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The right hon. Gentleman painted a devastating and damning picture of people who had been expecting capital funding but were denied it. That
is exactly what happened under his Government, when the Learning and Skills Council left colleges unbuilt and denied principals cash. Precisely the picture that he paints, and which he says is bleak, was delivered under his Government.
Ed Balls: And the right hon. Gentleman is not the only one who can abolish quangos, but I have to say to him that back in 1997 no money was being spent on further education. There is £2 billion-plus being spent on further education capital projects now, so we are not going to take any lectures from the Conservatives on new school buildings or new further education colleges. Under their previous Governments, such schools and colleges were starved of resources.
Then we hear that, along with the free schools and the new academies, they are going to fund the new pupil premium. However, people will ask, "Where is the money going to come from?" I have seen some of the past advice, and I know how difficult it is to find the money to pay for such measures, so if I had to make an estimate I would say that an additional £1 billion a year is going to be needed if the pupil premium is to have any meaning.
Where will the cuts fall to pay for the pupil premium? Will the right hon. Gentleman scrap the extension of free school meals? Will he scale back one-to-one tuition and the Every Child a Reader programme? Will he cut education maintenance allowances? Will he cut the budgets for disabled children, for children in care, for youth services, for school sport and for school music? Will he scale back the 15-hour offer for three and four-year-olds? Will he abolish free nursery care for two-year-olds?
Where is the money going to come from? I do not expect answers today, but we will need answers soon. The difference between the right hon. Gentleman in opposition and now in government, as we found earlier, is that there is nowhere for him to hide. He will have to answer those questions and my advice is to him is, "Read the advice before you start making statements in the House," because if he does not he will find that he gets into trouble very quickly indeed. Indeed, he can no longer rely on the right hon. Member for Yeovil being in the Treasury to bail him out on spending issues.
The right hon. Member for Yeovil might have ridden to the rescue to support the Secretary of State on protecting schools spending, but on other aspects of Conservative education policy he was withering: he called the right hon. Gentleman's free schools policy a "nonsense"; he said that having a strict national curriculum for some schools while letting others opt out was "dotty"; and we all recall his views on the elitist policy whereby only people with a 2:2 or above would be allowed to go into teacher training. The new Schools Minister, the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb), seemed to go even further down the elitist road in recent weeks. He said:
"I would rather have a...graduate from Oxbridge with no PGCE teaching than a...graduate from one of the rubbish universities with a PGCE."
I agree with the Minister for Universities and Science, the hon. Member for Havant (Mr Willetts)-I hope the Secretary of State does, too-that we can be proud of our university sector in all its diversity. My advice to the Education Secretary is, disown the Schools Minister-it probably will not be the last time that he has to do so during this Parliament-and join me in saying that we welcome as teachers excellent graduates from all our universities.
Whatever university the Secretary of State attended, however, he is a very intelligent man, and I know that he will be delighted, as always, to show us all once again just how very, very clever he is. For that reason, I have prepared for him another Queen's Speech quiz. I know how much he enjoyed the last one, but given the Schools Minister's presence why do we not play "University Challenge"?
"The free schools are generally attended by children of better educated and wealthy families making things even more difficult for children attending ordinary schools in poor areas"?
Let us try again. I have an easier one this time. Here is their starter for 10-definitely no conferring at all this time. Who in April described the new Conservative-Liberal Government's proposed free schools policy as a "shambles" and went on to say:
"Unless you give local authorities that power to plan and unless you actually make sure that there is money available...it's just a gimmick"?
I am going to have to hurry them. Yes, Teather, St John's, Cambridge. It was in fact the hon. Member for Brent Central (Sarah Teather), the new Minister for Children and Families. In recent months, the Education Secretary's new Front-Bench colleague has made some notable speeches-notable in retrospect, at least. Back in March, she told the Liberal Democrat spring conference:
"The Tories don't know what they are talking about. They have no idea how the other 90% live. Scratch the surface and the old Tory party is alive and well."
"only motivation is that they think it's their turn. They don't really think they can make things better. All they believe is that they have a right to rule."
Of course, they are ruling only because the hon. Lady and her Liberal Democrat colleagues put them into power. I only wish I was attending the ministerial team meetings to see the sparks fly. There is a serious point here. As we now know, on education policy this Government are divided from the start. It is not only the new Minister who needs to be persuaded that this new-schools policy is not an uncosted shambles, to use her word.
It will be no surprise to the Secretary of State that we Labour Members have very serious reservations about his lurch in education and academies policy. It is reported that he has written to 2,600 outstanding schools, inviting them to become what he calls academies. They are told that they will get extra funds-funds that are currently being spent on special needs, school food, transport and shared facilities such as music lessons, libraries or sports
facilities. At no point in his proposal does the Secretary of State explain the impact that that may have on other local schools.
Where our academy policy gave extra resources and flexibility to the lowest-performing schools, the new Secretary of State proposes to give extra money to his favoured schools by taking money away from the rest. Where our academies went ahead with the agreement of parents as well as of local authorities, the new Secretary of State is proposing in legislation to abolish any obligation on schools to consult anyone at all before they become academies-no one will be consulted, including parents and local authorities.
We brought in external sponsors such as universities to raise aspirations, but we were clear that profit-making companies were not welcome to sponsor academies. However, the right hon. Gentleman is abolishing the requirement to have sponsors at all and encouraging private companies to tout around the country to parents, offering their services for profit to provide education. Our academies were non-selective schools in the poorest communities, but his new academies will be disproportionately in more affluent areas and he will allow selective schools, for the first time, to become academies too. Where we used accredited schools groups to encourage school-to-school collaboration to raise standards, he is allowing schools to opt out and go it alone.
The policy is not an extension or even a radical reshaping; it is a complete perversion of the academies programme that the right hon. Gentleman inherited and that my noble Friend Lord Adonis and I drove through in government. It is not a progressive policy for education in the 21st century, but a return to the old grant-maintained school system of the 1990s. It will not break the link between poverty and deprivation, but entrench that unfairness even further, with extra resources and support going not to those who need it most, but to those who are already ahead. My very real fear is that that will lead to not only chaos and confusion, but deep unfairness and a return to a two-tier education policy as the Secretary of State clears local authorities out of the way and then encourages a chaotic free market in school places.
"Safeguards will be needed to ensure a two-tier education system is not allowed to develop".
Those are very wise words, and such concerns are widespread in local government and across the school system. Will schools that do not become academies pay financially for those that do? Will the admissions code apply to new academies and be properly enforced? Will academies co-operate, as now, on behaviour policy, or will the Secretary of State allow high-performing schools to exclude pupils as a first resort, without any role for local authorities, Ofsted or children's trusts? Will he step in if things go wrong in what will be a massively centralised education system and how can he reassure us that disadvantaged children will not lose disproportionately from the resources for wider children's services that will be transferred from local authorities to high-performing opt-out schools, as they take the money away with them? Those are the questions to which we
will want answers. We will return to these issues in much greater detail in the coming weeks as he tries to rush his Bill on to the statute book.
I want to make clear to the House what sort of Opposition we will be on education and children's services. There are cuts that have to be made, and we will support them, as I did before the election in outlining cuts to a range of non-departmental bodies. When the right hon. Gentleman gets it right, we will support him. When he is genuinely supported by teachers and parents, we will support him too. On some of the very difficult issues that will pass across his desk-some of the most sensitive issues that the Government have to deal with on a daily basis, as I know-he will have our understanding and our support. However, I have to say to him that every school building that this Government cancel, this Opposition will fight against tooth and nail; every programme vital to ensuring that every child succeeds, this Opposition will defend; and every individual child's future that this Government put in jeopardy through their programme of immediate cuts, whether directly by abolishing the child trust fund or indirectly by attacking local government funding, this Opposition will oppose. That is because we believe that every child matters, not just every other child. The right hon. Gentleman may have changed his Department's name, but we will not let him duck his responsibilities.
Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I remind the House that Mr Speaker has placed an eight-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches, which operates from now on. Any hon. Member who can speak within that figure will be doing a great favour to many others who are on the list.
Mr Stephen Dorrell (Charnwood) (Con): I listened with interest to the speech by the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls). His case appears to be that the previous Government did no wrong and, in particular, that their economic policy represented global leadership and error-free judgments. If that is the basis on which he seeks the leadership of his party, I can only say that I wish him well.
I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), the new Secretary of State, on his appointment and on the way in which he spoke of the things that we have in common within the parties supporting the coalition Government and of the programme that the coalition Government have set before Parliament and the country, particularly on the reform of public services. There is obviously no doubt about the principal domestic challenge that faces the coalition: the fact that the deficit that we inherited from the previous Government is unsustainable and must be reduced. That is a matter not simply of accountancy but of creating the stability that is necessary to allow the process of wealth creation to be reignited and, particularly for the purposes of this debate, to provide the stability that is necessary if we are to secure our common objective of delivering high-quality public services. That is the core challenge facing the new Government.
A second challenge of equal importance to the country and to this House is the securing of our common objectives for the delivery of public services. That is a
major opportunity for the coalition, because it represents a failure of our predecessors to deliver our constituents' objectives in health and education. It is also an opportunity for the coalition, as my right hon. Friend made clear in his speech, because within the coalition we share a commitment to a more localised and less bureaucratic approach that accords significantly greater respect to the professional people who work in those services.
I want in particular to talk about how those ideas are applied to the national health service. Let me begin with a brief piece of history. June 1990, exactly 20 years ago, was the month in which the purchaser-provider split was first legislated and brought into action in the health service. At that time, the introduction of accountability to purchasers was seen as an important means of driving accountability and quality into the health service, eliminating unaccountable practice variation and improving value for money.
The Select Committee on Health in the previous Parliament conducted an audit and progress review of where we had got to in achieving the objectives that were originally set out for the purchaser-provider process, which is now called commissioning. That report makes depressing reading. In today's health service, commissioning is seen as over-bureaucratic and as too much of a box-ticking process. The power still lies with the provider, and worst of all, the process is seen as excessively expensive and certainly not delivering the objectives that were originally set out for it 20 years ago. The Select Committee report poses the question whether we should therefore give up on the principle of commissioning and, by implication, although it does not say this, go back to a tradition of central planning. I hope that that is an entirely rhetorical question, and I am pleased to say that I believe my right hon. Friend the new Secretary of State for Health thinks so.
To give up on the principle of commissioning would be to give up on the requirement to set priorities and make resources follow those priorities, and on the principle of accountability. In short, it would be to give up on the ideals on which the health service was originally founded. I am pleased that the Queen's Speech makes it clear that the coalition and both parties within it are committed to following through the logic of empowered commissioning and to making the idea work and be successful.
I offer my right hon. Friend four thoughts on how to deliver that objective, all of which are in the coalition agreement. The first way is through greater local engagement, including with general practitioners, and the involvement of elected members in primary care trusts. That is needed so that local communities understand what is being done on their behalf. Secondly, we need greater engagement by the professions so that commissioning in the health service is not something that is done to professional people by managers but something that engages the professionals themselves in securing the objectives that we as lay people, and even more importantly the professionals themselves, have for the health service.
The third objective is that commissioning needs to be outcome-focused, so that we justify what we do in the health service through improved outcomes experienced by patients. Fourthly, there is an idea that the previous Government canvassed on but never followed through.
We need to look for opportunities to bring external support into the commissioning process rather than imagine that we have the capacity in the NHS on an entirely home-grown basis. We need to bring in outside expertise from both within this country and overseas.
There is no party divide in the House about the principles on which the health service was founded. The Labour Government increased the resources available to the health service on an unprecedented scale, but they never followed through in a sustained way with the discipline required to deliver value for money and high-quality health care in return for those resources. That opportunity is open to the coalition-to maintain the resources available to the health service, as it is committed to do, but to add the commitment to deliver the results that, both as taxpayers and as patients, our constituents want the service to deliver.
Mr Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab): I start by saying that I intervened on the Secretary of State for Education when he mocked a school book that encouraged children to eat more nutritionally. I admired the Conservative party when it was in Opposition for wanting to reduce health inequalities in this country, but I say to Government Members today that when considering issues such as childhood obesity, if we do not encourage children to eat more nutritionally-no matter whether that is done at school, at home or anywhere else-we will never get anywhere near to reducing health inequalities. We should not mock such ideas, we should support them.
I wish to mention two health issues that the Secretary of State for Education raised, one of which was that of trusting clinicians. In the previous Parliament, I chaired the Select Committee on Health-indeed, I have been involved in public health issues in Parliament for most of my years as an MP-and I have to say that, occasionally, some parts of the national health service and some clinicians give the distinct impression that they would not have wanted any of the changes made since 1948. We therefore need to be careful about that matter.
I am not saying that we should not take clinicians along with us when dealing with the issue. The noble Lord Darzi did so in his next stage review. He engaged thousands of clinicians to ensure that improvements were made. However, there were still people on the ground opposed to such things as the seven-days-a-week, twelve-hours-a-day opening of primary health care centres so that people could see a GP. We should learn lessons from the recent past about the attitudes of some professional bodies.
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