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Mr. Rendel: Will the Minister also provide the necessary funding to ensure that rural schools can stay open?
 
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Mr. Twigg: That is one of the challenges. With funding, we must always deal with several different concerns. One is stability, which in a sense is what the hon. Gentleman means, but another is fairness. Several hon. Members have referred to that in the context of the way in which the formula currently works. Consultation is now taking place on exactly how the three-year funding and the dedicated schools grant will work. That is powerful in giving certainty and stability to schools, but we must acknowledge that we will receive requests from all sorts of authorities, such as Leicestershire, to revert to the basic funding formula. Hon. Members will wish to consider that again later.

My hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed) raised several issues, some of which related to the Bill. He made important points about physical activity. He reminded us of the reduction in class sizes in infant schools and reinforced the importance of the reduction in bureaucracy to which the measure will lead. He then anticipated the Adjournment debate. I know that my ministerial colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), is looking forward to responding to that debate on the position in Leicestershire, so I shall not anticipate it—not even with a curtain raiser.

The hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) set me a challenge. It was hard to hear exactly what he was saying, but I ignored his comments about getting advice from the Box and I therefore have that advice. Clause 114 will simplify the supply of information from schools in multiple surveys by providing for a single survey. That precisely meets the concerns that the hon. Member for Rayleigh expressed about the multiple requests for information and their contribution to the bureaucracy to which he and others referred during the debate.

The hon. Member for Cotswold also raised a concern about data sharing on free school meals and education maintenance allowances. I believe that he understands that that is designed to reduce bureaucracy, encourage take-up of free school meals and reduce the stigma that, as he said, is sometimes attached to the current application process. That sharing of information is also designed to reduce the capacity for fraud, especially with regard to education maintenance allowances, but we may revert to that in Committee.

We have had a wide-ranging debate. This is an important Bill and I hope that it will enjoy cross-party support.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: One of the important facets of the Bill is the proposal for a three-year budget. There can be problems with such budgets, however, if they are wrong to start with, as happened in Gloucestershire, which is at the bottom of the F40 league. Will the Minister give us an assurance that, if the Bill becomes law, even under the three-year budgetary process, there will be an opportunity to look at individual local education authorities to see whether their funding is at the right level?

Mr. Twigg: I would not want to mislead the hon. Gentleman or the House. We are consulting on three-year budgets, and I encourage him and others to participate in that consultation, which started recently.
 
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Meanwhile, I would simply repeat what I just said, which was that nothing is ever set in stone, and that there are opportunities for people to express their views in the House and directly to Ministers. I shall be happy to have such an exchange with the hon. Gentleman and to have meetings with him and representatives from his education authority, but I do not want to raise a false expectation that things are going to change overnight.

This is a good Bill that builds on what we have done over the past eight years—

Mr. Francois: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Twigg: For the last time.

Mr. Francois: I thank the Minister for giving way; I am sure he can just about squeeze this intervention in. I also thank him for some of the kind things that he said about what I and some of my colleagues had to say this evening. He has tried to address some of the points that we raised. However, I want to press him further on an important point. He argues that the Bill will reduce bureaucracy, but I am not convinced that it will. May I stress that, whoever is in power in the DFES, there is now genuine and serious cynicism in the profession, and teachers will believe that bureaucracy has been reduced only when they can see it with their own eyes. I really want him to take that on board.

Mr. Twigg: Of course that is true. I sought to respond to every Member, so I did not go into detail earlier, but what struck me about the hon. Gentleman's description of the list that appeared in the staff room was that it contained things that all of us would have wanted to see, such as PE, sport and modern foreign languages in our schools. The Bill is saying that we should have a single plan for a school, that we should have a single conversation with the school and that the school should work with a single partner to bring about school improvement. The hon. Gentleman is right: if we can make that work, the cynicism will go down. The challenge is to ensure that that system will work. I believe that we can achieve that, and I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

EDUCATION BILL [LORDS] (PROGRAMME)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order 83A(6) (Programming of bills),


 
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Question agreed to.

EDUCATION BILL [LORDS] [MONEY]

Queen's recommendation having been signified—

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order 52(1)(a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills),

Question agreed to.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I notice that, having disposed of the business relating to the Bill that we have been considering, we now come to 15 orders. As you will know, we have a Government who deliberately refuse to do anything sensible with Parliament: they gag us and they insist that everything is rubber-stamped. If I understand this correctly, we now have the opportunity, if we choose to use it, to vote on these 15 orders between now and 10 o'clock. Is there any way in which common sense can be applied? As we have an hour and three quarters in which Parliament could use its time to discuss these matters instead of simply tramping through the Lobby, is there any way—despite the fact that the Government treat Parliament with contempt—in which you could enable us to debate these important matters rather than simply voting on them without discussion?


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