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On child care, the Secretary of State has failed so far. We were promised by the Prime Minister that we would have for every three and four-year-old an entitlement to 20 hours of free child care, and we were promised an extension of that entitlement to all two-year-olds. But again, in the pre-Budget report we are told that that
entitlement will not be extended to 20 hours for three and four-year-olds, and the entitlement for two-year-olds will not be extended to allso cuts again.
On diplomas, the Secretary of State has failed so far. We were promised that 50,000 students would take these new qualificationsthen 40,000, then 30,000, then 20,000. Now the number is 12,000 and falling. In a parliamentary answer that I received today, we discover that funding for diplomas is going down as well. It is being cut from £117 million in 2008-09 to £78 million in 2010-11. That is a 34 per cent. drop in funding. So there are cuts in that programme too.
I feel sorry for the Secretary of State having to make these cuts. It is not his Departments fault. He should really take the matter up with the team who have been responsible for economic management over the last 10 years and who have landed us in this mess. Perhaps he should have a word with the man who has been principal economic adviser at the Treasury for the last decade: the chap who designed the regulatory regime that allowed the banks to behave as they did.
It is beyond question that Britains problems stem in part from its fractured regulatory system, with responsibility split between the Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority, and the Treasury. A close study of the relevant documents fails to reveal that this system was forced
it sprang full blown from the brains of Chancellor Gordon Brown and his sidekick, Ed Balls.
I am afraid, however, that like many talented young people the Secretary of State has fallen in with a bad crowdin his case, the Brownites. Since getting in with this gang, the Secretary of State has been determined to live according to its members aggressive rituals, the most important of which is the drawing of dividing lines. He has tried to draw dividing lines on all the issues that I have mentioned, although in doing so he merely exposes his own weakness. He is just like a gang member who wields a weapon but only harms himself.
The real story of the Queens Speech, and the biggest dividing line in British politics, is the divergence between the path trodden by the Secretary of State and the road taken by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
Michael Gove: I shall wait to see what the Secretary of State actually pledges to commit to education spending. Until we know the details of what he is spending, we cannot know what to match and what to increase. We know, for example, that diploma funding has been cut, but we found that out only today. As the pre-Budget report unravels and as we discover the reality of what is going on, we will come up with the answers that the Secretary of State himself has so far failed to give.
I was talking about the divergence between the path trodden by this Secretary of State and the road taken by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. While the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is pressing ahead with reform, taking on vested interests and challenging the left of his partycreating, indeed, a radical new centre-ground consensusthe Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families is opting for none of the above. While welfare reform, and the spirit of Blairism, live on in the heart of the right hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (James Purnell), the cause of schools reform, which was championed by Mr. Blair at the start of this Parliament, has now been put to sleep by the right hon. Member for Normanton (Ed Balls). Academies have had their freedoms curtailed; Lord Adonis has been shunted into a siding at the Department for Transport; Bruce Liddington, the schools commissioner responsible for diversity in schools, has been dismissed and not replaced; and Sir Cyril Taylor, the guardian of the independence of academies at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, has been dispensed with as well.
In his education Bill, the Secretary of State plans to introduce more powers for bureaucrats, more new bureaucracies and more bureaucratic burdens on teachers. That represents a tremendous missed opportunity. It is sad that in this Queens Speech there was so little of conspicuous merit, apart from those welfare proposals which the right hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde largely copied from the recommendations of my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling). In that sense, the Gracious Speech was mostly old, with very little new; most of that was borrowed, and all of it was blue. Members will perceive an irony there. When Opposition Members are given Government papers and
publish them, they get arrested. When Government Members get Opposition papers and publish them, they get a fresh White Paper and rave reviews. It is a course that I recommend to the Secretary of State.
What this country needs is a Government committed to reform, ready to tackle vested interests, determined to extend parental choice and convinced of the benefits of diversity. What this country needs is a Government who, instead of searching for dividing lines, seek unity around reform, instead of generating bureaucracy for those on the front line, believe in freedom for professionals, and instead of presiding over economic turmoil and falling living standards, offer change, optimism and hope. That is why we desperately need a Conservative Government, and that is why I commend the amendment to the House.
The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): I am grateful to the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) for giving me advance notice of something this afternoon, and I think that I probably owe him an apology. He wrote to give me advance notice that he would be absent from the Chamber for his daughters nativity play, which was very courteous of him, but I, unfortunately, did not give him advance notice of my intention to intervene on him. If I had done so, he might have had the chance to write into the script of his speech the answer to my intervention, because I have to say once again that, as has been the case time and again in the past year, what we have had from the hon. Gentleman is a well-written, erudite, humorous and insubstantial speech.
I shall now move on to the substance. I want to do so by, without patronising Members, thanking them for their contributions to this excellent debate, with the exception of the speech that we have just heard. We might have some disagreements about methods, but there is common agreement that we want to do the best by the children of this country for their safety, education, well-being and happiness. There has been clear commitment to that in speeches made from all parts of the House, some of which I shall now mention.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Mrs. Hodgson), whose Bill on information for children with special educational needs will be very important indeed, made an important speech in which she talked about training for teachers with SEN specialities. The hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Scott) also talked about the importance of making sure that there is proper training in SEN for those teachers, and I thank him for his contribution.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) made an important speech on health, and on the fact that we need to involve local communities in the management of health services.
Although I do not agree with everything the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming) has said, I know he is committed to the cause for which he campaigns, and I can say to him today that, following the Ofsted reports of recent weeks, we will be able to give him the detailed information that he wants on serious case review numbers.
The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Jeremy Wright) made a speech on dementia, which is not an area in which I have expertise. I know that he wants a
Government strategy to be implemented sooner rather than later, but when that strategy is published, I am sure that he will contribute to the debates that follow on the important subject of how we make sure we take forward care for people with that disease.
This Queens Speech takes forward the commitments that we made in our childrens plan and, one year to the day after its publication, our progress report, One Year Onto make sure every child can succeed, to tackle all the barriers to childrens progress in and out of school and to work together, and intervene early, to make sure children are safe and properly protected and that their well-being is promoted. In the Queens Speech, we committed to set out in law the responsibility of all of us to do the following: to keep children safe through childrens trusts; to establish the legal basis for our new standards regulator, Ofqual; to strengthen our intervention powers to ensure that all schools can be good schools and all local authorities can tackle underperforming schools; to give schools more power to tackle bad behaviour; and to reform the provision and funding of 16-to-19 education. Opposition Members claim that there is nothing in the Queens Speech, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): One of the failures identified in Haringey was the insufficient challenge by the local safeguarding children board to its members and front-line staff. Often the chairs of these boards are also the chairs of childrens services. Has the Secretary of State given any further consideration to the conflicts of interest that arise in that situation, and to having independent chairs?
Ed Balls: I have done, and I have made it clear that no serious case review should be chaired by anyone other than an independent person. In those areas that have had an inadequate serious case review, we are now asking an independent person to review the case and to report to us as soon as possible.
Haringey has been the subject of debate for hon. Members on both sides of the House. We and our constituents have all been shocked and appalled both by the terrible suffering that that little boy endured and by the failure of services to act and intervene early to ensure that he was properly protected. We have acted, with cross-party support, for which I am grateful, to make changes in Haringey. We have also established, through Lord Laming, a process to produce an urgent progress report on the implementation of the Every Child Matters reforms. With Ofsted, we are also taking forward reforms to the serious case review regime. I have also announced today a new national task force to investigate how we can further enhance training and support for social workers. I hope that my work with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health on the reform of social work will also have cross-party support.
Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): As the Secretary of State will be aware, the chief inspector of Ofsted told the Select Committee yesterday that three children a week were dying as a result of abuse, whereas the Department suggested that the true figure was a third of that. Can he explain that discrepancy?
Ed Balls: I canI explained it this morning, but I will set it out in further detail. Ofsteds figures use a wider definition of harm. In the case of the children in the Departments figures, a serious case review had been done because of a direct act of harm that led to the childs death at the hand of a parent or other family member. The Ofsted figures include, for example, the death of a young person in which there is a suspicion of neglect, but the cause of death, such as anorexia nervosa or suicide, is not direct murder or manslaughter by a parent. That explains the difference.
I would like clarification on one point from the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. Earlier, the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) made it clear that he supported Lord Lamings work to ensure that his reforms are being properly implemented. At the weekend, according to The Sunday Times, the hon. Member for Surrey Heath said that he had issued a declaration of no confidence in Lord Laming, the former chief inspector of social services who is conducting an independent review. It would be helpful to clarify that the hon. Gentleman has confidence in Lord Laming and that he is happy for Lord Laming to carry on with that work.
Michael Gove: I explained in my speech, when I referred to the remarks by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley, that I have nothing against Lord Laming [ Interruption. ] If the Minister of State, Department of Health, the hon. Member for Corby (Phil Hope) had been listening, he would know that I said that I had concerns about the terms of reference, but nothing against Lord Laming.
The hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) made some important points about the particular practices of health services in the Haringey case. I assure him that the re-running of the independent serious case review and the wider work being done on the Haringey case by the Healthcare Commission will ensure that the points that he raised are properly addressed. It would be wrong for me to prejudge that review now, as it is ongoing. The points made by the hon. Gentleman, and by the Chairman of the Select Committee, about ensuring that we have the best on-the-ground inspection, are absolutely right. I know that Ofsted is also committed to ensuring that the inspection regime is robust in safeguarding cases. I will ensure that that happens.
Ed Balls: The appointment will be made by the local safeguarding board. In Haringey, that board is now independently chaired by Graham Badman, the former director of childrens services in Kent. That will be a matter for each area to decide.
Some wider issues to do with health were raised, and it was a learning experience for me to listen to the debate. I was pleased to hear the Liberal Democrats acknowledge the dramatic improvements in the NHS over the past 10 years. With my right hon. Friend the
Secretary of State for Health, I visited the brand new hospital currently being built in my constituency. I was able to see how the investment is being put to good use, but I was surprised to discover today that not only do the Conservatives oppose the new GP centres that are being opened around the countrya Conservative Government would close thembut they oppose the action being taken on tobacco advertising in shops.
We want to make sure that our children and young people are safe and properly protected, but it is no great surprise that Conservatives and some Liberal Democrats oppose those important reforms. After all, the Conservatives also opposed the rise in national insurance contributions that has funded the NHS improvements, and they also voted against the improvements in maternity and paternity leave that we have introduced. When we debate these matters in future, it is important that we remember the Oppositions track record.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) made some important points about the funding of education for 16 to 19-year-olds. He said that we must treat properly the role of ethos in the admissions code and talked about how we plan 16-to-19 education. He asked me to confirm that we would continue with the important investments that we are making as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme, and he invited me to Bury to visit one of those schools.
I am pleased to say that I am very happy to go to Bury and see how our investment is being put to good use, but I cannot give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks because I am afraid that the Opposition remain committed to cutting £4.5 billion from the Building Schools for the Future programme. Fourteen secondary schools in the Bury area are set to be rebuilt, but two would be cancelled under Conservative plans. Moreover, we cannot avoid the embarrassment of visiting one of the schools that the Conservatives would cancel, because they have not told us yet which they are.
Ed Balls: If the Opposition told us where the axe would fall, we would know which school to visit, but it is revealing to look at the list of speakers in todays debate. There are 27 schools in the constituency of South Cambridgeshire, and four would be closed under Conservative plans. Two of the 17 schools in the constituency of Ilford, North are set to be closed, and the same is true of five of the 36 schools in the constituency of Rugby and Kenilworth.
Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that Stockport, an authority in the later stages of Building Schools for the Future, is preparing a bid for capital that includes £30 million for Reddish Vale technology college, which he has visited. Can he guarantee that it will not be scrapped on his watch?
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