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The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Charles Clarke):
The whole House will share the shock at the death of a 15-year-old boy at Broadoak in Trafford. It is an appalling incident. We do not know the details yet. The police are considering the situation and will report to us. It is incumbent on all of us to wait for their analysis before deciding on the best way to proceed. I send the feelings of the whole House, as
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the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Collins) said, to the family and friends of the boy who has died.
Together with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, I welcome the debate. I shall not deal in detail with the range of health issues raised, in particular by the hon. Members for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), for Wyre Forest (Dr. Taylor), for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and for North-East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt) and the right hon. Member for Charnwood (Mr. Dorrell), though I notice the absence of any preparedness to discuss the patient's passport despite various invitations from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and myself. I was a little surprised that the pupil passport also got so little mention throughout the debate, keynote measures as those are.
I was disappointed that the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) said that there were no Bills on education in the Queen's Speech. In fact, there are four, and I shall summarise them for the House. First, we will publish an education Bill later this week, which aims to help schools raise standards through a more effective inspection regimeI appreciate the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley on those proposalsand by aligning the cycle of early years inspections, training the school work force more effectively with continuous professional development, establishing three-year budgets and school funding, and developing the ability of schools to run themselves more effectively.
I shall respond to a point made by colleagues in the debate, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) and for Tamworth (Mr. Jenkins) and the right hon. Member for Charnwood on the role of the local authority. For us, that is exceptionally important in relation to children's trusts, as the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) mentioned in his speech, as well as in the delivery of the whole 14 to 19 agenda, and in relation to the school improvement responsibilities mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield and the various ways in which school performance can be raised, as set out by the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb). I cite particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth the importance of the vocational pathways which, following the Tomlinson report, will be critical to the 14 to 19 group and in which the local education authority will have an essential role. I was glad to hear that the official Opposition will give general support to the Bill, and I hope that we can make progress on it.
The second Bill is the School Transport Bill. Given the comments of the hon. Member for Wyre Forest, I hope that we can rely on his support. I ask both main Opposition parties to consider reversing their blind
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opposition to the proposals. As their colleagues in local government, Conservative and Liberal Democrat, well know, those proposals are supported by councils that want to be freed in the way that our pilots propose, that want to deal with congestion and the school run and that want to achieve healthier approaches. I urge Opposition Members not to persist in opposing the Bill.
The third Bill that I shall refer to is the draft Bill on contact and inter-country adoptiona key measure that follows the Green Paper to which I referred in an exchange with the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam. It is a very important measure for a variety of reasons, but it is intended to give the courts more flexibility and powers to underpin and enforce contact orders in cases of parental separation. The measures in the draft Bill are very important and substantial. They will help to encourage and underpin productive contact arrangements in the best interests of the child. I say to every Member of the House that it is the best interests of the child that must be paramount in these considerations. There have been one or two knee-jerk posturings on this matter, not least from the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), which I think need to be addressed directly. I hope that we will have a proper debate on the draft Bill and agree that getting it right is important.
The final Bill that I want to mention is the one on child benefit. I was glad to hear the comments of the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Rendel) and of the official Opposition in giving general support to this measure, which is also very important.
This is a substantial legislative programme for education that is part of the reform component of our overall strategy of investment and reform, which is central to everything we do. In July, we published our five-year programme for under-fives, schools, skills and lifelong learning, and the measures provide a substantial commitment in those areas. In the context of this debate, it is perhaps worth adding that health in schools and the public health White Paper published by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health are a key component in that joint work.
I noticed that a number of contributorsin particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Kali Mountford), who made an outstanding speech, as well as the hon. Members for North-East Bedfordshire, for Lichfield and othersfocused on the health education element of the proposals. I think that that reflects joint working between the Department of Health, my Department and all our agencies to deliver high-quality education and health in every school in the country. That is done through information, integrating services through children's centres and children's trust arrangements, developing extended schools everywhere in the country, extending the school nursing service, establishing healthy schools in every area, investing to improve nutrition in school meals, active travel plans, school sports partnerships and funding through the whole range. That is a key element in our overall programmea health and education programme that takes us forward.
In truth, reform is not enough in these areas; it is investment and reform that are needed, and the investment story too is immensely substantial. Today, my hon. Friend the Minister for School Standards announced our building schools for the future
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programme. It is worth setting out the figures, because they are so stark and impressive. We inherited total capital spending of £683 million in 199697. By 200506, the next academic year from now, the amount will have increased to £5.5 billiona massive increase in spending.
Mr. Bacon: While the Secretary of State is on the subject of investment and today's written statement made by the Minister for School Standards, which says that every maintained school will benefit from capital programmes, can the Secretary of State confirm that that statement includes all the 37 schools in Norfolk that would have been included in the PFI until it collapsed?
Mr. Clarke: Yes, I can, and in two ways. First, every school will benefit, whatever its situation and whatever the PFI project. By next year, the amount will be £25,500 in a typical 250-pupil primary school, or in a typical 1,000-pupil secondary, there will be £87,250 in devolved capital for what the school has to do. Beyond that, whatever the particular programmes, such as the PFI in Norfolk to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and despite the difficulties, the commitment will remain precisely as it has been in the past.
The central point that I am making is that the financial commitment to the proposal is overwhelming. The building schools for the future programme that we have set out today is a transformation of education in this country that will enable improvements in every community in every part of the country.
Both on investment and on reform, there is a straightforward, clear choice between the Opposition and the Government. The choice on money is whether more money should go into education, as we propose, or whether money should be taken out of education, as the Opposition propose. The shadow Chancellor made it clear that spending outside schools, which means under-fives, skills, universities and all those other areas, will be frozen at 200506 levels. That was his clear commitment, which means real terms cuts in every other area.
The Opposition's proposed pupil passport would mean at least £1 billion going from state schools to private schools. In contrast, this party will continue to increase spending by at least 6 per cent. per year. from 200506 to 200708 and provide high-quality, flexible, affordable child care for all parents. That is one dividing line: more money from us; less money from the Opposition.
The second dividing line is opportunity for all, which we offer, versus selection for the few, which the Opposition offer. We require the strict application of the admissions code of practice for all schools and no extension to selection by ability. As the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale confirmed in an exchange a few moments ago, under the Opposition, every school would be able to decide its own admissions, opening the door to five-plus and 11-plus selection. Above and beyond that, the hon. Gentleman, speaking in March this year to the Secondary Heads Association, said that he wanted to get rid of catchment areas for
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schools. Again, there is a direct choice: opportunity for all, which we offer; selection for the few, which the Opposition offer.
The same dividing lines arise on standards. We say, "High ambitions for every school and pupil"; the Opposition say, "No ambitions for schools and pupils." Targets have been established, and schools are responsible for local target setting to encourage all young people to achieve the top grades. The Opposition would scrap the targets and limit the number of children who can achieve the top grades by introducing quotas.
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