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The second battle that we have to fight is the battle for fairness, and this legislation helps in that regard, too, because, first, 120,000 two-year-olds will receive proper reading support, which is absolutely imperative,
8 Feb 2011 : Column 256
and secondly, we are investing £2.5 billion in the pupil premium. Those are signal efforts to ensure that we can win the battle for fairness. So there are two battles, and both are critical.

I shall comment on a few aspects of the Bill which have not been mentioned. First, on our proposals to reform Ofsted, we are right to ensure that it focuses on teaching, leadership and management, not on peripheral matters which are important, but not to the exclusion of what goes on in the classroom. So the first thing I say is, "Get it right over Ofsted." That leads me on to intervention.

Meg Munn: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Neil Carmichael: No, I am not going to, because I only have a few minutes.

We have to intervene in failing schools. In my constituency we have one or two, but a failing school is not a good school and we should never, ever tolerate it. So we have to ensure that action is taken.

Secondly, I welcome our focus on 16 to 19-year-old education. We are empowering the Secretary of State to be in charge of that budget, and quite right too, because we cannot have people sitting in the same college classroom receiving funding from different sources and, often, different levels of funding. That is not satisfactory, and we should not tolerate it, because we have to address the skills shortage and tackle the fact that too many people do not receive sufficient training when they need it. That is bad for the first battle to which I referred, in terms of our contest with other nation states, and it is bad for the small and medium-sized businesses in our constituencies. Let us be clear about this: our focus on skills training is absolutely right.

On the baccalaureate, it is not right to say that children should not have proper education in the key subjects-they should. That is what we are saying in the Bill, and quite right too. I fully support that.

The responsibility for ensuring that the leadership and management of a school are properly focused will come down to governance, and the Bill needs to say more about that. We must remember two things about governance. First, we must focus on the skills of governors to ensure that they are willing and able to challenge the teachers and head teachers when appropriate. They must have the confidence to stand up and say, "Enough is enough", because they are standing up for our children. Secondly, we should think less about the representative side of governance and more about what governors do and the responsibilities they have. I should like to draw that to the attention of the Secretary of State.

In summary, I support the Bill. Of course it can be improved, as can all pieces of legislation. However, the two battles that I mentioned are the battles we fight and the battles we must win.

9.36 pm

Mary Macleod (Brentford and Isleworth) (Con): I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Government on bringing it before the House.

We have heard many passionate speeches today about education. I agreed with the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) when he said that across the House we want all children to achieve their potential. I think we all agree with that.

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Education will determine our country as a nation, creating a strong foundation on which we can build for the future. It is about giving children a great start in life, increasing a child's options, reducing crime and strengthening our entrepreneurship ability and the growth of our economy in the long term. That is one of the reasons I came into politics. If I could do one thing in politics, it would be to create aspiration for all across society, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) said. That is why I became a school governor, like so many others here. Like my hon. Friends the Members for Gosport (Caroline Dinenage) and for Salisbury (John Glen), I have been visiting all the schools on my patch, including Heathland school, The Green school, Isleworth and Syon school and Chiswick community school.

I would like briefly to mention three issues, the first of which is discipline. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride), I think it is an absolute scandal that every school day nearly 1,000 children are excluded from school for abusing and assaulting staff and fellow pupils. Major assaults on staff have reached a five-year high, and that cannot be tolerated. Discipline, as my mother would say, starts at home, but sadly not all children have this. In my experience of working as a school governor, discipline is absolutely critical to the success of a school. The head of Holland Park school, Colin Hall, who is also a constituent of mine, transformed the school by introducing a structure, values, pride, order and expectations. He introduced a clear code of conduct that was about creating a standard of zero tolerance whereby certain things were no longer acceptable, and the students abided by it. I believe that the measures in the Bill will help to restore that balance of power in schools, giving heads and teachers more support in their efforts to maintain discipline in the classroom.

My second point is about the curriculum. My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) mentioned the international league tables for education. It is unacceptable that in the UK we have been falling down those league tables. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West (Charlotte Leslie) spoke eloquently about the OECD figures, which show that we have slipped from 7th to 25th in reading, from 8th to 28th in maths, and from 4th to 16th in science. This has to be changed, and we must sort it out. I want to restore academic excellence in the UK. I agree with introducing the English baccalaureate because we want academic excellence for all. We want all children to have the opportunity to achieve that excellence. Education has traditionally been the core strength of this country, but we have let it slip and need to get it back on track. The proposals in the Bill will raise educational standards and give the next generation the education that it deserves.

On post-16 education, I welcome, especially in national apprenticeships week, the Government's approach to apprenticeships. That investment is about creating skills and jobs for the future.

Finally, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) said, the Bill gives us the inspiration to create free schools. Given that I need a new school in Brentford and Isleworth, I encourage parents, teachers, co-operatives and charitable trusts to create something for the future.

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In conclusion, we need to give all children the best possible chance in life by giving them a great education, skills and aspirations so that they can go on to do their best and be the best that they can be. Teachers have a special role in helping children to believe in themselves and achieve their potential. The Bill will allow them to do that by restoring discipline, reducing bureaucracy and raising standards, which will create a better future for us all.

9.40 pm

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): We have had an excellent debate this evening on the Second Reading of the Bill. If I counted correctly, following the opening speeches there were 34 speeches from the Back Benches-a full class in the state sector, although perhaps not in the sector in which most Government Members were educated.

There are many reasons to oppose the Bill. Indeed, the provision to increase the interest rate on student loans, which has been snuck into the Bill, would be sufficient reason on its own. The Secretary of State accuses us of being against everything in the Bill because we will vote against its Second Reading. In that case, perhaps we should warn the Liberal Democrats that they will be painted as voting in favour of increasing the interest rate on student loans, even if they voted against the student finance measure in the motion before Christmas.

Dan Rogerson rose-

Kevin Brennan: In a moment. I am sure that people will, in a "Focus"-like fashion, look at the way Government Members vote this evening.

There are many other reasons to oppose the Bill, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) pointed out in his opening speech. It strips power from pupils, professionals, parents and the public. That is not to say that we do not support some things in the Bill. We have heard about that during the course of the afternoon. On the surface, the Bill tries to make further progress on the excellent progress that we made in government on behaviour, including on the ability to search pupils and confiscate items, clarifying the position on the reasonable use of force by teachers, and allowing teachers to discipline pupils for behaviour beyond the school gate.

Like any reasonable Opposition, we want to scrutinise the detail in Committee. We want to be sure that the Government's proposals will have a positive impact and not drag schools into further bureaucracy or legal challenge. The proposals should broadly promote the ability of a school to create a quiet, orderly environment for learning. That is the kind of environment that we all agree is not only good for the vast majority of non-disruptive students, but is in the interests of pupils whose behaviour impacts on their own learning and that of others. We will consider the proposals in forensic detail in Committee.

Dan Rogerson rose-

Kevin Brennan: In a minute.

In Committee, we will consider the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Meg Munn) and others to ensure that the proposals are not window dressing, but a genuine enhancement of what we achieved in office. We will consider whether they will cause more problems for teachers and schools. Part 1 of
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the Bill seeks to build on the revolution in early-years provision that Labour pioneered in office. In particular, we will look closely at the power the Secretary of State is awarding himself to decide who gets early-years teaching, how much and when. We will approach the Bill in Committee in that way.

Overall, we oppose the Bill on Second Reading because, along with a number of other pieces of legislation, it fits in with the ideology of the coalition Government; an ideology that the Lib Dems appear to have been duped into going along with, having been seduced, it seems, by Lady Localism. Well, she is not what she seems in this Bill and I ask the Lib Dems to consider carefully what the Bill does about localism. Localism, for them, used to mean enhancing local democracy. This fits in with the Orwellian use of language that the Government have adopted. Just as for the Home Secretary a curfew has become an "overnight residence requirement", localism is used to describe a Bill that takes away local democratic power from communities, teachers and parents, and puts the power into the hands of one man-the Secretary of State. The Bill is described, unbelievably, as a decentralising measure, but he is taking more than 50 new powers to himself to control almost every single aspect of the schools system.

Michael Gove: List them.

Kevin Brennan: I do not have time to list them all, as the Secretary of State knows, but here are a few examples: which subject students should study, how teachers should teach and what types of schools communities should have. He will say that he is just nudging them in that direction, but a nudge with a loaded gun is very different from a gentle steer.

What is it about the Secretary of State, assisted by the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb), that makes him so obsessed with grabbing more and more power at the centre?

Mr Blunkett: Megalomania.

Kevin Brennan: I would not quite go that far, but whether it is the power to close schools or the power to discipline teachers individually, which has been so carefully and consensually put beyond politicians in recent years, we have to ask why the big power grab.

I do not know whether any Members with children have ever seen the TV cartoon "Pinky and the Brain", but the Minister of State and the Secretary of State rather remind me of it. As the title suggests, there are two characters. Pinky is good-natured, but he is dominated by the Brain, who is self-centred and thinks he is a genius. Every episode, after the opening titles, there is the following piece of dialogue: Pinky says, "Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?", and the Brain says, "The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world." That could almost be a transcript of the ministerial meeting at the Department for Education. I know the Secretary of State thinks he is clever, possibly the cleverest boy in the Government, but trying to create an education system in his own image, with all the powers in his own hands, is ultimately a recipe for chaos, not world domination.

8 Feb 2011 : Column 260

The Secretary of State is so intent on making sure that he grabs all the power to himself that he is getting rid of some of the bodies that might get in the way of his scheme not once but twice. Bodies such as the General Teaching Council, which was set up to give teachers the same professional autonomy as other valued professions, are abolished not only in this Bill but in the Public Bodies Bill, presumably just in case abolishing them once is not enough to make absolutely certain that they are absolutely dead. It is in case they suddenly rise up, like the false ending of some schlock horror film. We knew that the Secretary of State had a penchant for drama-we see it every week in the Chamber-although, I hasten to add, not enough of a penchant to include it in the English baccalaureate. However, killing a body twice to make sure it is dead is a bit over the top, even for him.

Why this centralising power grab? It is not just power for power's sake, it is part of his vision of education. In their mind's eye, the Secretary of State and the Minister of State see serried ranks of schoolchildren sitting at individual desks, preferably wearing short trousers, chanting after their teacher their conjugated Latin verbs and copying down the dates of the kings and queens of England from the board. [Interruption.] Did I hear a "Hear, hear" from the Conservative Benches? I think I might have done.

If the Secretary of State thinks that is how to raise standards, he is wrong. A curriculum designed to train a few people to run the empire is not a system that will inspire and motivate the next generation to use their talent and creativity to the maximum benefit of themselves and the country. He has made it clear that in his mind a grade C GCSE in an ancient language, a laudable achievement in itself, is more valued than an A* in engineering or information and communications technology. He is, to coin a phrase, creating an analogue curriculum for a digital age.

All pupils need the basic building blocks of literacy and numeracy, but beyond that, corralling pupils into a narrow range of subjects post-16 restricts choice and stifles creativity. Schools up and down the country, having been nudged by the Secretary of State with his loaded gun, are busily rewriting their timetables and pressurising pupils into taking GCSEs that are not necessarily the best ones for them to fulfil their individual talents. We must bear in mind the fact that they will already have studied history, geography, science and a modern language through the national curriculum. The English bac took a bit of a kicking from some Members on his own side of the House today, and he should listen to what they had to say.

Why is the Secretary of State doing all this? Just so that at the end of this Parliament, he can point to a measure that he invented and imposed ex post-that is a bit of Latin, in case anybody did not know-and say, "Look how we've improved things. More people are studying the subjects that we have retrospectively said they should have been studying all along." It is actually pretty hard for people to fail a test when they have set the questions themselves. The provisions in the Bill on PISA tables are fine, but the Secretary of State had better stop misquoting statistics that he knows the OECD has disowned, and he had better stop ignoring evidence, such as that from Hong Kong or Scandinavia, when it does not suit his overall vision.

8 Feb 2011 : Column 261

When the Secretary of State finally gets round to saying something about vocational education, which he seems fundamentally to believe is for people who do not do well academically, he should remember that medicine is a vocational training that he ought to support. His problem is that he sees the English baccalaureate as the premiership and any league table of vocational qualifications as the Beazer Homes league- [ Interruption. ] I agree that there is nothing wrong with the Beazer Homes league.

Finally, presumably the Secretary of State blames the previous Labour Government for the decline in social mobility in Government Ministers, and believes that it is our fault that the Government Front Bench is dominated by old Etonians, because we did not do enough on social mobility in government. On that point, I shall sit down.

9.50 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr Nick Gibb): This has been an excellent debate, with speeches delivered with passion and expertise on a subject that could not be more important. In the words of the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), who made a principled speech in support of the Bill, the debate is about the education of the next generation and a Bill that will determine the kind of society we have in 20 or 30 years' time.

Between April 2009 and March 2010, 20,094 children rang ChildLine because they were being bullied at school. The median age of the children concerned was between 10 and 14, and 342 of those children were so traumatised that they were considering suicide. It is unacceptable that a child's education and childhood should be blighted by such stress. The coalition Government are committed to tackling all forms of bullying in our schools, including homophobic bullying, and the Bill makes a start by tackling the root cause of bullying-poor behaviour in our schools.

Last year, 2,890 pupils were expelled from school for violent or abusive behaviour, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Reading East (Mr Wilson) pointed out, 1,000 pupils were suspended every day for such behaviour. The Bill ensures that when such a pupil is expelled, the appeals panel will be unable to require a school to take them back against its wishes.

We want to tackle violent behaviour, but we also want to tackle the widespread and corrosive, low-level disruption that challenges teachers throughout the day, which serves to deter people from entering the profession and pushes many to leave it. According to the National Foundation for Educational Research, two thirds of teachers say that negative behaviour is driving teachers out of the profession. Dealing with that is about even more than tackling low level disruption. In some schools, children refuse to do their homework and teachers know that their pupils will not do their French vocabulary or read the next chapter of the set novel. Tackling that culture of low expectation and the school ethos by which it is not cool to study and work hard is central to our educational reforms, because that culture is at its strongest in the weakest schools in the most disadvantaged areas.

The attainment gap between those from wealthy and poor backgrounds is unacceptably wide. Fifty-nine per cent. of non-free school meal pupils last year achieved
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five or more good GCSEs, compared with 31% of pupils who qualify for free school meals. That 28-point gap has remained stubbornly constant over the years. Our objective is to shift the balance of authority in schools away from the pupil and towards the teachers and heads-away from the child to the adult.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds) is right that we need to tackle the I-know-my-rights attitude of the disruptive child and enforce the rights of the overwhelming majority of children in schools, who just want to get on and learn in a safe, happy and stress-free environment. Pupils in schools make it clear that they know when they are being let down by poor behaviour, an inadequate curriculum or poor teaching. Addressing those issues is at the core of the Bill.

That is also why we have launched a major review of the national curriculum-we want to ensure that our schools are teaching at least the core knowledge of the main academic disciplines-and why we have introduced the English baccalaureate to include GCSEs in English, maths, science, history or geography and a language. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West (Charlotte Leslie) was right to argue in a powerful speech that this is not an elitist education. It is elitist to say that children from poorer backgrounds are not entitled to a broad academic education. That is elitist and backward looking. It is that attitude that has led to this country having wider equality gaps than most other countries in the OECD.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) asked whether the duties in the Bill on school provision of independent careers advice will apply to new academies. They will do so through their funding agreements. He also asked how we can prevent competition from damaging co-operation between schools. Our whole approach is to encourage the best professionals and schools to support the improvement of other schools. That is why outstanding and good schools converting to academies are required to support weaker schools, and why we are increasing the number of national and local education leaders. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), the former Chairman of the then Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families, is right to say that we need to take the party battles out of the education debate, and to look at the evidence-an approach that he always took when I served under his excellent chairmanship of the Select Committee. I welcome his comments about the Bill.

I felt that the shadow Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), overstated his case, perhaps for internal Labour party reasons and the need to be seen to oppose. However, he was also wrong on a number of issues. Local authorities will continue to be responsible for co-ordinating admissions, parents will continue to be able to complain to the school governing body and then to the Secretary of State, and, on exclusions, parents will have the right to appeal to an independent review panel. My hon. Friends the Members for North Cornwall (Dan Rogerson) and for Bedford (Richard Fuller) will be pleased to learn that we are considering the expertise on the panel, including that on special educational needs. The adjudicator will continue to investigate complaints, and we are extending his role to academies, which I hope will reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset
8 Feb 2011 : Column 263
and North Poole (Annette Brooke). The shadow Secretary of State was also wrong about apprenticeships. Under the Bill, every 16 to 18-year-old who secures an apprenticeship place will have their training funded. Next year's budget will be more than £1.4 billion, funding more than 350,000 apprenticeships.

The key objectives of the Bill are to raise standards of behaviour in our schools, to return authority to teachers and head teachers, and to send a message to schools that this is a Government who will support teachers. If teachers tell us that we are not doing enough on discipline, we will do more: clarifying and strengthening the rights of teachers, anonymity when facing damaging false accusations and abolishing the statutory requirement for 24 hours' written notice of detentions. We are sweeping away swathes of bureaucratic burdens from the desks and staff rooms of the teaching profession in order to send the message that we trust teachers as professionals. We are abolishing five quangos while strengthening accountability and increasing choice for parents. The White Paper, "The Importance of Teaching", set out a programme of reform designed to close the attainment gap between those from the poorest and wealthiest backgrounds, and to reverse this country's decline in international performance tables so that all who are educated in our state schools have the opportunity to compete with the school leavers and graduates of countries with the best performing education systems.

We want an education system in which left-leaning journalists no longer feel they have no choice but to send their children to the independent sector. We want an education system where high performing schools such as Durand primary school, Mossbourne academy in Hackney and Twyford Church of England school are no longer regarded as extraordinary. This is a Government serious about education reform. The White Paper sets out our path, and this Education Bill marks a further stride towards delivering high-quality education for all. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr Speaker: I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.

The House having divided: Ayes 324, Noes 244.
Division No. 193]
[9.58 pm


Adams, Nigel
Afriyie, Adam
Aldous, Peter
Amess, Mr David
Andrew, Stuart
Arbuthnot, rh Mr James
Bacon, Mr Richard
Bagshawe, Ms Louise
Baker, Norman
Baker, Steve
Baldry, Tony
Baldwin, Harriett
Barclay, Stephen
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr John
Barwell, Gavin
Bebb, Guto
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Benyon, Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Berry, Jake
Bingham, Andrew
Binley, Mr Brian
Birtwistle, Gordon
Blackman, Bob
Blackwood, Nicola
Blunt, Mr Crispin
Boles, Nick
Bone, Mr Peter
Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen
Brady, Mr Graham
Brake, Tom
Bray, Angie
Brazier, Mr Julian
Bridgen, Andrew
Brine, Mr Steve
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr Jeremy
Bruce, Fiona
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Buckland, Mr Robert
Burley, Mr Aidan
Burns, Conor
Burns, Mr Simon
Burrowes, Mr David
Burstow, Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Byles, Dan
Cable, rh Vince
Cairns, Alun
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair
Carmichael, Neil
Carswell, Mr Douglas
Cash, Mr William
Chishti, Rehman
Chope, Mr Christopher
Clappison, Mr James
Clark, rh Greg
Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Coffey, Dr Thérèse
Collins, Damian
Colvile, Oliver
Cox, Mr Geoffrey
Crockart, Mike
Davies, David T. C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Glyn
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh Mr David
de Bois, Nick
Dinenage, Caroline
Djanogly, Mr Jonathan
Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen
Dorries, Nadine
Doyle-Price, Jackie
Drax, Richard
Duddridge, James
Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain
Dunne, Mr Philip
Ellis, Michael
Ellison, Jane
Ellwood, Mr Tobias
Elphicke, Charlie
Eustice, George
Evans, Graham
Evans, Jonathan
Evennett, Mr David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr Mark
Foster, rh Mr Don
Fox, rh Dr Liam
Francois, rh Mr Mark
Freeman, George
Freer, Mike
Fullbrook, Lorraine
Fuller, Richard
Gale, Mr Roger
Garnier, Mr Edward
Garnier, Mark
Gauke, Mr David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr Nick
Gilbert, Stephen
Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl
Glen, John
Goldsmith, Zac
Goodwill, Mr Robert
Gove, rh Michael
Graham, Richard
Gray, Mr James
Grayling, rh Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Grieve, rh Mr Dominic
Griffiths, Andrew
Gummer, Ben
Gyimah, Mr Sam
Halfon, Robert
Hames, Duncan
Hammond, rh Mr Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Matthew
Hands, Greg
Harper, Mr Mark
Harrington, Richard
Harris, Rebecca
Hart, Simon
Hayes, Mr John
Heald, Mr Oliver
Heath, Mr David
Heaton-Harris, Chris
Hemming, John
Henderson, Gordon
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, rh Nick
Hinds, Damian
Hoban, Mr Mark
Hollingbery, George
Holloway, Mr Adam
Hopkins, Kris
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, Mr Gerald
Howell, John
Hughes, rh Simon
Huhne, rh Chris
Hunter, Mark
Huppert, Dr Julian
Hurd, Mr Nick
Jackson, Mr Stewart
James, Margot
Jenkin, Mr Bernard
Johnson, Gareth
Jones, Andrew
Jones, Mr David
Jones, Mr Marcus
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kelly, Chris
Kennedy, rh Mr Charles
Kirby, Simon
Kwarteng, Kwasi
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lancaster, Mark
Lansley, rh Mr Andrew
Laws, rh Mr David
Leadsom, Andrea
Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip
Leech, Mr John
Lefroy, Jeremy
Leigh, Mr Edward
Leslie, Charlotte
Letwin, rh Mr Oliver
Lewis, Brandon
Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian
Lidington, rh Mr David
Lilley, rh Mr Peter
Lloyd, Stephen
Lopresti, Jack
Lord, Jonathan
Loughton, Tim
Lumley, Karen
Macleod, Mary
Main, Mrs Anne
Maude, rh Mr Francis
May, rh Mrs Theresa
Maynard, Paul
McCartney, Jason
McCartney, Karl
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick
McPartland, Stephen
McVey, Esther
Menzies, Mark
Mercer, Patrick
Metcalfe, Stephen
Miller, Maria
Mills, Nigel
Moore, rh Michael
Morgan, Nicky
Morris, Anne Marie
Morris, David
Morris, James
Mosley, Stephen
Mowat, David
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, rh David
Munt, Tessa
Murray, Sheryll
Murrison, Dr Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr Brooks
Newton, Sarah
Nokes, Caroline
Norman, Jesse
Nuttall, Mr David
O'Brien, Mr Stephen
Offord, Mr Matthew
Ollerenshaw, Eric
Opperman, Guy
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, rh Mr James
Parish, Neil
Patel, Priti
Paterson, rh Mr Owen
Pawsey, Mark
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Percy, Andrew
Perry, Claire
Phillips, Stephen
Pincher, Christopher
Prisk, Mr Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, John
Reckless, Mark
Redwood, rh Mr John
Rees-Mogg, Jacob
Reid, Mr Alan
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, rh Mr Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr Laurence
Rogerson, Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rudd, Amber
Ruffley, Mr David
Russell, Bob
Rutley, David
Sanders, Mr Adrian
Sandys, Laura
Selous, Andrew
Sharma, Alok
Sheerman, Mr Barry
Shelbrooke, Alec
Shepherd, Mr Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Mr Keith
Skidmore, Chris
Smith, Miss Chloe
Smith, Henry
Smith, Julian
Soames, Nicholas
Soubry, Anna
Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline
Spencer, Mr Mark
Stanley, rh Sir John
Stevenson, John
Stewart, Bob
Stewart, Iain
Stewart, Rory
Streeter, Mr Gary
Stride, Mel
Stuart, Mr Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Sturdy, Julian
Swales, Ian
Swinson, Jo
Swire, rh Mr Hugo
Syms, Mr Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Timpson, Mr Edward
Tomlinson, Justin
Tredinnick, David
Truss, Elizabeth
Turner, Mr Andrew
Tyrie, Mr Andrew
Uppal, Paul
Vaizey, Mr Edward
Vara, Mr Shailesh
Vickers, Martin
Walker, Mr Robin
Wallace, Mr Ben
Walter, Mr Robert
Ward, Mr David
Watkinson, Angela
Weatherley, Mike
Webb, Steve
Wharton, James
Wheeler, Heather
White, Chris
Whittingdale, Mr John
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, rh Mr David
Williams, Mr Mark
Williams, Roger
Williams, Stephen
Williamson, Gavin
Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob
Wollaston, Dr Sarah
Wright, Simon
Yeo, Mr Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Zahawi, Nadhim
Tellers for the Ayes:

Stephen Crabb and
Norman Lamb

Abbott, Ms Diane
Abrahams, Debbie
Alexander, rh Mr Douglas
Alexander, Heidi
Ali, Rushanara
Anderson, Mr David
Austin, Ian
Bailey, Mr Adrian
Bain, Mr William
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barron, rh Mr Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Dame Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr Joe
Berger, Luciana
Betts, Mr Clive
Blackman-Woods, Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blenkinsop, Tom
Blomfield, Paul
Blunkett, rh Mr David
Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Mr Gordon
Brown, rh Mr Nicholas
Brown, Mr Russell
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, rh Andy
Byrne, rh Mr Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr Alan
Campbell, Mr Gregory
Campbell, Mr Ronnie
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Mrs Jenny
Clark, Katy
Clarke, rh Mr Tom
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Crausby, Mr David
Creagh, Mary
Creasy, Stella
Cryer, John
Cunningham, Alex
Cunningham, Mr Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curran, Margaret
Dakin, Nic
Danczuk, Simon
Darling, rh Mr Alistair
David, Mr Wayne
Davidson, Mr Ian
Davies, Geraint
De Piero, Gloria
Denham, rh Mr John
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Docherty, Thomas
Dodds, rh Mr Nigel
Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.
Donohoe, Mr Brian H.
Doran, Mr Frank
Dowd, Jim
Doyle, Gemma
Dromey, Jack
Durkan, Mark
Eagle, Ms Angela
Eagle, Maria
Edwards, Jonathan
Efford, Clive
Elliott, Julie
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Engel, Natascha
Esterson, Bill
Evans, Chris
Farrelly, Paul
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Fovargue, Yvonne
Francis, Dr Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gilmore, Sheila
Glass, Pat
Glindon, Mrs Mary
Goodman, Helen
Green, Kate
Griffith, Nia
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr Peter
Hamilton, Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr Tom
Healey, rh John
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Mr Stephen
Hermon, Lady
Heyes, David
Hillier, Meg
Hilling, Julie
Hodgson, Mrs Sharon
Hood, Mr Jim
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr George
Hunt, Tristram
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
Jamieson, Cathy
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Diana
Jones, Graham
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr Kevan
Jones, Susan Elan
Jowell, rh Tessa

Keeley, Barbara
Kendall, Liz
Khan, rh Sadiq
Lammy, rh Mr David
Lavery, Ian
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leslie, Chris
Lewis, Mr Ivan
Lloyd, Tony
Llwyd, Mr Elfyn
Long, Naomi
Love, Mr Andrew
Lucas, Caroline
Lucas, Ian
MacShane, rh Mr Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr Khalid
Mahmood, Shabana
Mann, John
Marsden, Mr Gordon
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McClymont, Gregg
McCrea, Dr William
McDonnell, Dr Alasdair
McDonnell, John
McFadden, rh Mr Pat
McGovern, Alison
McGovern, Jim
McGuire, rh Mrs Anne
McKechin, Ann
McKinnell, Catherine
Meacher, rh Mr Michael
Meale, Mr Alan
Mearns, Ian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moon, Mrs Madeleine
Morden, Jessica
Morrice, Graeme (Livingston)
Morris, Grahame M. (Easington)
Mudie, Mr George
Munn, Meg
Murphy, rh Mr Jim
Murphy, rh Paul
Murray, Ian
Nandy, Lisa
Nash, Pamela
O'Donnell, Fiona
Onwurah, Chi
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Pearce, Teresa
Perkins, Toby
Phillipson, Bridget
Pound, Stephen
Qureshi, Yasmin
Raynsford, rh Mr Nick
Reed, Mr Jamie
Reeves, Rachel
Reynolds, Emma
Reynolds, Jonathan
Riordan, Mrs Linda
Ritchie, Ms Margaret
Robinson, Mr Geoffrey
Rotheram, Steve
Roy, Mr Frank
Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, rh Joan
Sarwar, Anas
Seabeck, Alison
Shannon, Jim
Sharma, Mr Virendra
Sheerman, Mr Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Shuker, Gavin
Simpson, David
Skinner, Mr Dennis
Slaughter, Mr Andy
Smith, rh Mr Andrew
Smith, Angela
Smith, Nick
Smith, Owen
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Spellar, rh Mr John
Straw, rh Mr Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry
Tami, Mark
Thomas, Mr Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Stephen
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Karl
Twigg, Stephen
Umunna, Mr Chuka
Vaz, rh Keith
Vaz, Valerie
Walley, Joan
Watts, Mr Dave
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Williams, Hywel
Williamson, Chris
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woodcock, John
Wright, David
Wright, Mr Iain
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr David Hamilton and
Lilian Greenwood
Question accordingly agreed to.
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8 Feb 2011 : Column 265

8 Feb 2011 : Column 266

8 Feb 2011 : Column 267

Bill read a Second time .

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Business without Debate


Motion m ade, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),


Queen's Recommendation signified.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

Question agreed to.

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

European Union

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


The Speaker's opinion as to the decision of the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 9 February (Standing Order No. 41A).

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European Union Documents

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 119(11)),

Energy 2020

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 119(11)),

Taxation of the Financial Sector

The Speaker's opinion as to the decision of the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 9 February (Standing Order No. 41A).


Education Maintenance Allowance

10.17 pm

Mr Alan Meale (Mansfield) (Lab) rose-

8 Feb 2011 : Column 270

Mr Speaker: Order. Before the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr Meale) presents his petition, may I issue my ritual exhortation to hon. Members, right hon. Members, and even Ministers who are planning to leave the Chamber to do so quickly and quietly, extending the same courtesy to the hon. Member for Mansfield that they would wish in such circumstances to be extended to them?

Mr Meale: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker-although I must say that I do not mind if the Secretary of State for Education remains in the Chamber to hear the petition. He is fully aware that the abolition of education maintenance allowance is causing mayhem throughout our education system. Indeed, in North Nottinghamshire, part of which I represent, 74% of students who apply for EMA receive it in one form or another, and in my constituency of Mansfield 64% receive the maximum amount.

The petition, addressed to the honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, states:


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Higher Education (Student Visas)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. -(Angela Watkinson.)

10.19 pm

Mr Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con): I am pleased to have this opportunity to debate the impact on higher education of the proposed changes to tier 4 immigration rules, otherwise known as visas for students. The importance of this issue was drawn to my attention by my constituent, Professor Edward Acton, vice-chancellor of the University of East Anglia, who is chairing the Universities UK taskforce on this issue and who, like the Minister for Immigration, has recently given evidence to the Select Committee on Home Affairs inquiry on the subject. I should remind the House at the outset that the UK punches above its weight in this area: we have one in 100 of the world's population, but seven in the top 200 of the world's best universities.

Let me start by making a couple of basic observations. First, some people will perhaps be surprised-I certainly was-to learn that proper, genuine students are seriously considered to be part of the migration figures at all. Certainly, students must be subject to proper controls and have visas-student visas-but since they are self-evidently a transient population who come to this country to study, and who spend money in doing so, and who then leave when their studies are over, it is not immediately obvious why they should be considered as migrants. There is of course an issue-a very real issue-to do with whether students actually leave and, more to the point, whether those who call themselves students are nothing of the kind but in essence migrants by a different name, playing the system to come to this country for the purposes of long-term settlement. I will come to that later, but for now let me just say that students who come from overseas to this country genuinely to study should not in my view be properly understood as migrants, in the sense that they come here to stay and settle, that by being in this country for a given period of years they somehow acquire rights to stay that they did not have at the outset, or that they are somehow the source of political anxiety about immigration-they are not. They come here, they pay significant sums into our economy, they study, they eat, they drink and then they leave.

My second observation is that I have noticed that some people talk about this issue as a political problem. "I know there is a political problem," they say, and they mean by that that this Government came to office saying that they would sort out immigration; they said that net immigration was too high and the figures would have to be reduced; and that that was the political reality that must be faced. The result is a clampdown-or potential clampdown-on visas.

One hears stories about eminent and hyper-qualified people, including some of the world's foremost jurists and scientists, being unable to come to the UK to work, although without having personal experience of each such story one never knows for sure how true they are. I can say, however, that in my constituency I have encountered a Japanese paper conservator qualified to postgraduate level in both western and eastern conservation techniques who has had to leave the country because of the new rules. On hearing such stories, people say, "That's not what we mean. We don't want to exclude those who are going to help the country." I think of what my constituents
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say to me on the issue. They have never said, "Let's make sure we exclude the highly skilled-those with something to offer and who are going to help the country."

The political problem in respect of immigration is quite different. My constituents are sick to the back teeth of people cheating when they want to migrate to this country-of people playing the system, and being more interested in what they can get from this country, including our benefits and health service, than in what they can contribute. My constituents hear stories about cheating, and they believe that at least some of them are true and they want it stamped out. For most fair-minded people, that is what lights the blue touch-paper in respect of immigration. There is not any desire to keep out those who will help us or those who want to study.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman both on securing the debate and on having sat through the entire Select Committee sitting this morning. He will have heard every single witness, including the Minister and the representative of Migrationwatch UK, say that they have nothing against genuine students coming here, but that the people they are against are bogus students at bogus colleges.

Mr Bacon: I was particularly interested to hear Sir Andrew Green of Migrationwatch UK, who I have always thought is a very articulate spokesman on these matters, say that he was interested in bogus students, bogus applicants, bogus colleges and genuine students who overstayed, because those categories contribute to net migration, but that he would welcome more genuine overseas students, as he thinks that is good for the country and the economy.

My fear is that genuine overseas students have been caught up in all this, so let me say how pleased I am that the Government have taken steps to deal with bogus colleges. The Select Committee on Home Affairs produced a useful report on that issue in 2009 and I gather from the Minister's evidence to the Committee today that some 58 colleges have had their status revoked and the Government have taken compliance action against a further 235, which may lead to suspension or revocation of status. I applaud those excellent and worthwhile moves. Nobody has a stronger interest in seeing bogus colleges put out of business than legitimate providers. I should add that the Committee's previous recommendation to restrict by law the use of the word "college" is a good one that Ministers should take seriously.

There is no place for bogus colleges or bogus applicants; nor is there any place for genuine applicants who overstay. We should have clear rules that everyone understands and that are enforced. If we deal with the bogus colleges, the cheats, the bogus applicants and those who fiddle the system, a great deal of the heat-the political problem about immigration-goes away. At that point, we face chiefly not a political problem, but a much more entrenched and difficult economic problem. We are all living through the consequences of the worst financial crash for a century or more. We know that this will be very painful and that severe belt-tightening will take place, and we have seen the Government make a start on that. We all know that any Government would have had to do the same. We know that we have to rebalance the economy away from its heavy dependence on financial services and have much healthier growth in other sectors.

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We know that in Norfolk as well as anywhere does in the UK, because Norfolk is poised for significant growth in other areas of the economy, particularly once we get the dualling of the A11 completed, which I am pleased the Government have agreed. Norfolk is poised to help that rebalancing and not only through tourism, agriculture and high value-added food production, in which East Anglia has excelled, because there is a broader potential for growth. For example, Norwich is home to a cluster of internationally renowned research organisations in health and life sciences.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that for a great many universities across the United Kingdom-particularly Queen's university in Belfast-students on visas are very important to research and development and to contact with companies? That potential needs to be realised. Does he feel that the coalition Government can make changes to ensure that the students who have the right to be in this country can make a contribution to universities and, thus, secure development?

Mr Bacon: I certainly hope so. I hope that the Government understand, if they had not already, that two in five PhDs undertaken in this country are undertaken by overseas students. Damage that and we damage the research base of this country.

More than 2,500 scientists are working at the John Innes centre near Norwich, the Institute of Food Research, the Sainsbury Laboratory, the Genome Analysis Centre and the university of East Anglia cluster, which together form the Norwich research park. That is the largest concentration of food and plant scientists in Europe. The IFR was recently ranked in the top two of 36,000 worldwide research organisations for the influence and citation of its research.

UEA also has a growing medical school and a renowned school of environmental studies. Other growing sectors include offshore and other renewable energy, including tidal, biomass and biofuel energy production. In advanced engineering the area has more than 1,000 engineering companies, employing a skilled work force of about 10,000 people, which trade around the world with the likes of Boeing, Airbus, NASA and Toyota. Group Lotus, which is based in my constituency, is developing the next generation of high-performance cars using renewable energies, as well as being the catalyst for a large cluster of advanced automotive engineering businesses along the A11 corridor. Almost every Formula 1 team is supported by engineers based in Norfolk or is using engineering invented in the county.

Mr Robert Syms (Poole) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a powerful argument. This is a very competitive area because there are other countries, other language centres, and other colleges and universities to go to. Unless we get rid of the uncertainty, we will lose millions of pounds and thousands of students.

Mr Bacon: My hon. Friend is right because the uncertainty is already proving damaging, particularly on the language issue, as I will discuss in a second. In East Anglia, we see around us the huge potential for a new rebalanced economy that places relatively less emphasis on financial services and has growth in all these other
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sectors. We have the potential for a golden triangle between Cambridge, Norwich and Ipswich, where BT Martlesham has its own electrical generating capacity, because it uses more electricity for computing power than many small towns.

Where is the role of the universities in all this? It is nothing short of crucial. As the Minister knows, we need more skilled people-all Governments talk about the need for more skills. Our education system produces far too many people who are not equipped to go further, which was the subject of this afternoon's Second Reading debate. Some people cannot study at university, because they do not have the basics in English, maths and science. We have a shortage of science and maths teachers, which is being made worse by a vicious circle: not enough students reaching the basic standard; not enough students studying those subjects at A-level; not enough good people therefore applying to university to study those subjects; and accordingly not enough graduates to become teachers to help solve the problem.

What is helping to break that vicious circle? The answer is overseas students. In many STEM subjects-science, technology, engineering and mathematics-courses are viable only due to the substantial proportion of enrolments from outside the UK and the EU. If we get all this wrong, we will damage the possibility of our economy recovering and rebalancing away from an over-dependence on financial services. One need only look to the United States to see the enormously important role of a vibrant university sector in driving economic growth.

In 2009, a study by the Kauffman Foundation on the impact of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which analysed the economic effect of MIT alumni-founded companies and their entrepreneurial ecosystem, concluded that if the active companies founded by MIT graduates were to form an independent nation, their revenues would make that nation at least the 17th largest economy in the world. The state comptroller of New York has estimated that college and student spending directly or indirectly provides nearly 500,000 jobs and generates more than $62 billion of economic activity. The comptroller of public accounts in the state of Texas has estimated that every dollar invested in the state's higher education system eventually returns $5.50 to the Texas economy.

Why are those American comparisons interesting? The United States is the most successful higher education market in the world. It is No. 1, but which is No. 2? Where is the second-favourite destination?

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): The university of Liverpool has 3,000 international students, who generate not only £30 million of income for the university but a positive, knock-on effect for our local economy. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if we do not ensure that those students can come to the UK, we will see, at a time when we are seeing cuts to our university budgets, massive impacts on local economies?

Mr Bacon: When funding is tricky, universities are rightly looking for other sources of income-indeed, the Government have told them to do so.

As I was saying, we are the second-biggest education market in the world.

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Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Bacon: I will not give way. I am sorry, but I must make some progress, because I must leave time for the Minister to answer and this is only a half-hour debate.

The UK higher education sector is a major export in a market that is set to grow rapidly. Professor Steve Smith of Universities UK told the Select Committee on Home Affairs that higher education is by some estimates the seventh largest export sector in the UK-others have put it as high as the third largest-and the market is growing by 7% a year. As the Home Secretary has pointed out, the combination of international fee income and personal off-campus expenditure by international higher education students alone already approaches £5 billion. That has become a vital income stream for universities and for the wider economy.

As I have mentioned, Professor Edward Acton told the Home Affairs Committee:

The UK's international alumni provide a healthy anglophile network among public and private decision makers in every one of our trading partners. The key question for universities is whether the Government intend to promote or restrict our recruitment of bona fide non-EU students in higher education. As Professor Acton stated in his submission to the Home Affairs Committee:

The Foreign Secretary announced in January that

On his recent Asian trip, the Prime Minister emphasised

and that international students are a

Professor Acton and Universities UK fear that the UK Border Agency is set on a course which, if it is not altered, will drastically reduce legitimate higher education recruitment with a grave threat to pre-university pathway courses, which produce an income for universities of £1 billion a year. It is very important at this point to distinguish, as Professor Acton does in his paper, between sub-degree courses and pre-university pathway courses.

The Minister will know that the international passenger survey is deeply flawed and that the Treasury Committee said three years ago that it was not fit for purpose if that purpose was to play a central role in estimating international migration. I urge him to continue engaging with the universities sector, which has offered to pay for speedy research to provide the conclusive cross-check suggested by Professor Acton in his paper. We cannot wait for several years while e-Borders gets sorted-we need action sooner than that. The Select Committee has explored these matters in depth and raised many interesting issues, such as the role of accreditation bodies and
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whether they should be merged, the place of post-work study and the requirement or otherwise to return to one's home country. However, I shall not dwell on those issues because there is precious little time left.

I shall concentrate on just two issues, the first of which is pre-university pathway courses. Yesterday, I visited the highly impressive £38 million INTO building at the university of East Anglia, which provides pathway courses for 700 students each year, half of whom go on to study for degrees at the UEA and about half of whom go on to university studies elsewhere. That aspect of university provision is now a critical part of the international offer. Many countries do not have the equivalent of a second-year A-level and their students simply are not ready to start a university degree course without further preparation. In providing such preparation, universities such as the UEA are taking a sensible entrepreneurial step to safeguard their future growth and to help safeguard the UK's higher education market and make sure that it prospers.

The second issue, which relates to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr Syms), is the importance of the English language in the mix. At a time when French universities have started offering university courses in the English language because of the richness of the potential English-language instruction market, I need hardly stress how important it is for the UK not to damage inadvertently that market in the UK. I can speak personally for the adage that there is no place to learn a language as good as the country concerned. I was a student in Berlin, where I attended lectures in English and German, and I acquired a new respect for any student studying overseas in a language that is not their mother tongue. That is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do without help. We are spoilt in the UK because English is the world's language of business and academia. We are so used to hearing a high standard of English among educated northern Europeans such as Swedes, Germans and Dutch-at the B2 standard or higher-that we assume it is easily attainable, but it is not. Those countries have invested a huge amount over many years to get to where they are now. The B2 standard of English is not often achieved in southern Europe and is seldom achieved in east Asia. Any measures that include a requirement for a B2 standard of English as a condition of entry will have a significant, damaging effect on the market for overseas students coming to the UK.

This goes beyond language. The UEA has developed the innovative Newton programme in which overseas students come to the UK to do A-levels in the sciences, mathematics and economics in a university environment and have the opportunity to attend lectures with university undergraduates in those disciplines. That is a great way of marketing the university overseas and attracts some of the highest calibre students. If there were ever an area that cried out for joined-up government it is this.

I really want to hear from the Minister on one issue above any other: do the Government intend to promote or reduce the UK's recruitment of bone fide non-EU students in higher education? We have to get out of a big hole. It is simply critical, at a time when the Government are asking universities to be more entrepreneurial, to seek out new customers and to offer new courses that meet the needs of those customers; and at a time when the whole economy needs a lift, which the university
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sector can provide, that the right hand and the left hand of our Government each know what the other is doing and that we do not inadvertently choke off what should be a crucial part of this country's recovery.

10.38 pm

The Minister for Immigration (Damian Green): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr Bacon) on securing the debate. I appreciate that the unusually large attendance for an Adjournment debate means that many Members have come to intervene, but unfortunately, as my hon. Friend has taken up two thirds of the time available, I am afraid I will not be able to take any interventions. He has raised many important points that I want to address in the brief time remaining.

First, let me put the consultation into perspective. Reforming the immigration system and reducing the level of immigration to a sustainable number is one of the Government's big tasks. The uncontrolled immigration levels of the previous decade led to a loss of public confidence, strain on public services and an increase in the visibility of extremist politicians holding unpleasant views seeking to exploit the problem. We as a country need to reverse this, and we as a Government are doing just that.

We have made it clear that we will take a different approach. We will tighten up our system, stop abuse and support only the most beneficial immigrants. We set out our approach last year to economic migration, we have just finished a consultation on student migration, the specific subject of the debate, and we will consult on families and settlement. We have indicated that, through a more rigorous and controlled approach, we will see fewer non-EU migrants than in the past. Our goal is an improved system that commands the confidence of the public and serves our economic interests. We expect this to come through a system that shows a significant fall in net migration to the UK, from the hundreds of thousands annually that we have seen in recent years to tens of thousands over the course of this Parliament. To set that in perspective, in 2009 net migration was at nearly 200,000 and continued rising in the early part of 2010. For non-EEA migrants-that is, excluding British and EU citizens-it was around 184,000. My principal task is to reduce the numbers coming, increase the numbers leaving when their visas are up, and eliminate abuse in the system, one of the important points raised by my hon. Friend.

I am taking action to tighten our migration system across all entry routes for non-EEA-migrants- work, study and family-and to break the link between temporary routes and permanent settlement. Some of the measures will take effect in the short term. Others will set us on a long-term road to sustainable immigration, where Britain benefits economically and culturally from new skills and backgrounds, but in a context where people are at ease with the changes that they see around them.

On the student immigration system, the majority of non-EU immigrants are students. Our public consultation on the student visa system closed on 31 January and we are carefully considering the more than 30,000 responses that we received, before finalising our proposals.

Let me deal directly with some of the points made by my hon. Friend. The UK's education system is world renowned. We remain the second most popular global
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destination of choice for the many thousands of higher education students who choose to study abroad each year. We want to encourage all those genuine students coming here to study at our world-class academic institutions. Genuine international students make an important financial contribution to the institutions that they attend, including our universities, where their continued contribution will be all the more important in the light of changes to the way in which those institutions are funded.

The brightest and the best students who have the greatest contribution to make to the UK will continue to be welcomed under the student route, but we remain concerned that not all those using the student route at present are genuine students whose main intention is to come to the UK to study. There are significant numbers of students whose contribution is less easily defined.

One of the interesting points that my hon. Friend makes, which has also been made to me by Professor Acton, on whose behalf he was speaking, is that we should stop counting students as immigrants-that they come, they study and they go, so they should not count. I am afraid to tell my hon. Friend that the definition of an immigrant is a UN definition. It is not under my control or under the control of the British Government. According to that definition, an immigrant is somebody who comes to stay in a country with the intention of staying for more than a year. That is the international definition.

Those who invite me to change the definition make a tempting case. I could at a stroke define away 60% of the immigration into the UK. I could, with the statistical stroke of a pen, define away the immigration problem, but I am programmed to resist temptation. In all seriousness, the idea that any Government could say, "We've solved the serious problem of immigration simply by redefining what immigrants are" would have no credibility. It would clearly be an absurd thing to do. We have to keep using the internationally agreed figures that are always used.

It is important to put the arguments in a proper statistical perspective. Students now represent the largest proportion of non-EU net migration. In 2009 the student route, including dependants, accounted for approximately 139,000 out of the total net migration figure of 184,000, which is 76% of total net migration. Recent Home Office research shows that 13% of those granted settlement in 2009 were originally admitted as students-23,000 grants of settlement. Further Home Office research shows that more than one fifth of those who came here as students in 2004 were still here five years later in 2009.

Another point that is absolutely essential to understanding the debate is that all too often there is an assumption that the vast majority of those students who come here do so as university students. Actually, 41% of the students who come here from abroad do so to study a course below degree level, and abuse is particularly common at those lower levels. As my hon. Friend admitted, 58 education providers have had their sponsor licences revoked since 31 March 2009, and the vast majority of them were privately funded further education colleges.

Last year, the post-study route, which my hon. Friend mentioned, allowed 38,000 foreign graduates to enter the UK labour market at a time when one in 10 UK graduates were unemployed in their first six months
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after graduating. Another common misconception is that because those highly skilled students are coming to read degrees and then take up skilled jobs in the work force, surely they are upskilling our general industrial output. In a survey of users of that system in which respondents were asked about their current employment status, of those in the tier 1 post-study work category-precisely those who are meant to be the brightest and the best doing skilled jobs-almost one fifth were unemployed and only half of those who were employed were in a skilled or highly skilled job.

It is too sweeping a statement to say that the system as it has worked up to now is not delivering highly skilled people into highly skilled jobs, because it is doing some of that, but it is also doing an awful lot of something else that I suspect Members on both sides of the House would not regard as desirable. As was mentioned in the interesting Home Affairs Committee hearing this morning, when the new system was introduced by the previous Government, there was such widespread abuse in three parts of the world that after a few months the whole system had to be suspended there: no student could be let in from parts of China, India and Nepal because of the absolutely widespread abuse that we saw.

I have already identified the private sector FE colleges that provide education below degree level as the area where we have the most worries. In the last year for which we have figures, those institutions admitted 91,000 students, so we are not talking about a small number of students on the periphery of a system that basically
8 Feb 2011 : Column 280
involves universities. We are talking about tens of thousands of students coming to institutions, the vast majority of which are not highly trusted sponsors under our system. That is why one of the key proposals in our consultation document is that only providers who are highly trusted sponsors will be able to offer courses below degree level.

Another absolutely key item on which we have consulted is a stricter accreditation system, which we need to create. The accreditation system that has grown up for those private sector colleges in recent years is clearly not adequate, and we are talking to those who regulate education, as well as looking at the way in which we regulate immigration routes, so that a new accreditation system for those institutions can be introduced which ensures our confidence in them. In the past few days, we have finished the consultation, and we will finalise our proposals over the coming weeks and, of course, announce our response to the House as soon as possible.

We want to create for student migration a strong framework that requires education providers to tighten and improve their selection and recruitment procedures. There will be a greater emphasis on quality, and we shall drive abuse out of the system. That will generate public confidence in the immigration system and ultimately be good for all the legitimate international students who are welcome to study here. Those changes to the student route are a vital building block in our overall immigration policy.

10.50 pm

House adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 9(7)).

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