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The Minister for School Standards (Ms Estelle Morris): Schools in north-east Lincolnshire are already benefiting from the fact that there are more teachers in post in England than at any time since 1984. They come on top of an expansion of the graduate teacher programme to 2,250 places in England in a full year, the introduction nationally of new courses for those returning to teaching and further improvements to teachers' pay, including a 6 per cent. rise for newly qualified teachers.
Mr. Mitchell: Like everyone else, I am delighted at the Government's efforts to improve teacher recruitment. That is only right and proper. However, we have a particular problem in north-east Lincolnshire in that more than 12 schools now have 49 vacancies: seven in technology, seven in English and seven in mathematics. It is important that kids from Grimsby should not be disadvantaged by any prolongation of this crisis. Will the Government consider special incentives for the recruitment of teachers to areas of particular difficulty and, within that, special incentives for recruitment to schools in disadvantaged areas?
Ms Morris: My hon. Friend is right. There is a series of measures--apart from the general ones that I mentioned in my answer--aimed at shortage subjects and at those areas of the country that have particular difficulty in recruiting. This is the time of the year when vacancies occur, because it is the point at which teachers move from one school to another--clearly, every school in every local authority will be advertising. I know that my hon. Friend will be reassured that in each of the areas that he mentioned there have been large increases in applicants to start teacher training this year. I know that they will take a year to come through, whereas, of course, this September, the extra students--more than 2,400--who started training last year will have completed their training and will be joining schools. I very much hope that schools in his constituency will be able to recruit from them as well as from the record number of people who are leaving teacher training.
[Wednesday 2 May 2001: European Standing Committee B--Relevant European Union document: 13119/00, Towards a common asylum procedure and a uniform status for persons granted asylum. Relevant European Scrutiny Committee report: HC 28-viii (2000-01).]
Mrs. Browning: I am grateful to the Leader of the House. Will she give the House some indication as to when we might expect the dates for the Whit recess to be announced? I am sure that Members on both sides will be interested in receiving those.
We also note that next week, on 1 May, the House will consider the remaining stages of the Social Security Fraud Bill. Will the Leader of the House identify whether there will be time for the House to look at another matter regarding social security? I realise the constraints and the narrowness of the debate on remaining stages, but as the appropriate Ministers will be on the Treasury Bench that day, I am sure that the House would like the opportunity to question them about the £3.5 million the Government have spent on advertising benefit fraud, especially when it turns out that the advertising merely resulted in a distance learning package for those who want to learn how to do it.
Finally, we note today, from our monitors, that the announcement has been made of the 15 so-called people's peers. The right hon. Lady is deeply involved in this procedure and will be aware that when the Government axed the hereditary peers, they promised that, during this Parliament, they would set up a cross-party Committee of both Houses to address future reforms of another place. Despite our pressing them to do so, and our willingness to serve on it, they have not done so, but have announced the people's peers. Surprisingly, we note that the 15, chosen from 3,000 applicants, include three professors and seven knights--people who I am sure will make a valuable contribution, but who would otherwise have been obvious candidates under the normal procedures. I wonder whether the right hon. Lady could tell us what exactly the Government's definition of the people is these days.
Mrs. Beckett: The hon. Lady asked me for an indication of the dates of the Whitsun recess, which slightly surprises me as I have observed during the time that I have been in this post that every time that we announce the dates of a recess, someone on the Conservative Benches complains that we have only just come back from one. As we have only just come back from the Easter recess, I will bear the hon. Lady's observations in mind, but I am not in a position to give her the dates today.
The hon. Lady asked me about the Chancellor finding an opportunity to come to the House. I was really quite surprised by her remarks because my right hon. Friend has never ever suggested that the Government had abolished the business cycle. Indeed, it is precisely because we know that the business cycle continues to exist, and will always continue to exist, that he has placed such emphasis on so managing the economy that we can have economic stability and stable economic policy, even as the business cycle proceeds. So, far from ever having suggested that there was no such thing as the economic or business cycle, my right hon. Friend has clearly always understood the opposite, but understood also that it is the
The hon. Lady asked me about the new list of peers--of course those appointments were made by the Appointments Commission--and she appeared to suggest that in some way the current procedures are defective. I have not had much time to scrutinise the list, but I understand that significantly more women and more people from the ethnic minorities have been appointed than was the case under the previous system. That seems to me to be evidence of good judgment on the commission's part. However, the principal difference is that this procedure is open and transparent, and that it is not a matter of peers being appointed simply on the decision and the judgment of the Prime Minister, which had always been the case under previous Prime Ministers. It is time that the Conservative party gave my right hon. Friend credit for being the first Prime Minister ever to give away patronage.