Mr. Darling: When a school is in difficulties or failing its children, it is up to the local authority, supported by the resources that it gets from us, to do something about it. The Conservatives say that they are in favour of the reforms, yet they would deny the education system the means to carry them out[Interruption.] Because if they are committed, as they are, to the rule that prevents them from spending the necessary money, regardless of the consequences, they will be unable to will the means of achieving those changes. The Conservatives are tied to a dogmatic rule that prevents them not only from investing in infrastructure but from improving fairness and opportunity in education.
The problem is that the right hon. Gentleman's rhetoric is simply not matched by the reality. Given that children in young offenders institutions receive on average only eight hours education per week, and that the Government say that they want to help the most disadvantaged people in our society, will the Secretary of State explain why no reference whatever was made to that subject either in
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yesterday's Budget or in the 167 clauses, 18 schedules and 228 pages of the Education and Inspections Bill? What is going on?
Mr. Darling: The Budget, as the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) well knows, is primarily concerned with the allocation of resources and the decisions as to how they are spent. He is right to say that we need to improve the quality of training. That issue is being addressed, and the situation is steadily being improved. However, we need money to do that, just as we need money to help families with young children.
The Conservatives' attitude to tax credit and the pension credit is quite revealing. When they go on about means testing, it is clear that what they are actually against is the policy that we have pursued for a number of years, in which we have deliberately channelled more money into the hands of families with young children, and of pensioners on low or modest incomes. That is one of the reasons why we have been able to reduce child poverty and pensioner povertysomething that simply did not happen when the Conservatives were in office. When I see the shadow Chancellor expressing increasing scepticism towards these tax credits, it becomes quite obvious what the Conservatives are about. They have always been hostile to the introduction of tax credits, yet I believe that those credits have played a substantial role in reducing poverty and helping families with young children.
I turn now to the measures on the environment that were introduced in the Budget. They, too, reveal the gap between what the Conservatives say they are in favour of and what they actually do. The climate change levy has been very important, because it encourages energy efficiency in business. Through the levy, we have been able to reduce carbon emissions by about 28 million tonnes, which is a substantial way of meeting our Kyoto obligations. However, the Conservatives have made it very clear that, despite all their rhetoric, they continue to oppose the climate change levy. The Chancellor announced yesterday that, from next year, the levy will increase in line with inflation. It will be interesting to see what the Conservatives actually do, despite the talk of the Leader of the Opposition and other Conservative Members, when asked to choose between doing something that really does reduce carbon emissions and simply talking about that policy.
No, I do not, because it does reduce carbon emissions. There was a time when I thought that there was consensus in the Chamber that we should reduce carbon emissions, but there is no point in simply talking about doing it. We need to produce the means of reducing them, and without doubt, the climate change levy has done that. That is why the Conservatives ought to support it, rather than opposing it. It is all very well
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to talk about cycling to work and putting solar panels on houses. Yes, all those things help, but if we want to make a substantial reduction in carbon emissions, we have to will the means to do that.
Mr. Darling: I will give way to the hon. Gentleman one more time. Perhaps he will tell us whether he will support the proposal to increase the climate change levy in line with inflation from next year.
Gregory Barker: The climate change levy could be a much more effective tool if the Government were prepared to look at the facts. Does the Minister agree that it is not effective? If it were, carbon dioxide emissions would not have risen in five of the past seven years. Will he further confirm that we shall not meet the 2010 target that was set out in the 2001 and 2005 Labour manifestos
Mr. Darling: We will meet our Kyoto obligations. We have introduced a number of measures, and next week my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will set out the further steps that we propose to take. One of them is to introduce an obligation to increase the use of biofuels, which will result in the equivalent of taking about 1 million cars off the roads every year. I hope that the Conservatives will support that as well. The measures that we announced yesterday to change the road tax paid will also send a clear signal to people that they should think long and hard about what they do to reduce the environmental damage caused not just by transport but by other means as well.
Miss Kirkbride: The right hon. Gentleman is trying to parade his green credentials, but the top rate of vehicle excise duty that the Chancellor announced yesterday applies to only 1 per cent of cars. Is that not rather timid as a green proposal?
Mr. Darling: The hon. Lady seems to be calling for even greater taxes on gas-guzzling cars. It is obviously important to have for road tax a reasonable balance between the top and bottom end of the range. There has been substantial change in that nearly half the cars will now pay a frozen or a reduced rate. That applies to the cars that are more environmentally friendly, but there will be higher rates for those that cause more damage.
Of course, that is not the only thing that we are doing. We have the road transport fuel obligation and, largely at our instigation, aviation emissions have been included in the European trading scheme. We are taking a number of measures.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. When the announcement was made
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yesterday, with a great fanfare from the Chancellor, of a new zero rate for vehicle excise duty, was the Secretary of State aware that it appears that only two cars are eligible for that zero rate, and that they are not currently on sale in the UK?
Mr. Darling: As the Chancellor said yesterday, there are a small number of cars in the zero-rated band, but the whole point of introducing the banding is to encourage the industry to become more efficient. As I said to the hon. Gentleman earlier this week, it is high time he started thinking about long-term solutions. If he has better solutions, then he should come up with them. The changes that we have made send a very clear signal to people, and they are important when we consider them with the other changes that we have introduced. When we vote on the climate change levy at some point, I hope that we will see the Conservative party change its mind. It is all very well to talk about these things, but if it is not actually willing to vote for the measures that reduce carbon emissions, all its talk adds up to very little.
Mr. Graham Stuart: Friends of the Earth said yesterday that it felt that the Budget had failed to provide a major contribution to tackling emissions in the long term. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree?
Mr. Darling: Over my years as Transport Secretary, nothing that Friends of the Earth has said to me has surprised me. Many environmental groups widely welcomed what the Chancellor said yesterday. I believe that that, and other measures, send a very clear signal to motorists.