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Air Travellers (Provision of Health Information)

Mr. John Smith accordingly presented a Bill to require air carriers to provide information to passengers on health risks associated with flying and to contribute to research into such risks: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 6 April, and to be printed [Bill 59].

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Orders of the Day


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [7 March].


Motion made, and Question proposed,

(1) That it is expedient to amend the law with respect to the National Debt and the public revenue and to make further provision in connection with finance.
(2) Subject to paragraphs (3) to (6) below, this Resolution does not extend to the making of any amendment with respect to value added tax so as to provide--
(a) for zero-rating or exempting a supply, acquisition or importation;
(b) for refunding an amount of tax;
(c) for varying any rate at which that tax is at any time chargeable;
(d) for any relief, other than a relief which--
(i) so far as it is applicable to goods, applies to goods of every description, and
(ii) so far as it is applicable to services, applies to services of every description.
(3) Paragraph (2) above does not exclude the making of amendments with respect to value added tax--
(a) providing for refunds of the kind specified in paragraph (4) below;
(b) providing for that tax to be charged at a reduced rate of 5 per cent. on supplies of the descriptions specified in paragraph (5) below (and on equivalent acquisitions and importations); or
(c) making provision of the kind authorised by paragraph (6) below.
(4) The refunds mentioned in paragraph (3)(a) above are refunds of value added tax where--
(a) that tax is chargeable on a supply to, or an acquisition or importation by, a museum or gallery, and
(b) the supply, acquisition or importation is attributable to supplies of free rights of admission to the museum or gallery.
(5) The supplies mentioned in paragraph (3)(b) above are--
(a) supplies, in the course of a conversion of a building (or part of a building), of services related to the conversion if after the conversion the building (or part) contains living accommodation;
(b) supplies, in the course of the renovation or alteration (including the extension) of a dwelling that has been unoccupied for at least three years, of services related to the renovation or alteration;
(c) supplies of goods by a person making a supply of services within sub-paragraph (a) or (b) above if--
(i) those services include the incorporation of the goods into the building concerned (or its site), and
(ii) the goods are building materials within the meaning of Group 5 of Schedule 8 to the Value Added Tax Act 1994;
(d) supplies of children's car seats.
(6) The provision authorised by this paragraph is provision re-enacting, without altering any person's liability to value added tax or the amount of any such liability, provisions providing for that tax to be charged at a reduced rate of 5 per cent. on certain supplies, acquisitions and importations.--[Mr. Gordon Brown.]

Question again proposed.

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Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

3.57 pm

The Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. David Blunkett): In opening this third day of the Budget debate, I make no apology for repeating the accolades that are due to the Chancellor for the way in which he has ensured that our economy is offering prosperity, stability and success for the future. By choice, not by accident, and by conscious and deliberate action, the Government have taken the necessary steps to ensure that the fruits of stability and competence can be reinvested to bring greater prosperity in the years to come.

In lifting debt from the shoulders of the British people and in enabling us to pay our contribution in lifting debt from the developing world, we can ensure that we apply the people's money to the people's priorities. Those priorities, in health, education, regeneration and employment, are critical to a decent quality of life and to a future to be proud of.

In ensuring that we can invest in improved services, and in avoiding the failures of the past, we are turning the fruits of employment and the reductions in benefit payments into an ability to re-apply them for further employment and for reducing the need for those benefits. We have already spelled out the reduction, from 42p in the pound to 16p, of tax revenue spent on debt and on the payment of unnecessary benefits. That is a foundation on which we can build by reinvesting in social cohesion, and today I shall spell out some of the measures that we are taking to underpin that investment to ensure that quality teaching is in place and that we can recruit and retain the teachers that we need.

Having ameliorated the worst evidence of poverty through the measures that the Chancellor has taken since the election in 1997, and through the future measures spelled out in last Wednesday's Budget, we can now begin to concentrate on investment to overcome the need for ameliorative measures by tackling the causes as well as the symptoms. By investing in education and skills, self-reliance and independence, by liberating the talents of all our people so that they can contribute to their own well-being and reach out and contribute to the wider community, by investing in future success and, in particular, by investing in jobs and community regeneration, we can make it possible for those who follow us to continue an upward spiral of investment in key services, rather than the stop-go policies of the past.

Tackling the legacy of neglect has been the major task of the Government; avoiding its recurrence will be the task of the next Parliament. That is why the extra investment of a third of a billion pounds each year in education and extra investment in skills is so important. It is linked with further cash for employment and for our wider welfare-to-work measures. The Opposition would cut, whereas we are reconstructing. The Opposition were prepared to sacrifice services, whereas we are using them not only to ensure the liberation of the talents of the individual but to contribute to economic well-being, because economic prosperity and social well-being go hand in hand.

In the Chamber a few weeks ago, the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), the shadow Secretary of State, painted a picture--a distorted portrait--of my leadership

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and that of my colleagues, describing it as centralist. She evoked the image of "Thunderbirds". I reminded Lady Penelope that her party introduced the national curriculum, centrally directed tests, the Office for Standards in Education, the predecessors to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the Funding Agency for Schools. [Interruption.] Yes, I did pick up the issue of grant-maintained schools and, yes, Conservative Members introduced the Teacher Training Agency. Lord Dearing, to whom I pay tribute once again, managed to dig them out of a hole by slimming down some measures.

This Government have taken further steps to lighten the national curriculum, slim down the TTA, amalgamate the two predecessor bodies into the QCA, lighten the inspection regime and ensure that it falls less frequently on schools that are doing well and provide through the literacy and numeracy strategies the relevant support to make the tests attainable.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): The Secretary of State talks about lightening the administrative burden, but is he aware that teachers in Staffordshire, whether they work in a comprehensive school or not, say that they are bogged down by the administrative burden? Does he not understand the betrayal that teachers feel, especially given the promise that he and his team made in 1997, when they said that they would produce a new funding system, which was not delivered, whereby Staffordshire would not remain second from bottom in funding per pupil? The combination of burden, red tape and low funding in Staffordshire remains.

Mr. Blunkett: I am pleased that the legacy of low funding is nowhere near what it was when we took office in 1997. Direct funding to head teachers, which we enhanced last week to an average of £70,000 for a secondary school and an average of £24,000 for a primary school for running costs, will have helped schools in Staffordshire as it has helped schools across the country. The two-thirds reduction in paperwork over the past six months--the figure for primary schools is 40 per cent.--will have helped to reduce the time taken to access that paperwork.

Paperwork for literacy and numeracy--for example, the grammar guide, which was sent out last term--is not bureaucracy or administration, but direct support. I again make the point to the House that those who want to direct teachers to teach in a particular way and who want to toughen up on phonics should not also claim that teachers should not be directed on how to teach. Those who are prepared to abandon phonics, decent spelling and grammar and the literacy hour should stand up and be counted.

I have made the point before, but it is worth making again, that Conservative Members can hardly claim that they introduced the literacy hour, given that the hon. Member for Maidenhead famously said that 60 minutes is too long for the literacy hour, thus redefining a metric hour, which no doubt will be an interesting feature of any debate on Europe.

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