House of Commons
Monday 12 November 2018
The House met at half-past Two o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
West Anglia College
The Education and Skills Funding Agency has been clear that West Anglia College cannot undertake any further subcontracting until the ESFA is satisfied that all the proper procedures highlighted in the report are in place. Frequent dialogue with the college continues, and I will keep the hon. Gentleman informed. I praise him for his tenacity in highlighting this issue.
West Anglia College is avoiding me. Some £160,000-worth of taxpayers’ money, yet not a single student—all from my constituency—is fulfilling and passing the course. The college did not even know that the course was taking place 50 miles away from where it thought it was taking place. Is it not incumbent on the college now to attend a meeting and to pay back the money that has been lost by some of my constituents, in terms of facilities and expenses, because of the shambles delivered by West Anglia College?
The hon. Gentleman’s term “shambles” is not inappropriate. This has been a shocking case, and it is from such cases that we learn lessons to make sure that it does not happen again. He talks about paying the money back, and I am sure the ESFA is looking at all possible options to make sure that his constituents are well served.
I have a feeling the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) might seek an Adjournment debate on the matter. Who knows, he might be successful.
Apprenticeships are now of high quality, with more off-the-job training and holistic end-point assessment. This ensures that, at the completion of an apprenticeship, the apprentice can demonstrate that they have the skills, knowledge and behaviours for their existing employer or a new employer in the future. Forty-four apprenticeships are now at the new higher-quality standard, and training is up from 540 hours to 670 hours, which is a 20% increase —well ahead of where we thought we would be on quality.[Official Report, 19 November 2018, Vol. 649, c. 6MC.]
Derwent Training Association in Malton in my constituency offers very high-quality precision engineering apprenticeships, but too often it comes up against headteachers who would rather see their students go to university. What more can we do to make sure that schools promote high-quality apprenticeships?
We have a lot more to do; there is no doubt about it. Wherever I go, I often hear from student apprentices who say that they had very little support from their school. Since January 2018 schools are required to allow technical education and apprenticeship training providers to come in to talk to pupils, and our apprenticeship support and knowledge project provides schools with resources to help them promote apprenticeships. The apprenticeship ambassador network also visits schools so that pupils can hear at first hand about the fantastic opportunities that an apprenticeship can bring.
I call Rachel Maclean. [Interruption.] Beetle in, beetle in. It is very good of the hon. Lady to drop in on us. I hope she was advised of the grouping by the Government—I am sure she was. I hope she is now ready, as I have given her a bit of injury time.
I thank the Minister for her response—[Laughter.]
I am doing my best to help the hon. Lady. While I am burbling on, she has an opportunity to prepare her question, which I feel sure is now fermenting satisfactorily in her mind.
What steps is the Department taking to improve the quality of apprenticeships?
I do not want to fluster my hon. Friend. The Department is doing a great deal to improve apprenticeships. It is important to make sure that apprenticeships offer high-quality education that rivals that of our universities, so we are doing exactly that. There is no doubt that apprenticeships are already offering such education. We have a £10 million development fund available to develop degrees at a high level, and apprenticeship starts at high levels continue to grow—up almost 30% on last year.
Many large firms in my constituency, notably Premier Foods, have great apprenticeship schemes and are using the new system very creatively to improve the quality of those apprenticeships, but it is often more difficult for small companies to do the same. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that small businesses can benefit from apprenticeships as much as large businesses do?
I congratulate Premier Foods on what it is doing in my right hon. Friend’s constituency. Levy payers can already transfer up to 10% of their funds to other employers, including SMEs, and we are increasing that to 25% from next year. SMEs have taken longer to put in place their apprenticeship programmes, although many have already grabbed the opportunity.
May I apologise to the Minister for not being able to welcome her on her visit to Huddersfield and to Kirklees College? It was a very good visit and was well received, but did she talk to the principal about what is happening up and down the country, where so many people want to get on quality apprenticeships but cannot get the GCSE in English or in maths? Surely there should be a practical maths and practical English so that these kids can get the education they deserve.
I had a wonderful visit to Kirklees College and I was impressed with all I saw there. It is important that young people have a grounding in English and maths. I know this is difficult for some young people, and we are doing a great deal to improve the teaching of maths. Where people have failed after all those years in school, we cannot just go on doing the same thing. We have the opportunity to offer functional skills, which offers those young people an alternative way of getting a good qualification in maths.
A very successful Queen’s award-winning company in my constituency provides examinations and training standards throughout the world in contemporary music, but it cannot provide these apprenticeship standards in the UK because of the Government’s rigidity in not allowing them or providing them in industries with a lot of freelance workers. Can the Minister address that problem?
Yes, I can. The right hon. Gentleman perhaps ought to know that I have continued contact with my fellow Ministers in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, because this issue is important. We are not being rigid. There are ways around this, and I had a recent meeting to discuss exactly this point. It is important for the industry to get together and talk to the Institute for Apprenticeships, because there are ways around this.
How can we improve the quality of apprenticeships when further education—or certainly Coventry College—has had a 30% cut? What is the Minister going to do about it?
By 2020, there will be £2.5 billion available for apprenticeships. In fact, a lot of apprenticeship training is done by independent training providers, so I urge all further education colleges to make sure they get involved and take up the opportunity that the levy money makes available.
Surprisingly, my question is a segue to that asked by my old boss, the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir Vince Cable). Apprenticeships are a great success story for this Government, although they are being terribly undermined by the clunking fist that is the apprenticeship levy. Will the Minister look specifically at the position in the film industry, where apprenticeships do not last the standard length of time? When people are apprentices on a film production, it might last only three months. There needs to be some flexibility in order to support apprenticeships in our award-winning creative industries.
Although I often agree with my right hon. Friend, I disagree entirely with his description of the apprenticeship levy as a clunking fist. It is what has driven all the improvements and is part of the reason we have the £2.5 billion available. I am very aware of the issues in the film industry. I have had several meetings with people from the industry and we are working with it to make sure that where people are working on a contract, or are not on a permanent contract, apprenticeships may be available.
Social mobility is a top priority right across the Department, from the early years at school to supporting disadvantaged students into university and improving technical education.
I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. However, as the party of aspiration, what more are our Government doing to help our young people achieve their dreams? Specifically, what are we doing through the secondary school system, which is formative in developing their future roles?
I thank my hon. Friend for that. Of course, the attainment gap has narrowed by 10% at secondary school, but she is right to say that we need constantly to be thinking about aspiration, which is why our careers strategy and the work of the Careers & Enterprise Company are so important.
I call Adam Afriye.
No. 10, Mr Speaker.
Grouped—I understand, Mr Speaker. I was slightly wrong-footed, as ever.
Irrespective of political persuasion or ideology, everyone in this House will agree that the state has a special responsibility towards vulnerable children in care. Only 6% or 7% of them get to university, and 60% of them have behavioural and mental health challenges. We must congratulate the Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation and Buttle UK on their work in providing bursaries for university. Does the Minister agree that we must look to expand work in this area?
I do agree with my hon. Friend that we need to expand work in that area, and I commend the charities that he mentioned, including for their work to inform local authorities about how to make placements in boarding schools. It is true that for the right child at the right time and at the right school, boarding can create a life-changing opportunity. Encouragement into university is also vital, of course.
A recent OECD report stated that the children of poor families are likely to take five generations to start to earn an average income, compared with two generations for families in Denmark and three in Sweden. Why has it taken the United Kingdom so long to bridge this gap?
These are big topics and, indeed, stubborn statistics that take quite some time to move. As anybody who has compared the 1970 cohort with the 1958 cohort will attest, it is a problem that goes back through multiple Governments, but we need to keep working on it. The most recent OECD statistics show a more encouraging picture than there was previously thought to be. [Interruption.]
There is an enormous amount of rather noisy chuntering from a sedentary position, principally emanating from a senior statesman in the House—namely the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman). His colleague the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) is trying to encourage him in good behaviour; I urge her to redouble her efforts, as she has some way to travel.
Given the Government’s apparent commitment to social mobility, would it not be a good idea to introduce a social mobility impact assessment for all Government policies and budget plans? That way, we might avoid stories such as the one that appears today in Nursery World, which details how across the country 27 schemes targeted at the most disadvantaged children in the early years have had to be scrapped because of changes to the early years funding formula.
I apply social mobility considerations right across the work of the Department for Education, and I also work with Ministers across Government to make sure that we are doing the same in all that we do.
We believe that any young person who has the potential to benefit from university should be able to do so, and the existing system helps to facilitate exactly that. More than £800 million is being spent on access encouragement from universities. We need to make sure that that is spent as well as it can be, to make sure that any young person from any background has an equal opportunity to benefit.
A huge block to social mobility is the Government’s policy of forcing schools to pay the first £6,000 of costs to support children with special needs. Does the Secretary of State accept that that penalises schools for taking students with additional needs, incentivises doing the wrong thing, impoverishes those schools that do the right thing and, most of all, hurts children with special needs and their families? Will he agree fully to fund education healthcare plans?
The hon. Gentleman is right to look at things such as the incentives that are inherent in the system. Of course, schools have a notional special educational needs budget, which is what the first £6,000 is supposed to be linked to, but we keep all these matters under review right across the system—in mainstream schools and special schools.
If the hon. Members for Ipswich (Sandy Martin) and for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami) were listening to what the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) had to say, they will have observed that references to SEN are perfectly orderly in the context of this question. That is a hint; whether they take the hint is up to them, but the Speaker is trying to be helpful to Back Benchers, which is what I have spent nine and a half years doing.
An independent review of higher education funding is under way. Does the Secretary of State agree that any proposals in that review that are regressive in nature, that would reintroduce a student number cap or that would act in effect as a brake on social mobility are not recommendations that this Government should accept?
It goes without saying that my right hon. Friend has very considerable expertise in this area and I take what she says extremely seriously. The review that she mentions is informed by an independent panel. That independent panel has not yet completed its work and the Government have not yet considered what recommendations may come forward, but, of course, social mobility must be at the heart.
Nursery schools play a crucial role in promoting social mobility, and that includes the outstanding Ellergreen and East Prescot Road nursery schools in my constituency. The Secretary of State will know that there is widespread concern about the long-term funding for nursery schools. Will he announce today that we will shortly hear about long-term sustainable funding for nursery schools?
I think the hon. Gentleman refers to maintained nursery schools.
We do, of course, appreciate the particular and special role that maintained nurseries play in the system. We have funding up to 2020, as he knows, and we need to look at what happens thereafter.
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. The funding for high needs has been going up, and will reach just under £6 billion. In Hertfordshire, it has risen by 4.3% this year. Our reforms from 2014 were the most significant reforms in this area for a generation, but obviously we need to continue to strive more.
I know that local authorities work with each other to share best practice and to look at what happens. A whole range of things needs to be considered from, of course, training provision for teachers in mainstream schools, to the availability of places in special schools and so on. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman’s local authority will look at all those areas as well.
Hastings is one of the opportunity areas supported and funded by the Government, which will be the biggest driver of social mobility for those of us in it in a generation. Although we celebrate the success and work closely with the Department for Education to make sure that it delivers on those changes, such is the success that we are now concerned about the end of the opportunity area funding. May I urge the Secretary of State to think carefully about how that end might be smoothed so that areas such as Hastings, which will get such extraordinary change from the opportunity area, do not suddenly find themselves cut off?
I am thinking carefully about that. It was always the intention that it would be a three-year programme and that we would then take learnings from the opportunity areas both to continue that programme in those areas, and also to look at what could work elsewhere, and we continue to look at that. May I commend my right hon. Friend for her personal leadership in the Hastings opportunity area, which I had the chance to visit recently?
Successive Conservative Education Secretaries of State have rightly identified sixth-form colleges as engines of social mobility, yet the rate for 16-to-18 funding has not changed for many, many years under this and the predecessor Government. Is it not time to raise the rate?
It is. As someone who has a long passion for and personal professional experience in the sixth-form sector, the hon. Gentleman is right to identify that 16-to-18 funding is tight. That is, of course, something that we need to keep under review and have in mind as we come up to the spending review. There are, of course, things such as the maths premium. For some colleges, the T-levels funding will also be relevant.
The Minister knows that key to closing the social mobility gap is access to high-quality early years education for those who need it most. Therefore, he will be as concerned as I was to see a report by PACEY—the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years—released today, finding a downward trend in qualification levels for childminders while the number of nursery workers in training is dropping too. His own Department’s figures show that only one in four families earning under £20,000 is accessing 30 hours of free childcare a week, which might be because the same report shows that more than half of private nurseries have put up their fees in the past 12 months. Can he tell us how less well-off families unable to access more expensive childcare with less qualified staff closes the social mobility gap?
That was so good that one would think the hon. Lady had experience of acting.
The hon. Lady is right to identify the centrality of the hundreds of thousands of dedicated people who work in nurseries and early years settings. She mentioned the 30-hours offer and the differences in different income groups. A lone parent has to earn just over £6,500 to be able to access the 30-hours offer. That is one of five extensions of early years and childcare support that have been made available by our Governments since 2010. Overall, by the end of the decade, we will be investing an extra £1 billion, rising to £6 billion in total, on early years in childhood.
Relationships and Sex Education
We want all schools to deliver high-quality teaching and curriculums in this important area, as many schools already do. The public consultation on the content of relationships and sex education closed last week, and we will use those findings to develop the right support package to complement the content set out in the draft guidance.
The Government’s impact assessment of the roll-out of relationships and sex education suggests that there will be no need for funding support from the second year onwards—that the investment at the beginning will last for ever. This, of course, ignores changes in teachers and the need to change the curriculum in future years. Will Ministers commit today that when they do come up with the final policy, they will accept the need for annual support?
The kind of support we have in mind is support in terms of materials and training, rather than funding, but we will look very carefully at this once we have examined all the responses to the consultation, to which 40,000 individuals responded.
The Scottish Parliament has recently decided to embed in the school curriculum LGBT issues so that LGBT children can integrate well and, more importantly, that other children treat them well. What thought has my right hon. Friend given to doing the same in England?
We have certainly given this a great deal of thought in the context of relationships and sex education. We believe that all schools should ensure that young people, whatever their developing sexuality or identity, feel that relationships education and RSE is relevant to them and sensitive to their needs. The purpose of the new provisions includes ensuring that young people learn that there are different types of relationships in modern Britain. Schools should therefore ensure that RSE is inclusive and meets the needs of all young people.
As I am sure we are all aware from our experiences of this House, the issues that surround relationships and sex education at any age can be incredibly sensitive. My question is therefore about training. At this moment in time, how much training will the Government provide? Will the Minister ensure that every teacher who is going to teach this will be able to “get it”?
Of course, it is the responsibility of schools to provide the relevant training for their teachers in all curriculum subjects. We are looking at the response to the consultation—which, as I said, closed last week—to determine what support and resources schools will need to be able to deliver this far-reaching reform of the curriculum in our schools.
Tuition Fees: Social Mobility
The proportion of 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds entering full-time higher education is up from 13.6% in 2009 to 20.4% in 2017, so disadvantaged 18-year-olds were 50% more likely to enter HE than in 2009. That is a record that this Government can be proud of.
A recent study by Universities UK and the CBI showed that about 60% of respondents were put off applying for part-time study courses because of the cost of tuition fees. Does the Minister have any plans to reduce tuition fee costs, or, even better, will he follow the example of the Scottish Government in scrapping them altogether?
The example of the Scottish Government is not one that is worth copying. We know that in Scotland, because tuition is free, resource per student is lower, and therefore disadvantaged students in Scotland have to wait for English students ahead of them in clearing because they pay more money. That is not an example we will be copying.
At St Andrews University, Scottish students go free, and as a consequence their numbers are capped at 20% of the university’s population. Cut tuition fees, and we cut opportunities for students. It is that simple, isn’t it?
My right hon. Friend is, as ever, absolutely right. In Scotland, the opportunity for disadvantaged students is capped, but that for international students is uncapped. That is not a record worth copying.
Given the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths subjects for the future of higher education and the economy and given the importance of social mobility in those subjects, will the Minister rule out, as a result of the Augar review, a future where STEM fees are higher than fees for arts and humanities courses, because that is apparently under consideration?
The hon. Gentleman is asking me to comment on leaks, and it will be no surprise to him that I will not comment on any leaks about an independent review. However, I will say that ensuring there is opportunity for everyone and creating opportunities that satisfy the skills our country needs is at the heart of the review. It is in the terms of reference, and that is what I will be looking for in the recommendations.
The latest report by the Education Committee suggests that some students are not getting value for money from their university courses. Does the Minister agree that only degrees that enhance employability and earning potential by more than the cost of the course can possibly improve social mobility, and what more can the Government do to make sure that young people make the right decisions about which course to go on?
I take slight issue with the point my hon. Friend makes in the sense that there are degrees that do not lead to higher earnings but are of incredible value—for example, for people who go into social work or nursing—but we need to ensure that every degree is of the right quality and gives students the best opportunity. That is why the new regulator, the Office for Students, which has the interests of students at its heart, is looking at value for money for students, and it is why we have introduced the teaching and excellence framework to focus on the quality of teaching. We are also backing the launch of new information to empower students to make the right choices.
Higher Education: Overseas Collaboration
I have had conversations with the Home Secretary about the Migration Advisory Committee review and its implications for the higher education sector. We of course want to ensure that academics and researchers can come to the UK and collaborate with the brightest and the best.
Large-scale collaborative research projects take up to about two years to plan, so universities already need to be thinking beyond 2020. What assurance can the Minister give them today about funding levels after this date, and where will such funding come from?
I assume the hon. Gentleman is referring to the Horizon 2020 research programme. The UK has made it very clear that we want to fully associate with the successor programme to Horizon 2020—Horizon Europe—to ensure that our researchers can continue to collaborate with the brightest and the best in Europe.
Despite spending nearly £2,000 on visa fees, Dr Mohamed Alnor, a professor from the Sudan International University, was denied entry to the UK to attend a conference in Glasgow last month. This is becoming a common situation for academics from the middle east, Africa and India. What assurances can the Minister give our academic community that this issue will be addressed immediately?
The Prime Minister made it clear in her Jodrell Bank speech earlier this year that we welcome all international researchers. In fact, at least 30% of the researchers in the UK are from abroad. On the new immigration system that is being considered, we will make sure that we facilitate the brightest and the best being able to come here, work here and collaborate with our researchers.
But the Glasgow conference is not unique. In Liverpool last month, 10 delegates were refused entry, including one from India whose research has been sponsored by the UK Government. Professor McKee from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has said:
“Academic collaboration is yet another consequence of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, denying visas to those working on the ground to improve the health of some of the poorest people in the world”.
How will the Minister ensure that the UK continues to be open for international collaborations and conferences?
The hon. Lady is referring to a specific case, and I cannot comment in detail about it. Needless to say, we are open and welcoming. Just in July, the Government introduced the new tier 5 visa regime to allow academics to come here on short-term visas to collaborate with researchers here. We are genuinely open to sectoral research and sectoral collaboration. If there is a specific instance where someone was disappointed, I would be happy to look at it.
Teacher Recruitment and Retention
The number of teachers remains high, with more than 450,000 in schools across the country—that is over 10,000 more than in 2010. With a strong economy and the lowest unemployment for over 40 years, competition with other professions, industry and commerce for the best graduates is fierce. That is why we have generous tax-free bursaries of up to £26,000 in certain subjects to attract high-performing graduates into teacher training and into the profession.
I thank the Minister for that answer, but teachers are leaving the profession in droves. In the north-east, over 500 teachers left last year. In real terms, teachers are thousands of pounds worse off than in 2010. Why is the Minister still imposing a real-terms pay cut on the majority of teachers?
We agreed the School Teachers Review Body recommendations for a 3.5% rise in the pay ranges for the main scale of teachers, a 2% rise in the upper pay scale and a 1.5% rise for the leadership range. We are funding that to schools through a teachers’ pay grant over and above the 1% they will already have budgeted. Earlier this year, we announced the new recruitment and retention strategy, building on existing work to boost marketing and support to applicants. The strategy seeks to increase retention rates by streamlining accountability and stripping away unnecessary workload, which the evidence suggests does not improve children’s outcomes.
What action is my right hon. Friend taking to cut down the time teachers spend doing unnecessary data-driven tasks, to help recruitment and retention?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right: dealing with workload has been a key objective of this Government. In July, we published the workload reduction toolkit, which provides material, practical advice and case studies that headteachers and other staff can use to address workload issues in their schools.
Obviously, the pay award that will go to teachers will also go to teachers in sixth-form colleges, but the Government are not funding that pay rise, so what assessment has the Minister made of the impact of the teachers’ pay award on college budgets?
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, we acknowledge that funding in the 16-to-18 sector has not been protected in the same way that we have protected school funding since 2010, because since 2010 our priority has been to ensure that basic education between the ages of five and 16 is given the priority it needs.
Servicemen and women in Her Majesty’s armed forces represent the very best of British, so what progress is being made with the Troops to Teachers scheme to encourage veterans to become teaching professionals?
The Troops to Teachers scheme has resulted in a number of high-qualified ex-military coming into our schools. It has been slow to start, but it is a good programme, and I am determined that it will continue.
Further Education Funding
We are working closely with the Treasury, as finance has been challenging for further education colleges, and this work will continue in preparation for the spending review. We are also undertaking a look at the resilience of the sector to make sure that the regulatory structures and funding give us the high-quality provision that we want to see. I have mentioned the £2.5 billion that will be available by 2020 for apprenticeship training. When T-levels are fully rolled out in 2020, there will be an additional £500 million a year.
I thank the Minister for that response. As we approach the spending review, may I emphasise, particularly from North Cornwall, the passion and drive that we need to make sure that this money does go into further education? In the post-Brexit world we will be living in, it is more important than ever that our young people have the skills to benefit, so can we make sure that we push the Treasury hard on this?
My hon. Friend is a doughty champion for those in his constituency. Education is crucial, and we need to help young people to acquire the skills to thrive in life and work. For many, further education offers a second, third or even fourth chance, so it is important that we make sure they have the resources they need. Sadly, further education often gets squashed between the discussion about schools and that about university. I know my hon. Friend will be making his own representations to the Treasury.
We have had an interesting half hour. We are being told that funding in this sector is tight and not protected. We have just been told that this is the second, third or fourth chance for people in this sector. Given that young people have to stay on until 18, what assessment has been made of the impact of the reduction in income to the further education sector on their outcomes under this Government?
As the hon. Lady will have heard, we are looking at the resilience of the sector. I mentioned the £2.5 billion by 2020 and the £500 million for T-levels. There is a lot of work going on to ensure the sector has the resources it needs. Colleges are delivering extraordinarily high-quality training and education—three-quarters of colleges are good or outstanding—and they have high-quality financial management. We put a huge amount of money into restructuring, with exceptional financial support for this sector. A number of pots of money are now being made available to increase the number of teachers in further education.
The Minister says she has been working very closely with the Treasury, but it seems as though they are close encounters of the failed kind. FE’s financial woes are now at crisis. She knows that the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that spending is down by £3.3 billion since 2011. She knows that a stream of departing principals highlight the problem: 37 colleges on notice to improve their financial health. Now, Ofsted’s chief inspector says funding cuts are affecting FE’s sustainability. Before the Budget, the Minister urged everybody in FE to speak up for funding. They did with one voice through the brilliant Love our Colleges campaign, but the Chancellor ignored them. How is she going to address the crisis now that the Treasury has cold-shouldered FE?
I will not attempt to compete with the hon. Gentleman’s jokes about close encounters. I do not agree that we have been given the cold shoulder. We are looking at the resilience of the sector. I made it quite clear that I am fully aware of the challenges that FE faces. We have been putting in a lot of money, but I know that in the longer term we have to ensure that the core funding allows FE to deliver the high quality education that young people and, indeed, older people need.
As well as those already open, we have approved a further 266 free schools and university technical college applications, including 69 in London. What we now need to know from the Opposition is what would happen to the programme in the unfortunate event of their getting into government.
My two boroughs have seen an astonishing five new secondary schools opened under this Government: the Kensington Aldridge Academy, the Chelsea Academy, the West London Free School, the Hammersmith Academy and the Fulham Boys School. The fifth one, however, needs to move to a new site as soon as possible. I thank my right hon. Friend for meeting me in the summer, when we talked about the new site. Will he give us an update on progress on moving to the new site?
First, let me thank my right hon. Friend for his personal involvement with these programmes. Of course we always endeavour to minimise the amount of time that any open free school needs to stay in temporary accommodation before moving to a permanent site. As he will know, there have been complexities in this case. I am very happy to meet him to discuss them.
Rather than spending time, energy and money on new schools in London or in England, would it not make far more sense to spend more time, energy and money on Alaw Primary School, whose children are in the Public Gallery? In fact, they have just left.
That was the end of your peroration? We are grateful.
It was short.
It was very short. I am sure they did not leave because of you. Do not worry—don’t be too sensitive about it.
To be fair to the hon. Gentleman, these things happen at a quarter past three. It is an occupational hazard.
Free schools are one part of our expansion. This decade will have the largest expansion in school capacity for at least two generations, with 1 million new school places added and £7 billion of investment committed over the period.
I am really pleased that the Secretary of State eagerly anticipates the next Labour Government, just like so many parents and teachers, but let me be clear: our policy is no threat to any new or existing school, unlike the Government’s cuts. His Department’s accounts show that the academies sector ran a £2 billion operating deficit last year. Their net financial position is down overall and more trusts closed last year than ever before. He admitted last week that education needs billions more, so will he be asking the Chancellor to reverse all his cuts in full and in real terms?
We are investing in the school system, both through the additional £1.3 billion we found last year and through the capital moneys, to which I just referred, to fund the large expansion in the school system. Although these are questions to the Government, I think that everybody would be keen to hear more from the hon. Lady about how no school would be under threat from Labour party policy.
I call Gill Furniss—not here. Oh dear.
Asbestos Management Assurance Process
The results of the asbestos management assurance process will be published in spring next year. Seventy-seven per cent. of schools have responded so far, but we expect all state-funded schools and academies to participate, so we have reopened the assurance process from today until February 2019 to give them a further opportunity to do so.
The problem with publishing this long-awaited information in the spring is that that is likely to be too late to properly influence the spending review. Given that 85% of schools have asbestos and the risks are getting greater as those buildings age, will the Minister make a serious commitment to providing the funding to schools to tackle that asbestos? Otherwise, there is no real incentive for them to come up with a plan, given the pinch on their budgets.
So far, 17,000 state-funded schools have responded to the survey; of those, 68% were assured by the appropriate responsible body. Since 2015, we have allocated £5.6 billion to those responsible for school building for essential maintenance, including removing or encapsulating asbestos when that is the safest course of action. In addition, through the £4.4 billion priority school building programme, we are rebuilding or refurbishing buildings in the worst condition, and asbestos is a factor in choosing which schools to rebuild.
In the Budget, the Government invested more than £1 billion of new funding for the Department for Education, including £695 million to improve the number and quality of apprenticeships, £400 million capital for schools, £100 million for the national retraining scheme and £84 million to improve children’s social care.
The Secretary of State makes reference to all sorts of streams except revenue funding, so will he confirm that the Budget offered no additional revenue funding for schools and that means that, in real terms, per pupil funding will fall yet again next year, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found?
No, Mr Speaker. Of course revenue funding is determined periodically at spending reviews. Since the last spending review, we have found an additional £1.3 billion to hold per pupil real terms funding constant on a nationwide level.
Does the Secretary of State agree that it is not just the total amount of funding, but where and how it is spent? The implementation of the fairer funding formula is certainly welcome in Worcestershire.
Yes, my hon. Friend is right. Through the national funding formula—the fairer formula—we are taking on something that successive Governments have dodged to make sure that funding is based on need and the characteristics of pupils, rather than accidents of history.
No wonder the Secretary of State has been slapped down by his own stats watchdog four times since he took office. The IFS found that per pupil funding is hundreds of pounds lower in real terms than it was in 2015 and is set to fall again next year without new funding, so I ask him again: will he be asking the Chancellor to reverse all his cuts in full and in real terms?
I have not been slapped down four times by anybody, to the best of my recollection. I appreciate the difficulties in managing school budgets, and I appreciate that those budgets are tight, but it is also true that we spend a great deal more on schools than we used to and that, by international standards, on multiple measures, we spend a relatively high amount on state education in this country.
I am really pleased that the Secretary of State has since clarified that the Chancellor’s “little extras” should in fact be called “small additional capital projects”. Perhaps he can also clarify that school capital spending has already been cut by nearly £4 billion a year. So the Budget offered very little and no extra. Now that the Prime Minister has promised austerity is over, will the Secretary of State ask the Chancellor to fully restore the education capital budget in real terms?
We are investing a great deal of capital both on expanding the school estate to create more high-quality places and in terms of its condition. The £400 million for additional small capital projects is on top of the £1.4 billion already allocated.
Maintained Nursery School Funding
Thank you, Mr Speaker—I will clear my throat. Maintained nursery schools support some of our most disadvantaged children, and they do experience higher costs than other providers. We will therefore be providing local authorities with supplementary funding of about £60 million a year up to 2020.
With the two-year transitional funding ending soon and the comprehensive spending review not expected until the summer, maintained nursery schools in my constituency are desperately struggling to plan and budget for the future. Until secure and sustainable funding arrangements are put in place, will the Minister at least commit to further additional transitional funding to protect maintained nurseries across England?
The early years national funding formula for Greenwich has increased from £4.86 in 2016-17 to a provisional £6.17 in 2018-19. On top of this, in 2018-19, Greenwich will receive about £690,000 for its three maintained nurseries. My message to all local authorities is: do not do anything premature but wait for the spending review.
We have made excellent progress and recently reached a significant milestone when we launched the procurement for the development of the first three T-levels for 2020. We are working closely with the selected providers that will deliver them from 2020, including several in the midlands, to make sure they have the right support in place.
I very much welcome the introduction of T-levels. What funding and resources will be provided, particularly for facilities and other resources required to deliver T-levels successfully?
Over time, we are committing hundreds of millions of pounds in additional resourcing for T-levels. My hon. Friend is right to identify facilities and equipment, which is why we have committed £38 million in the first tranche of capital funding to support the initial roll-out.
Ofsted: Inspection of Outstanding Schools
We are considering the Public Account Committee’s recent recommendation that we review the exemption and will respond formally in December. Ofsted assesses the risks in all schools, including outstanding schools, and has the power to inspect any school if it has concerns.
What confidence can parents in my constituency and others have in the Minister’s claim that 86% of schools are either outstanding or good when many have not been inspected for six years and some for as long as 11?
Ofsted assesses the triggers that will cause an inspection to happen even where a school is judged as outstanding and exempt from inspection—for example, if a school’s results fall, complaints are received from parents or there are safeguarding concerns. All those are triggers that will cause an inspection to happen even in an outstanding school. The hon. Gentleman can be confident, therefore, that a school that is judged good or outstanding is good or outstanding.
My Department continues its work to ensure that young people get the best start in life whatever their background. We are widening opportunity with our school reforms, reinforced through new programmes such as Opportunity North East; in the latest Budget, funding was provided for T-levels and apprenticeships to improve the quality of our technical education, so that we can rival productivity leaders such as Germany; and last week, our consultation on relationships, sex and health education closed with over 11,000 responses. These new subjects can help young people growing up in an ever more complex world.
I was pleased to see the Secretary of State arguing in the media recently for education funding to be a special case. Perhaps it was a shame that that came a week after the Budget rather than before it but, given that the Secretary of State recognises the very tight constraints on school budgets, does he share my regret, and the regret of many other people, about the phraseology used by the Chancellor when he talked of “little extras”?
I think it was a good thing that we were able to find hundreds of millions of pounds— £400 million—for additional capital spending in-year, on top of the £1.4 billion in capital already allocated.
The law is clear: only children who are suffering, or at risk of suffering, significant harm receive child protection interventions. When it comes to support for children and families with wider needs, the statutory safeguarding guidance is also clear: local authorities should make a range of services available, including early help.
Looked-after children in secure accommodation have been subjected to more than 30,000 hours in solitary confinement over the past five years, in some cases for up to 23 hours a day. Leading medical experts have called for the Government to cease the practice immediately. Will the new secure academy schools be adopting it, and why is the Minister allowing such a contravention of children’s human rights to continue apace?
The hon. Lady has raised an important issue, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has also sought to address, and of which there has been some media coverage. Looked-after children are our responsibility: we are, ultimately, their parents. This is wrong, and should not be happening.
The hon. Gentleman has raised very important points about a subject in which he has considerable expertise. This is one of the reasons that we asked Edward Timpson to conduct a thorough review of exclusions policy. It is done better in some places than others, and it is important for us to learn from that. It is also important that, when children are excluded, alternative provision should be the start of something positive and new, rather than the end of positive education.
My hon. Friend has raised an important point. In 2017, approximately 91 state-maintained schools entered students for Chinese GCSE. There were 3,654 GCSE entries in that year, and 2,800 A-level entries in 2018. Maintained secondary schools must teach a foreign language at key stage 3, and we fund 64 schools for the Mandarin excellence programme, which is intended to put 5,000 students on track towards becoming fluent in Mandarin.
Matters relating to our university lecturers and staff and how they are paid are matters for universities, as they are autonomous institutions. As for the new pension arrangements and their potential impact on universities, there will be a consultation to which they can contribute.
My hon. Friend is right to point out that we made a decisive and historic move towards fairer funding by introducing the national funding formula—something avoided by previous Governments. That was backed by an extra £1.3 billion, in addition to the money allocated at the 2015 spending review. Staffordshire will gain 3.2% per pupil for its schools by 2019-20, compared with 2017-18 funding levels.
All schools need to be safe and disciplined environments in which pupils feel happy and able to fulfil their potential. We continue to work with the Home Office to consider how best to get the message of its serious violence strategy into schools, and we have ensured that its #knifefree anti-knife campaign has been disseminated to all schools in England.
The second Bercow report, “Ten Years On”, highlights that there is a very strong correlation between poor speech, language and communication skills, and children who are excluded from schools. Tackling this issue early on can make an enormous difference to children’s life chances. Does my right hon. Friend agree that focusing on this area in the early years is more important than ever, and can he assure us that we can still deliver these services given the pressures on many local authorities that provide these services?
I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of early language and literacy. I have set an ambition that we halve, from 28% to 14%, the percentage of children who reach the end of reception year without the level that they require to get the most out of primary school. This is one of the reasons that we are investing so much in the early years, including the two-year-old offer, which was not available under any previous Government, but we need to go further and we will have more to say in due course.
I am afraid to disappoint the hon. Gentleman; as I said in my earlier answer, I cannot comment on leaks of a review that has not been published, and my answer has not changed.
Every year, we rightly celebrate the achievement of students getting their A-level results. Will the Secretary of State set out a plan to bring forward a similar celebration for young people and their achievements in vocational qualifications as well?
I thank my right hon. Friend for that question. She is absolutely right that a lot of coverage is given to A-level and GCSE results, and that very little is given to all the other vocational qualifications. We must ensure that we do everything to encourage the media to do more to highlight those achievements as well.
I echo the Secretary of State’s words; he has put on the record that every school should be a special educational needs and disability school. Investment in SEND has risen by £1 billion since 2013 to £6 billion. We have opened 34 new special free schools and 55 special free schools are due to open. In July, we gave local authorities the opportunity to bid for new special alternative provision schools in their areas.
Sixty-four per cent. of maintained nursery schools are in deprived areas, such as Sandbank in my constituency. Will the Minister give special consideration to this fact when deciding future funding?
We will certainly give that point special consideration. We are working with the sector to look at the additional value that it provides, and I thank all local authorities who are helping us with the work to look at the economic model before the SR.
There was not a single penny in the Budget for further education—a sector that has lost a quarter of its funding since 2010. What does the Minister say to Greenhead College, which serves my constituency and has written to me to say that it fears it will not be able to provide the education that our young people deserve if cuts continue?
We have protected the base rate of funding for FE colleges. I have said before that we are looking at the resilience of the sector. I would be happy for the college to contact me, so that we can discuss what steps might be taken. The strategic college improvement fund and a number of other funds are available to help colleges to improve.
We have excellent academy schools in Bromley, but we have been badly let down by the failings, unveiled by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, in the Education for the 21st Century trust. Will my right hon. Friend meet me urgently to discuss the findings of the ESFA report, and in particular the extraordinary circumstances where the chief executive who presided over and profited from these failures has been allowed to remain in post as headteacher of one of the largest schools?
Where there are issues and where problems emerge, we must act on them quickly. I should say that the vast majority of academies and multi-academy trusts have been a great force for good in our education, but of course I would be happy, as always, to meet my hon. Friend.
Can the Secretary of State explain why York has the worst funded schools in the country, why Westfield Primary Community School and Tang Hall Primary School have had the greatest cuts and yet are in the most economically and socially deprived areas of my constituency, and why York therefore has the highest attainment gap in the country?
The national funding formula introduces a fairer system, so that every pupil in every part of the country is funded on the same basis. A child in York with special educational needs, with low prior attainment or from a disadvantaged background will receive precisely the same amount of money as a similar pupil elsewhere in the country.
Was the Minister as concerned as I was when Warwickshire County Council recently brought forward a strategy document stating that dyslexia would not constitute a special educational need? Is he as pleased as I am that that document has now been withdrawn?
Yes, I am.
Does the Secretary of State share my concern and that of Members across the House that The Observer identified a £195 million overspend by councils on high needs in the last year? Will he actually respond to my request that he agreed to in the summer to meet me to discuss special educational needs and problems in Derbyshire?
We recognise that local authorities are facing cost pressures on high needs, and I assure the hon. Lady that we are monitoring the impact of our high needs national funding formula on local authority spending decisions. We are also keeping our overall level of funding under review in the context of the next spending review.
Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating our schools, rather than running them down, on the excellent work they did around Remembrance Day parades this weekend? Across the country, schools did fantastic exhibitions. I do not know about other Members, but I saw more children on Remembrance Day parades this year than I have ever seen before, and I am sure that that has a lot to do with the schools.
I concur entirely with my right hon. Friend. Many schools have used the centenary as an opportunity for learning across a whole range of aspects connected to the first world war, but particularly Remembrance Sunday. The powerful and evocative commemorations that many schools have taken part in is a great example to us all.
Stop and Search
(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department to make a statement on proposed changes to police stop-and-search powers.
The Government fully support the police in using their stop-and-search powers when they have lawful grounds to do so. This is a vital policing tool when used correctly. We will always ensure that police have the necessary powers to keep people safe, and that is why we work very closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to keep under review the stop-and-search powers that the police need to help keep the public safe. This House should be clear that we have no plans to change the requirement that reasonable grounds for suspicion are needed before a routine stop and search is carried out.
We are, however, working with the police, including the national police lead for stop and search, to see how we can reduce bureaucracy and increase efficiency in the use of stop and search. The Home Secretary has been clear that that is something we are looking at, and that he will say more on this in due course.
The House will be aware that the Government introduced a comprehensive reform package for stop and search in 2014 in response to evidence that the power was not used fairly, effectively or, in some cases, lawfully. Since introducing those reforms, the arrest rate following a stop and search has risen to 17%—the highest since records began. As the Home Secretary has said, he wants police officers to feel confident, trusted and supported when they are using stop-and-search powers lawfully. If there are things getting in the way of them using those powers, these need to be looked at.
The Government are determined to do all they can to break the deadly and dreadful cycle of violence that devastates the lives of individuals, families and communities. That is why we will always look to ensure that the police have the powers they need and our support to use them lawfully.
We have all read the reports that suggest that the Home Secretary is pressing for greater use of stop-and-search powers and amending the grounds of reasonable suspicion that currently govern stop and search. Does the Minister agree that that is, in effect, a move to random stop and search not based on evidence? [Hon. Members: “No!”] Okay. Is the Minister aware that the current policy, which he wants to remove, was introduced by one of the Home Secretary’s predecessors, who is now Prime Minister, and that she made that reform of police stop-and-search powers based on evidence, not on chasing easy headlines? Has the Home Secretary bothered to examine that evidence?
The use of the stop-and-search scheme was announced by the then Home Secretary in a statement to Parliament on 30 April 2014. She stated that the principal aims of the scheme were to achieve greater transparency and community involvement in the use of stop-and-search powers, and to support a more intelligence-led approach, leading to better outcomes.
Is the Home Secretary aware of the very poor outcomes of the previous implementation of stop and search, and that the Home Office itself and the College of Policing, as well as Her Majesty’s inspector of constabulary, found that there were only 9% or 10% arrest rates from random stop and search? Does the Minister accept that this was a colossal waste of police resources? As a former police officer, I can tell him that that is the case. Is he aware that, according to his Department’s own research, black people are eight times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched, and Asian people are twice as likely?
Finally, intelligence-led stop and search does work. It is an important tool in the police arsenal. I am in favour of it. The Labour party is in favour of it. Random stop and search does not work, and the Minister has no evidence that it will. We do know, however, that it can poison community-police relations. Is he not trying to distract from the fact that knife crime is soaring under his Government, while they have cut 21,000 police officers?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his questions. Unfortunately, this all starts from a false premise, which is newspaper speculation that is entirely wrong. I go back to my statement: this House should be clear that we have no plans to change the requirement that reasonable grounds for suspicion are needed before a routine stop and search is carried out. We are not going back to random stop and search, to use his words.
The hon. Gentleman set out eloquently the case for reform that this Government made on stop and search, which means that stop and search is now conducted in a totally transformed environment in terms of the transparency and accountability around it. We are now at record levels for the ratio between stop and arrest, so we are not going back to the bad old days when over 1.4 million people were stopped with only 8% or 9% of them arrested. That is not what this is about. This is about recognising that we now have a million fewer stops and searches than we did in 2009-10, and that we are—I think on a cross-party basis—absolutely determined to bear down on this horrendous spike in violent crime. We need to be sure that the police have the confidence to use the tools at their disposal, and stop and search is one of those tools. There is evidence that the police have lost some confidence in using it, and what the Home Secretary is setting out in his interviews and articles is his determination to restore that confidence and give the police confidence in the powers that they have. We can look at ways of reducing the bureaucracy and anything else that is getting in the way of that, but this is about trying to save lives.
I accept fully that the previous way in which stop and search was used was often too random, but there is no question but that it should play a part in the reduction of violence and the use of drugs in some areas. There has been a large increase in gang warfare and the use of guns and pistols in areas such as mine, where many of the people who are moving weapons and drugs around know that they can, for the most part, do so with impunity because they are unlikely to be stopped and searched. We therefore need to get the police to apply the process much better, so that we make it clear to those people moving guns and weapons around that there is a high likelihood of their being stopped and searched.
I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend, who speaks with a great deal of experience from his constituency and with passion and expertise in this area. Stop and search is one tool in a box that has to combine robust police law enforcement with superb prevention and early intervention work in the community, as he knows. The evidence is that although the police have improved their practice, as is reflected in improved arrest outcomes, they have lost some confidence in using the stop-and-search tool. The Home Secretary is saying that we as a Government want to send a signal that we expect the police to use these powers lawfully and in an intelligence-led, targeted way. There is no room for stopping anyone on the basis of race or ethnicity. This is about sending a message to the communities about the increased risk of getting caught.
As in England at present, the police in Scotland can stop and search only when they have reasonable grounds to do so. Violent crime in Scotland is down 44% since 2007-08, and offensive weapons offences have been reduced by almost two thirds. However, my colleagues in the Scottish Government accept that there is no room for complacency. In Scotland, treating knife crime as a public health issue is widely recognised as having been highly effective. Can the Minister confirm that his Department is looking carefully at the lessons to be learned from Scotland? Can he also tell us when the Offensive Weapons Bill will come back to the Floor of the House?
I can certainly say to the hon. and learned Lady that there is a great deal to learn from Glasgow, as there was from London 10 years ago and as there has been from Boston, Cincinnati and other places that have borne down successfully on violence. The key lesson is about the balance between robust law enforcement and good prevention, and about the multi-agency public health approach, which is exactly what we are doing through the serious violence taskforce. That is exactly what is happening in London now. It is this effective partnership between all stakeholders, including in health and education, who are involved in tackling the drivers of serious violence that will ultimately lead to success.
As the Policing Minister, I was part of the implementation to ensure that no matter what colour someone was, or what race or religion they were, they would not be disproportionately stopped and searched. I completely agreed with decision by the then Home Secretary, now the Prime Minister, on this. What worries me now is that, although the Home Secretary is saying the right things from the Dispatch Box and on the radio, if the police chiefs and the College of Policing do not make sure that this message filters down, there will continue to be fear among officers about doing intelligence-led stop and search. The best intelligence is the bobby who thinks he needs to do stop and search, and that is what we need to see more of.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his work on this ground-breaking reform. It was necessary, and it has had a powerful impact in terms of focusing the minds of the police on the right approach and the best use of stop and search. Almost all the forces are now signed up to the framework. However, he has highlighted the critical issue of confidence to use this tool on the frontline. I have heard, on patrol in Liverpool and elsewhere, that that lack of confidence exists, and that is what we now need to address. The powers are there, and we want the police to use them lawfully.
I am sorry to see that the hon. Member for Eltham appears to be experiencing some pain, but he is a brave fellow and I am sure he will bear up stoically and with fortitude. Let us hear what he has to say.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I have pulled a muscle in my back.
Intelligence-led policing starts at community level, so is it not therefore a shame that there was no money in the Budget to increase investment in community-led policing? They are the people who know who to stop and search at local level, and we need to see a return to effective local policing and more police in local neighbourhood teams.
I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman’s back pain. I fully understand the point he is making and he will have much support for those sentiments on the Benches behind me. There was new money in the Budget for counter-terrorism and for mental health services, which is extremely important for local policing. In terms of budgets for local forces, I ask him to have a little patience and wait for the police funding settlement in early December.
Having served on three operational tours in Northern Ireland, I can tell the Minister that stop and search was an effective weapon against the terrorist. It was so effective because we had soldiers on the street picking up intelligence, so that when patrols went out they knew exactly who was doing what. I support the request by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning) for more bobbies on the beat, to get the intelligence that we need to make stop and search far more effective.
I fully understand the point that my hon. Friend makes and he knows from our conversations that I have a lot of sympathy with it. The steps I took last year with the funding settlement have resulted in almost every single police force in England and Wales beginning to recruit again. I also welcome the steps taken by the police leadership to create a more consistent model of neighbourhood policing across the country. That is what the public we serve want to see, and—as I have said—I hope to take further steps in the 2019-20 funding settlement in early December.
I welcome the Minister’s clear statement that the Government will not remove the requirement of reasonable grounds for stop and search. The Minister talked about future reforms: can he make a commitment to the House today that any reforms will be based on evidence, and that that evidence will be published to the House?
I can certainly assure the right hon. Gentleman—and former colleague—that policy making in Government will, as ever, be evidence led. As and when we have taken decisions on what we would like to do, we will engage fully on that, including with Parliament.
One way to make more officers available for stop and search would be to bear down on bureaucracy in policing, especially in London. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern about the expansion of Mayor Khan’s Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime—MOPAC—from £36 million in its last year under my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) to £61 million today? That is a 70% increase in just two years on police bureaucracy, which would pay for 233 extra officers in London able to carry out stop and search.
As a fellow London MP, representing constituents in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, I have a personal view on this which I think is reflected by my constituents. Given a choice between £1 of their money being spent on more bureaucracy in the centre and £1 being spent on local police officers, we both know what their priority would be. It is for the Mayor and his office to explain to the public they serve their decisions and the allocation of their budgets at this time.
I was first stopped and searched in the wake of the Scarman report aged 12, and it was so scary that I wet myself. We got to a place where the Home Office did a review that found there was no discernible, significant decrease in crime with the use of stop and search, and the current Prime Minister reached a cross-party consensus on the issue in the House. I caution the Minister against his party breaking that consensus, which would damage relations with Britain’s ethnic minorities once again. It is finding the drug dealers and gangsters, and dealing with cocaine, that will reduce the knife crime on our streets, as the Minister knows. Why have we cut the Border Force and what are we doing about the drug market in this country?
I understand where the right hon. Gentleman’s passion comes from. I have a great deal of respect for his passion, and I also have a great deal of respect for the fact that he has stood up and offered to serve on the serious violence taskforce because of his passion and his insight into the problem and the drivers that underlie it, not least the drugs market. He and I have sat in on presentations on the subject.
To give some reassurance, I meant what I said at the Dispatch Box. There is no appetite or desire to go back to the bad old days of stop and search, but we have gone from a situation where over 1.4 million people were stopped in 2009-10 to one where 1 million fewer people were stopped last year. In the context of the problem we face—this scourge, this terrible spike in serious violence—we have to make sure that all the tools in the box are being used.
The reality is that stop and search is an effective tool. I will give one brief example. In one week in January, during Operation Engulf, 27 people were arrested outside Stratford station, and 10 highly offensive, dangerous, scary weapons were seized. Stop and search has its place, but it must be used lawfully and it must be targeted. Nothing about the Government’s approach to the reform has changed.
It is vital that stop and search is intelligence-led, but I think the Minister agrees that the nature of the current funding formula curtails the ability of some forces to be intelligence-led. Will he do what he can when it comes to December to make sure that the funding formula is fairer and that we can have fair stop and search across this country?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his ingenuity in introducing the fair funding formula into an urgent question on stop and search. The short answer to his question is yes.
I thank the Minister for confirming, or clarifying, that the Government have no plan to remove reasonable grounds for stop and search. However, I find it difficult to believe what he says that the police feel less confident about stop and search; the information I have is that they feel more confident because of body-worn cameras. What more will he do to reduce the negative impact of stop and search on young people, especially where they feel shame or embarrassment that they are perceived to be criminals? What more is he doing to build trust between the community and the police?
The hon. Lady raises an extremely important point, and I thank her for mentioning body-worn cameras, which are a game changer in transparently managing the context of a stop and search. We are now on track for 80,000-odd of these body-worn cameras to be deployed across the country, which underpins our confidence in encouraging the police to do more stop and search in a legal, targeted way.
The hon. Lady talks about trust, and it is incumbent on the police, and on the police and crime commissioners, to be highly proactive in engaging with communities, particularly after a section 60 notice, in explaining the reasons for the section 60 notice and its consequences. People need to understand the motivation for a section 60 notice or for the deployment of stop and search, and they need to see how that connects with the results. People want to see action against violent crime, but they need the evidence that stop and search is contributing.
Most knife crime in provincial towns is predicated on organised crime gangs running drugs from city areas by involving young people and making them carry knives. What more can my right hon. Friend do about the organised crime gangs that are running drugs along county lines? What is he doing to try to steer young people away from getting involved in this activity and potentially committing these offences?
My hon. Friend raises an incredibly important point, because county lines are rapidly emerging as a scourge of many market towns and areas that have absolutely no history of this crime. It is deeply unsettling for people so, through him, I reassure the public that the Government take it extremely seriously. There is more money going in to support the police in better co-ordinating their efforts, because crime that crosses borders is a challenge.
There is also considerable effort going in to try to target, identify, steer and protect vulnerable people, particularly vulnerable young people, from getting caught up in this activity. A combination of robust policing and really good prevention and early intervention work will hopefully protect these youngsters and stop this crime.
Greater Manchester police have stated that they have no numeric targets for stop and search or for an overall crime reduction that could be attributed to stop and search, because they believe that such targets, if they existed, could distort officer behaviour. Does the Minister agree? Will he confirm that perceived concerns about a reduced use of stop and search will not lead to a focus on quantity over quality in the future?
The hon. Lady makes an important point. One of the most important things we did as a Government, and the then Home Secretary—now Prime Minister—did, was to scrap a lot of targets, because she knows, with her experience, that targets can distort behaviour. There is no interest among Government Members in this being a numbers game; we are responding to some evidence that the police have lost some confidence in stop and search. We want them to feel that confidence, not least with the advent and prevalence of body-worn video. We want them to use their existing powers and to continue to use them lawfully.
It may have been intelligence-led when I was recently stopped and searched outside 1 Parliament Street, but I do not complain—I want to see more use of it made. But that does imply more police officers to do it, does it not?
I cannot comment on what intelligence the police had that led them to that decision—obviously they got the memo! My right hon. Friend’s main point is right, and I have made it clear from the Dispatch Box that, as we approach the end of austerity, this Government are determined to make sure that our police system has the resources needed. That is why we took the steps last year that have resulted in an additional £460 million of public investment in our police system and almost every police force in the country recruiting again.
I am not being flippant when I say that people with my accent understand sensitivities relating to the use of police powers, but our chief constable and police and crime commissioner on Merseyside tell me that stop and search is a vital tool to combat serious crime. Its use by police officers has increased on Merseyside. Does the Minister agree that if it is intelligence-led, community-focused and proportionate, it should be encouraged, not least to combat knife crime in places such as St Helens?
I do, and the hon. Gentleman is echoing exactly the argument I have made at this Dispatch Box. Stop and search is a vital tool and we want to see it used; we continue to want to see it used lawfully, in a targeted, intelligence-led way, but we want to see it used.
Will my right hon. Friend remind the House as to which community’s members are predominantly the victims of the violent crime that these measures are designed to address?
My hon. Friend makes and important point, one that has been echoed by people such as Trevor Phillips. It is clear to us—I speak as a London MP—that the tragic faces staring at us out of the pages of London’s Evening Standard are almost overwhelmingly those of young black boys.
Surely the Minister must recognise that the only way we are going to deal adequately with violent crime, particularly in the west midlands, is by having an adequate number of police. We have lost 3,000 policemen over the past two or three years, and surely they have to be restored. More importantly, the police rely on intelligence, which is why we need more community policemen, as that is the best way to deal with crime.
Last year’s funding settlement did put more money into west midlands policing, and it was a settlement the hon. Gentleman voted against. I will be coming to the House in early December with our plans for 2019-20. He is right about the need for a robust law enforcement response to this scourge of serious violence on our streets, but it also needs to be balanced, as I am sure he knows, with excellent work on prevention and early intervention. This Government have committed almost a quarter of a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money to that prevention and intervention work in communities up and down the country. It is that balance that will give us the success we all want.
When out on patrol with my local police, I have seen how the reasonable use of stop and search helps them to target drugs and disrupt the gangs, and has led to a drop in serious harmful violence, so I fully support it. Will the Minister look again at extending the powers so that “smelling cannabis” could be reasonable grounds for a stop and search?
My hon. Friend is a great champion of her local police, so it is no surprise that she has been out with them, and I know that she welcomes the fact that they are currently recruiting 150-odd officers. Our consultation on the extension of stop-and-search powers in relation to corrosive substances, drones and laser pens has just finished. I will take on board my hon. Friend’s point about cannabis.
The Minister said that a million fewer people are stopped and searched than in 2010 and that the success rate then was around 10%. What are the results under the new regime—are we getting more convictions?
Yes. The number of stops and searches has fallen and the proportion of them that result in arrest has risen from around 9% to 17%.
Nobody wants to go back to the old stop and search, which was deemed racist, but there have been 259 knife deaths in the country so far this year, and there were recently five in London over a nine-day period. Whatever our policy is now, it is clearly not working.
My hon. Friend is entirely right that the losses are terrible and the statistics are awful and unacceptable to us. We have been here before, 10 years ago, in London. We beat it then and we will beat it again, through the combination of robust policing and really effective prevention and early intervention. The robust policing will change the numbers in the short term and the prevention and early-intervention work will change the numbers in the long term. Everything we have learned from London, Glasgow, Boston and Cincinnati tells us that it is that combination that works, so we will stick to that plan.
In Walsall, four people were stabbed and killed in a 12-month period. Does my right hon. Friend agree that stop and search is an essential tool for the police tackling this heinous crime?
It is a vital tool. It leads to arrests and the seizure of weapons and it reduces the risk of violence, crime and death. It is a vital tool in our police’s armoury, yet all the evidence suggests that although the reform has clearly delivered an improvement in terms of the arrest ratio and stop and search’s integrity, numbers have fallen to a low level. The Government would like to see the increased use of stop and search, while making sure that it remains lawful, legal, targeted and intelligence led.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the issue is about not only what the police do but educating our young people? In my constituency, we have an excellent charity called Stand Against Violence that goes into schools to deliver workshops and education to young people on how to deal with these issues and prevent crime. Will the Minister meet me to learn about the charity’s work, because there are definitely lessons to learn?
As a former Minister for Civil Society, I am absolutely persuaded about the critical role that the voluntary sector is going to play in the battle against violent crime. I am more than happy to meet my hon. Friend and stand against violence. Public money is available to support organisations that intervene to prevent and divert young people from crime. In fact, just this weekend we announced £18 million of funding for organisations up and down the country to do just that.
I agree with the Minister that the use of body-worn cameras can significantly increase public confidence in stop and search and other police activities. How extensive are the plans for the roll-out of body-worn cameras?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend that the use of body-worn cameras is a game-changer. When I talk to police officers, they tell me that it absolutely changes their levels of confidence in being in those situations. It is also, of course, of huge benefit to the people the police stop, search and question. It changes the dynamic of the conversation. The most recent figures I saw showed that 65,000 cameras had been deployed across 41 forces, and from memory I think we are on track to get to 80,000 in short order. We are proud to have supported that.
As someone who, in the past, has stopped and searched suspects when serving as a special constable, may I say to the police Minister that the reasonable grounds available to police officers are enhanced by the deployment of drug-sniffer dogs and knife arches? Can we have more of both, please?
May I, through you, Mr Speaker, congratulate my hon. Friend on his service and experience? We are absolutely determined to make sure that the police have the resources and the powers that they need. The Home Secretary keeps this matter under constant review, and I am sure that he will take his comments extremely seriously.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) ever stopped and searched his own constituents. Further and better particulars on that important matter should be vouchsafed to the House at an appropriate time. It is always good to be reminded of his service as a special constable as well as a member of the Kettering Borough Council.
Nuclear Power: Toshiba
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy if he will make a statement on Toshiba’s decision to withdraw from the development of a nuclear power plant at Moorside in Cumbria.
At its board meeting last Thursday, the Japanese company Toshiba confirmed that it proposed to wind up its subsidiary NuGen following an earlier decision to exit the overseas nuclear power business. This followed the well known financial difficulties of Toshiba’s US subsidiary, Westinghouse. Following that, Toshiba considered the sale of NuGen, but, having failed to agree terms, the Toshiba board decided that the company will instead be wound up. I met board members of Toshiba in Tokyo on Wednesday, and they confirmed that the board’s decision was a commercial one. The decision is ultimately a matter for Toshiba and we fully understand the challenging circumstances that that company has faced over the past 18 months.
The Moorside site in west Cumbria is owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the land will revert to the NDA. It remains a potential site for nuclear new build and the NDA will consider a range of options for its future. The Government are fully committed to new nuclear being part of a diverse supply of energy. The EDF-led Hinkley Point C is under construction and future potential projects include Wylfa, Sizewell C, Bradwell and Oldbury. All projects are developer-led and can proceed if, and only if, they satisfy the most stringent safety and regulatory approvals process and if, at the point of a contract being issued, they demonstrate value for money compared with alternative sources of electricity generation available at the time.
I recognise that last week’s announcement will be a disappointing but not an unexpected one to the people of west Cumbria. One thing is certain: west Cumbria will continue to be a centre for excellence in civil nuclear. It is of huge strategic importance to the UK and a source of large numbers of highly skilled and well-paid jobs and will be for many decades to come.
And so the people of Cumbria are thrown under a bus. I thank the Secretary of State for that statement, but I have to say that it is extraordinary that he has had to be dragged to the Chamber to make it rather than offering it proactively on a project that will affect up to 21,000 jobs in the constituency of the hon. Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison) and many, many in my constituency and across Cumbria.
In his initial statement, the Secretary of State did not even commit to a new civil nuclear power plant in the Cumbrian area. It is just not good enough. It is not good enough for the Government to hide behind the idea that this is simply a commercial decision, because he knows that if the Government had offered terms to NuGen, to Kepco, to Toshiba that were on a par with those that they have offered on other sites in the country, this deal could have been salvaged.
I would like to hear from the Secretary of State this afternoon. Surely this is not the end. Will he commit to working with the people of Cumbria, their MPs, their council, and their local enterprise partnership to salvage the prospect of new civil nuclear in Cumbria? Does he recognise the hole that losing Moorside will create for the UK’s ability to generate low-carbon energy, and does he see the potentially irreversible decline in absolutely essential nuclear skills in Cumbria for the nation if civil nuclear is not allowed to go ahead on the site?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. I know that the nuclear industry is very important to his constituents, as it is to those of my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison).
The hon. Gentleman knows that no one is more committed than I am to the future of nuclear power in this country. It is this Government who have revived nuclear power following more than 25 years in which no new nuclear power station was inaugurated. He knows that the approach that we have taken to new nuclear power stations is that they should be developer-led. That has always been the case since the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey) was Secretary of State and established this approach and this policy.
The hon. Gentleman knows very well, because he talks to the executives himself, that the problems that Toshiba has encountered during the past 18 months, since the entry into chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings of its Westinghouse subsidiary, have made for a fundamental review of its strategy. It has decided, for commercial reasons, which the board of Toshiba told me, in person, on Wednesday, that it wants to concentrate on its activities away from international nuclear. The announcement is a consequence of that. Obviously, it is not possible to enter into negotiations with a counter-party that is exiting the business and does not have the financial opportunity to be able to take on this project. That has been clear, as he knows, for some time.
I was certainly very clear in my response to the hon. Gentleman that I regard the site, when it returns to the NDA, as available for further projects, and I will work very closely with those in the industry, including his predecessor. Of course I will meet the hon. Gentleman, my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland, and other people who take the same interest that I do in the future of nuclear in this country, and particularly in west Cumbria.
Will the Secretary of State reassure my community that this Government do back nuclear through the nuclear sector deal, that he recognises the strategic importance of nuclear to meet our energy and our environmental requirements, and that he values the highly skilled workforce in my constituency and, indeed, across Cumbria, who stand ready to design, build, commission and operate Moorside in Copeland?
I pay tribute to the workforce and the community that my hon. Friend represents, and indeed to her leadership and her advocacy for the case for recognising the strategic importance of that, as well as to that of her neighbouring MPs. I enjoyed spending time with her during the summer visiting Sellafield, as I have done before, and in particular looking at the opportunities in the supply chain for new nuclear, in which Cumbria has clearly a lot to offer, given not just the heritage but the actuality of the skills there.
We continue our programme of new nuclear builds; it is important that they should be developer-led. As I said, there is a pipeline of proposed new projects, but it is important in every case that the regulatory conditions are met and that each proposal offers value for money. There is a very bright future for the highly skilled workforce in my hon. Friend’s constituency, now and in the future. Through the sector deal that was agreed enthusiastically between the industry, the Government and local partners, we are investing in the future, including in those skills.
Toshiba’s decision to withdraw from Moorside is a blow to the UK’s energy security, its decarbonisation goals, and the economy of Cumbria. But let us be clear where the real responsibility lies. The Cumbrian chamber of commerce, and the GMB and Prospect trade unions, among others, have all laid the blame with this Government for their lack of clarity over funding and their ultimate failure to take a direct stake in Moorside—something that Labour has repeatedly committed to do.
So, first, will the Secretary of State reaffirm a promise made to the people of Copeland during last year’s by-election when they were told that voting Conservative would ensure a new nuclear plant at Moorside, and will he describe his plan for salvaging the development? Secondly, Moorside was projected to provide about 7% of the UK’s electricity. If the Secretary of State cannot commit to the future of Moorside, can he describe the contingency plans the Government have in place to guarantee the UK’s energy security?
Thirdly, the electricity produced by Moorside would be low-carbon, which is key to meeting the UK’s future carbon budgets, so if the Secretary of State cannot commit to the future of Moorside, can he describe what additional measures the Government will take to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions? Finally, what contingency plans does the Secretary of State have in place for the economic development of west Cumbria, to which Moorside would have brought a reported 6,000 jobs in the construction phase and 1,000 permanent jobs thereafter?
I am rather surprised by the statement and questions of the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey). First, it is widely known that Toshiba has had to engage in a corporate restructuring because its major nuclear subsidiary, Westinghouse, had to enter bankruptcy proceedings. That is what has happened. When I met the board of Toshiba last week, it was clear that that was the reason it is retreating. That is the central fact and the reason it is moving out of NuGen.
The hon. Lady asked about the Government’s approach to new nuclear. The policy of this Government is clear: we are in favour of new nuclear as part of a diverse and low-carbon energy mix. We are the first Government for 25 years actually to deliver a new nuclear power station. As my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland mentioned, the sector deal we have struck with the industry has been very widely supported. For the first time, we are training a new generation of nuclear engineers through the nuclear apprenticeship programme. It is an important industry now, and it will be an important industry in the future.
One of the things I find when I talk to investors in the nuclear industry is some concern at the complete absence of a united policy on nuclear on behalf of the Labour party. We would think from hearing the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles that the Labour party was in favour of nuclear power, whereas the leader of her party, who I assume has some influence on policy, has said:
“I stand here as somebody who is passionately opposed to nuclear power and nuclear weapons in equal measure.”—[Official Report, 13 December 2011; Vol. 537, c. 699.]
The shadow Chancellor has said that he would end nuclear power
“in the first 100 days of a Labour Government”.
It is no wonder that the trade unions the hon. Lady refers to have said that her own party’s energy plans would not leave the lights on.
Our approach is to continue with the programme of nuclear new build that we have. It is subject to being developer-led and, as is strictly necessary, to the safety case being made in each example, as well as to establishing value for money. It is, after all, the taxpayers or consumers who pay the bills, and we will always have that in mind as we continue our programme.
The Secretary of State is a most cerebral fellow, and also unfailingly courteous, but there is a bit of pressure on time, so if he can zip through it, with that rapier-like brain of his, that would be greatly appreciated by the House.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we are to develop a nuclear industry with the skills and the supply chain necessary to deliver baseload electricity that is reliable and cost-effective, it really is essential to avoid the kind of long gaps in procurement—for example, between Sizewell B and Hinkley C—that we saw under Labour? Will he intensify his work to find a financing model that is equally attractive to our long-term funds as it could be to overseas investors?
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for his important work in re-establishing the civil nuclear industry in this country. He is absolutely right: it is not just investment gaps that cause problems; we lose the ability to train workers in that industry, and we are having to restart training nuclear engineers. In previous statements to this House, I have said that we have accepted the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee about looking at new models for financing new nuclear. It is right that we should do so, and in so doing we will proceed with deploying new nuclear power in this country.
The Secretary of State should indeed have come to the House with a statement on this matter, because it demonstrates clearly that nuclear plants are not economically viable. Will this failure finally lead the UK Government to realise that they must scrap plans to set up new plants for the declining, dangerous nuclear sector? Will the Secretary of State now commit to ruling out increased subsidies to other nuclear developments?
With the inevitable impact on the UK’s ability to meet its carbon reduction targets, does the Secretary of State regret his Government’s decision three years ago to cut investment in green technologies vastly, for ideological reasons, including the infamous betrayal of the £1 billion Peterhead carbon capture and storage project? The latest failure of nuclear is yet more evidence that renewables, growing cheaper and more reliable, are the future of low-carbon energy. Will the Secretary of State now finally properly commit to investing in renewables, including carbon capture and storage, to avoid falling even further behind the rest of the world?
There is no one more committed than I am to the role of renewables in decarbonising our electricity supply. In fact, I am proud that the UK has delivered the fastest rate of decarbonisation in the G20 in the last years. We have created more than 400,000 jobs —many of them in Scotland—in low-carbon businesses and the supply chain. Renewable capacity in this country has quadrupled since 2010, and 30% of our electricity comes from renewables. Our record on renewables stands comparison with that of anyone else in the world.
However, my belief is that we should have a mix of low-carbon energy sources, and it is important that we should have low-carbon power from nuclear as part of that mix. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not recognise and pay tribute to Scotland’s proud nuclear tradition. Many people are employed now, and have been employed in the past, in nuclear—at Chapelcross, Dounreay, Hunterston and Torness. The former leader of the hon. Gentleman’s party actually wrote to EDF to request and support the extension of the life of Hunterston and Torness well into the 2020s, so that they could continue to provide those jobs and that power. The hon. Gentleman talks a different game from his party’s correspondence.
From where I am standing, it appears the Government do not have a coherent energy policy, particularly with regard to nuclear, and that has clearly had an impact on the Cumbrian economy. Given what has happened at Moorside, what does the Minister intend to do to support the Cumbrian economy?
My hon. Friend is a great champion of the nuclear sector in Cumbria. It has a bright future. As he knows from the sector deal, there is investment in the supply chain and in reducing the cost of new nuclear, which will be essential if it is to compete with other sources of power. There are also great opportunities through decommissioning, not just in this country, but in selling expertise around the world. Cumbria is the centre of that expertise; it has a strong strategic role in our economy; and we will back it all the way.
We are now entirely reliant on foreign investment to support new nuclear build in our country. If businesses abandon their plans, as Toshiba has done, that will affect the generation of new electricity supply and the costs borne ultimately by consumers. What is the Government’s alternative plan if foreign investors do not support the new nuclear build we need in the UK?
I am grateful for the comments from the Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. She will know that it is only very recently that it has been possible to invest in new nuclear. The Labour Government she supported had no future new nuclear build programme. She will know from her visits to Sellafield and other nuclear installations that we are taking forward the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee, including at Wylfa in north Wales, to look, where we do have a counterparty with which we can negotiate, at new financial models, and it is right that we should do so. However, as the hon. Lady would expect, that depends on being able to demonstrate value for money for bill payers and taxpayers.
How likely is it that the Secretary of State will find an alternative developer for a nuclear project in Cumbria? If we do not, how will we generate the power we are missing?
We have a substantial pipeline of new energy projects, as a number of hon. Members have made clear. When it comes to the Moorside site in Cumbria, it was always available to developers to leave it. It will now revert to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. It will be open to developers to come forward to make proposals. However, whether with nuclear or other sources of clean power, we have a substantial pipeline of new projects coming forward to add to our energy supplies.
When I was doing the Secretary of State’s job, there were plenty of such setbacks and delays to new nuclear, and they really worried me. I was worried about how we would keep the lights on in the 2020s and 2030s, given that the forecasts were reliant on so much new nuclear, so I looked at contingencies, particularly tidal lagoon power. Will he now reverse his views on tidal lagoon power and look at it quickly, because it can provide the firm reliable power that new nuclear offers and be built much more quickly than a new nuclear power station?
The right hon. Gentleman is correct in noting that the scale of such projects means the companies proposing them need to have a plan that is financeable and, in this case, a source of technology that is available. I repeat what I said at the beginning, which is that the Westinghouse subsidiary of Toshiba went into chapter 11 bankruptcy. On the tidal lagoon project, I am in favour of diverse sources of energy—that is clear—but we have to recognise value for money for taxpayers and consumers. The Swansea tidal lagoon proposal was so far off being able to be financed that it was not value for money for either the taxpayer or bill payers.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that smaller nuclear reactors can be an innovative heart of the mix to provide the country’s future energy needs?
I do indeed. The sector deal to which I referred emphasises the role that small modular reactors can play, including on some sites of decommissioned nuclear power stations. That is an important area for the future.
This decision means that this country will be more dependent on co-operation with France and our European Union partnership. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is important we sustain that?
I think the hon. Gentleman knows very well that I think we should have a good trading relationship, including in energy, with the rest of the European Union, as we have had in recent years.
The UK is the home of civil nuclear technology. One reason for that is the thousands of very highly skilled apprenticeships the nuclear sector provides. What is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that that legacy continues, so we can continue to bring through very highly skilled well-paid jobs?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We have established the new nuclear college to ensure that the gap in skills, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir Michael Fallon) referred, can be filled. Apprentices are now being trained for the first time in new nuclear build—an important way our historical strength in new nuclear can be projected forward into the future.
I thank the Secretary of State. What consideration has been made of the wider impact of Toshiba’s decision on the UK nuclear industry and its supply chain? Does Toshiba’s decision put in doubt any other projects coming down the line?
I was very clear and Toshiba was very clear that there were particular circumstances relating to the financial difficulties of its Westinghouse subsidiary. All these projects are promoted by a particular investor. It has made a decision. It is one that I think was widely expected, given those financial difficulties, but it has no implications for any other promoter.
I understand that the shadow Chancellor said last year that he would end all nuclear power within 100 days of a Labour Government. Given that nuclear energy accounts for about 20% of our energy production, how would they keep the lights on?
This is the point the trade unions have made. The failure of the Labour party even to support the policy described at the Opposition Dispatch Box by the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey) concerns investors in new nuclear. In the past, we have been able to establish a common approach in this area so that investors can take a long-term approach with certainty. It would be helpful if we returned to that.
I thank the Secretary of State for his replies so far. Toshiba’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear plant leaves a clear gap in the energy market. It has been stated today that there will be a 7% deficit in energy provision as a result; how will that deficit be filled and by whom?
There will not be a deficit. We have a substantial—in fact, increasing—pipeline of new investment. One of the features of the energy industry in the UK is that we have not only a pipeline of proposed new nuclear power stations—as I said, they need to meet the value for money threshold—but a substantially increasing volume of investment in renewable energy coming from and reflecting the fact that the price of offshore renewables has halved in the past two years.
The northern powerhouse has just taken a huge dent to its power generation for the future. The Secretary of State knows how important those jobs would be to the north-west of England, including in the Ribble Valley, which I represent. Where Toshiba has failed, will his Department not re-energise its efforts to ensure that the nuclear experts that he relies on can work with embassies and high commissions throughout the world, where some of this expertise lies, to give at least some hope that, where Toshiba has now pulled out, somebody else can come in within a short time?
My officials and I, and my ministerial team, talk regularly to countries and companies across the world. When I was in Japan last week, I had discussions with Hitachi, which is actively engaged in negotiations on the Wylfa project. Now that Toshiba has taken its decision, for reasons that everyone understands, and I make no criticism of it—it has been very transparent in the reasons for this—that site is now available. Other developers will know that and be able to engage.
Despite losing £100 million on this venture, Toshiba’s share price went up when it pulled out, yet the Secretary of State stands there and tells us that nobody is more committed to nuclear than he is. It is quite obvious that renewables are the future, yet this Government are blocking onshore wind development in Scotland. They are looking at pulling the export tariff, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry) said, they have already pulled CCS funding. When will they provide proper investment in renewables and end this nuclear obsession?
The first part of the hon. Gentleman’s question makes my point for me. The reason that Toshiba took the decision that it did was to restore robustness to the financing of the company following the chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings that Westinghouse went into. It has grasped that nettle. On the deployment of renewables, he will know that when it comes, for example, to wind in the remote islands of Scotland, I made sure that we were able to take that opportunity, and as a result, investment is going into those communities. [Interruption.] He says that it is small, but the performance of offshore wind is creating jobs all around Scotland and the United Kingdom and is a reflection of the commitment that this Government have given to it.
This decision is not just about west Cumbria. Springfields nuclear fuel, which is based in my constituency and employs 1,200 people, was hoping to make the nuclear fuel for this plant, as the Secretary of State knows, because he visited it. What assurances can he give that workforce, and what measures are the Government taking to make sure that Springfields can make nuclear fuel for some of the other plants that he has outlined this afternoon?
Springfields is very successful and has an active programme of supplying the nuclear industry generally. It will be one of the beneficiaries of the fact that we have restarted the build programme for civil nuclear power in this country. My hon. Friend knows that I will work closely with it and him to make sure that it can bid into those projects when they mature.
The Secretary of State says that he is talking to other investors in UK nuclear. Will he name which alternative companies he and the Department have approached since Toshiba’s decision, and will he follow up on the exploration by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) of a positive intervention by CGN—China General Nuclear Power Group—to prevent the loss of skills, jobs and equities at Moorside?
We have regular discussions with investors in nuclear. The decision was taken only last Thursday and has some way to go to be implemented, but the hon. Gentleman has my assurance that prospective investors in this site and others will be able to talk, in the first instance, to the NDA, which owns the land, but are also free to discuss these matters with my officials.
The Secretary of State has championed the development of battery technologies, through the Faraday challenge, and his Department is also looking closely at demand response technologies. Can he say whether these renewables plus storage/flexibility options are quickly replacing the need for centralised thermal plant, and whether we should be looking at those options alongside the new nuclear programme as a priority for our future energy mix?
My view is that we should have a mix of energy sources. It is true that storage, and the progress being made in storage, plus renewables is increasing the possible contribution to our electricity generating system, but, as I say, we are always wise to have a diversity of sources, which is why nuclear has an important role to play.
When NuGen hands back the Moorside site to the NDA in January, will it be the taxpayer who pays for the clean-up, or—I hope— its preparation for a new tenant?
If my hon. Friend visits the Moorside site, he will see that it is pretty clean already. The site was available for development but has not had substantial work on it that would require any remediation.
As foreign energy companies look to develop new nuclear build around the world, with Her Majesty’s Government’s nuclear sector deal, how attractive is the UK electricity market compared to those of other countries?
It is an attractive market. That is one reason there is interest from several companies in the new nuclear opportunities available. Our market has always been open to overseas investment, and our commitments have attracted interest, not least in the next in the pipeline, which is Hitachi’s proposed investment in Wylfa in north Wales.
Small nuclear reactors have already been mentioned briefly today. May I invite the Secretary of State to go fractionally further than he did in his previous answer and say that when it comes to these smaller, cheaper, more efficient reactors, we should be looking not just at existing nuclear sites, but at other sites being decommissioned in the near future?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One of the advantages of small modular reactors is that they can be deployed in a wider range of locations than the larger traditional reactors, and that is part of the attraction recognised in the sector deal.
I have considerable sympathy for the Secretary of State’s position in this matter. Does he agree that Toshiba’s much-publicised problems in this area are not of his making and that had Toshiba been willing to keep open its troubled subsidiary on the basis of this one contract, he could have been accused of getting poor value for money for the taxpayer?
It is up to the company, as a commercial investor, to decide its future strategy. It has had a major financial problem as a result of the problems experienced by Westinghouse. We have always been clear that these projects need to be commercially backed, and Toshiba has taken a commercial decision to exit from overseas nuclear. That is a matter for it.
Appointment of Sir Roger Scruton
(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government if he will make a statement on the appointment of Sir Roger Scruton as the chair of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.
On 3 November I announced that I would convene a Building Better, Building Beautiful commission. The aim of the commission will be to champion beauty in the built environment, as an integral part of the drive to build the homes that our communities need.
Building more homes to address the housing shortage is one of the central challenges that we face as a country. As sources such as the British Social Attitudes Survey show us, most people now accept the need for new homes, but we must ensure that we are building homes in the right places, and homes of high quality, in order to gain the support of local people.
Part of making the housing market work for everyone is ensuring that what we build is built to last, and that it respects the integrity of our existing towns, villages and cities. That will become increasingly important as we look to create new settlements across the country, and invest in the infrastructure and technology needed to ensure that they are thriving and successful places. The commission will make practical recommendations for the Government to consider, to help to ensure that new developments meet the needs and expectations of communities, making them more likely to welcome rather than resist new development.
In the selection of commissioners, my priority is to assemble experts who can provide real expertise and challenge on design quality, and a commitment to building places that communities value and support. Professor Sir Roger Scruton is a global authority on aesthetics, and was knighted for services to philosophy, teaching and public education in 2016. He is one of the country’s leading living philosophers. His commitment to promoting beauty in the built environment is well known, and he has published extensively on the subject. He was an adviser on design to the coalition Government.
As this was an advisory appointment, due diligence checks were carried out and considered prior to Sir Roger Scruton’s selection as unpaid chair. With his experience and commitment to this important agenda, Sir Roger is the right person to chair the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.
Thank you for granting the urgent question, Mr Speaker.
Across the country and in the House, there have been considerable concerns about the appointment of Sir Roger Scruton, especially as his views have become more widely known. Can the Secretary of State confirm that, as part of the appointment process, he was made aware of Sir Roger’s previously expressed views? If he was, what consideration did he give to those views in relation to Sir Roger’s suitability for such an important post? If he was not, is he not just a bit embarrassed that due process was not followed?
What are you talking about?
Order. Mr Bacon, you are normally a most civilised and urbane fellow. I cannot imagine what has got into you. I know that you know all about building and houses, and that you can dilate on those matters with great eloquence and at any length specified. We will hear from you ere long—
Of course it is excellent—excellent for you and, no doubt, excellent for the House, excellent for Norfolk and excellent for the nation—but in the meantime, you should exercise just a degree of patience, and entertain the possibility that someone might express a view, legitimately, that differs from your own.
Will the Secretary of State tell us whether the Nolan principles apply to this post? Does he consider the views that Sir Roger has expressed to be appropriate for the post of chair of the commission? The primary focus of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission is to seek to address
“how new settlements can be developed with greater community consent”.
We support that aim, which is why we have launched our own planning commission, but communities are more than just bricks and mortar and planning processes. They are about people—people from diverse backgrounds —and good planning should foster good community cohesion.
When was the Secretary of State made aware of Sir Roger’s comment that homosexuality is “not normal”, and his comparison of homosexuality to incest? When was he aware that Sir Roger had complained that gay men have an obsession with the young? Will he now apologise to the LGBTQ+ community for appointing a man who holds those views?
When was the Secretary of State made aware of Sir Roger’s links to far-right organisations, and his propagation of their antisemitic conspiracy theories? Was he aware that his new chair spoke out against the disbanding of Vlaams Blok by Belgian courts after it was found to have incited racial discrimination, dismissing it as a conspiracy by the “liberal establishment”? Is that acceptable, in the Secretary of State’s view?
When was the Secretary of State made aware that Sir Roger heaped praise on Hungary’s Viktor Orbán at the height of his truly hateful, state-orchestrated, antisemitic campaign against George Soros, and that he stated in a lecture in Hungary that Jewish intelligentsia
“form part of the…Soros empire”?
We also know from reports in the Huffington Post today that Sir Roger Scruton spoke favourably of the National Front, calling it an “egalitarian” movement. Is this acceptable in the Secretary of State’s eyes?
Given this, is the Secretary of State still prepared to speak alongside Sir Roger at an event on Wednesday? If we are going to have a society that welcomes free speech, we should also hold those people to account for what they use this privilege to say. We should consider the views of the people who are left silent by the propagation of hateful rhetoric and views that should have no place in the 21st century, let alone be rewarded by a senior Government appointment.
I want the Secretary of State to confirm to this House that he has confidence in Sir Roger and the views that he holds, so that we can go forwards knowing that this Secretary of State thinks that these views are acceptable for the chair of this commission.
I have to say that it saddens me that someone who has done so much to champion freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of thought should be subject to the kind of misinformed, ill-judged and very personal attacks that we have seen over the last few days, some of which, sadly, the hon. Gentleman has just repeated. It is all because Sir Roger has agreed to chair a commission to advise the Government on beauty in the built environment—something that he is eminently qualified to do and that he has done in the past.
The hon. Gentleman made a number of points. I would say to him that Sir Roger Scruton is a leading expert on aesthetics, who was asked to take on an unpaid role as chair of a commission looking into beauty in the built environment. He is one of the most qualified people in this particular field, so I am pleased that he has accepted that role. As a public intellectual of renown and author of over 50 books, as well as countless articles and public lectures, Sir Roger is engaged in a variety of topics, often expressing—yes—strong and controversial views.
I am not going to repeat the word that the hon. Gentleman used and read it into the record, but I think he should consider his terms. As Sir Roger has made very clear, he has been offended and hurt by suggestions that he is in any way antisemitic or Islamophobic. Most of what has been reported is highly selective, taken completely out of context and distorted to paint an inaccurate picture. I do not have to agree with Sir Roger to acknowledge this, nor do I have to agree with his views on a number of different issues. However, we live in a free society where people can hold different opinions. I am proud that we do still live in a society where that remains possible.
I ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect further on some of the points he made. He made some points regarding Prime Minister Orbán’s regime. If, in fact, he read the speech that was given, he would see that Roger Scruton actually took a very firm line against antisemitism—quite the opposite of the situation that has been presented by the hon. Gentleman today. I continue to believe that Sir Roger is the right person to lead this important work.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s point about the need to take this work forward, but I hope that he will recognise the huge contribution that Sir Roger Scruton has made to public debate in so many different ways. This is about freedom of speech and freedom of expression, and although we do not necessarily agree with all that Sir Roger has to say, he is uniquely qualified to provide support to our work on the built environment and aesthetics. We should support him and get on with that job.
Now, Mr Bacon, your moment has arrived.
Thank you very much indeed, Mr Speaker. It is a great fact that we live in a free country and speak in a free Parliament where we can say what we want, and it is only for that reason that I defend the right of the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) to issue forth the crass and oafish comments that he did, which would be refuted quite easily by reading the books and articles of Sir Roger Scruton.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on appointing Sir Roger Scruton. Does he agree that Sir Roger is eminently qualified to do this, and that it is about time we had somebody speaking up at the top for people who want to take notice of beauty in this country?
I profoundly do. The point is that, if we are to gain that consent and the support of the public on ensuring that we have communities that are built to last and that reflect a sense of community at their heart, it is right that we challenge and have this debate. I think that Sir Roger Scruton is uniquely placed to support that.
Mr Speaker, you will not be surprised to hear that I disagree profoundly with many of the views of Sir Roger Scruton, which seem to be designed to bring the bigotry of the 19th century into the 21st. The Secretary of State implied that Sir Roger Scruton has been consistently taken out of context. Does he think that for a professional and public intellectual, as he describes him, to be so generally misrepresented shows a lack of professionalism and expertise, or does he think that offering Sir Roger Scruton a platform on the built environment of the communities of our country is in some way not connected with his views on race, multiculturalism, homophobia, sexual orientation and Islamophobia?
We have the right to speak our minds in this House, as the hon. Lady has done, and my respect for the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish, even if I may disagree with his views, ensures that this place is the place that it is. We live in a world where people communicate in 140 characters. We are talking about someone who delivers long lectures and has written extensively in many different books and some controversial articles. It is important to see that context. Sir Roger has accepted in the past that he has got it wrong—for example, he acknowledged in 2010 that he had changed his position on homophobia and was wrong. It is part of that public debate that leading intellectuals are entitled to explore ideas and change their minds where necessary.
What a rich galaxy. I call Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his inspired decision to make beauty an important part of the planning process and his equally inspired decision to appoint Sir Roger Scruton? Sir Roger is a very brave defender of free speech who used to go behind the iron curtain when some people on the other side of this House might have been rather more sympathetic and fellow traveller-ish than they might like now to admit. Any philosopher must be able to discuss issues and is bound to say things in his works that are controversial, because otherwise, discussion and debate cannot be advanced. That is an inevitable consequence of appointing a philosopher.
My hon. Friend makes a point in relation to freedom of expression and freedom of speech. I point him to an interesting lecture that Sir Roger supported by the Syrian architect and author Marwa al-Sabouni. In the midst of the bombardment of Homs, Marwa emailed Sir Roger about his book on aesthetics and how architectural issues were as relevant there, and she has maintained that contact. That freedom of speech and openness is so important.
I studied art, and I totally agree that beauty and aesthetics are important, but building homes for our diverse communities is not just about beauty; it is about the right homes for them. If these controversial remarks have been made, the Government should think twice. They seem to be making a habit of appointing people who are not appropriate for Government advisory roles. Does the Secretary of State agree that the vetting process should be more transparent, to guarantee public faith in such public advisory roles?
All I would say to the hon. Lady—I appreciate that she might not have been in the House at the time—is that Sir Roger previously served as an adviser to the coalition Government on issues of design, with both Conservative and Liberal Democrat Ministers. He has served before, and I think it is appropriate for him to provide that support again.