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The Prime Minister: We believe that the Libyan people should be able to choose their own future. I do not believe that the only alternative to Colonel Gaddafi is some sort of tribal internecine warfare. Many people coming forward in Libya want to see a proper transition. Of course we need to know more about the interim transitional national council, but it is at least a good sign that its members want to be interim, transitional and national, rather than sectarian or tribal. We should be a little more optimistic than the hon. Gentleman sounds in his question.

Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): May I congratulate the Prime Minister on the initiative of the letter that he signed with nine other countries in the European Union, in particular about the importance of pushing forward with a programme of deregulation in the EU? Does the Prime Minister agree that it is essential that someone takes ownership of this programme, and will he do it?

The Prime Minister: I certainly will attempt to do that, but as my hon. Friend knows, one of the issues is that the only organisation that has the right of initiative in the European Union is the Commission, so the key is to work with the Commission and to persuade the Commission that what is needed right now in Europe is deregulation, market reforms and completing the single market. I think President Barroso sees the world like that. There is no fiscal stimulus left to European countries; they have all run out of money. There is not much monetary stimulus left, with interest rates as low as they are. What we need is the stimulus that comes from making it easier to do business, and I think President Barroso gets that.

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): The Prime Minister referred to the need for maximum political and diplomatic unity. In that context, will he clarify the position as regards attendance at the conference tomorrow? Will all the members of the UN Security Council be there? What is the position of the British Government with regard to the remarks being made from Russia?

The Prime Minister: More than 40 Foreign Ministers will be attending tomorrow’s meeting, and it is a meeting of Foreign Ministers, rather than Government Heads and Prime Ministers. In terms of who is coming, it is those countries that are active in the coalition, so there will be strong European representation, but we have also secured, as I said in my statement, strong Arab representation. Countries such as Iraq, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar will be there and the Arab League will be represented. I have also heard that the African Union Secretary-General will be there, which is hugely to be welcomed. Not every permanent member of the Security Council will be represented, but crucially Ban Ki-moon will be there, so I think that it is a good opportunity to bring the alliance together to show its strength and depth and to work out the next moves forward, both militarily and politically and diplomatically. It is about showing that the world is still united around UN Security Council resolution 1973 and that there is a group of countries that are determined to implement it in the interests of the world.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): I strongly welcome the London summit, particularly the inclusion of Turkey, which is very important, but on the day that the Ashdown

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report has emphasised the importance of anticipation in humanitarian response, can I ask that, even though the outcome is still very uncertain, both the summit and the European Union discuss not only the current situation in Libya, but the future humanitarian response, reconstruction and recovery scenarios?

The Prime Minister: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and indeed Lord Ashdown for his very good and timely report. One of the things that we have been looking at for some time is how to get reconstruction and humanitarian aid into countries faster, which is why we have been looking at trying to have a combined military and development approach in some circumstances. In terms of who does the co-ordination, it seems to me that we should be trying to persuade the UN to take a leading role in co-ordinating, but there are some agencies, such as the International Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières, that are already getting into the ports, and we should be helping those that have got there.

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): I noted what the Prime Minister said about completing the single market and including services. For the benefit of the House, will he clarify whether it is his understanding that, following his NHS legislation, NHS services would become subject to single market competition rules in Europe?

The Prime Minister: I think that the hon. Lady will find that it was in 2004 that the previous Government extended EU competition legislation to cover all aspects in the UK, and that has now been progressively extended to health as well. That is my understanding, but if I have got it wrong in any way, I will certainly write to her.

Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): I applaud the Prime Minister’s progress on deregulation within the EU, but may I draw his attention to the European Chemicals Agency’s rewriting of the guidelines on the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals, which will add considerable cost to chemical intermediates manufacturers in my constituency? I urge him to support the efforts of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in pushing back on those costly proposals.

The Prime Minister: I will certainly look into the case my hon. Friend mentions. I have received similar representations from companies in my constituency that are concerned, because they had just about worked out how to comply with one set of rules before seeing another set coming down the track, so I will make sure that BIS is doing as she says.

Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline and West Fife) (Lab): Will the Prime Minister confirm whether those armed forces personnel who are either carrying out or supporting operations will now be exempted from redundancy notices?

The Prime Minister: What we said very clearly with regard to Afghanistan is that anyone who is about to go on operations, is on operations or has recently returned from operations would not be subject to compulsory redundancy, and I believe that that should apply in all circumstances where people are effectively involved in conflict for their country.

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Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): My right hon. Friend has rightly been commended for the way he has averted a humanitarian catastrophe, but will he say a little more about what will mark the end of this conflict? Ideally we would like to see Gaddafi step down, but is it possible that he could comply with the terms of the no-fly zone and the UN Security Council resolution while remaining in office and keeping the country divided, rather like a new Cyprus?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend asks the extremely difficult and very good question, because it is unclear what will happen next. People did not predict the rush to Benghazi, and nor did they predict the rush back from Benghazi. They did not predict that the rebels would be so effective at knocking the Gaddafi regime out of all those coastal towns, including the key oil installations, so it is difficult to have an absolutely clear picture of what will happen next. I think that what we should hold true to is the very strong UN Security Council resolution that is about a no-fly zone, about protecting civilians and about getting humanitarian aid in. To comply with that, Gaddafi must comply with all the things in the resolution and with what the President of the United States set out in his statement. I see no sign of that happening and, as that is not happening, we are right to go on enforcing the resolution.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): I have a dream: I have a dream that one day our country will not be liable for bailing out the eurozone. Will the Prime Minister confirm whether we have contingency funds set aside for any bail-out that goes ahead?

The Prime Minister: I share my hon. Friend’s dream, but I have not had to stand on his shoulders, nor he on mine, to realise it; we both have our feet firmly planted on the ground. On that ground, we will be out of all the bail-out arrangements by 2013. That was negotiated by us in Europe, and that is a worthwhile thing that we have achieved, but we are stuck with article 122 in the meantime.

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): It is good that we will not be liable for bail-outs after 2013, but will the Prime Minister build on his diplomatic successes by using the fact that we have a veto over the permanent arrangements as a lever to extract us earlier—and before we are on the hook for Portugal and Spain?

The Prime Minister: Let me just say again that I do not think we should speculate on other countries’ financial situations; we certainly would not like it if they speculated on ours. The point is that, in return for agreeing to the treaty change that was put forward, we had an opportunity to win some benefits for the UK. We got ourselves out of all future bail-out mechanisms, and we got an assurance that article 122 would not be used again once those operations were in place. I think that that was the right approach for the UK. It was doable, it was negotiable and it was tough work, but we got it, and to say that there was some other option on the table is, if I may say so, not realistic.

Conor Burns (Bournemouth West) (Con): Having prevented Gaddafi from doing to his citizens in Benghazi with guns what he did to our citizens in Northern Ireland with cash, has the Prime Minister had time to

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reflect on the fact that, in publishing the legal advice, in being clear and honest about the objective and in going to the United Nations, he has done a great deal to restore the faith in his office that was so profoundly damaged after Iraq?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful for what my hon. Friend says. It is right to have debates in the House and to do so on the basis of a proper Cabinet decision. Let me just say that we have published not the legal advice, but a note based on the legal advice, and we will stick to the convention that the Government are entitled to receive legal advice confidentially, and then to act in the terms of that legal advice. When we are being asked all sorts of questions about what is legal and illegal under a UN Security Council resolution, I think that that is the right approach.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the biggest economic boost to Europe would be a successful conclusion of the Doha trade round? Was he not entirely right to keep the Council focused on that matter, and will he update us on progress?

The Prime Minister: The issue is about trade both internally within Europe and externally between Europe and other countries. On the first one, it is about completing the single market, and the point to remember is that the single market does not apply to four-fifths of our economy if it does not apply to services properly. On Doha, it is still extremely hard going, but if the Chinese and the Americans can agree to enlarge what is on offer, there is still a prospect of making progress this year. We really need those two countries, however, to focus on the fact that there is a benefit to both of them if they show the political bravery to re-open things and try to make the deal larger.

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): Will the Prime Minister assure the House that every effort is being made to protect the safety of UK citizens, including a number of Mancunian Libyans, still trapped in Libya?

The Prime Minister: I certainly give that assurance. We are still updating daily the number of British citizens in Libya and the numbers who want to leave. There has obviously been an increase, because so many journalists have gone to the country, but we do what we can with partners to try to get those people out who want to get out. Given that the Turks are now helping us with our diplomatic representation in Tripoli, there are avenues to do that, but if the hon. Gentleman has specific cases in mind, I refer him to the Foreign Secretary and his team, whom I know will do everything that they can to help.

John Howell (Henley) (Con): May I return my right hon. Friend to the communiqué on fiscal consolidation? I wonder whether he would say what message it now gives to those who still oppose tackling deficits on an urgent basis.

The Prime Minister: I think the simplest way of putting it is this: if we cut the deficit in half in four years, as Labour proposed, that would mean that in

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four years’ time our deficit would be about the same size as Portugal’s today. That really brings it home to us that the problem in Britain is that much deeper because the deficit we inherited was that much bigger. That means, as the European Commission and the European Union said:

“Consolidation should be frontloaded in Member States facing very large structural deficits”.

I think they mean us.

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): The Prime Minister knows that in the past he has promised the repatriation of laws relating to small businesses and employment and social legislation. He also knows that the Deputy Prime Minister has ruled it out. In the context of these promises from the European Council, which may turn out to be a triumph of hope over experience, as far as we can tell from the past, and with the Commission merely offering a report, would my right hon. Friend be good enough to reaffirm his policy of repatriation so that we can re-grow the British economy and pass the legislation overriding European business laws where necessary for our own national interest and growth?

The Prime Minister: The point I would make to my hon. Friend is that we had to come together in a coalition Government with a coalition agreement. If we are absolutely honest with ourselves, Europe is not an area where the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives always agree, if I can put it that way. However, in the coalition agreement we came to a good agreement that we would not pass further powers from Westminster to Brussels, and that we would introduce the referendum lock so that any further transfer would be subject to referendum; and we also have the agreement that Britain is not intending to join the euro. In spite of the fact that we do not always agree on these European issues—and we are grown-up enough to make that point—I think it is a very strong coalition agreement, and one that all colleagues can support.

Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con): When my right hon. Friend spoke to the Japanese Prime Minister on Friday, did he receive assurances from him that everything was being done to reopen Japanese factories that provide much-needed components to the British car industry?

The Prime Minister: I recognise the point that my hon. Friend makes, given his interest in the magnificent Honda plant in Swindon, which I had the great good fortune to visit. Indeed, although I am not allowed to drive it any more, I am the proud owner of a Honda made in Swindon. I know of the problem. I did not discuss it with the Japanese Prime Minister because we were talking about the absolutely urgent requirements for help for the Japanese now, but it will be key for the Japanese economy, and indeed for ours, to make sure that those trade links are opened up again as soon as possible.

Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): Rather than bail-outs, will the Prime Minister consider putting it to the European Council that there is a better alternative, which is to get spending under control and get a really great Finance Minister like we have here?

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The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right. Everyone in Europe has the same challenge: how do we get on top of fiscal deficits and what are the decisions that we need to make in terms of spending reductions and other measures? Everyone in Europe is engaged in this, apart from the Labour party.

Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): It is not just tanks and planes that Gaddafi uses against his own people but the poisonous propaganda on Libyan state TV carried on NileSat, which threatens to undermine hopes for future peace in that country. What can be done to ensure that all Libyans, especially those in Tripoli, can access independent media on which to base their understanding of current events?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman makes a vitally important point. We want to do everything we can to try to make sure that people can access independent media, which have had a huge impact on these events. But also, frankly, we should take a tougher approach to Libyan state television, which, as far as I can see, is actually working on behalf of the regime that is terrorising and brutalising its own civilians. The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point that we should pursue urgently.

Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con): My right hon. Friend is aware of the relatively peaceful progress being made in the Kingdom of Morocco, in sharp contrast to the situation in much of the rest of region. Will he ensure that we give every encouragement to Morocco following the very positive speech by King Mohammed VI which outlined constitutional and judicial reform in his country?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a good point. The last European Council—there have been quite a lot of them—which was specifically about north Africa, the middle east and the events in Libya, mentioned the excellent speech by the king of Morocco specifically. At a time when many countries in the area are trying to reform, we should encourage those who are engaging in dialogue and reform, and not treat all these countries in the same way.

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): The euro-plus pact, which was endorsed by the European Council and which I am pleased the UK has not joined, referred to a recently proposed directive on corporation tax, which would apply to the UK if it was adopted. Would the Prime Minister be prepared to veto that directive if it interfered with our tax sovereignty?

The Prime Minister: It is important that we maintain our tax sovereignty. That is one reason why I think it is right to stay out of the euro-plus pact. One of the terms of the euro-plus pact is to look at developing a common corporate tax base. If eurozone countries want to equalise their tax rates, that is a matter for them, but it is a folly in which I do not think we should engage.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): I congratulate the Prime Minister on extricating us from the eurozone bail-out mechanism by 2013. Given that Portugal, Spain and Greece are in financial trouble, most people will be concerned about what contingent liabilities we will be exposed to between now and then. What has my right hon. Friend done to assess those potential liabilities?

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The Prime Minister: We have assessed the liabilities. Debates have been held in this House and there is a great deal of information that I can make available to my hon. Friend. The matter is complicated because as well as the article 122 mechanism, which contains a limited amount of headroom, some of which has already been used up in the case of Ireland, another facility has been put in place that does not include the UK, which has considerably more headroom. Above and beyond that, we will have the future mechanism post-2013. If he likes, I can give him the full details on what all those things are and on the relatively limited liability that the UK has under article 122. As I have said, it is a liability that we wish we did not have.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Over the weekend, my wife was saying what a wonderful job the Prime Minister was doing over the EU bail-outs, and that he was turning into a Mrs Thatcher. She wondered if he could use his immense charm and ability to persuade the euro countries not to ask us to participate in any bail-out? Will the Prime Minister satisfy Mrs Bone?

The Prime Minister: I am fast coming to the view that Mrs Bone is quite literally insatiable. I will—[ Laughter. ] I will certainly do my best, but there are some things of which it is quite difficult to persuade one’s European colleagues. I take to heart the compliments that Mrs Bone paid in the early part of my hon. Friend’s question.

Mr Speaker: I feel rather left out not to have met Mrs Bone.

Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) (LD): Will the Prime Minister confirm that France and the other allied countries will take part in military action only through the NATO command structure, and will not prosecute separate campaigns outside that structure?

The Prime Minister: That is the arrangement that has been put in place. Obviously, it is both NATO’s command and control structure and its machinery that everyone has agreed to use. The point that the French have made—I think that this is important—is that we should ensure that the world knows that this is not just a NATO operation, but that Arab countries are involved and that there is a broader coalition and alliance. Given that we have the NATO machinery, it makes sense to use it. I think that one should make those practical arguments, rather than getting too caught up in the theology.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): I welcome the Prime Minister’s emphasis on deregulation and on strengthening the Single European Act. Does he agree that we should apply that logic to the whole of Europe to ensure that our businesses can operate untrammelled across Europe and that investment is able to flourish?

The Prime Minister: I do agree. As I said, completing the single market can sound rather technical and dull, but when one considers how much our economies are dominated by services—80% on average—and the fact that there are still so many abuses of the single market by services in so many countries, it is clear that there is a real opportunity to enlarge the whole EU economy if we take these steps.

Mr Speaker: I must thank the Prime Minister and colleagues for their succinctness. Everybody got in, and we did not even take up the hour that I had it in mind to allocate.

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Post-16 Education Funding

4.49 pm

The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to a make a statement on education after the age of 16.

Today’s statement builds on the work of my colleagues such as the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr Laws), the original architect of the pupil premium; the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Brent Central (Sarah Teather), who has secured additional funding for reform of early years and special needs provision; my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, who has been leading the coalition’s radical programme of work on social mobility; and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes), whose work as advocate for access to education has been driven by the ethical imperative of making opportunity more equal.

All of us know that an increasingly competitive world economic environment means that our children need to be better educated than ever. Sadly, however, we have been falling behind other nations in our educational performance. The OECD has reported that despite sharply rising school spending over the past 10 years, England has slipped down the international rankings from fourth to 16th for science, from seventh to 25th for literacy and from eighth to 28th for mathematics. Last month, in a new report, the OECD revealed that we have one of the most unequal education systems in the developed world. We have a system of education spending that is fundamentally inefficient, and we have an insufficient supply of high-quality vocational education.

The OECD’s challenge is underlined by the conclusions of Professor Alison Wolf’s report on vocational education. Professor Wolf has revealed that nearly half of school leavers never secure five decent GCSEs including English and maths, and that many of the qualifications that they currently secure are not respected by employers and colleges. The case for reform that she makes is unanswerable. We cannot carry on with a vocational education system that is broken, and we are determined to ensure that we have a technical education system that is among the world’s best.

Action has already been taken by my hon. Friend the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning. The number of new apprentices taken on in the last quarter was 54,000, 8% up on last year, and I expect that number to rise further in the months ahead. More young people are being trained for work, and the number of young people between the ages of 16 and 18 not in education, employment or training actually fell by 15,000 in the last quarter of last year. However, we know that more needs to be done. In particular, action needs to be taken to reduce bureaucracy. That is why my hon. Friend will be working with me in the months ahead to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to hire apprentices, so that we can ensure that the next generation enjoys opportunities that were denied the last.

Critically, we know that the biggest determinant of whether students can stay on is their attainment at the age of 16, and specifically whether they secure good GCSEs in subjects that universities and employers value. So to raise attainment, especially among poorer

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students, we have radically extended our academies programme, introduced a new, more aspirational measure of performance, the English baccalaureate, and are investing an additional £2.5 billion in the pupil premium for students who are in school to the age of 16. Today I can confirm that, building on the pupil premium, we will introduce additional funding for the education of students over the age of 16 who stay on at school and college.

We are already increasing funding for post-16 education next year to more than £7.5 billion, which is equivalent to more than 1.5 million places in schools, colleges and training. Within that £7.5 billion, £770 million is being spent on supporting the education of disadvantaged 16 to 18-year-olds. That is £150 million more than would previously have been available to schools and colleges specifically for the education of the most disadvantaged 16 to 19-year-olds. Nearly 550,000 young people will benefit from that student premium.

As we plan for more students to stay on, so we must reform how we fund the institutions that educate young people over the age of 16. I will therefore consult on a fairer funding formula for all schools and colleges in the sector. Already, thanks to the measures taken by the coalition Government, there will be more places in schools and colleges for students, particularly those who want a high-quality technical and vocational education. Because of the steps that we have taken to reduce waste and remove inefficiencies, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer released in the Budget another £125 million to build new schools and colleges in England. We will double the number of university technical colleges planned from 12 to 24, and we will work with leading figures in industry and commerce to create a new generation of 16-to-19 technical academies that will support the growth industries of the future.

All schools should have the ability to benefit from a closer engagement with business, so I have today asked Bob Wigley, the chair of the Education and Employers Taskforce, to bring forward proposals that will allow every school to develop a link with local businesses through engagement with volunteer governors.

However, we must also ensure that no young person is prevented from staying in education or training for financial reasons. The education maintenance allowance was used by the previous Government to provide an incentive for young people to stay on, and it led to a small increase in overall participation, but as a report commissioned by the previous Government pointed out, there are real questions as to whether it is socially just to pay 45% of students a cash incentive to stay in learning when we could concentrate our resources on removing the barriers to learning faced by the poorest.

The social justice case for reform has already been made—by the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson), when he was Education Secretary in the previous Labour Government. He said in 2007 that the EMA was an incentive that

“we will not be using”

in future. Instead, he argued, a Labour Government would need to “divert that” EMA “money into other areas”.

“What we will need to do”,

he argued on behalf of the Blair Government, is

“offer…assistance to youngsters…from poorer backgrounds”,

which is precisely what I propose to do.

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Today, I can announce the shape of the new, more targeted, student support scheme that we pledged to introduce last autumn. We have consulted extensively to ensure that we support those most in need, and I am particularly grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark for the work that he has done to help to secure a progressive solution.

The Government have already ensured that every household in which the family are not on the higher rate of tax, and where children stay on in school after the age of 16, will receive increased child benefit, and today I propose to increase the amount of support that we give to the most vulnerable. Twelve thousand students, those in care, care leavers and those receiving income support, including the severely disabled, should in future all receive an annual bursary of £1,200 if they stay on in education—more every year than they ever received under EMA.

I also propose that those most in need who are currently in receipt of EMA be protected. All young people who began courses in 2009-10 and who were told that they should receive EMA will still receive their weekly payments. Young people who started courses in the 2010-11 academic year and received the maximum weekly payment of £30 should now receive weekly payments of at least £20 until the end of the next academic year.

In addition, those students will be eligible for support from an entirely new post-16 bursary scheme. Our scheme will help to ensure that the costs of travel, food and equipment for poorer students are properly met, so that no one is prevented from participating through poverty. One hundred and eighty million pounds will be available for that bursary fund, which is enough to ensure that every child eligible for free school meals who chooses to stay on could be paid £800 per year—more than many receive under the current EMA arrangements.

Schools and colleges will have the freedom to decide on the allocation of the bursary. They are best placed to know the specific needs of their students, and we will give professionals full flexibility over allocating support. We will now consult on the implementation of the new scheme, so that allocations can be made for the new arrangements to come into effect from this September.

In these extremely difficult economic times, the coalition Government are prioritising the reform and investment we need across the education system. We are providing more investment in the early years to tackle entrenched poverty; tougher action to turn around underperforming schools; more investment in improving the quality of teaching, especially for the most disadvantaged; higher standards for all children at every stage, to get more going on to college and into fulfilling jobs; more academies to extend opportunity across the country; sharper accountability for how every penny is spent and how every pupil is taught; and more autonomy for all professionals, so that we can compete with the best.

We must ensure that we at last have a world-class education system in the decade ahead, and I commend this statement to the House.

Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Lab): On Saturday, thousands of young people came out on to the streets to speak out against the unfair decisions of this Secretary of State. On the “Today” programme, he was dismissive of their actions:

“Evan Davis: Will the march, however big it is, change your mind about any aspect of this cuts agenda? Michael Gove: No.”

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Given that so many people no longer have any faith in a word he says, perhaps it is entirely to be expected that he is here, just 48 hours later, announcing a humiliating climbdown. I do not think that we can dignify today’s announcement with the word U-turn. He has taken a successful policy that improved participation, attendance and achievement in post-16 education, and turned it into a total shambles.

I will remind the House of the background. Before the election, both the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister made personal promises to young people that the EMA would stay. Even after the election, the schools Minister, the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb), pledged to keep it. Then, out of nowhere, the Secretary of State cut it by 90%, and today, under pressure, he tries to put a positive gloss on a 60% cut. Whatever he says, that is what it is—a successful scheme praised by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and leading economists cut by two thirds. Young people have seen through this and will not be taken in by this Secretary of State.

The truth is that with his confused decision making, the Secretary of State has already thrown into chaos thousands of young lives. Even today, many will be none the wiser about their futures. I will take three issues. First, on the money, I have a simple question: where is it coming from? How much is coming from elsewhere in the education budget? Will this announcement not cause chaos elsewhere? Is it true that he is cutting the careers service even further to pay for it—a service already in meltdown thanks to the complete failure of Ministers to manage the transition to a new service? If new money is being provided by the Treasury, how much and why was it not announced in last week’s Budget?

Secondly, on the numbers who will benefit, the Secretary of State claims that the poorest 12,000 students will receive more than under the current scheme. What he did not say is that it amounts to 77p a week more. What has he got to say to the other 588,000 young people who stand to lose over £1,000 a year and to whom he gave a personal promise that they would keep this support? On the Opposition day debate, he stood at that Dispatch Box and promised that his new scheme would help with travel costs and equipment, and provide help for young parents, carers, those leaving care and young people with learning disabilities. Can he today assure the House that all of those promises are met by this announcement? What about the estimated 300,000 first-year students in the middle of a two-year course? He knows that a legal opinion obtained by the Labour party showed that these students had a strong case against the Secretary of State. Is it not the case that today’s partial climbdown was only prompted by the threat of legal action and the panic realisation that he was at risk of yet another reverse in the courts?

Thirdly, on how this scheme will work, we welcome the Secretary of State’s climbdown on keeping a national automatic payment system for about 2% of current recipients. Is it not the case, however, that under his proposed scheme more than half a million young people will no longer have any guarantee of the level of support they can expect? Does not that lack of clarity in this new scheme run the same risk of thousands of young people walking away from education altogether? The fact is that his proposals fail to build on the strengths of

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the current system. Is it not the case that college principals and senior staff will be spending a huge amount of their time administering this fund and will be placed in the invidious position of having to make impossible decisions between equally deserving claims for support? Will there be any national criteria for eligibility and, if not, are we looking at an unfair postcode lottery?

Will the new scheme replicate the weekly conditional payments that have helped to boost attainment and stay-on rates? Five months ago the Secretary of State made a decision that dropped a bombshell on young people in this country, and we are told today that there will now be a further period of consultation—more consultation! Young people are facing a difficult enough future, but still they do not know what financial support they will get. We are five months away from the start of the academic year, yet people working in education do not have the precise details.

This is yet another shambles from a Secretary of State who lurches from one disaster to another: Building Schools for the Future, school sport partnerships, Bookstart and now EMA. The pattern is always the same—a snap decision, no consultation, no evidence to support it and then a grass-roots backlash as his policy unravels before our eyes. It is becoming ever clearer that this is a Secretary of State out of his depth—who has not worked out the difference between being a journalist and being a Minister, and whose shortcomings have been cruelly exposed in office. His transformation is indeed a remarkable one—from the Tory golden boy to the coalition Mr Bean.

But the danger with this Secretary of State is that his incompetence is having a direct effect on the hopes and dreams of thousands of young people. Even after today’s announcement, with universities lining up to charge the full £9,000 in fees and youth unemployment at record levels, thousands of young people will still have to downgrade their ambitions, leave their studies and give up hope of a university education. Is that not a damning indictment of any Secretary of State for Education?

Michael Gove: I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for those questions. I am grateful for his reference to people being out of their depth—I will of course acknowledge his expertise in this area. I am also grateful to him on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills for once more recycling the Mr Bean joke—the copyright on that joke will ensure that the right hon. Gentleman enjoys a successful and happy retirement in years ahead.

The first question that the right hon. Gentleman asked was: where is the money coming from? The answer is that the money for all public spending comes from the taxpayer. It was on his watch that the taxpayer got a spectacularly bad deal from a Government who spent every penny and left this coalition Government with a difficult economic inheritance. He asked whether the money would be allocated by discretionary means. I pointed out in my statement that it absolutely will. He argued that college principals would face an invidious decision, but he must know that it was the Association of Colleges that argued that the new fund should be put in place on discretionary principles. Perhaps he should consult college principals before claiming to speak on their behalf.

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The right hon. Gentleman accused the coalition at one point of engaging in no consultation, and of having too much at another. There was no consistency at all in the questions that he asked. There has been a certain consistency in his position in one area, however, and that is his consistent refusal to state what his alternative would be. The truth is that Labour does not have a policy on this issue or any other education issue. We know what the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle thought: he said that we should divert money from the EMA to the poorest. We know what the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) thought: that we should divert money from child benefit to pay for EMA. However, we do not know what the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) thinks, beyond believing that students should have money to go out for drinks with friends.

We do not know how the right hon. Gentleman would pay for his alternative to our proposal, because he has opposed every saving that we have made. We do not know what he thinks people should be studying when they are not going out, because he has opposed every reform to raise standards. He has no policies on education other than blanket opposition. No wonder he did not join the march for an alternative on Saturday—he does not have one.

Mr Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): I welcome the statement and the funding—which is greater than was originally expected—going into the new bursary scheme. I also welcome the focus on the poorest, to whom it is appropriate to ensure that that funding goes. Can the Secretary of State tell the House on what basis the money will be allocated? Will it be based on free school meals? Indeed, is that part of the consultation? Can he also confirm again that colleges will have total freedom in how they spend the money, so that they can provide directly for transport, for instance?

Michael Gove: The Chairman of the Select Committee on Education asks two intimately related and very good questions. On the first, I can confirm that we intend as closely as possible to mirror funding for the replacement scheme and existing funding, which was given to colleges on the basis of EMA entitlement. However, as he rightly points out, in the consultation, which will relate to the implementation of the scheme, we will take on board the points made by college principals and others, in order to ensure the fairest possible distribution of funding. Unlike with the EMA, college principals will have explicit flexibility under our scheme to be able to provide for transport, among other needs.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Any change from the Secretary of State’s former proposals is welcome, and we are certainly in favour of those in the greatest need getting the greatest amount of help. I recently visited Kirklees college in Huddersfield and found that what was being taken away from most of the young people there was the ability to get to college. The EMA was being spent on transport and food, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will join me in dispelling the myth that people were using it as spending money for drinking and parties.

Michael Gove: We want to ensure that those who need help to pursue their learning have that help, and that is why the money will be in the hands of principals.

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That arrangement will be more flexible, and the money will be targeted precisely on the need for food, transport and equipment. By ensuring that fewer people receive it, we can also ensure that those in need receive more.

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): I welcome the £194 million of transitional support for those who are currently on EMA. I also welcome the fact that the more targeted support will be delivered through schools and colleges. When I was last speaking to a group of students at Nelson and Colne college, many of them said that it was far better to have discretionary support provided by the college for transport and for course-related costs, rather than a cash payment. Does the Secretary of State agree with them?

Michael Gove: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. I know that Nelson and Colne college has particular issues relating to transport. The new, flexible fund will enable us to ensure that those learners, particularly those most in need and who need the most help with transport, will receive timely support that will enable them to carry on learning at that highly successful institution.

Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): It is not much of a claim for the Secretary of State to say that the scheme he is now offering is more generous than abolition. He has caused huge confusion in the minds of young people in my constituency. In his statement, he said: “Our scheme will help to ensure that the costs of travel, food and equipment for poorer students are properly met, so that no one is prevented from participating through poverty.” How is he defining “poverty” in those specific circumstances?

Michael Gove: As I explained in my statement, enough money is available in the fund to ensure that every student who is eligible for free school meals could receive £800, which is more than they would receive at the moment. Of course there is a lively debate about how we should define “poverty”, but the decision by both parties on the Government Benches to target help on those eligible for free school meals seems to be a very good metric, as a starting point.

Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD): I thank the Secretary of State not only for his statement and for the additional financial support, but for a new scheme that seems to be a strong, grown-up successor to the education maintenance allowance. Does he agree that the evidence is clear that the wider the participation in further education is, the wider the participation in higher education will be? The new scheme will mean that no youngster from a poor family should be precluded from going to college for want of reasonable travel costs, all of which can be met under the scheme.

Michael Gove: Absolutely. I want to take this opportunity to underline my gratitude to my right hon. Friend for the painstaking way in which he has consulted students across the country, and for the thoughtful way in which he has put forward his proposals to ensure that our aim for a discretionary fund targeted on the very poorest can be implemented effectively. He is absolutely right to say that if we encourage more students to take part in

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further education, we will be able to achieve our joint aim of ensuring that more students, particularly from the poorest backgrounds, go on to college and university.

Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): I am very pleased that students who are in receipt of EMA will continue to get some financial support for the continuation of their course, but will the Secretary of State tell me what plans he has to monitor the new scheme to ensure that young people from lower-income families are not discouraged from entering further education?

Michael Gove: The hon. Lady makes a very constructive point. We are going to consult on implementation. In the process of designing the new scheme, we have worked with the Association of Colleges, the Sutton Trust and others. I will be looking for evidence on the ground to ensure that all barriers are removed, and I would be very happy to work with the hon. Lady in the future. If she encounters any specific cases of students being unable to access the support that they need, we will ensure that they receive it.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): I welcome the Education Secretary’s statement, particularly in relation to the more targeted support for those in real need. Josh and Georgia from Huddersfield New college in Salendine Nook came to see me on Friday in my constituency office. They were concerned about travel costs, including their train and bus fares, in our rural constituency in west Yorkshire. I see that the new arrangements will come into effect in September. How soon will colleges and sixth forms have the details of how the new arrangements will help with travel costs?

Michael Gove: I know my hon. Friend used to be a lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan university, and he has been committed throughout his career to ensuring that students from poorer backgrounds enjoy appropriate access. I hope the arrangements announced today will give his constituents the flexibility they need to meet the specific travel costs that his rural part of Yorkshire compels students to meet.

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab): Given that more than 3,500 young people in Barnsley currently claim EMA, can the Secretary of State guarantee that the number of 16 to 18-year-olds participating in education will not fall?

Michael Gove: It is our intention to make sure that the number participating continues to increase. As I pointed out in my statement, the number of 16 to 18-year-olds not currently in education, employment or training fell in the last quarter. I hope that the number of apprenticeship starts to be revealed later this week will show that that strong trend is continuing encouragingly.

Conor Burns (Bournemouth West) (Con): What message does the Secretary of State have to colleges such as the Bournemouth and Poole college in my constituency, which were so profoundly let down by the decision under the last Government to withdraw the funding for their capital project through the Learning and Skills Council? That means that young people aspiring to go to that college will now be taught in temporary classrooms. Is there anything the Secretary of State can say to reassure them about their future?

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Michael Gove: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding us that it was under the last Government that the Learning and Skills Council’s capital scheme collapsed, causing no end of heartache to many principals and students who had hoped that they would be able to enjoy handsome new facilities. The Chancellor has released through the Budget £125 million of additional capital spending for England. That money is intended to ensure that we have a new generation of university technical colleges, but some of it will go to support 16-to-19 institutions as well.

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): The majority of post-16 students attend colleges and are not currently eligible for free school meals. Will the Secretary of State confirm that, in line with his statement, they will be eligible for free school meals in future and will be paid the additional £800 a year that he has just announced?

Michael Gove: That is fair point. The hon. Gentleman was previously the principal of a very successful further education college. As he will know, many FE colleges simply do not have the facilities to be able to provide free school meals; they do not have the cafeterias or kitchens in place. What we need to do is ensure that students who are attending FE colleges have the money they need so that if they are travelling particular distances and are learning at different times, they receive the support they need—whether it be for subsistence, transport or equipment. We both know that the way in which students learn after the age of 16 is varied and does not follow the same pattern as the normal school day. That is why the provision has to be flexible in order to ensure that the very poorest receive the support they need.

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): While I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement on targeted assistance, may I remind him that he has seen for himself the inadequate conditions in which high school pupils in Alnwick are taught. When is he going to make an announcement about the capital scheme so that a bid can be put in to help provide a new school?

Michael Gove: My right hon. Friend makes a fair point and we shall make an announcement shortly. I am sorry that we have not yet been able to provide additional support for the Duchess’s high school in Alnwick. As he knows, that school was not supported under the old Building Schools for the Future scheme, but we hope that the new method of allocating capital for schools, which we will announce, will allow those whose buildings were neglected by the last Government to receive support.

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): Last year, 7,700 of the poorest students in Liverpool were able to continue their studies because they received education maintenance allowance. How many of those students will receive equivalent support under the Secretary of State’s proposal to help only the very poor?

Michael Gove: Without knowing the precise details of the composition of that larger number, I cannot say definitively. What I can say is that it will be constituencies such as the hon. Lady’s that are likely to benefit most, while constituencies such as my own are likely to benefit least. One problem with the EMA scheme was that

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45% of students received money, which meant that we were not supporting constituencies like the hon. Lady’s, which deserve the most generous support that the coalition Government can give.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Young people in Harlow and elsewhere will welcome the investment in university technical schools. Will my right hon. Friend come to visit Harlow college, which is preparing a bid for such a school and would greatly welcome a visit from him. On EMA, I ask my right hon. Friend to consider giving bursaries to students who improve their academic performance, rather than basing them only on attendance?

Michael Gove: I should be delighted to visit Harlow at some point to see what we can do to advance the very exciting plans for a university technical college. I am also happy to confirm that the flexibility of the new scheme will enable college principals to tailor it to the specific needs of students. It is true that the old EMA provided an incentive for attendance, but this scheme could help college principals to give more support to the very poorest students who put in the most impressive performances and whose learning needs to be supported most strongly.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): Can the Secretary of State explain how the money enabling the college principals to give discretionary awards will be drawn down? Will there not be a perverse incentive for colleges not to take on pupils from poorer backgrounds because they are more likely to demand more money? Would it not be better for us to have a national scheme based on rights, with national application and national distribution? Such a scheme was pretty successful under EMA, resulting in more young people staying on at college and going to university.

Michael Gove: The hon. Gentleman and I disagree on many matters of principle, but he is absolutely right to say that we must support the very poorest. That has been a consistent theme of his political career. The new scheme will allow the very poorest to receive more than they did under the previous scheme, and will enable college principals to target their resources on those who are most in need. I believe that those college principals, rather than the hon. Gentleman or me, are best placed to identify the needs of students.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): I look forward to welcoming the Secretary of State to my constituency in the near future. As he knows, I support many of the educational changes he has introduced, but he will also know of the concern that I expressed about the EMA change. I welcome what he has now announced, and I certainly want nothing to do with the pooh-poohing of EMA. However, will he assure me that, although giving more discretion to education professionals is important, safeguards will be introduced to ensure that colleges which compete for students in areas such as mine will not be able to use the fund as a bribe to encourage students to attend those colleges rather than others?

Michael Gove: I look forward to visiting both Lincolnshire and the east riding of Yorkshire on Friday. I recognise the concerns that my hon. Friend has raised, but I want to ensure that we trust professionals. When it

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comes to the admissions of pupils aged both 11 and 16, we need to ensure that schools are incentivised to attract the very poorest students, and that nothing can work against that.

Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab): May I first say how much City and Islington College—where 3,000 children currently receive EMA—is looking forward to the Secretary of State’s visit on 12 May? As we prepare for that visit, will he help us by clarifying something? At present, what I would term the poorest—those whose parents are on benefits and who have been given free school dinners—receive £1,170. Under the right hon. Gentleman’s current plans, only children who are in care, are care leavers or receive income support themselves will receive the maximum amount. EMA for children who were being given free school dinners and whose parents are on income support will be cut by a third. Is that right?

Michael Gove: No, it is not right. It is the case that we will be paying more to those who are most in need—£1,200 for 12,000 students—and it is also the case that a discretionary fund will be available to ensure that college principals can decide that students with specific needs will receive exactly what they deserve.

Angie Bray (Ealing Central and Acton) (Con): Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the last Government commissioned research which had already concluded that we would need to move to a more targeted system for those in the most need?

Michael Gove: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. The former Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families commissioned work from the National Foundation for Educational Research, which demonstrated that we needed to target resources more effectively on the very poorest.

Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): It is clear from the Secretary of State’s announcement that thousands of young people will lose out on funding as a result of the significant level of cuts. He has transferred the responsibility for bearing the bad news for those thousands to school and college heads. That is a massive task for them to undertake. How does he expect them to resource the task within individual schools?

Michael Gove: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making his point, and I know that he has been committed to supporting better educational outcomes in Sheffield. When we consulted on this scheme, college principals themselves said they would prefer it to be discretionary, and my understanding is that both the Association of Colleges and the Association of School and College Leaders say they would prefer to be able to allocate funds in that way.

Mr Edward Timpson (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con): I welcome the announcement that children in care and care leavers who stay on in education will receive an annual bursary of £1,200. In order to ensure that they have the best possible educational experience, will my right hon. Friend consider widening the scope of the Frank Buttle Trust quality mark, under which care leavers and children in care who move on to further or

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higher education have the assurance that their educational establishment will meet all their needs, including their educational needs?

Michael Gove: My hon. Friend makes an important point, and I will ensure that the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), who has particular responsibility for children in care, and my hon. Friend the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning take that work forward. Today’s announcement of additional support for children in care and for care leavers follows on from last week’s announcement that such children will also receive support through a new individual savings account scheme, to ensure that they can build up a capital pot to help to support them in subsequent education or work.

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): As the Secretary of State will know, the introduction of the education maintenance allowance led to a big increase in stayers-on aged over 16 in Tower Hamlets. Has his Department assessed the impact of his proposals on boroughs such as Tower Hamlets, and if so, will he publish the results and compare them with what happens after his proposals have been implemented in September?

Michael Gove: As we outlined at the time of the last spending review, we sought to construct a replacement scheme that would, within the resources available, be more progressive, and we believe that constituencies such as the hon. Gentleman’s will benefit more than some constituencies represented by Conservative Members. We will keep the scheme under review, however. A quality impact assessment has been prepared, and I will be happy to talk to the hon. Gentleman if there are specific problems in supporting the many students in his cosmopolitan constituency who want to stay on.

Mr Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) (Con): I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. I also welcome the consultation, but ask him to ensure that the details of the student bursary fund, including the allocations to further education colleges, are confirmed as quickly as possible, in order to give certainty to those students requiring assistance who are looking to enter further education this year.

Michael Gove: My hon. Friend makes a good point. As ever, I wanted to balance the requirement to consult widely—and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) for talking to so many students about what exactly was required—with the need to move on so as to provide certainty to institutions. We undertook a process of consultation beforehand and brought forward these proposals in line with principles we outlined at the time of the comprehensive spending review. We will now consult in the next eight weeks in order to make sure the proposals can be implemented fairly.

Liz Kendall (Leicester West) (Lab): Some 2,200 young people at Leicester college get the maximum EMA, precisely because they are from some of the poorest and neediest families in my constituency. There is obviously going to be a great deal of uncertainty about the future, so can the Secretary of State tell the House when

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colleges will receive the money for the new scheme and, crucially, when students and their families will learn about the criteria, because that is very important to them in deciding whether or not to stay on?

Michael Gove: The first point to make is about the hon. Lady’s constituents who are already at college: if they received notice of their EMA support in the academic year 2009-10, they will receive the full amount; if they received notice in 2010-11, those who currently receive £30 will receive at least £20, and discretionary support will be available. We propose that the amount the college receives should be broadly in line with the amount it received beforehand, reflecting the level of need in the hon. Lady’s constituency, but we will be consulting on the implementation over the next eight weeks, so that the amount can be in place for distribution from September.

Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall) (LD): I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement and measures such as the money over and above what was originally talked about and, in particular, the transitional money. I also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) on the work he has done in his report to Government. However, I seek the Secretary of State’s assurance that he will continue to look at transport issues and ensure that sufficient money is provided in both urban and rural areas, so that transport provision is in place for people to access.

Michael Gove: My hon. Friend makes a good point. Some local authorities—I have mentioned before in the House Liberal Democrat Hull and Conservative Oxfordshire—do a very good job in providing transport for students staying on after the age of 16, but all local authorities need the support that this new scheme is intended to provide. I am also aware that, obviously, after the age of 16 students tend to travel further to their place of learning, particularly in rural constituencies such as the one my hon. Friend represents, and we will be working with the Association of Colleges and others to make sure they are supported.

Lisa Nandy (Wigan) (Lab): The vast majority of EMA recipients are in households whose annual income is less than £21,000—no Member of this House is on anything like the same. If the Secretary of State can find money to fund his pet initiative on free schools, why can he not find money to show those young people that they are worthy of our support?

Michael Gove: I am grateful to the hon. Lady, who worked very hard before she came into this House to shine a light on the difficult circumstances faced by children growing up in poverty. That is why we are spending £2.5 billion more over the lifetime of this Parliament on the education of the very poorest five to 16-year-olds. Of course the amount of money available for this support fund will mean that some students who currently receive cash will no longer do so, but it will also mean that more money is being spent on the education of the very poorest 16, 17 and 18-year-olds, as well as there being more money for their support. I believe that the progressive approach we are taking to

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education funding will mean that those she has spent her political career fighting for will benefit more from this Government than from the previous one.

Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): Vocational learning will be crucial for us in rebalancing the economy. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the all-age careers service will radically change the quality of advice on vocational learning?

Michael Gove: I can confirm that because, thanks to the brilliant work carried out by the Business Secretary and the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, we have an exciting new approach to providing support and advice for those in careers. In addition, thanks to the changes that we have made to accountability measures, through such things as the English baccalaureate and the Wolf review, we will ensure that students who in the past were not able to progress on to college and on to worthwhile jobs at last have the chance to succeed.

Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab): Under the current system, EMA payments are related to attendance and the completion of coursework, which in itself helps to raise attainment. What steps is the Secretary of State taking in the new scheme to include that provision? How will he ensure that enough money goes to colleges in the poorest areas under the new funding mechanism?

Michael Gove: The hon. Gentleman makes two very good points. He mentioned, as I did, that one of the benefits that EMA brought was a linkage between attendance and the completion of coursework, and, thence, attainment. There will be flexibility for college principals to design their own schemes in order to reward not only attendance and the completion of coursework, but exceptional achievement, if they believe it is right to do so. The way in which we are weighting the allocation of funds to colleges is intended to ensure that the very poorest receive the most. The process of consultation over the next eight weeks, in which I hope the hon. Gentleman will participate, is intended to ensure that we accurately and fairly reflect the needs of the most disadvantaged.

Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): I recently had the pleasure of visiting South Thames college, in my constituency, with the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes). The comments we heard from young people that day bear little resemblance to the broad-brush rhetoric we have heard from those on the Opposition Front Bench today. What those young people did say was that they are keen to know what their options are at a much younger age. I very much hope that Ministers will give considerable thought to putting together a comprehensive package of intelligible information, to be made available to young people earlier than it is now, setting out the growing options post-16.

Michael Gove: My hon. Friend makes two very important points. The truth is that among the generation in receipt of EMA there is not majority support for the continuation of the old scheme; they recognise that a more targeted scheme would be right. [Hon. Members: “What?”] I am terribly sorry, but Opposition Front Benchers should

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pay attention to what people think rather than what they imagine people think. Had they done so, it might have helped them to stay in power.

On my hon. Friend’s other point, we do need to ensure that people receive appropriate advice. As Professor Alison Wolf pointed out in her groundbreaking report, hundreds of thousands of young people received the wrong advice under the previous Government, which is why they are not in the fulfilling jobs that they needed to be in.

Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): The principal of my local college, Tower Hamlets college, recently told me that in the light of the reduction in the overall EMA funding he would have to choose one out of four students from poorer backgrounds who could qualify. In the light of today’s announcement, will the Secretary of State confirm that the other three out of the four students who used to get EMA will now qualify? The people of Tower Hamlets live in an area with some of the highest child poverty in the country and, as he can imagine, this support is desperately needed—it is £1 million that the college needs. Will he please confirm that that is now available?

Michael Gove: I am grateful to the hon. Lady, who has argued politely and persistently behind the scenes for the interests of her constituents. Like the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), she represents a constituency where need is greater. That is why Tower Hamlets continues to be among the best-funded local authorities for students between the ages of five and 16, why Tower Hamlets will benefit disproportionately from the pupil premium, and why I wanted to ensure that the replacement scheme supports the students she is anxious to help. I will work with her to ensure that those most in need get such help.

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): Up till now, the reform of EMA has been a complete PR disaster. How will the Secretary of State ensure that the improvements announced today will be outlined to young people to ensure that they will not be put off continuing in education post-16?

Michael Gove: I will rely on the effective and persuasive advocacy of my hon. Friend the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning.

Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op): The Secretary of State said a moment ago that EMA did not enjoy the support of the majority of the young people who received it. What was the source for that claim?

Michael Gove: An opinion poll.

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): I welcome the statement and so will students at Peterborough regional college. I would resist the churlish response from those on the Opposition Front Bench, marked out by intellectual incoherence and opportunism. Is my right hon. Friend as surprised as I am that nowhere in the comments made by the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) was there an apology for their record? Social mobility ossified in 13 years of Labour Government to the extent that more—

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Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. May we have a question that falls within the responsibility of the Secretary of State and this statement?

Mr Stewart Jackson: More people went to Oxford university in those 13 years from one noted public school than from the entire care system. Is that not a legacy of shame?

Michael Gove: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point succinctly and well.

Pat Glass (North West Durham) (Lab): We have already heard that students on EMA attended at a higher level than their peers and made disproportionate progress. Given that the Secretary of State has said many times that he wants to narrow the gap for those children, what measures will he put in place to monitor whether the children from the poorest families continue to have higher attendance and disproportionate progress, or will that be left to individual colleges? My question is about the specific monitoring proposals.

Michael Gove: The hon. Lady makes a very good point. One thing that I am unhappy with is the system of accountability for post-16 education that we inherited. I believe we need a sharper system of accountability post-16 and, in particular, that system needs to focus on outcomes for the very poorest. One problem we inherited from the previous Government was that we did not have the information necessary to see how institutions were performing. It is only now that we know, for example, that only 16% of students, in the last year for which we have figures, managed to secure five good GCSEs including English, maths, science, a modern foreign language and a humanities subject. The fact is that those students eligible for free school meals did not succeed at anything like the same level as their wealthier contemporaries.

Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon) (Con): I welcome plans further to expand apprenticeships for post-16s. Does my right hon. Friend agree that small businesses could be encouraged and informed of these schemes by including promotional material in the annual business rates mailing?

Michael Gove: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I understand from my hon. Friend the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning that we are doing just that with the National Apprenticeship Service.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): Has the Secretary of State made any assessment of the possible impact on the viability of colleges and college courses of student numbers falling significantly when EMA’s replacement is no longer available to many thousands of young people who otherwise might have been eligible?

Michael Gove: The hon. Lady has been a passionate campaigner against child poverty, but on this occasion I fear that her powers of logic are not doing her justice. The truth is that we know from all the research that was undertaken that of those eligible for EMA—45% of the total cohort—only 10% said that they would not have participated without that sum, which works out at about 4.5% overall. We will ensure that many more

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students than 4.5% of the total receive the support they need so that no student should be prevented from participating as a result of these changes. In fact, more of the very poorest students should be supported to participate. If there are any problems in the hon. Lady’s constituency in the operation of the scheme, I would be very happy to work with her to ensure that every student who needs support receives it.

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): Daventry has both a need and a desire for a university technical college and has had a bid before the Secretary of State for a number of weeks now that is well supported by the university of Northampton and schools and businesses in the town. Can he give us the timetable for announcements going forward?

Michael Gove: I enjoyed a visit to Daventry to meet my hon. Friend a few weeks ago and I hope to go again in due course to work with him to bring forward plans for a new university technical college. Although I admire his ardour, I urge him to be a wee bit patient just at the moment because we are developing plans to move from 12 to 24, and in the next few months we should be able to bring them forward.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): Many young people will share my right hon. Friend’s disappointment that his opposite number, the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), who was part of a Government who maxed out the country’s credit card and racked up levels of debt that people will have to repay for their entire careers, has had absolutely nothing constructive to say today. Will my right hon. Friend note that in the review of EMA, one comment was that a large proportion of Bangladeshi and Pakistani students relied on it? Will his review look into that to see what can be done to ensure that their participation in higher education can continue?

Michael Gove: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend, who is particularly concerned to ensure that students from ethnic minority backgrounds enjoy better opportunities. One thing that we will do is liaise with college principals to ensure that currently under-represented groups, particularly Bangladeshi and Pakistani students and especially Bangladeshi and Pakistani female students, are encouraged to participate in future.

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): Today’s announcement will benefit the most disadvantaged youngsters in my constituency, as elsewhere, but in these very difficult times for Government spending, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important that the fund should be spent on transport and food rather than on “time out with friends”. Will he consider allowing colleges to distribute the money through vouchers for transport and food rather than in cash?

Michael Gove: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. He reminds the House of the right hon. Member for Leigh’s somewhat curious suggestion that we should maintain EMA to ensure that people can receive money to socialise. In fact, what we will be doing is making sure that transport, food and equipment are provided and my hon. Friend makes a good point that in some rural areas colleges or groups of colleges might wish to work together to ensure that transport needs are met.

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Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) (LD): As someone who benefited from free school meals, I welcome the focus that my right hon. Friend places on encouraging pupils from poorer backgrounds to stay in education. Does he recognise, however, that free school meals are not always taken up in rural areas and will he therefore ensure that it is eligibility, rather than take-up, that counts for access to the bursary?

Michael Gove: That is a really good point and I want to deal with this issue. It is not only in rural areas that take-up of free school meals is lower than eligibility: that is also the case among some black and minority ethnic groups. We want to ensure that such eligibility is increasingly used as a means of targeting disadvantage and we think that the introduction of the pupil premium, which I know my hon. Friend helped to design in opposition, will ensure that more students take up their entitlements.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): Young people in my constituency have told me that only EMA enabled them to stay on in further education, but others have told me that they used the money at Tesco to buy alcohol. Clearly, we have to ensure that money is targeted at the right people, but what controls will be imposed to ensure that the transitional funding is not abused?

Michael Gove: We will do everything in our power, but colleges and college principals who understand the ecology of the local labour market and the needs of local students are often in a better position to tailor support than any Minister or bureaucrat sitting in Whitehall would be when developing that scheme in the abstract.

Mr David Ward (Bradford East) (LD): I strongly welcome the statement but I wish there had been a tiny glimmer of acknowledgement from the Opposition of the ground that has been shifted here. They all say that the person who never thought twice never thought once, and I want to thank the Secretary of State for thinking twice on this. Does he agree that this is not a U-turn because a U-turn takes you back to where you were before and we are not where we were before? Nobody who opposed the removal of EMA in our debate on this issue was of the opinion that it did not need to be reviewed, so I welcome the review. Will the Secretary of State give us an undertaking that there will be a review of the new proposals to make sure that we get to where we want to be—supporting children from deprived backgrounds to enable them to do what they want to do with their lives after 16?

Michael Gove: I always take seriously what my hon. Friend says because before he came to the House he worked very hard as a councillor in Bradford to ensure that the education of the poorest children was enhanced. I am grateful to him for his support. The point that he makes—that we need to make sure that the new regime is kept under review to ensure that it helps the very poorest—is right. I look forward to working for him. The tough questions that he asks and the constructive support that he offers are a model to the rest of the House.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Thank you, Secretary of State and thank you all for the brisk answers and mostly brisk questions, which helped us get through a considerable number of Members’ questions.

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Points of Order

5.45 pm

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Secretary of State cited an opinion poll in support of an assertion that he made in the course of his statement. I know that he always says he wants to back up his assertions with evidence, so I wonder whether it is within your powers to require him to place a copy of that opinion poll in the Library of the House so that we might all consult the evidence that he cited in the statement?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): The hon. Gentleman knows, I think, that it is not within my power to undertake such things, but I think the Secretary of State wishes to raise a point further to that point of order.

The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Thank you, first, for the gracious way in which you acknowledged that my memory, although it may be capacious, cannot remember everything. But on this occasion, I do remember. The opinion poll concerned was a YouGov opinion poll conducted between the 19 and 20 January, which showed that 44% of people aged 18 to 24 were opposed to the abolition of the education maintenance allowance, and 45% of people in that age group supported the abolition of EMA, which meant that there was a one-point lead for the Government position. Coincidentally, that is the lead that the Conservatives enjoy over Labour in the latest post-Budget opinion poll published in my favourite newspaper, The Guardian.

Madam Deputy Speaker: I am grateful, Secretary of State, but we are talking about only the one opinion poll.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Government are required by law to publish their child poverty strategy by the end of March. After the issue was raised in

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business questions on Thursday, I gather that there was a flurry of activity by civil servants phoning round various child poverty charities, telling them that it would be published on 5 April, the day the House goes into recess. Do we have any power to compel one of the relevant Ministers to come to the House to explain to us why the Government are not complying with the law and publishing the strategy by the end of March?

Madam Deputy Speaker: As the hon. Lady will appreciate, that is not strictly a point of order for the Chair, but I am sure those on the Treasury Benches heard her comments and will take seriously their obligations to make sure that the report is published.

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. On 21 March 14 employees at the Liverpool passport office were dismissed from their permanent posts without notice because of a mistake that the Passport Service had made in their recruitment more than two years ago. Does the Home Secretary have plans to make a statement to the House, both about what happened in the Liverpool passport office and about its implications for passport offices throughout the country?

Madam Deputy Speaker: I have no knowledge of any notification of a statement. I understand that as the passport office is in her constituency, she is very concerned about the issue. May I suggest that she discusses with the Table Office how she might pursue the points that she wishes to have raised on the Floor of the House?

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Can you help a number of Labour MPs who signed early-day motion 1146 last year, congratulating UK Uncut? I believe they might want to withdraw their names now and need a bit of advice on how to do that.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Nice try, Mr Heaton-Harris. I do not think we will take that any further forward. I am sure that all Members of the House will consider their position when signing early-day motions.

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Protection of Bowling Greens (Development Control)

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

5.49 pm

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require local planning authorities to ensure that certain criteria are met before planning permission involving the redevelopment of bowling greens can be granted; to introduce a community right to buy for bowling greens in certain circumstances; and for connected purposes.

I am delighted to present this Bill to protect our threatened bowling greens. The House does not talk enough about bowling greens. We wax on about a milliard other sports, but bowling—a sport enjoyed by upwards of 400,000 people—has to my knowledge been debated only once before in the history of Parliament. We have Helen Jackson, the former Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough, to thank for that debate, and I am pleased that her successor is one of the Bill’s sponsors.

That lack of forensic debate has perhaps helped to perpetuate the common misconception that bowling is a sport exclusively for older people. Nothing could be further from the truth: there are thousands of young people in the junior and senior leagues up and down the country. Indeed, that is where I started out as a 10-year-old, tentatively gripping my first wood on my local bowling green in Sheffield. It is truly a sport for all ages and abilities, as my record of a solitary doubles trophy in all my years of youthful endeavour can perhaps attest.

However, let us be clear that bowling is what gets many older people out of the house and into the fresh air. It is the sport that keeps them fit and active long into retirement. There is the chance to listen to the gentle knock of wood on wood and there is the sense of anticipation: will my opponent go thumb or finger, and will he have the audacity to call for measures? Above all, there are the enduring social networks that make our greens not only a valuable part of our nation’s heritage but an enduring part of community life for so many, be they publicly owned or among the many that remain attached to pub and clubs across the land.

None of us is getting any younger. In fact, the nation is ageing at a formidable rate. The changing demographics should lead to a blossoming of the sport beyond the 400,000 who currently play, but not if the current threat to our dear bowling greens is allowed to pass unchecked. Let me spell out the likely impact of closures. Bowls England estimates that every time a club closes, 40% of its members on average give up the sport for good. In my constituency of Barrow and Furness, there is a sad litany of greens that have closed over recent decades. The Washington and Victoria Park hotels in Barrow have been shut down, despite local outcry. On Walney island we have lost the greens at the Vickerstown Institute and the George pub, both of which were sold for housing development.

I am sorry to inform the House, particularly Government Members, that bowlers at Dalton’s Conservative club turned up for practice one September morning the year before last to find that the electricity and water had been turned off in the club house and that the gates to the bowling green had had their locks changed. Those

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dastardly tactics were designed forcibly to put the green out of use and so soften it up for redevelopment. Even that skulduggery failed to save the Conservative club, because the entire premises, including the bowling green, are now up for auction. That is a fate that has befallen too many of our pubs and clubs. Faced with severe financial pressure, they opt for a short-term fix that ends up making the problem worse, depriving them at a stroke of loyal and thirsty customers, souring community relations and leaving bowlers without a home turf.

Colleagues across the House have made it clear that the loss of bowling greens is a matter of concern up and down the country. I am grateful for the cross-party support I have received for the Bill, including from the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland), who chairs the all-party save the pub group, which has rightly recognised that the fate of public houses and their bowling greens are often intertwined—one cannot be sacrificed in the hope of saving the other.

It is no surprise that the draconian cuts being made to local authorities are placing publicly owned greens under threat. That threat extends even to the most famous bowling green of all, Plymouth Hoe, which symbolises the legend surrounding Sir Francis Drake and the armada. There are similar situations in Manchester, Sutton and Birmingham, Edgbaston, and my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) has brought to my attention the plight of the threatened club at Duke Street park in Formby.

The British Crown Green Bowling Association points out that bowlers often want simply to be able to stand on their own two feet. They want to know that if the club is handed over to them, they can run and maintain it at their own expense simply if they are helped out with the rent. That is a solution that is being pursued in Barnsley and looked at in many other areas. However, each closure is making it ever clearer that the current planning regulations are simply inadequate for protecting even clubs that are in active and frequent use. The Bill seeks straightforward safeguards to protect our bowlers.

On the face of it, the current planning regulations ought to be pretty strong. They state that a bowling green cannot be built over unless an assessment has shown that it is surplus to requirement, but owners and developers are finding ways around this and clubs are being closed against the express wishes of the sportsmen and women who use them.

The Bill would insist that if a club is registered on a green and matches are being played on it, it cannot be deemed to be surplus to requirement unless there is a specific vote by the bowlers affected. Planning authorities would also be required to take into account the kind of sharp practices that we saw at the Dalton Conservative club. The Bill would also introduce a community right to buy for any bowling green where disposal is agreed. Where a local club is prepared to commit to keeping the green in use, it would be given the opportunity to purchase it on the basis of its market value as a sporting facility, which is often much more affordable than developers are prepared to pay. We should support bowlers who are willing to form co-operatives to preserve their prized assets. This is a field in which Supporters Direct has blazed a trail for other sports. We should set in lights the shining example of the co-op bowling club in Barrow, which has flourished since it took that route to protect its green.

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Bowling has long been a sport that has enriched the communities we represent. It is said that in England one is never more than a few miles away from the cry of “jack high”. That is one of the many things that has made this country so great. We should endeavour to ensure that that remains the case for centuries to come.

Question put and agreed to.


That John Woodcock, Mr Graham Allen, Luciana Berger, Bill Esterson, Robert Flello, Cathy Jamieson, Helen Jones, Mark Menzies, Greg Mulholland, Angela Smith, Ms Gisela Stuart and Mr Iain Wright present the Bill.

John Woodcock accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First Time; to be read a Second time on Friday 1 July, and to be printed (Bill 173).

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Ways and Means

Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Amendment of the Law

Debate resumed (Order, 24 March).

Question again proposed,

(1) That it is expedient to amend the law with respect to the National Debt and the public revenue and to make further provision in connection with finance.

(2) This Resolution does not extend to the making of any amendment with respect to value added tax so as to provide—

(a) for zero-rating or exempting a supply, acquisition or importation,

(b) for refunding an amount of tax,

(c) for any relief, other than a relief that—

(i) so far as it is applicable to goods, applies to goods of every description, and

(ii) so far as it is applicable to services, applies to services of every description.

6 pm

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): It is a great pleasure to resume the debate on the Budget.

Since 1997, year on year, families have waited for that dreaded envelope: the council tax bill. Every year under Labour, it grew, eventually doubling in size, but this year something is different. As the bill hits the doormat, families and pensioners throughout England will find that it has not gone through the roof. It will save families up to £72 on a band D home, because the coalition Government are on the side of ordinary working people. I commend those councils—every single one of them—that have taken up the Government’s offer to give their residents a much-needed break, but I am very disappointed that the Opposition have opposed the measure.

In the Commons, the shadow Local Government Minister, the hon. Member for Derby North (Chris Williamson), called the measure a “gimmick”. His Lords counterpart last week also opposed it, alleging that the

“freeze builds up financial trouble for the future.”

Surely that cannot be the Labour party’s position, because it is not what Labour councils are saying on the ground.

I have a selection of quotations, and I will read out just three that will help. Sandwell’s local authority states:

“The council is very aware of the difficult times local people face, and we don’t want to add to their misery”.

On the freeze, it states:

“It would be barmy not to do so.”

Manchester city council, a local authority that we have heard a lot of recently, states:

“We recognise it has been a very difficult year for some people, and as the UK comes out of recession it is critical we offer all the support we can to Manchester residents… it is great news…that this year we will freeze council tax”.

Mr Nick Raynsford (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Pickles: In a moment. Let us have the full panoply before we hear from the right hon. Gentleman.

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Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): He’s one of the guilty men.

Mr Pickles: Yes.

Bolsover council states that

“we have taken this step to freeze our share of the Council Tax because we do not feel it is fair that these are passed onto you”.

I do not recall the right hon. Gentleman freezing the council tax during his time in government, but let us hear from him.

Mr Raynsford: I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will recall, because he has followed local government matters, that the London borough of Greenwich, the authority in the area I am proud to represent, has frozen its council tax for six of the past 10 years—under a Labour Government for five of those six years. Has he forgotten that? Is he not aware of what councils were doing long before he took up his current position?

Mr Pickles: I suppose if a council sits on £130 million of reserves, that is an easy thing to do, but let him recall Hammersmith and Fulham, which, after years of considerable increases, managed not only to freeze the council tax but to cut it in each successive year.

I regret that the Labour party says one thing in the Chamber and another thing to the voters. I am proud to say that we are able to set aside—

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr Pickles: In a moment.

I am proud to say that we are able to set aside £3 billion to support councils with a freeze on spending, and that is despite the mess that the Labour Government made of our nation’s finances. It sounds as though some on the Opposition Benches would like to wash away the past few years and drown out their bitter legacy: record national debt; unsustainable public spending; and a crushing burden on ordinary families.

The Opposition do not like to admit that their Labour Government planned spending cuts of £44 billion by 2015. Labour’s cuts were to be front-loaded cuts, with £14 billion of cuts falling this April, and Labour’s spending plans would have made bigger cuts to housing, regeneration and local government.

On Saturday, the Leader of the Opposition should have told the crowds the extent of Labour’s cuts. That would have been much more convincing, as hon. Friends have said, than comparing himself to Martin Luther King or, more bizarrely, to Emily Pankhurst.

Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr Pickles: In a moment. I am sure that my hon. Friend would like to hear this point.

Perhaps that omission prompted the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) to say today on “The Daily Politics” that

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a Labour Government would have employed fewer people in the public sector. I have obtained a transcript of the interview, and the interviewer said:

“Some of the people on that march, some of those people listening to Ed Miliband, would have lost their jobs under a Labour Government. Yes or no?”

The right hon. and learned Lady was wise enough not to give a yes or no answer, and said:

“Well, I think that basically we would see, err yes, fewer people employed in the public sector.”

[Hon. Members: “Ah!”] Yes. I think “err yes” neatly covers the point.

Nadhim Zahawi: Does my right hon. Friend not think it bizarre that the Leader of the Opposition chose to compare his party’s struggle to that of apartheid?

Mr Pickles: Well, I suppose there comes an occasion, you turn up, there’s a lot of people there—and you just start to talk. These things happen, and we should be in a forgiving mood. I mean, anybody can compare themselves to Martin Luther King.

Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op): Who would you compare yourself to?

Mr Pickles: Certainly not to Martin Luther King.

Let us be clear: Communities and Local Government was the unprotected Department under Labour’s plans. Unprotected Departments would have received a larger average real-terms cut over four years under Labour than they are under the coalition’s deficit reduction plans over the spending period.

Thanks to the £18 billion of savings from our welfare reform programme and the £3 billion of savings from lower debt interest, the coalition is cutting £2 billion less from departmental budgets than the Labour party would have. Labour would have cut local government more, and, without the support for a council tax freeze, the end result would have been soaring council tax.

Sheila Gilmore: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Pickles: I am so sorry. I promised to give way to the hon. Lady.

Sheila Gilmore: Will the Secretary of State consider monitoring what happens to charges where local authorities have imposed the council tax freeze? We have had a council tax freeze in Scotland for four years now, and a 90-year-old constituent of mine has just received a charge for garden aid. It was nil under a Labour council, it became £75 and it is now £200, so she is not that impressed by the council tax freeze.

Mr Pickles: We will certainly look at that, but may I remind the hon. Lady that Labour councils are of the view that it would be “barmy” not to have the freeze, and that the freeze itself is “great news”? She should really get with the programme.

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): That is great news on the council tax—fantastic. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, every year of this Parliament, total spending goes up in cash terms, so, if the public sector can control costs and inflation, the situation need not be nearly as bad as the Opposition say?

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Mr Pickles: My right hon. Friend, as always in these matters, is absolutely correct. There is sometimes a fallacy, which the Opposition assume, that a pound cut in grant means a pound cut in services, but there are clearly better ways of doing such things.

Last June’s emergency Budget started a rescue mission. It preserved the UK’s triple A rating and helped to keep interest rates stable. This Budget shows that we are moving from rescue to far-reaching reform. It is a Budget for a strong and stable economy, marking our progress towards eliminating the structural deficit. It is a Budget for growth, rebalancing the economy away from over-reliance on the public sector towards long-term, sustainable growth based on export and investments. This is a Budget for fairness, lightening the burden on some 23 million taxpayers by lifting the personal income tax allowance.

In the past, there may have been an impression that the people in Whitehall who were responsible for the economy sat in the Treasury or in the Department for Business. Today, every part of Government has a role to play in helping to keep business thriving. I am proud of my Department’s reputation as one of the most deregulating Departments in Whitehall. The Communities Department is central to economic activity, and were it not for the cost of sign writers and stationery, I would rename it the Department for Communities, Growth and Local Government. Over the course of the past 10 months, we have cut the red tape on councils; called time on the Audit Commission’s clipboard inspectors; unravelled Labour’s home information packs; scuppered Labour’s ports tax; scrapped the Whitehall density targets for housing, which encouraged garden grabbing and a glut of flats; and binned the planning rules that encouraged councils to hike up parking charges in town centres. Today, we are going further still to create the conditions for growth.

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): The Secretary of State talked about rebalancing the economy. One of the most shocking statistics that the Chancellor quoted in his address was that in the west midlands, during a time of growth, we saw a 3% decline in private sector jobs growth. In areas such as the black country, it is absolutely essential that we deregulate and find as many opportunities as possible to drive entrepreneurship, small business and economic growth.

Mr Pickles: My hon. Friend makes a very reasonable point. Part of the problem is that we are now having to rebalance the economy.

Last week’s Budget was driven by an absolute certainty held by Conservative Members—that Governments can print money but only businesses can make money. We do not succeed as an economy by giving bean counters the whip hand over wealth creators. Governments need to listen to entrepreneurs about how to unlock growth.

I do not want to be terribly unpleasant about the regional development agencies, but perhaps I should on just this one occasion. They were fantastic at passing public grants from one part of the public sector to another, but very poor at creating private sector jobs and sustainable growth. After a decade of regional development agencies—my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris) gave figures for the midlands—the public sector still accounts

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for more than a quarter of jobs in the north-east, compared with less than a fifth in the south-east of England, and the number of private sector jobs grew half as fast in the north-east as the national average between 2003 and 2008.

Claire Perry (Devizes) (Con): The Secretary of State said that we should have fewer bean counters and more wealth creators. Would not a few bean counters not have come amiss under the previous Government, who spent £135,000 on luxury Parisian sofas for the Department, partly under the stewardship of the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint)?

Mr Pickles: It is indeed true that we are a well-upholstered Department.

Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): Is not the key difference that instead of quangos such as the RDAs running amok across the country doing nothing, we will see enterprise zones and pro-business, pro-growth planning policies that will get the country going again properly?

Mr Pickles: My hon. Friend is absolutely correct—so much so that I am delighted to tell him that I will refer to that in a few moments.

The regional bureaucratic approach is not only costly but does not do the job it is supposed to do. Instead, we want to see business men and business women playing a leading role in the debate about their local economy, helping all parts of the country to live up to their full economic potential.

More than 90% of people in England now live in areas with local enterprise partnerships. These partnerships are a new approach to economic development, putting local councils, local communities and local business in the driving seat. The partnerships established so far have already set out plans that are high on ambition and low on bureaucracy—plans to attract investment, boost tourism and strengthen transport links. Local enterprise partnerships are going for growth, not handing out grants. The 21 new enterprise zones are an opportunity for leading partnerships to take their work to a new level. In exchange, we will let them keep all business rate growth in their zones for at least 25 years.

Businesses in the enterprise zones will benefit from a discount of up to 100% on rates and access to superfast broadband. We will work closely with local partners to make sure that the zones do not simply displace jobs and business. For example, the Boots campus in Nottingham will be a centre for science and medical research and innovation, the Manchester airport zone will be ideally placed to make the most of the local science and engineering expertise and international transport links, and Liverpool Waters will keep up the momentum of economic growth in that resurgent English city.

It is not just enterprise zones that are being helped: the Budget extends the doubling of small business rate relief for a second year. This will help small firms and small shops across the country, given that business rates are the third biggest outgoing for firms after staff and rents.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Can the Secretary of State say whether Coventry is going to be part of these enterprise zones, and if not, can he give me the reason why?

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Mr Pickles: It is very important to understand that the enterprise zones will be allotted on the basis of innovation and ideas, not on the basis of Buggins’ turn. Having seen some of the industry leaders in the Coventry area, I am confident that their innovation and skills will make them a high priority in obtaining these zones; after all, Coventry and Warwickshire is one of the leading local enterprise partnerships in the country.

David Wright (Telford) (Lab): The right hon. Gentleman will know that several new towns still have areas of land that are, in essence, controlled by Government. Would he be willing to put some of those land holdings into the pot if local enterprise partnerships come up with schemes to promote growth in their areas?

Mr Pickles: It is certainly our intention to release an awful lot of Government land.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): The right hon. Gentleman mentioned three cities having local enterprise zones, but he did not mention Bristol, although that was one of the 12 listed in the Budget. It is somewhat surprising that the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills was in Bristol on Friday but did not, as far as I am aware, tell us where the local enterprise zone is going to be. Can the right hon. Gentleman enlighten me?

Mr Pickles: This is a very clear example of the difference between how we do business and how the Opposition did business. We are not going to tell the people of Bristol where the enterprise zones will go—they are going to tell us.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): There is confusion in the north-east because what the Chancellor said in his speech about enterprise zones—that there will be one in Tyneside—was not the same as what the Budget documents said: namely, there will be one in the north-east. There is an enterprise zone on Teesside, but the geography of the other one in the north-east is not clear. Does the Secretary of State have any insight on that?

Mr Pickles: There is one in Teesside and an additional one within the northern area. In truth, it is up to the local enterprise partnerships to put the thing together. [ Interruption. ] The hon. Lady wants to control everything from here, but I have to say that she was not very successful in doing so. What is wrong with an approach in which rather than us down here in Whitehall telling the people of the north-east what to do, the people of the north-east tell us how they will do things?

We are taking measures to help get the house building industry firing on all cylinders. Every new home supports four jobs in house building and two more in related industries. The availability of new homes helps people move around the country for work. Getting the housing industry moving again is key to restoring growth. Under the new Government, house building starts are up 23% and construction orders for new private housing are up 50% compared with Labour’s last year. But we need to go much further. There are about 200,000 granted planning permissions out there in the country, but the homes are not being built.

The answer is not targets; it is addressing the root causes. First, there is a tight mortgage market, so we will introduce a new form of support that will help

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first-time buyers get a foot on the ladder: a 20% equity loan, co-funded by Government and developers. That will put ownership within the grasp of 10,000 first-time buyers. We will reform the stamp duty land tax rules on bulk purchases of new homes to boost equity investment. We will help to reduce the sector’s reliance on mortgage funding.

Secondly, there is the problem that elements of the planning system are holding up the building of new homes. Let us go back to the 200,000 granted planning permissions. It is fair for councils to agree a contribution to the area where developers are planning to build to ensure that the development is sustainable, perhaps by providing a new park or playground, or by paying for road widening. However, what looked like a reasonable request three or four years ago may no longer look quite so reasonable if it stops necessary development happening altogether. If those commitments make it simply too expensive to build, we need to be realistic. Councils should not compromise on the essentials to make a development acceptable to the local area, but unrealistic agreements negotiated in the boom times should be reviewed to help new developments move forward quickly.

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): I am grateful that the Secretary of State mentioned Liverpool, but what is happening with Liverpool Waters is nothing to do with his Government. I read a statement that said, “Pickles was always happy and obedient, and would often roll over and have his tummy tickled.” Although the statement was about the dog called Pickles who found the World cup in 1966, does it not describe exactly what he did when negotiating his Department’s budget?

Mr Pickles: I suspect that when the hon. Gentleman was putting that question together in front of his shaving mirror, it seemed more of a tummy tickler than it actually was.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): One of the big issues in many former mining constituencies is that a large proportion of people live in their own homes, but there is no work in the area any more. People do not want to make the decision to move to a place where there is work, but where they cannot afford the price of homes. How does the Secretary of State propose to get round that vicious circle, in which many people in my constituency and in the constituencies of many Opposition Members are stuck?

Mr Pickles: The hon. Gentleman will know that we have just put £30 million into the former coal homes area.

Chris Bryant: The former coal homes?

Mr Pickles: Into the former colliery areas. That £30 million is more than the hon. Gentleman’s party had put in. We will certainly do our best to ensure that there is sustainable development in that area.

Dame Anne Begg (Aberdeen South) (Lab): Has the Secretary of State had discussions with the Department for Work and Pensions on the reforms to housing benefit, under which it will become impossible for someone who is under-occupying their house to get full housing

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benefit for that house? He talks about building new homes, but what proportion of them will be one-bedroom homes, because a large number of people who will be looking for property under the new housing benefit rules will be looking for such homes?

Mr Pickles: The hon. Lady will be aware that we have abolished the density targets, which led to a glut of flats. We will ensure that the market decides a reasonable mix. That seems to be a more sensible and reasonable way of going about the process.

For too long, the planning system has been a source of friction between councils, communities and businesses.

Dr Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr Pickles: In a moment. The purpose of the planning system is to ensure that the country benefits from the right kind of development—not to frustrate and delay, and generate endless paperwork. The Budget therefore confirms fundamental changes. By the end of the year, we aim to condense the morass of unwieldy national planning policies into one concise, easy-to-use document.

At the heart of our approach to planning is a presumption in favour of sustainable development. We need a system that consistently and predictably says yes to the right kinds of development. We will consult on plans to streamline the information required to support planning applications. We will introduce a planning guarantee so that no planning application will spend more than 12 months with decision makers, when a timely appeal is made. We will consult on proposals to bring empty commercial buildings back into use as residential properties. Let us cut the red tape and make it easier to turn run-down old eyesores into much-needed new housing. At the same time, we will maintain protection for the environment, including by safeguarding the green belt, which was under threat from Labour’s regional plans.

Dr Whitehead rose—

Bob Russell: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr Pickles: I will give way to my hon. Friend, and then to the hon. Gentleman.

Bob Russell: Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the third and sixth paragraphs of chapter 4 of the coalition’s programme for Government on communities and local government will form part of the planning legislation? I believe that they will, but I would like that to be put on the record.

Mr Pickles: The coalition agreement is not quite holy writ, but it is pretty close to it, so of course those paragraphs will be included.

I apologise to the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) for not giving way earlier.

Dr Whitehead: Does the Secretary of State consider that his abandonment of the code for sustainable development and the target for zero-carbon home building by 2016 will aid sustainable development, build more houses or merely build less worse houses?

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Mr Pickles: The hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong. We have included zero-carbon homes, and that will take effect from 2016. [ Interruption. ] We most certainly have done that.

Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab): I ask the Secretary of State to look at paragraph 2.12 of “The Plan for Growth”, which states that where an authority does not have a development plan or where such a plan is not up to date, there will be a presumption that an application “will be accepted”. That sentence does not mention sustainability, but just that such applications will be accepted. Does that mean that where there is an up-to-date plan, a developer will have less chance of getting an application through than in an authority without a current local development framework that is still operating on a unitary development plan? In other words, will there be a two-tier and differential planning system in this country, which we have never had before?

Mr Pickles: The local plan will have to reflect the presumption as well. It will be reflected in the national planning framework, which in turn will be reflected in the local plan. If a plan is ambiguous or out of date, that presumption will take effect, but there might be an existing plan that conforms to the presumption in favour of sustainable development. Members will now understand why planning is such fun.

Our planning reforms, like the new roles for local councils and entrepreneurs, are there to drive growth, just like the council tax freeze for hard-working families. They show that localism and economic growth go hand in hand. Those who think that the key to getting Britain growing again is for Whitehall to seize control should learn the lesson of history, which is that it repeats itself because no one was listening the first time round.

Let us compare two years, 1924 and 2009. There are many parallels. In 1924, Lenin is dead and Stalin is planning to take absolute power; John Logie Baird is demonstrating a prototype of his latest invention, the televisor; in New York, theatre audiences are getting their first sight of a dance called the Charlton—[Hon. Members: “Charleston!”] Charleston. I do beg your pardon. Also, house building in the UK reaches an all-time low.

Chris Bryant: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr Pickles: No.

In 2009, pleasingly, Lenin is still dead and the Soviet Union is no more; multi-channel TV is available in most homes; and “Strictly Come Dancing” becomes almost compulsory viewing. What is Labour’s contribution to this wave of nostalgia for the roaring twenties? A dance revival such as bringing back the Black Bottom? Introducing a flapper to speak from the Dispatch Box? No, a record fall in the number of new builds. The Labour party rails against the system and the machine, ups its target and achieves absolutely nothing. That is what central control brought us—growth constraint, innovations stifled and an economy needlessly held back. This is a positive Budget, a Budget for stability, balanced growth and above all fairness, and I commend it to the House.

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6.32 pm

Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab): I begin by saying that the violence of a handful of anarchists and attention seekers at the weekend was an absolute disgrace, and I hope that prosecutions will follow. However, I have to add that none of their yobbish and illegal behaviour could detract from the biggest demonstration of British feeling for eight years. People wanted to tell the Government that their cuts are going too far and too fast, and that their lack of plans for jobs and growth just make the pain worse.

Bob Russell: Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Caroline Flint: I will shortly, but I want to make a little progress.

What the Secretary of State’s rhetoric today has revealed is that the Government have no plans for jobs or growth and no plans for the future. If he wants to talk about the economy that they inherited, let me tell him a thing or two about the legacy that we left. They inherited an economy in which growth had returned, inflation was low, unemployment was falling and borrowing was lower than forecast. I am proud to say that Labour increased funding for local authorities, built or refurbished 4,000 schools and 100 new hospitals and left the nation’s public housing stock in better shape than it had been in during our lifetime. If the Secretary of State got out of his office a little more often, he would see that Britain’s major towns and cities had been substantially regenerated.

Even when the worst recession in our lifetime was visited upon our country, bringing half the banks in the UK and Europe to their knees, we still had fewer repossessions, fewer business collapses and a lower rise in unemployment than during the Tory recession of the 1990s. Today we have an economy that is not growing at all and in which inflation is up to 4.4%, unemployment is at a 17-year high and borrowing will be higher this year, next year and in every year for the next five.

Bob Russell: I am glad that my intervention was delayed, because I had not recognised the utopia that the right hon. Lady has just described. Does she accept that the last Government had any responsibility for the financial situation that the UK is now in?

Caroline Flint: We were part of a global crisis that affected countries around Europe and the world, but it is interesting that before the international crisis hit, we had the second lowest debt of any G7 country. We had brought overall public sector net borrowing down, and the now Prime Minister and Chancellor committed themselves to Labour’s spending plans. In 13 years, we created 1.1 million enterprises, and in the past two years, which included our last year in government, the World Bank ranked the UK fourth in the world and first among European countries for the ease of doing business.

Chris Bryant: I am particularly glad that my right hon. Friend has reminded that lot over there on the Tory Benches that they fully supported Labour’s spending plans up until the end of 2008 and promised to spend the additional benefits of growth on the economy, which they never seem to remember. That lot on the Liberal Democrat Benches, when they were sitting over

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here on the Opposition Benches, urged even greater levels of spending, so we are not going to take any hypocrisy from them.

In addition, will my right hon. Friend remind that lot over there of one further piece of history? In 1924, George Lansbury—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. You have to be much shorter, Mr Bryant.

Caroline Flint: If my hon. Friend was going to point out that when we go into recession we have to ensure that we do not go into a depression, that is exactly what the Labour Government did. Things may look rosy from the leather seats of the Secretary of State’s new Government Jag, but for ordinary people, the Government’s plans are hurting but they are not working.

Mr Pickles: Mine is a second-hand ex-Labour Jag.

If the Labour Government were doing such a good job, why did the right hon. Lady resign?

Caroline Flint: For goodness’ sake. I have always put on record my pride in what the Labour Government did to ensure that this country recovered from 18 years of Tory rule. Whatever my disagreements with them, I will never take that away from any of our leaders of the past 13 years.

This Budget has offered more of the same. The Government claimed that it was a Budget for growth, but we got nothing of the sort. Only a few weeks ago, the Chancellor told us that it would be an “unashamedly pro-growth Budget”, as though economic growth was something that he would normally be embarrassed about. What the Government should really be embarrassed about is that as a direct result of their policies, the Office for Budget Responsibility has downgraded its growth forecast not once but twice. Now we know that growth was down last year and will be down this year and next year. The only things that are growing at the moment are the prices in the shops and the number of people out of work.

Nadhim Zahawi: Let’s try again. Does the right hon. Lady think that, in the court of public opinion, people blame Labour for the economic mess that we are in?

Caroline Flint: I think we are doing quite well in by-elections, but I do not take the public for granted, and I know that they believe the deficit should be tackled. That is quite right, and I absolutely agree. However, as every day goes past and people see the choices that the Government are making, they say that they are going too far and too fast. That was expressed on Saturday, and it will be expressed on 5 May.

Claire Perry: Does the right hon. Lady share the opinion of her esteemed colleague, the very sensible right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears), who recently said that Labour could be much more