards and raise the quality of social work training and practice. We are attracting new talent to the profession, investing in high-quality training, rolling out a practice-focused career pathway and developing a new What Works centre to ensure that social workers are equipped with the best knowledge and skills for their practice. This clear strategy to improve child and family social work is set out in the children’s social care policy paper, “Putting Children First”, which I and the Secretary of State published today and by way of a written statement. I encourage all hon. Members to read it.
Will the Minister explain how the Department’s new graduate entry routes to social work, such as Step Up to Social Work and Frontline, and including the award-winning provision of children’s services from East Sussex County Council, have impacted the social work profession?
Step Up and Frontline are beginning to have a significant impact: more than 670 Step Up participants have qualified as social workers and more than 450 students and 103 local authorities started training this year. An evaluation of cohort 1 showed high retention, and 99 Frontline participants have now qualified as social workers. An independent evaluation in March 2016 was hugely encouraging.
Children can remain in foster care until they are 21, while those in residential care have to leave at 18, which creates a truly unfair system. I have organised for MPs to pledge their support tomorrow to show that we care equally about all looked-after children. Will the Minister sign the pledge?
I commend the hon. Lady for her continued and passionate commitment to this matter, based on her professional experience and desire to make a difference. If she reads the paper, “Putting Children First”, which I mentioned a few moments ago, she will find a response to a recommendation from Martin Narey’s review into residential care explaining that we will start to pilot “staying close” for children leaving care in residential care settings. This is in line with his recommendation and I am sure will be hugely welcomed.
Children: Physical Activity
16. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on steps to achieve the Government’s aim to make children more physically active. 
We are working closely with colleagues in the Department of Health and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the forthcoming childhood obesity strategy, which will build upon our existing measures to promote school-based physical activity for pupils. Physical education remains a compulsory subject at all four key stages in the national curriculum, which sets out our expectation that pupils should be physically active for sustained periods of time.
What plans does the Minister have to combat the drop-off in participation in sport from primary school to secondary school?
I have already alluded to the doubling of the PE and sport premium at primary school—we have invested more than £450 million. We are also determined to ensure that children continue to sustain participation in PE and sport as they move into secondary education. In the Government’s sports strategy, we have committed to working with the sector to better understand the barriers and issues around drop-off and to identify good practice. By knowing what works, we can be better equipped to combat the drop-off that my hon. Friend rightly mentions.
17. What progress the Government have made on providing 30 free hours of childcare per week for three and four year-olds. 
We are delivering at great pace on our commitment to provide parents with 30 hours of free childcare for three and four-year-olds. With cross-party support, we have already taken the Childcare Act 2016 through Parliament. We announced in the November spending review that we would invest an additional £1 billion a year into the system from 2019-20—more than ever before—and we are not waiting until 2017 to deliver on our commitment: around 5,000 children from eight areas will get their 30 hours a year from this September.
The Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, highlighted the danger that the Government will be unable to deliver their pledge to give three and four-year-olds 33 hours of childcare a week. In view of all our findings, what is the Minister doing to ensure that local authorities manage their childcare markets effectively or intervene if necessary?
The hon. Lady asks an important question. I am in contact with a lot of local authorities, and the Department has the local authority working group. In addition to the increased funding we have provided, we are working to ensure that local authorities have the capital they need—an extra £50 million—to create places in their local areas where there is a need.
T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities. 
The Minister for Children and Families has mentioned today’s publication of “Putting Children First”, which provides much-needed reforms to children’s social care—often a much under-sung service. I am sure that colleagues will condemn tomorrow’s strike action by the National Union of Teachers, which is both unnecessary and counter-productive. It will harm children’s education, inconvenience parents and damage the profession’s reputation in the eyes of the public. Finally, I would like to send my appreciation to teachers and students across the country who will receive their key stage 2 results this week.
Following the safe and successful return of Major Tim Peake from the international space station, what plans does the Secretary of State have to work with the UK Space Agency to promote space and science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, especially among women and girls?
The hon. Gentleman raises a really important issue, and we of course want to see more young people studying STEM subjects. My first boss in the House in the last Parliament, now Lord Willetts, told me that there were two ways to engage young people in science—space or dinosaurs.
T2. Following a rather poor Ofsted report for the local authority in Portsmouth, will the Secretary of State outline what support her Department can give to help schools in Portsmouth to become centres of excellence? 
My hon. Friend is a strong promoter of educational excellence in Portsmouth. Centres of excellence in initial teacher training will be designated on the basis of criteria such as the quality of trainee teachers recruited, the quality of training courses, the outcomes for trainee teachers and training providers’ effectiveness in recruiting. We expect to confirm the schools and universities that have been designated as centres of excellence for the 2017-18 academic year when the allocation of training places is made in the autumn.
Ten days ago, we had the Government’s latest figures for apprenticeships. They showed that only one in four apprenticeships was going to young people under 19, whether it be in the number of starts or participation, and, even worse, that there were only 12,000 traineeship starts compared to 109,000 apprenticeship starts for under-19s. Does this not show that, after all the time and money Ministers have devoted to apprenticeships, they are still flailing around for a coherent strategy to get young people under 19 to the starting-block—either for traineeships or apprenticeships?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely wrong. Following the apprenticeships review in 2012, employers are designing new apprenticeships that are more responsive to the needs of business. More than 1,300 employers are involved; 241 standards have been published; and more than 160 new standards are in development. In the last Parliament, there were 2.4 million apprenticeship starts, and the reforms to technical education will build on that. This is a very successful part of our education system.
T3. One of the concerns about the fairer funding formula is what happens to sixth-form students. Can Ministers confirm that fairer funding will apply to sixth-form students in particular, and clarify what is proposed for sixth-form colleges? 
My hon. Friend will be aware that in the spending review, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor confirmed funding of £4,000 per pupil for post-16 education, and that remains the case. Obviously, where there are school sixth forms, reforming the national funding formula will impact on the whole school budget. I do not what to pre-empt what the consultation will say, but I am sure we can have a discussion once we have published it.
As the Secretary of State knows, there are already examples of academies ignoring the concerns and views of parents, and removing the requirement to have a parent-governor or parent-governors will make matters worse. The White Paper proposes that parents should be able to petition to have their academy moved from an under-performing multi-academy trust to a different MAT, will she tell us how that will work?
I refute the first part of the right hon. Gentleman’s question. I do not know of any academies or schools that ignore parents’ concerns. As for the second part, we will make that clear when we have published the Bill. I very much hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be part of the Committee that scrutinises the “education for all” Bill.
T4. Some schools and headteachers are nervous about becoming academies. I believe they need not be, but what reassurance and guidance can the Minister give them on the path to academisation? 
The process of conversion to academies will be assisted by the Department and once a school notifies the Department it wants to convert to academy status, with all the professional freedoms that that brings, there will be a named official who will help it through the process.
T9. When research shows that six out of 10 LGBT students have experienced homophobic bullying, there is much to be done to improve life for LGBT pupils. Following her support for UK school diversity week, what plans does the Secretary of State have to ensure schools offer an LGBT-inclusive education? 
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we must ensure that there is an absolutely inclusive education. I do not want to see any young person missing a day of education, and certainly not because they are worried about being made fun of or not being able to be who they are. The hon. Gentleman will know that I have already announced over £3 million for specific homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. That is having an effect. I pay tribute to the charities who are working across the country to roll that out and I look forward to continuing to support, and to expand, that work.
T5. As my right hon. Friend knows, before coming to this place I was a teacher. Teaching colleagues have concerns, which I share, about the appointment of Amanda Spielman as the new chief inspector of Ofsted. She does not hold a teaching qualification or have classroom experience. Does this appointment risk eroding the standing of the teaching profession and teachers’ esteem and morale? What assurances can my right hon. Friend give? 
I thank my hon. Friend for her very heartfelt question. [Laughter.] Well, I do not think that the appointment of the new chief inspector is funny, but a recent shadow Education Secretary, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt), apparently does. Amanda Spielman has a passion for improving children’s lives through education. Her work at ARK has transformed the life chances of children in some of our most disadvantaged areas.
I know parents and teachers want Ofsted to inspect in a fair, consistent and reliable way that supports improvement. The chief inspector’s role is not to tell teachers how to teach or to second-guess them; it is to run Ofsted, to provide an inspectorate, to build on evidence and tell the Secretary of State what sometimes she does not want to hear. I know that Amanda Spielman will do that on behalf of teachers across the country.
The Secretary of State will be aware of the recent report by the Traveller movement showing that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children are four times more likely to be excluded from school than other groups, yet 100% of appeals against exclusions from Gypsy, Traveller and Roma children are successful. What action is the Secretary of State taking to address this state of affairs?
We had a group in the last Parliament to address this very issue, and we are considering how to take that work forward. It is very important that all children, regardless of their background, attend school and we do not have any lesser expectations for children from different ethnic groups. This is a particular group that is underperforming in our system and we need to do more to ensure that they attend school and achieve.
T6. The principal of Paignton academy, Jane English, recently received a lifetime achievement award for teaching and inspiring generations of students, yet the school has been held back by having some elderly buildings that urgently need replacement. Can the Minister update me on when funding will be made available to do this? 
First, may I take this opportunity to congratulate Jane English on her lifetime achievement award? She has done a tremendous job. The condition improvement fund was three times over-subscribed this year, which is why the school was unsuccessful—there were a lot of quality bids. I can give my hon. Friend the reassurance that the next fund will be opening in autumn 2016.
Durham county council is part-way through the legal process of merging South Stanley infant and junior schools to form a primary school, but on Friday the Department issued a notice that the infant school will now be part of Greenlands junior school as a new academy, completely ignoring any consultation with local parents. How does that fit with what the Minister has said about the involvement of parents in these decisions?
That decision will have been taken after consultation. It will have been taken by the regional schools commissioner, with his local knowledge, in the best interests of pupils in that area.
T7. More schools in Medway are now being rated outstanding and good. Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to the excellent work of Councillor Mike O’Brien, the cabinet member for children’s services at Medway council, who, alongside council officers, school leaders and parents, is working hard to raise standards in Medway? 
I pay tribute to the work of Councillor Mike O’Brien and I am sorry to hear that he is not well. He is a hard-working and conscientious Medway councillor who is dedicated to serving his constituents and to improving education. His nine years’ experience on Medway Council and his years on Gillingham Borough Council have made him a very effective local representative. Our thoughts are with him and his family at this time.
The children of Thoresby primary school have an abundance of common sense and kindness, and I was delighted that they were awarded the National Character Award last week by the Children’s Minister. Does he agree, however, that we also want to instil determination, grit and tenacity in our young people?
T8. I thank the Schools Minister for his recent visit to the Acorn alternative provision academy in my constituency to see the excellent work that it is doing. Does he agree that the delivery of high quality and innovative alternative provision education is vital to raising the life chances of children who find themselves in the most difficult and challenging situations? Can he update the House on the work that his Department is doing to support alternative provision across the country? 
I was actually expecting a question on term-time holidays from my hon. Friend, but I am nevertheless delighted to join him in congratulating the Acorn AP academy. It is an excellent alternative provision academy with a real focus on academic achievement for vulnerable pupils. I certainly agree that outstanding alternative provision is vital, and in our education White Paper we set out reforms that will help to build a world-leading system of alternative provision. The reforms will incentivise schools to commission high-quality provision and make the schools more accountable for the outcomes of alternative provision pupils.
I can authoritatively pronounce from the Chair that the screeds written for Ministers at Education questions are significantly longer than those written for other ministerial Question Times. That is not a compliment.
The Secretary of State was telling us earlier about her plans to support young people who leave care, whether it is foster care or residential care. Will she tell us where the new members of staff are going to come from to support them and where the young people are going to live?
The hon. Gentleman needs to look carefully at Martin Narey’s report and at our response in the social care policy paper. This is not a question of simply expanding the current provision; we are trying to find innovative ways of supporting young people out of care that will serve them much better in the long term.
Ensuring that students have access to the latest technology is key to raising standards in schools. Will the Minister join me in congratulating Havant College on its pioneering partnership with Google, which ensures that every student has access to a tablet computer?
Yes, I would be delighted to join my hon. Friend in congratulating Havant Sixth Form College on harnessing the expertise and ingenuity of Google’s staff and products. The intelligent selection and use of technology in schools and colleges can be a great asset in helping to improve educational outcomes. I hope that this screed was within the time limit, Mr Speaker.
Is the Minister of State surprised to learn that when I shared his latest response to my correspondence about teacher shortages in Slough with our local headteachers, they found it cynical and said that it failed to address the real recruitment and retention problems that they face? Will he meet me and those headteachers to discuss a practical arrangement to deal with the teacher shortages in our town?
Of course I will meet the right hon. Lady and the teachers from her constituency to discuss this issue, which we take very seriously. We are competing for graduates in a strong economy, and we have recruited 15,000 more teachers since 2010. There are 456,000 teachers in the teaching profession, and 14,000 more teachers returned to teaching last year. That is a higher figure than in previous years. Teaching is still a popular profession, but we are dealing with the challenge of a very strong economy and competing in the same pool for graduates. We take this issue seriously, which is why we have very generous bursaries to attract the best graduates to teaching.
I was rather surprised to find that the number of children being home schooled in Warwickshire had trebled over the past three years. There are 452 such pupils in the current year. Will Secretary of State tell us what provisions exist to ensure that such children get a full and rounded education?
We have already made it clear that we want to know more about what is happening to children who are home educated. The majority will be educated extremely well, but we believe that there is more to do on this. We also want local authorities to know when children are being withdrawn from schools in order to be home educated, and I expect further proposals to follow.
Last month, Baker Small gloated on social media about a win in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. Since then further information has come to light, revealing that Baker Small is advising councils on making it harder for children to be given assessments for an education, health and care plan to help cut costs. That goes completely against the principle of the Children and Families Act 2014, which is to create a less adversarial system. Can the Minister assure me, the House, and parents of children with SEND that he is doing all that he can to end the practice, and may I ask what he is going to do about Baker Small?
Let me put on record that practices of that kind are totally unacceptable. The new tribunal arrangements that we introduced were intended to make the system less adversarial and more inclusive for parents and young people, so that we could achieve a better resolution of any problems that emerged. We will continue to watch carefully how matters develop, but the hon. Lady can be reassured that we do not accept that that practice is appropriate.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. I am sorry, but, as usual, demand exceeds supply, and we must now move on.
EU Nationals: UK Residence
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if she will make a statement on the legal status of EU nationals residing in the United Kingdom in the event of the United Kingdom’s leaving the European Union.
EU nationals make an invaluable contribution to our economy, our society and our daily lives. They should be assured that, as the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have repeatedly said, there will be no immediate change in their status in the UK. The Prime Minister has made it clear that decisions on issues relating to the UK’s exit will be for a new Prime Minister. I am therefore not in a position to make new policy announcements this afternoon.
The discussions that we have with the European Union to agree the arrangements for the UK’s exit will undoubtedly reflect the immense contribution made by EU citizens to our economy, our NHS and our schools, and in so many other ways; but they must also secure the interests of the 1.2 million British citizens who live and work elsewhere in the EU.
The Home Secretary was clear yesterday when she said that we should seek to guarantee that the rights of both groups were protected, and that this would be best done through reciprocal discussions with the European Union as part of the negotiations to leave the EU. It has been suggested that the Government could now fully guarantee EU nationals living in the UK the right to stay, but that would be unwise without a parallel assurance from European Governments regarding British nationals living in their countries. Such a step might also have the unintended consequence of prompting EU immigration to the UK.
It is in the best interests of all for the Government to conduct detailed work on this issue, and for the new Prime Minister to decide the best way forward as quickly as possible. In the meantime, let me stress that EU nationals continue to be welcome here. We have seen some truly abhorrent hate crimes perpetrated against EU nationals in the past week or so, and we will not stand for attacks of that kind. They must be, and will be, tackled in the strongest possible terms.
EU nationals can have our full and unreserved reassurance that their right to enter and to work, study and live in the UK remains unchanged, but to pre-empt future discussions at this point would risk undermining our ability to protect the interests of EU and British citizens alike, and to secure the best outcome for both.
I hate to teach the Minister about British constitutional organisations and structures, but ours is a Cabinet Government structure. Irrespective of whether Prime Ministers decide to leave, the Cabinet can still make decisions.
May I point out to Ministers that people are not bargaining chips? It is deeply offensive to assume that this country retrospectively changes the rights of its citizens. It is a duty of Government to allow people to live their lives and to make arrangements and predictions. We have 3 million EU citizens in this country, and 1.2 million British people live in the EU. They have a right to expect the Government to make clear statements.
The Minister may have read a letter to The Sunday Telegraph in which Members of Parliament, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), the hon. Member for Clacton (Mr Carswell) and the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley), Frances O’Grady of the TUC, Simon Walker of the Institute of Directors, and Sunder Katwala of British Future—the Co-op is also concerned—say that it is the duty of this Government to state clearly and unequivocally that any EU citizen here will maintain and continue to enjoy the rights that they have acquired. Anything else would represent a failure of the Government to protect their people and future obligations. The Minister may also be aware that the House of Lords is far from happy with the Government’s position. Will he do the right thing now and not turn people into bargaining chips and not worry about what might happen in future but at this moment stand up and say that we honour human rights, that EU citizens have made an important and valuable contribution that will be honoured and that those who are here will continue to be here?
I entirely understand the basic premise of the right hon. Lady’s point, which is that we should seek to reassure EU nationals here in the UK and British citizens in other EU countries. On that broad premise, we are not poles apart. The question is about how we achieve that objective, which raises several complex issues. She will understand that we are talking about not only the right to reside, but employment rights, the right to study, entitlement to benefits, access to public services, and the ability to be joined by family members.
This is not, as the right hon. Lady seeks to characterise it, about viewing people as bargaining chips in some way; it is about getting the best possible outcome for EU citizens who are here and for the 1.2 million British citizens who are elsewhere in the European Union. The Government are absolutely focused on getting the best possible solution through discussions with the European Union. She and other EU nationals who are here and contributing to our society can be assured that that is absolutely at the forefront of what we are seeking to achieve in the negotiations that will follow.
I am sure that everyone on both sides of the House wants to see no disadvantage given either to EU citizens living in this country or to UK citizens living in other European countries. I detect the faint whiff of synthetic indignation over this entire urgent question process. What judgment has the Minister made about the best way to protect the interests of the more than 1 million British citizens living, and in many cases working, in other EU countries, so that no one is disadvantaged at the end of this process?
We need to ensure that there is an overall balance and that all the issues are given careful consideration. We have to view things in the round. That is why it would be a mistake to view this in a narrow way and to make statements now that could impede broader discussions about the position of British nationals in other European countries. That is the right approach and is precisely why the Prime Minister set out that we need to consider things very carefully.
I should probably begin by declaring an interest: my wife, Marie-France, is a Dutch national and our three children are half-Dutch. So many British families are similar to ours, with relatives born in Ireland or in other EU countries. The 3 million or so EU nationals living here are the fathers and mothers, aunties and uncles, and grandmas and granddads of millions of British children. To leave any uncertainty hanging over their right to be here is tantamount to undermining family life in our country. That does not strike me as a very prime ministerial thing to do, but it is what the Home Secretary did yesterday. She said that
“people who have an established life here”
would be part of negotiations with Brussels. For people making a huge contribution to our society to be talked of as a bargaining chip, as was said, is insensitive to say the least. But when she adds that
“nobody necessarily stays anywhere forever”,
it becomes quite threatening.
I hope the Minister will go back and tell the Home Secretary that my kids would quite like their mum to stay here forever, if that’s okay with her. In retrospect, does he not accept that the Home Secretary’s comments were ill-judged? Is it not the case that people who have made a life here when it was perfectly legal for them to do so should not now have the rug pulled from under them? Furthermore, is it not entirely within the gift of the UK Government to remove this uncertainty today? Why is the Home Secretary not here today doing precisely that, rather than prioritising her leadership campaign? This is entirely a matter for the UK Government to decide, and it is this Government’s own decision to make this an issue in the negotiations. By doing so, are they not creating the conditions for the unwelcoming climate to continue, and for the rise in xenophobic and racist abuse we have seen?
Finally, does the very fact that we are having to hold this debate today not illustrate how flawed the referendum campaign was? Did people not have a right to know the answer to this crucial question before they went to vote? Sending any EU nationals home has enormous implications for families, for public services and for the economy, so why on earth did the Government instruct civil servants not to carry out any contingency planning on the implications of Brexit? Was that not the very height of irresponsibility? And has it not left us with “neither compass nor chart”, as Lord Hennessey has said? The Conservative party has reduced our country to chaos and created uncertainty being felt in every family. If the Home Secretary wants to be the person to lead us out of it, she needs to have the courage to come to this House and clear up her own mess.
If anything was ill-judged, I think the right hon. Gentleman’s comments were and the manner in which he approached his contribution this afternoon. I have been clear that there is no concept of bargaining chips or viewing people in that way. I have been clear on the contribution I see EU citizens making to our country, now and in the future, which is why it will be a part of that negotiation as we look towards a positive future for our country outside the EU. It would not be responsible to take a stance now that could have an impact on the 1.2 million British citizens in countries outside the UK. [Interruption.] It is not a choice of one or the other; it is a question of looking at both of them, and getting the best possible outcome for UK citizens in other European countries as well as giving assurance on the rights of European citizens who are here. It is important that we approach the negotiations in that way.
The right hon. Gentleman makes the point about the rise in community tensions, as he did fairly to us last week when the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley), made her statement on hate crime. We would have common cause in utterly condemning hate crime—I absolutely condemn it again today—with the further work that will be introduced on tackling hate crime and the further work that the police are doing in our communities at the moment. We celebrate the work of so many European citizens here in our country now, which is why this does need to be part of those discussions and agreements with the European Union, to give that assurance and, yes, to get the best possible outcome for them, as well as for British citizens abroad.
Will the Minister understand that many of us regard the Home Secretary’s recent remarks as wholly inappropriate? Does he also accept that any EU citizen who currently resides in the UK will continue to do so, as he has suggested, but that once the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 has taken place, it will be a matter for domestic legislation here at Westminster to decide, in our traditional fair and reasonable manner, on what basis people should remain, having regard to the interests of UK nationals in other member states?
I underline again that we are an open, welcoming country and recognise the contribution that EU citizens make to our country, our economy and our communities. That is why this must form part of our assessment, our consideration and our negotiations and agreement with our European partners. I stress it in those terms very clearly. I hope my hon. Friend will understand why the matter needs to be viewed in that broader construct in the best interests of our country and to get the best outcome from those discussions.
May I start by observing that this is one of many questions to which it might have been prudent to have an answer before the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) and her fellow Brexiteers persuaded so many of their fellow citizens to vote to leave the EU? Be that as it may, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union, and our fellow citizens who were born outside the UK are now anxious to know what the referendum results mean for them, not just now but in the future. And so are EU citizens across the UK. It is wrong and irresponsible to prevaricate about this.
In launching her bid for the leadership of the Tory party last week, the Home Secretary said:
“We will strive to make Britain a country that works for everyone—regardless of who they are and regardless of where they’re from.”
Actions speak louder than words. Why is the Home Secretary not here today to give the sort of reassurance that one might have expected in the light of that election pitch? What could be more important than her coming to this House to give that reassurance?
At the opening of the Scottish Parliament on Saturday, the First Minister said:
“We are one Scotland and we are simply home to all of those who have chosen to live here. That is who and what we are.”
Will the Minister reconsider, follow the First Minister’s example, and offer such reassurance for the whole of the United Kingdom? If he is not prepared to do that, will he clarify today in what circumstances he thinks it would be appropriate to remove the rights of EU citizens already living here?
The hon. and learned Lady has rightly highlighted that there were and will be a range of issues that need to be addressed, and obviously this is one of them. It was a consequence of the decision to leave the European Union; it was not shied away from and was clear in advance of the referendum. She makes her point in a clear and concise way. To come to her broader point, we want to get to a position where we can tell EU nationals who live in the UK that everything will be fine, that we can see them continuing here. I reverse the approach and take it from that standpoint. That is the approach that we will take as we look towards those negotiations and those EU discussions.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. If I am to accommodate most colleagues, there will be a premium upon brevity, to be exemplified by the right hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Sir Eric Pickles).
The hyperbole and the overstatement from the Opposition Benches will do much to frighten EU nationals in this country, more so than anything that has been said from the Front Bench. But there is an urgency to giving a clear message on the matter. EU citizens are among our top surgeons, our top consultants, our top anaesthetists. They are among our top engineers and our top architects. These are people who can work anywhere in the world and we need to be very clear that we want them here, as part of our economy.
I recognise the contribution made by all the people my right hon. Friend mentioned to our economy and also, as I said, to schools, the health service and so many other parts of our communities. I stress again that there is no change to their status now. We have to approach the discussions and focus on how we get the best possible outcome for them as well as for our own citizens, and that is what we will do.
Is it not obvious that the forced deportation of millions of EU citizens is something that no sane or fair Government would contemplate doing? Given that no Government would do it, all we see from the Minister is that the Home Secretary has an incredible “negotiating position” and is causing untold fear and misery for many people in our country. It is time the Government gave clarity on this issue.
I am sorry, but I entirely reject the assertions the right hon. Gentleman makes. We have been very clear on confronting the division in our society, and in actually doing the work and setting out the best possible outcome for EU citizens, as well as British citizens, and that is the job we will get on with.
I was glad to hear a moment ago, in one response from the Minister, that foreign residents are not to be treated as pawns in the negotiations, but I have to say that that was not the impression I had from his opening statement. Protecting their rights is the only ethical position that can now be taken. What is more, the longer the uncertainty about this question persists, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Sir Eric Pickles) pointed out, the greater the risk of the economic downturn and the economic consequences. The Minister has been sent to do a holding operation today. Will he now take back from this urgent question debate the clear message that waiting until 9 September or beyond is simply not a realistic option and that the best thing to do now is to just get on with granting these rights?
I note my right hon. Friend’s contribution, and I would reassert the comments I made about people not being bargaining chips. We are talking about people’s lives here, and we fully appreciate and recognise the personal significance that this has. I do say to him, though, that it is appropriate that we look at this in the round, with all the complexities and all the unintended consequences that might arise from making statements now. It is appropriate to consider it in that way and to get the best outcome.
There are unintended consequences in not making a statement now and allowing this issue to drift. There are children in schools, whose parents are French or Polish, who are in tears because they fear that they may have to leave. Extremists are exploiting this for “Go home” campaigns and repatriation campaigns that are vile, and the Home Secretary is just giving them succour. The Minister has been sent out here to waffle, while the Home Secretary, once again, has gone to ground on something that she could sort right now. Parliament is sovereign; we could sort this before the recess. Why do we not have a motion through this Parliament, which every one of us could sign up to and support, to say we will respect people’s rights if they are settled here and contributing to our country already? That is the fair thing to do.
We do have the certainty of knowing that there will be no immediate change, so people should not be fearful. Equally, others should not try to stoke up anxieties in the way that, I think, has been done in some contributions. It is important that we get this right and that people can continue in the way that they have done. Again, this process of leaving the EU is likely to take a number of years, and there will be no change while we remain a member of the European Union. People need to have that confidence and certainty. We will certainly confront any division, any hatred and any racism that we see, and the police are already taking action on that.
While I understand the immediate logic of my right hon. Friend’s position, he does need to understand that our partners are not going to be in a position to make a reciprocal commitment, because 27 nations have to agree a position in the negotiations. This is an area in which the uncertainty needs to be brought to an end as soon as possible. Since it is inconceivable that we would not grant retrospective rights, should we not get on with it immediately?
My hon. Friend is right in saying that it is important that we look at the reciprocal rights and at how we do this at an EU level, rather than with individual member states. I think that is the right approach to take. However, it is important to view this in the round, viewing the role and responsibilities of British citizens who are in other European countries, and ensuring that the actions we take do not have unintended consequences for them.
I find it hard to comprehend: the Minister keeps talking about not using EU citizens as bargaining chips, but then talks as if that is exactly what he is going to do. I also have to declare an interest: my husband is German, he has been a GP in this country for 30 years and, along with others in the community, he is anxious. The Minister says there will not be an answer for several years. In what way should people feel reassured? We caused the problem; we should set the example, and then other countries will respond in kind—just give them the reassurance.
I commend and congratulate the hon. Lady’s husband on the contribution he has made to the NHS, as have so many other EU nationals. Again, it is important to underline the fact that EU nationals who have been exercising treaty rights for a period of five years are entitled to permanent residence under existing rules. That is why we need a calm approach to these issues, underlining the existing arrangements that EU citizens will continue to benefit from, as well as looking at what those arrangements will need to be in future. That is where the negotiation plays such an essential part.
Is not my right hon. Friend making a bit of a meal of this? Why do we not just do what this House clearly wants to do—to grant the rights to these people? Could not that be implemented very quickly if we repealed the European Communities Act 1972? Does he not accept responsibility for gross negligence in not having any contingency plans?
I am afraid that there are significant legal complexities glossed over by my hon. Friend in outlining those solutions. A range of quite complex, multi-faceted issues arise. I have already highlighted things like benefit rights, access to public services, and employment rights, and there are others as well. It is not as simple as some have set it out to be. That is why we need to work through this carefully to get the best outcome.
There are 36,000 EU passport holders in the London borough of Westminster—almost one in eight of the population. This week I have been flooded by emails from people concerned about the jobs they do, the businesses they run, and the future of their children’s education. Does not the Minister understand that “not immediately” is simply not good enough? People are making decisions about their lives, their businesses and their children: they need reassurance, and they need it now.
Of course I understand the points that the hon. Lady very fairly makes. I do not think there is much difference between us on getting to that objective. That is why I make the point that I do about the certainty that people have now, and therefore working towards giving that certainty and assurance as part of the discussions at EU level. I absolutely understand the point that she fairly makes. That is precisely why this needs to be a priority as part of those discussions with our European partners, so that there is certainty for their citizens here, as well as our citizens in those member states.
Does the Minister agree that we should hold ourselves to a higher moral standard than trading off one group of immigrants against another, and immediately unilaterally declare a new immigration status of EU-acquired rights that would give people the right to reside here if they had been here for less than five years, at the same time as advertising to those who have been here for longer than five years that they now automatically have the right of permanent residence, so that as many of them as possible can avail themselves of that right?
I have already, in response to an earlier question, explained the position in relation to permanent residence. Those rights are there. Obviously we will retain and respect all existing rights while we remain a member of the European Union. My hon. Friend makes a number of points about potential solutions. Ultimately, that will be a matter for the next Prime Minister.
Will the Minister join me in condemning Lord Pearson, who has said,
“it is we who hold the stronger hand if we retaliate, because so many more of them”—
“them” being EU citizens—
“are living here”?—[Official Report, House of Lords, 29 June 2016; Vol. 773, c. 1563.]
For two specific categories—the 10,000 EU doctors, just under 10% of the staff, who work in the NHS, and EU students who have just embarked on their studies—can the Minister give any guarantees that they will be able to continue?
On the right hon. Gentleman’s first point, I entirely agree—those comments are simply not acceptable. On his second point, yes, we know that about 50,000 EU citizens are working within the NHS. The contribution that they make is absolutely essential. I underline the points that I have made about the certainty that they have now in relation to existing EU rights, and working towards a position where we can give clarity moving forward.
Some 55,000 members of our NHS workforce qualified elsewhere in the European Union, as did 80,000 members of our equally valued care sector. They need security, not just now, but in the long term, because the workforce crisis is one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS. In addition to welcoming the extraordinarily valuable contribution that those people make to our health and care sector, will the Minister take back the clearest possible message from this House that we need long-term security now?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for underlining the contribution that EU and other citizens make in providing care in the NHS and in the care sector for our elderly. Obviously, as part of the negotiations, we want to ensure that there is an assurance. It exists now—I stress that again—but I acknowledge the priority she has given to it.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) led the campaign that got us into this mess. May I take up with the Minister something he said about the British people living in other European countries? I declare an interest as president of Labour International. We have heard from lots of people who live in Spain and elsewhere who are very concerned about their future. Can the Minister end the uncertainty for those British people—many of whom could not vote in the referendum because they have been abroad for longer than 15 years —that they will not be forced out of Spain, France or elsewhere, by ensuring that the British Government make a quick, early statement on security for citizens of those countries here?
The hon. Gentleman makes his point well on the bigger implications and broader issues that we absolutely have to acknowledge in making decisions. That is why we need to act with care, consideration and thought, to ensure that we consider the rights not only of those from the EU who are here, but of British citizens overseas, who will be feeling equally uncertain. We need to think about both in our discussions.
As the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart), who asked the urgent question, will know, nobody on the official leave campaign raised the prospect of sending people away and deporting people. The issue has been raised by the Home Secretary and it is a catastrophic error of judgment for someone who wishes to lead this country even to suggest that those people who are here legally, who are working and who have families and are settled, should be part of the negotiations. She has made a big error of judgment and that message needs to go back to the Home Secretary today.
I am very sorry, but I think that my hon. Friend has completely mischaracterised what the Home Secretary said. She was merely saying that people come and go: some people who work here may go back to their home countries. That is the fluidity that we see in labour markets and in the movements of people between different countries. That is what the Home Secretary was referring to. We want to work to ensure that the rights of those who are here are guaranteed, and that will form part of the negotiations.
The Minister’s answer to the question seems to be, “Trust me: it’s all in hand.” Is it any wonder that the family of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) and thousands of other families up and down this country cannot trust the Government, given how they have handled the immigration question for years? May I ask the Minister to do a little better than saying, “Just trust me”, and to say whether he has made representations on this issue to his opposite numbers in the French or Spanish Governments?
The issue is being treated seriously. It is not about multilateral negotiations but about getting it right and assessing all the complexities that I have already highlighted this afternoon. That is the appropriate response. As the Prime Minister has said, we need to look at the issue very carefully and it will be for the next Prime Minister to act.
Knowing the contribution that EU nationals make to Torbay, I welcome this afternoon’s far more positive portrayal of their contribution to society, particularly by one or two Members who have not done that over the past couple of months. Does the Minister agree that, in order to reassure them, we could make it very clear that, unless there is a retaliation within the European Union against British passport holders, we will guarantee their rights in the UK?
I welcome my hon. Friend’s comments. We want to make sure that EU nationals who are already here can stay in Britain, but we also, as I have already stressed, need to guarantee the rights of British nationals living in EU member states. That needs to be a priority of our negotiations.
On exactly that point, can the Minister explain how it can possibly be likely to prejudice the rights of UK nationals in the EU if we do the right thing—if we do the moral thing—and uphold basic human rights by extending the rights of EU nationals here? Does he recognise how out of touch he is on this issue, and will he take that message back to the Home Secretary in no uncertain terms?
Of course, I understand the point that the hon. Lady makes about wanting to act. We need to be careful about the unintended consequences and other implications of things that we do now, up front, to ensure that we get the best possible outcome for British citizens overseas. It is about looking at this in the round to achieve the best outcome. I think she and I both agree on that, but we differ on how we should go about it.
I understand the concerns that have been expressed today. My mother is a Danish national who has lived in the UK for more than 50 years. My right hon. Friend has set out that there are complexities here. However, can he reassure the House that this is an urgent priority and that plans are being developed urgently, not only in the Home Office but by the EU Brexit unit that has been set up recently by the Prime Minister?
Yes, I can. My hon. Friend makes reference to the new unit that has been established, and this is certainly seen as an early item in that work.
Is the Minister aware that his remarks and the remarks of the Home Secretary have created real insecurity among a number of people, who are now seeking to become British and who are perfectly qualified for British citizenship? The Minister is about to make hundreds of thousands of pounds of profit from those applications. What is he going to do right now to cut the cost of becoming British, or at least to make it happen faster and more efficiently, for the many European citizens who will become British because they are so unsure of their own future?
I do not accept that my comments or the comments of the Home Secretary have in any way added to the uncertainty that the right hon. Lady has pointed to. The Prime Minister said clearly that nothing changes while we remain a member of the European Union. Obviously, we need to make decisions for the future, and that will be for the next Prime Minister.
Interestingly, throughout the referendum campaign the Government did not indicate what their position would be on the matter. Since the result, they have demonstrated nothing other than that they are completely unprepared for this and every other issue. EU nationals are part of our communities, and our children share classrooms and friendships with them. The Secretary of State for Education stated in an answer to oral questions just before this urgent question that she believes that EU nationals and their children should be allowed to remain in this country. Does the Minister agree with his colleague?
As I have indicated, I believe that we need to work to make sure that people who are here can stay in the UK. Securing that needs to be part of the negotiations. That is part of those discussions, as is the position of British nationals overseas.
The Minister’s statement condemns large numbers of constituents of mine who are married to foreign nationals, expecting children with foreign nationals or employed in factories here and abroad with foreign nationals to great uncertainty. If he will not accept the will of the House today, will he give a clearer indication of the timescale than simply, “It is a matter for the next Prime Minister”?
The right hon. Gentleman will know that there are a number of issues that flow through from the decision that has been made for the UK to leave the European Union, and this is but one of them. I entirely recognise the points that he and others have made, but this is how we are able to get the best outcome for European citizens here and British nationals overseas, and therefore it is part of our detailed, considered work. As I have indicated, it is certainly a priority aspect of that work.
What does the Minister say to my constituent Teodóra Bokonyi, one of the 1,183 EU nationals to whom I wrote last week, who is in full-time education in Scotland and has two years of study left before she gains her degree? What pre-Brexit legal advice was sought by the Government, and will he share that advice, so that I can advise my constituent on how best to be safe and secure in following her studies in the UK?
I wish the hon. Gentleman’s constituent well with her studies, which should continue, and she should have no fears in relation to the current situation, as I have highlighted. We do not share legal advice. That has been the well-founded position of many Governments over the years. I want to assure people that nothing is changing now and the process could take a number of years. I wish her well with her studies in Scotland.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question, although it is somewhat bizarre to see the Brexiteers on both sides of the House weeping crocodile tears. What am I to tell the 15% of my constituents who are EU nationals, hundreds of whom have written to me to express their dismay and, given the racist attacks like that on the Polish centre in Hammersmith, fear? Many of them are thinking of going to another country. If they do, it will be we, not they, who are the poorer for it. We need certainty, and we need it now.
I utterly condemn attacks on any citizens in this country as a consequence of their nationality, faith, creed or colour. They are completely unacceptable and do not represent the country that I or this Government believe in. This House has unequivocally condemned such actions. There have been ministerial visits to the Polish centre. I recognise the points that the hon. Gentleman makes. Clearly, nothing is changing now and it is the negotiations that will provide the ultimate certainty. We want to ensure that the UK remains an open and attractive place for people to come to, to live, work and study. For my part, that is the approach that I will continue to advocate.
In the disgraceful absence of the Home Secretary, can the Minister offer any reassurance beyond “not immediately” to my constituent, Alex Westley, and his French-born wife, Morgan, who fear that her long-term future in the UK cannot be guaranteed? Morgan came to Scotland in good faith. She has built a life here and is contributing to Scottish society. Surely, common decency dictates that she and the millions like her deserve guarantees of their long-term security?
I entirely understand the point the hon. Gentleman makes and the assurance he seeks. Nothing will change immediately, as the Prime Minister has stated clearly. I want us to get to the position where EU nationals who are already here can stay in Britain, but that needs to be part of the negotiation.
Yesterday, I was stopped in the street by a constituent who is an EU national whose children were born here. The family are from Denmark, but the children do not speak a word of Danish and the older child is due to start school next term. Does the Minister understand that the Government have an obligation to uphold the best interests and welfare of children and that this uncertainty is putting parents in an impossible position?
As I have said in response to other questions, I understand the position we face as a consequence of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. As I have indicated, no immediate changes will happen while we remain an EU member state. Clearly, we want to be in a position to give the guarantees that the hon. Lady’s constituent seeks. That will be a core part of the negotiations that will follow.
In a written parliamentary question in January, I asked the Home Secretary to outline the contingency plans her Department was making for a leave vote. In the reply, the Minister gave no assurances. Is it not clear that on this issue, as with every question thrown up by the leave vote, the Government have done absolutely no contingency planning? The consequence in this instance is that people who are making decisions about their education, their jobs and their families have no assurances whatsoever from the Government. Is the Minister not ashamed of that position, and does it not reflect the cavalier approach of this Government since they were elected last year?
No. I do not accept the characterisation that the hon. Gentleman seeks to proffer. I say to him very clearly that the security and guarantees that he and his constituents may be seeking require the positive outcome of the negotiations with the European Union. That is the absolute focus of this Government with the establishment of the new unit in the Cabinet Office. It will be for the new Prime Minister to take that forward.
Since this Government have shown themselves to be woefully inadequate in setting the right policy and doing the right thing by EU nationals, will the Minister consider devolving these powers to Scotland, which has a Government who can lead and will do the right thing?
Following on from the question from the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Ms Ahmed-Sheikh), can we be clear that the Secretary of State for Education confirmed at the Dispatch Box that the children of all EU nationals would continue to be educated in British schools? Will the Minister tell us whether that will go up to the age of 18, or 21, or does he not have clue, as with the rest of his answers?
The Secretary of State for Education made her comments this afternoon and clearly he will need to direct further comments to the Department.
You’re part of the same Government!
Order. Members are in a very excitable state. [Interruption.] Normally, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central is a very cerebral and well behaved fellow. He must take some sort of soothing medicament, because I am sure he wants to listen to his hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne).
It is frankly unbelievable that no contingency planning had taken place in respect of a leave vote, not just on EU citizens living and working in the UK but on UK nationals living and working in other EU member states. Given that those people are disproportionately older and retired, and EU citizens living and working the UK tend to be younger, in work and paying tax to the Exchequer, what kind of bargaining chip does the Minister think he has?
This is not a question of bargaining chips at all, as I have said very clearly throughout my contributions this afternoon; rather, it is about looking at this issue in the round, with all the implications there are. It is not right to suggest that every EU national here fits the categories that the hon. Gentleman described. We have the self-employed, those who are employed, retained workers of self-employed persons, those who are retired, jobseekers, students, the self-sufficient and family members. These are complex issues that require careful consideration. That is what we need to do.
If the Government are unwilling to guarantee the future of EU nationals living here, what assessment have they made of the impact on public services of the exodus of EU nationals and the potential return of hundreds of thousands of retirees from abroad?
As I have already indicated, we want to be in a position in which EU nationals who are already here can stay in Britain. As I have already made clear, there is no change to the current arrangements or situation. We want to work quickly to see that these issues are resolved, but I again repeat that that needs to be part of the negotiations.
May I put on the record my absolute disappointment with the Minister’s statement today? On an issue that appears to command consensus among those who campaigned both for leave and for remain, it beggars belief that the Home Secretary yesterday and the Minister today cannot give the reassurance that the millions of people in this country need that they can stay here and have the rights that they deserve, and it is notable that not one Member of this House has so far agreed with the Government’s position. These people are our teachers, our doctors, our entrepreneurs; they are also our taxpayers. They deserve that reassurance. The tone the Minister would then send to other European nations would in my view be the kind of tone we need to keep relations with our allies and protect the rights of our British citizens abroad.
I absolutely appreciate and recognise the huge contribution that EU citizens make to our economy and in so many other different ways. They enrich our country. There are difficult challenges to face now as a consequence of the decision that has been taken for the UK to leave the European Union. I have been very clear, as has the Prime Minister, that EU nationals’ rights remain unchanged while we remain a member of the European Union. Clearly, we are working to ensure that the negotiations are successful in giving those guarantees to ensure that those who are here are able to stay.
The Minister keeps evading our inquiries on the whereabouts of his boss. What is so important that the Home Secretary cannot attend this urgent question, which in large part has been occasioned by her comments to the press? Does the Minister understand that many thousands of our fellow citizens are fearful and anxious for their future and that his procrastination serves only to fuel rather than to allay that anxiety?
I respond to issues relating to migration and our immigration system, so it is entirely appropriate for me to respond to this urgent question. I note and appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s point about uncertainty for European citizens in the UK, as well as for British citizens overseas. That is why I have been clear that there are no immediate changes. I have sought to give that assurance, and it is unfortunate that many contributions have sought to stoke up some of those uncertainties, when the Government have been providing clarity and assurance on the process that will need to take place to give the sort of comfort that the hon. Gentleman seeks.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) has a brass neck for bringing this urgent question to the House, and the Minister has a brass neck for saying that EU citizens will not be used as bargaining chips, because that is exactly what he is doing. His boss, the Home Secretary, has a brass neck for making comments and then not coming to the House. I have continually heard the phrase “strong government”, so will the Minister find the strength to find his boss, do the right thing and make a decision for EU citizens?
The hon. Gentleman makes his point in his own way, and I will make mine in my own way. We recognise and respect the contribution that EU citizens make in the UK, and equally we must ensure that the rights of British citizens overseas are protected. We will take that combined approach to get the best possible outcome for both.
Surplus Target and Corporation Tax
(Urgent Question): To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on proposals regarding the Government’s surplus target and plans to further cut corporation tax.
In the past week, I have sought to be realistic with the British people about the economic challenges we now face but to mix that realism with reassurance that we can rise to those challenges. The financial contingency plans that the Governor of the Bank of England and I put in place have proved effective to date. Financial markets have adjusted, but I can report today that, although we remain vigilant, they have shown no signs of disorder. We must now respond to developments in the real economy, which will require a supreme national effort.
First, we must look to support demand and ensure that credit flows freely in our economy. The Governor of the Bank of England said on Friday that
“some monetary policy easing will likely be required over the summer”.
Thanks to the reforms that I introduced, the independent Bank of England has the tools that it needs to act against the cycle and support lending in the economy. The Financial Policy Committee will publish its decisions tomorrow, and we stand ready in the Treasury to act in concert with the Bank of England should more need to be done to support funding for lending.
The second part of our national effort must be to maintain Britain’s fiscal credibility. Eight years ago, people questioned Britain’s ability to pay its way in the world; eight years later, British gilts are seen as a safe haven and funding costs have fallen to record lows. We should maintain the fiscal consolidation measures that we have announced. However, our rules were always explicit that, in the face of what the fiscal charter calls a “significant negative shock”, we should allow the automatic stabilisers to operate, and with the consensus of economic forecasters now lowering the forecast growth for the UK next year—from close to 2% before the referendum to 0.4% now—that is what we will do. We must be realistic that the target for a surplus is unlikely to be achieved in 2019-20. The Office for Budget Responsibility will conduct a formal assessment when it produces a new independent forecast in the autumn, and then we will have a clear idea of what additional measures are required to maintain fiscal credibility.
Thirdly, we need to broadcast loud and clear the message that Britain remains the best place in the world to do business. In the past six years, we have reduced Britain’s corporation tax rate from 28% to 20% today, and 17% in the future. I did that at the same time as taking difficult decisions elsewhere to balance the books. In my view, the strongest signal we could send to the world that Britain, after the referendum, is open to the world and ready to do business would be to cut corporation tax still further. We should aim for a rate of 15% and preferably lower, because if we are pro-business, we are pro-jobs, pro-living standards and pro-working people.
Fourthly, the referendum result revealed a deep-seated feeling of disfranchisement in too many of our communities, especially in the midlands and the north of England. As I said in Manchester on Friday, the northern powerhouse is the right response and we need to redouble our efforts with elected mayors and new transport infrastructure. In my view, once both parties have determined who their leader should be, we should then get on and build a new runway in the south-east of England, because we cannot be open to the world if we cannot fly there.
Fifthly and finally, while we must seek with our European neighbours the best possible terms of trade in goods and services, including financial services, now is the time also to redouble our efforts to promote trade with the rest of the world. I have spoken to my US counterparts. Later this month, I will be travelling to China to build on that important new partnership.
To conclude, this is a blueprint to meet our economic challenge. Nothing positive will come from looking back in anger. We must lift our eyes to the horizon ahead and make the best of what is to come.
I would like to thank the Chancellor for his response. I think it is important that, as in the Opposition day debate last week, we set the tone of our response at the level of the national interest and take care to avoid making any statements that would adversely impact on fragile markets.
I have to say, however, that a lack of planning for a leave vote is becoming evident across all policy areas. Instead of a clear plan of action, we have so far had a series of ad hoc statements and announcements, including the grateful abandonment of the “Brexit Budget”, which was to increase the sharply the level of austerity being applied. The fiscal surplus target has been abandoned and today the Chancellor has announced planned reductions in the headline rate of corporation tax.
Rather than ad hoc announcements, we need a framework for economic decision making. Previously, the Government sought to do that with the fiscal charter, which was passed into law last autumn despite Labour opposition. May I ask the Chancellor now, since he is no longer pursuing the fiscal surplus target, if the charter is also to be abandoned? Will he be putting a motion to repeal the law before this House? Will he be seeking to place a new fiscal rule on a similar basis in legislation?
The Chancellor has announced today that he will redouble his efforts to invest in the northern powerhouse. Of course the details of that are to be decided, but will he tell the House when he expects to have a detailed programme of investment? What scale of investment should we expect? What areas, and how focused will that investment be? Does he now agree with Labour Members, and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, that a major programme of Government investment is urgently needed? Does he agree with the Home Secretary’s decision not to give a guarantee to existing EU nationals living and working in this country? What will be the economic effects of that? Will he therefore give a more detailed statement to the House on the economic consequences of this decision?
The Chancellor has promised that, while seeking to boost investment, he will be maintaining
“the consolidation that we put in place last year.”
May I ask him for some clarification on this point? Is he now ruling out any further or additional consolidation in light of the leave vote? Regarding the planned cuts to the headline rate of corporation tax, the news has not been well-received by our international partners. Pascal Lamy of the World Trade Organisation has accused the Chancellor of “tax dumping”. He also highlights the risk to future negotiations with the EU.
I want to raise three critical questions on this issue. The Chancellor’s Budget this year suggested that his one percentage point reduction in the headline corporation tax rate will reduce expected revenues by about £1 billion. Does the Chancellor still hold to that estimate? How will the Chancellor pay for any losses in tax revenues from the proposed corporation tax cuts? Who will pay? The evidence from existing cuts to corporation tax is not favourable. Despite year-on-year reductions in the headline rate to the lowest rate in the G7, business investment remains low by G7 standards and has now fallen for two consecutive quarters.
Businesses are sitting on a cash pile of at least £500 billion yet are failing to invest. What assessment has the Chancellor made that a dramatic reduction in the corporation tax rate will have the desired effect on business investment, given the absence of evidence so far?
Finally, we know that the circumstances after the leave vote will be trying and that major forecasters now anticipate the UK possibly entering a recession over the next year. The Chancellor’s fiscal approach has failed and has been steadily abandoned. In the interests of the country, will he now commit to adopting a fiscal approach that allows the flexibility to invest while maintaining fiscal discipline, as the Opposition and now some on his own side are urging?
When I became Chancellor, there was a question mark over Britain’s ability to pay its way in the world, and that was reflected in our bond yields, but because of our determined effort over the last six years, when we have hit an economic shock, as we have done in the last two weeks, the response has been a fall in bond yields—because people have confidence in the UK.
First on planning, extensive contingency plans were in place to deal with financial market disorder as a result of a leave vote, and the fact that we are not debating that today shows that those plans have been effective—we remain vigilant, but those plans were in place. Secondly, we must now decide on the new model of our relationship with the EU. That was not on the ballot paper and has to be a decision for Parliament. We set out the options for the country in advance of the referendum debate, and now we must have that discussion.
Thirdly on planning, the fiscal charter specifically provides for the impact of a negative shock, which is what we have had, and as a result the rules of the charter apply. As I say, it is unlikely that the surplus will be achieved in 2019-20—although that will be for the OBR formally to assess—and it will then be up to the Chancellor to produce new plans to restore the public finances to surplus and for Parliament to vote on them. We thought about that in advance: it is in the charter that the House voted on.
The hon. Gentleman talked about investment. On Friday, I met the Labour leader of Manchester City Council, Richard Leese. We talked about how we could redouble our efforts to invest in transport across the Pennines and about devolved powers for mayors and the like. That will be part of our response to the disfranchisement that too many of our citizens in the midlands and the north of England have clearly felt.
Finally, the hon. Gentleman also asked about business confidence and the corporation tax cuts. Not only have our corporation tax cuts given us the lowest corporation tax rate of all the advanced economies of the world, but we have seen a 20% increase in receipts from corporation tax—because businesses are coming to this country, growing their businesses in this country and employing 2 million people. The best response we can send to the world to show that we are open for business is to go on reducing business tax.
The Chancellor has done the right thing to buttress the decisions of the Bank on monetary policy with fiscal measures, particularly by allowing the automatic stabilisers to kick in. The 2020 fiscal surplus target was always likely to be a casualty at the first sound of Brexit gunfire, and so it has proved—hence the need to take advantage of the charter’s flexibility. Does he agree that, in order most effectively to bolster credibility in the coming years, over the next few months we need to develop a rule that sets fiscal policy in a longer-term framework and which is resilient to changes in the OBR’s short-term forecasts?
It is clearly likely that we will be impacted by a cyclical downturn in the public finances—we can already see the growth forecasts being adjusted. The OBR will help us to make an assessment of the referendum result’s structural impact on the public finances and our chances of hitting the target—as I say, it looks unlikely that we will hit it—and then, under the fiscal charter, it will be up to the Government to produce a plan that will be debated and voted on by the House. We have provided for this contingency, and now we need to let the OBR do its work.
I welcome what the Chancellor said about possible monetary policy easing from the Bank, about the automatic stabilisers and, in particular, about export promotion—we hope that that will be matched by a U-turn on the cuts to the UK Trade & Investment’s export promotion budget.
In general terms, we welcome the U-turn on the arbitrary fiscal surplus rule, which, we should remember, planned to cut more than £40 billion a year and was required to run a balanced current account budget. While we support tax competition and recognise that corporation tax cuts might be a useful tool in the fight against capital flight in the aftermath of the appalling Brexit decision, it is also true if we look at the 2016 Red Book numbers as a guide, that a substantial cut in corporation tax—say, 5%—could, in the absence of behavioural change, lead to a reduction of revenue yield of about £2.5 billion a year. I ask the Chancellor one question in particular. Given that he has abandoned his fiscal rule, will he today rule out any plans to claw back potential losses in revenue yield from the cut in corporation tax, in the absence of behavioural change, through the mechanism of further attacks on the welfare budget?
First, as a result of the reforms we have made over the last six years, the Bank of England has many more tools at its disposal than it did in the financial crash. Obviously, it can act on monetary policy consistent with its inflation target. The Governor of the Bank of England, speaking in a personal capacity as a member of Monetary Policy Committee, said that easing was likely to be required. A number of other tools, including counter-cyclical financial tools, are available, which means that there is a range of options to deploy. Over the coming weeks, we will hear whether, how and why the Bank of England, which is independent in its decision making, needs to deploy those tools.
I am rather disappointed that the SNP spokesman has not reminded us that it was SNP policy to cut corporation tax. Indeed, that has been its policy for year after year. In the independence referendum, the SNP said that one of the benefits of independence was the ability to cut corporation tax. The great thing about being in the United Kingdom is that the SNP can get corporation tax cuts in any case.
When did my right hon. Friend decide that he was not going to introduce an emergency Brexit Budget to penalise the people who voted leave?
We have to be realistic about the economic shock that the referendum result has created, which is acknowledged not just by the Bank Governor but by many independent forecasters—it is reflected in the financial markets. It will have an impact on the public finances, which will partly be cyclical, but also partly structural. In the end, a structural deficit—my hon. Friend, who is a good fiscal conservative, will know this—needs to be addressed through either reduced spending or higher taxes over time. Obviously, as a Conservative, I tend to look at the spending solution rather than the tax one, but that is what happens when there is a structural deficit, as we know to our cost in this country. Let us wait for the OBR to make its assessment in the autumn, then we can collectively decide how to proceed.
The OBR says that cuts in corporation tax have so far had no discernible impact on either business investment or growth. Indeed, in the latest forecast, despite cuts to corporation tax, business investment was revised down. I urge the Chancellor to look instead at helping small businesses or investing in infrastructure rather than going ahead with further cuts in corporation tax, which so far seem to have made no difference.
I am all for supporting small businesses, which is why we have a package of rates relief in the Budget. I am all for making the big transport investments, which this country has, frankly, not done for a generation. That is why I support High Speed 2 and indeed High Speed 3, as well as a new runway in the south-east of England.
The OBR has revised up its economic forecast for business investment when we have introduced corporation tax cuts, so it draws a link between the two. A study on the long-term impact of our corporation tax cuts so far suggests that they have seen an increase in our long-run GDP of 1.3%, which is the equivalent of £24 billion in today’s prices.
Before the referendum, the Finance Bill set out the path to lower corporation tax, so I am pleased, following the result, that the Chancellor has set out further steps to reduce it and to invest much more in the northern powerhouse. Will my right hon. Friend tell us what conversations he has had with business leaders about his proactive approach, following the referendum result?
Over the past 10 days I have had numerous conversations with various business leaders and leaders of financial institutions, and tomorrow I will be meeting the heads of some of the major banks to discuss how we proceed. The overall, and very clear, message from the Prime Minister’s business council, which met on Thursday, was, “Let us send a message round the world that we are not closed for business, we are not turning our back on the world; we are open to business and we are reaching out to the world.” A good way of doing that is to further reduce corporation tax, and then we must make the most of our links not just with our European friends, but with countries such as China, India and the United States, where we should be seeking to strengthen our trading links.
Cutting corporation tax in this way is highly likely to annoy our EU partners, which is extremely foolish in the run-up to the article 50 negotiations. Would not a better way of averting the risk of recession be to promise to replace the EU funds we are going to lose, and which were such an important part of the northern devolution deals?
When it comes to annoying our European partners, I do not think this is going to be the thing that tips the balance after the last couple of weeks. Ireland is a member of the EU and has a 12.5% corporation tax rate. When it comes to investment in the north and the midlands, I am very much open to what further steps we can take. I do not pretend that we have done everything possible; I think there is more we are going to have to do, and all of us collectively—particularly those who represent constituencies in the north and the midlands—need to focus on what we can do to make sure that people feel more enfranchised and connected with this country’s economic success.
The Brexit vote was always going to require a Treasury response so I am pleased the Chancellor has produced one, but, rather than concentrate on the profit and loss, I wonder if he would care to look more at the balance sheet and consider measures to lift or relieve some of the constraints on the operational liquidity of capital in the economy. Our capital base is fundamental to our growth, and taxes and regulations on the operation of capital are significant constraints. So will the Chancellor look at investment allowances, tax breaks on starting new businesses and capital gains tax, in the hope that we can maintain a nice liquid market for capital investment in the UK?
My hon. Friend is right to say that, while taxes on business profits are important, capital taxes are also vital to stimulating investment. That is why in the Budget we reduced capital gains tax—and, with hindsight, that is an even more sensible move than I thought it was at the time. I am always ready to consider further investment allowances, and we have very successful allowances such as the enterprise investment scheme. Of course, the balance has always got to be between simplification and simplicity of the tax system and new allowances, and sometimes people call on me in the same breath to do both things—not my hon. Friend, because he is very clear in his thinking. We have got those allowances, but reducing headline rates is generally the better approach.
With the benefit of hindsight, does the Chancellor accept that his original threat to introduce a deflationary Budget in the event of a Brexit vote was both bogus and counterproductive?
What I was setting out with Alistair Darling, my immediate predecessor, was the realism that will be required when we understand that the economy, impacted by the vote, will have an impact on the public finances, and then it will be up to the House of Commons to decide how we proceed. It was important that that information was in the public domain before people voted.
First, may I put on record my thanks to the Chancellor for the work he has done over the last week in stabilising the economy following the Brexit vote? Gooch & Housego in my constituency is a company that depends on exports. What message does the Chancellor have for such exporting businesses about Britain’s future role in the world, particularly in terms of trade?
We need to do two things. First, we need to determine our new trading relationship with our European partners; about half of our exports go to the European continent and, in my view, we should be pushing for the best possible terms of trade in goods and business services, including financial services. Secondly, we should be maximising our links with the rest of the world. We have a real opportunity with China. As my hon. Friend will know, I have been very involved in trying to strengthen the relationship with that big emerging economy in our world, but we should also look to our links with Japan, India, the United States and the Commonwealth, and this is a call to action that we need to redouble our efforts.
The Chancellor gained his office because he promised in 2010 that he would eradicate the deficit by 2015. He failed on that, as we always knew he would, and he is now giving up on achieving that aim by 2020 or indeed by any specific date. Was not his long-term economic plan, which he has now dumped, only ever just a vacuous slogan?
We gained office because we were faced with the complete economic mess created under the last Labour Government. We promised to turn that around, and we got a record number of people into work and have had the fastest growing economy for the past three years. When it comes to the deficit, the right hon. Gentleman was a Treasury Minister and he left me with an 11% budget deficit—the highest in the peacetime history of this country—but this year it is forecast to be below 3%, so I will compare our record with Labour’s record.
The Chancellor will be aware that I have many small and medium-sized businesses in my constituency that export to Europe. Will he explain what steps he is taking to ensure that UKTI has a package that will allow such businesses to look more globally for their exports?
I know my hon. Friend’s constituency well, as it neighbours my own. We represent similar communities in Parliament. We as a country do not have to make a choice between exporting to Europe and exporting to the world; we should be doing both. Of course we should be doing everything we can to maintain close trading links with our European partners, and indeed building on them if that is possible, but we should also be looking for opportunities around the rest of the world. The trip that I am making to China will provide an opportunity to communicate that message, and I have also spoken to the Speaker of Congress and others in the United States Administration about what we can do to strengthen our links with that huge market. In the end, however, the best thing that UKTI can do is to help not only our largest companies but the small businesses that my hon. Friend has referred to. In countries such as Germany, many more small and medium-sized companies are exporting than is the case in the UK, but it is within our own gift to address that and we need to give those companies all the help that we can.
This week marks a year since the Chancellor published his productivity plan, and his record speaks for itself. UK productivity remains at the bottom of the G7 league table and 20% lower than the average. The plan was never a plan. Indeed, his decision today shows that he is continuing down that road. Is it not time for him to do what British businesses are actually calling for, which is to provide investment in our schools, in infrastructure and in affordable housing for workers, rather than doing as he is today and running the risk of our becoming tax haven Britain?
I do not think that the business community wants higher business taxes, which is the Labour proposal. When it comes to major transport investments, we are making them. Labour was in office during all those years when money was apparently coming in, but where were the major investments in the railways and the roads? Labour Members complain about our energy investments, but where are the power stations that were opened under the Labour Government? The more we look at that period of our economic history, the more we can see what a massive missed opportunity it was.
I am disappointed that none of the leading leave campaigners is here to listen to what the Chancellor has to say about the impact of Brexit. Will he put the economy on a war footing to stave off a recession? Will he invest in infrastructure, particularly housing, and prioritise support to small and medium-sized businesses through the British Business Bank, which was set up by the Liberal Democrats in coalition, so that innovative companies will continue to receive support if bank lending dries up?
The British Business Bank—which was created under a policy announced by me at this Dispatch Box—is working successfully, and I pay tribute to Liberal Democrat colleagues in the coalition Government for helping us to deliver it. Of course it has an important role to play in the future. The right hon. Gentleman is right, in the broader sense, to say that we need to look at what we can do to support demand and credit in the economy. The Bank of England has many tools, and the Governor of the Bank has already indicated that, in his personal opinion, we should be looking at monetary easing.
I congratulate the Chancellor on his fiscal response, and also on his comment on Heathrow in the statement. Will he reassure the House about the strength and stability of the UK banking system, given the reforms of the last six years?
I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. I should point out that I did not identify where the additional runway should be in the south-east of England, although I cannot but note that his constituency is next to Gatwick, so that may have been a loaded question.
As for my hon. Friend’s broader point, he is right to point to the stability of the banking system. Although we remain vigilant, we are not, today, talking about a banking crisis, despite a very significant adjustment in financial markets. That is because of difficult decisions made by this Government and their coalition predecessor to strengthen the capital requirements, so that banks have 10 times as much capital as they had seven or eight years ago, and to strengthen the oversight of our banking system by putting the Bank of England in charge. I think that those decisions have been justified by what has happened in the last 10 days, but that does not mean that we can ease up; of course we remain vigilant.
The Chancellor referred to his fiscal charter, which, of course, has three pillars: the welfare cap, debt reduction in every year of this Parliament, and his target of deficit reduction by 2019-20. We know that he is not going to meet the last one, but can he update the House on the other two pillars?
The fiscal charter was explicitly designed to ensure that the House of Commons could hold Ministers to account for their fiscal policy, and, indeed, maintain controls on welfare policy. However, it also provided for a specific requirement, in the event of a negative shock, for them to come back to the House of Commons with a new proposal. That, it seems to me, is thinking ahead, and it has been required because of the challenges that we now face in the economy.
Nearly 20% of people in the Calder Valley work in manufacturing, much of which involves high-end niche manufacturers who export. Does my right hon. Friend agree that those businesses need us to negotiate trade agreements not just with the European Union but with the rest of the world, and that it would be wise for us to draw breath before rushing into triggering article 50 for our exit from the EU?
The Prime Minister’s position—which I share, and which I think is sensible for the country—is that we should trigger article 50 when we are clear, collectively, about the new model of the relationship that we want with our European allies, so that we are well prepared for the negotiations on which we would then embark.
The Government have already approved a power for the Northern Ireland Executive to reduce corporation tax. In that context, does the Chancellor accept that the decision to cut corporation tax in Britain to 15% raises issues of attractiveness and competitiveness for the Northern Ireland rate when it comes to foreign direct investment?
As the hon. Lady knows, we still have to work out the fiscal underpinning of these arrangements, but they allow the Northern Ireland Executive to set any rate that they want. The good news about the reduction in the UK rate is that it applies to businesses throughout Northern Ireland as well, and, to put it, bluntly, makes it cheaper for the Northern Ireland Executive to reduce their corporation tax rate.
I welcome the commitment to lower the corporation tax rate, but may I echo the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) about the need to look at our corporation tax regime in the round? I recently visited Lavenham Press, a printing company in my constituency, whose representatives pointed out that capital allowances had been cut. Given the importance of manufacturing, may I ask my right hon. Friend at least to keep the issue of capital allowances under review?
Of course we keep taxes under review. As I have said, my revealed preference is generally to try to reduce reliefs and reduce headline rates, which I think is the least economically distorting approach, but there are many exceptions to that. One of them has been the investment allowance, which we have increased, and which is particularly targeted at small and medium-sized businesses. It now stands at £200,000 as a permanent annual allowance, which is the highest that it has ever been.
As ever, the Chancellor is fond of having a pop at the previous Labour Government, but there was a crisis in the markets to which that Government had to respond. This is a crisis made in Government to which the markets are responding. With that in mind, and because he has not answered this yet, will he say what proper assessment he has made of the impact of this cut in corporation tax on our country’s productivity crisis?
First of all, the problems in the financial markets eight years ago hit this country more severely than almost any other country in the world, and the Government at the time take some responsibility for that. Secondly, the challenge we face is one that was delivered by our democracy. It is a democratic outcome that we accept and respect and we have to make it work for our country. I am determined to make that happen.
As the hon. Lady well knows, productivity growth is a challenge in every western democracy at the moment. Indeed, the US is now predicted to have negative productivity growth. Productivity is still growing in the UK, but we need to do more to improve it. Education reform, welfare reform and transport investment are good places to start.
From the moment the result of the EU referendum was announced and the British people said that they wanted to leave the European Union, prominent commentators in most areas of the media have revelled in running down the British economy and its future prospects. With employment at a record high and unemployment at a 10-year low, does my right hon. Friend agree that the British economy is well placed to face the future?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. We are well placed because we have got behind Britain’s businesses, large and small. The essential decision that we—he and I and our colleagues—took collectively six years ago was to push for a private sector recovery, rather than to continually pump in Government money to try to sustain the economy. That approach has been vindicated by the record numbers of jobs and businesses created and our record growth compared with other advanced economies.
A few weeks ago, we were told that a punishment Budget would be presented to Parliament if there was a leave vote. We are now told that we do not need one and that we can cut corporation tax. The contingency plan that the Chancellor is taking credit for is actually the work of the Bank of England, which presented him with the chance to go into hiding in the aftermath of the leave vote. Given the failure to meet targets and the number of U-turns, is it not the case that the Chancellor is making up a plan as he goes along?
The contingency plans that we had in place were joint plans of the Treasury and the Bank of England and require the authorisation of a Chancellor in certain aspects. Based on the assessment we made before the referendum of the different models available to the UK, we now have to make a decision about how we want to proceed as a country. I am clear that we want the closest possible economic links, so that vital industries—not just manufacturing, but financial services, which is important to the Scottish economy—are able to trade as freely as possible with our European neighbours.
The UK is a world leader in the financial services sector, which employs hundreds of thousands across the country and contributes substantially to corporation tax receipts. Will the Chancellor continue to do all that he can to protect this vital sector?
Financial services is our largest private sector employer, and two thirds of its jobs are outside our capital city. It is a vital industry in the many different towns and cities of the United Kingdom. One of our key priorities is ensuring not only that our financial services industry continues to be a real success and that it is able to sell its services into Europe, but that we strengthen our links with other great global financial centres and economies. For example, becoming the offshore trading centre for the renminbi has been one of the real success stories of recent years.
Will the Chancellor support investment in projects such as further upgrading the Heads of the Valleys Road and electrifying the south Wales metro? Improving transport links will help to improve employment in the south Wales valleys and boost demand across the UK.
I am always happy to consider any good proposals to make further investment in our transport infrastructure. We of course support the electrification of railway lines both into south Wales and through the valleys. The Cardiff city deal has just been signed for the wider Cardiff city region, but if the hon. Gentleman has further proposals, I am happy to look at them.
When the Chancellor cut corporation tax in the Budget, he reduced the losses that banks could offset against corporation tax liabilities. Will he consider extending that to ensure that while we have the lowest possible rates, everyone pays their fair share of corporation tax?
My hon. Friend rightly says that as well as reducing corporation tax rates, we did a lot to reduce some of the reliefs that have been used—and some that have been abused. Broadly speaking, that is the right direction of travel for our tax system.
The prize for patience goes to Nigel Mills.
That is not a prize I get often. I welcome the Chancellor’s decision to further reduce the rate of corporation tax—I called for it in the Budget debate last week, so I ought to welcome it. To get the most benefit out of that, we need to simplify our business tax system further to make it more attractive. Will he therefore agree to hold a review to try to make our system as simple as it can be?
We are seeking to make our business tax system simpler, and our Office of Tax Simplification will be on a statutory footing and will help us. Let me be a bit discursive at the end here. In this job, I get many requests for tax reliefs and tax breaks for particular things, all of which are very worthy and sensible. They do, however, complicate the tax system. Sometimes the more difficult path is to say that welcome though lots of different reliefs would be, the simpler thing would be to reduce the rate. Broadly speaking—there are exceptions to this—that is the approach that I have followed and intend to follow in the future.
Vehicle Noise Limits (Enforcement) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Kevin Foster, supported by Wendy Morton, Kit Malthouse, Mark Field and Michael Tomlinson, presented a Bill to make provision for the enforcement of noise limits for vehicles via automatic monitoring equipment; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 2 December, and to be printed (Bill 27).
Broadcasting (Radio Multiplex Services) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Kevin Foster, supported by Wendy Morton, Michael Tomlinson, Maggie Throup, Valerie Vaz, Peter Heaton-Jones, David Warburton, Kit Malthouse, Danny Kinahan and Mike Wood, presented a Bill to make provision about the regulation of small-scale radio multiplex services; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 13 January 2017, and to be printed (Bill 28).
Wild Animals in Circuses (Prohibition) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Kevin Foster, supported by James Heappey, Nusrat Ghani, Wendy Morton, Michael Tomlinson, Louise Haigh, Will Quince, Anna Turley, Simon Hoare, Mr Philip Hollobone, Bob Blackman and Jim Dowd, presented a Bill to prohibit the use of wild animals in circuses; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 February 2017, and to be printed (Bill 29).
Animal Fighting (Sentencing) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Kevin Foster, supported by Nusrat Ghani, Wendy Morton, Michael Tomlinson, Jim Dowd, Anna Turley, Mr Philip Hollobone, Louise Haigh, Simon Hoare, Philip Boswell, Rebecca Pow and Dr Lisa Cameron, presented a Bill to amend the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to increase the sentence available to the court for those convicted of a criminal offence related to animal fighting; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 February 2017, and to be printed (Bill 30).
Local Audit (Public Access to Documents) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Wendy Morton, supported by Kevin Foster, Michael Tomlinson, Sir David Amess, Mary Robinson and Ben Howlett, presented a Bill to extend public access to certain local audit documents under section 26 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 25 November, and to be printed (Bill 31).
Crown Tenancies Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Wendy Morton, supported by Kevin Foster, Michael Tomlinson, Sir David Amess, Ben Howlett, Mark Pawsey and Jeremy Lefroy, presented a Bill to provide that Crown tenancies may be assured tenancies for the purposes of the Housing Act 1988, subject to certain exceptions; to modify the assured tenancies regime in relation to certain Crown tenancies; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 16 December, and to be printed (Bill 32) .
Highway Works (Weekend Working and Traffic Management Measures) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Wendy Morton, supported by Kevin Foster, Michael Tomlinson, Sir David Amess, Mary Robinson, Maggie Throup, Ben Howlett, Amanda Solloway, Jeremy Lefroy and Victoria Prentis, presented a Bill to regulate works on certain highways in England by making provision about weekend and bank holiday working and provision about removal of traffic lights and other traffic management measures after the completion of works.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 20 January 2017, and to be printed (Bill 33).
Local Authority Roads (Wildlife Protection) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Wendy Morton, supported by Kevin Foster, Michael Tomlinson, Sir David Amess and Anna Turley, presented a Bill to place a duty on local highways agencies and local transport authorities to make provisions safeguarding wildlife on roads passing through, or adjacent to, specified protected areas; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 February 2017, and to be printed (Bill 34).
Use of Property (Protection) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Michael Tomlinson presented a Bill to make provision about protecting existing and established use of property; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 21 October, and to be printed (Bill 35).
Road Traffic Offenders (Surrender of Driving Licences Etc) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Michael Tomlinson presented a Bill to make provision about the surrender, production or other delivery up of driving licences, or test certificates, in relation to certain offences; to make provision in relation to identifying persons in connection with fixed penalty notices, conditional offers and the payment of fixed penalties under the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 January 2017, and to be printed (Bill 36).
Providers of Health and Social Care (Schemes under Section 71 of the National Health Service Act 2006) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Michael Tomlinson presented a Bill to amend section 71 of the National Health Service Act 2006 to enable schemes under that section to make provision to meet liabilities of health and social care providers in respect of integrated health and social care services.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 March 2017, and to be printed (Bill 37).
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (Safety Abroad) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Michael Tomlinson presented a Bill to require companies offering or marketing holiday accommodation in other countries to British citizens to undertake specified health and safety measures in relation to carbon monoxide emissions; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 March 2017, and to be printed (Bill 38).
Protection of Family Homes (Enforcement and Permitted Development) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Steve McCabe presented a Bill to make provision about guidance to local authorities on when to take enforcement action for breaches of planning law; to clarify guidance on the scope of permitted development rights; to make provision about rights and entitlements, including of appeal, for people whose homes are affected by such breaches; to make provision for the inspection and regulation of building under the permitted development regime; to establish financial penalties for developers who breach planning law in certain circumstances; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 28 October and to be printed (Bill 39).
Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (Statutory Requirement) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Caroline Lucas, supported by Mrs Maria Miller, Kate Green, Teresa Pearce, Liz Saville Roberts, Barbara Keeley, Valerie Vaz, Thangam Debbonaire, Jess Phillips, Sarah Champion and Diana Johnson, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to provide that Personal, Socia