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Alan Keen (Feltham and Heston): I was lucky to have been taken to see the 1948 Olympic games, when Herne Hill was the site for the cycle track events and Windsor Great Park for the road race. It inspired me to pursue a lifetime of active sport. Although I do not usually mention politics and sport in the same sentence, I was so inspired this morning by the shadow Secretary of State's optimism that he would be in the second term of a Tory Government in 2012 that I am going straight home to get my bike out. Whatever important position he holds in 2012, I hope that he will present me with a gold medal for the 1,000 m sprint. Let us hope that this is the last time that we mix sport and politics. Let us all work together to make sure that we win the bid and host a wonderful games.

Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend for that characteristically generous contribution.

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Opposition Day

[6th Allotted Day—First Part]

School Funding

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I should say to the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. A 15-minute limit has been placed on Back-Bench speeches during this debate.

2.6 pm

Mr. Damian Green (Ashford): I beg to move,

I am delighted that the House and its proceedings are impinging on this Government for once. We called for this debate because the crisis in our schools is serious and wide-ranging, and the Government were forced into a response this morning in an attempt to provide themselves, prior to the debate, with a fig leaf. I welcome the fact that the House can still have an effect.

Sadly, however, what we have seen today is a panicky short-term response that takes money out of one pocket in a school's budget and inserts into another pocket. What we should be hearing from Ministers today is an apology to heads, teachers, local authorities and parents for the spectacular cock-up that they have made of this year's education budget. Instead, they seem determined to lay the blame anywhere else.

Since the Secretary of State has been forced into rushing out the announcement of the various pieces of sticking plaster that he is trying to put over this wound, can he answer some specific questions when he addresses the House? He is telling schools to raid their capital budgets and reserves to try to avoid teachers and teaching assistants being sacked. Can he tell the House what happens to a school facing a huge budget deficit that it cannot cover from reserves or capital, that has a central heating boiler that has just failed or a roof that is leaking directly into the classroom, and that does not therefore have capital available to try to pay salaries?

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): I am sorry to intervene on my hon. Friend so early. On the point of capital expenditure, however, is he aware that a school in my constituency, Reffley county primary, which is a beacon school and one of the best and biggest primaries in Norfolk, will be short of £93,000 just by standing still? It has no money in its capital budget, and

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no surplus funds, and it will have to get rid of five teaching support staff. What kind of signal does that send to hard-pressed teachers and parents in Norfolk?

Mr. Green: My hon. Friend raises a serious point. All over the country, in his constituency and elsewhere, schools will be looking at the detail of what the Secretary of State announced this morning, just as they looked at the detail of the spending announcements that he made some months ago, and they will realise that whatever hype comes from the Government, they will be worse off. If the measures that he announced this morning actually work in the schools facing the worst problems, the effect will be random.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) rose—

David Wright (Telford) rose—

Mr. Green: I will give way to the hon. Member for Telford (David Wright).

David Wright: If we assume that the hon. Gentleman does not want to see any resource removed from any local education authority, how much more money does he think that he would need to commit, as a representative of the Opposition, to make it all the better?

Mr. Green: I would commit that when the next Conservative Government spend money on education, we will spend it in schools rather than on bureaucracy.

James Purnell (Stalybridge and Hyde) rose—

Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford) rose—

Mr. Green: I will make some progress. I know that the hon. Gentlemen will have many problems in their constituencies, from which their schools are suffering, which I am sure that they will wish to draw to the House's attention.

Mr. Ivan Henderson (Harwich) rose—

Mr. Green: In the meantime, perhaps the hon. Gentlemen would like to listen to the very sensible comments of the National Association of Head Teachers on the Secretary of State's announcement this morning:

In addition to the fact that raiding capital budgets is not really a solution, it will cause immediate problems. I am especially worried about the effect on special needs provision. If the Secretary of State tells schools to spend their capital on teachers' salaries, what will happen to schools that need to rebuild classrooms to provide proper access for pupils with disabilities? That is now a legal requirement, as he knows, so I hope that the Government have thought through all the implications

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of today's announcement, especially the way in which they will affect some of the most disadvantaged children in Britain today.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge): I am astonished to hear the hon. Gentleman speak in such terms because the previous Conservative Government's term in office was characterised by crumbling schools. Is he aware that under John Major's Government, schools in my constituency lost money every single year? Since 1997, Cambridgeshire has received a 16 per cent. increase in cash funding for schools.

Mr. Green: If the hon. Lady is worried about crumbling schools, does she support her Secretary of State who has today proposed to raid the capital budgets of schools throughout the country? Her logic escapes me.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way because rather than being given history lessons, most people in education want to know what will happen this year and what the effect will be on their jobs. I received a letter from Turnditch primary school, which is a small primary school, commenting on the changes that the Secretary of State has made to the standards funds, among other things. It says:

£179,000 to £180,000, or

The school does not know where the extra money that the Secretary of State talks about has gone.

Mr. Green: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. I shall address directly the point about the capital budget. The Secretary of State knows that when we approve of things that he does, we do not indulge in knee-jerk opposition. Before today, such approval was given to the way in which he took seriously the need for steady flows of capital to keep the fabric of our schools up to date. The fact that that sensible part of the Government's education strategy has been ditched is a sign of the level of panic in the Department for Education and Skills. Schools will suffer in the long term.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Green: I shall make some progress.

The Secretary of State rightly sets great stall by the development of specialist schools. He knows that schools in deficit cannot apply for specialist status, yet he has today encouraged schools to go into deficit. He is firing an accurate torpedo into his plans for a rapid expansion of the specialist school network.

The written statement that the Secretary of State put before the House today fascinatingly says:

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He knows that announcements on taxes are a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Is he committing the Chancellor not to impose further national insurance increases for the rest of the Parliament and if he is, has he told the Chancellor? If he is not saying that, his reassuring written statement has no value at all. I know that relations around the Cabinet table are worse than ever but if spending Ministers start pre-empting future Budgets, we ain't seen nothing yet.

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