John Healey: I find it dismaying, because there are so many people who are committed to the health service, work in the health service or are dependent on the health service, as we all are, and they want answers to that question, but the Government are simply not giving them. To be honest, I think that this stems from the genesis of the legislation, something that was ruled out explicitly in the Conservative party manifesto and the coalition agreement but then sprung in a White Paper less than two months after the general election. That meant that the civil service, the health profession and the NHS were unprepared for this huge reorganisation and this huge Bill, so in many respects, beyond the main

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decisions set out in the White Paper in July 2010, all the evidence indicates that the Government are making it up as they go along. The fact that we have seen more than 1,000 amendments to the Bill since it was first introduced is a further indication of that.

Is the Minister coming back?

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is making a very decisive set of points. I would like briefly to draw his attention to the local patient healthwatch group in north Lincolnshire, Who Cares, which has produced some hard-hitting reports on matters such as mental health and discharge from hospital. Does he feel that arrangements are being put in place that will allow that sort of independence of view and those hard-hitting reports that help to improve the quality of care in future?

John Healey: My hon. Friend hits right at the heart of the flaws in the arrangements proposed tonight, which I was going to move on to. I am sure that Who Cares has its ear to the ground, good local connections and strong representation, and I want to see that continue, as I am sure he does. The real question is whether those organisations can go beyond hard-hitting reports, and who then will be accountable for the action that might need to be taken to follow them up. Where are the enforcement powers that could ensure that any problems they identify on behalf of patients are properly dealt with? I will move on to that point in a moment.

In a sense, that links to the point I wish to put to Ministers now. In the arrangements before us it seems that if a local healthwatch organisation is not up to standard, is not doing the job and is somehow failing patients in an area or falling short of what is expected, we will be offered a new provision, a new power introduced by the Government through an amendment in the other place, for HealthWatch England to write a letter to the local authority, telling it that it must do better. Thinking of the two local authority leaders in the area that I am privileged to represent—Steve Houghton, the leader of Barnsley metropolitan borough council, and Roger Stone, the leader of Rotherham metropolitan borough council—I could not use language in this House that is likely to reflect their reaction. If I think of them, as elected local government leaders, receiving a letter from a sub-committee of a national quango responsible for regulating things that their local authorities have little or no responsibility for, telling them that they are not doing their job properly, I can just imagine their reaction. Quite frankly, “You’re having a laugh.” That is simply not a serious power of, or provision for, redress on behalf of patients when a local patients’ representative organisation is failing to do the job properly. So, no enforcement powers and no intervention powers, only the power to write a letter to the local authority.

In the end, that brings us to the point. At this stage, in the final hour, at the end of this extraordinary Bill’s passage through Parliament, we can see very clearly the truths at the heart of it. There is provision for an independent national commissioning board, an independent market regulator and independent hospital foundation trusts, but there is no provision for an independent patients’ organisation.

In this Bill there are powers to ensure strong action to guarantee competition, strong action to guarantee financial

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efficiency and strong action to guarantee professional concerns, but there are no powers to guarantee any sort of action, let alone strong action, on behalf of patients.

I listened very carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall), who made a very good speech from our Front Bench. When she notes that the representative body, National Voices, says on behalf of patients and interests groups, “You’re setting us up to fail,” and reads the letter from Malcolm Alexander, the chair of the National Association of LINks Members, who says, “You’re creating weak bodies that will not be independent,” I think that we in this House should be worried. Such action is, to borrow a phrase, pennywise, pound foolish. The Government are cutting what to Ministers and civil servants might seem to be small corners, but there could be big consequences for patients.

I see a link—a common characteristic—between this debate and our earlier debate on the risk register. The Government will live to regret at length poor judgments and decisions made in haste and under pressure now. The Secretary of State will face the question of whether to release the transition risk register. If he insists on remaining resolute in refusing to disclose, and if he insists on keeping it secret, patients will ask, “What are they hiding from us?” In the future, in the months ahead, long after the Bill has received Royal Assent and is on the statute book, patients will rightly ask when things go wrong, “Did they know these risks were there, and why didn’t they tell us?”

The same applies to HealthWatch. When things go wrong, patients will find that they do not have the recourse and the representation that they may need to act and intervene on their behalf, and they may well find that the arrangements that we are invited to pass tonight are too weak to help them. I say to the Health Secretary, who is now on his own on the Front Bench, that this is likely to reinforce that lack of confidence and lack of trust in the notion that the Government’s huge upheaval in our NHS, and this huge piece of legislation before the House, really is in the best interests of the NHS and NHS patients.

Liz Kendall: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister who moved these particularly important amendments, which will abolish a statutory organisation, HealthWatch, to be absent from the debate? If it is in order, is it not a huge discourtesy to Members on both sides of the House?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order. It is in order for the Minister not to be here at this moment in time, and it is up to each Member’s judgment as to what to make of that.

Andrew George: It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey), who has taken us round a number of issues, particularly in relation to the public’s ability to scrutinise, through the proposed healthwatch organisations, the effective delivery of commissioning in their areas.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) suggested, there is a desperate need for provision within our procedures

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whereby important Bills such as this, which have been significantly altered in another place, can be reviewed on Third Reading. Our earlier debate about the still unpublished transitional risk register was, in a sense, a proxy for that lack of a Third Reading debate.

This debate has placed public health and the role of HealthWatch, particularly local healthwatch, in the context of local health services being placed at risk. We have already discussed how clinical commissioning groups may be fundamentally conflicted. In my contribution to that debate, I posed questions about the conflicts that intrinsically exist within those organisations. I believe that HealthWatch should be there to provide scrutiny of those conflicts. Throughout the debates on the Bill, fundamental concerns have been expressed about the fragmentation of local health services. We need a strong and independent-minded local healthwatch in all our areas to be watching for that and looking out for opportunities to maintain the integration of local services.

I fear that one of the effects of such a major reorganisation of the health service nationally and locally will be to make it more difficult to deliver the £20 billion efficiency gain that the previous Government proposed and that the coalition Government intend should be delivered. That issue needs to be considered at national level, with HealthWatch, and at local level. I believe that we need an independent body that is capable of ensuring that efficiency gains are being achieved at local level and that keeps an eye on the commissioning and delivery of local health services.

The Royal College of Nursing has said today that there is a need to look carefully at staffing levels in front-line health services, including in acute hospitals. There is a debate about whether that should be mandatory. That has long been a concern of mine when looking at the delivery of local health services and it is identified by people when they visit hospitals. There are staff-to-patient ratios that, in my view, are barely tenable and barely safe. Qualified nurses are struggling to provide the support and care that patients require, simply because the staffing ratios are inadequate. The same ratios may have been adequate in the past when the throughput of patients and the acute status of patients were lower, but with the current turnaround of patients and their acute status, it is no surprise that the RCN’s survey has identified the need to review staffing levels in our wards.

9.30 pm

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Andrew Lansley): In commenting on the level of nursing staff, will the hon. Gentleman observe that since the election, there has been a 5% improvement in the ratio of nurses to occupied beds in general and acute wards?

Andrew George: I am not in a position to doubt that figure. The question is whether the ratio is sufficient to ensure that there is safe staffing in our hospitals now, as the RCN identified after a recent survey. I understand the argument advanced by Ministers that it comes down to the management and the management of paperwork within hospitals, and is not just about staff-to-patient ratios. I do not want to have a debate just about staff -to-patient ratios, but that issue has been raised today and I believe that it resonates with people out there in the country, who can see that nurses in particular are

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struggling to provide adequate services within their hospitals. Those ratios have an effect on the level of care that nurses can provide, as has been found by a variety of reports. The problem is not down to the callousness of the nurses or untrained care assistants who provide the services—where that exists, it should clearly be rooted out of the service—but to whether staff resources are sufficient to maintain safe services on our hospital wards. I think the RCN is right to raise that issue.

That concern is relevant to ensuring that we have adequate local healthwatch services because it shows that we need independent scrutiny of the health service by a body that is not in the pocket of anyone, including the local authority, but that is able to scrutinise hospitals and speak out about staffing levels in its area. We cannot be dependent on the RCN reporting such matters to the Department and on there being top-down diktats that impose mandatory staffing levels that apply in all circumstances. Rather, there should be a local healthwatch that looks at the guidance and recommendations of the professional bodies and ensures that the services in its local hospitals are adequate to provide safe nursing and hospital care. That is why it is important to ensure that the local healthwatch bodies are, as far as is possible, independent of any external influences, whether from the Department, the NHS Commissioning Board, clinical commissioning groups or the local authority. That is where I shall take my arguments.

Fiona O'Donnell: I feel as if I have been here before, in that I agree with some of what Government Members are saying. Will the hon. Gentleman therefore vote with us tonight?

Andrew George: I shall sidestep that question at present and return to it later, because I first want to listen to the Minister’s winding-up speech. As I want to ensure that he has adequate time, I shall conclude my remarks as swiftly as possible.

I could, however, initiate a brief yah-boo interlude, such as by saying that the previous Government got rid of community health councils. Many people look back at the era of CHCs as the halcyon days of independent scrutiny of local provision. In creating local healthwatch, we should as far as possible mirror, and learn from, the excellent services provided by the CHCs.

Liz Kendall: On 26 October 2006, when the Secretary of State was the shadow Secretary of State, he set out his policies on HealthWatch. He said:

“I envisage it as an independent body with a separate funding stream and the right to decide its own agenda of work.”

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that has been completely changed under this Bill?

Andrew George: Earlier, I asked a question about the rationale behind the last-minute change from having independent bodies to the situation now, under which, as a result of both a proposal we are debating this evening and an amendment tabled in the Lords, we are allowing local authorities to commission community interest companies or others to provide the healthwatch function in their areas. That ties the local healthwatch into the local authority. I believe we should devolve and localise, and empower local communities as far as possible, but this change does not achieve that. Instead, it empowers

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the local authority. If there is a genuine intention to ensure that we have integrated health and social care, then there is a problem here. If the local authority provides both the social care and the local scrutiny, I fear we may not have effective scrutiny of the work of the local authority in this regard.

Liberal Democrats in the Lords have done excellent work in advancing a large number of amendments to improve the Bill, and I am perplexed that the proposal before us tonight appears, in effect, to backpedal from that progress made in other areas. That is why I hope the Minister will reassure us on the rationale for this proposal, and assure us that the new body will be genuinely independent and genuinely effective. I shall therefore reserve judgment on the question of which way to vote tonight.

Grahame M. Morris: Although the HealthWatch issue is important, in the brief time available to me I want to talk about Lords amendments 249 to 283, dealing with the health and social care information centre and patient confidentiality. The amendments raise several issues about who would have access on a mandatory basis to the information provided by the centre as well as changes in the terminology used to refer to the persons who would be able to make such requests. There are important issues here about patient confidentiality and protections to ensure that the right checks and balances are in place. I am sure Ministers will be well aware of the arguments made in Committee about the issue, and I wish to seek some assurances and express some concerns. Perhaps the Minister may be able to address some of them.

One issue that was raised in Committee was the power of the Secretary of State to direct the information centre as he wishes. The Opposition think it is a good thing that the Secretary of State should discharge certain powers, particularly when failures happen, and be held to account for them by the House. Naturally, we support the view that people should have greater access to, and control over, their health and social care needs and the care that they receive. I am sure the whole House can subscribe to that idea. However, the opportunity to access health and social care records has to be tempered by protections for patient confidentiality and, equally importantly, protections to prevent the misuse of information by private bodies.

The Opposition have raised the issues of access to patient information and privatisation, and expressed concerns that sensitive information may find its way to organisations that will use it for commercial reasons. In Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr Barron) spoke about the value to patients of anonymised data, which enable them to make relevant choices. It is not a huge leap of faith to imagine that those same data would be commercially valuable to pharmaceutical companies and commercial interests. I am concerned to hear from the Minister that adequate safeguards are in place in the Lords amendments.

Fiona O'Donnell: It is valuable to the debate that my hon. Friend is highlighting his concerns about confidentiality. Does he agree that a theme running through the Bill is that it will undermine the confidence that patients can have in the people who deliver services to them?

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Grahame M. Morris: I do agree. Indeed, Professor Steve Field, whom the Government appointed to head up the listening exercise, agreed. He stated:

“Better information systems and the development of more integrated electronic care records will be a major enabling factor.”

Without better information sharing with patients, and between professionals across organisations, it will be quite difficult to provide better co-ordinated and integrated care, which we all want to see. As you will be aware, Mr Speaker, I represent a former coal mining area. One of the slogans on the miners’ banners in Durham is, “Knowledge is Power”. That is a true sentiment that can be applied equally to health policy.

The buck should stop with the Secretary of State. In Committee, we considered the possibility of failure in NHS organisations, and Ministers reassured us that the issue would be effectively addressed in amendments. I would like some reassurance this evening that Ministers can foresee patients gaining greater access to their records, and I would like some detail of how that might be achieved. In view of the current cuts to the service—[Interruption.] Not the new centre that has not been set up, the existing NHS Information Centre. In view of that, is the Minister setting out any red lines for accomplishing the ambitious targets that he has set out in the Bill?

A House of Commons Library briefing note defines the role of the health and social care information centre as a special health authority. It states that the NHS Information Centre will be

“a non-departmental public body. In its role collecting data to support central bodies in discharging their statutory functions, it will have powers to require data to be provided to it when it is working on behalf of the Secretary of State or the NHS Commissioning Board”.

The Minister said that he had not cut funding, but there have been cuts to funding this year to the NHS Information Centre, which is separate from the new body that is being set up by the Bill.

9.45 pm

The centre has had to reduce spending on surveys, which often form the basis of planning health care interventions. The general lifestyle survey, for example, carried out every year by the Office for National Statistics on behalf of Government Departments, has had its funding withdrawn by the NHS Information Centre, according to information that has been supplied to me and other hon. Members. The survey provides statistics on public health issues, which are dear to my heart and the hearts of many Opposition Members.

Chi Onwurah: I congratulate my hon. Friend on the important points he is making, particularly his last point on public health. He and I represent constituencies in the north of England that suffer from great health inequalities. Does he agree that knowing and understanding those health inequalities is an essential part of being able to address them?

Grahame M. Morris: I agree with my hon. Friend and am grateful for her intervention. Those points were exercised in a recent debate in Westminster Hall. The basic point that I seek to make—I will finish on this—is that in order to plan effective health interventions, we need an effective and reliable evidence base. I would like

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assurances from the Minister that the necessary funding will be in place to ensure that that is delivered as a consequence of that measure in the Bill.

Stephen Pound (Ealing North) (Lab): May I trespass upon your good nature, Mr Speaker, to endeavour to speak on behalf of the House to praise my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris), who is not well, but who has risen from his sick bed to join us today because this subject is of such importance?

Those of us who stood at the Bar in the other place listening to the debate—[ Interruption. ] Not that bar. Those of us who stood at the Bar of the other place listening to the debate on the Bill cannot help but to have been massively impressed by the breadth and depth of expertise that was displayed. We had past presidents of royal colleges and consultants, and people from every aspect of our glorious national health service, giving their expertise, passion and analysis.

I come from a slightly different perspective. I spent more than 10 years working in the national health service—this is specifically in relation to the issue of health and wellbeing boards, in case you are worried, Mr Speaker—before community health councils were established in 1974, when, frankly, the NHS was not run for patients, people or the local community, and when there was little or no consultation with democratically elected local authorities, let alone with special interest groups or people representing areas that were ill served by the NHS. Community health councils had not only statutory powers, but a budget. They enabled the voice of the people to be heard in wards, corridors and A and E departments throughout the national health service.

We have heard tonight an extraordinary, agonising attempt on the part of the junior section of the coalition to justify what had been for years their principled support of a public voice within the NHS. The Liberal Democrats say that they will scrutinise the measure having voted to destroy that for which they have stood for so long. It is like somebody setting fire to a house and saying that they will time how long the fire engine takes to get there—and then criticising it. It ill becomes Members to draw attention to the shortcomings of other Members, but one speaker reminded me of those people in Spain who, on Good Friday, flagellate themselves up and down mountains trying to display their agonies. All the time, the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) tries to show us that he is not enjoying this—he is in agony but that agony will not deter him, I fear, from voting against the amendments.

Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab): I hate to disagree with my hon. Friend but is not the difference between the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) and the flagellants of Spain that they believe they have sins to expiate, whereas he believes that whatever position he adopts today, even if it is the opposite of yesterday’s, is entirely right and proper?

Stephen Pound: I yield to no one in my admiration for my hon. Friend and her knowledge of the slightly occult religious practices of south Spain—and possibly of parts of St Helens for all I know.

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But we did not expect the Spanish inquisition. We expected a valid, proper, sensible voice to enable the people to engage with their national health service. The NHS must not be an isolated ivory tower dominated by the old consultant gods who used to run it. It must not be a matter of non-responsible bureaucrats in quangos sending letters of suggestion. The NHS must contain a proper mechanism for the people’s voice to be heard and, above all, for the involvement of the wider community. The NHS cannot be a stand-alone organisation; it has to be involved with local councils and local communities, but everything in the proposals for this mealy-mouthed, milquetoast healthwatch nonsense dilutes and destroys that.

All the proposal does is create a false illusion—a falsity; the suggestion that somehow the voice of the people will be heard through this mere sub-committee of the Care Quality Commission, a committee whose mighty weapons arrayed against the forces of reaction and conservatism consist of the ability to write a letter. Such a letter would have to be vast, powerful and extremely effective, and would have to do what no letter has ever done in the history of epistolatory warfare. It would somehow have to persuade people on this gentle nudge—I appreciate that there are those on the Government Benches much given to the modern, modish philosophy of the nudge, but there is nudging and there is fudging, and what we have heard tonight is a fudge-nudge.

Above all, however, there is a crucially significant and important point here.

Jim Shannon: Do the hon. Gentleman’s exhortations mean that the pen is not mightier than the sword?

Stephen Pound: I am not entirely sure, Mr Speaker, whether you would allow the debate to go down that line, but were anyone in Northern Ireland to suggest a model such as that being proposed tonight, they would get a very dusty answer—it might not be replied to with sword or pen alone, but it would certainly be responded to.

The NHS is not something that we choose to buy into or out of. It is something that we all subscribe to. For many people—I should think everyone in this Chamber except me—it is a part of their birthright. People have been born under the NHS, have lived with the NHS, have funded the NHS and have supported it, and their voices must be heard. What we have tonight does not represent a valid mechanism for people to engage with the NHS. That is the key point. It is simply not good enough to set up a sub-committee of a quango and imagine that it has any force. We must realise that, yes, people may have different political opinions and there might be different priorities, but we do not have differential rates of national insurance. We pay national insurance because it is our national health service, and we have a right to have our voices heard.

Fiona O'Donnell: Does my hon. Friend agree that part of the problem is that such a complex measure is before the House? The Government’s thinking was not developed in the early stages, and the Conservatives’ coalition partners have contributed nothing throughout our scrutiny in Committee. That is why, at this late stage, the Opposition are still left trying to amend and improve the Bill.

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Stephen Pound: As ever, my hon. Friend makes an important point. In responding to it, I would like to ask the House to cast its mind back to the contribution of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey). He rightly said that this is not an issue of party politics. The fact that we see party politics in its worst form—its most loathsome shape—forming before our very eyes, clouded in some foul, mephitic, stygian Hades, is to be deplored. We should all listen to my right hon. Friend and actually try to admit to ourselves that we do not know everything—that the people’s voice does deserve to be heard and that the national health service is just that: a national health service, for all people. Everybody has that right to have their voice heard.

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the deepest problems with this Bill is that the people’s voice has not been heard? These proposals were never put before the people in party manifestos. That is exactly why they feel so very angry.

Stephen Pound: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question. It is a great sadness and reflects ill on my personal life that I spend many a night browsing through Liberal Democrat and Conservative manifestos. I have searched; I have examined; I have deconstructed; I have applied the principles of Jacques Derrida to those manifestos. Have I found in there any smidgen, any suggestion, any hint or any implication that the NHS was to be fragmented, privatised and ultimately destroyed, and the connection between the people and the NHS to be ripped up, torn into shreds like the integrity of the Liberal Democrats, hurled from the window to flutter in the breeze of history, never, ever to be seen again? Had I found that, I would almost certainly have voted Labour—but as I did so anyway, that is neither here nor there. But the point that my hon. Friend makes is absolutely right. How can the people, who fund the NHS, who are born in the NHS, who live in the NHS and who will ultimately quit this mortal bourn in the NHS—when they depart this vale of tears, it will be with the comforting arm of the NHS about their shoulders—feel that they are best served by this organisation if their voice is not heard?

Fiona O'Donnell: If it is difficult for those people to imagine how they can rely on the NHS, surely they should take a lead from the Lib Dems at their spring conference and show Liberal Democrat Members that they need to listen to their members and vote with us this evening.

Stephen Pound: My hon. Friend tempts me down a partisan path. I hope she will forgive me if on this occasion I will not follow so closely behind her. All I will say is that Gateshead—that wonderful, glorious city—has been demeaned by the presence of those who spin endlessly before our eyes, desperately trying to justify their own appalling behaviour.

What we have this evening is a Bill that is inchoate in its extremities. There are so many different clauses. I challenge any individual to respond to a question on the total number of amendments that we have had to face before tonight. But above all, leaving aside all the numbers, the clauses, the subsections, there is at the heart of all this one basic irrefragable—

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Mr Speaker: Order. [Hon. Members: “More!”] Whatever the views of Members, there is no time for more.

10 pm

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

The Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No.83 F ( 2 )), That this House agrees with Lords amendment 11.

Question agreed to.

Lords amendment 11 accordingly agreed to

The Deputy Speaker then put forthwith with Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour (Standing Order No. 83F)

Question put, That this House agrees with Lords amendments 12, 43 to 53, 61, 62, 168 to 241, 243 to 245, 247, 249 to 251, 253 to 286, 288 to 291, 327, 333, 334 and 366 to 374.

The House divided:

Ayes 324, Noes 236.

Division No. 502]

[10 pm


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, rh Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Farron, Tim

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, Stephen

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huhne, rh Chris

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hunter, Mark

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

Maude, rh Mr Francis

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Mensch, Louise

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robertson, Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

James Duddridge and

Jenny Willott


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, rh Mr Gordon

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Gregory

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Danczuk, Simon

David, Mr Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harris, Mr Tom

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hermon, Lady

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Tessa

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lloyd, Tony

Long, Naomi

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McCrea, Dr William

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Miliband, rh David

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mulholland, Greg

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Watson, Mr Tom

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wood, Mike

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Phil Wilson and

Nic Dakin

Question accordingly agreed to.

20 Mar 2012 : Column 760

20 Mar 2012 : Column 761

20 Mar 2012 : Column 762

20 Mar 2012 : Column 763

Remai ning Lords amendments agreed to, with Commons financial privileges waived in respect of Lords amendments 181, 189, 192, 198, 243, 244, 253, 265, 288, 290, 291 and 366.

Mr Speaker: We come now to the petition. Before I call the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), may I ask Members who are leaving the Chamber to do so quickly and quietly—

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): Stay for the petition.

20 Mar 2012 : Column 764

Mr Speaker: If Members wish to stay, they should stay. If they wish to leave, perhaps they can do so quickly and quietly, affording the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington the courtesy that they would want to be extended to them in similar circumstances.


DVLA Office Network

10.15 pm

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): The petition relates to the Government consultation on the future of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency that commenced in December. The Government are now proposing to close the local network of DVLA offices, with the loss of 1,200 staff and the consequential effects on local economies and the licensing regime itself. The petition was signed by 40,000 people and it states:

The Petition of DVLA staff and service users in numerous constituencies,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that the DVLA Office Network is a service which is needed throughout the UK; declares that the Petitioners feel that the decision to close the DVLA Office Network and centralise services is a devastating blow to local communities who rely on the services provided, as well as to the 1200 staff who will lose their jobs; and declares that the Petitioners believe that decision to close the service needs to be addressed so that staff and the public can get some reassurances of job and service security.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to consult with staff, users and trade unions further, and to take all possible action to save the DVLA Office Network.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


20 Mar 2012 : Column 765

Education Projects (Nigeria)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Stephen Crabb.)

10.17 pm

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to initiate this debate.

Last month I had the honour of participating in a visit to Nigeria on behalf of the all-party parliamentary group on global education for all. I was accompanied by my hon. Friends the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant) and for Ceredigion (Mr Williams). I hope that I have pronounced his constituency correctly.

Our visit was aimed at understanding how Nigeria is addressing major educational challenges, specifically in the education of girls and community involvement in education. We also took the opportunity to meet Nigerian politicians as well to see the impact of British involvement on the ground.

Nigeria has a population of about 165 million people and has 10% of the world’s children of primary age who are not in school. Most of those are girls. There are considerable barriers to girls accessing education. This is cultural and physical and both those challenges are being addressed. We also wished to examine the use of Department for International Development funding and to ensure that taxpayers’ money is being used wisely and that value for money results.

Before we went to Nigeria we had the opportunity to meet the Nigerian high commissioner and all of his team. I found that the high commissioner and I had attendance at the university of Liverpool in common, although not at the same time. We uncovered a number of the challenges facing Nigeria, including the problem of corruption, which is well known. Virtually all politicians mention that as endemic in Nigeria.

James Wharton (Stockton South) (Con): In August last year, I was on a delegation that visited Tanzania with Oxfam. One of the things that was most encouraging was the work that DFID is doing to transfer its budget from supporting Government funding towards localised projects that are making a difference, minimising the opportunity for corruption, to which my hon. Friend referred. Did he find that that was the case during his visit to Nigeria, and, if so, does he welcome it?

Bob Blackman: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, and I will allude to what is going on in Nigeria later in my speech. In particular, I will address the changes that have taken place since our coalition Government started running the Department.

The challenge in Nigeria is, of course, to make sure that proper action is being taken to address corruption. An inquiry, chaired by Farouk Muhammad Lawan, is being undertaken into the operation of Nigeria’s oil industry. He is also the chairman of education in the Nigerian House of Representatives. A clear-up of the operation of the petroleum industry should follow, which I trust will include the exposure of any alleged corruption. Transfers of funds from the Federal Government of Nigeria do not always seem to reach the proper destination. That may be a problem of bureaucracy, but it makes the monitoring of DFID funding all the more important.

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One of the key barriers to participation in education is that of fees and levies. It is clear that there are mixed messages about whether young people are required to pay fees and what happens if they are unable to afford them. The adequacy of teacher training and the qualifications of teachers are a severe challenge. My hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion will doubtless refer to that issue later. Girls are particularly challenged, as traditionally they are not educated. They are often forced to marry when very young—even as young as 12. They are seen to be needed in the home or as part of the farming community, so families do not recognise the value of their education. The role of traditional rulers is key in promoting education, particularly that of girls. Where that happens, the results are dramatically improved.

Mrs Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that girls’ clubs, similar to the DFID-funded project we saw at the Yangoji school near Abuja, are key in empowering young women and helping them to deal with many of difficulties that keep them away from school, many of which he has mentioned? The clubs give young women support and encouragement from their peers.

Bob Blackman: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Clearly, not only enabling young girls to go into education but supporting them while they are there is crucial. That is one of the key elements of DFID funding that I strongly support and I trust it will continue well into the future.

Most schools do not have proper sanitation or even fresh water, and that is a considerable barrier preventing girls from being educated. DFID funding is being used to provide these basic facilities, and I warmly welcome that. No mention of Nigeria can be complete without referring to the security situation. The attacks orchestrated by Boko Haram have created problems, particularly in the north of Nigeria, and we should all express sincere condolences to the family of Chris McManus who, sadly, was murdered by his kidnappers recently.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on bringing this issue to the House tonight. He has talked about DFID and about all the other groups that are helping. Is he aware of the many churches that do tremendous work in Nigeria through their educational projects? In particular, I am thinking of the Elim missions in my constituency, which, through Kingsway International, run an educational project that provides teachers and teaching, food and meals for the day and the books for the schools. It is not Government-funded; it is done through the churches themselves. Such projects also do tremendously good work in Nigeria, alongside all the other people who do likewise.

Bob Blackman: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Clearly the work of churches, charities, Comic Relief and other organisations is extremely valuable in promoting the educational opportunities that are required in these areas.

On our visit, we had the opportunity to visit schools in Abuja and Lagos. We saw at first hand that DFID funding can make a big difference on providing toilets and new classrooms. In Abuja, we saw a school where thieves had stolen the water pump that provided fresh

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water for the children. One can imagine spending all day in school without access to fresh water or even basic toilet facilities. In Lagos, we saw a school that had had a new toilet block installed with DFID funding. However, we expressed concern that the cost of that—£37,000—seemed excessive compared with the cost of building generally in Nigeria.

It is important to recognise that the overwhelming majority of the population earn less than a £1 a day. We inquired about that project, particularly the procurement costs and the process that had been followed. We believe that DFID should carefully consider how best to ensure value for money in such a country as Nigeria. The tendering process seems fraught with problems and might not be the best way of obtaining good value for money. Surely we should be negotiating down these prices to make our money go further.

On our school visits we met the school-based management committees, which are equivalent to our school governing bodies. The main problem they face is training members and developing their powers. We heard at first hand how one SBMC had used its power to embarrass local politicians to release much-needed funding for a project. It used Facebook to threaten the governor that it would refuse to support his re-election bid unless funding was released for new classrooms. The governor released the money in a matter of days. DFID money is channelled via the education sector support programme in Nigeria and the girls’ education project. DFID will assist more than 800,000 children to enter education, including 600,000 girls, over the next four years. There can be no doubt that the ministerial team at DFID has ensured that proper targets and value for money are at the heart of the Department’s work. They have truly been the wind of change required for the projects in Africa.

We also had the opportunity to meet many politicians and officials, which helped to promote the relationship between the UK and Nigeria. In my opinion, this type of bilateral relationship is crucial as we increase the UK’s influence in the world. Anyone visiting Nigeria will be shocked at the wide disparity in levels of wealth and income. They will also be surprised, if not frightened, when being driven by car. The normal behaviour of car drivers in Nigeria is to sound their horn and point the car where they want to go irrespective of who or what is in the way. I should also report that my name became the subject of much hilarity for many of the officials I met. I would be a very rich man indeed if I had £1 for every time someone said “Mr Blackman? But you are a white man.”

Nigerians have a great love of the UK. They love premier league football, they universally love the Queen, they are staunch allies of the UK and they are a key member of the Commonwealth. China and other countries have seen the opportunities for investment there and we need to ensure that we retain and improve our relationship with Nigeria. There can be little doubt that Nigeria will become the key economy in Africa very soon, so it is in our vital national interest to continue to invest in infrastructure projects in Nigeria and particularly to invest in education.

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10.27 pm

Mr Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): First, let me congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) on securing the debate. Harrow is a lot easier to pronounce than Ceredigion, but I thank him for his efforts and for allowing me to make a brief contribution to the debate.

My hon. Friend has covered much of the ground regarding our visit to Nigeria, but I just want to reflect briefly on the position of teachers in Nigeria and particularly on the opportunities for meaningful teacher training. The four schools we visited near Abuja and in Lagos were certainly characterised by enthusiastic young people but also by inadequate resources and old-style “chalk and talk” teaching delivered from the front of overcrowded classrooms rather than through engagement with young people. Despite that, the young people we met seemed captivated by the experience and willing to sit it out to progress and try to advance themselves. I shall not forget being taken to a library in one of the schools we visited and seeing a couple of shelves of books, most of which seemed to be redundant computer manuals relating to four redundant computers—redundant because the school had no electricity supply—in the corner of the room.

In addition to what my hon. Friend said in reporting back our experiences, my hope tonight is that DFID will ensure in its reflections on strategies to support teacher training that teachers have the skills they need to teach in a way that is participatory and responsive to individual young people. In other words, while we remain concerned about the scale of the challenge, with the 800,000 people whom DFID projects are going to help back into classrooms, including 600,000 young girls, I hope that quality will become a feature of the teaching debate, not just quantity.

Mrs Grant: Does my hon. Friend agree that notwithstanding the enthusiasm of both children and teachers, while we were there we certainly saw evidence of the very large classes, lots of children and sometimes the inadequacy of teacher training?

Mr Williams: I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention. I shall come on to that. In a previous life I used to be a primary school teacher. The prospect of teaching 36 children in a school in the west country or in rural Powys fades into insignificance when compared with the size of the classes that we saw in Nigeria.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East will recall a conversation that he and I had in Abuja with Mrs Ozumba, the federal head of primary education, which revealed the problems that Nigeria clasically faces. She said that Nigeria does not have enough people willing to be teachers, especially in rural areas. The profession is not incentivised. There is minimal job security and there are instances of teachers not being paid at all. There is little focus on technical and vocational areas of the curriculum which could benefit the Nigerian economy. Only pre-service teacher training is available. There is little, if any, in-service teacher training, and there is a need to build and cascade down some semblance of a teacher training structure.

There is, as my hon. Friend mentioned, a severe shortage of female teachers, who are essential as role models for young girls in school, and to encourage girls

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to stay in school and to be allowed by their parents to remain in school. With reference to the conditions that teachers as well as children face, I also remember the Yangoji junior secondary school near Abuja, where there were 788 children with no water supply whatsoever, the borehole that did not yield any water, and the children sitting in classes of 70. That was an issue for the children, but it was an issue also for the teachers.

Despite all the problems, the scale of the problems, the estimated 8.5 million children out of school, the huge sensitivities in the northern territories, and the gender divide, there is vast potential. That is the word that stays in my mind from my first visit to Africa, to Nigeria—the huge potential for that country. It is being advanced through laudable DFID schemes, the awakening of civic society via the school-based management committees that we heard about this evening, and a healthy questioning of where money is being spent. The press in Nigeria is a free press, challenging politicians to account for the money that is being spent and challenging the federal Government to honour the spending commitments that they have made.

DFID’s work remains essential and is much appreciated. The infrastructure works, and sanitation and building projects are evidently succeeding, but I hope DFID will continue with the third sector and the Nigerian Government to look at the human investment required in education. I end with one harrowing piece of research, commissioned by DFID, which suggested that of 42,000 grade 3 teachers in Kwara state who were given a test that their young students should have passed, only 19 passed. In short, I hope we will continue to emphasise and build upon the quality of education, as well as the quantity.

10.33 pm

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Mr Alan Duncan): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) for calling tonight’s debate. I am grateful to him and his colleagues, my hon. Friends the Members for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant) and for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) for visiting Nigeria last month to see at first hand the challenges in education and the work that the UK is supporting to tackle those challenges.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and I are all grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East and his colleagues from the all-party parliamentary group on global education for the insights that they shared with us after their visit to Nigeria. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is at this moment boarding a plane to Nigeria to follow up on these issues.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East learned during his visit, primary education in much of Nigeria is extremely poor. As he said, there are an estimated 8.5 million children out of school in Nigeria. It therefore has more primary-aged children not in school than any other country in the world, and the problem is particularly acute in the north of the country.

Nigeria’s education policies and their implementation are poor, having suffered many years of decline under military dictatorships and mismanaged oil revenues. Financial releases to schools are erratic and education officials and teachers struggle to improve schools.

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The quality of teaching and learning is also extremely poor. A recent DFID study of primary and junior secondary teachers in government schools, as we have just heard, revealed that only 75 of 19,000 teachers surveyed achieved the minimum standards for teaching core subjects.

As my hon. Friends heard during their visit, there are three major educational challenges. The first challenge is simply to get more children into school. A national education data survey, partly funded by DFID, showed that only 61% of Nigerian children attend school. The situation in the north of the country, the poorest part, is particularly bad. Therefore, DFID’s efforts are focused on 10 of Nigeria’s 36 states, mainly in the north. We are working with the Federal Ministry of Education and state Governments to help address these regional disparities.

The second challenge is to close the gap between girls and boys. In many parts of the country, particularly the north, there are many fewer girls than boys in school. In the northern states, only 35% of girls attend primary school, compared with over 80% in the south of the country. That is of great concern to DFID, and we are working with our partners in the country to help close those geographic and gender gaps.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): As members of the International Development Committee have just seen during a visit to Malawi, one of the main problems for girls is the lack of adequate toilet facilities. Will the Minister outline what the Government, through DFID, are doing in that respect in Nigeria?

Mr Duncan: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because he is right that we are indeed spending money on sanitation, and I am perturbed to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East about the seemingly excessive cost of one particular structure. I can assure him and the House that we will investigate that as a matter of urgency to check that we have genuinely achieved value for money. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) rightly points out, girls are kept away from school if they do not have proper sanitation; they simply do not turn up. Therefore, sanitation is an essential part of making sure that girls have equal access to education.

International evidence from countries such as Malaysia and other Asian countries shows that educating girls is one of the best investments a country can make. Educating more girls improves family and child health and boosts economic growth by making young women more productive. DFID is therefore working with its Nigerian partners to help get more girls into school and improve their quality of education, their health and their economic contribution to society.

Mrs Grant: Does the Minister agree that early marriage and forced marriage are also serious factors keeping girls away from school in Nigeria?

Mr Duncan: My hon. Friend, who has so much experience in this area, is absolutely right. One of DFID’s core objectives is to achieve later marriage by educating girls, and one of the most potent influences in achieving effective development is focusing on opportunities for girls in all the countries where we have programmes.

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The third challenge, which I think properly addresses the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald, is to improve the quality of education. Getting children into school is just the first step; it is no good getting them into school if they do not receive any useful teaching once there. Too many Nigerian children leave school without the necessary knowledge and skills for a healthy and productive life. International research shows that the most effective way to improve the quality of education is to invest in teachers and the quality of teaching. Education systems need to attract good people to become teachers. They then need the right incentives, professional support and teaching materials for their classrooms.

Parents and communities also need support to hold teachers to account for their children’s learning. My hon. Friends heard directly from the DFID team in Nigeria about the projects that UK taxpayers’ money is supporting in order to respond to those education challenges. They heard also about the impressive results being achieved.

DFID has two major projects to increase access to education for Nigerian children, and to improve the quality of education they receive once they are in school. The first project, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East referred, is the education sector support programme in Nigeria, known as ESSPIN. It works with the federal Ministry of Education and six states of the federation to improve the planning, management, funding and provision of basic education. The overarching objective of the project is to ensure that Nigeria’s own public funds are used more effectively to improve education.

The ESSPIN project is managed by a contracted company to provide technical assistance to state education departments. It helps communities organise school-based management committees; it trains head teachers to plan and use their Government funds to improve their schools; and it provides small grants and small-scale infrastructure to upgrade facilities and teaching materials in schools where community-based management committees are working well.

A recent independent review of ESSPIN found that after almost three years the project was indeed making a real difference. The review concluded that the project

“has been effective in establishing a platform for basic education reform in six Nigerian States... Its pilot work in approximately 2000 schools and communities is sound. It is resulting in some early teaching and learning benefits.”

Building on those achievements, ESSPIN is now widening its coverage to approximately 10,500 schools in order to benefit an estimated 4.2 million children over the next three years.

The second project is the girls’ education project, known as GEP, which is funded by DFID and run by UNICEF. The project works with four state governments in the north of Nigeria to help get more girls into school, to encourage them to stay and to improve the quality of education that they receive in their school. The project identifies schools with low levels of enrolment by girls. It helps those schools to identify the local barriers to girls attending, and it supports teachers and communities in addressing those barriers. For example, the lack of women teachers discourages parents from sending their girls to school. The GEP therefore includes

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a scholarship scheme to help young women to become teachers in their own community. The UK has supported two phases of the girls’ education project since 2004, and we calculate that it has helped to get 423,000 girls into primary schools and helped the transition of 225,000 girls into junior secondary schools.

A new phase of the project is just starting, and as my hon. Friend said it will get an additional 800,000 children, 600,000 of them girls, into school by 2015. The project will expand to a total of six states in the next few years, and in response to the scale of Nigeria’s education challenges DFID is designing two new education projects. The first is looking at how DFID can help to improve the quality of teaching that children receive once they get into school. Teachers need training and support throughout their career, not just at the start. The project will therefore consider targeted support for teacher training colleges and for in-service training schemes.

The second project is looking at how to improve the quality of education in low-cost private schools. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development visited Nigeria in June last year, he noted that millions of Nigerian children are being educated outside the public sector and visited a community-based private school in the slums of Lagos, where more than 60% of primary children attend such schools. So DFID is looking at how to help those schools without undermining their independence or the strength of accountability between teachers and parents. The UK’s support for education is an important part of the UK’s overall support for Nigeria.

Nigeria matters to the UK and to the rest of the world. The country is an emerging power that is important to the coalition Government’s foreign and domestic policy interests and central to the UK’s prosperity, security and development agendas. Continued poverty, greater domestic conflict or religious radicalisation would damage the UK’s interests; and they could reduce growth and market opportunities, increase illegal migration and crime, and increase the potential for security threats to the UK. The rise of Islamist terrorism in the past year and the tragic hostage events earlier this month are harsh reminders of these threats.

Following the widely acknowledged, credible elections in April 2011, the coalition Government have been developing a more substantive and strategic relationship with Nigeria by stepping up our co-operation on prosperity, security and development. The coalition Government aim to build on the very warm relations established through the Prime Minister’s visit to Nigeria in July 2011 and the two visits by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development last year. Given the challenges that Nigeria faces in securing stability, prosperity and development—not least in providing a better education for its children—I hope that the House will welcome the priority placed on Nigeria’s development by the coalition Government and the significant expansion of the UK’s development programme as a result of the bilateral aid review. Again, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East and his colleagues for raising awareness of the critical importance of supporting Nigeria and supporting that country’s education.

Question put and agreed to.

10.47 pm

House adjourned.