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Mr. Willis: I never bind my colleagues in respect of what they will or will not do. The hon. Gentleman will know that he could not do that in respect of his own colleagues in the other place. However, the principle of having a statutory duty in the Bill to reduce bureaucracy and work load is fundamental to our view of developing secondary education in this country. More resources coming into schools will matter nought if the process is accompanied by endless amounts of regulation and red
Mr. Willis: That is a fair question, and one which the Secretary of State frequently throws at those of us who wish to see a reduction in bureaucracy. When we consider what is emerging from the Department for Education and Skills, and what emerged from its predecessor Department, we find that virtually everything has some value to somebody. The problem is that it does not have value to everybody. That is the great problem with this Government, especially in terms of education. To ascertain what is valuable to them, the individual has to read everything that comes through. When I meet head teachersI am sure that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) has the same experienceI find that they do things and read things just in case. We would like to see discretion exercised in the initiative overload coming into schools, so that it is not necessary to follow every initiative.
One of the problems is the way in which the Government have set up their funding streams, especially through the massive expansion of the standards fund from £0.7 billion to more than £4 billionthe sum announced in the statement tomorrow will no doubt be even greater. So much of the resources in schools are dependent on their following a certain initiative, bidding for that money and obtaining the resources. That is the exercise that lies behind the amendment.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland recognised what the Opposition were trying to do in reducing bureaucracy: indeed, reducing it is the Government's stated aim. Yet the amendment before us is a mere sop. Anyone in this place should be able, as of right, to table a question to the Secretary of State to ask for the necessary information. The idea that it should be put together once a year as a huge concession to the bureaucracy and work load problem is insulting to the House; to right hon. and hon. Members who genuinely want to make progress; and to all head teachers and teachers. They face a huge problem, and I hope that the Minister will take this issue back rather than dismiss the Opposition's claims. When the Bill returns to another place, I hope that the Government will produce an amendment that genuinely satisfies the desire to see scrutiny of initiative and scrutiny of work load. There should also be sunset clauses for new initiatives.
We shall support the Conservative party's new clause and reject the Government's amendment should they press it to the vote. I trust that by the time it returns to another place we shall have a sensible amendment from the Government that addresses the entire issue of bureaucracy and work load.
Rob Marris: Lords amendment No. 14 is bemusing: subsection (1) is vague and subsection (2) could be recorded in a parliamentary questionthe criticism that the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) makes of the Government's amendment. That does not take us any further forward in the hon. Gentleman's frame of reference. Subsection (3) introduces more red tape, and that does not take anyone anywhere. Subsection (4) is extraordinary: it tells us that there shall be "no additional burden," which again is vague and would stop fresh initiatives of any sort. The hon. Gentleman talks about discretion
Rob Marris: I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but the amendment refers to "no additional burden" and to providing "with information". Under subsection (3), that would unreasonably fetter the discretion of any Secretary of State for Education and Skills in terms of new initiatives. The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough talks about discretion, and I am not sure how it could be incorporated into Lords amendment No. 14. I take his point, but it is extremely difficult to read discretion into the amendment that he told the House he would be supporting.
Mr. Willis: I was trying to point out that neither of the two amendments is perfect. There is general agreement in the House that we need to reduce bureaucracy. Indeed, that is the Government's stated aim. We are trying to encourage the Government to frame an appropriate amendment that deals with the core issues rather than one that states that we shall have a long list in the Library.
Rob Marris: The issue of red tape has probably been before the House for 300 years. To suggest that right hon. and hon. Members have not got the message on that is extraordinary. We have had a considerable amount of regulation in schools over the past five years, but the Opposition seem to be suggesting that that was done to no end and for the sake of doing it. We have had a step change in education in schools given the results that have been produced. That has been positive. I will not bore the House with statistics that we all know. There have been improvements in education, especially in primary schools but also in secondary schools.
The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) mentioned that he had not heard teachers complaining about work load in the classroom. Perhaps that is a paraphrase, but that is broadly what he said. I am
I will not bore the House with all the figures, but 1,400 secondary schools will receive £1 million over three years. That could be described as over-centralisation, and Opposition Members have spoken about that. But when I talk to head teachers, that kind of centralisation is what they like. They like that sort of money coming in.
Rob Marris: The hon. Gentleman can address his questions to my right hon. Friend. We have 1,400 schools with leadership incentive and grants. I do not profess to be an expert on those schools. A considerable amount of money has already gone into schools in the last five years, and a considerable amount more will go into them in the next three. If Conservative Members are decrying that kind of centralisation, it is incumbent on them to say what they would do instead.
Chris Grayling: The last few remarks have been extremely illuminating, and they highlight my biggest concern about many of the Government's actions, not only in education but across the board: they do not understand the consequences of what they are doing.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) showed a complete absence of understanding of the predicament that head teachers face and of the real resentment in the teaching profession about the extreme levels of bureaucracy and work load being imposed by unnecessary regulations from central Government. One merely has to talk to head teachers, as I do regularly, to understand the consequences of that. The most consistent message is that new, young teachers are not staying in the profession. That was amplified by the piece in The Times Educational Supplement read out by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady). The reality is that teachers are not staying in the profession.