Previous SectionIndexHome Page

13 Mar 2003 : Column 421—continued

Education Spending

8. Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): On what basis he calculates the national education formula spending share for (a) a child educated in Braunstone estate, Leicester and (b) a child educated in the town of Braunstone, Leicestershire on the other side of Braunstone lane. [102706]

The Minister for School Standards (Mr. David Miliband): The calculation of funding for children in Leicester City and Leicestershire is done on the same basis. All comparable pupils attract the same level of funding from central Government. There is a basic entitlement for all children and extra funding for deprivation and additional costs.

Mr. Robathan : That does not answer the question. I should be grateful for an answer and I hope that the Minister will not witter on Goebelsesque about the fact that we believe that administrative costs in education and elsewhere could be cut by as much as 20 per cent. In the city of Leicester a child receives £3,476 in Government funding whereas a child educated in Leicestershire, such as at Winstanley high school or Kingsway primary school, just across the Braunstone lane and not half a mile away, receives only £2,932. Some 4,100 children cross the border of Braunstone lane to get a better education in Leicester. Will the Minister please explain this unfair discrepancy of £543 to parents, teachers and governors in Leicestershire who are as appalled and angered as I am by a 1 per cent. cut in real terms in education funding? Will he give a less complacent answer?

Mr. Speaker: Order. That is enough for the Minister to go on with.

Mr. Miliband: The hon. Gentleman should take some pills and sit in a dark room, to coin an old phrase. Let me give him the facts. Funding in Leicester city per pupil of £3,204 is higher than in Leicestershire, which on average is £2,835, mainly because 29 per cent. of pupils in Leicester city are on income support and in Leicestershire the figure is 9 per cent. Furthermore, the increases in spending over the past five years are

13 Mar 2003 : Column 422

instructive and the House will want to know them. Since 1997–98 in Leicestershire there has been a 36 per cent. increase in funding, worth £72 million, and in Leicester city a 25 per cent. increase, worth £30 million. If the hon. Gentleman is concerned about the pupils who are living in Braunstone village or town, he should address a question to his local authority and ask how it is reflecting different needs across Leicestershire in the application of its funding formula that distributes money around the county.

Sex Education

9. Ann Winterton (Congleton): If he will make a statement on the advice issued by his Department on the teaching of sex education in schools. [102707]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Stephen Twigg): In July 2000 we provided sex and relationship education guidance to maintained schools. The guidance places the responsibility of determining a sex and relationship education policy firmly on head teachers and school governing bodies. Schools should develop their policies and programmes in consultation with parents.

Ann Winterton : The Minister will be aware that teenage pregnancy rates in Britain are four times higher than in the Netherlands, where Dutch parents and school governors have more control over what is taught in schools and where family links are stronger. Bearing in mind our high teenage pregnancy rates and the even higher rates of sexually transmitted disease, which is almost at epidemic proportions in certain parts of the country, will the Minister follow and promote the example in the Netherlands which advocates sexual abstinence among the young and strengthens the role of parents and governors in these matters?

Mr. Twigg: The hon. Lady will know that our guidance indeed strengthens the role of parents and governors. She is correct to identify the high rates of teenage pregnancy and of sexually transmitted infections as a major cause for concern. That is an important part of the reason for providing our sex and relationship education guidance. I am sure that she will join me in welcoming the fact that the most recent figures show that teenage pregnancy rates have fallen again. Teenage conception rates have fallen for three years in a row and are now 9 per cent. lower than in 1998. I am not complacent about that, but the figures show that the existing programmes are having some impact.

Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford): Is it not the case that, since the social exclusion unit's ground-breaking report on teenage pregnancy, this country has for the first time woken up to the fact that we have one of the highest levels in the world? In the 1970s, our teenage pregnancy rates were about the same as those in the rest of Europe but in the '80s and '90s they went up in the UK while they were going down throughout Europe. Does my hon. Friend agree that educational underachievement and teenage pregnancy go hand in hand? Will he ensure that his Department carries on relentlessly with its programmes and strategies on

13 Mar 2003 : Column 423

teenage pregnancy so that the rates continue to fall and that young people understand the consequences of sexual relationships? We must put an end to cases such as those reported by the social exclusion unit in which young people believe that by drinking vinegar they will not get pregnant.

Mr. Twigg: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the powerful way in which he set out his case, which demonstrates the importance of Departments working together and with local agencies, including schools. Enabling young people to make responsible and well-informed decisions is at the heart of our sex and relationship education policy. The statistics on teenage pregnancy suggest that we are having some success but clearly we still have a long way to go.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Does the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) was absolutely right to describe the sex and relationship education guidance issued in July 2000 as excellent, balanced and reasonable? Will he confirm that that is a far better basis for providing information and developing understanding among children than the offensive, redundant and irrelevant section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986 which, the other night, the House once again wisely voted to repeal?

Mr. Twigg: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and associate myself entirely with his remarks. I am delighted that we received firm cross-party support in the vote on Monday night, with a significant number of Opposition Members joining Labour and Liberal Democrat Members and Members from other parties in the Lobby. I very much hope that the other place will take notice of that strong cross-party support for repeal of section 28.

Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley): Does my hon. Friend agree that schools can be usefully supported in their work on sex education by other services, such as those provided at Rowlinson youth club in my constituency where there is a drop-in clinic for young people who can discuss with health professionals, in a non-judgmental way, their concerns about personal relationships?

Mr. Twigg: Absolutely. I agree entirely. There are a number of such opportunities, where the school, as the hub of the local community, can work with other services to ensure that young people receive all the advice, guidance and education that they need.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): Much as the hon. Member for Congleton (Ann Winterton) would like to turn the clock back to the days when we could only have sexual intercourse after permission from a priest or the local registrar, and while I congratulate the Minister on the welcome decrease in the number of teenage pregnancies, does he agree that sex education is part of general education? It is the same as history or politics and, in many cases, a good deal more useful. Will he pledge to the House that he will try to ensure that all

13 Mar 2003 : Column 424

children in this country, regardless of which school they attend and the flavour of its governing body, receive proper sex education?

Mr. Twigg: I am grateful to the hon. Lady and I very much agree with her. She was a little unfair on the hon. Member for Congleton (Ann Winterton), who, somewhat to my surprise, felt that we had lessons to learn from Holland in these matters. I am happy to look at the figures, because we can always learn lessons in ensuring that sex and relationships education is as effective as possible. We can provide the framework, but such decisions are best made at school level, involving governing bodies. A testament to the success of these programmes is not only the figures on teenage pregnancies that I gave earlier, but the fact that although parents have the right to withdraw their children from sex and relationships education, fewer than 1 per cent. do so. That demonstrates that we are having an impact, but the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) is right that we need to do more.


The Solicitor-General was asked—

Domestic Violence

17. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South): If she will make a statement on specialist domestic violence prosecutors within the Crown Prosecution Service. [102719]

The Solicitor-General (Ms Harriet Harman): Each of the 42 areas of the Crown Prosecution Service has a specialist lead prosecutor on domestic violence. About 13,000 cases of domestic violence are dealt with by prosecutors each year, mostly in the magistrates court, with the most serious cases going to the Crown court. The CPS is doing important and very difficult work to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice and victims are protected. I strongly support its commitment and professionalism and commend it to the House.

Mr. Chapman : Although I welcome both the fact that domestic violence is increasingly being reported and the success that the CPS is having, we still need to recognise that it represents a quarter of all violent crime. Will my right hon. and learned Friend join me in commending the work of the standing conference of women's organisations on the Wirral and Deeside, which has proactively and effectively tackled the problem? Will she also agree that the message that we need to get out loud and clear is that domestic violence is a serious crime and that it is not merely a matter for the privacy of the individuals concerned? That is true whether it be in relation to domestic violence against women, as it generally is, against men, or in mixed homes or single sex homes.

The Solicitor-General: I endorse my hon. Friend's comments. Domestic violence is not a private matter that goes on behind closed doors and is for the family to deal with—it has to be a public policy issue that is treated as seriously as an assault on a stranger in the street. I join

13 Mar 2003 : Column 425

him in his commendation for the Wirral and Deeside forum, with which the Crown Prosecution Service is fully involved. I emphasise to the House that our determination to tackle crimes of violence means that we must tackle domestic violence, because, as my hon. Friend says, it represents a quarter of all violent crime.

Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon): I hope that the Solicitor-General can assure the House that no domestic violence prosecutors and no members of the Crown Prosecution Service sell information to the media. What are her Department's policies in relation to briefing the media? She will be aware of the difficult balance to be struck between freedom of speech and the right to a fair trial. The Attorney-General is drawing up new guidelines on that. Will the Solicitor-General confirm that her Department will consult widely before any precipitate new guidelines are drawn up?

The Solicitor-General: The important point that the hon. Gentleman raises involves four issues: first, as he said, the freedom of the press; secondly, as he said, the right to a fair trial; thirdly, the privacy of the individual; and, fourthly, the confidentiality of police investigations. In addition to the guidance that the Attorney-General is drawing up, on which he will consult—I shall ensure that the hon. Gentleman gets a copy of the draft guidance and offer to place it in the Library so that other hon. Members, including Conservative Front Benchers, can see it—the Lord Chancellor's Department is reviewing certain aspects of the matter, particularly payments to witnesses, and the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport is considering the issues. We must recognise that when things go wrong it leads not only to the financial cost of lost trials, but to a terrible human cost to the people involved.

Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley): Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the Lord Chancellor's Department is organising a series of conferences on domestic violence in the Asian community? Conferences have already been held in Bolton and Brentford and another will be held in Bradford on 3 June. They are not being held because of a particular problem in that community, but because the subject is taboo and often skirted round. The hope is to encourage an open debate within the community. Someone from the Crown Prosecution Service will attend the Bradford conference, and it may be useful for a special prosecutor to be there to explain their position.

The Solicitor-General: I will ensure that that happens and that the CPS joins that important gathering in my hon. Friend's constituency. I will respond to her point about the Lord Chancellor's Department by simply commending to the House the work that is being done by the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton).

Domestic violence crosses all races, all cultures, all creeds, all classes and all socio-economic groups; it is not confined to any one or other. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mrs. Cryer) has made it clear that she will back up women in her constituency if they seek her help or that of the criminal justice system to tackle these crimes.

13 Mar 2003 : Column 426

Next Section

IndexHome Page