House of Commons
Wednesday 14 December 2016
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Business before Questions
The Vice-Chamberlain of the Household reported to the House, That the Address of 1st November, praying that Her Majesty will appoint Sir John Holmes as the Chair of the Electoral Commission, with effect from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2020, was presented to Her Majesty, who was graciously pleased to comply with the request.
The Vice-Chamberlain of the Household reported to the House, That the Address of 1st November, praying that Her Majesty will appoint Dame Susan Bruce as an Electoral Commissioner, with effect from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2020, was presented to Her Majesty, who was graciously pleased to comply with the request.
Oral Answers to Questions
Cabinet Office and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
The Minister for the Cabinet Office was asked—
The persistence and ingenuity of those who would threaten us with cyber- attacks mean that we need to work even harder to keep pace with the threat. That is why we recently launched our five-year national cyber-security strategy—supported by £1.9 billion of investment—in which we set out ambitious steps to respond to that increasing cyber-threat.
My hon. Friend raises an important point. It is a regrettable fact that, increasingly, cyber-security is an essential part of normal business operations. That is why we are trying to make it easier for small businesses. We have a new Cyber Essentials scheme, which helps businesses to understand what they need to do to protect themselves. We have a cyber exchange, which provides information about organisations and businesses, and directories that can help small businesses. We also have Action Fraud, which is the mechanism by which businesses can report malicious activity.
I can reassure the House. My hon. Friend rightly raises the issue of wider threats to infrastructure, and that was the purpose behind the setting up of the National Cyber Security Centre, where we bring together all the expertise across Government to make sure that we are protecting our national infrastructure. I am confident that we will be able to do that to a world-leading capacity.
We know that Russian cyber-attacks had an impact on the US election, and that Russian bombing in Syria had an impact on Brexit. What assessment has MI5 made of cyber-attacks in relation to the Brexit output and, indeed, the Scottish referendum?
The hon. Gentleman will know that I cannot comment on the operational details of what the security agencies are doing, but he should be reassured that our agencies have some of the best capacities and capabilities in the world. They are being funded appropriately, we are making sure that they are doing what they need to do, and they are doing what they need to do.
A cyber-attack earlier this month affecting several internet service providers resulted in more than 100,000 people across the UK losing their connection. With the economy becoming ever more reliant on digital infrastructure, what further resilience measures are the Government putting in place to protect not only businesses but consumers from such targeted attacks?
The hon. Lady is entirely right to point out the increasing threat, not only to organisations but to individuals as they live their normal lives. That is why the National Cyber Security Centre has been set up to engage with businesses very early—both on a proactive and a preventive basis, but also when there is a cyber-attack, as in the case that she cited—to ensure that customers are alerted early, that something is done to protect them, and that we learn from such attacks and make sure that they do not happen again in other parts of the economy.
We are. It would not be for me to add to the words of the director general of the Secret Intelligence Service, but it is important that we protect the integrity of our democracy. My hon. Friend can be assured that all agencies in this country are apprised of the necessity of doing precisely that.
In the light of the Russian intervention in the US election and the credible threats to the German election recognised by Chancellor Merkel, will the Minister give the House a guarantee that no cyber-attacks have been carried out on the UK that could have impacted on our democracy? Will he also inform the House what measures, in addition to the cyber-security strategy, his Government will be implementing to defend the UK from such attacks in the future?
I am gratified by the fact that the Electoral Commission says that our register is one of the most accurate and secure in the world, but we clearly need to protect the entire integrity of the democratic process. That is why all security agencies will be making sure that our systems are as secure as possible. I am grateful to the people working in the National Cyber Security Centre for the work they do—a lot of it is very difficult and technical—which is why we are better protected than most countries around the world. I intend to make sure that that capability and capacity improve and increase.
Departmental Plans: Joined-up Government
Single departmental plans represent the Government’s planning and performance management framework. SDPs help the Cabinet Office to ensure that Departments deliver the Government’s key priorities, track progress against manifesto commitments and encourage greater efficiencies in Government.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this matter, which I know is very close to her heart and is one in which she has expertise. It is very important that we co-ordinate this matter across Government because it is not just a matter for the Department of Health, although I should say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health is taking this as a personal issue, as is the Prime Minister. Our purpose in the Cabinet Office is to make sure that the decisions and recommendations that the Prime Minister will make in due course are implemented across Government, so that there is a response from across the Government by the whole of the Government to something that affects everyone in this country.
The Minister referred to the benefits of joined-up and efficient Government. For those benefits to be seen and enjoyed by citizens across the United Kingdom, will he make a commitment to ongoing discussions with all the devolved legislatures to ensure that best practice is seen and enjoyed by everyone, irrespective of where they live in the UK?
Special advisers play an important part in supporting Ministers to deliver their priorities. The Government are committed to making the most efficient use of public money. As part of that, we will keep under review the cost of the civil service, which includes special advisers.
The Prime Minister has introduced a salary cap for special advisers, but The Times has reported that her own special advisers are not subject to the cap. How do the Government plan to reassure the public that the costs of special advisers are being controlled?
We are required by the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 to publish an annual report on the number and cost of special advisers, and we will publish an updated list shortly. We will provide information about the pay bands of special advisers, as well as the actual salaries of the more senior ones. We will also provide the total pay bill for special advisers and severance costs, including the severance payments made to the special advisers who recently left the Government.
House of Lords
The Government are clear that the House of Lords cannot continue to grow indefinitely. However, comprehensive reform of the House of Lords is not a priority for this Parliament, as set out in the Government’s manifesto, given the number of pressing priorities—hon. Members know what they are—elsewhere. Of course, where measures can command consensus across the House, the Government will welcome working with peers to look at how to take them forward.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the excellent debate that took place in the other place on 5 December, in which 61 noble Members took part over six hours. It was clear that there was a consensus among all political parties, as there is a consensus among all political parties in this House, that the size of the Lords is an issue that will have to be addressed. Our manifesto commitment set out very clearly that it was not a priority. When it comes to the boundary changes, our manifesto commitment to reduce the number of constituencies from 650 to 600 is critical as it will save £66 million across a Parliament and, crucially, equalise constituencies that for decades have remained unequal.
Does my hon. Friend agree that while reform of the House of Lords might not be a priority at the moment, if their lordships try to frustrate the will of the British people over Brexit, reform of the House of Lords should become a top priority?
I refer again to the debate that took place last week, in which an interesting consensus developed. Baroness Evans, the Leader of the House of Lords, said in her summing up:
“It is right that we collectively seek a solution to address concerns about the size of this House raised today while ensuring we continue to refresh and renew our expertise and our outlook so we remain relevant to the Britain of today and the future.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 5 December 2016; Vol. 777, c. 590.]
The House of Lords has a critical part in our constitution as a revising Chamber, and I hope that will continue.
Last week, we witnessed the outrageous spectacle of Tory peers trying to filibuster plans that would have removed the archaic charade of the hereditary peer by-election that takes place in the House of Lords, in which a small number of privileged Lords decide which among their number will join that legislature. Does the Minister not agree that that makes a laughing stock of the House of Lords and underlines the need for this House to engage in serious plans for reform?
It is a shame that there were no SNP Members of the House of Lords taking part in that debate because that party refuses to engage in the democratic process and lets down the people of Scotland by not allowing them adequate representation. Talking about frustrating processes, there was a vote in 2014 in which 2 million people voted to remain as part of the UK, but that party over there continues to frustrate the will of the Scottish people.
I am sure the Minister shares my disappointment that when there was an opportunity to reform the House of Lords in Government time in this Chamber, the main Opposition party decided to frustrate it. Does he agree that any reform of the size and composition of the Lords needs to be linked to wider reform that delivers a whole package, and should not just set a particular number on the membership?
What is important is that reform of the House of Lords is led by the Lords themselves. As the debate last week showed, there is clearly an appetite for that. We have had significant reforms, including on the retirement of peers, which has seen about 50 peers retire. I welcome the fact that the Leader of the House of Lords said at the end of the debate that she would consider
“whether a more immediate, practical step could be taken in convening a small, Back Bench-led consultative group whose work could be overseen, for instance, by the Lord Speaker.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 5 December 2016; Vol. 777, c. 591.]
I look forward to hearing more about the development of those plans.
How can the Government justify having more than 800 unelected Members of the House of the Lords and reducing the elected House of Commons from 650 Members to 600? There are that many people in the House of Lords that they are running short of toilets.
I am not sure about the toilets issue, but the Labour peer, Baroness Taylor of Bolton—a colleague of the hon. Gentleman with whom I am sure he often agrees—commented that while there are 845 Members of the House of Lords, average attendance is around 497. I am not sure what that does to the situation with the toilets.
Let us come back to the boundary changes. The hon. Gentleman has been around for a long time. He knows that when we look at the size of the constituencies in this House, we see that some have 95,000 constituents and some have 38,000. That discrepancy was first picked up on by the Chartists—he may have been around at that time. Two hundred years ago, a working-class organisation demanded change and we are the party that will deliver it.
We have heard a great many words from the Minister. Why can he not understand that it is simply untenable to have a bloated revising Chamber with substantially more Members than this elected Chamber? This comes at a time when, as we have heard, he is ploughing ahead with his plans to reduce the size of this place. He might not think that reform of the House of Lords is a priority, but their lordships do, so what is he going to do about it?
As I stated in a previous answer, it is up to the House of Lords to command cross-party consensus in that House. Labour Members of the Lords are willing to get involved with that. But let us talk about priorities, as the language of priorities is the language of politics. Our priority is to ensure that we deliver the will of the British people in leaving the European Union. The Labour party’s priorities seem to be frustrating the Brexit process and demanding we take up our entire legislative time reforming the House of Lords. If we are looking at who should be getting their priorities straight, the hon. Gentleman should look at himself.
Government Services Online
In our manifesto we committed to ensuring that digital assistance is always available to those not online in the delivery of online Government services. All services will have a means of access for those not able to use the online service.
I am encouraged by my right hon. Friend’s answer. He rightly continues to improve access to Government services online. Will he ensure that that is done in a way that avoids excluding or disadvantaging those who, for whatever reason, are unable to access such services?
I am able to give my hon. Friend that reassurance. We have travelled a great distance in the past six years, and access to online services is immeasurably better now than back in 2010. But we want to make sure that everyone is able to gain access to Government services and will provide alternative routes to them if they cannot do so online.
The Minister will know that online access has to be of the highest quality. The experience of some Departments has not been very reassuring. There are very talented people on the autism spectrum who are very good at this. Will the Minister look at recruiting many of them to help make online services better?
The hon. Gentleman is right to point to former failures of accessibility in online services; direct.gov.uk was appalling for accessibility. We now make sure that all services are accessible by design, but I will repeat his comments to the Government Digital Service for its interest.
We are already the world leader. We have the finest Government digital services in the world. It is not just us saying that but comparable organisations around the world. But we can still do better, and there is a great deal that I want to do. I urge my hon. Friend to look out for the forthcoming strategy on this precise matter.
The purpose of the Cabinet Office is to deliver a democracy that works for everyone, to support the design and delivery of Government policy, and to deliver efficiencies and reforms to make Government work better.
Since 2008, many Select Committees have held pre-appointment hearings for aspiring quangocrats. Will the Minister consider making it routine for Select Committees to hold formal confirmation hearings, especially when the position requires substantial control over taxpayer money?
I am not quite sure why the hon. Gentleman needs to phrase every question he asks with an insult. I know that he should look closely at our work on ensuring that Select Committees have even more influence in scrutinising Government policy. I will take his careful and wise comments on board.
I am delighted to say that last week I published the draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill, which will modernise the complaints system for public services. As my hon. Friend says, it sets out how we will create a single point of contact, make the system simpler and more efficient and give the new ombudsman a wider role in championing improvements in complaints handling.
The Minister will no doubt be aware of the 2014 Electoral Commission survey that found that 7.4 million people were missing from the electoral register—young people were identified as being particularly under-represented—so will he commit to introducing a schools registration scheme along the lines of the initiative in Northern Ireland, which has resulted in an increase in the number of young people registered to vote?
As part of our commitment to a democracy that works for everyone, I have been touring the country and investigating how we can get more young people actively engaged in politics, and I held a roundtable with youth organisations last week to discuss our strategy, but the Northern Ireland example is not something we wish to take forward, as the idea of compulsion on schools does not work. I have learned that there must be local ownership of schemes to ensure that civil society groups can encourage young people to join the register when they turn 18.
We are making very good progress with the audit, and I thank my hon. Friend for raising it. As the Prime Minister said on the steps of Downing Street,
“If you’re a white, working-class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university.”
That is why we are looking at these disparities so carefully in our racial disparities audit.
I regret the experience that the hon. Gentleman’s constituent had. We have set up a group to look after victims of cybercrime called Action Fraud, to which his constituent should attend first, and we have ensured that the National Cyber Security Centre provides a personal service to businesses, but I am happy to take up his particular issue personally to make sure it is corrected.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that sometimes a cyber-attack is inadvertent and that The Register and other magazines report that a Microsoft download and update has caused a mass disconnection of computers from the internet, particularly among those running Windows 8 and 10? Do the Government have a role in advising people on how that sort of thing can be corrected?
My hon. Friend is a far more astute reader of IT journals than I am. We are aware of our responsibilities, which is why we have set up the Cyber Essentials website, but I will relay his comments to those who know more about it than I do so that they can reflect on them.
As I have stated, the Government are absolutely committed to ensuring we go forward with consensus in the House of Lords on the reform and size of that House. The debate, which I have outlined already, demonstrated that there was a consensus, and the Leader of the House of Lords is working to established that Committee, as I have said. That is the Government’s approach.
I sat in on my hon. Friend’s ten-minute rule Bill, which I listened to with intent, but while the Government are absolutely committed to first past the post as an electoral system, as set out in our manifesto, we need to ensure that the conduct of elections set out in legislation is carefully managed.
Tomorrow this House will debate the Government’s broadband universal service obligation. Does the Minister agree that we must complement the excellent work of the Government Digital Service with a real commitment to superfast broadband wherever we can take it?
The Prime Minister was asked—
May I take the opportunity to wish you, Mr Speaker, and all Members of the House a merry Christmas and a happy new year?
In the light of the Foreign Secretary’s display of chronic “foot in mouth” disease, when deciding on Cabinet positions, does the Prime Minister now regret that pencilling “FO” against his name should have been an instruction, not a job offer?
I join the hon. Gentleman in wishing everybody a happy Christmas. I will of course have an opportunity to do that again on Monday, when I am sure the House will be as full for the statement on the European Council meeting. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] Funny, that seemed to come from this side of the House but not from the Labour side. I have to say that the Foreign Secretary is doing an absolutely excellent job. He is, in short, an FFS—a fine Foreign Secretary.
Rugeley has a really bright future ahead, but only if we are ambitious, bold and visionary in our redevelopment plans. Will my right hon. Friend outline how the Government’s industrial strategy can create the conditions that will help us to build a sustainable local economy and highly skilled jobs for future generations?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that communities across this country have a bright future ahead of them, but we need to ensure that we create the conditions for that future. That is why we will be producing a modern industrial strategy that will show how we can encourage the strategic strengths of the United Kingdom and deal with our underlying weaknesses. It will enable companies to grow, invest in the UK and provide those jobs for the future, but we also need to make sure that that prosperity is spread across the whole of the United Kingdom and is prosperity for everyone.
May I start by wishing you, Mr Speaker, all Members of the House and everyone who works in the House a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year?
Sadly, our late colleague Jo Cox will not be celebrating Christmas this year with her family. She was murdered and taken from us, so I hope the Prime Minister will join me—I am sure she will—in encouraging people to download the song, which many Members helped to create, as a tribute to Jo’s life and work and in everlasting memory of her.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this issue. I am sure that everybody in this House would wish to send a very clear message: download this single for the Jo Cox Foundation. It is a very important cause. We all recognise that Jo Cox was a fine Member of this House and would have carried on contributing significantly to this House and to this country, had she not been brutally murdered. It is right that the Chancellor has waived VAT on the single. Everybody involved in it gave their services for free, and I am having a photograph with MP4 later this afternoon. Once again, let us encourage everybody to download the single.
I applaud the work of MP4, but for the benefit of air quality I am not a member of it! I thank the Prime Minister for her answer.
Social care is crucial. It provides support for people to live with dignity, yet Age UK research has found that 1.2 million older people are currently not receiving the care they need. Will the Prime Minister accept that there is a crisis in social care?
I have consistently said in this House that we recognise the pressures on social care, so it might be helpful if I set out what the Government are doing and the position in relation to social care. As I say, we recognise those pressures. That is why the Government are putting more money into social care through the better care fund, and by the end of this Parliament it will be billions of pounds extra. That is why we have enabled the social care precept for local authorities. We recognise that there are immediate pressures on social care. That is why this will be addressed tomorrow by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in the local government finance settlement. We also recognise that this is not just about money; it is about delivery. There is a difference in delivery across the country. We need to make sure that reform is taking place, so we see best practice in the integration of health and social care across the country. We also need to ensure that we have a longer-term solution to give people reassurance for the future that there is a sustainable system that will ensure that they receive the social care they need in old age. That is what the Government are working on. There is a short-term issue; there is medium-term need to make sure local authorities and the health service are delivering consistently; and there is a long-term solution that we need to find.
The Care Quality Commission warned as recently as October that evidence suggests we have approached a tipping point. Instead of passing the buck on to local government, should not the Government take responsibility for the crisis themselves? Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to inform the House exactly how much was cut from the social care budget in the last Parliament?
We have been putting more money into social care and health. [Hon. Members: “How much?”] We have been putting more money in and, as I say, we recognise the pressures that exist. That is why we are looking at the short-term pressures on social care, but this cannot be looked at as simply being an issue of money in the short term. It is about delivery; it is about reform; it is about the social care system working with the health system. That is why this issue is being addressed not just by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, but by the Secretary of State for Health. If we are going to give people the reassurance they need in the longer term that their social care needs will be met, we need to make it clear that this is not just about looking for a short-term solution. It is about finding a way forward that can give us a sustainable system of social care for the future.
The Prime Minister does not seem to be aware that £4.6 billion was cut from the social care budget in the last Parliament. Her talk about putting this on to local government ought to be taken for what it is—a con. Two per cent. of council tax is clearly a nonsense; 95% of councils used the social care precept, and it raised less than 3% of the money they planned to spend on adult social care. Billions seem to be available for tax give-aways to corporations—not mentioned in the autumn statement—and underfunding has left many elderly people isolated and in crisis because of the lack of Government funding for social care.
Many councils around the country have taken the benefit of the social care precept and as a result have actually seen more people being able to access social care and more needs being met. Sadly, there are some councils across the country—some Labour councils—that have not taken that opportunity and we see worse performance on social care. The right hon. Gentleman once again referred to money, so I remind him that the then shadow Chancellor said at the last election that if Labour was in government there would be “not a penny more” for local authorities. When recently asked about spending more money on social care and where the money would come from, Labour’s shadow Health Secretary said:
“Well, we’re going to have to come up with a plan for that”.
This Government have cut social care and the Prime Minister well knows it, and she well knows the effects of that. She also well knows that raising council tax has different outcomes in different parts of the country. If you raise the council tax precept in Windsor and Maidenhead, you get quite a lot of money. If you raise the council tax precept in Liverpool or Newcastle, you get a lot less. Is the Prime Minister saying that frail, elderly, vulnerable people in our big cities are less valuable than those in wealthier parts of the country?
This is a crisis for many elderly people who are living in a difficult situation, but it is also a crisis for the national health service. People in hospital cannot be discharged because there is nowhere for them to go. I ask the Prime Minister again: the crisis affects individuals, families and the national health service, so why does she not do something really bold: cancel the corporation tax cut and put the money into social care instead?
The right hon. Gentleman referred to Newcastle council in his list. I have to say that Newcastle City Council is one of the councils that saw virtually no delayed discharges in September, so elderly people were not being held up in hospital when they did not need or want to be. That shows that it is possible for councils to deliver on the ground. Councils such as Newcastle and Torbay are doing that, but councils such as Ealing are not using the social care precept and the result is different. The difference between the worst performing council in relation to delayed discharges and the best is twentyfold. That is not about the difference in funding; it is about the difference in delivery.
Councils across the country work hard to try to cope with a 40% cut in their budgets, and the people paying the price are those who are stuck in hospital who should be allowed to go home and those who are not getting the care and support they need. The social care system is deep in crisis. The crisis was made in Downing Street by this Government. The former Chair of the Health Committee, Stephen Dorrell, says that the system is inadequately funded. The current Chair of the Health Committee, the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), said that
“this issue can’t be ducked any longer because of the impact it is having not just on vulnerable people, but also on the NHS.”
Why does the Prime Minister not listen to local government, the King’s Fund, the NHS Confederation and her own council leaders and recognise that this social care crisis forces people to give up work to care for loved ones because there is no system to do that? It makes people stay in hospital longer than they should and leads people into a horrible, isolated life when they should be cared for by all of us through a properly funded social care system. Get a grip and fund it properly, please.
The issue of social care has been ducked by Governments for too long. That is why this Government will provide a long-term sustainable system for social care that gives people reassurance. The right hon. Gentleman talks about Governments ducking social care, so let us look at the 13 years of Labour government. In 1997, they said in their manifesto that they would sort it. They had a royal commission in 1999, a Green Paper in 2005 and the Wanless report in 2006. They said they would sort it in the 2007 comprehensive spending review. In 2009, they had another Green Paper: 13 years and no action whatsoever.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue. This is an appalling strike and he is right to raise the discrepancy in the attitude of ASLEF; we have seen driver-only operated trains on rail networks in the UK for decades and they are on Thameslink. I hope that the talks at ACAS are going to lead to an end to this strike, but I have a suggestion for the Leader of the Opposition, as he could do something to help members of the public. The Labour party is funded by ASLEF. Why does he not get on the phone and tell it to call the strike off immediately?
We join the leader of the Labour party and the Prime Minister in wishing great success to the Jo Cox single, which is available for download on Friday—I am sure we are all going to download it.
Civilians have suffered grievously from the bombing of hospitals, schools and markets. The United Nations believes that 60% of civilian casualties are caused by airstrikes. In the past 24 hours, the United States has stopped the supply of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen. When will the UK follow suit?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we have a very strict regime of export licences in relation to weapons here in the United Kingdom. We exercise that very carefully, and in recent years we have indeed refused export licences in relation to arms, including to Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
The US Government have just said that
“systematic, endemic problems in Saudi Arabia’s targeting drove the US decision to halt a future weapons sale involving precision-guided munitions”.
The Saudis have UK-supplied precision-guided Paveway IV missiles—they are made in Scotland. The UK has licensed £3.3 billion-worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the bombing campaign. What will it take for the UK to adopt an ethical foreign policy when it comes to Yemen?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the intervention in Yemen is a UN-backed intervention. As I have said previously, where there are allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law, we require those to be properly investigated. We do have a relationship with Saudi Arabia. The security of the Gulf is important to us, and I would simply also remind him that Saudi intelligence—the counter-terrorism links we have with Saudi Arabia and the intelligence we get from Saudi Arabia—has saved potentially hundreds of lives here in the UK.
My hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of looking at a sustainable way in which we can support integrated health and social care, and a sustainable way for people to know that in the future they are going to be able to have the social care that they require. As I said earlier in response to the Leader of the Opposition, we recognise the short-term pressures that there are on the system, but it is important for us to look at those medium-term and longer-term solutions if we are going to be able to address this issue. I was very pleased to be able to have a meeting with my hon. Friend to discuss this last week, and I look forward to further such meetings.
We do raise the issue of human rights when we meet the Gulf states, but the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right in relation to the role that Russia is playing in Syria. There is a very simple message for President Putin. He has it within his own hands to say to the Assad regime that enough is enough in Aleppo. We need to ensure that humanitarian aid is there for people and that there is security for the people who have, as the hon. Gentleman has said, been heroically saving the lives of others. I am sure that that is a message that he and others will be giving to the Russian ambassador. It is in President Putin’s hands; he can do it, why does he not?
First of all, I absolutely join my hon. Friend in congratulating everyone who took part in Singing for Syrians. I am sure the whole House welcomes the work that that group is doing and the money that it is raising and putting to extremely good use. The House was struck when she mentioned the number of people who are on the waiting list for prosthetic limbs. Our humanitarian aid support for Syria is the biggest such effort that the UK has made. Of course we are giving money to the refugees who have fled from Syria. We are also working diplomatically to try to reduce the suffering and to ensure that the sort of aid and medical support that she is talking about gets through to the citizens of Aleppo. We will continue to ensure that our humanitarian aid is being put to good use—helping those who are vulnerable and also helping those who need the education and support to be able, in due course, to rebuild Syria when it is stable and secure.
The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. I recognise that there are many people who are just about managing and struggling to get by who find themselves having to revert to support from companies that do, sadly, charge the sort of interest rates that he is talking about. Action has been taken in relation to some of those activities in the past, but I will look at the issue that he raised.
I recognise the concern that my hon. Friend has raised; it is one that is shared by many Kent MPs who see this problem only too closely in their own constituencies. May I assure her that the Government share the desire to ensure that we do not see this fly-parking of lorries across Kent and that we do provide suitable lorry parking facilities in Kent? I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones), is looking at this issue very carefully. I recognise, from my time as Home Secretary, the pressure that can be put on the roads, villages and towns in Kent at particular times. The Government are working on it, and we will find a solution.
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the issue of decent mobile coverage does not only affect the highlands. There are parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland that are also affected. The Government have very strong commitments in relation to this; we have very strong commitments in relation to broadband. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will deliver on those.
Money cannot compensate someone who has been accused of a very serious criminal offence and who then finds that the details are in the press along with their name. Nothing, in truth, can restore their reputation after it has been trashed in those circumstances. In 2011, I tried to change the law with a private Member’s Bill. Today, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said that it was time to introduce new legislation. Will the Prime Minister agree at least to consider changing the law so that everyone, with a few exceptions, has the right to anonymity if they are a suspect in criminal proceedings until such time as they are charged?
I recognise the interest that my right hon. Friend takes in this issue. She will know that it has been debated on a number of occasions in the House. The general assumption is that someone should not be named before the point of charge, but there is an allowance for the police to be able to raise someone’s name if it is a case where they believe that doing so will perhaps help other victims to come forward. This is of particular concern in matters of sexual violence—rape, for example—or where the police believe that the naming of an individual will help in the detection of the crime. This is a delicate issue, and I recognise my right hon. Friend’s concern. The College of Policing is looking at it very carefully, and is due to provide new guidance to the police in the new year in relation to the media.
We must all take responsibility for decisions that we have taken, whether we take them sitting around the National Security Council table or, indeed, whether we take them in the House, with the decision it took in 2013. The hon. Lady raised the question of UK-led action in relation to the protection of civilians. The UK has been pressing for action in the United Nations Security Council, working with the French. The two most recent emergency UN Security Council meetings were called for by us, and the most recent took place yesterday. As she will know, there have been six UN Security Council resolutions which have been vetoed by Russia. The most recent was also vetoed by China. We continue to work with the United Nations, but if we are to get a solution that works on the ground other countries have to buy into it, and it has to be a solution that Russia buys into, as well as the regime.
I have received a message from Nick from Grantham—actually, it was a text message from our hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles). For the avoidance of doubt, this is one text message that he is willing to have read out in public. Other than getting rid of his tumour and making a swift return to this place, nothing matters more to him than ensuring that round-the-clock emergency services are restored to his local hospital in Grantham. Will my right hon. Friend receive the petition that he has organised, ensure that the passionate views of his constituents are heard, and above all reassure people in that rural area that they will always have access to safe emergency care for them and their families?
I am sure the thoughts of the whole House are with our hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), and I wish him the very best for his recovery as he goes through this illness. I recognise the strength of feeling he has about the emergency services in his local hospital. I believe that those concerns are shared by our new hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson). I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford that the process that is taking place, which is looking at the development of local services, is about listening to local people, hearing the local voice and, above all, ensuring that the services available to people in their local area are the right services for that area and that they can be delivered safely and securely for local people.
No. Obviously we have put the social care precept in place in recognition of the pressures on social care, but I am very pleased to say that we have seen many examples over the country of good local authorities ensuring that they are keeping council tax down, including the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, which cut council tax for six years running.
On 14 August my constituents George Low and Ben Barker were the victims of a vicious knife attack in Ayia Napa. George Low, sadly, died later that day from his injuries. The two culprits fled to northern Cyprus, where they were arrested on unrelated matters. Despite representations made by the Foreign Office, one of those men was recently able to walk free, and it is feared that the second man will follow shortly. Will the Prime Minister do all she can to help to bring justice for George Low and Ben Barker for what was an horrific, vicious attack that was completely without provocation and has been devastating for both their families?
I am sure all of us across the House send our deepest sympathies to the family of George Low, and our very best wishes to Ben Barker for a full recovery from the terrible injuries that he suffered as a result of what was, as my hon. Friend said, a violent and completely unprovoked attack. The case was raised most recently with the relevant Government by the Foreign Secretary during his visit to Cyprus on 30 November, and he set out clearly our desire to see those guilty of this attack brought to justice. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will continue to offer help and support to both families. We will continue to raise this issue, and I am sure the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will keep my hon. Friend informed of any developments.
We will need to address such issues as we look at the arrangements that will be in place following our exit from the EU. I am sure everybody recognises the significance of the Arbroath smokie and other products from around the United Kingdom. At the end of his question the hon. Gentleman said “should we leave the EU”. I can tell him that we will be leaving the EU.
On 19 December 35 years ago, 16 people lost their lives in ferocious storms off the coast of west Cornwall. Eight of them were men from Mousehole, who had launched the Penlee lifeboat, the Solomon Browne, to rescue the crew of the Union Star. Thirty-five years later, this tragedy still haunts the village of Mousehole and West Penwith, and many people mark the anniversary every year. Will the Prime Minister join me in remembering these brave men and the loved ones they left behind, and pay credit to all our lifeboat men and women, who are prepared to risk their lives for those in peril on the sea?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue. I absolutely join him in marking the 35th anniversary of the Penlee lifeboat tragedy and in sending our sympathies to all those families who were affected, but also to the local communities who were affected, as he has set out. I am sure everybody in this House would want to pay tribute to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution as well and the tireless work it does. As an island, it is important that we have that security and safety around our shores. The RNLI works tirelessly to protect people who, as he said, are in peril on the sea, and we pay tribute to it.
I say to the hon. Lady that I am keen to ensure that we can protect the rights of EU citizens living here, but I am also keen that the rights of UK citizens who are living in the EU are protected as well. The Home Secretary, I think, is aware of the proposals that have been put forward and is looking at them very carefully.
First of all, can we once again, from this House, send a very clear message that there is no place for racial hatred in our society? This is so important. The Home Office has done a lot of work on racial hatred and hate crime. It has published a hate crime action plan, which shows what we are going to be doing during the lifetime of this Government. Of course, earlier this week, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary proscribed the right-wing organisation National Action, which means that being a member of, or inviting support for, that organisation will be a criminal offence. It is important that we take every step we can to stop racial hatred in this country, and I was pleased to announce on Monday that Britain will be the first country in Europe to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.
The hon. Lady is right to raise the role that education plays in ensuring the futures of young people in Bradford. That is why I am pleased to say that there has been an increase of nearly 16,000 children in Bradford who have been at good or outstanding schools since 2010. We are taking action to ensure the quality of education, but I want to make sure that there are enough good school places for children across the whole country, and that is what our education consultation is about.
I came to Prime Minister’s questions today from an incredibly moving and powerful private session with the Work and Pensions Committee, where we talked and listened to victims of modern slavery who are now living in safe houses—I do not think I will ever forget it in my life. Please will the Prime Minister take her enthusiasm and the passion with which she drove this issue as Home Secretary and work with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions? These people are vulnerable. When they come to the jobcentre, so often their background and their cases are not understood. As with survivors of domestic violence, they need to be fast-tracked through the system. If ever vulnerable people needed the state to step up and support them, it is these people. Please can we do more?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Nothing brings home the absolutely horrific nature of the crime of modern slavery than actually sitting down and hearing the testimony of a victim. These people have, very often, gone through the most horrendous, dehumanising experiences. It is absolutely right that the Government brought forward the Modern Slavery Act 2015. It is right that we have been looking at how victim support is provided and at the national referral mechanism—a whole number of steps—and of course we will work with the DWP in looking at the support that is given. She makes an important point in referring to jobcentres, but of course it is not just about jobcentres. One of the things we need to do is to ensure that those in authority who come into contact with people who have been the victims of modern slavery are able to recognise the signs, and able to treat it in the right way and deal with people sensitively and sympathetically in an appropriate way.
First of all, my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary has been taking steps in relation to the general performance of Southern railway. We have stepped in to invest £20 million specifically to tackle the issue and bring a rapid improvement in services. We announced Delay Repay 15 from 11 December for the whole of Southern railway, which will make it easier for passengers to claim compensation. We have announced that we will give passengers who are season ticket holders on Southern a refund for a month’s travel. We have been looking at the wider issue. The hon. Lady raises the question of the current strike. There is only one body responsible for the current strike, and that is ASLEF. This a strike by the trade unions, and she should be standing up and condemning that strike, because it is passengers who suffer.
The £1.5 billion of additional funding for the better care fund is both needed and welcome, but the problem is that this money is not available until 2019. Will my right hon. Friend therefore look at seeing whether some of this funding can be drawn down earlier than that in order to alleviate the pressure on social care in areas such as Devon, where there is a very high level of elderly people?
My right hon. Friend raises an important point about the short-term pressures on social care. That is why the Government have been looking at what measures can be taken to alleviate those short-term pressures. As I say, my right hon. Friend the Communities Secretary will be making a statement on the local government finance settlement tomorrow, but we do need to look at the medium-term issues of delivery and the longer-term reassurance that we can provide to people in ensuring that we have a sustainable system of social care that gives people the comfort of knowing that they will be cared for in their old age.
May I join colleagues who urged people in this House and beyond to go out and buy the Jo Cox Foundation single by the excellent MP4, which is not just available on download but in hard copy for those of us who prefer that kind of thing?
Every day since the Brexit result on 23 June seems to have been a good day to bury bad news, and the worst news is in our social care and health system: the daily wave of tragedies, indignities and near misses; the £2.5 billion shortfall in social care funding; and thousands of operations already cancelled. Yesterday the Secretary of State for Health said that the NHS and social care needed more money, yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not offer a single extra penny for health or social care in the autumn statement. Which of the two does the Prime Minister agree with? Will she take this opportunity to provide health and social care with the money it needs this side of Christmas?
Back in 2010, the overseas aid budget was around £7 billion a year. By 2020, it will have more than doubled to over £15 billion a year. The shortfall in social care funding by 2020 is estimated at about £2.5 billion a year. Surely the Government priority should be to look after the elderly, vulnerable and disabled people in our own country before we hand money over to other countries. Will the Prime Minister take some of that money—a small amount of that increase—from the overseas aid budget and spend it on elderly, vulnerable and disabled people in our own country? Surely charity begins at home.
I think it is absolutely right that the Government are taking steps on the pressures on social care here in the United Kingdom, but it is also important for us that we take into consideration those who are in different circumstances across the world. This Government’s record of ensuring that 0.7% of our GDP is spent on overseas aid is a record second to none. We should all be proud of the help and support that we are giving to people around the world who, often, are living in incredibly difficult circumstances. We look after old people here in the UK; we also take seriously that moral responsibility for people around the world.
National Funding Formula: Schools/High Needs
With permission, I would like to make a statement on the second-stage consultation on the Government’s proposals to create a national funding formula for schools, copies of which can be found on the gov.uk website.
Since 2010, this Government have protected the core schools budget in real terms overall, but the system by which schools and high needs funding is distributed now needs to be reformed, to tackle the historical postcode lottery in school funding. These crucial reforms sit at the heart of delivering the Government’s pledge to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.
Our school funding system as it exists today is unfair, opaque and outdated. The reality is that patchy and inconsistent decisions on funding have built up over many years, based on data that are sometimes a decade or more out of date. What has been created over time is a funding system that allows similar schools with similar students to receive levels of funding so different that they put some young people at an educational disadvantage. For example, a school in Coventry can receive nearly £500 more per pupil than a school in Plymouth, despite having the same proportion of pupils eligible for the pupil premium. A Nottingham school can attract £460 more per pupil than one in Halton, despite having the same proportion of pupils eligible for the pupil premium. As those figures demonstrate, our funding system is broken and unfair, and we cannot allow that to continue.
Our overall proposals for the principles and broad design of the schools and high needs funding system—as set out in the first stage of the national funding formula consultation by my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan)—were widely welcomed. Today we set out our response to that, and the final stage of putting in place a national funding formula.
First, we are proposing a consistent base rate for every pupil at primary and at secondary level, which steadily increases in value as they progress through the system between primary and secondary. This is the largest factor in the formula, accounting for more than £23 billion of annual core schools funding and more than 70% of the funding total.
Secondly, we are proposing to protect resources for pupils who come from disadvantaged families, and we are taking a broad view to target £3 billion of funding annually for those who are most in need of support. Our formula will prioritise not only children in receipt of free school meals but those who live in areas of disadvantage. That will help to support many more families who are most likely to be just about managing to get by.
That is alongside our broader commitment to maintain pupil premium funding for deprived pupils in full. That will be protected at current rates throughout the remainder of this Parliament. We have listened to the responses received to the first stage of the consultation, so our funding formula will include a factor for mobility to reflect the number of children who join a school mid-year. That is in response to London, which called particularly strongly for that in reply to the consultation. We will also protect small, rural schools, which are so important for their local communities, through the inclusion of a sparsity factor.
Thirdly, alongside a basic amount and an uplift for disadvantage, we will direct £2.4 billion in funding towards pupils with low prior attainment at both primary and secondary school to ensure they get the vital support they need to catch up with their peers. Our proposed reforms will mean that schools and local authorities all across England that have been underfunded for years will see their funding increase. Our proposed formula will result in more than 10,000 schools gaining funding and more than 3,000 receiving an increase of more than 5%. Those that are due to see gains will see them quickly, with increases of up to 3% in per pupil funding in 2018-19 and up to a further 2.5% in 2019-20.
At the same time as restoring fairness to the funding system, we are also building significant protections into our formula. No school will face a reduction of more than 3% per pupil overall as a result of the new formula, and none will lose more than 1.5% per pupil per year. For high needs funding, which provides local authorities with the money they need to deliver the extra support required by our most vulnerable children and young people—those with the most extreme special needs, whether they are in special schools or mainstream schools—we propose to allocate more than £5 billion a year in funding. That will mean that no local authority will see its funding reduce as a result of the introduction of the formula.
We also propose to give local areas a limited flexibility to redirect funding between their schools and high needs budgets, through agreement between the local authority and local schools, to support collaborative approaches to provision for special needs pupils. Those protections will allow all schools and local authorities to manage the transition to fairer funding while making the best use of their resources and managing cost pressures, ensuring that every pound is used effectively to drive up standards and has the maximum impact for the young people we are investing in. In addition, to support schools in using their funding to the greatest effect, we have put in place and continue to develop a comprehensive efficiency package.
As I said in my statement to the House on 21 July, I recognise the importance of this reform, which is long overdue. I am keen to allow the proper amount of time for all schools and stakeholders to have a chance to reflect on this detailed formula. The consultation will therefore be open for 14 weeks until 22 March, with final decisions to be made before summer next year. It is our intention that once we reach a final design, the national funding formula will properly be introduced in 2018-19. That will be a transitional year, during which local authorities will continue to set local schools’ funding formulae. In 2019-20 we will move to having our schools funding go directly to schools, so that the great majority of each school’s individual budget is determined on the basis of a single, national formula.
It is now time for us to consult on the more detailed design of the formula, so that with the help of the sector we can really get the national funding formula right. We are keen to hear as many views as possible, and I encourage Members and their constituents to scrutinise and respond to the detailed consultation documents that we are issuing. The proposals for funding reform will mean that all schools and local areas receive a consistent and fair share of the schools budget, so that they can have the best possible chance to give every child the opportunity to reach their full potential. Once it is implemented, the formula will mean that wherever a family lives in England, their children will attract a similar level of funding—one that properly reflects their needs.
The Government believe that the funding system that we propose will ensure our schools system works fairly, and I commend this statement to the House.
After many delays, the Secretary of State has finally come forward with the Government’s so-called fair funding formula. I thank her for advance sight of her statement and the raft of documents she sent me just half an hour ago.
If only the fair funding formula lived up to its name. Does the Secretary of State recall the commitment in her party’s manifesto to
“continue to protect school funding”?
Does she accept that the National Audit Office has confirmed something that the Institute for Fiscal Studies had already told us, which she tried to ignore—that the Government will be cutting the schools budget by at least 8%, and that is not changed at all by today’s announcement? Does she remember that that same manifesto promised:
“Under a future Conservative Government, the amount of money following your child into school will be protected”?
The National Audit Office has made it clear that funding per pupil will also fall by 8%. Is the National Audit Office wrong, or is the new, unelected Prime Minister ripping up the manifesto that her predecessor put to the country?
The Secretary of State said that the so-called fair funding formula would mean that no school would lose more than 1.5% of its funding per year. How can she possibly reconcile that with the projections of schools facing actual cuts of up to double that and real-terms cuts of up to 10%? Can she tell the House how exactly a funding formula can be fair when it will mean that a third of local authorities and around 10,000 schools, serving more than 2 million children, lose money? In a period when pupil numbers and inflation are rising in tandem, the pressure on school budgets will continue to increase. The National Audit Office has told us today that school budgets are facing a “real-terms reduction”. Will the Secretary of State tell the House what percentage of the schools budget will be cut over this Parliament, and how much that cut will be for the average secondary school? Will she tell us how, at a time when pressure on schools is increasing, she can possibly justify that position?
The Department has said that schools will need to make £3 billion in efficiency savings over this Parliament, but the National Audit Office has said that schools are not prepared for the “scale and pace” of the changes, and that the Department has failed to make that clear to them. Will the Secretary of State tell the House how exactly the Department will ensure that schools are able to meet her demands? Is the suggestion that schools make £1.7 billion in savings by “using staff more efficiently” just a crude euphemism for cutting the jobs of teachers, teaching assistants and vital support staff, at a point when the workforce is already facing a crisis? The Department has said that the funding formula will be about targeting on the basis of pupils’ need rather than their postcode. Can she explain why schools up and down the country will be losing out, and why many in the most disadvantaged areas will lose the most?
The only new money being offered to English schools is to expand the few remaining grammar schools, 80% of which are in Tory-held seats, regardless of where the need for places is. Does the Secretary of State accept that that means that the only parts of Britain denied new funding are the comprehensive areas of England? Does she acknowledge that nearly 60% of secondary schools across the country already receive less in funding than they spend on teaching, and that they are already running at a deficit? Will she tell us her projections of the increase in pupil numbers over the spending review period, her forecast for the rate of inflation facing schools, and therefore the rise in costs facing schools? The Secretary of State seems to believe that all these savings and all these cuts can be managed without any impact on the education of our children. Will she tell the House how exactly she will ensure that that happens in practice?
You know, Mr Speaker, they used to say the Tories knew the value of nothing but the price of everything, but now they do not even know that. They have failed on the economy, failed on protecting our NHS and now failed on our children.
I have to say that I am absolutely staggered at that response from the shadow Secretary of State for Education. There is cross-party support for reforming the national funding formula and, from representing our constituencies, we all know that it is impossible to justify the current approach. It would have been better if we had had a more thoughtful response, rather than just a diatribe of political rhetoric, from the Opposition Dispatch Box.
On some of the points the hon. Lady tried to make, the reality is that we have been able to protect the schools budget—the core schools budget—in real terms. That is because we have a thriving economy, which is generating the taxes that mean we can continue to invest in our public services. She talked about fair funding, but did not seem to understand or to have listened to my statement. Perhaps she had already written what she wanted to say, and was not actually interested in the reality. The funding formula absolutely bakes in making sure that we have the right amount of funding for children from more disadvantaged areas. In fact, we have taken a broader definition of disadvantage to make sure that it is not only the children eligible for free school meals who will get additional support. We have also made sure that the formula builds in a strong focus on low prior attainment, so that the children who have fallen behind—we need to invest in and support them to catch up—get additional resourcing. Schools with more of them will get more.
The hon. Lady seemed to fail even to hear the statement I made. I have to say that, based on the lack of engagement from the Labour Front Bench, I will sit down and give colleagues with more thoughtful questions a chance to ask them.
I certainly welcome this statement, as will many parents across the country. It has been long awaited, as the Secretary of State conceded, but it has the right tone, the right context and, essentially, the right capacity to make the changes. It will also enable schools to plan ahead, which will be very good for all schools in terms of teacher recruitment and teacher retention, which we also need to address. Will she be sure to accommodate issues about the future of local government, because there will be some changes? This is a national formula, so the future of local government must be considered in that context.
We are busy doing that already. I felt it was quite important, in the second-stage consultation, to recognise the need to understand how a little bit of local flexibility could help us to make sure that the formula works right on the ground. That is therefore part of the consultation I have set out. We have set out our plans for the 2018-19 transition year, and we are asking how we can look at this more carefully for future years. That is precisely why it is important for colleagues from both sides of the House to take the time to engage with the documents—there is a lot of data—we are publishing today.
We would all agree with the aims of a fairer funding formula, but does the Secretary of State not recognise that she is delivering this in the context of dramatic and significant overall cuts to schools budgets? Even the so-called winners under her formula will also face school budget cuts. In a constituency such as mine, which is a loser under this formula—over 50% of children are living in poverty, which makes it the constituency with the second highest level of child poverty in the entire country—school budgets losing money will mean that one-to-one tuition will be going and catch-up classes will be going. Extra-curricular activities—the drama, the Shakespeare—and all the vital things I want kids in Moss Side and Moston to do will be going as a result of her funding crisis, aside from the announcement today.
I encourage the hon. Lady to look at the detail in relation to her constituency. The documents will be published following the statement, as is the normal practice of the House, and I encourage her to look at them. Yes, we need to work with schools to help them to deliver efficiencies, but one thing we have learned over the years from such a divergent funding formula across schools is that many schools are able to deliver excellent and outstanding results on very different cost bases. That shows we need to be able to work with them to get more value out of the system and to make the investment we are putting into schools—core school funding is being protected in real terms over this Parliament—go as far as possible.
I would also say to the hon. Lady that, yes, the National Audit Office report flags up the cost pressures on schools, but there are of course cost pressures on introducing the living wage for the lowest-paid workers in our country. Some of them work in schools, and they should benefit from the introduction of the living wage. There are additional employer contributions to teacher pension schemes, which will make sure we have sustainable pensions for teachers in the long run. I would have hoped that Labour Members welcomed such steps, but we will also work with schools to help them to achieve efficiencies.
I warmly welcome the statement. May I urge my right hon. Friend not to move from the very clear timetable she has set out for the formula’s implementation? It is very keenly anticipated and looked forward to by underfunded local authorities, such as mine in Trafford.
I have set out a very clear timetable today. In spite of the fact that the Labour party clearly has no interest in having fair funding or funding that goes to the most disadvantaged children—the children who need to catch up—we will press on with this process.
The Secretary of State is to be congratulated on grappling with this issue, but, as she has indicated, the devil is in the detail, and I look forward to looking at it. The education of 16 to 19-year-olds, who are in schools as well as in colleges, had a cut of 14% during the coalition Government. There is a big difference between what they get and what four to 16-year-olds and those at university get. What will she do about that funding crisis?
The hon. Gentleman and I share a deep interest in technical education and a passion for improving it. As he will know, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills is looking at how to implement a skills strategy that will make sure that our technical education system is at the same gold standard level that we are steadily ensuring our education system is reaching. We have protected per pupil core funding post-16, but we want to look at how to make sure that further education improves its attainment levels in the way that has happened across the broader schools system.
West Berkshire and Wokingham education authorities, which serve my constituency, are among those worst funded. They are finding it very difficult to keep their excellent education and their current teacher workforces going. We therefore welcome the statement. Will there be any transitional relief for 2017-18, because our financial need exists now?
My right hon. Friend will know that the previous year’s transitional relief has been carried over to the forthcoming year. Beyond that, I am now setting out the steps we will take to make funding fairer. This is important, and despite the debate that will no doubt be kicked off on the back of this consultation, we just cannot accept a situation in which a similar child with similar needs has such a difference in funding put into their education and their school for no other reason than that they are in different places. This simply cannot and should not be accepted, which is why we are setting out our solution today.
The Secretary of State will be aware of the transformation of London’s schools. In 1997 when Labour took power, schools in my constituency were among the worst. By the time we left office, they were among the best, and that continued under the last Government. That transformation happened thanks to the London challenge and continued investment. Will the Secretary of State confirm that London’s achievement will not be damaged by this formula and that London’s schools will not lose the £260 million we have heard about? We need to learn from London’s success and replicate it in other parts of the country.
I can reassure the hon. Lady that under the formula, London will continue to be well funded. Despite the percentage of children eligible for free school meals in London having fallen from 28% to 17% over the last 10 years, London still has some of the most deprived parts of our country. The funding formula will ensure that London still receives some of the best funding of any region for its schools. That is happening because it is appropriate, but what we cannot accept is areas in other parts of the country that have similar challenges of deprivation and, additionally, low prior attainment not being funded for no other reason than that they are not London. It is time to ensure that we have a fair approach, but it is a fair approach for London too.
I wholeheartedly support this announcement. For too long, Swindon’s children have been short-changed by Labour’s hopeless funding formula. Change cannot come soon enough. I urge the Secretary of State to explore options on private finance initiative schemes, which are frustrating improvement plans in many of my local schools.
That issue was raised in response to the phase 1 consultation, so we will ensure that the formula reflects the fact that there are PFI commitments that will continue in real terms. I have no doubt that that will be good news for my hon. Friend’s local area. Obviously, we do not want to perpetuate those schemes when they have steadily run down, but it is important to reflect the reality of those cost pressures on schools that are in that position.
The Secretary of State listed a number of factors—mobility, disadvantage and prior attainment—that are crucial in many constituencies, particularly those in urban areas like the one that I represent. Will she give us more detail on how big a factor they will be, because that will determine how much constituencies like mine lose out? The concern in Liverpool is that, on top of the substantial cuts to local government funding, our schools will lose out at a time when they are finding it challenging to recruit teachers and headteachers.
As the hon. Gentleman points out, in addition to the core base amount of funding, there is roughly a further 25% that is uplifted in relation to deprivation, additional needs and locational needs. Although mobility was not one of the original factors in the phase 1 consultation—in other words, this is the challenge that some schools and local areas face when children arrive during the year, as opposed to growth, which relates to steady demographic change and sometimes an influx between years—we recognised that it was important to reflect it in the formula. We have looked at the cost pressures that we think relate to mobility. We will initially base the 2018-19 formula on historical levels, because that is the one evidence base we have, but we will consider what is a sensible way to look at mobility going forward.
I welcome the statement. Gloucestershire County Council has been a poorly funded local authority, so this will be welcomed in my county. I welcome the fact that sparsity will be taken into account, which is important in rural constituencies like mine. Will the Secretary of State confirm that, based on the timetable she has set out, with the final position being reached in 2019-20, we will have delivered on our manifesto commitment to deliver fair funding in this Parliament?
I believe we will have done so. We will have brought in a formula that works more effectively and we will have transitioned it in appropriately. I believe that it will be a big step forward, particularly for schools that have been so underfunded for so long.
The Secretary of State is right that this kind of funding has to be upgraded and uprated over time. I certainly welcome that. However, is she also aware that it is the responsibility of this House to check the fairness of that over time through the Select Committee system and in this Chamber? Does she accept the implication that, overall, the challenges in our education system are grave when the chief inspector, who is about to retire, points out that so many bright children in our country, who grew bright through good primary schools up to the age of 11, are lost to education post-11? Will she do something about that? Will she also do something about the chief inspector’s deep worry that pupils in many of the big towns and cities in the midlands and the north are severely underperforming?
The hon. Gentleman sets out some of the challenges that we continue to face in our education system. That is precisely why the national funding formula makes sure that resources go to schools that are in more disadvantaged areas and those that have cohorts of young people and children who are starting from furthest behind. That is not only the sensible approach; it is the right thing to do for those children and schools. For too long, that has not been built into the school funding formula. That is what we are trying to resolve today. This is the second stage of the consultation. There are 14 weeks for everyone to look at whether the way in which we have blended the different criteria is right. I think that it is.
In addition to what we are announcing today, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have launched six opportunity areas to look at how we can ensure that we have excellent education in those parts of the country where we still have not seen enough improvement.
Both Plymouth and Coventry were bombed heavily during world war two, have areas of deprivation and have similar demographics. Does my right hon. Friend therefore agree that the discrepancy of £500 per pupil per year simply cannot be justified? Her statement will be warmly welcomed. May I ask for maximum clarity at the earliest opportunity on what schools in my constituency will get in 2018 to help them prepare for the September 2017 budget, which is likely to be challenging?
After the statement, we will publish a lot of detail in relation to individual schools. We will take the draft final formula and apply it to individual schools’ budgets, so all Members will be able to look at all the schools in their constituency and see, notionally and illustratively, how the formula will operate. Of course, when the funding formula comes in, it will apply against the up-to-date pupil numbers and pupil data, but we want to be very clear with the House about how it will work on the ground. I encourage all Members to look at the data for their own communities. They show that although no school will get exactly the same under the new formula as it has had in the past, it will be much fairer.
Regardless of this statement, which is by no means all bad, it is indisputable that school overheads are going up and that more and more secondary schools will go into debt. Why are we continuing to squander money on pointless pet projects and restructuring? Surely that is a huge diversion now.
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. We have seen year-on-year improvements in our education system. As one of my predecessors said on the “Today” programme earlier this week, it is important that we continue the reforms we have already got under way. That is precisely what we will be doing.
I very much welcome today’s statement on behalf of schools in my Kent constituency, which are significantly underfunded and disadvantaged by the current formula. I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to a rapid introduction of the new formula. In the meantime, will she consider seriously whether there is any possibility of interim funding for schools until the new formula is introduced?
As I said in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood), the additional uplift that was provided last year will continue into the forthcoming year, after which we will introduce the national funding formula in 2018-19. Today, we are coming forward with a fundamental solution to a long-term problem that has been building up not just over the last decade, but for 20 years—some people would argue it has been 30 years in the making. Now is the time, finally, that we sort this out.
Will the Secretary of State confirm whether an area cost adjustment multiplier will be applied as a result of the new formula? The funding gap between the national average and what is received by schools in the north-east stands at £45 million a year. Will that gap increase or decrease as a result of the formula?
The formula includes an area cost adjustment. It will be based on a hybrid measure that will look at not only general labour market costs but those relating to teachers, reflecting consultation feedback. It is also one reason why expensive parts of the country such as London will continue to be well funded, even under this formula.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I welcome both the substance and the tone of the statement. Schools in Solihull receive £1,300 a year less per pupil than those in nearby Birmingham. As a result, we lose teachers to Birmingham. Will the Secretary of State assure me that at least some of that unfairness will be addressed during this Parliament?
I will keep the gloating to a minimum, Mr Speaker. The Secretary of State is dressing it up very well, but the reality of what she has announced is that some schools in the most deprived parts of the country, which face the biggest challenges, will have money taken away from them and given to schools elsewhere. Would it not have been much fairer for her to have asked the Chancellor for more money to bring the gap up that way? Instead, she is making schools in the toughest areas make teachers redundant to pay for this change.
Again, there is a lot of rhetoric, but in the end the right hon. Gentleman does not seem to have listened to my statement, which was very clear that this funding formula absolutely reflects issues of deprivation and lower prior attainment, as well as local cost issues. It is a step forward in making sure that we have a much fairer approach than in the past. I do not think he would be able to justify the current situation to many parents who simply cannot understand why their children get less funding than other children purely because of where they grow up.
Earlier this year, I held a roundtable for all the headteachers of primary and secondary schools across North Dorset. One big issue they raised was the recruitment and retention of staff in a rural area where living and other costs are higher, and all the rest of it. This announcement is very welcome. The sparsity quota that my right hon. Friend has referred to will be warmly welcomed by those headteachers. On their behalf, may I simply say, “Thank you”?
The Secretary of State will be aware that schools all over the country are finding it difficult to recruit teachers because we are not training enough of them. For example, in Slough, where we do not get as much resource although we have exactly the same kind of challenges as inner London, headteachers are desperate. House prices in Slough went up faster than anywhere else in the country in the past year. Will she assure me that schools in my constituency will not face a cut as a result of this formula but will be rewarded for their brilliant work?
The right hon. Lady should welcome the formula, because at the moment the flow of money into our schools is unfair. For a community such as hers, our proposed architecture for the national funding formula will make sure principally that funding is fair and there is an equal amount for children in primary and in secondary; then our main drivers of additional funding will be deprivation—as I said, £5 billion a year for that—and low prior attainment. That is the right way to structure the formula. Although we have seen progress in many schools in many parts of our country, we now need to make absolutely sure that resources flow towards those areas that need to lift.
The Minister for schools was kind enough to meet me recently to discuss funding for schools in Wealden and East Sussex, and I am very grateful for that. My pupil funding is just £4,433.58. My small rural schools face severe challenges because of their small size and location, and a heavy weighting for sparsity in the formula is therefore vital if we are to ensure that Wealden’s superb schools can carry on providing a brilliant education.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When we looked at the national funding formula mechanism, we saw that some local authorities do not use the sparsity factor. Our sparsity factor will go to all schools that should get additional support. That is why the formula should be welcomed.
Children in my constituency start school up to 19 months behind where they should be in terms of development. Without fantastic teachers and extra resources, they struggle to fulfil their potential and play catch-up for the rest of their lives. Will the Secretary of State tell me and schools in my constituency whether they will see their funding increase—yes or no?
Under the current funding formula, Kingston schools are the third worst funded in London, receiving £2,400 per pupil per year less than Tower Hamlets, which is just 14 miles away. Having campaigned for changes and for fairer funding with teachers, parents and councillors, I look forward to responding to the phase 2 consultation. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the mobility factor that I and other London MPs called for recognises the very real pressure that London and other urban and suburban schools face from children joining mid-term in large numbers?
I think it can. Obviously, my hon. Friend will want to look at the detail in the consultation, but under this formula we will put £23 million into supporting children who move in-year and their schools. As a London MP, I know that has been an issue for some London schools. But it is not just an issue for London; there was a general response to the phase 1 consultation document saying that we needed to put the issue into the phase 2 consultation and that it should be made part of the formula. That is why we have done so.
I am grateful to the Minister for schools for listening to the case for adding mobility to the school funding formula and to the Secretary of State for her announcement; I will look carefully at the details. Should she not have secured the Chancellor’s support to make sure that no school sees a cut in its funding per pupil, given the cost pressures that she has referred to?
I make two points. In spite of the need to reduce the deficit over time, which the Government have set about doing, we have protected the core schools budget in real terms. In addition, I recognise that there is a need to reduce the year-on-year reductions schools faced, so those will be no more than 1.5%. Indeed, the overall reduction for any per-pupil amount will be no more than 3%. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will welcome that.
Following on from that point, there is a similar fair funding formula in the health service, but Wellingborough is always at the bottom. It never catches up because we are not prepared to reduce the money that the best funded get. I am slightly worried that my right hon. Friend’s answer suggests that that sort of thing will creep into the school system. Are we actually ever going to move to the formula—are schools actually going to get the cash that the formula says they will?
In the transition year, some schools that are so far behind as to be eligible will get 3%; those schools that are even further behind under the fair formula will get a further 2.5% the following year, when the formula operates in full and properly. My hon. Friend is right to flag up the issue. It is important that the schools that have been underfunded see those gains coming through. That is what we are proposing.
Schools in areas such as Westminster have a combination of exceptionally high costs—not least recruitment and retention—and very high deprivation, and they are already making staff redundant. The Secretary of State partially blamed policies such as the introduction of the national living wage. Why are the Government introducing policies impacting on schools that they are not prepared to fund?
I am not sure whether the hon. Lady supports the living wage, but the Government think that it is important. We also think a further two things, however: first, it is important to introduce this national funding formula—I hope that MPs can support it as a mechanism to make sure that the funding flowing into schools is delivered fairly—and secondly, it will ensure that children growing up in deprived areas see additional funding. I hope that she will reflect on that. In addition, wherever they grow up—whether or not in a deprived community—children who need to catch up will receive additional funding through this formula.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. One group we must not overlook is parents. In my constituency, parents work hard and often tell me, “I’m paying the same rate of tax as people in other areas. Why am I getting so much less money for my children in the state school system?” I urge her, when she gets the backlash from the more generously funded areas, to stand fast, particularly on support for rural schools, and to deliver this in full and in practice.
I represent the 19th most disadvantaged constituency in the country—the Secretary of State spoke about disadvantage and deprivation—but can she tell parents and schools in my constituency whether they will receive more funding under this proposed formula or less?
The hon. Lady can look at the details for her own constituency once all the data are published, but I hope she will reflect on what I said earlier: we have designed the formula to ensure that the funding follows children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Indeed, we did not just consider the formal deprivation factors that many local authorities have; some local authorities, where virtually all the children are from deprived backgrounds, do not necessarily have a formal factor that reflects that, but nevertheless we tried to capture the hidden funding flowing through to help deprived children as part of the deprived factor.
For decades, Staffordshire has languished 15 places from the bottom on funding. I have heard this all before, from Tony Blair and the unelected Prime Minister—as the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) so charmingly put it—Gordon Brown, so I thank my right hon. Friend for coming up with a firm date for these reforms. Will she assure me that the children of Staffordshire will no longer be disadvantaged?
I have a letter from the National Union of Teachers, which is extremely alarmed that pupils in Bishop Auckland will lose £452 over the Parliament. Will the Secretary of State tell me what will happen in my constituency? She has reassured London MPs and the home counties. In the interests of intellectual honesty, will she say who are the losers out of her funding formula?
We heard terrible scaremongering and numbers from the NUT that proved to be incorrect. It said that some schools would lose 10% under this funding formula, but, as I have set out, that is absolutely not the case. I would encourage the hon. Lady, like all Members, to look at the data for her own constituency. We will be publishing a lot of data once this statement is done, as is customary, because we want to be clear. This is a big step forward for schools funding and it is important that we are clear with people about the implications for their schools. That is what we have done.
I particularly welcome the Secretary of State’s reference in her statement to sparsity and mobility. It is great news for constituencies such as mine. Does she agree that one of the most mobile pupil populations are the children of our armed forces families? How will she promote the pupil premium that we introduced in 2011 in the funding formula?