6.18 pm

Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): The Yorkshire economy is twice the size of that of Wales. Yorkshire’s population, at 5.3 million, is similar to that of Scotland, and Yorkshire, like Scotland, has a brand and a name that is recognised the world over. We saw that in the summer with the Tour de France, which stunned television viewers across the world. The Grand Depart has been recognised as one of the best in cycling history.

The current debate and commitment to devolving more powers is a huge opportunity for Yorkshire to build on the Tour de France, and we must seize it with both hands. English votes for English laws will ensure that more of these powers flow to Yorkshire, and I call on the region’s 31 Labour MPs to back these reforms and put Yorkshire’s interests first. It is Yorkshire’s time to take more control of its affairs. In that respect, I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) for all his work on English votes for English laws.

Yorkshire councils need to get ready. While the Tour de France showed them working together closely, they have a long way to go before they can put in place the governance structures and formal collaboration to make the most of the devolution to come. We do not want more layers of government, but when I look across the Pennines at how effective Manchester is at building its brand and co-ordinating its MPs and other representatives to promote the name of Manchester, I realise that Yorkshire has more to do.

We are getting there. We have two of the country’s five combined authorities and are winning the trust of Government for city and growth deals, but we have to go further. Some in rural constituencies such as mine are concerned that rural areas might miss out in the devolution process to come, so I call on Ministers to ensure that in the settlement that emerges, rural and county areas are given equal consideration. Some 80% of global growth comes from, and 75% of the world’s population live in, cities. In this the age of the city, this place must protect our rural hinterland, without which we could not survive.

As we have heard, the Scotland debate showed how disconnected this place has become from the rest of the country. This is felt particularly strongly in the north. We have a practical opportunity to address this problem when a final decision is made on the renovation work for this place. It seems highly likely that the House of Commons Commission will recommend a temporary relocation while works take place. Let us forget the Queen Elizabeth conference centre; let us rule out anywhere in London or the south-east; and let us have a temporary UK House of Commons in the north. Cities across the north could then start to come up with innovative, low-cost bids to re-energise this place and connect it finally to the people.

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6.21 pm

Mr Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): Speaking as the MP for the most remote English constituency from Westminster, I am glad that we are having this long overdue debate on English devolution.

The recent Scottish referendum is the perfect starting point for discussing the necessary new constitutional arrangements for England. During the Scottish referendum, the nationalists sought deliberately to conflate notions of England and Englishness with Toryism. The insinuation behind the lie was that the English were content with London’s dominance of the national economy and with how Westminster functioned. Nothing could be further from the truth. In cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds, dissatisfaction with how London runs the show and how Westminster functions is about to erupt. They are dissatisfied in Bristol, too; and Exeter; and Norfolk; and right across the midlands. In Cumbria, we have had enough. I dare say the same is true in Warrington.

The job of the Government, particularly in the wake of the Scottish referendum, must be to facilitate the ambitions of the English regions. A new constitutional settlement for Scotland compels a new constitutional settlement for the other nations of the United Kingdom. It will be difficult, but it is also inescapable and, more than anything else, long overdue. Regional devolution is a necessity, but only the beginning that England requires. Beyond our great cities, the nation building England needs will be much more difficult, and it is in the peripheral areas outside our major conurbations where we must concentrate our efforts, which is why an English Parliament is such an irrelevant notion.

England is beset by a toxic disconnection between the governed and the governors, and nowhere is this disconnection more keenly felt than in that forgotten England largely ignored by the political mainstream and the national media—those places people have heard of, but have never been to. In our rugby league towns, in our lower-league football cities, a crisis is taking grip. In many places, accelerated by austerity, the community fabric is being destroyed and the pillars of local society and community are disappearing.

Such communities are used to dealing with the consequences of factory closures and economic difficulties, but a new challenge is on the horizon. What happens to these communities when government pulls out? It is a vital question and one that both the left and the right seem reluctant to answer. At the centre of attempts to drive regional economic growth are the essential questions: what is the role of the state? What size should it be? Should it command more or fewer resources? Should these resources be spread more thinly performing more functions, or should they be concentrated by performing fewer?

The key to transforming communities in England is to devolve power. This will result in faster, more effective delivery of better health care, better educational outcomes, better communities and stronger local economies. The devolution of power to England’s peripheral economies is the essential foundation stone of any meaningful effort fundamentally to address the causes of poverty in these areas as well. English devolution must never fall victim to the same pitfalls of Scottish nationalism—in particular, to the same self-delusional refusal to ask and

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answer the tough questions. In England, the rush to resolve imperfectly the issue of English devolution risks becoming a shallow electoral gimmick, and the principal lesson from the Scottish referendum is that ultimately in politics gimmicks fail.

6.24 pm

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): The three leaders of the main parties made generous offers to Scotland. I am sure that they wish to honour those offers, and I urge them to do so as quickly as possible. It would be easier if they could try to find some agreement among themselves, because, unfortunately, their offers were a bit different. I also urge them to be generous. I think we want to have the right spirit for this negotiation, and I disagree with the former Prime Minister: I think that Scotland should have full powers over income tax, and I think that the more fiscal devolution there is, the better. I think it makes a lot of sense for whoever is responsible for spending the money to be responsible for raising it as well.

However, I have also raised the question of England. I have spoken for England, and since I launched my “speak for England” campaign, I have been overwhelmed with support from around the country. More than 70% of the English people believe that we need English votes on English issues, and they believe that we need them now. That would be a first important step on the road to justice for England.

Pete Wishart: The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: he has been totally consistent. I actually used him as an example as I went around the meeting places of Scotland saying, “This is the real mood of the Tory Back Benches.” I was told that he was a siren voice—that he was in the wilderness—but he is actually the voice of the Tory Back Benches.

Mr Redwood: My voice is central to this debate because that is what the English people wish. I am merely trying to interpret their wishes, and I am proud to be able to do so.

We are told by some that this is too difficult to do. It is not too difficult to do. It is very easy to define an English issue: it is an issue that has been devolved elsewhere. What it makes sense for Scotland to decide in Scotland, England should decide in England. We are told that there are complications involving different types of MP, but we have different types of MP today. We all have different rights, duties and responsibilities, depending on how much has been devolved. Some of us can deal with all the issues in our constituencies, but we have the advice and the votes of others from other parts of the country who cannot deal with all the issues in their constituencies because those issues have been devolved.

What I am concerned about is equality for the voters. We are now talking about offering income tax powers to Scotland, which I think will happen, because all the parties agree with a version of it. It would be grossly unfair if the voters of Scotland, by their majority, could instruct their Scottish Parliament on what income tax rate they wanted, while the voters of England, instructing their MPs, might not get their wishes by a majority, because Members from other parts of the country

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might come and vote for a higher rate in England than English MPs or their constituencies wanted. It would be unfair votes, and that is what we need to address.

Sir Robert Smith rose

Mr Redwood: Does the hon. Gentleman wish to intervene?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. The hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir Robert Smith) has only just walked into the Chamber, and I do not want to embarrass him.

Mr Redwood: I say that we need justice for England, and that we need to embark on this course now. We could begin today if Scottish Members of Parliament, like those in the SNP, would simply say that they would no longer vote on English-only matters. We could do it quite simply by amending the Standing Orders of the House, which I strongly recommend.

I hope that other parties will come with us. I am offering something that is extraordinarily popular in England. All the parties are struggling a bit to be popular enough to win the general election, and one would have thought that they would want to associate themselves with something as popular as this. I cannot remember when I last supported something this popular, and I do not go out of my way to support unpopular causes. Yet I find MPs from other parties queuing up to disagree with the English people, to deny the English people justice, to say that an English person’s vote should not count as much as a Scottish person’s vote, and to say that, yes, they want to see an income tax rate set for England by people who will not be paying the tax, and who do not represent those who do pay it.

I say, “Justice for England! Justice now! English votes for English issues!”

6.29 pm

Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): Devolution has been a major political issue in Scotland for decades, indeed generations. There has always been a minority in favour of independence—the cultural nationalists—and, in the Labour party, the demand for home rule has always been a mainstream issue. Until the second world war it was a major plank of Labour’s position in Scotland, but after the war Scotland, which had always been a poorer nation, did very well out of the Attlee Government and successive Governments thereafter, and the demand was not as popular. However, in recent years, we have clearly seen a situation developing where the political desires of the people in Scotland are very different from those south of the border. Because we have a border, we are able to express ourselves in this way. Our political desires are very similar to those of people in the north, Merseyside and other people in these lands, who do not share in the prosperity of London and the south-east and whose political desires are very different from those of the people who tend to get elected as the majority in this Parliament.

I say to Conservative Members that for many decades Scotland has made different political choices from those south of the border. Conservative Governments, and indeed the Conservative-led Government we have at present, have been elected not by Scotland but by the

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rest of the country and have had only minority support in Scotland. There must be respect for the political views of Scotland’s democratic representatives. I say that as someone who is in favour of maintaining our relationships across these islands. Devolution is about recognising that there are very different wishes in different parts of the country. Part of the way forward must be about recognising that that is what devolution is about.

The strong message that came out of the referendum was that people wanted change; the status quo was not good enough. There was huge anger about the inequalities, and frustration that, irrespective of how people voted at elections, it did not seem possible to achieve change. Therefore, I want to say clearly that this is not just about powers. It is also about policy.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. Five colleagues remain on the list. There is a three-minute limit, but if colleagues can stick to two minutes each, all five will get in. No pressure there. I am in the hands of the House.

6.32 pm

Mr Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker—well, I think it’s thank you, anyway.

This debate takes places just five days after the by-elections in Clacton and Heywood and Middleton. We should not underestimate the significance of the results there. Many Members on both sides of the House have talked about the disaffection, disenchantment and disassociation with our political system felt by many millions of people. That risks getting worse if Scottish MPs continue to vote on exclusively English matters. We have had sophistry after sophistry from Labour Members. They have tried in a sophisticated way to justify the unjustifiable. The British people do not think it is right. Scottish nationalist supporters cannot see why Scottish MPs should vote on English matters; nor can people in Wales or people in England, regardless of how they vote.

Labour’s desperate attempt to do what is in its interest, rather than what is right, what is in the national interest and what people believe to be true, regardless of party allegiance, is shameful. The Conservative party can stand proud, because we campaigned hard to maintain the Union, even though politically it would appear not to be in our interest to do so. We believe in this country and we believe in keeping it together.

There has been talk, not least from a former Prime Minister, of two-tier MPs. It seems that a former Prime Minister can never attend yet speak for as long as he likes. Putting that aside, we heard talk from a former Prime Minister about two-tier MPs. That is not acceptable. He is not here now.; let us hope he turns up for a bit at the end—one never knows.

Following the latest round of concessions made during the Scottish referendum campaign, the English feel a profound sense of neglect. That neglect must not be perpetuated any longer. Fair votes for all is a principle that should find support across this House. To resist that pressure is like ignoring a long dormant but potentially disastrous and simmering volcano capable of exploding with the same passion we saw north of the border. I

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know some Opposition Members recognise this, however much they may be leant on to tone down their words. From various speakers we heard recognition of the injustice of the current situation and their discomfort at the fact that Scottish MPs are voting on exclusively English matters. It must be put right. Rather than destabilising our United Kingdom as the former Prime Minister suggested, giving justice to English voters, instead of embracing an asymmetry—giving justice to English voters when matters pertain solely to their interests—is something that people will demand, and the Labour party needs to change its tune.

6.35 pm

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): Given that the result of the referendum showed clearly that Scotland was divided down the middle as to its future relationship with the rest of the UK, one of the main objectives of those involved in the Smith commission and the political process more generally must be to try to bring forward proposals that reflect as great as possible a consensus so that they have a reasonable chance of being acceptable to a substantial majority of opinion in the long run, so that they can endure. I have no illusions about that being a difficult objective, and I am sure it will not be possible to get everyone to agree, but I believe it should be possible to bring forward proposals that can obtain substantial support from the public, even if not from all the political parties, and that should be the objective of the Smith commission.

Clearly the starting point for such proposals should be the pledge to devolve more spending, tax and welfare powers to the Scottish Parliament, as set out in the vow agreed by the three UK party leaders before the referendum. There should be substantial devolution of tax matters, but at the same time we must maintain the principle of sharing and pooling resources throughout the UK, as that was a central point in the campaign—many of us made it a central case in our argument for maintaining the Union—and tax arrangements should recognise that. We should also be talking about a wide range of additional powers, and they have already been set out in some of the proposals put before the Smith commission.

I want to say something about what further devolution for Scotland means for the rest of the UK. I recognise that this is an issue in England, and I think it is possible to have proposals that do not undermine the unitary nature of this Chamber while at the same time giving greater scrutiny to MPs from England, although I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) that this should not be rushed through in a vote in a few weeks’ time without proper consideration of the potential implications and any unforeseen consequences.

Such measures in this House are not likely to be the only solution needed, and I suspect they might not meet the concerns of those who are calling for that change outside this House. What we need is a proper constitutional convention looking at devolution all around the UK, but also looking at issues like the constitution and reform of the House of Lords, and some of the wider political issues that are behind the alienation from the political process which was one of the main features of the referendum debate in Scotland and is clearly not restricted to Scotland alone.

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6.38 pm

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): I will try to limit my remarks to two minutes.

Three years ago I was on the Scottish Affairs Committee and we had some discussions about the nature of the question that should be asked in this referendum. One of the options was to have devo-max as the third option. It is perhaps instructive to think about why at that time we did not think that was right. There were two reasons. First, it was felt that without resolving the West Lothian question, it would not be right. Secondly, it was felt that it would not be easy to define what devo-max was, and if the last five hours have taught us anything, it is that those reservations were clearly correct.

However, we are where we are. The vow has been made, we must meet that commitment and I fully endorse that. We have talked a lot about the West Lothian question, but for my constituents the more important part of the vow is that pertaining to the Barnett formula. The Secretary of State for Scotland answered a question from me yesterday and said the Barnett formula will stay for ever. I am not sure what that means, but at the moment the differential between Scotland and England is £1,623 per head this year. That is about £6,000 for a family of four. The consequence of that is that prescriptions and tuition are free in Scotland. Indeed, even yesterday the NHS in Scotland was able not to go on strike because it was able to fund things that much better. At some point, this issue is going to need to be addressed. By the way, this is not a subsidy to Scotland. I readily acknowledge that, historically, the Barnett formula has been paid for by the proceeds from Scottish oil, although that might not be the case in future. However, this is not a question of subsidy; it is a question of fairness. A number of hon. Members have talked about fairness today, and I put it to the House that the issue needs to be resolved.

6.40 pm

Margaret Curran (Glasgow East) (Lab): This has been a wide-ranging and—dare I say—exciting debate. It has been inspired by recent events in Scotland, but it has understandably covered many other questions relating to the constitutional future of the United Kingdom. I shall begin where the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) left off, because I want to pay tribute to some of the most outstanding contributions to the debate. The most notable was that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), who electrified not only the referendum campaign but our debate this afternoon. Lest anyone accuse me of being partisan, however, let me also pay tribute to another outstanding contribution—that of the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore). He made a measured and thoughtful speech.

The striking contributions from my right hon. Friends the Members for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) and for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke)—this is so good for my geography—reminded us at the outset that we must remember why we are having this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Anas Sarwar) said that our experience of the referendum was now being felt beyond it because people were “sick and tired” of the way in which our politics work. They are fed up with Westminster, as the hon. Member for Harwich

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and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) said, and the sense of isolation that the Scots feel is also being felt in England and more broadly across the United Kingdom. More often than not, we have to be humble because we know that people are fed up with politicians. They see us as being out of touch and they think that we just do not get it. Dealing with the underlying causes of that problem, showing people that politics can once again respond to the problems in their lives and helping them to face the challenges and change their lives are the key challenges in politics today. We absolutely cannot ignore that call, and we on these Benches will not do so.

In Scotland, we have just emerged from more than two years of exciting discussion. It is not often that people get the opportunity to make such a profound choice about the future of their country, and let us be clear: the question has been decided. The sovereign will of the Scottish people was clear: they voted to remain part of the United Kingdom, and everybody must respect that result. There is a whiff of some Members searching for a reason to undermine it. Let me abandon politeness: “Alex Salmond, get real! The people of Scotland have decided; now just get on with it and make this devolution settlement work.”

The discussions that we have had in our schools, our homes, our workplaces, our streets and in some cases our pubs have reached every part of Scottish society, and that is what we want to keep. The discussion should not be confined to our Parliaments; it should take place in every part of our lives. In Scotland, our challenge is to maintain that engagement with politics. The rest of us have to grasp that point and to see what we can learn from the experience and whether we can inspire similar changes again.

That is why the attitude of right hon. and hon. Members on the Government Benches at this moment in our history is so disappointing. We have heard a call for change from across the United Kingdom, and from unprecedented numbers of people in Scotland, but the Government’s response has been to say, “I know what we’ll do. We’ll set up a Cabinet sub-committee. That’s the answer!” That approach has been led by the Prime Minister. Yes, he played his role in the referendum and there was cross-party engagement, but he disappointed us all by what he said on that Friday morning. He had a chance to bind our country back together and he failed. Everybody knows that he resorted to narrow party interest.

Let us consider the following:

“Constitutional reform is far too important today to be regarded as the exclusive preserve of the so-called chattering classes. It goes right to the heart of what is wrong with the Government of Britain today—a Government that is arrogant, centralised, and unresponsive to people.”

Those are not my words; they are the words, in 1993, of John Smith, Labour’s lost leader and a great champion of constitutional reform. Those words are as true today as they were then.

Let me address the issue that so many people have talked about, the devolution of power, as many hon. Members have asked about the principles guiding our response. The binding principle that has guided all my work in Scotland and that guides the approach of the Labour party is the devolution of power and making sure that we put power into the hands of our people wherever we can. We have done that in Scotland and we are now seeing how we can do it in England. That is why

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we have made a raft of proposals about how we want to change England, how we want to change Scotland and how we want to change the rest of Britain. That is why a constitutional convention is the right way. We have learned from our experience in Scotland; we have been involved for so many years, and the binding conclusion from the people of Scotland is, “Don’t leave it just to the politicians. Always engage with the people.”

Let me turn directly to the issue of English votes, as it has been called. It has been raised by so many Members in this debate. Our system of government may be a bit messy at times, but it is a product of centuries of agreement and compromise. Although it is not perfect, it has served us well. Perhaps, as has been said, it is better in practice than in theory. However, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting said at the outset, we need to consider the consequences of devolution across the board. None of the quick fixes the Government have suggested is appropriate. Some have suggested that identifying an English law on which only English MPs can vote is a straightforward exercise, but perhaps they should have a word with the House of Commons Library, because it has determined that only five of the 434 Bills passed by this House between 2000 and 2013 can be determined to be English-only. This is perhaps not as straightforward as people think.

Even the Government's own commission accepts that English votes for English issues is fraught with difficulty, so we need to think carefully about how devolution has an impact on the governance of the rest of the UK. I was struck by the fact that so many Tory MPs here today and so many nationalist MPs talked only about the impact on Scotland. It seems to be only devolution in Scotland that bothers them, which is deeply concerning—perhaps it explains why there are so few Tory MPs in Scotland. We now have not only a West Lothian question, but a West Belfast question, because devolution applies in Northern Ireland; a West Cardiff question, because it applies in Wales; and even a West Hampstead question, because it applies in London, too. So let me make it absolutely clear: we will guard against any proposals that create two tiers of MPs in the House of Commons, because we are deeply concerned about the voting rights of Scottish people and of English people, too. It is not acceptable to English people for us to say that a quick fix addresses their isolation from politics. Interestingly, the Tories and the SNP have entered into an alliance in the House of Commons to get across this—

Andrew Percy: I can clearly define an English vote on an English law, but we cannot clearly define the vow that was signed for the people of Scotland. Why should the vow be delivered on in a short period of time but English votes for English law be kicked into the future, possibly for years?

Margaret Curran: These are important points. The hon. Gentleman suggests that the constitutional convention we are proposing represents kicking things into the long grass, but that never happened in Scotland; we have great experience of this. It is not easy to determine English laws for English votes, which is why only five such laws can be identified from the past period.

The United Kingdom has gone through the most momentous and historic period in recent years, most particularly in recent months. We should stand proud

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and tell people that we understand the challenges that they are demanding. In recent by-elections, people have been expressing a deep frustration with the way in which politics is conducted. The answer is not a quick fix from a Cabinet sub-committee. It is profound social and economic change and a Government who listen to people and respond to them. That is by far the better way.

6.50 pm

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr Alistair Carmichael): It is an enormous pleasure to conclude what has been one of the best debates on a range of constitutional issues that I have known in my time as a Member of Parliament. We have heard some quite remarkable contributions from all parts of our still United Kingdom. It is almost invidious to single out any, but let me do just that anyway at the risk of causing some offence.

As the hon. Member for Glasgow East (Margaret Curran) has just said, the contributions of my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore) and the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) were quite outstanding for their thoughtfulness and their content.

In addition, I thought that the contributions from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), my right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Sir George Young), the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Mr Allen), the right hon. Members for Torfaen (Paul Murphy), for Belfast North (Mr Dodds), and for Southampton, Itchen (Mr Denham) and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson) all brought a great deal to the debate. Inevitably, this is a debate to which the House will be returning on a number of occasions in the weeks, months and possibly years to come.

The issues addressed in this debate, and the wider debate in the country, fall into three broad categories. I shall do my best to address all three in the time that is available. First, we must consider how to fulfil the joint commitment by all three party leaders to deliver more powers to the Scottish Parliament in the light of the referendum no vote.

Secondly, we must consider how to ensure that power is properly devolved and decentralised to the nations, communities and individuals who comprise our United Kingdom. Thirdly, separately but rightly, we must consider how we might answer the West Lothian question, which has come about as a consequence of devolving power to specific parts of the United Kingdom.

The spark for this wider debate was the referendum on Scottish independence, which was held last month. The referendum was underpinned by the Edinburgh agreement between the Scottish and UK Governments that empowered the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a referendum. That agreement delivered its explicit intent: a referendum that was legal and fair in its conduct and decisive in its outcome.

The First Minister and his Deputy made it clear during the campaign that, in their view, the referendum was a once-in-a-generation event, and perhaps, as the First Minister said, a once-in-a-lifetime event. I am sure, therefore, that I am not the only Scot to be dismayed to see them now turn their back on the

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commitments made during the referendum. They have raised the prospect of another referendum in the near future, or perhaps even a unilateral declaration of independence if they again win a majority. That is foolish and dangerous talk from the point of view of Scotland’s business, Scotland’s economy and jobs for the people of Scotland. Unfortunately, that view was reflected again in the contribution of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). He described the referendum as a tremendous experience. He spoke with some passion about all the things that he loved about it. The only thing that he did not like was the outcome.

The nationalists need to confirm that they respect the result—the views of the people of Scotland—and that they will not be revisiting this issue again. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) wish to intervene? I will take his intervention.

Angus Robertson: I was wondering why the right hon. Gentleman did not hear what I said in my first intervention on the Leader of the House. I said that of course the Scottish National party respects the outcome of the election. Why is the Secretary of State pretending that he did not hear that?

Mr Carmichael: The hon. Gentleman answered only half of my challenge. He was challenged to say that we will not have the Scottish nationalists wanting a second referendum. If he will meet that challenge, he can stand up and do it now.

Angus Robertson For the record—[Hon. Members: “Ah!”] For the record, is the Secretary of State for Scotland now acknowledging that the Scottish National party respects the outcome of the referendum and that that was said earlier in this Chamber? He said that it was not said. Will he correct what he just said a moment ago? Secondly, on the question of a referendum, there will only ever be a referendum in Scotland on Scottish independence if the electorate want it.

Mr Carmichael: Weasel words, Mr Speaker. I do not think we need to waste any more time listening to the contributions from that corner of the Chamber.

The vow made by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition during the referendum campaign is already being put into practice. The Smith commission was up and running on 19 September and yesterday I was pleased to publish the Command Paper more than two weeks ahead of the schedule outlined in the previously published timetable—evidence that the Government are delivering on the vow.

The process is not just about the parties. The referendum opened up civic engagement in Scotland across sectors, communities and organisations, and Lord Smith has made it clear that he wants to hear from all those groups to ensure that the recommendations he produces are informed by views from right across Scotland. This will be the first time in the development of Scotland’s constitutional future that all of its main parties are participating in a process to consider further devolution. That is a truly historic moment and one that I very much welcome.

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Of course, as many Members have pointed out, it is England that has experienced the least devolution of power in recent years and that is something that needs to be addressed. A key problem in doing so is that there is no consensus in England on what further devolution might look like. If nothing else, that much must be clear from today’s debate. I say to our English colleagues that the people in Scotland debated this issue at length over a period of decades, and they now need to do the same. What would English devolution look like? We have heard suggestions that it should involve structures within the existing constitutional architecture and of regional assemblies. We have even heard suggestions of an English Parliament. Those ideas have all been promoted in the debate today, but it is clear that the position in England is not yet settled.

Mr Redwood: Is the Secretary of State aware that the Conservative party has been going on about this since the last century and that it has been our settled policy since the 2001 election? We have thought it through, we have written the papers, we have argued in the pamphlets and we now want justice for England.

Mr Carmichael: I enjoyed the right hon. Gentleman’s contribution and understand the passion he brings to the debate, but I would gently say to him that simply having a settled position in the Conservative party is not the same thing as building consensus across the wider community.

We have, of course, heard some discussion of the West Lothian question or, as it has recently been styled, English votes for English laws. The first of the terms, in my view, is slightly outdated, and the second is rather simplistic. The welcome transfer of powers to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the London Assembly, and the prospect of further devolution still, has created not just an anomaly but a complex one. The challenge to those who pursue the quest for English votes for English laws is that they seek to devolve power within Parliament but not within the Executive. That brings a range of new problems and unsustainabilities of its own.

Sir William Cash: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr Carmichael: I am sorry, but I am really up against it for time now.

The Liberal Democrats have been clear that in working with others to find consensus on such a solution we must not adopt a fix that creates more problems, anomalies or unfair advantages. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr Laws) has recently pointed out, devolution to every other part of the United Kingdom has been to Parliaments and Assemblies that were elected using proportional systems, in recognition that within the constituent parts of the United Kingdom we often find domination by one party or another. Accordingly, proportionality without the balance across the whole of the United Kingdom becomes more important.

It is a matter of profound regret that we learned today that the Labour party has indicated that it will not join the Government in seeking a fair solution to an outstanding problem and we urge it to reconsider genuinely and soon.

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That brings me finally to the question of a constitutional convention, something on which I believe there is a way forward. If all parties take part in good faith, there should be no question of its being an exercise in putting material into the long grass.

It is worth remembering that four short weeks ago the future of our United Kingdom was at stake. The referendum was won decisively, and it is a positive outcome. Moving forward, we need a sustainable constitutional settlement that meets the wishes of the people of our nations and the clear commitments we have given them—

7 pm

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

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

Terms and Conditions of Employment

That the draft National Minimum Wage (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 2 July, be approved.—(John Penrose.)

Question agreed to.

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

Tribunals and Inquiries

That the draft Judicial Appointments (Amendment) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 7 July, be approved.—( John Penrose.)

Question agreed to.

House of Commons Members’ Fund


That the Motion in the name of Mr William Hague relating to the House of Commons Members’ Fund shall be treated as if it related to an instrument subject to the provisions of Standing Order No. 118 (Delegated Legislation Committees) in respect of which notice has been given that the instrument be approved.—( John Penrose.)

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Mr Speaker: Before we come to the petition, for which the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) is patiently waiting, I have to report to the House the need for a correction of the result of a Division. Following the Division on the ten-minute rule motion earlier today, the Chair has received a report that the number of Members voting in the Aye Lobby was incorrectly reported by the Tellers. Having investigated the matter, I have directed the Clerk to correct the numbers voting in the Division accordingly. I am sure that Members will recall very precisely that the number of Members reported to have voted Aye was 204. In fact, the Ayes were 214 and the Noes were, as previously notified, eight.


Planning Application for Rushden Recycling Centre (Wellingborough)

7.1 pm

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I have the great pleasure of presenting this petition, which has been organised by my constituent Mohan and signed by hundreds of people. It relates to a controversial planning application. Although the decision is entirely for East Northamptonshire district council, my constituents want their voices to be heard.

The petition states:

The Humble Petition of Residents of Rushden, Northamptonshire and the surrounding areas,


That the Petitioners believe that the proposed planning application for a new Lidl store in Rushden, to be built on the old recycling centre—planning application reference: 14/01014/FUL—is unacceptable, because there are already too many supermarkets and convenience stores in the area and the Petitioners believe that it will have a detrimental effect on the town.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Department for Communities and Local Government to encourage Northamptonshire County Council and East Northamptonshire District Council to work together to ensure that the current proposal is rejected and that a more suitable facility be built on the old recycling centre.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.


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Schools (Brighton and Hove)

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

7.3 pm

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): This evening I want to pay tribute to the incredible work being done in schools in Brighton and Hove. Last year the city’s young people got their best ever GCSE results. This year the key stage 2 results were in the top quarter in the country and 54% of A-level students got A* to B grades, an improvement in results for the third year running. Brighton and Hove was also named top local authority in the country for tackling homophobia in schools. That really is a track record to be proud of, so I want to applaud the many teachers and other staff who make such achievements possible.

However, those achievements have been reached in spite of Government policy, not because of it. Research from the National Union of Teachers reveals the extent to which Ministers have been taking teachers for granted. The NUT found that 87% of teachers said that they know one or more teachers who have left the profession because of work load; that 90% of teachers have themselves considered leaving the profession because of work load; and that 96% said their work load has had negative consequences for their family or personal life.

Tonight I want to do two things: first, to share some of what I have been told by local teachers about the daily reality behind those statistics, and to ask the Department of Education and the Secretary of State to start listening to teachers and to review their current policies; and secondly, to make the case for statutory PSHE—personal, social, health and economic education—teaching in all state-funded schools. I have a private Member’s Bill before the House designed to achieve exactly that. I very much welcome the Minister’s views on that proposal.

On the experience of local teachers, I would like to quote extensively from what they have told me, because it is important that the Minister hears their words directly and that those words are put on the parliamentary record. One teacher told me:

“I am a 29 year old teacher who has taught for three years.  I have a first class degree in English and enjoy being in the classroom.  However, I am likely going to leave the profession at the end of this year as I find the workload overwhelming.”

One retired teacher said this:

“Right up to my last day I was in school at 7.00-7.15 am and did not leave till I was thrown out by the caretaker at 6.00 pm—dragging bags of planning or marking etc with me to complete at home. When I worked full time I also worked every Sunday afternoon and evening. Some of this was on tasks I felt were important for my teaching but latterly most of the work was on required tasks that I just could not fit into my 5 X 10-11 hour days!!!”

She goes on to say that one of the many downsides is that valuable clubs and after-school activities are at risk of being abandoned because teachers simply cannot fit them in, as much as they would like to.

Teaching is hard work. As one teacher put it to me:

“If we get education wrong, it impacts on all other areas of society and we cannot allow this to happen for the sake of our children and country’s future.”

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The teachers I meet are not afraid of this hard work—indeed, they relish it—but they are frustrated by what they see as the unnecessary burdens imposed on them which conspire to make a tough job far tougher. A particular bugbear, which is at the heart of the issues about work load, is that, in their view, there is far too much testing and far too many targets. Here is what one teacher has to say:

“We are in real danger of turning schools into exam factories. In my five years of teaching, I have noted a marked increase in the amount of assessment required in the class to the detriment of lesson content, practicals and innovative lessons. A number of times already this academic year, I have had to cancel planned lessons in order to generate meaningless data to populate spreadsheets for senior members of staff. While assessment and feedback are a mandatory element of learning, I believe that the learning experience should be inspirational and innovative while promoting creativity and yet constant streams of testing go against this.”

The issue of constant changes and the lack of an evidence-based approach is another recurring theme. One teacher who has been in the profession for five years told me:

“My problem is that it feels like constant meddling with a system that has not had chance to properly test an idea.  It feels like being a football manager who has to get yearly results each lesson otherwise he will be sacked.”

There is also deep concern about what lies behind the constant new policy initiatives, with many teachers arguing that the Department for Education has lost sight of its primary purpose. One told me:

“Despite being an ‘outstanding’ advanced skills maths teacher incredibly passionate about making learning maths engaging and relevant I have left the classroom, which saddens me daily. I love teaching and hope to one day return to the system when learning and children, rather than profit-making and Government agenda, is at the heart of our education system.”

The spectre of competition is always there, and performance-related pay, in particular, is adding insult to injury. One teacher writes:

“Most of us don’t want payment for results. We want a fair pay for a good job and poor teachers should be managed to get better or leave. Some teachers who are benefitting from performance related pay may see things differently, my niece in her second year of teaching was given a 25% rise or £5000 to keep her but even she says she cannot keep up the pace of work/amount of hours put in for long.”

Another local teacher says:

“What makes for the best outcomes with the children is teamwork—teachers working together for the good of the children. It is certainly not achieved through teachers being locked away in their classrooms desperately trying to push children up through the levels to ensure the security of their own future.”

An OECD report from May 2012 called “Does performance-based pay improve teaching?” concluded:

“A look at the overall picture”—

of OECD nations—

“reveals no relationship between average student performance in a country and the use of performance-based pay schemes.”

That underscores what teachers are telling me, based on their experience of being in classrooms and of how best to help students fulfil their potential.

What strikes me most about the messages from teachers is that, despite all the difficulties they face, the vast majority remain convinced of the power of education to transform every young life. Indeed, it is the opportunity to help children and young people to engage, question and discover that keeps them going. Above all, the

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teachers I meet recognise that teaching should be about giving children a chance to succeed. As one teacher put it:

“We need to see an end to this misguided notion that children are all the same and will progress in exactly the same way. Teaching them this early on in life that they are failures because they have not made what the government deems satisfactory progress is criminal and fosters feelings of inadequacy. We already know that how children feel about learning has a huge bearing on how much progress they make in the future.”

He concluded:

“I’m not suggesting we don’t push and support children to be all that they can be, but the current system does not promote positive self esteem and positive attitudes to learning and it’s getting worse. I want to sow the seeds for lifelong learning in my classroom and not turn people off it because, as kids put it, they’re ‘no good’. Learners are not closed systems, but individuals affected by a wide range of factors; social, emotional and developmental.”

That teacher’s last point brings me on to the second issue I want to raise. PSHE may sound like a dry acronym, but behind the title lies a subject that is vital for all children. PSHE encompasses many issues—everything from teaching life-saving CPR, tackling homophobic language in schools, understanding how to be responsible with money, tackling a controversial news story that is trending on social media and sweeping around the playground, to discussing the difference between an abusive and a respectful relationship.

PSHE involves learning about relationships, respect and responsibilities. It has always been important, but children today are bombarded with information in ever evolving ways and what happens in the classroom simply is not keeping up. For example, the latest guidance on sex and relationships education—just one aspect of PSHE—was produced 14 years ago by the Department for Education, before the mass use of mobile phones, the internet and the rise of social media.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has shown that girls and boys are gleaning distorted and inaccurate information about sex and relationships via online porn. Children face issues such as sexting and the pressure to document their lives and relationships online and in chatrooms. Childline has found that 60% of 13 to 18-year-olds had been asked to share a sexual image or video of themselves. One in three girls say they experience groping or unwanted touching at school. Yet not all our children are getting a chance to learn how to negotiate this complex landscape of communication and information.

The horrors of children being raped and abused in Rotherham and elsewhere, yet ignored by those with the power to help them, have sickened all of us, as have the revelations about historical child abuse—an issue I have worked on with colleagues across the House, lobbying the Home Secretary for a robust inquiry into the cases. Good PSHE has a role to play in helping children learn how to stay safe, and that is why it has been flagged up by a number of studies on how to protect children.

Schools in Brighton and Hove, strongly backed by Brighton and Hove city council, have been working to deliver outstanding PSHE, and their work is truly inspiring. For example, Patcham high school in my constituency has adopted a whole-school approach to PSHE, backed by the full commitment of the head and staff. It is a core part of the school’s ethos. The young people at Patcham learn to debate and discuss sensitive and difficult subjects,

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with each other and their teachers, in an extremely thoughtful and intelligent way. Difficult issues such as mental ill-health, emotional bullying and relationship abuse are discussed, using creative and engaging teaching tools. The school facilitates pupils’ consideration of complicated issues and, crucially, helps them to think for themselves. There is no brushing of important and controversial matters under the carpet and hoping for the best. The positive impact of this approach on the students shines through.

Yet this quality of PSHE is not available to all children. Ofsted’s most recent PSHE report, “Not yet good enough”, found that PSHE teaching required improvement in no fewer than 40% of schools. A PSHE Association survey of 40 local authority leads suggests that 52% of teachers—more than half of them—are not adequately trained in PSHE, and that they are not getting the help they need to make improvements. Statutory status is therefore key. As long as PSHE remains a non-statutory and non-examined subject, with a low priority in the Ofsted framework, there will be virtually no coverage of PSHE in teacher training. In school, PSHE teachers are not given the curriculum time or training that they need.

Those are the reasons why I have presented a private Member’s Bill, which is before the House, to make teaching PSHE a statutory requirement in all state-funded schools. Since presenting the Bill, I have found widespread support for this principle. Teachers want PSHE. There is strong backing from the teaching unions, including the NAHT, which represents head teachers. Statutory PSHE is not seen as a burden, but as something that helps. Teachers need and want access to good training and support to deliver quality PSHE across a range of topics, and statutory PSHE would provide that.

Parents, too, want PSHE. To take the example of sex and relationship education again, 88% of the parents of school-aged pupils want age-appropriate SRE to be taught in schools. YouGov and the PSHE Association have found that 90% of parents believe schools should teach children about mental health and emotional well-being. Young people want PSHE. Members of the UK Youth Parliament are among those who have repeatedly made that clear.

This subject is not as controversial as it perhaps once was. The tide is changing. Members may remember that TheTelegraph has run the excellent Wonder Women campaign for better sex education. One of the reasons that there is such strong backing for statutory PSHE from both heads and teachers is that it has the potential to aid academic success and employability. All children deserve a curriculum that promotes resilience, physical and mental health and life skills, and one that teaches about equality. My Bill is about an entitlement for all children and about ensuring that teachers have access to the training, resources and support they need to teach this vital subject according to their students’ particular needs. It is about listening to teachers and benefiting from their insight into what works in our schools.

I very much appreciate the fact that the Minister has listened to me, and I look forward to his response on everything I have said about how teachers are now under such enormous pressures in our schools and on whether he can indicate any support for my Bill.

Before I finish, I want to do one last and perhaps rather unorthodox thing, Mr Speaker, which is to share a few verses from a poem by a local poet, Ros Barber,

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who is also very involved with the teaching profession. What she writes in the three stanzas I will read sums up what is at stake in education today. Teachers up and down the country, and certainly in my constituency in Brighton and Hove, have a real concern, which I hope I have conveyed, that creativity is being squeezed out of our schools by endless testing and assessment. That is something that we need to review and act on. The poem says:

“I believe that a British state education is the best in the world.

How else can a love of reading be learned than by

never immersing a child in a whole book but rather chopping

powerful and moving stories into meaningless chunks

of text contained within the safe bounds of Literacy Hour.

I believe that a British state education is the best in the world.

That children should be taught to the test and only

what they need to make the school look good, for better

that a school is seen to perform well in the league tables

than that a child retain any natural curiosity or love of learning.

I believe that a British state education is the best in the world.

What better way to teach your citizens that life is a trial

than abandon creativity, load ten year olds with homework,

stretch the school day? Existence is too short to waste childhood

in climbing trees, in games, in unstructured play.”

I very much hope that that is not the future for our schools, but I very much fear that that will be a vision of schools in this country unless the Government change direction, start listening to teachers and, crucially, allow teachers to teach.

7.19 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr Nick Gibb): I congratulate the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) on securing this important debate. She has covered a wide range of topics, and I will attempt to address the issues she raised.

The Government’s plan for education has been to raise academic standards, to improve behaviour in our schools and to close the attainment gap between those from richer and poorer backgrounds. We want all young people to leave school ready for life in modern Britain, whether it be through going to university, via an apprenticeship or in the world of work.

Under this Government’s reforms, we have seen the number of students in Brighton and Hove achieving five or more GCSEs or equivalent at A* to C, including English and mathematics, rise from 49.1% in 2010 to 62.6% in 2013. The hon. Lady is absolutely right to congratulate the pupils and schools in her constituency on that achievement because it is, in fact, 3.4 percentage points higher than the average for all schools in England. This excellent result for Brighton and Hove is exemplified by schools such as the Cardinal Newman Catholic school, the Blatchington Mill school and sixth-form college and the Dorothy Stringer school, which were all rated “good” by Ofsted, with 73% of the pupils in those schools achieving five or more GCSEs or equivalent at A* to C, including English and mathematics.

Similarly, the proportion of pupils achieving level 4 or above in reading, writing and maths in primary schools has risen from 74% in 2012 to 79% in 2013,

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while at key stage 1, there have been some excellent results in Brighton and Hove, including those of the Balfour primary school, which helped every single one of its pupils to achieve level 2 or higher in reading, writing and maths, and the Downs infant school, where 99% of its pupils achieved level 2 or higher in reading, writing and maths.

The hon. Lady raised the issue of teacher morale, and I can tell her that this Government place enormous value and trust in the professionalism and skills of the teaching profession. We now have our best-ever teachers working in our schools, the vast majority of whom put in a considerable amount of additional time and effort with the sole motivation of improving the life chances of children and young people. We are determined to ensure that we continue to have a high-quality, effective and motivated teaching profession.

Having said that, I share the hon. Lady’s concerns about the work load. The OECD TALIS—Teaching and Learning International Survey—showed that, on average, teachers in this country work 46 hours a week, compared with the OECD average of 38 hours, while the teacher diary surveys show even more hours worked. This is something that I and this Government are keen to do something about. We need to tackle what I would regard as this excessive work load on our teaching profession in our state-funded schools. I share, too, the concern of the hon. Lady, and of the teacher she quoted in her speech, about assessment and the over-obsession with data collection. I agree that something needs to be done about that.

On over-examination, the hon. Lady again made a valid point, and this Government have tried to address it. That is why we ended the modular nature of GCSEs and A-levels, because it was leading to students taking bite-sized pieces over and over again to push up the grade they could achieve. We were seeing multiple entries, retakes and early entries in those exams. I hope that, over time, our reforms will see fewer exams being taken at the most important age group for education, ranging between 15 and 18.

The hon. Lady raised the issue of teacher pay, too. We know that high-performing teachers drive up pupil attainment, and we need a system that recognises that. A recent report by the Reform think-tank argued that performance-related pay does work and that its introduction in schools will drive up standards, strengthening the link between performance and pay, which is fundamental. We want highly performing teachers to be properly rewarded for their impact on pupil achievements, but I do not think how we assess performance-related pay should be a mechanical link directed only to one or two measures. There should be a wide range of measures for head teachers to assess in respect of the teachers working in their schools.

Governors are generally supportive of performance-related pay. The National Governors Association supports the increased flexibility that governing bodies have been given to link an element of teachers’ pay to their performance, because most governors would like to be able to pay good teachers more. In a recent survey, 60% of governors who expressed a view agreed with the statement:

“Tying teachers’ pay more closely with their performance is likely to improve pupils’ attainment”.

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Caroline Lucas: I am grateful for the thoughtful response that the Minister is giving. Does he share my concern that performance-related pay can greatly undermine teamwork if teachers are judged simply on what they contribute individually? In fact, what someone contributes in English has a knock-on effect in many other subjects. The best teaching is therefore about teamwork.

Mr Gibb: Again, I agree with the hon. Lady. When judging a professional within a firm of accountants or lawyers, one looks not just at one or two metrics, but at the contribution that they make to the whole operation. A good performance-related pay system would look at the contribution that a member of staff makes to the school as a whole. That could include mentoring and training teachers, extra-curricular activities and so on. It would look at their whole contribution to the school and there would not be a simplistic direct link to test results. That is down to the professionalism of the head teacher. I am confident that we will have well-run performance-related pay systems, rather than the type of system that the hon. Lady fears.

We need to ensure that we raise academic standards in this country and close the attainment gap. That is why the introduction of phonics, which she hinted at a criticism of, was important. It has raised the standards of reading. In 2012, 58% of pupils achieved the expected standard in reading. That has risen to 74% this year. That amounts to 102,000 six-year-olds who are reading more effectively today than they would have done, had we not introduced that important part of our education plan to raise academic standards.

The hon. Lady is a tireless promoter of the importance of good PSHE. I listened carefully to the example of good PSHE teaching that she cited from a school in her constituency. I know that she will talk to the Secretary of State later this week about her Bill. We agree that PSHE is important. We believe that all schools should teach PSHE, drawing on good practice like the example that she cited. We outlined that expectation in the introduction to the framework to the new national curriculum.

The hon. Lady is correct that good-quality relationships education is an important part of preparing young people for life in modern Britain. That is why we are committed to working with schools and other experts to ensure that young people receive age-appropriate information that allows them to make informed choices and to stay safe. Preventing violence against women is a topic that schools may include in PSHE. Maintained secondary schools are legally required to teach sex and relationships education, and we also expect academies to do so. To help support teachers, we have set up a new

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expert subject group on PSHE, which comprises lead professionals in PSHE practice. It will clarify the key areas on which teachers most need further support and produce new resources where necessary.

The hon. Lady said that the guidance on sex and relationships education is becoming outdated. I welcome the supplementary advice for schools, “Sex and relationships education (SRE) for the 21st century”, which was published recently by the PSHE Association, the Sex Education Forum and Brook. The advice helpfully addresses the changes in technology and legislation since 2000, and equips teachers to help protect children and young people from inappropriate online content and online bullying, harassment and exploitation.

The hon. Lady also spoke about sexual content on the internet. As she will know, children’s online safety is paramount. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre has an important role. As a UK law enforcement body, it can apply the full range of policing powers in tackling the sexual abuse of children. CEOP has also developed a specific educational resource designed for use by teachers to tackle sexting.

Caroline Lucas: I have two very quick questions. First, I am grateful that the Minister recognises the problem of excessive work load in schools, but will he give concrete proposals on addressing it? Secondly, I am grateful that he has said that PSHE should be taught in all state schools but, if so, will the Government consider the opportunity to make it a statutory requirement?

Mr Gibb: We keep all curriculum issues and statutory requirements under review. On managing the work load, we are conducting deep-dive surveys into what affects teacher work load. We have asked the teacher and head teacher unions to help us to identify areas of teachers’ regular work load to see where we can make changes to ease it. We are determined to do so. The hon. Lady is right that we cannot have the teaching profession weighed down by unnecessary, bureaucratic work. By the way, we have swept away 21,000 pages of guidance and regulation that was imposed on teachers, but we need to do more to ensure that that release of bureaucratic burdens filters through to the chalk face, or the interactive white board face, of our schools.

On that note, if I have not answered any of the issues raised by the hon. Lady, I am sure we can correspond after the debate.

Question put and agreed to.

7.31 pm

House adjourned.