House of Commons
Wednesday 25 April 2018
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
Ties with the Rest of the UK
The United Kingdom is the vital Union for Scotland, and this Government will always work to strengthen the integrity of the UK. That includes working closely and constructively with the Scottish Government. But I was disappointed that, unlike the Welsh Government, Nicola Sturgeon has been unwilling to agree our proposed amendments to clause 11 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The Welsh Government have said that this is a deal that respects devolution. They have said:
“This is a deal we can work with which has required compromise on both sides.”
I absolutely agree, and I continue to hope that the Scottish Government will join us.
I share my right hon. Friend’s disappointment and surprise that the SNP Administration in Edinburgh have been unable to reach agreement with the Government. I ask him to work with those people in the devolved Government in Edinburgh who are willing to reach agreement to ensure that we put the politics of division behind us and work together so that we can move the conversation on for our constituents.
I absolutely agree. I was certainly very disappointed that the Scottish Government, despite sharing the same concerns as the Welsh Government, decided not to agree with this approach. We will of course continue to have a constructive dialogue with the Scottish Government, and I want to put it on the record that Mike Russell, the Scottish Minister, has put a lot of personal effort and commitment into getting this over the line, and I still hope that his Government will join him in reaching that agreement in the coming weeks.
In the interests of facilitating negotiations, will the Secretary of State confirm whether the Lords will be asked to agree to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on Third Reading before the Scottish Parliament has had time to consider a legislative consent memorandum?
What will happen is that today the UK Government will table an amendment to clause 11 of the withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords, on the basis agreed with the Welsh Government, and on the basis offered to the Scottish Government. The intergovernmental agreement accompanying the clause will also be published.
As my right hon. Friend knows, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has taken a close interest in this matter. Is he aware that we will be travelling to Edinburgh on Sunday, for hearings on Monday on the matter? I invite him to feel less disappointment and more hope, because the SNP Government have always insisted that their interests are aligned with those of the Welsh Government. Can we give the Scottish Government time to reflect on the fact that the Welsh Government now support the UK Government’s position, and that they might wish to do so in future?
I am sure that the Committee will be made very welcome in Edinburgh. Anything that it can do to focus Nicola Sturgeon’s mind on what has been offered, and what the Welsh Government have been able to sign up to, given that it protects the devolution settlement, will be very welcome. I hope that Nicola Sturgeon will think again.
May I first place on the record my congratulations to the Scottish Commonwealth games team on their success in Melbourne?
Coming back to the task in hand, it has been widely reported that Mike Russell was happy with the amendment and agreed to the deal, before being overruled by Nicola Sturgeon. Can the Secretary of State confirm whether there was an agreement on this issue from the Scottish Government at any point during the process?
What I can confirm is that there were extensive negotiations on the proposal, which has ultimately been agreed with the Welsh Government, and the Scottish Government were actively involved in those discussions. To be fair to Mike Russell, he has never led us to believe that there was any decision maker in the Scottish Government other than Nicola Sturgeon.
Order. These exchanges are rather ponderous. I am sorry, but we really need to speed up, because we have a lot of questions to get through. Let us get on with it.
I thank the Secretary of State for that non-response. The Labour party anticipated that political games would be played with the constitution. It is time for the people of Scotland to know exactly what has been going on behind closed doors, so will he tell me the truth and shame the devil, and agree to publish the minutes of all meetings and conversations between the Scottish and UK Governments and any member of the Conservative party or the SNP on clause 11?
What we will publish is the clause and the intergovernmental agreement that goes along with it, which is what the Welsh Government have signed up to. That is what was on the table for the Scottish Government to agree. It remains on the table.
The SNP’s Brexit Minister, Mike Russell, said that he could not envisage a situation in which Scotland would be content and Wales would not be, or vice versa. Those words ring hollow today. Does my right hon. Friend agree that Nicola Sturgeon’s belligerence in snubbing an agreement on clause 11 reminds us that the SNP believes in independence, manufactured grievance and a narrow nationalist agenda, which will always come before the good of the country?
Some people might conclude, given that Mike Russell did say that the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government were in exactly the same position, that there might be just one issue where there is a difference. That difference is that the Welsh Government believe in devolution and the Scottish Government believe in independence.
Does the Secretary of State think that taking the Scottish Parliament to court to overturn the democratic decision of that Parliament will help to strengthen the ties between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom?
For the first time ever, I probably agree with the Secretary of State. It comes as no surprise to us that Welsh Labour has so easily capitulated to the Tories on this issue. We will never stop defending the integrity of our Parliament, and we will never allow the Tories to diminish our Parliament’s powers. We will not allow that to happen. Is it the case with these amendments that, if the Scottish Parliament does not give its consent in these devolved areas within its responsibilities, the UK Government will simply overrule our democratic Parliament again? Is that what is going to happen?
I read recently on the hon. Gentleman’s blog that the SNP should stop talking nonsense. He needs to take his own advice. Our position is still clear: we want to secure the agreement of the Scottish Government to our proposals in relation to clause 11. We have been very clear. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office has been clear. Our door is open. We hope that we will have direct discussions with the Scottish Government next week, and we hope that they will change their position and sign up, as the Welsh Government have, to proposals that protect the devolution settlement.
Leaving the EU: Scottish Exports
From funding UK Export Finance support to re-establishing the Board of Trade, the UK Government are working to support all Scottish businesses that are looking to export or expand their operations abroad.
The Scottish borders have a number of industries with international reach, including the textiles industry, which is a global player in fashion. There is also an international market for food and drink from the borders, and indeed from across Scotland. Can my right hon. Friend reassure me that producers of textiles and of food and drink in the borders and across Scotland will be taken account of as part of the Brexit negotiations so that they can take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit presents?
My hon. Friend is always a champion for the businesses in the borders, and I can of course give him that reassurance. We are talking to producers in the borders, across Scotland and indeed across the UK to ensure that they can make the most of the opportunities around the world as we leave the EU.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his response. Will he encourage the Secretary of State for International Trade to meet seafood processors during his visit to Aberdeen next month?
Scottish seafood is rightly famous around the world. I was pleased that my hon. Friend could join me earlier this month when I met the Scottish Seafood Association to discuss the impact of the EU exit. As I said then, there are growing opportunities for the sector in Scotland, and I would of course be happy both to meet the fish processing industry myself and to encourage my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade to do so.
Consistently, reports have said that Aberdeen is set to be hit the worst by Brexit, not least because of the number of incredibly successful exporting businesses we have. What is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that we stay in the single market and the customs union to protect businesses in Aberdeen?
The hon. Lady will be pleased to know that the Secretary of State for International Trade is visiting Aberdeen. We recognise Aberdeen’s great exporting tradition, which is why we want to ensure that there are opportunities for Aberdeen’s businesses around the world. This Government will not sign up to a customs union so that we can negotiate free trade agreements that allow businesses to take advantage of those opportunities.
The Netherlands has overtaken the USA as Scotland’s biggest export market, which demonstrates the increasing importance of EU trade to the Scottish economy. The Secretary of State should be representing the voices and interests of Scotland in the Cabinet. With respect, he did not answer the question of the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) about the single market, because representing Scotland’s interests can only mean arguing for continued membership of the single market.
I respect the Liberal Democrats’ position that they want to stay in the EU and, indeed, to stop the UK and Scotland leaving the EU, but a decision has been made across the United Kingdom that it will leave the EU. It is now incumbent on this Government to negotiate the best possible terms for that departure. The Government have made it absolutely clear that we will not be part of a customs union and will look to negotiate our own bespoke free trade agreement with the EU.
Renewable Energy Sector
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has regular discussions with colleagues on a range of issues, including the renewable energy sector in Scotland. The Government remain committed to a thriving renewables industry across the UK, and Scotland is a central part of that, with up to £557 million of support being made available for new generation projects.
Given that we are an island, wave and tidal energy should be a priority for this Government. However, due to the allocation of funding through the contracts for difference scheme, wave and tidal energy have never secured funding, as they cannot compete financially with more established technologies. Will the Secretary of State undertake to review the way those allocations are carried out and consider allocating a specific pot to less established technologies?
In previous rounds of contracts for difference, Scottish projects won 11 of the 25 contracts. On the specific point the hon. Lady makes, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has committed to raise the issue with the Minister responsible and will come back to her on that.
Recently, I visited the community hydro scheme in Callander, which is a first-class project that makes the best of our Scottish rain—there will be no shortage of that in the short term or the long term. What encouragement can the Department give to Scotland’s hydro energy businesses?
The next round of contracts for difference is expected in the spring of next year. That is an opportunity for new and innovative schemes to come forward for grants, and I suggest that an application be made.
Social Media Consultancies
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland does not currently use social media consultancies and has not done so in the past.
Freedom of information requests published by The Ferret show that one advertising campaign from the Scotland Office targeted small business owners solely in the Secretary of State’s Dumfriesshire constituency. Did he direct his officials in the Department to target his own constituency specifically?
There are very clear rules in relation to such matters. If the hon. Gentleman has any specific suggestion to make, he should take them up through that process.
It must be more than a coincidence that the Scotland Office did a very targeted Facebook campaign in the Secretary of State’s own constituency, excluding cohorts such as those with an interest in Scottish independence, so can he tell the House when he knew that his Department was using social media to target his constituents only?
I have clearly answered the point that the hon. Gentleman’s colleague, the hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray), raised, and if he has specific suggestions that the very clear rules under which the Government operate have been breached, I would like to hear them. But it is very clear, for example, that the Scottish Government target specific audiences, and if he is saying that they do not, I would be very surprised to hear that.
We have been told that the Scotland Office published numerous Facebook posts to coincide with Government visits, but it appears that only the posts relating to the Secretary of State’s constituency received a financial boost. If that is the case and the Scotland Office is seen to be micro-targeting tailored Facebook adverts only on voters in his constituency, does he consider that a misuse of taxpayers’ money and an abuse of power?
The hon. Gentleman does have a track record of asking questions when he does not know what the answer is going to be. I return very clearly to the point that, if there are specific suggestions that the code under which the Government operate has been breached, they should be made and taken forward in the proper way. But if the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the Scottish Government do not target specific individuals with their material, he is misleading this House.
Well, if the hon. Gentleman were suggesting it, he would be, but he is not, so he is not. I am sure that the SNP is not accusing the Secretary of State of impropriety, as that would be the wrong thing to do on the Floor of the Chamber, but equally, I am sure that the Secretary of State is not making any accusation of impropriety.
I am grateful for the nod of the head from a sedentary position.
Cambridge Analytica claimed yesterday that the SNP’s involvement with it was far more than Nicola Sturgeon has previously claimed. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the SNP should be far more open and honest about its involvement with Cambridge Analytica, particularly with its own MPs?
Mr Speaker, I might well agree, but as I am sure you would tell me, I am not responsible for the SNP.
Did my right hon. Friend share my interest in the answers provided to the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O'Hara) by Cambridge Analytica yesterday, in the most recent hearing, and does he agree that it is important that the separatists are equally open about how they have used these consultancies?
What I agree with, and this is not necessarily the forum, is that the SNP has a very great many questions to answer about its involvement with Cambridge Analytica. Perhaps Mr Peter Murrell, when he deigns to speak to the MP group, will answer some of those questions for them.
It is rather ironic that the SNP submitted this question en masse, given its subsequent unwillingness to offer basic transparency over the party’s dealings with Cambridge Analytica, but I hope that today the Secretary of State can be more transparent than the SNP has been. While his Government decimate public services, his Department is spending £50,000 on targeted social media, so can he tell us what data the Scotland Office gathered on the public and whether he believes that this was an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money?
The Scotland Office did not gather data on the public. We used established methods of advertising effectively on Facebook. If the hon. Gentleman pays attention to some of the debates and discussions in this House, he will know that many people now gain information through social media, so in terms of the Scotland Office fulfilling its obligation to the people of Scotland about what the Government and the Scotland Office are doing, social media is a perfectly appropriate channel to do it through.
Leaving the EU: Effect on Scotland
I have regular discussions with the Prime Minister and Cabinet colleagues. The UK is committed to securing a deal that works for all parts of the UK, including Scotland.
The Home Office cap on tier 2 visas has been reached in each of the last four months, meaning that applications are now being prioritised according to the salary offered. As a result, the average salary now needed has risen from £30,000 to £55,000, meaning that the majority of such visas are likely to end up in high-income areas such as London, as companies in Scotland, and indeed the NHS, cannot simply double their salaries. Does the Secretary of State not accept that we in Scotland need our own immigration system so that we can recruit high-skilled professionals for our industries and NHS?
I do not accept that Scotland needs its own immigration system, and it was clear at the time of the Smith Commission agreement that immigration would not be devolved, but I will look into the specific issue the hon. Lady has raised.
The Secretary of State’s Government have repeatedly talked the talk about a partnership of equals, so will he explain where on earth is the equity and partnership in proposals that the Westminster Parliament be able to restrict the Scottish Parliament’s powers for up to seven years without its consent?
As I made clear earlier, the UK Government are committed to working with the Scottish Government, but we are not just partners; what the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues cannot accept is that Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, and that is the nature of the agreement we have reached, which the Welsh Government say protects the devolution settlement.
The SNP asked the Secretary of State countless times whether amendments to clause 11 of the EU withdrawal Bill would be tabled to protect devolution, and time and again he promised that they would. The Scottish Government have drafted amendments and provided proposals, but the Westminster Government have ignored all of them. Is this not just another broken Tory promise to Scotland?
I am sure that question looked better written down than it sounded. The Welsh Government, who Mike Russell only last week said were fully aligned with the Scottish Government’s purpose and requirements, have made it clear that the amendment we are lodging to the EU withdrawal Bill protects the devolution settlement.
East Renfrewshire has a vibrant business community, but only 75 of its businesses have more than 20 employees, and by far their most important market is the rest of the UK. What reassurances can my right hon. Friend give them that as the UK leaves the EU they will have seamless access to the rest of the UK?
The debate on clause 11 arose because of the importance to businesses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland of retaining that UK market, which is why we place such importance on getting that right. I believe our amendment does just that.
I call Bill Grant. No? He was bobbing previously. Does he want to get in?
My question has been answered, Mr Speaker.
The hon. Gentleman is in danger of setting a precedent against repetition in the House of Commons, but it is an isolated case. I am grateful to him.
Two thirds of the UK’s jobs in financial and professional services are outside London and many are in Scotland. Reuters estimates that 5,000 jobs in financial services might move because of Brexit. What advice has the Secretary of State been given about how this could affect jobs in Scotland?
The hon. Lady is right. It is very important that everyone is clear that financial services are not just in the City of London but are hugely important in Scotland and the other constituent parts of the UK. That is why we are fighting for a good deal from the EU on financial services.
Leaving the EU: Scottish Economy
We want our future relationship with the EU to be a deep and special partnership that takes in both economic and security co-operation. We are confident that this is in the interests of both sides, so we approach these negotiations anticipating success. We do not want or expect a no deal outcome.
In its year-end report, the Fraser of Allander Institute pointed to uncertainty over Brexit as one of the principal drags on the Scottish economy. The people of Scotland are fed up with the ongoing pantomime that is the relationship between the Scottish Tories and the SNP. What meetings has the Secretary of State had with the Scottish Government on clause 11, and how does he intend to bring this farce to a close?
I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made it very clear that we want the Scottish Government to agree to the clause 11 amendment as the Welsh Government have. The Welsh Government have accepted that the UK Government have gone a long way, and I hope that the Scottish Government are listening and will take part.
A single sentence will suffice. Christine Jardine.
Does the Minister agree that the most important way of mitigating the disastrous effects of Brexit in Scotland would be an agreement between the two Governments? Will he encourage the Scottish Government to stop their constitutional posturing and think about what the people actually want?
I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. She has made a very important point. The Welsh Government have accepted that this is a sensible way forward, and it is time that Scotland did exactly the same.
Universal Credit: Low-Income Families
Universal credit is transforming lives across the country. Research shows that universal credit claimants spend more time searching and applying for work than those on previous benefits. There are now more than 100,000 fewer workless households in Scotland than there were seven years ago.
The Trussell Trust reports that there was a 17% increase in food bank use in Scotland last year. Could that be linked in any way to universal credit?
I think it is widely accepted that there are many reasons why people use food banks, and many different issues. Even the all-party parliamentary group on hunger and food poverty has accepted that. We have rolled out universal credit slowly and made changes when we have considered them to be necessary, and we continue to do so.
Finally and briefly, Patricia Gibson.
Ayrshire Growth Deal
I am sure the hon. Lady will join me in welcoming the commitment made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when she visited Ayr and said that the UK Government were opening talks to deliver such a deal.
Given that the Secretary of State has told me on the Floor of the House that he shares my frustration at the lack of progress on the deal, and given that the Prime Minister has now committed herself to it publicly, will he finally, at long last, for the love of God, give us a timetable?
I think that somewhere in the hon. Lady’s question there was a note of positivity about the fact that the UK Government have committed themselves to taking the deal forward. We are working closely with the local authorities and other partners on a timetable.
The timing of the hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant) could be improved, as I tried to call him a few moments ago, but I am in a generous mood. Let us hear the fella.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the city and growth deals that cover the vast majority of Scotland are a great example of what can be achieved when Governments and authorities work closely together rather than picking a fight with one another?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Let me add that it is his disposition—his bonhomie—that takes deals and arrangements forward, rather than the negativity and hostility of some.
The Prime Minister was asked—
I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in offering our warmest congratulations to their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son earlier this week.
I know that Members on both sides of the House will also want to join me in marking Stephen Lawrence’s death 25 years ago. For each of those years, the Lawrence family have fought heroically to ensure that their son’s life and death will never be forgotten. As I announced earlier this week, the Government will work with the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust to establish a national annual commemoration of Stephen’s life and legacy.
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
My colleagues and I acknowledge the fortitude of the Lawrence family, and, indeed, the joy that the nation shares on the occasion of a royal birth.
In 2017, through the confidence and supply agreement, the Prime Minister not only recognised the need to give Northern Ireland an economic boost but agreed to a package of measures, including a Belfast region city deal, a city deal for others, and ultra-fast broadband investment. That will transform our part of this United Kingdom. In response to the eager anticipation of our communities and in reaffirming her commitment, will she ensure that sufficient progress is made to advance both in time for the autumn Budget?
The hon. Gentleman has raised an important issue. He is absolutely right: the Government have set out several public commitments, including in the confidence and supply agreement, to work towards a comprehensive and ambitious set of city deals across Northern Ireland. There is progress being made, which I welcome, by the Belfast city region partners in developing the city deal proposals. I look forward to their submission, which will obviously be considered by the Government. Of course, in the absence of an Executive, there are some issues to work through, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend the Northern Ireland Secretary is committed to working positively with partners in the UK Government, the Belfast city region and the Northern Ireland civil service to progress the city deal.
I call Andrew Bowie.
I am pleased that we are making progress on the withdrawal Bill. I think that has been acknowledged by all sides, and after many months of negotiation—I pay tribute to my right hon. Friends, particularly the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for the work he has done in those negotiations—we have reached agreement with the Welsh Government. That is a significant achievement and will provide legal certainty, increase the powers of the devolved Governments and respect the devolution settlements. We have made considerable changes to the Bill to reflect issues raised by Members and the devolved Administrations. It is indeed disappointing that the Scottish Government have not yet felt able to add their agreement to the new amendments, and we sincerely hope that they will reconsider their position.
I join the Prime Minister in congratulating the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their baby and I wish them well.
We should also reflect on the fact that Doreen and Neville Lawrence fought for years to get justice for the death of their son. The Macpherson inquiry showed that institutional racism was a major factor in the inquiry. We need to drive out institutional racism in all its forms, wherever it raises its head within our society. We recognise that the Home Secretary has rightly apologised to the Windrush generation and made a commitment to compensate people for the hardship they have endured. The Government are committed to compensation in theory, but as yet nothing in practice. There is an understandable lack of trust on the part of the Windrush generation, so can the Prime Minister today be clear and confirm that those British citizens, who have worked, paid taxes here for decades and been wrongly denied pensions and benefits, will be fully compensated?
It is absolutely right that across this House we should all be absolutely clear in our determination to ensure that we stamp out racism in every form. Let me set out to the House the action that has been taken. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made very clear the offering in her statement to the House that those who came here before 1 January 1973 from Commonwealth countries—this is from Commonwealth countries as a whole—will be offered citizenship status without paying the fee and without taking the knowledge of language and “Life in the UK” test. The children of the Windrush generation who are in the UK will in most cases be British citizens already, but where that is not the case, they will be able to apply to naturalise at no further cost.
We are also taking action in relation to those who made their life here but retired to their country of origin and have found it difficult or impossible to return to the UK. We will work with high commissions to make sure that they can easily access the offer of formal British citizenship, because the Windrush generation are British; they are part of us. There will be a compensation scheme, the details of which my right hon. Friend will set out in due course, but I think everybody will see that the action the Government have taken is because we know the Windrush generation—[Interruption.] The Labour Front Benchers shake their heads and go, “Oh no!” The Windrush generation are British, they are part of us, and we will ensure that.
It is not an act of generosity to waive citizenship fees when they are British citizens already. They should be granted full status immediately. Four years ago, an internal Home Office memo stated that the right hon. Lady’s “hostile environment” policy could make it harder for people like the Windrush generation to find homes and that it could “provoke discrimination”. Why did the Home Secretary ignore that memo?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about a “hostile environment”:
“What we are proposing here will, I think, flush illegal migrants out. We are trying to create a much more hostile environment in this country if you are here illegally.”
Those are not my words; they are the words of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) when he was Labour’s Immigration Minister. The Labour leader ought to know about this because the right hon. Gentleman sits on his Front Bench.
What I am talking about is the Windrush generation of people who came here completely legally. The Prime Minister herself was warned directly about these policies in 2014 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), who is now the shadow Home Secretary. And when the Immigration Act 2014 was going through Parliament, the then Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, wrote to the right hon. Lady warning:
“The costs and risks considerably outweigh the benefits”.
Why did the Prime Minister ignore his advice as well as the request from my right hon. Friend?
In relation to the Windrush generation, we have made it absolutely clear that those people who came here from the Commonwealth before 1 January 1973 have a right to be here: they are British, they are part of us. The problem at the time was that they were not documented with that right, and that is what we are now putting right. He talks about action that the Government have taken in relation to those who are here illegally. The Windrush generation are here legally. Action against those who are here illegally has been taken by successive Governments. Checks on someone’s right to work here came in in 1997, measures on access to benefits in 1999 and civil penalties for employing illegal migrants in 2008—both under a Labour Government. Why have these actions been taken? Because people up and down this country want to ensure that the Government are taking action on those people who are here illegally. It is not fair to those people who work hard, who have a right to be here and who have contributed to this country if they see people who are here illegally being given the same access to rights and services.
The Prime Minister seems to want to get away from the injustice done to the Windrush generation. The Equalities and Human and Rights Commission warned her about the Immigration Act 2016, saying that the Bill
“is likely to lead to destitution and may cause inhuman and degrading treatment, in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights”.
The Government have quite rightly apologised for the scandalous way in which British citizens have been treated, but it was due to the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts, so will the Prime Minister now commit to reviewing that legislation to make sure this never happens again?
As I set out for the House last week, this is a generation who came here prior to 1973—[Interruption.] Labour Front Benchers say “We know this,” but the questions that the right hon. Gentleman is asking suggest that they are ignoring some of the facts in relation to this. This is a generation who came here prior to 1973. We are not ignoring the problems that some members of this generation are facing. That is why my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has set up a special team in the Home Office, not just to deal with their inquiries but to actively help them find the documentation to clarify their status. That is why we have made the offer that my right hon. Friend made of ensuring that we can give them formal British citizenship which recognises that they are British but does so in a formal, documented way. The problem was that, prior to 1973 when the Windrush generation came here, they were not given documents that set out their status. We are now putting that right, and we will leave no stone unturned to put that right.
In 2013, the then Home Secretary said that introducing the legislation was about creating “a really hostile environment”. Had the Windrush generation not mounted a campaign and had Opposition Members not raised the matter persistently, there would have been no compensation, no review and no apology. Any review of legislation needs to go wider than just immigration law. The dismantling of legal aid provision in 2012 made the impact of the Immigration Act 2014 harder to challenge. The policies swept up British citizens and legal migrants, causing them immense suffering, as the Prime Minister was warned. Will the Prime Minister send a clear message today and tell us that the hostile environment is over and that her bogus immigration targets, which have driven the hostile culture, will be scrapped? The Windrush generation have served this country and deserve better than this.
The Windrush generation are British. They have contributed to this country. They have made their life here. This is about dealing with those people who are in this country illegally—not the Windrush generation, who are here legally. I say to the right hon. Gentleman again that I have quoted the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill from when he was Labour’s Immigration Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition referred to 2013. In 2013, the then shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), said that
“we need much stronger action from Government to bring illegal immigration down.”
That is—[Interruption.] Labour Front Benchers are saying that the Windrush generation are not illegal. They are not illegal; they are here legally. That is why we are providing support to enable them to get the documents for their status. What the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is talking about is whether we should deal with illegal immigration, and up and down the country the British public will tell him that we should deal with illegal immigration.
We are talking about the environment created by the Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary for six years, when she knew full well of the problems that the Windrush generation were facing, and at last she has been forced to act upon that.
Last week, the current Home Secretary admitted that the Home Office
“sometimes loses sight of the individual.”—[Official Report, 16 April 2018; Vol. 639, c. 28.]
Yet we now know that when she took over from her predecessor, her intent was to harden this cruel and misdirected policy, pledging to do so “ruthlessly”. A report last month by immigration officials stated that “hostile environment” measures were not even having the desired effect. The current Home Secretary inherited a failing policy and made it worse. Is it not time she took responsibility and resigned? [Interruption.]
Order. The House must calm itself. We have a long way to go and a lot of Back Benchers’ questions to reach. Let us hear the Prime Minister.
Up and down this country, people want to ensure that the Government are taking action against those people who are here in this country illegally, because it is not fair that people who work hard day in and day out, who contribute to this country and who put into the life of this country are seeing people who are here illegally accessing services in the same way.
We are acting to ensure that those people who are here legally are given the support they need. We welcomed the Windrush generation those many years ago. They are British, they are part of us, and we are ensuring that they remain here and are able to continue to live their lives here. But it is also right that this Government take action against those people who are accessing services despite being here illegally, not putting in and not contributing to this country.
If the Leader of the Opposition wants to talk about issues of fairness, if he wants to talk about a Government that is kind, let us look and see what a Labour Government would be like, because a Labour Government would wreck our economy, would damage people’s jobs, would tax people and would end up with debt for future generations. That is not a Labour Government that would be kind or fair to anybody.
Including the hon. Gentleman. He should not be too shy about it.
I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to Matt Campbell. I understand Matt Campbell’s JustGiving page has now raised over £140,000 for the Brathay Trust, which works to inspire vulnerable young people to make positive changes in their life. I am sure Members across the House will want to join me in offering condolences to Matt Campbell’s family and friends, but I am also happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the runners in this weekend’s London marathon, including the 15 Members of this House who competed.
If I may say so, I particularly congratulate my hon. Friend, who was the fastest Member of Parliament in the marathon, completing it—we should have it on the record—in 3 hours and 38 minutes. Many congratulations to him.
It is also right that we pay tribute to the ambulance workers and medical staff for all they did on the day to enable the marathon to take place.
On behalf of those of us on the SNP Benches, I pass on our congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son. I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks on Stephen Lawrence.
The CBI, the National Farmers Union, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government, the House of Lords and, overwhelmingly, Members of this House want the UK to remain in the customs union. Why is the Prime Minister on the side of her cynical Brexiteers and Front Benchers and not working in the interests of all the nations of the United Kingdom?
The British people voted to leave the European Union. In voting to leave the European Union, they voted to leave the single market and the customs union. What we want to ensure is that, as a country, we are able to independently negotiate free trade deals around the rest of the world, that we deliver on our commitment to no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and that we have as frictionless a border as possible between the United Kingdom and the European Union. What businesses tell me is that they want a tariff-free, frictionless border, and that is what we are negotiating for them.
That answer simply is not good enough. The single market and the customs union, quite simply, were not on the ballot paper. The Prime Minister’s own Government analysis shows that almost every sector of the economy in every region of the United Kingdom would be negatively impacted if the UK left the customs union. Negotiations in Brussels are effectively at a standstill because the Government are bereft of ideas for how to deal with the Irish border issue.
Why is it that jobs, living standards and even the Good Friday agreement are all secondary concerns to this Government? Will the Prime Minister confirm now that if this place votes in favour of a customs union, that will be the negotiating position of her Government?
The right hon. Gentleman is wrong in so many of the statements that he has just made. First, this Government are not bereft of ideas on how we can approach the issue of the Northern Ireland border, because we have published proposals for dealing with that very issue. If he wants to listen to Scottish businesses, I suggest he listen to those businesses—the Food and Drink Federation Scotland, Scottish Bakers and the Scottish Retail Consortium—that just yesterday said:
“Scotland’s businesses benefit enormously from the existing and largely unfettered UK single market.”
The Scottish National party Government in Scotland should listen to that.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising an important issue, on which I am happy to update the House. First, let me make it absolutely clear that Public Health England has said that Salisbury is safe for residents and visitors, and there is no need for anyone to take any additional precautions. Cordons are in place to protect the public while decontamination work is carried out on the sites he has referred to. After decontamination is undertaken at each site, sampling will be carried out to ensure that the sites are safe to be released back to the public. I assure him that the need to expedite this work is well recognised, but we want, of course, to ensure that it is done in a way so that those sites will in the future be available to, and safe for, the public.
I understand that the hon. Gentleman raised this case with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week. My right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary has offered to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the wider issue. HMRC is working closely with the trustees’ representatives to resolve the case and will be meeting them next month. HMRC is operationally independent, and that is important. It must of course apply the law fairly and collect the taxes set out in legislation by Parliament, but it is working with the trustees’ representatives, and as I said, the Financial Secretary is happy to meet him to discuss this.
Obviously, this question of the fisheries is a matter that my hon. Friend and others have raised previously. Let me reassure him that, during the implementation period we have negotiated, the UK’s share of catch cannot be reduced. This safeguards the livelihoods of our fishing communities and, importantly, also delivers a smooth and orderly Brexit. There is also an obligation in the agreement on both sides to act in good faith throughout that implementation period, and any attempts by the EU to harm the UK fishing industry would obviously breach that obligation. Obviously, in December 2020, we will be negotiating fishing opportunities as a third country—as a fully independent coastal state—deciding who can have access to our waters and on what terms for the first time in more than 40 years.
What we are doing through our national shipbuilding strategy is focusing on giving the Royal Navy the ships it needs, while increasing economic growth across the country and investing in a more skilled workforce. We are encouraging a more competitive industry in shipbuilding and growing jobs across the country. The hon. Gentleman may have been referring to the future support ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary that are being procured through international competition. Three ships will be built in the fleet solid support programme. They will be subject to international competition to secure the best possible value for money for the UK taxpayer. Through our national shipbuilding strategy, we are ensuring that we develop that shipbuilding capability in the UK, so that we can encourage all UK shipyards with the necessary skills and expertise to continue to engage in that programme.
Order. That is very discourteous. I want to hear the views of the hon. Gentleman on this matter.
Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the doctors who are members of the Faculty of Homeopathy on their work in the health service, particularly in dealing with cases that are too difficult to treat conventionally? Does she agree that homeopathic vets should be able to make their own minds up about whether to use homeopathy on its own or with other treatments, too?
My hon. Friend has been a long-standing advocate in this House for homeopathy. Obviously, some patients who are treated in the NHS and the private sector are users of complementary and alternative therapies, but it is the responsibility of the local NHS to make decisions on the commissioning and funding of healthcare treatments and to take account of issues with safety, clinical and cost-effectiveness, and the availability of suitably qualified and regulated practitioners. As regards all the issues he has addressed, it is right that those who are professionally able to make these judgments are left to make them.
We already have plans to tackle childhood obesity that are world leading. No other developed country has done anything as ambitious. Our soft drinks industry levy is a bold action that we are taking, and our sugar reduction programme will cut the amounts of sugar consumed by young people. Of course, we are also putting in plans for the amount of exercise and physical activity primary school children get every day. Those steps will make a real difference and help reverse a problem that has been decades in the making, but of course we have not ruled out further action if the right results are not seen.
Does the Prime Minister agree that events since the very powerful debate on anti-Semitism that we held in this Chamber have demonstrated that Labour is still not taking these problems seriously and that it now needs to take urgent action to root out this form of racism from its party?
Of course, my right hon. Friend raises an extremely important issue. As I said at the beginning in response to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, it is important that everybody across the House takes action to stamp out racism in all its forms. I include anti-Semitism in that.
The hon. Lady knows full well that those who work in the UK Visas and Immigration section of the Home Office look at every case very carefully. She has made her point in this House, and I am sure that the Home Office will look again at that case.
The City of London has recently topped the worldwide Z/Yen index and it supports 450,000 jobs and is worth £45 billion to the UK economy. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential for both the EU and the UK that the final Brexit agreement supports these financial services, because otherwise they will simply move elsewhere in the world?
That is an important issue and I referred to it in my Mansion House speech. I said that we wanted to ensure that financial services were a part of the deep and comprehensive partnership that we wished to build with the EU27. Our goal should be to establish access to each other’s markets. That should be based on maintaining the same regulatory outcomes over time, with a mechanism that determines proportionate consequences where they are not maintained. That is part of my ambition for an economic partnership with the European Union that goes way beyond any existing free trade agreement, covering more sectors and co-operating more fully. My hon. Friend is right that if firms and financial services are looking to go elsewhere, they are more likely to look to go elsewhere in the world, rather than elsewhere in Europe.
I am happy to join the hon. Lady in congratulating those people in Coventry and elsewhere who have already signed up to be donors. Anthony Nolan has done excellent work over many years. I was not aware of that particular campaign, but I will certainly look into it. It sounds like a very good campaign, and I am sure that she will be encouraging other Members of this House to support it as well.
Increasing numbers of children of school age are now being educated at home. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is important to ensure that those children receive an education that is appropriate for their needs?
This is very important. Parents will sometimes decide to educate their children at home, and they will have their reasons for wishing to do so, but it is important that those children get an appropriate quality and level of education. I reassure my hon. Friend that I know that the Secretary of State for Education is looking at the issue.
I am happy to say to the hon. Lady that I think it is important that we are providing and building more homes for people, and that within that we include affordable homes, too. I am pleased to say that, since we came into office in 2010, we have delivered more affordable homes than the previous Labour Government did in their last seven years in office. The Government are in fact working with Manchester—with the Mayor of Manchester and the combined authority—to ensure that we are supporting them in certain areas with funding, encouraging that building of affordable homes, and indeed ensuring that there are homes to which young people can aspire, so that those who never thought they would be able to get their foot on the property ladder can do so.
Morley Newlands Academy scored “outstanding” during a recent Ofsted inspection, and Bruntcliffe Academy in Morley scored “good” for the very first time in its history. Will the Prime Minister confirm to the House that an additional 1.8 million children since 2010 are now taught in “good” and “outstanding” schools, under this Conservative Government? I hope that the Prime Minister will join me in congratulating the principals, teachers, staff and students of the two schools on their hard work to attain this admirable achievement.
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the teachers, heads and all the staff of those two schools on their achievements, which have resulted from the work that they have been doing. She asked me to confirm that there are now 1.8 million more children in “good” or “outstanding” schools. I am afraid that I am not able to confirm that because, in fact, there are now 1.9 million more children in “good” or “outstanding” schools.
I am sorry to hear of that case. As all Members will know, there are cases where people have had to appeal against such judgments. I will ensure that the Department for Work and Pensions is aware of the case raised by the hon. Gentleman.
In October last year, the national bereavement care pathway was launched in 11 pilot sites. Last week, it launched in a further 21 hospital sites. I am delighted to announce that yesterday, the Government set aside funding for a national roll-out of the national bereavement care pathway. Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming that funding, which will make such a difference to bereaved parents up and down the country?
My hon. Friend has championed and campaigned on this subject with great personal commitment. I recognise the importance of providing this bereavement counselling and of supporting parents in the most difficult circumstances of having lost a child. That is why the Government are providing this funding.
The Prime Minister will be aware of the concern that if the Home Office cannot deal humanely and efficiently with the immigration status of 50,000 UK residents of Caribbean origin, it will seriously struggle to deal efficiently and humanely with the registration of 3 million European nationals. Will she address the particular concern that the Home Office is now taking powers, under the Data Protection Bill, to cover up future mistakes by blocking access to individual files sought by individuals and their lawyers to check the accuracy of their data?
The right hon. Gentleman’s interpretation is not correct. It will be possible for people to access the information that they need. He mentioned the issue of EU citizens. There is a real difference between that case and the situation where people came to this country but were not given documented status here. That is the issue with which we are dealing regarding the Windrush generation. They have contributed to this country and lived here, but when they came here they were not given that documentary evidence. There is a difference in the system that we are putting in place for EU citizens, who are being encouraged and asked to apply for settled status, so that they have evidence of their status. We are ensuring that this problem will not occur in relation to EU citizens.
This week in this place, we have been talking about higher education. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the action the Government are taking shows that a Conservative Government are committed to delivering for students, working with them and treating them as adults, in stark contrast to Opposition Members, who look to win votes from young people by offering illogical and undeliverable free stuff?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The review we are bringing in on tertiary education is about ensuring not just that the funding and financing of tertiary education is right, but that young people have access to the routes through education, be it technical or university, that suit their particular needs. Of course, last year the Leader of the Opposition said that he would deal with student debt. Students thought he was going to abolish student debt. What happens after the election? He goes back on his promise.
I was not going to raise this, but the Prime Minister quoted me. Let me say this to the Prime Minister: do not try to hide behind me or the Labour party when she was warned repeatedly of the damage that her obsession with her migration target was doing. Do not try to hide behind the Cabinet when they do not agree with her on this and are trying to clear up the mess, and do not try to hide behind civil servants—[Interruption.]
Order. I am not having the questioner interrupted. The question will be heard and it will be heard in full, and that is the end of it.
Do not try to hide behind civil servants when she set the policies and instilled in them the culture of hostility, and when the high commissioners told us this morning that they had warned the Foreign Office about the Windrush generation immigration problem in 2016. What did she do? Because a few years ago the Prime Minister said:
“I’m actually sick and tired of government ministers…who simply blame other people when something goes wrong”.
What has changed?
Nobody is trying to blame anybody else. The question of the Windrush generation arises from the fact that when they came here, their status to live here was not documented. Over the years—[Interruption.] Yes, there have been individual cases over the years of people who have had to regularise their documentation and have done so. We have now seen cases of people in difficulty because they have not been able to do that. That is why the Home Office is taking action to deal with that. But under Governments of every colour, including the Government in which the right hon. Lady served, action has been taken against illegal immigrants. This does not apply to the Windrush generation. They are here; they are British; they have a right to be here. Under Labour, action was taken for a compliant environment; under the Conservatives, action has been taken to deal with illegal immigrants. That is what we are doing.
I have apologised to the Windrush generation and I do so again. We are doing everything we can to ensure that they are reassured, and that they do not have the anxiety that some of that generation have had. But we also owe it to them and to the British people to ensure that we deal with people who are here illegally.
Does my right hon. Friend still subscribe to her excellent maxim that no deal is better than a bad deal, and does she acknowledge that locking ourselves into a customs union with the EU after Brexit would be a very bad deal indeed?
I am very happy to confirm what I have always said: no deal is better than a bad deal. As regards being in a customs union, that means that we would not be able to negotiate our own trade deals around the rest of the world, and we want to be able to do that. As I saw last week at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, there is considerable interest around the rest of the world in being able to have those independent trade deals negotiated between other countries and the UK.
In 2011, I wrote to the Prime Minister’s then Immigration Minister, the right hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green), about my constituent who came here in 1956 aged four, and in 2011 was told that he could no longer work and he did not have British citizenship. Her Minister wrote to me and basically said, “Tough.” Can she now explain in a little more detail what compensation will be available for my constituent, who has been unable to work since 2011—for seven years? Will she also, importantly for many people who are feeling vulnerable and scared, assure them that if they ring her hotline, they will see no enforcement action to remove them from the country, because they are scared when ringing that hotline?
As I said earlier, obviously, individual cases will have different circumstances, but my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be setting out the compensation scheme shortly.
On the right hon. Gentleman’s second point, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made it clear on a number of occasions that the hotline is there to help people get the documents they need to clarify their status, such that they do not suffer from the problems that the right hon. Gentleman’s constituent has suffered from in the past. The Home Secretary has also made it clear that there is no question of taking enforcement action when people ring that hotline. We actively want people to ring that hotline, to bring their cases forward, so that the Home Office can help them to ensure that they have got the documents needed, so that they can be reassured and will not see any problems in the future.
Let us hear from a baron—John Baron.
I thank my right hon. Friend for a very positive meeting about the need for NHS England to release all of the £200 million cancer transformation funding to frontline services, so that they can better deliver on the cancer strategy. However, the system has been painfully slow in following through on what was agreed at that meeting. If that continues, will the Prime Minister meet me, so that we can unblock the logjam on behalf of cancer patients and their families?
I am sorry to hear that there has still been some slowness in the system. I will look into the matter, and if we are not able to unblock it, I am quite happy to meet my hon. Friend again.
Points of Order
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. For the first time since the birth of devolution, the Westminster Government—[Interruption.]
Order. There is too much noise as people are leaving the Chamber, so we will pause for a moment. I would not want the gravamen of the hon. Lady’s inquiry to go unheard or inadequately heard. If people toddling out of the Chamber could do so quickly and quietly, that would be much appreciated by the hon. Lady and doubtless by others. With a bit of projection, I think we will hear her.
I greatly thank you, Mr Speaker, for your support for my point of order.
For the first time since the birth of devolution, the Westminster Government have succeeded in clawing back powers that should be held by our National Assembly. That will have major consequences for the UK’s constitution, and it is all thanks to the Labour party in Wales. Despite the profound significance of that backroom deal, it has been raised by the UK Government through written statement only. Can you advise me how best to request an oral statement in the Chamber and to whom I should direct such a request?
My interpretation of what the hon. Lady just said is, “I don’t like just having to content myself with a written statement; I want an oral. Mr Speaker, can I register my point?” The truth of the matter is, as she is very well aware, that that is precisely what she has just done to considerable effect, in the sense that it has been heard. Whether there will now be an oral statement, I do not know, but events take place and matters evolve. If in subsequent days she is not satisfied, she can always seek, if she thinks the matter warrants the urgent attention of the House, to persuade me that it does, and I will have to judge on a case-by-case basis. For today, she has done her best.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. It is actually worse than that. These issues and matters are being determined in the unelected House of Lords, yet democratically elected Members of Parliament will have no say in the outcome. Is there anything we can do to wrest back control, to ensure that it is democratically elected Members of Parliament who determine and decide these very important issues?
The short answer to the hon. Gentleman is that I think we can await the return of the Lords amendments, and then this Chamber can come to a view about those amendments. I rather imagine that it will do so, but he has very properly vented his concern, and I hope that it will have been heard on the Treasury Bench as well as it has been by me and by other hon. Members.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) just mentioned me by name, in a critical manner, for an action I apparently took as a Minister some years ago. I have no memory of the individual action, but I would like to confirm that I was given no advance notice that he was going to mention me by name. Can I have your confirmation that you would deprecate that behaviour in the Chamber?
I have just received advice on the matter, as the right hon. Gentleman was raising his point of order, and my response is as follows. First, I did not interpret what the right hon. Member for Tottenham said as being an accusation of dishonourable conduct. It was critical, but it was not an accusation of dishonourable conduct or the absence of integrity. Secondly—this is related to my first point—I think that the criticism was of the right hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) in his capacity as a Minister and the discharge of the duties that he held at that time. I do not think it was a criticism of him as a Member of the House.
In the name of the smooth running of this place, it is ordinarily desirable that Members should be as candid with each other as possible, and I would go so far as to say that it would have done no harm for the right hon. Member for Ashford to have been informed, but I am guided by procedural experts, and the Clerk is our most distinguished procedural expert. In narrow terms, was the right hon. Member for Tottenham guilty of an impropriety in that sense? No, he was not. That is, I think, the balanced and fair answer that I should give and have given to the right hon. Gentleman.
I thought that the right hon. Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) was shifting in his seat as though he was about to raise a point of order, but obviously the point of order appetite has been satisfied, at least for now, which is very reassuring. We come now to the ten-minute rule motion, for which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) has been patiently waiting.
Health Impacts (Public Sector Duty)
Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require public authorities to have regard to the need to consider physical and mental health impacts in the exercise of their functions; and for connected purposes.
This Bill is designed to bring a health in all policies approach to the making and delivery of all central and local government policies, and it has a simple aim: to improve the physical and mental health of our nation for generations to come.
The Roman statesman Cicero said that the health of the people shall be the supreme law. Down the centuries, when Governments have heeded his advice, they have performed great deeds: building great sewers and providing fresh water; cleaning up our food by banning contaminants; clearing slums and giving children safe spaces to play; cleansing our city air; vaccinating our children against killer diseases; banning smoking in public places; bringing in health and safety; protecting pedestrians against the dangers of traffic; introducing seatbelts; and, of course, creating our national health service, which delivers physical and mental health care at the point of need, irrespective of the ability to pay.
But we cannot rest on our laurels. New challenges and threats to our health and wellbeing arise in each generation. New responses are required, and that is what my Bill is all about. Hon. Members will have heard me speak about the mental health crisis we face in this country. That is not the only health crisis we face as a nation. We face a crisis of social care. We have a system that disproportionately focuses on treating people when they are in a crisis, already sick, rather than keeping our population well. We face an epidemic of loneliness among young as well as old. Tobacco remains a toxic killer. Too many cities and towns are blighted by substance misuse. A generation of children is facing obesity into adulthood. The technological revolution has an impact on our mental health and levels of physical activity. Cancer touches every family in Britain. Increasingly, our NHS is contending with lifestyle-related diseases.
The worst aspect of those major health challenges is the inequality in the ways they impact on people. This really is a social justice issue. Despite all the advances in our nation’s health over the centuries, poor people suffer poorer health and live shorter lives than affluent people. Income is a determinant of health—what a terrible indictment of our society.
According to the Department of Health and Social Care’s latest annual report, the health gap between rich and poor is widening. In 2010, life expectancy for men in England’s most deprived areas was 9.1 years less than for those in the richest areas. By 2015, that figure had risen to 9.2 years. The equivalent gap for women also grew, from 6.8 to 7.1 years. Poorer people are more likely to spend 20 more years in ill health than richer people. They are more likely to suffer from strokes, cancer and heart attacks. They have less chance of gaining access to a GP or a dentist. We have seen an increase in hospital admissions for malnutrition and a stalling in the improvement in life expectancy for the first time in 100 years. In modern Britain, a person’s length of life, and the number of years they spend healthy, depends on their address and income. These inequalities exist for a range of other factors too, including likelihood of suffering a road traffic accident, likelihood of suffering a house fire, likelihood of being a victim of violent crime and likelihood of suffering mental ill health. Look at the locations of our food banks. Look at the epidemic of knife crime. Look at Grenfell Tower.
Inequality is a terrible scar on our society, so what is to be done? My Bill aims to place the physical and mental health of the population at the centre of all Government activity, beyond the confines of the Department of Health and Social Care and the responsibility of local authority directors of public health, so that no policy is developed or enacted without due consideration of its impact on health and, where possible, policies are designed actively to improve our wellbeing.
That is not a new approach. I would like to highlight the work of the all-party parliamentary group on health in all policies and its chair, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams). The World Health Organisation adopted a statement on this approach in Helsinki in 2013. It states:
“Health in All Policies is an approach to public policies across sectors that systematically takes into account the health implications of decisions, seeks synergies, and avoids harmful health impacts in order to improve population health and health equity. It improves accountability of policymakers for health impacts at all levels of policy-making. It includes an emphasis on the consequences of public policies on health systems, determinants of health and well-being.”
Health in all policies has been adopted in Wales, through the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, which is designed
“to minimise any damage and increase any benefit”
from new policies. Wales joins Tasmania, Quebec and British Columbia in having statutory health impact assessments. Other countries are striving towards the same goal. Ecuador has its Plan Nacional para el buen vivir—the plan of good living. In Finland, the health in all policies approach has been part of governance for years. In Thailand, citizens have the right to request a health impact assessment if they feel that any proposal might be detrimental to their wellbeing.
Health in all policies means, for example, ensuring that the design of all buildings, estates and urban environments encourages walking, running, cycling, sharing and talking, and deters crime and vandalism. It means designing social security systems, including their assessments, that add to, rather than subtract from, people’s sense of security, which enhances their physical and mental wellbeing because they know that the system is on their side.
Health in all policies means placing duties on food and drink manufacturers, shops and takeaways concerning the ingredients in their goods, pricing and the locations where they sell them, to discourage alcohol abuse and poor diets. It means designing services for young people and teenagers, new parents, people seeking work or the recently bereaved, so that services match needs. The creation of Sure Start centres was an example of this highly innovative approach. Indeed, given that we know how important the first 1,001 days of a child’s life is, and how what happens from conception to the age are two still determines an infant’s life chances and their mental and physical health through childhood to adulthood, there is no better example of why we need a health in all policies approach in services for mums, dads and infants. This stretches way beyond childcare provision and health checks; it means looking again at patterns of work, income, benefits, parenting, education, food, housing, transport, air quality, playgrounds and many other areas of policy.
I acknowledge that we have seen some helpful steps forward in recent years, such as the introduction of a sugar tax and the banning of smoking in cars when children are present, but these are piecemeal and unco-ordinated. My Bill represents a step change. It is not just about saving money for the national health service, although the approach would save resources, which is particularly important at a time when we know that our NHS and social care are under such pressure. It is also about what the King’s Fund calls
“a cost-effective use of society’s funds that reflects the value society puts on health and other goals.”
The health in all policies duty could be placed on all public authorities, which would be further defined in the Bill to include Ministers of the Crown, Departments and local government, as outlined in schedule 19 to the Equality Act 2010. It would be backed by strong machinery within Government. It was a mistake for the coalition Government in 2012 to scrap the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Public Health, which might have served such a useful purpose, bringing together all those Departments across Government. Its remit was to enable the Secretary of State for Health to
“lead public health across central government”
“work across multiple departments to address the wider determinants of health.”
In order to work, health in all policies will require a central driver that can range across Departments and agencies, with the full authority of No. 10, bringing people together, breaking down the walls of Jericho and creating real cross-Government working. No submission would appear in any red box without a thorough assessment of its impact on our nation’s physical and mental health.
Lest some hon. Members feel that this is a licence for the nanny state, let me point to the so-called family test, supported by this Government and policed by the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Social Justice, which requires all policies to be tested against their impact on family relationships and functioning. That is just one example. Governments assess the impact of policies all the time. Surely no impact is so important as the impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. We are told that Brexit affords us an opportunity to reshape our laws and regulations. No measure could have more positive benefit than the UK adopting a robust, full-throated approach to health in all policies.
I am grateful to colleagues from both sides of the House for their support. That includes more Members than I was allowed to include in the list of sponsors, so I will quickly reference them now. They are my hon. Friends the Members for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Hugh Gaffney), for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth), for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma), for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe), for Halton (Derek Twigg), for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin), for Stockport (Ann Coffey) and for Weaver Vale (Mike Amesbury), my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield North (Joan Ryan) and my hon. Friends the Members for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel), for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Gareth Snell), for Warrington North (Helen Jones), for Stockton South (Dr Williams) and for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy).
The Bill would provide a platform for tackling the health inequalities that blight our communities and allowing more people to be fully engaged in maintaining their own health and wellbeing. It would be as solid a step forward as the restrictions on making and selling cheap gin in the 18th century, building the city sewers and delivering clean water in the 19th century, creating our NHS and the clean air Acts in the 20th century, or introducing the smoking ban in the 21st century. Health in all policies would be our legacy to future generations, and I commend the motion to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That Luciana Berger, Debbie Abrahams, Dr Lisa Cameron, Rosie Cooper, Stella Creasy, Mr George Howarth, Diana Johnson, Norman Lamb, Johnny Mercer, Rachel Reeves, Andrew Selous and Dr Philippa Whitford present the Bill.
Luciana Berger accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 26 October, and to be printed (Bill 198).
9th Allotted Day
There have been some late withdrawals, but a not insignificant number of Members wish to speak in this debate. Therefore, although there is no time limit on Front-Bench speeches, I am sure that both the shadow Secretary of State and the Secretary of State will wish to tailor their contributions sensitively to take account of the fact that others wish to contribute.
I beg to move,
That this House notes the Conservative Party manifesto pledge to make sure that no school has its budget cut as a result of the new national funding formula, the statement by the Secretary of State for Education that each school will see at least a small cash terms increase and the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s guarantee that every school would receive a cash terms increase; endorses the aim of ensuring that there is a cash increase in every school’s budget; agrees with the UK Statistics Authority that such an increase is not guaranteed by the national funding formula, which allows for reductions of up to 1.5 per cent in per pupil funding for schools; and calls on the Government to meet its guarantee, ensuring that every single school receives a cash increase in per pupil funding in every financial year of the 2017 Parliament.
The last time I moved an Opposition day motion, I know I upset the Government. With the support of every party except theirs, our motion rejecting the regulations that increased tuition fees was passed by the House. After that, the Government announced that they would no longer vote on Opposition days. Today, they should find our motion more helpful.
As I suspect Members on both sides of the House know all too well, the Conservative party lost hundreds of thousands of votes at the general election due to its school cuts. With another polling day coming up, I have decided to extend an olive branch. Today’s motion is extremely modest. It does not even call on the Government to commit to Labour’s spending plans. It simply asks Government Members to implement the commitment in their own manifesto and support the positions of the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Education.
In January, the Secretary of State told us at the Dispatch Box that every school
“will see at least a small cash increase.”—[Official Report, 29 January 2018; Vol. 635, c. 536.]
Then, during the spring statement, the Chancellor told the House that the Government had given a
“guarantee that every school would receive a cash-terms increase.”—[Official Report, 13 March 2018; Vol. 637, c. 742.]
He reiterated: “That guarantee stands today.” There was one problem: that guarantee did not exist.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Brampton Primary School in Chesterfield got in touch with me on Friday to say it has had a £130,000 budget reduction this year. That school has one of the few autism units in the area. Spending on special needs has been halved. The most vulnerable pupils in the schools that most desperately need funding are the victims of that broken Tory promise.
I absolutely agree. That is one of the travesties of this issue. Many parents up and down the country are angry and upset, particularly parents of children with high needs and special educational needs. They feel let down by this Government and their broken promises.
When the Institute for Fiscal Studies heard what the Secretary of State said about a cash-terms increase, it responded: “This is not true.” When I raised the matter with the UK Statistics Authority, it too said that the claim was not, as it stood, accurate. The fact is that the national funding formula does not guarantee every school a cash increase per pupil. In fact, it permits a cut.
Out of 103 schools in Coventry, 102 will face cuts. Put another way, over the next two or three years, education in Coventry will face cuts of just under £14 million. Put yet another way, there will be cuts of £249 per pupil. Is that not disgraceful? Is it not terrible for a party to entice people to vote for it through a manifesto, then cut their throats?
I thank my hon. Friend for his contribution. I remember visiting his constituency and seeing the fantastic work that teachers and support staff do in his area. I commend their work, but I say again that the Government have to listen to teachers and parents up and down the country who say that enough is enough and that the cuts to their budgets are not acceptable.
Does the hon. Lady acknowledge that the IFS also said that the extra £1.3 billion for schools means that school spending will not fall but stay the same per pupil?
It is interesting that the hon. Lady says that. That may be the case from today onwards, but that £1.3 billion figure takes no account of the £2.7 billion that her Government have already taken from schools, so they still face cash cuts between 2015 and 2020. Our motion offers the Government the support of the House to change that and to put their own words into practice.
Schools increasingly face an environment that is completely unacceptable in a country like ours. Earlier this month, teachers warned of a growing child poverty crisis. Staff said that children were coming into school without clean clothes. We even heard that pupils were showing signs of malnutrition. I doubt that anyone—in this place or outside—thought they would read headlines like that in 2018, but every part of our children’s education system is experiencing a funding squeeze.
The hon. Lady mentioned malnutrition. Does she acknowledge that it took a Conservative-led Government to introduce the free schools programme and invest £26 million in a nutritional breakfasts programme to help young people? Surely she would welcome that.
If the hon. Lady casts her mind back, she will remember that at the general election her Government offered school breakfasts at 6p a breakfast. I do not know how they thought they could feed children for 6p a breakfast. I will take no lectures from Government Members given that, after six months, the Government still do not have a chair for their Social Mobility Commission.
Our motion offers the Government the support of the House to change that and to put their words into practice. Earlier this month, teachers warned of a growing child poverty crisis. The Government should support children and their families from the beginning of their lives, but funding for Sure Start has been slashed by hundreds of millions of pounds and 1,200 Sure Start centres have been lost since the Tories came to power. School funding cuts have left more children crammed into super-size classes, there are fewer subjects on offer and the school day has even been squeezed.
Will the hon. Lady give way on that point?
No, I have already given way to the hon. Lady.
The NASUWT warned just weeks ago that one in five new classrooms is a portakabin. Is it not time for the Government to match our commitment to getting the school estate into a safe and acceptable condition?
For kids with special educational needs, the funding crisis creates even greater challenges. Let me declare an interest: only last week, I was one of those parents facing the issue of making transitional arrangements for their child with special educational needs. Frankly, parents up and down the country worry that support will not be in place for their children. When school budgets are cut, the services that support children who are most in need are often lost first. The National Education Union found that almost two thirds of schools have had to cut special needs provision.
The Government’s new funding formula presents local authorities, which are at breaking point due to cuts to their budgets, with the terrible choice between top-slicing additional funding for high needs and giving schools their full allocation. Councils should never have to face that choice. Will the Secretary of State look at giving every local authority the additional funding they need for high needs from his Department’s budget instead of squeezing it from schools, which are already under pressure?
There is a similar picture for other support. We recently debated the new rules on free school-meal eligibility. Despite Ministers and Government Members claiming that no children would lose their existing allowance, the IFS found that one in eight who is child eligible under the legacy benefits system will not be eligible after the changes. Will the Secretary of State finally publish his Department’s methodology?
At 16, children should have new opportunities ahead of them, but too often those are lost. Some £1.2 billion has been slashed from the 16-to-19 education budget, hitting sixth forms and colleges. Apprenticeship starts are in freefall. This Government’s repeated failure to invest in our young people and their futures will rob them of the opportunities that so many of us in the Chamber took for granted.
I am sure that the Secretary of State will remind us all of the £1.3 billion his predecessor eventually came up with last year, so perhaps he will also tell us where that money will come from. We already know that £300 million was raided from the healthy pupils fund despite the Government’s promise that that would not be cut. His predecessor also indicated that she would save money by rowing back on the free schools programme—at last, an admission that conventional schools are actually cheaper.
The Tories have cut £2.7 billion from the schools budget in England since 2015. Does my hon. Friend agree that the extra £1.3 billion of schools funding that the Government announced in July comes nowhere near plugging the funding gap?
My hon. Friend makes a crucial point, which relates to the point made by the hon. Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield). Taking £1.3 billion from the existing education budget does nothing to mitigate the £2.7 billion of cuts that schools have faced.
Will the Secretary of State tell us how many new schools will now be built by local authorities and how much money will be saved?
The rest of the cuts come from mysterious efficiency savings, which the Secretary of State’s predecessor said would be identified by officials. Have those savings been identified and can he share that information with the House today? Will he admit that the £1.3 billion will not reverse the loss of the £2.7 billion from school budgets, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mohammad Yasin) reiterated?
Money is not the only factor, but it is hard to escape the reality that the cuts are the fundamental fact of life facing those who run our public services and those who rely on them. Can the Secretary of State tell us exactly how many schools will face a cash-terms cut to their budget in the next year?
Local parents in my constituency have formed a group called Fair Funding Enfield, which recently contacted schools to see what effect the current funding arrangements are having on them. Of the 59 schools that responded, 49% said they had cut teaching staff, 76% that they had cut teaching assistants, 72% that they had cut learning resources, 32% that they had cut school trips, 95% that the cuts would negatively impact the quality of education being delivered and 42% that they had requested or were considering requesting financial contributions from parents. Does my hon. Friend agree that, despite statements to the contrary from the Government, our schools are in financial crisis and in urgent need of proper funding?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. I commend the work he is doing across his constituency and the work that Fair Funding Enfield and other parents’ groups are doing on this issue. Alongside the unions, such groups have tried to push the issue up the agenda. I also pay tribute to the work of the Select Committee on Education and hon. Members across the House who have raised this issue continuously. I hope that the Government take heed of that today.
Will the hon. Lady also pay tribute to the Minister for School Standards, who has listened carefully to headteachers in my constituency who came to see him about the new funding formula? They have received an increase from £4,100-odd to £4,800 per pupil per year for their schools. Is it not right to acknowledge that the Schools Minister has listened and acted accordingly?
I did commend the work of hon. Members across the House to push this issue forward with the Government. The Government have to understand that their manifesto made the commitment that there would be no cuts in cash terms, yet the IFS has already said that there will potentially be cuts of 1.5% to schools. Today’s motion is about holding the Government to account for their promises at the last general election.
The hon. Lady mentioned cash terms, but spending per pupil under this Government in 2019-20 will be 50% higher in real terms than under Labour in 2000-01. When she talks about cuts, will she look at the evidence and at the real-terms effect of this policy?
I say to Government Members that the evidence is clear. Under the last Labour Government, there was a 70% per pupil increase in school budgets. Since 2015, schools have faced cuts. We have heard that time and again from media reports, teachers, parents and leaders of councils of all political persuasions. All of them have said that these cuts are having a detrimental effect. If Government Members want to stick their heads in the sand, that is up to them, but we are trying to hold the Government to account for their promise to give a cash increase to all schools.
To give an example of the cuts that education faces, does my hon. Friend agree that the cuts to the music service in Conservative-controlled East Sussex, which covers my constituency, are a real danger? The Conservative council is proposing to cut the music service in Brighton and Hove because it cannot afford it. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield) is chuntering away. In Brighton, 40% of the schools have had to cut mental health services because they cannot afford them any more. Those are real cuts that are harming real children.
My hon. Friend makes a crucial point. Arts and culture are suffering under this Government. All children across the country should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument at school. Under Labour, they would get that opportunity.
I will make a bit more progress.
What requests has the Secretary of State received from local authorities that cash cuts hitting face their schools and what has his response been? How much additional funding would be needed to meet the shortfall? That is all we are asking for in the motion. We are not asking the Secretary of State to match Labour’s commitment to increase per pupil funding each and every year to restore the funding lost since 2015. We are asking only that he is true to what he has promised in this House and ensures that not a single school faces a cash-terms cut next year.
Luckily for the Secretary of State, the Chancellor has given schools across the country the same guarantee. Will he give us the commitment here today that he will go to the Chancellor and ask for the funding to meet that guarantee? Even he has to acknowledge the reality.
Thinking of the future, whichever side we were on in the Brexit debate, this country will face real challenges. We must upskill like we have never done before if we are to compete. If nothing else, that is one dashed good reason for investing in our young people and in education.
The hon. Gentleman touches on an important point. When I was speaking to my constituents in Ashton-under-Lyne, who voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU, one of their frustrations was that they felt their children had not been given opportunities and had been left behind. How will they feel when the schools in my constituency face these cost pressures and cuts? The Government have to listen to people across this country who feel left behind and as if their children are not being treated fairly by this Government.
Only a few months ago, the Secretary of State said at the Association of School and College Leaders conference:
“It has been tough, funding is tight, I don’t deny that at all.”
The fact he recognises the problem is welcome, but action is always better than words.
I am listening with great interest to the hon. Lady’s peroration. She has quoted the IFS, but since 2010 the core schools budget has been protected in real terms and we are protecting per pupil spending until 2020. Surely she should recognise that as well.
The right hon. Gentleman and I have worked well together across the Dispatch Box at times, but however we cut the figures from the IFS, our schools still face cuts. That is what the motion is about: it is about the commitment that the Government and the Conservative party made at the last general election. I hope to see many Members from across the House supporting the motion, because all we ask is that the commitment that was made at the general election is fulfilled and the promise kept.
The same is true of pay. The Chancellor promised to lift the pay cap after seven years of real-terms pay cuts left support staff £3,000 a year and teachers £5,000 a year worse off. Only this week, I was at Unison’s conference meeting support staff at the frontline of our public services. Along with teachers, they are essential to our schools and the children they serve, yet nearly one in 10 teaching assistants was lost between 2013 and 2017. Too many are now living on poverty pay. The GMB union found that three quarters of apprentice teaching assistants were on £3.50 an hour, yet the Office for Budget Responsibility has warned that without new funding for pay, there will be cuts in other education spending or to the workforce. The Government’s own pay review body has warned that
“some schools will find it challenging to implement any pay uplift at all.”
Does the Secretary of State agree? Has he assessed the gap in funding, and how will he ensure that we can recruit and retain the teachers and vital support staff that we need without yet more cuts?
As I outlined at the beginning of my speech, Government Members have developed a habit of abstaining on all Opposition day motions, but today, I hope that we have offered them something different: a motion that they can actually vote for, because this motion does not ask them to do anything but follow the lead of their Ministers. They have repeatedly promised that all schools will get a cash-terms funding increase and have then failed to deliver it. The Education Secretary recently told us that
“the mere repetition of a falsehood does not turn it into the truth.”—[Official Report, 13 March 2018; Vol. 637, c. 801.]
I hope that his promises were indeed the truth.
The Government have given a guarantee that not a single school will face a cash-terms cut to its budget. If that guarantee stands, there is no reason Government Members should not join me in the Aye Lobby after this debate. Our children deserve the best education in the world and our teaching staff need the resources to do their job, so I ask all Members across the House to commit to the promises made at the election. I commend the motion to the House.
I start on a note of agreement with the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner): it is a moral imperative to strive for the very best for the next generation in our country and education plays the most central role in that quest. That is what the 450,000 teachers in English schools are dedicated to and what we are dedicated to supporting them in. To achieve that takes many things, but high on the list of course is money. There is more money going into our schools than ever before—rising from almost £41 billion last year to £42.4 billion this year and then rising again to £43.5 billion next year. That includes the additional £1.3 billion, to which she referred, that we are directing to frontline spending by prioritising money from elsewhere in the Department for Education’s budget, as my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening), announced in July last year. That means that overall we are protecting schools’ per pupil funding in real terms over the next two years.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Opposition’s motion notes the Conservative party’s pledge that no school would receive cuts to their funding. That is not correct because, in Bolton South East, a number of schools are being affected and the budget is being reduced. If he does not accept that, I invite him to Bolton South East to meet the headteachers of my schools, who have said that there has been a real cut to their budget.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady, and I will of course come to the specifics of the Opposition’s motion and the important points about the funding formula.
We are also giving primary schools £320 million a year for PE and sport—double what was given in 2016—and investing £600 million a year to provide free school meals for all infants. That is on top of our substantial investment in school improvement activities. This year, we will invest over £60 million in maths, science and computing, and over £100 million—to respond partly to the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle)—in arts and music.
Spending is high by historical standards. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies—this has come up already—has shown that, in real terms, per pupil funding in 2020 will be at least half as much again as it was in 2000. Looking internationally, we spend more on our schools in total than both the EU and OECD averages and at levels comparable with key competitor countries.
However, although it is true that overall spend is higher—this goes to the point made by the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone), the sole, or primary Liberal Democrat representative with us here today—on technical and vocational education, our figures compare less favourably. In Germany in particular, the spend is considerably more than ours on secondary-level vocational programmes. That is why I am so pleased that the Chancellor has committed extra money to boost the size and funding for the new T-level programmes. That will total over £500 million a year in additional resources for post-16 education when T-levels are fully rolled out.
As well as ensuring record funding for our schools, the Government have taken on the historical challenge of introducing a fair national funding formula—something, of course, that has not been taken on by any previous Government—to ensure that money is directed where it is most needed, based on the individual characteristics of schools and pupils, not on accidents of history or geography.
Will the Secretary of State give way?
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will not. We have gone further than our manifesto promise that no school would lose funding as a result of the national funding formula. The formula is in fact giving every local authority more money for every pupil in every school in 2018-19 and 2019-20. Every school is attracting at least a cash increase of 0.5% per pupil through the formula this year, and 1% more next year, compared with their baselines.
Of course, we have always been clear that local authorities continue to have some flexibility on how this funding is distributed across schools in their local area. I think that is right and it is a good thing that the flexibility exists for local authorities as we transition into the national funding formula. As our extensive consultation showed, flexibility is important because it allows local authorities, in consultation with their schools, to reflect local need and to smooth the transition toward the NFF where this represents a significant change.
Does the Secretary of State accept that although in my area we have achieved above average results with some of the lowest amounts of per pupil funding anywhere in the country, we are now at the point where it is simply too little? Will he please have some urgency in getting us a bit closer to the average because we simply do not have enough?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his intervention. As well as ensuring that every school attracts more money, the national funding formula also allocates the biggest increases to schools that have historically been the most underfunded. Thousands of schools will attract 3% more per pupil this year and another 3% per pupil next year, and some of the lowest-funded schools will attract even more as a result of our minimum per pupil funding levels, which mean that every primary school will attract £3,500 per pupil and every secondary school £4,800 per pupil by 2019-20. As a result, many areas will see quite big increases across the board. For example, by 2019-20 in Knowsley, there will be an increase of 4.3%, and in Derby there will be an increase of 6.7% in the same timeframe. In York, there will be an increase of 7.9%, and in Bath and North East Somerset, an increase of 7.2%.
As someone who has supported the national funding formula through the f40 group for a long time, I am grateful that this has now been brought to fruition. The problem is that the way in which the formula is being operated in my area, with the conflation of special needs within the base budget, is causing significant problems among some schools. Will the Secretary of State look at how that special needs allocation is operating to ensure that the poorer schools do not get even poorer, relatively?
The hon. Gentleman raises important points about the high needs block. As I was saying, it is right that there is some flexibility at local authority level. Local authorities have the most up-to-date figures and profiling of the children in their areas, in terms of special educational needs and so on. Protections also apply to the high needs block through the minimum guarantees and so on, while overall high needs funding has of course gone up.
The Secretary of State talks about flexibility within local authority budgets. I have to say, as someone who is about to leave the London Borough of Redbridge this May, that he is in cloud cuckoo land. There is no flexibility in children’s services departments; there is just consistent need and insufficient funding. Parents do not need the UK Statistics Authority to show that some schools face budget cuts. They have seen it for themselves in cuts to the curriculum, a lack of adequate support for children with special educational needs and demands for money from parents to fund basics and materials. Does he understand that, when he stands at that Dispatch Box and talks about the figures as if everything is rosy, the parents know it is a load of rubbish because they are seeing it for themselves in their and their children’s lived experience?
The funding formula is what it is and has its guaranteed allocations of money from central funding to local authorities in respect of each school, along the lines I have outlined. I recognise, however, that schools have faced significant cost pressures over recent years—the hon. Gentleman alluded to some of those and their effects—in respect of national insurance and pension contributions, for example. There are new costs as well. For example, spending on technology exceeded £500 million across the system in 2016.
I also realise that there can be particular pressures on high needs budgets, as schools and local authorities work as hard as they can to provide an excellent education for every child, including those facing the greatest challenges. As I was saying, funding for high needs has benefited from the same protections we have been able to provide for mainstream schools, but I recognise that schools now do more to support pupils with a complex range of social, emotional and behavioural needs.
We are redoubling our efforts to help schools to get the best value from their resources, through free procurement advice via our pilot buying hubs in the north-west and south-west, which provide face-to-face and phone advice to schools on complex procurement and on how to get the best value for money; through nationally negotiated purchasing deals; and through school resource management advisers—business management experts from within the sector providing hands-on support to the schools that most need our help.
I welcome what the Secretary of State has said about minimum levels. I have shared the figures from my local authority with the Minister for School Standards. I have primary schools receiving less than £3,500 per pupil and secondary schools receiving less than £4,600 per pupil. When can I tell them they will be brought up?
I will write to my right hon. Friend with the specific figures for his schools. The formula is there both to create a guaranteed minimum level and to make sure that the schools that have historically been most underfunded see the greatest increases.
After decades of underfunding, schools in my constituency are benefiting from a 6% increase per pupil over the next two years. Parents and pupils in my constituency will be glad to hear that, but can the Secretary of State reassure me that this will not just be a two-year process but that we will continue to move towards fairness afterwards and that he will press for a settlement in the next spending review that allows us to make quick progress towards greater fairness?
It is clearly essential, as several colleagues from across the House have said, that our education system be properly funded. In an increasingly competitive world, it is important that we live up to that challenge and make sure that all children can be properly fulfilled and reach their potential. On future funding, there is a comprehensive spending review process, with which my hon. Friend is well familiar from his days at Her Majesty’s Treasury. We have set out in the national funding formula what will happen over the two-year period and established the principle that funding should be fair.
It is right that we have the highest ever total cash funding going into our schools. The kind of practical support I have just outlined is also a key priority for me because it is not just the total funding that matters but how far it can go in achieving the objectives we all share, which is incredibly important. Our reforms in schools are paying dividends thanks to the hard work of teachers, our continued focus on raising standards and the emphasis on phonics. Over 150,000 more six-year-olds are now on track to become fluent readers than in 2012, our top pupils are among the world’s best readers, and GCSEs and A-levels rank among the world’s best qualifications.
There can be no great schools without great teachers—to motivate children, make knowledge meaningful and inspire curiosity. The quality of teaching matters more than anything else, and it matters most of all for the most disadvantaged children. Right now we have many brilliant teachers in our schools—it is the best generation of teachers yet—and my top priority is to make sure that teaching remains an attractive and fulfilling profession. I am clear that we need to get back to the essence of successful teaching, which means stripping away the workload that does not add value and giving teachers the time and space to focus on what actually matters, in the interests of teachers and, of course, children.
Can the Secretary of State tell us where Portsmouth schools should be making savings, given that they are already having to make ongoing cuts? Should they cut teachers, have even bigger class sizes, shorten the school day? Parents and teachers in my constituency deserve better.
What I was outlining, on the issue of trying to give more support to schools on managing resources, is that it is all about ensuring that money can be devoted to the frontline to maximise the amount of great teaching from great teachers. I know that teachers in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency will be as focused on that as teachers in constituencies throughout the country.
I want to help the Secretary of State make good on his promise. He made a commitment that no school will see a cut in funding. What is the strength of that guarantee? If it turns out that a school has had a reduction in funding, will he consider it a resignation matter?
I think the hon. Gentleman has been here from the beginning of the debate, so, unless he was reading something, he will have heard me set out how the national funding formula works. It allocates money—
If what he said—
Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that he cannot conduct the debate from a sedentary position. Perhaps the Secretary of State will give way again later, but he must let him finish answering the question he has just asked.
The formula allocates money to each school, subject to set minimum cash increases, but there is flexibility for local authorities—which have the most-up-to-date information on the profiles of children in their schools, in terms of special needs, free school meals and so on—to reallocate money up to certain limits. I think that is right. Does the hon. Gentleman think it is wrong that they have that flexibility?
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for asking the question. Is he guaranteeing that no school will lose money? Is that his commitment? If there is no such commitment, he should say so, and if there is, he should not hide behind councils.
The hon. Gentleman is repeating what he just said. The national funding formula allocates money in respect of every school. It then goes to the local authority, which has a certain amount of discretion to reallocate that money between different schools up to a certain limit to ensure that the funding goes to the places where it is most needed.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. I did not want to interrupt his conversation with the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins).
While I, and many other Conservative Members, may have individual issues about individual schools or how the funding formula might work out in practice in certain circumstances, I welcome the principle—which was agreed by Labour Members—of a fair funding formula that is allocating more money where it is required. It is going to pupils on the basis of need, and that is something that we should all support.
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. It is a historic challenge to have taken on, and it is not without its difficulties, but it is right to ensure that funding goes where it is most needed, not according to the way in which various funding settlements have accumulated over the years in different areas on the basis of accidents of history and geography.
I had better make some progress towards the conclusion of my speech, Madam Deputy Speaker, because otherwise you will do it for me. We have the best-qualified teachers we have ever had, backed up by the largest amount of money that we have ever had in the schools budget. We are protecting schools’ per pupil funding in real terms over the next two years, at a time when pupil numbers are rising. Working alongside a brilliant set of teachers and other education professionals, we are striving for a world-class education for everyone, whatever their background.
Since 2010, the Government have helped more children to go to good schools. We have helped primary school children to become better readers, we have helped secondary school children to gain higher-quality qualifications, and we have helped more students than ever to go on to university. We have extended early years education so that more children are school-ready, and we have raised the participation age so that everyone can build up the education and skills that they need for life. Through academies and free schools, we have given our frontline professionals, local communities and parents more freedom and choice. We have invested and are investing—with £7 billion committed in a six-year period—to create the quality of extra school places that we need, and let me repeat that more revenue funding is going into our schools than ever before.
The benefits of our reforms can be seen in schools up and down the country, thanks, of course, to the hard work and dedication of our teachers and education professionals. In its most recent annual report, published in December last year, Ofsted stated that
“the quality of education and care provided to young people today is better than ever.”
Since 2010, we have increased the number of children in good and outstanding schools by 1.9 million. The attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has narrowed by 10%, and 95% of three and four-year-olds are benefiting from early years education. We have introduced the pupil premium and have extended free school meals to further education colleges and 50,000 more schoolchildren, as well as introducing universal infant free school meals.
However, the job is far from done. We are ambitious for all our schools, and for all our children. Someone’s background does not dictate their talents, and it should not limit their dreams. The attainment gap between children from different backgrounds has narrowed, but it is still too wide, so we are continuing our commitment to the pupil premium and the opportunity areas programme. Some places have seen dramatic gains, but others still need extra assistance. We must spread opportunity to the parts of the country where children are still let down by the limited depth and breadth of the education that is available. Every child should be able to go to a great school, which is why we are putting more than £300 million into support programmes over the next two years. To ensure that our economy has the skills that it needs to be fit for the future, we will do more to encourage the take-up of science, technology, engineering and maths by, for instance, introducing the maths premium and teacher bursaries for priority subjects.
By improving our nurseries, schools, colleges and universities, we can build a society in which it does not matter who people are, where they live or who they know. Alongside school leaders, governors, teachers, parents and pupils, we are striving for a world-class education for everyone, whatever their background, so that we can make our economy fit for the future in a world of rapid technological change. We want to boost our productivity and our children’s future prosperity, so that they are better equipped for their own futures and more of them can achieve their potential and lead fulfilled lives. That is what a world-class education can bring and that is what we are working for.
I must first declare an interest. My wife is the cabinet member for children and young people in Cheshire West and Chester, my local authority—and what a good job she does!—and two of my children attend a local school that is affected by the funding issues that we are discussing today.
A central promise in the 2017 manifesto on which every Conservative Member stood was
“we will make sure that no school has its budget cut as a result of the new formula.”
As we heard today from my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), the Conservatives’ promise has been augmented in recent months by subsequent statements from Cabinet Ministers about cash increases for every school, but that is not what we are told is happening on the ground. All but one of the schools in my constituency face a funding cut; local schools will lose about £3 million between 2015 and 2019.
It is true that we are being told by schools that there is a real-terms cut. Was my hon. Friend as alarmed as I was by the fact that, even in the Chamber, the Secretary of State was unwilling to offer the guarantee that no school would lose money?
Yes, I was alarmed, because I think it is clear from all the information that Members have received—and they are hearing from schools, heads and parents every day—that a real crisis is here now, and will get worse over the next few years. There is a very clear difference of opinion, but I know who I think has the real information: the people who are actually doing the day-to-day job.
The figures that I have seen suggest that pupils in my constituency will receive £300 per head less over the next three or four years. The situation is at breaking point. I know from talking to parents, teachers and heads that schools are already facing very tough choices. One headteacher told me:
“I believe that as a school we will also have to reduce the number of extra activities we offer pupils…fewer clubs, fewer arts days, fewer visits and visitors to school. ‘Balancing the books’ has become one of the worst aspects of my job. Begging letters to parents for equipment, repairs and resources are common in some schools. I feel that class sizes will increase and the curriculum will be pared back to the basics. To put it bluntly—children will be the losers.”
My hon. Friend chairs the all-party parliamentary group on social mobility, so he will know that many of the vital extra-curricular activities that are being reduced are crucial to giving children from less advantaged backgrounds the experiences and opportunities that those from the most advantaged backgrounds receive by virtue of their wealth. Does it not say everything about this Government’s commitment to social mobility and tackling educational inequality that they cannot even appoint an adviser on social mobility, let alone deliver the policies in practice?
I think that my hon. Friend must have read my speech, because I was going to make exactly that point. It is worth reminding Members that the previous chair of the Social Mobility Commission, Alan Milburn, resigned in November. That was a damning indictment of the state of social mobility in this country and the Government’s record on it, yet here we are, nearly six months on, and little if anything seems to have been done to try to redress that.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: many of those extra-curricular activities—the soft skills, information, advice and support that children are given outside the classroom environment—are vital to building up skills that will help them to progress and make the most of their life chances.
I hear school heads saying that they are going to have to send begging letters, and my constituents are not wealthy people. They cannot really afford to pay any extra for their children’s schools. They are anxious to help in any way that they can, but they do not have the spare cash. It makes me ashamed that in this country we are reduced to having to send letters to parents who work hard and already pay their taxes.
We have encountered this very issue in Reading. A particular problem in many areas is the loss of a large number of skilled teachers with years of experience in the profession. I have written to the Secretary of State about that. Does my hon. Friend agree that the loss of highly skilled and highly experienced teachers with many years of service is a specific issue which should be addressed by the Department?
Yes, it is concerning. As we know, in any organisation seeking to balance the books—and schools are no different—the more experienced and more expensive staff are often the ones encouraged to perhaps take early retirement or redundancy. The replacement staff, if there are any, are often at the lower end of the pay spectrum—not that they are any lesser people for that, but they do not have the skills and experience that justify being in a higher pay bracket.
The cuts to school funding extend to council support. Changes to central support grants will lead to about half a million pounds being lost to my local authority in the next decade, which will further emasculate its already strangled ability to support schools. Not that it can help most of them even if it wanted to, thanks to the acceleration of the academies programme.
Under the new system, Warrington will have among the worst funded schools—141st out of 150—and could also lose just under £2,500 per child. Clearly, the system is not fit for purpose or balanced across the country. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government should ensure that the fair funding formula is just that: fair?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Hon. Members are making points about the situations in their constituencies, and I want to talk about the ludicrous situation facing one of the academies in my constituency. It was placed in special measures last year, but has had to wait over six months to get any financial support from the Department to help it to improve. In the past, the local authority would have stepped in the next day—it would probably have been helping all along—but now the academy is required to go through a lengthy application process, which delays progress. Six months in a failing school is six months too long, and the lack of progress, which has been visible to the local community, has long-term implications for the school’s viability. Because of its situation, the roll is now falling. In fact, the school faces a double whammy of funding losses, which will only exacerbate an already extremely challenging situation.
The net result is that the other schools in my constituency end up being over-subscribed. The chaos of an academy-led admissions system means that some parents end up feeling that they have nowhere to send their children to. That is quite a dramatic statement, but that is how many parents feel and it represents an absolute failure by the state. The prospects of the situation remedying itself any time soon look bleak. If we were truly following the market-led approach that the Government appear to be advocating, the successful schools in my constituency that can attract more pupils would be allowed to expand, but there is precious little funding available for them to do that.
One example of a school in my constituency that has turned round and been a success story is Ellesmere Port Catholic High School, which has seen huge improvements after it was placed in special measures in November 2013. The headteacher and the school have worked exceptionally hard to turn things round, and in June 2015 it was officially rated by Ofsted as good. So impressive has the school’s improvement been that the chief inspector of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, referred to it in a speech about schools making remarkable transformations, saying:
“At Ellesmere Port Catholic High School, only a third of pupils achieved 5 good GCSEs. Now almost three-quarters do.”
I am pleased to say that this year the school has had full admissions for its year 7 pupils. These improvements should be applauded, as they have been by Sir Michael Wilshaw, but how is the school rewarded? With a budget scenario that envisages staffing cuts.
The school tells me that it desperately needs to expand as a result of its progress, but where is the capital funding that it needs to help to achieve that aim? How can it build on its success when it is not allowed to build? I am sure that if it reopened as a free school, there would be no problem getting the cash needed, but why does it need to reinvent the wheel? Why are existing schools that have put the effort in and that made great improvements and are already an established part of the community discriminated against because they are not part of the latest Government fad? How about a capital funding policy that rewards improvement and looks at where existing provision can be augmented? Indeed, we can contrast that with a story I read yesterday about a brand new free school in Plymouth that cost £4.2 million to set up, but which has closed after just 16 months. How can money be thrown down the drain on experiments like that when existing good schools cannot expand?
Education is at a tipping point in this country. We know from a National Education Union survey that 55% of schools that responded said that class sizes had risen in the last year and that over three quarters reported cuts in spending on books and equipment.
Class sizes have risen in 80% of the secondary schools in my constituency since 2014. Every secondary school in my constituency has had to cut staff in the same timeframe. Does my hon. Friend agree that cuts to school budgets are responsible for that?
I think there is a clear correlation, and at the next election we may go back to what we said about class sizes on our 1997 pledge cards. It certainly resonated then, and I think it will again.
The National Education Union survey also showed that two thirds of schools had reported cuts in special educational needs provision. I know from my surgery appointments how anxious and distressed parents feel if there is a delay in agreeing an education, health and care plan or if they feel it is not being delivered in full because the school faces funding pressures elsewhere. The situation is distressing, and it is difficult to see it improving any time soon. As we know, nationally there are about 4,500 children and young people still waiting for their statements to be put into practice.
We are at a tipping point. Schools are already reporting extremely difficult situations. They are already having to make choices that under ordinary circumstances we would consider completely unacceptable, but they now face three or four years of even more funding cuts. If we cannot invest in our children’s future, we cannot invest in ourselves.
Order. Before I call the next hon. Member to speak, let me say that I hope we can manage without a formal time limit this afternoon, because the debate flows much more easily without one. If hon. Members stick to around nine minutes each—and if you cannot say it in nine minutes, it is probably not worth saying—[Interruption.] Yes, it is a challenge. I challenge hon. Members to say it in nine minutes, and if that does not happen, I will have to impose a time limit.
One thing is certain: thanks to dedicated staff and reforms, educational standards have been rising. I have been visiting schools and colleges in my constituency for almost 18 years, as a candidate and an MP, and I am convinced that the quality of education, particularly in English and maths, has improved greatly. The teaching of phonics in particular has played a role in improving literacy, and I pay tribute to the Minister and others on the Front Bench for ensuring that it is a key part of our curriculum.
However, it is not clear that that improvement can be sustained in the face of rising pressures on schools. Our education system faces a number of major challenges, the first being resources. Despite steady investment in the English education system over the last 20 years and record overall levels of public money going into schools—it is important to get that on the record—there are rising cost pressures, which lead to serious challenges to the delivery of high-quality education for all our children.
Last Thursday, the Education Committee announced a new inquiry into school and college funding ahead of the next spending review—I am pleased to see the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Thelma Walker), a member of our Committee, in the Chamber. It is our hope that a forward-looking inquiry will move beyond the exchanges here and elsewhere, which have largely taken place at cross purposes and to little effect, and inevitably take on a party political tinge. The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), whom I admire greatly, said it was clear that this debate was linked to the local elections.
The Government have rightly chosen to protect overall education funding. Let us look, however, at what the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has done. He has made the case for increasing funding for the NHS, supported by the chief executive of NHS England. We need the same level of vocal support for our schools and colleges, and a similar long-term vision. The key figure to bear in mind is real-terms per-pupil expenditure. After all, it is the experience of individual students that matters, and I hope that our inquiry will give them the opportunity to inform and influence the spending review. My right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening) should be commended for redirecting money from the Department to the frontline of schools, but the time has come to seriously rethink the way in which we fund schools and colleges and to adopt a much more long-term perspective. I have suggested 10 years as a starting point—as is being talked about for the NHS—because it is clear that making a decision every three to four years is just not strategic enough.
The second challenge that schools are facing is the workforce. Becoming a teacher is a special and remarkable career choice, and more should be done to celebrate the contribution of the teaching profession. Many Members will have seen the Department’s public campaigns designed to attract new entrants to the profession, and will know of the financial support available through bursaries. However, the National Audit Office found last year that whereas £555 million was spent on training and supporting new teachers in 2013-14, the Department for Education spent just £35.7 million in 2016-17 on programmes for teacher development and retention, of which just £91,000 was aimed at improving teacher retention.
It is widely acknowledged that retention is just as important as recruitment, but far too many teachers leave the profession when in other circumstances they could stay. In 2016, Policy Exchange published research showing that a quarter of teachers leaving the classroom were women aged between 30 and 39. This is a challenge for productivity and for social justice, and schools will need to become much more open to part-time and flexible working in order to stop the classroom brain drain.
The third challenge involves improving social justice in our school system; my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned that earlier. This goes beyond just increasing public investment and strengthening the teaching workforce, because there are still great social injustices in our education system. Just 1.3% of children taught outside mainstream settings get five good GCSEs. I know that the Schools Minister is passionate about GCSEs, so why is this group of children being neglected in this way? Only a third of children receiving free school meals get five good GCSEs, compared with 61% of their better-off peers.
We must act to remove the built-in injustices and anachronisms, such as the favourable conditions under which the independent school sector operates. I have previously challenged the advantaged and entitled nature of many private schools. I fully acknowledge that I was proud to go to one; my father came here as an immigrant and wanted to send me to such a school. However, I believe that, given the charitable status benefits that they enjoy, there should be a levy on private schools similar to the apprenticeship levy, to ensure that we give the very poorest children in our country the chance to access and climb the private school ladder.
The fourth challenge concerns the curriculum. We face real challenges in terms of our skills deficit, the march of the robots and the arrival of the fourth industrial revolution. We must not allow a gradual and dangerous narrowing of the curriculum, to the exclusion of either creativity or vocational education. The argument is often between traditionalists and non-traditionalists, and the Opposition paint a picture in which the Government are butchering our education system. I do not agree. We need to be not so much a butcher and more of a Baker. What I mean by that is that we should support the work of Lord Baker in encouraging much more vocational education, and I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to read the Edge Foundation’s report on 14 to 19 education in relation to expanding the curriculum and looking into the possibility of replacing A-levels with a wider baccalaureate that would include much more vocational and technical education. We still have a way to go in giving young people the consistent message that technical education is every bit as demanding and worthwhile as a traditionally “academic” course, and we need to make it clear that the link between technical education and apprenticeships and the world of work is often much stronger.
The fifth and final challenge involves improving careers advice. Schools often cite the proportion of students who go on to élite or prestigious universities, but I believe the case can be made for shifting that focus on to the proportion of students in work or undertaking quality apprenticeships. We need to replace the existing duplicated careers services with a national skills service, as well as fulfilling our manifesto commitment of creating a UCAS for further education. We also need to work with Ofsted to ensure that schools are much clearer about how to address the skills needs in schools and provide careers advice. We need to ensure that schools are—to use the Baker terminology—meeting the requirements of the Baker clause, which states that they must invite university technical colleges and other colleges to talk to their children about apprenticeships.
So there you are, Madam Deputy Speaker: five challenges in what I hope was no more than nine minutes. My final challenge as Chair of the Education Committee is to carry the debate beyond the false choice between traditionalists and progressives, to focus on addressing social injustice and our skills deficit and, above all, to set out a strategic plan for the next 10 years for what our education must become.
It is a genuine pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon). I so enjoy being on the Education Committee with him, and with all my other Committee colleagues—
I just want to say that I did not see the hon. Lady sitting there—because I was so busy looking at the marvellous hon. Member for Colne Valley (Thelma Walker)—but I am delighted that she is also here today as another member of our Committee.
Thank you very much. We do genuinely get on very well on the Education Committee, which is a welcome change from what happens in some of the debates that are conducted across the Floor of the House.
I sometimes feel that there is a false dichotomy between the sort of education we are putting forward here and the type of education that the Government are putting forward. There are also many things to do with statistics that are simply not true. It reminds me of when I was studying for my A-levels and I was talking to my lecturer about the use of statistics. They said to me, “Ah, Emma, you see, statistics are what a lamp post is to a drunken man: it is not so much for illumination as for leaning against.” That has often been proven to be true in debates about education.
What I experienced in my 11 years as an infant teacher until 2015 was the cuts to our schools and the impact they were having. The Government can cite figures and dance around the issue, and we can cite figures right back at them, but what are the parents, the teachers and the headteachers saying? That is where the truth of the matter actually lies. In March, 50 primary headteachers from Hull wrote to the Secretary of State about funding. They are desperate for more money for the special educational needs and high needs budget. In Hull, as many as 526 children aged four and under have been identified as displaying challenging behaviour or SEN.
Do you agree with me that—
Order. I think the hon. Lady means, “Does my hon. Friend agree with me?”
Does my hon. Friend agree with me that schools are having to bid for extra funding, and that that is a really dangerous direction for us to head in?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There are so many people across this Chamber who have a shared sense of purpose and a belief that every child matters. I still believe that every child matters, but that seems to be getting twisted and distorted along the way. We simply do not have the money that SEN children in Hull desperately need. Headteachers wrote to the Secretary of State back in March and said:
“Mainstream schools are increasingly having to resort to fixed-term and permanent exclusions to deal with challenging pupils. This is despite the best efforts of dedicated staff in schools. There is a feeling that something has to change or schools will implode.”
Now, we know from the Education Committee’s recent inquiry into alternative provision that an increasing number of children are being expelled from the system or off-rolled. Why is that? It is not because teachers have suddenly become heartless or have suddenly stopped caring about the children in their classes, but simply because they do not have the necessary resources to deal with the different challenges that pupils come to school with due to the impacts of austerity and poverty.
What is happening outside schools is reflected in what is happening inside our schools. Children who come to school hungry or are coming to school after awful childhood experiences will display challenging behaviour, and schools do not have the necessary resources to deal with that behaviour. I say to the Secretary of State and the Schools Minister that alternative provision is a false economy that will cost the Government more money in the long run. Alternative provision is more expensive. Dealing with interventions for all these pupils as they go through their school career will be more expensive than helping and supporting schools at the beginning, when they need it. I never thought that I would be citing Estonia as a country with an education system that we should look at, but Estonia evaluates every single child at three years old for learning difficulties or any signs of special educational needs, so that interventions can be put in place to deal with the situation before those children start school. Our Government should be doing that if they actually want to save money.
Turning to saving money—another one of my bugbears—there seems to be a lot of talk from the Government about vice-chancellor pay at the moment. They seem to be getting hot under the collar and worked up about the issue, but there has not been a word about the pay of chief executive officers of multi-academy trusts. Is it right for some CEOs to be receiving over £450,000 a year? You are right to look shocked, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it right for CEOs to be getting paid that much money when our schools do not have enough money for their SEN pupils? Also on academies, is it right that millions of pounds have gone on related transactions within multi-academy trusts? Money could be saved by delving more deeply into the accounts of some trusts to examine what money is being wasted on. As a new Member of Parliament, I am subject to certain rules, which I absolutely support, and one such rule is that I cannot employ any direct relation, and nor should I. However, the CEO of a multi-academy trust can employ every single member of their family in a number of different roles on whatever salary they see fit. We could examine that to find a way of redirecting funds towards the SEN pupils in Hull who so desperately need them.
Headteachers in Hull have asked for an additional £5 million, which is all that they need to help give every single child in the city a quality education. But this is not just about the children with SEN; there is an impact on every child. I know that because I was a teacher for 11 years, and if a child in a class has challenging behavioural difficulties, the teacher needs additional resources to help that child, which will help every other child in the class. A teacher who is dealing on their own with a pupil’s challenging behaviour or learning difficulty will end up spending a disproportionate amount of time with that one pupil to the detriment of the others. The resources need to be in place to help SEN children and every other child in the class.
I get a bit—
Oh, go on—before I start again.
Would you also have—
Order. The hon. Gentleman means, “Would my hon. Friend”.
Does my hon. Friend share my concern about the recent Children’s Commissioner for England report that talks about the deep north-south divide in education? The situation in my constituency is a stark demonstration of that. All 25 primary schools and five secondary schools are facing cuts so, considering that over half of all secondary school pupils are on free schools meals, that means less support for some of our worst-off children, which cannot be good for society.
Absolutely. Interestingly, I was reading George Osborne’s report about education in the north, and he has come up with the radical solution of having local bodies responsible for all the schools in a particular local area. Who could have thought of that? Who could have imagined that that could be a solution to some of our schools’ problems? I do not agree with the Government’s rhetoric about what our schools are facing and what the education system is like, because the Government would have us believe that it was a land of milk and honey where children were skipping around, sounding out words at the age of three and going on to become incredibly successful individuals. The reality is that there is a huge skills shortage that will become even greater post-Brexit. The other reality is that one child in 10 has a mental health problem, and I believe part of that mental health problem is a result of the curriculum and the school system that our young people are put through.
What else is there? We have a crisis in recruitment and retention, and many teachers are giving up. I left in 2015 to find a career doing something else, and many of my colleagues are doing the same. There is an idea that the Government are going to provide more money for teachers to teach maths. It is a great idea—well done—but find the maths teachers first before promising more money for pupils to study the subject. We have more looked-after children than ever before, because there is not enough money for children’s services. Debt is increasing for those leaving university. More children are being off-rolled or “home educated”. Alternative provision is full. Pupil referral units are full to capacity, and there is not enough space to meet the demand from children who need to attend them. That is this Government’s true record on education. That is the reality that children are facing. The Government are letting down so many children and parents, and it is unacceptable for the Government to offer rhetoric about the number of “good” and “outstanding” schools when they are failing our children on the ground.
I ask everyone in the Chamber to think about why we are here. What do we stand for? What do we value? I am clear about my purpose, which is the same as when I was a teacher for all those years: I stand for every single child in the country. I will keep opposing this Government and the changes that they are introducing, which are damaging education and our children’s futures. I will end by quoting my nanny, who says, “If you pay cheap, you pay twice,” and that is exactly what is happening with this Government. The lack of money for education will lead to a higher bill in the future for all our young people.
I am pleased to be able to participate in this debate on schools, although I am rather disappointed by the Opposition’s motion. I have a lot of time for the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), who made an interesting speech and is a passionate believer in education, but any debate on schools must be wide-ranging and not just about money. Resources are of course vital, but this is also about the curriculum, the quality of staff, good leadership, the ethos of the school, the behaviour of schools and so much more.
Access to good schools is essential for children, as a good education is the foundation of success throughout life, both professionally, personally and for our economy. I congratulate the Secretary of State for Education on his speech and his approach, which is reasonable and realistic. I was fortunate to be the first in my family to go to university, which can be attributed to the fantastic state schools I attended and the brilliant teachers I was fortunate to have. Family background obviously helped, too—my mother made sure I did my homework—but, having said that, it was inspirational teachers who helped me.
I am a former teacher and lecturer, and we should applaud the significant progress that this Government have made on education standards and opportunities in particular, as well as on resources. There are 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools than there were in 2010, which is a real achievement. We all need to be much more positive about our education system and the improvements we are seeing. So many more young people are going to our world-class universities than ever before, and we have the highest proportion of 16 and 17-year-olds participating in education since records began. Those are real achievements. Of course there are issues—there are always issues in education—but we have to build slowly and satisfactorily to achieve what we want to achieve.
School funding is increasing, but we also appreciate and understand that there are increasing pressures on school resources. The Secretary of State is right to say there are no great schools without great teachers. Frontline teachers have to be the best if we want to get the best out of our young people.
It is a fact that 50 out of 55 schools in Halton, which is part of the constituency I represent, have had a real-terms funding cut totalling more than £4 million. I listen to the teachers and parents I represent—maybe I am living on a slightly different planet from Conservative Members—and that is the reality on the ground.
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, and I am in the real world, too, as we all are on this side of the House. Every Conservative Member goes around schools in their constituency and listens to what teachers, school governors and parents are saying, but the fact remains that this Government are spending more and putting more into our education system than any previous Government.
I will take no lectures from Labour Members. When they were in government, we had falling standards and high inflation, which undermined the resources that were being put into schools. Let us be reasonable and realistic.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
The hon. Lady will have to listen for a little bit, otherwise I will go over the informal time limit.
The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne talked about healthy breakfasts, and we all know that a healthy breakfast helps children to make the most of their school day. We should also recognise that £26 million is being invested in breakfast clubs to help the most disadvantaged in our society. I think we all believe in a truly meritocratic society, and to get that we have to make sure there is fairness in schools.
Regrettably, many schools across the country have historically been underfunded. The Minister for School Standards has been receptive to meeting people to discuss the funding issues, and the Government have attempted to make sure there is fairer funding across the country. We cannot achieve everything immediately, but we can achieve it in the long term. The Department is determined to make sure that schools across the country are getting a fair deal on funding, and we welcome that.
It is a pity the Opposition do not acknowledge that the Government are putting more money into our schools and that school funding will rise from £41 billion this year to £43.5 billion in 2019-20. The new funding formula provides a cash increase to local authorities, with schools that have historically been underfunded attracting significantly more resources.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the London challenge, a project to produce improvements in schools, was completely transformative and set London on the path to having the best, rather than the worst, schools in the country? Does he agree that Lord Adonis and those involved in the scheme should be congratulated?
Some very positive things came out of the London challenge. I would not want to denigrate it but, on the other hand, there are areas where the London challenge was not quite so successful.
We also need to look at how much we are investing in new good school places, and at the proportion of pupils meeting the expected standard in phonics, which has risen from 58% in 2012 to 81% in 2017. That good news means 154,000 more six-year-olds are on track to become fluent readers compared with 2012. Those are real achievements. It is not just about resources; it is about the money that goes in and what comes out—the consequences of the money and the consequences of the teaching.
I was honoured to work with my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), as his Parliamentary Private Secretary when he was Secretary of State for Education, to help implement the academies programme in 2012. The programme has transformed schools, releasing those schools from local authorities, particularly in areas that were doing badly.
The hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) mentioned that education was pretty poor under certain London local authorities, and now it has been transformed. In my Borough of Bexley, as a result of the coalition Government and then the Conservative Government, there are now 25 more good and outstanding schools than there were in 2010. Schools in Bexley have seen a funding boost of £3.8 million for 2018-19, which brings the funding for schools in Bexley to just over £211 million a year. That is a real achievement. The Government have to be praised for doing this, and so do the teachers, parents and pupils who have rowed in behind those extra resources to make sure they achieve for themselves in society.
We have many brilliant secondary and primary schools in Bexley, with diverse education provision—church schools, academies, grammar schools and technical schools—and that is the way forward. Diversity allows children’s talents to be maximised.
I highlight Slade Green, which is the most disadvantaged part of my constituency. It now has St Paul’s (Slade Green) Primary School, Haberdashers’ Aske’s Crayford Temple Grove north campus, and Peareswood Primary School, which I am afraid were neglected by the funding system under the last Labour Government but are now achieving and succeeding. They are giving children in a more deprived part of my constituency a real opportunity to achieve.
It therefore comes as no surprise that Bexley was listed as one of the social mobility hotspots by the Social Mobility Commission’s state of the nation report in November 2017, but there is still much more to be done. We need to achieve social mobility, and I am proud to join the social mobility pledge that my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening), the former Education Secretary, recently launched. The pledge makes three commitments: partnering directly with schools and colleges to provide coaching through quality careers advice, which is so important; providing structured work experience and/or apprenticeship opportunities to people from disadvantaged backgrounds or circumstances; and adopting open recruitment practices that promote a level playing field, such as blind recruitment. Conservative Members, just as much as the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne, want to see disadvantaged children have the maximum opportunity to achieve what they need to achieve.
Madam Deputy Speaker, in line with your determination that we should not speak for too long, I have had my time, but I would say to the House and to both Front Bench teams that education is a vital service for our future, for our country and for individuals. It is our duty to work to our best ability to make sure that the most disadvantaged get the opportunities and encouragement to narrow the attainment gap. Making sure that more and more children attend good or outstanding schools is the only way forward, as everyone will then be given opportunities.
I regret that we have not heard much from the Opposition about their policies for doing that, apart from more money. We are not just talking about money, although, yes, we are giving more money. Education would not be safe in their hands if they were in government because they just want to throw money at it. Money and resources are important, but it is about much more than that.
I congratulate Ministers and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on their work to provide more power to achieve these things for the benefit of all our children.
At the start of 2017, before becoming a Member of Parliament, I attended a meeting at a local high school, which was being held to raise awareness of the national funding formula and how it would impact on that school, and indeed others in the area. The headteacher was very honest about the challenges the school would face with the additional real-terms cuts to budgets; historically, ours was one of the worst areas in the country on this already. Parents listened to the facts and rightly raised their concerns about the impact this would have on their children: teaching assistants and teachers faced uncertainty as to whether they would still have jobs; the curriculum would be squeezed of subjects not seen as essential; opportunities for extra-curricular experiences would be jeopardised; and buildings and IT would not be updated unless critical. The mood was one of absolute disbelief. People were encouraged to engage in the consultation, but it was so unbelievably complicated that it had school governors and headteachers scratching their heads.
As a teacher myself, I left that meeting knowing that I had to do something; local parents needed to be informed and my colleagues deserved to be heard. I took to social media to explain what this funding formula would mean for our schools, and it is amazing what happens when people are informed about facts. I organised a campaign consisting of a packed public meeting, a 1,000-strong march and lots of people engaging with the consultation. It raised the profile of the issue locally, we had national coverage and it gave concerned parents and teachers a voice.
What we are actually facing long term in education is a complete crisis. Research shows that 94% of teachers are buying equipment and resources for basic teaching. My experience of teaching is that staff have always been willing to spend some of their own money for the odd item, such as prizes for children, but the funding cuts are digging deep. That is making it hard for schools to manage without being subsidised by staff and parents; the National Education Union reports that one in five said their schools were asking parents for financial contributions as a result of budget pressures, while two thirds said funding for special needs provision had been cut. It is wrong to rely on the good will of teachers and parents to meet the shortfall when pay has fallen over the past 10 years. The Government need to fund schools adequately, so that children can enjoy a full curriculum, in properly resourced institutions.
Many of my friends are still teachers, and staff morale is the lowest I have ever known it. Teachers are being stretched in so many different directions. Any time teachers might have once had for prep at school and to complete the ever-increasing amount of admin is being taken away to cover for staff who are not being replaced. Funding cuts are resulting in bigger class sizes, and cuts to support staff mean we are seeing more and more children with complex needs not getting the necessary support. The cuts to frontline teaching posts are happening at a time when pupil to classroom teacher ratios are rising, which means bigger classes and less individual attention for children. The funding situation also continues to have a growing impact on teachers’ pay and working conditions. The NEU believes that the damaging cuts to teachers’ pay must be reversed. Pay should be restored at least to the levels in place before the Government misguidedly imposed their pay freezes and pay limits. With schools already struggling with the funding crisis, it is vital that the Government allocate additional funding to support the pay levels needed to address the recruitment and retention crisis.
Another impact of the real-terms funding cuts is on the opportunities for children to participate in extra-curricular activities and school trips. Today, my son is going on his first residential trip, at six years old—one night, sleeping over, at the cost of £60. Like his school friends, he is bursting with excitement. I know that he is about to do something that he will always remember. How awful then to hear from other schools in my constituency that they will be unable to do school trips. Why? It is because they cannot afford to subsidise the trips for the poorer students. So, once again, the poorest are starved of opportunities that children from wealthier families can access. How desperately unfair our education system has become.
My constituency is part of the f40. Forty-one of the group’s 42 member authorities responded to its survey and unanimously agreed that the formula being introduced in April 2018 did not yet fully meet f40’s aspirations. f40, like myself, welcomed the Government’s commitment to an additional £1.3billion for school funding, but the survey demonstrates that concerns remain and there is still more work to do to tackle the remaining locked-in inequalities. Although the Government have added more cash to the system, a gap between the better funded and worst funded remains. Specifically, maintaining protections to the best-funded areas has meant that the historical inequalities will take longer to iron out. Like the f40, I believe that a needs-led funding formula that reflects the true cost of running a school and an adjustment to the balance between funding blocks, with an enhancement of core funding and reduction to additional needs, are required changes.
I have been listening carefully to what the hon. Lady is saying. Like hers, my constituency was part of the f40 campaign. Will she therefore recognise the steps this Government took, which the last Labour Government failed to take, to address those inequalities? While I am standing, let me say that it is welcome at least to hear her acknowledgement of additional money going in.
I believe I acknowledged that extra money going into the system and mentioned it in my speech.
The right to a decent, diverse and inspirational education is something every child deserves, no matter their background, no matter their ability. School is about so much more than just results and attainment. It should be a place of safety, support and development, and children deserve access to teachers who feel valued and inspired themselves. I became a teacher because I love to see the spark in a child’s eyes when they find that thing that makes them tick. Every child I ever worked with had something to offer, and as a teacher it was my job to tune into it and give them the confidence and self-belief to learn. Teachers are working harder than ever, with fewer resources and more challenges, and their wellbeing is being affected massively. Who, ultimately, misses out as a result of the crisis that schools face? It is every person in our society, as the kids of today are the future of tomorrow. They did not cause the global economic crisis and they should not be punished for others’ failings.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate, because Conservative Members have a duty to put the record right on some of the statements that Opposition Members are making. They continue to peddle myths day after day in the Chamber. Today, I feel as if I am in a parallel universe to the one those Opposition Members are in. I ask myself: why would the Opposition promote these many myths in the way they do? What is their reason for doing this? I do hope they are not doing it knowingly, misleading the public to spread fear and distract from the reality of the situation. Unlike in the glory days of “Education, education, education”, the Labour party now has no plan. It is unable to present an alternative vision for education in this country and unable effectively to cost the pledges it does make without burdening our children and our children’s children with huge amounts of debt.
Let us examine the facts. The proposed new funding formula, which will right the historical wrong of the schools funding postcode lottery, will mean that schools in Erewash will receive an increase of 5%—that means £2.6 million more to spend on education in my constituency. That is not a cut. As we speak, the new multimillion-pound Wilsthorpe Community School is nearing the end of its construction phase, in preparation for opening its doors to students from Long Eaton and the surrounding area in September. This is a great example of real investment by this Government, through the Education and Skills Funding Agency, to update a school that had previously been neglected by Labour.
The point has been made—you just made it—
The hon. Lady just made the point—
I am still getting used to this place, Madam Deputy Speaker. I apologise. The hon. Lady made the point that there is more funding going into the system, and I recognise that—it is true—but does she also accept that there are more children in schools, so that money is being spread more thinly?
I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention, but once again, I think that the myths have been spread and spread. If we look at it historically, in Erewash during all the 13 years of Labour government, schools were underfunded completely. Thankfully, this Government are correcting the wrong that was in place for so many years.
Like many other public services, schools are much more than the building or the money we spend on them. As others have mentioned, those who go into education often talk about a vocation—a calling in life—and in Erewash we have some extraordinary examples of teachers and teaching assistants who go above and beyond to give our children the very best start in life.
One example is Chaucer Junior School, whose pupils can often be found gardening or litter picking. I joined them to pick litter, and it taught them a lesson about how important it is not to drop litter, so it is an educational activity as well. They also visit places such as Parliament, which adds real value to their education. That is down not to the funding the school receives but the hard work and dedication of the staff who are willing to organise and facilitate those activities. I can cite example after example from my constituency, including English Martyrs in Long Eaton, which was visited a couple of years ago by the Minister for School Standards, who is on the Front Bench and who tested their maths when he visited. That school regularly gets to the final of the green school awards, which means they can come down to London, go to London Zoo and be part of the bigger picture that schools and education provide.
Sadly, the story in Erewash is not all a bed of roses and students are suffering, not because of funding cuts but because of teaching time lost by politically motivated strike action. Like its colleagues in Labour and Momentum, the NASUWT has been prepared to weaponise teachers in opposition to academisation, despite it being in the best interests of students and, I remind the House, a policy that began under Labour.
Last month, the Opposition were forced to retreat over the issue of free school meals, not just by the Government but by the team at Channel 4. Indeed, even the Labour candidate in Erewash embarrassed herself in our local press by jumping the gun, blindly following the party line rather than checking local facts, and was rightly exposed for it. In a similar vein, the Opposition are pursuing today’s debate with the same misguided intent, rather than using it as a constructive way of proposing policy.
Having spoken before this debate to those in my office about their own time in school, with their experience spanning time from Wilson to Cameron, I found that they can all recall the charitable element historically embraced by our education system to support the formal budget set by Government. The parent teacher association raffle, the summer fair, the Christmas pantomime and the sponsored walk while dressed as a hippo—I have yet to find out who wore the hippo outfit—helped to pay for things as wide-ranging as a minibus and basic extra equipment. There is nothing new about people contributing to school budgets rather than relying on what the Government provide.
We must ask ourselves what makes a school. I would argue this is about more than just the funding that the Government provide. I agree with the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) on one point: she said that it is not just about money. Yes, we would all like more money, but it is clear that in Erewash there are no cuts, despite what the Opposition would like the public to believe. Instead, we have both an increase in funding and significant investment in new school buildings.
Will the hon. Lady give way?
I am just finishing.
In Erewash, at the core, we have an inspirational team of teaching professionals who manage their schools creatively within budget and, more importantly, look beyond the balance sheet, choosing instead to focus on the vital job of educating our next generation.
I would like to begin by putting on record my admiration and appreciation for the remarkable efforts of schools in my constituency and the Borough of Merton. I am proud to say that under the most testing of circumstances, every single secondary school in Merton is now rated good or outstanding and has a GCSE progress 8 score that the Department for Education ranks as No. 1 in England, with Liberty Primary School in Mitcham in the top 1% of all schools for pupil progress in reading, writing and maths.
I am sure that Members across the Chamber will join me in congratulating Harris Primary Academy, which last year became the second outstanding primary school in Mitcham and Morden after Singlegate. They join Merton’s growing list of outstanding secondary schools, which includes Harris Academy Merton, Harris Academy Morden, the Ursuline, and Ricards Lodge. What makes that success even more remarkable is the circumstances in which it has been achieved—circumstances that are worsening term by term.
Schools in Merton are set to lose a staggering £1,820,818 between 2015 and 2020, despite their pupil numbers rising. It is no wonder that 40% of primary schools and 60% of secondary schools in Merton have had to cut staff since 2014. By 2020, Aragon Primary School will lose £100,118, William Morris Primary School will lose £72,582 and the outstanding Singlegate Primary School will lose £102,086—the extraordinary equivalent of £204 per pupil.
Across the country, staff numbers in England’s secondary schools have fallen by 15,000 since 2014, despite there being 4,500 more pupils to teach. That is 5.5 staff members lost in each school. Meanwhile, 62% of those schools have increased the size of their classes, despite the shortage of staff.
Behind the facts and figures are the governors, pupils and teachers struggling to cope. Yesterday, a group of teachers wrote to me from their staff room and said:
“We are stretched beyond belief. Corners are being cut, stopping the breadth of the curriculum and yet, despite the setbacks, we are expected to produce better outcomes than ever before! We’ve even run out of pens, glue sticks and basic stationery!”
Schools have been admirably shielding their pupils from the damage these cuts are causing, but they can go on for only so long. These schools are facing hardship like never before.
I would like to read some brief extracts from letters I have recently received from three different headteachers in my constituency. First:
“We see children who eat their lunch very quickly, whilst ‘protecting’ their plate with an arm as they eat”
so that nobody can steal their food. Secondly:
“If he won the lottery, one child said he would go food shopping to buy lots of cereal and porridge to fill him up and keep him warm.”
“We believe that a significant number of our children are so used to feeling hungry and cold that they do not recognise these feelings”,
“We have children in temporary accommodation changing schools several times, impacting them socially, educationally and financially.”
When I asked the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), who is responsible for children and families, about the impact of temporary accommodation on education he acknowledged that it can mean changing schools and that it is strongly associated with poorer attainment, but he then claimed that these schools are provided with extra resources to combat that. The reality is that the pupil in question, moving from school to school, has now become a persistent absentee. Experience suggests that he might never overcome that avoidable dismantling of his education.
The Government argue that they are trying to distribute funds more fairly, but they fail to address the uneven battle that those in the most disadvantaged areas face even to attend a good school in the first place. A child living in one of England’s most disadvantaged is 27 times more likely to go to an inadequate school than a child living in one of the least disadvantaged areas. Spreading the funding evenly, therefore, does not fairly share the opportunity. How do I explain to the furious teachers, governors and parents across Mitcham and Morden why their class sizes are bigger, why their teaching assistants have gone, and what has happened to the subjects that their school now simply cannot afford? There will be almost no real-term winners under the Government’s proposals. The cake needs to be bigger for anyone to get a bigger, fairer slice.
It is a pleasure to be called to speak in this debate and to have the opportunity yet again to speak on the important subject of our schools.
On Monday evening, I asked the shadow Secretary of State whether her debate about students was playing politics with students. She did not directly answer me then, but she answered me today and made it absolutely and explicitly clear that her reason for calling this debate was directly linked to the upcoming elections, so she is playing politics not only with our students, but with our school children. It was very disappointing to hear that. There were one or two parts of her speech with which I agreed and I will come to them in a few moments, but there was much with which I disagreed.
The old system over which Labour presided had areas with similar characteristics receiving vastly different sums of money. That was not because of deprivation. Had it been because of areas of deprivation, I could have looked my constituents in the eye and said, “The reason you are receiving £2,000 per pupil less than students in another part of the country is that the area in which you live is not as deprived.” That was not the reason. It was because of historical anomalies and because successive Governments had failed to tackle the problem. This Government have tackled it. Dorset was in the bottom 11 for funding of local authorities and Poole was in the bottom two—the two local authorities that cover my constituency.
The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Laura Smith), who is no longer in her place, mentioned the f40 campaign. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), who most recently led that campaign and made determined arguments to Government as to the historic unfairness of the old system. I know that he is itching to speak in this debate but, given his elevation and his new role in the Education Department, he is forbidden from doing so. None the less, I pay tribute to him for his role as chairman of the f40 campaign.
As a direct result of that campaign, the national funding formula has been introduced by this Government. As I have said, the issue was sadly ducked in the past. The Labour party had the opportunity to grasp it but it ducked it. As a direct result of the change, schools in Dorset will receive a 4.2% increase and, in Poole, a 3.8% increase in 2019-20 compared with 2015-16.
We should look at funding not just in this country, but internationally. I was delighted that the Secretary of State mentioned the international comparisons. For example, spending per pupil in England is higher than in Germany and Japan. I would like the Schools Minister to consider whether it is higher than in France. The international tables suggest that our spending per pupil is higher than in France as well as than in Germany and Japan. Can he confirm that in closing the debate?
Real-terms spending has also gone up. The motion mentions a “cash terms increase”, but this Government have gone further than that because there are real-terms school spending increases. Per pupil spending in 2019-20 will be more than 50% higher than it was under Labour in 2000-01. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich did accept, perhaps slightly grudgingly, that more money is going in. Perhaps we need to have more clarity and more acceptance of that fact from the Labour party—[Interruption.] I have mentioned per pupil funding. I will repeat what I said, because I do not think that the shadow Secretary of State was listening. Per pupil funding in 2019-20 will be 50% higher than under Labour in 2000-01.
This is not just about spending; it is also about what is actually done with that money. Whether we make international comparisons, or compare our record with Labour’s record, we are spending more. However, that should not be the test. The test should be what is actually done with the money. That is where the shadow Secretary of State did say one thing that was right. She did say that it is not just about the money and she is absolutely right. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (David Evennett) also dwelt on that point.
The question is, what to do with that money? What do we as parents want? What does any of us want? We want our children to be happy, to go to a good school, to achieve their potential and to get the best results that they possibly can. Now that we have shown, and now that some on the Labour Benches have accepted, that we are spending more money than ever before, we need to turn the conversation to look not just at money, but at standards—what we are actually doing with that money—and to congratulate our teachers who are doing such a good job.
An independent study by the Education Policy Institute said that Labour-run Harrow was the most improved education authority in the country and that the progress that pupils make in Harrow is greater than anywhere else in the UK when they start at secondary school. Therefore, I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would follow the example of other Conservatives who have blessed us with their presence for campaigning purposes in Harrow and perhaps bring with him the Schools Minister to see what works so well in Harrow. If he does, I warn him that he will hear stories from headteachers, parents and governors starved of resources at Harrow schools and worried about whether they will be able to maintain the high standards that they have achieved because of real-terms cuts in funding.
I would be delighted to accept the hon. Gentleman’s invitation. In fact, I am campaigning elsewhere tomorrow. Had I not been, I would certainly have taken him up on his offer and come to Harrow. When I do so, I will ensure that I let him know. He is right is this respect: he is right to look at standards. He is right to look at the output and to congratulate our teachers when they do that excellent work, as I do now. I take the opportunity to pay tribute to all those teachers in Mid Dorset and North Poole. I have said in this place before that I am somebody who has run away from teaching. I come from a family of teachers and I admire them. Some of the best things that I do in this Chamber and in this House involve my work with schools—both welcoming schools and pupils here and also when I visit schools back home in Dorset.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the measurement of “outputs”; I think that is what he said. I would suggest “outcomes”. I agree that looking at what money goes in and what the outcomes are is crucial. When I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee last year, I asked the Department for Education how it was measuring the changes in funding over the next few years with regard to the outcomes that we are currently using and what we will have by, for example, 2020. There is no measurement of the current money going in, the outcomes that we have and the future outcomes under reduced budgets over time. You cannot track it in that way. I am interested to hear his views.
My view is that we should look at the definitive evidence, which is the international standard, the progress in international reading literacy study, because that is an international comparative study directed by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. A report released in December 2017 confirmed that England’s score is significantly above the international median score. England had the highest average performance in all four PIRLS cycles. It was a pleasure to read reports that reading standards in England are the best in a generation. That did not happen by accident. That was as a direct result of policies enacted by this Government and by this Schools Minister. It is a record of which we should be proud.
Once again, we are here at an Opposition-day debate where the Opposition play political football with the issue of schools. The shadow Secretary of State actually admitted to that during her opening remarks. The Opposition are playing on the fears of parents one week before the local elections. Again, that is something to which she openly admitted. That is really what this debate is all about. This is not a serious debate about school funding because, if it were, it would be about why constituencies such as mine have, for decades, been funded significantly less than urban authorities: 49% per head of population have been funded less than in urban areas. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson) said, this was based not on need, but on geography and history. That is a wrong that this Conservative Government are putting right.
When the fairer funding formula was announced, I was the first to visit headteachers in my constituency, who spoke about the increased pressures and rising costs of running schools. I took those headteachers to meet the Minister so that they could discuss their concerns, and the Government listened. The figures that came out at the end of last year showed a significant increase in funding—between 4% and 8%, on average—for schools in my constituency. That is a welcome boost. It does not account for some of the pressures that schools are still facing and that I am meeting headteachers to discuss. But that is a serious debate. It is not about making the issue a political football and once again scaremongering teachers, parents and pupils.
My hon. Friend, like me, represents a rural constituency. The lack of funding that we get in comparison with urban areas is putting real pressure on schools, especially in dealing with children with special needs. Does she agree that the time has come to ensure that the differences between rural and urban areas are rectified?
Absolutely. Ministers are listening to this, and it is an ongoing debate and process. The figures published late last year are an indication of the progress that we are making. The facts have been checked by independent sources such as Full Fact, which has said that it is “correct” to say that school spending is at record levels. The shadow Secretary of State quoted the IFS. I will repeat what the IFS said, which is that the extra £1.3 billion for schools means that school spending will not fall but will stay the same per pupil. And that is the key point. There are not actually school cuts; there are pressures and costs, but the funding is increasing.
I have some questions for the Minister from primary schools in Lewes. First, will the Minister confirm that the pupil premium will be ongoing for the long term? Schools have found that extremely helpful. The second question is a request for a long-term funding settlement, not a year-on-year one, as it would make long-term planning easier for schools. Thirdly, schools would like us to use the census data starting from January, not October, because they are sometimes carrying pupils for the length of the school year, but are not actually being paid for them. Those are three requests from primary schools in Lewes, in a serious debate about school funding.
Will the hon. Lady give way?
I will not for the moment.
How have the unions reacted to this debate? Do they welcome this school funding? Do they welcome the Government redressing the balance between urban and rural areas? No. The National Union of Teachers has been quite open about making this a political campaign. In fact, it spent £326,000 campaigning on this issue during the general election last year—more than the Green party and UKIP. The union uses this issue as a political football for election purposes. That is a shocking state of affairs.
The NUT sent letters to parents, frightening them about school funding cuts that were not actually coming, and put banners in schools telling parents how much their children would be losing, when that was not true at all. It spread lies and fear. It is under investigation by the Electoral Commission for submitting incomplete spending returns. Given the funding announcements after the election, hon. Members might think that there would be a consensus to support the Government and welcome the funding increase. But no—the joint general secretary urged members at a recent conference in Brighton to ramp up their efforts ahead of the local elections as school funding is a top concern for voters. This is the true reason that we are having this debate. The NUT said about the issue of school funding that
“if voters changed their mind because of that—then we are pleased…We make no apology. We will do it again.”
That is the whole purpose of today’s debate. It is about next Thursday; it is not about schools funding or the future of our children.
Just look at the example of Labour authorities up and down the country, including Brighton and Hove, right next door to me, where some of my constituents send their children to school. The council there has been having issues taking in more children. Brighton’s The Argus newspaper investigated this case in an exposé by their lead reporter, Joel Adams. The council told parents that it had no money and could not accommodate children, and that this was all down to Government cuts. The Argus found, however, that the Government had actually given Brighton and Hove City Council £15 million to deal with the problem and build new classrooms, and that the Labour council had refused to spend it. It preferred to send out letters scaremongering parents and to put up banners on railings than to spend the £15 million that it was given by this Conservative Government. That is the truth.
Some of the schools in my constituency that sent letters to parents have now had an 8% increase in funding. When I challenged them on this, they said that there is pressure from the unions to get the message out. It is absolutely disgraceful. Opposition Members should be ashamed of themselves for raising this fear and scaremongering. But the truth is out today, because we heard it from the shadow Secretary of State; we all know that this is about the elections next Thursday.
I will close my speech with another irony. The whole point of this debate was to challenge parties about what they put in their manifesto and how they will find the money. Well, what did the Labour party put in its manifesto? Abolishing tuition fees. But once the election was over, that was suddenly just an aspiration and the abacus was put into storage for the next general election.
Will the hon. Lady take the opportunity to correct the record? We said in our manifesto that we would abolish tuition fees, and we continue to say that we would abolish tuition fees.