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Schools (Developing Countries)

5. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): If he will make a statement on funding allocated to schools in developing countries. [69506]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): The UK will spend some £8.5 billion on education in developing countries over the next 10 years. That long-term commitment will provide developing countries with predictable funding for 10-year investment plans to recruit and train more teachers, to get more pupils into and completing school, and to improve the quality of education. We will be pressing other wealthy countries to follow our lead to keep the promises that we made in 2005.

Andrew Miller: Over and above the fantastic work that is being done by my right hon. Friend, some amazing work is being done by young people from Cheshire. Has he seen my letter to him of 28 April, bringing to his attention the work of 12 young fire cadets who alone have raised £30,000 and who have been to Ghana to build a school themselves? That is the kind of leadership that we need for our young people. Will he engage with those young people and extend that scheme right across the country to help to match what he is doing in his Department?

Hilary Benn: I congratulate the fire cadets of the Cheshire fire service on the work that they are doing to build a school in Akrofu. I am sure that that experience will change the way they think about and see the world, as happens to most people who get the chance to go and visit. That is why the Government are also further extending the global schools partnership, which will allow more schools, more teachers and, over time, more pupils to benefit from that kind of involvement, not least because they will learn a great deal about what we and what children and young people in developing countries have to offer as well.

Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con): How does the Department for International Development intend to ensure that those children most marginalised from education—those orphaned by HIV/AIDS and those with disabilities—can benefit from the increased support? Will country plans include achievable and measurable targets to ensure that those children are included?

Hilary Benn: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. The most marginalised and disadvantaged group are, of course, disabled children. Unless disabled children are included in increasing primary enrolment, we will not achieve the universal primary education target by 2015. One of the things that we are doing in particular to help orphans and vulnerable children is targeting, as he will be aware, some of the money that we are using in the fight against AIDS to provide support and practical help to them, both through UNICEF and through country plans—for example, by helping to pay school fees where they still exist. So even though children have been orphaned and no longer have the care and love of their parents, they are at least able to continue to go to school.

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Mr. Piara S. Khabra (Ealing, Southall) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend tell us the total number of children in India who have benefited from the funding for education given by DFID?

Hilary Benn: If my hon. Friend will allow me, I shall write to him with the current and most up-to-date figure, but a significant part of our programme in India is indeed, as he will be aware, supporting the universal primary education programme. There is still some way to go, which is why India represents DFID’s largest single bilateral programme in the world.

Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): To achieve the millennium development goal of universal access to primary education, every sector in developing countries—state, private and other non-state actors—needs to be involved, particularly given that, as confirmed in the 2006 DFID annual report released yesterday, the targets to increase primary school enrolment and the ratio of girls to boys enrolled in schools are off track in both Africa and Asia. Many schools outside the state sector serve low-income families and outperform their state counterparts. What is DFID’s strategy to encourage those non-state actors? How much of the £8.7 billion announced in April will go directly to schools and parents, to maximise enrolment?

Hilary Benn: The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point about the need to harness all the resources that are available to ensure that all those children go to school. That includes the voluntary sector and faith organisations, because, particularly in countries that are recovering from conflict, the only institutions that are still left standing are the Churches, the armed forces and, in some respects, the state, and we must consider all the means that are available to us. The real answer to his question is that it will depend on the plans that the countries themselves draw up, but if we are going to achieve that target by 2015, it is important that we draw on all the resources that are available to help to make it happen.

Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): Does the Secretary of State acknowledge that achieving the millennium development goal of universal education is welcome, but that making education free does not make it compulsory and that, in many cases, it can lead to a loss of quality, with very large class sizes and poorly trained teachers? What is he doing to make sure that we not only deliver volume in education, but ensure the quality that achieves what is intended?

Hilary Benn: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The school that I visited recently in Mozambique has 4,200 children and runs four shifts a day. Those in the last shift often have their education cut short because the lights go out, since the school cannot afford the electricity bill. There are holes in the roof, some children sit on the floor and class sizes of 70 and above. That demonstrates the need for more resources, more planning, more teachers, more classrooms, more books and more equipment. What developing countries need from us, as we play our part in helping them to achieve that goal, is money that they can rely on to plan, to put into their proposals and to add to the resources that they can raise, because that is the only way in which we are going to make progress.

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Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Q1. [69487] Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne) (Con): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 10 May.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): Before listing my engagements, I am sure that the whole House will join me in sending our condolences to the families of Lieutenant Commander Darren Chapman of the Royal Navy, Captain David Dobson of the Army Air Corps, Marine Paul Collins, Wing Commander John Coxen and Flight Lieutenant Sarah-Jayne Mulvihill, who are missing, believed killed, following the tragic incident in Iraq on Saturday. We owe them and others who have lost their lives in Iraq a great debt of gratitude and we again pay tribute to the heroism, commitment and professionalism of our armed forces in the service of their country.

This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I will have further such meetings later today.

Mr. Waterson: I thank the Prime Minister for that answer and join him in his condolences for those tragically killed in Iraq the other day.

How concerned is the Prime Minister that only one in four of the electorate thinks he is doing a good job?

The Prime Minister: I remind the hon. Gentleman that, in the end, the Government of this country is decided at a general election. There have been three; there was one a year ago. His party lost.

Q2. [69488] Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): My constituent, Mr. Jonathan Downey, was one of the victims of the 7 July bombings in London. He was killed at the Edgware road station incident. His widow has been in touch with me about a number of issues relating to support for the victims’ families. Soon after the event, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor suggested that special compensation would be made available to the families of victims of the London bombings. Is the Prime Minister in a position now to say when that additional help will be made available?

The Prime Minister: I again express my condolences to my hon. Friend’s constituent for the loss of her husband.

I think that there is recognition that the nature of the attack on 7 July was wholly exceptional. For that reason, we have been looking to see what more we can do in terms of additional support for the victims and their families. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be in a position to announce details of that shortly.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the servicemen and women who died in Iraq. They were serving their country.

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Three weeks ago, I asked the Prime Minister about the crisis in children’s hospitals. He said that everything was fine so can he explain why the Minister responsible for hospitals has resigned?

The Prime Minister: The Minister for hospitals has certainly not resigned, as far as I am aware, in respect of anything to do with children’s hospitals. The right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) did indeed ask me about children’s hospitals and I explained that there were issues in respect of the payment-by-results tariff. Discussions are continuing between the hospitals that wrote to the Department of Health, and I hope that those discussions will result in a satisfactory conclusion.

Mr. Cameron: The right hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Jane Kennedy) was the Minister for hospitals and she has resigned. I know that things are bad, but the Prime Minister ought to know who is actually in his Government. She said that the Government’s reforms had resulted in the crisis at Alder Hey and her attempts to speak out had been overruled by No. 10.

Last week, I asked about dangerous foreign criminals who were released instead of deported. We were told that there were 79 who had committed serious offences. Then we were told that there were 90. This week we are told that there are 150. Can the Prime Minister guarantee that the number will not go up again?

The Prime Minister: The number has gone up simply because as the police investigate each of the cases, the details change— [Interruption.] That is perfectly obvious, if one thinks about it for a moment. However, of the 1,000 cases of foreign national prisoners who were part of the backlog that had built up over a considerable time, three quarters have been considered. Almost 600 deportation orders have been given and about 30 deportations are already under way. There are 126 of those people in detention. We will continue to work through the backlog, as I explained before, but I might just state to the right hon. Gentleman that now, as a result of the changes that have been put in place, all cases are considered before release. As I explained to him last week, there is a quite separate issue with which we must also deal, which is, in the end, at the heart of the matter: we need to ensure that those people who are convicted of a serious criminal offence and become foreign prisoners are deported, not retained in this country.

Mr. Cameron: If it is all going so well, why did the Prime Minister sack the Home Secretary? After three weeks of investigations, he still cannot tell us how many dangerous criminals who have committed serious offences are roaming the streets? Are not the crises in the health service and the criminal justice system symptoms of a Government who are paralysed? In the past three days, former Ministers have been queuing up to tell the Prime Minister that it is time to go. We have heard from the former Education Secretary, Pensions Secretary, terrorism Minister and local government Minister, and they have all said the same thing. Presumably the Prime Minister appointed them because of their judgment. Why does he think that he has lost their confidence?

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The Prime Minister: If I can just go back to deal with the two policy issues that the right hon. Gentleman raised— [Interruption.] Well, I know that he is not very comfortable with policy. Actually, because I thought that we might be debating these types of issues, I asked my staff to look up what policies he has. I have found two: one on children’s clothes and one on chocolate oranges. Other than that, he does not seem to have any, so I am delighted to have a policy debate with him.

On the health service, in respect of children’s hospitals, there is an issue to do with payment by results and the tariff. At a meeting a few days ago we listened to the representations of the four hospitals that wrote to us, and we are satisfied that we can reach a satisfactory conclusion. I might just point out to the right hon. Gentleman that we are putting more money into the health service than ever before and getting better results than ever before, but he opposed that additional investment.

I have explained the situation regarding the foreign national prisoners to the right hon. Gentleman. As I said a moment or two ago, for the first time we now have in place a proper system that allows us to consider deportation prior to a prisoner’s release. However, as I said last week—I repeat it—in my view, there should be an automatic presumption of deportation for anyone convicted of a serious criminal offence, and I hope that he agrees with that.

Mr. Cameron: From that answer we can see that the Prime Minister will not even address the fact that he is losing the support of his party. He lives in a world best summed up by the analysis given to him about his local election results by the No. 10 planning committee. The leaked report said that

I think that that is what they call the view from the bunker.

Until a week ago, the Prime Minister was telling us that he would serve a full third term. Why did he change his mind?

The Prime Minister: It will not surprise the right hon. Gentleman to know that I have no intention of debating that with him—[Hon. Members: “Why not?”] Frankly, there are probably enough lining up to do that already.

What is interesting about this exchange is that policy is the one thing that the right hon. Gentleman does not want to talk about. I agree that it has been a difficult time for the Government, but, in the end, it is policy—policies on the economy, on investment in our public services, on things like the minimum wage and lifting children and pensioners out of poverty, on overseas aid and, yes, on the environment, on which he has already changed the policy he had a few weeks ago—that will determine the fate of this Government and the decision of the electorate at the next general election.

Mr. Cameron: The issue of how long the right hon. Gentleman stays in office is of key public interest. I remind him of the clearest pledge that he gave about this issue. He said:

The right hon. Gentleman said that when he went to Khartoum. Presumably he wanted to see the place
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where Gordon was murdered— [Laughter.] I am glad that I have put a smile on the face of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Will the Prime Minister unravel a mystery for us? Why does he not trust the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take over the Government now?

The Prime Minister: No doubt the right hon. Gentleman has been rehearsing those lines all morning. [ Interruption.] I think so. I thought that it was a little rehearsed.

I simply issue an invitation to debate policy. The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned two—one on the health service and one on law and order—but he is not really prepared to debate those matters. He is not the first Conservative leader either to call for or predict my departure. There were four others, but I am still here, and they are not.

Mr. Cameron: There is hardly a politician in this place who is not predicting the right hon. Gentleman’s departure. Has not the Prime Minister put himself in a Catch-22 situation? If he sets a timetable for leaving, he has told us that there will be paralysis. If he refuses to set a timetable, his Government will remain paralysed. Is it not becoming increasingly clear that he should go—and go soon?

The Prime Minister: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that kind advice, which I am sure was meant in the interests of me and my party.

It is important for us to deliver our manifesto. That manifesto is about making sure that we keep a strong economy. We have the lowest interest rates and the lowest unemployment for decades. It is about delivering extra investment in the national health service and schools. It is also about improving the minimum wage, maternity pay and maternity rights. Further, as we shall see over the next few weeks, it is about sorting out the pensions issue and energy policy.

There is one difference between me and the right hon. Gentleman. I am here delivering the manifesto on which we were elected. The right hon. Gentleman wrote his party’s last manifesto, and now he does not stand by a word of it.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): r ose—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. A Member is addressing the House.

Mr. Sheerman: Does my right hon. Friend agree that we still have a mountain to climb in terms of getting the right skills for the population? We had the news from Australia just a few hours ago that London has won the bid to host the London skills olympics in 2011. This is a real boost, considering we beat Australia, France and Sweden.

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