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House of Commons

Monday 19 January 2015

The House met at half-past Two o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

Careers and Enterprise Company

1. Chloe Smith (Norwich North) (Con): How the new careers and enterprise company for schools will ensure that more young people are ready for working life. [907033]

The Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan): First, Mr Speaker, may I wish you a very happy birthday? I am sure that Members on both sides of the House wish you the same. We shall do our best to behave ourselves so that you do not have to raise your voice too early in your birthday celebrations.

It is vital to ensure that all children are inspired to reach their potential, which is why broadening young people’s access to a range of options is so important. The new employer-led careers and enterprise company I announced last month will help to broker extensive links between employers, schools and colleges, and will have the specific remit of spreading existing good practice to every part of England.

Chloe Smith: Happy birthday, Mr Speaker.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in calling on local firms to be involved in the new careers and enterprise company, in much the same way as they have risen to the challenge of helping me and others in Norwich to halve Norwich’s youth employment in two years?

Nicky Morgan: I congratulate my hon. Friend on the excellent work that she and other supporters of Norwich for Jobs have done to help more young people get that vital first step on the careers ladder and achieve their aspirations—I believe she has been awarded the “Youth Friendly Member of Parliament 2014” tag in recognition of her excellent work. As I said, the new careers company will have a crucial role in ensuring that initiatives such as those in Norwich are available to all young people across the country.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Happy birthday, Mr Speaker. We thought you had gone to Australia to live given the wonderful photograph in The Sunday Times of you playing tennis.

Although many Opposition Members are quite positive about the new initiative, it is a small amount of money that concentrates on 12 to 18-year-olds, and much of the research shows that it is in the early years that children get their imagination fired by different careers. What is she doing about those earlier years?

Nicky Morgan: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, which is typical of the sort of question we get from Opposition Members—a warmish welcome followed by: “But you’re not going far enough.” We are tackling an issue that the last Government left completely untackled. There was no golden age of careers advice, but I agree on the importance of inspiring early on, and although the careers and enterprise company has an important remit regarding 12 to 18-year-olds, I will be discussing with its chairman how we can work with younger children too.

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): When I talk to many young people in Hackney, they all tell me they want actual experience in the

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workplace with an employer, rather than just talks at school. The Government have thrown a lot of money at this. What is the Secretary of State doing to monitor how effective the money is in getting young people socially mobile and moving onward and upward?

Nicky Morgan: I agree that we have thrown a lot of money at this. That money will be working hard to ensure our young people are inspired and given the aspirations to aim higher, and that is what our reforms to qualifications standards were about. While I agree that some face-to-face advice and work experience are welcome, I do not want to see work experience that only ticks boxes and means that young people do not really get to see how a workplace or sector works. That is why the careers company and the wide remit we have given it—working with the National Careers Service and excellent projects up and down the country and involving local enterprise partnerships—will be so important.

Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield) (Lab): I echo hon. Members’ birthday wishes, Mr Speaker.

Two weeks ago, the Chair of the Education Select Committee said:

“It is clear that the role of the new body replicates the very role and remit of the National Careers Service…and only the leadership and governance is different”.

Under pressure, the Secretary of State agreed that the new body delivered the same goal. Is creating yet another quango really the answer to the massive problems with careers guidance?

Nicky Morgan: For a third time, we get the typical response from the Opposition on whether this is welcome. I will not take lectures from Labour about the creation of quangos. This is an employer-led body involving businesses, and I do not agree with the remark the hon. Lady quoted. The National Careers Service will work closely with the new body, but they are different things that serve different age groups. They will achieve different outcomes, because of the involvement of businesses and employers in the new body and the talented leadership of Christine Hodgson.

Kinship Carers

2. Mr Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall) (Lab): What steps her Department is taking to support grandparents and other kinship carers. [907034]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr Edward Timpson): We know the vital role many thousands of grandparents and other kinship carers play in looking after children who cannot be cared for by their birth parents. In 2011, we issued statutory guidance, “Family and Friends Care”, making it clear that every council must develop a publicly available policy that sets out its approach to assessment and the support available for children living with family and friends. We also fund a dedicated helpline and the increased use of family group conferences.

Mr Sharma: Before I ask my supplementary question, let me say that in my normal voice I could have sung “Happy birthday”, but I nevertheless wish you many happy returns of the day, Mr Speaker.

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I thank the Minister for his response. With research showing that more than 80% of grandparents who become carers would like to stay in some form of work, what plans do the Government have to assist kinship carers in this area?

Mr Timpson: The hon. Gentleman’s point is a very important one in the lives of many grandparents, and I have recently discussed this issue with family groups that represent grandparents to see what more we can do. They were fruitful discussions. This is an area we need to look at, and I will continue to work with them.

John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab): Most grandparents who take on the formal responsibility of raising their grandkids just want to keep them in the family, but taking on full-time caring in their 50s or 60s can come at a high price, often without any proper recognition. Policy guidance is fine, but does the Minister agree that much of the same recognition and support that is available for foster carers and adopting parents really ought to be there for grandparents who take on this role?

Mr Timpson: I do agree that we need to ensure that where grandparents take on what is a huge responsibility, often through the kindness of their hearts—and which has a huge effect on their own lives—we should ensure that it has every chance of being a success, not just for them but, most importantly, for the children they are caring for. Whether it is to do with pay and conditions or more holistic support, we need to ensure that the whole-family approach, which the legislation we recently introduced tried to articulate and embed, has a chance to flourish more in future. I believe there is a recognition across the House that we need to do more.

Academies (Financial Management)

3. Graeme Morrice (Livingston) (Lab): What recent representations she has received on the financial management of academies; and if she will make a statement. [907035]

The Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan): The financial accountability system for academies is more rigorous than for maintained schools, and my Department has recently received audited financial statements from academy trusts for the period to 31 August 2014. Within financial statements, trusts must set out how they have managed their finances throughout the year. Financial statements are subject to independent scrutiny by auditors. My staff are reviewing financial statements to determine whether there are any issues that we need to investigate.

Graeme Morrice: Happy birthday, Mr Speaker. I hope you have many in the Chair.

I thank the Secretary of State for her answer, but will she commit to including financial information in the performance data relating to academies—a commitment that her predecessor failed to honour—so that we can make accurate comparisons with all schools?

Nicky Morgan: The financial statements are both audited and published, and of course academies, as companies, are also subject to Companies House reporting,

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as well as to working with the Education Funding Agency. It is therefore clear that academies’ financial statements are already open for scrutiny, and the Department takes a close interest in the figures that are published.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): Many happy returns of the day, Mr Speaker.

Pate’s and Balcarras schools in my constituency are exceptionally well managed financially and are among the most outstanding schools academically in the country, but both of them tell me that they will struggle with projected sixth-form funding in particular. Will the Secretary of State have good news for them and me and other hon. Members by the time she meets us later on today?

Nicky Morgan: As the hon. Gentleman may know, the Government can work quite quickly. However, I am not sure they will work that quickly this afternoon, although I take careful note of what he has said. He is not alone among Members of Parliament in raising that issue.

Mr Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West) (Lab): I have sent you a birthday card, Mr Speaker—[Hon. Members: “Ooh!”] Perhaps that is an interest I should declare.

The Secretary of State will be aware that I have sent her a letter asking for an urgent meeting on Grace academy in Coventry, where financial matters have been raised. More importantly—or as importantly—we wish to raise with her the general administration of the academy company, which is in very bad shape and judged insufficient by Ofsted. Will she please tell me whether she will agree to that meeting?

Nicky Morgan: I appear to have set a trend in referring to your birthday, Mr Speaker.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his letter, which I will look at carefully. If I cannot meet him, I am sure that one of my ministerial colleagues will, but I will endeavour to ensure that he is able to have a discussion with the Department.

Mr Speaker: I very much appreciate colleagues’ good wishes, but there is no need for them to be added to, because I think it will just delay proceedings. However, everybody’s good will is greatly appreciated.

Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): And mine, too.

As I am sure the Secretary of State is aware, The Durham free school got a notice to improve from the Education Funding Agency before Christmas, and today it was put into special measures. However, it is extremely difficult for me or anyone else to get information from the Education Funding Agency, so will she intervene to ensure that all information about this school, and the reasons why it has failed and is so badly managed, is put into the public domain?

Nicky Morgan: As the hon. Lady mentioned, Ofsted published a report this morning on The Durham free school, and I was very concerned to find that the children had been let down by a catalogue of failures, as

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reported. Because I do not think there is any imminent prospect of improvement, the regional schools commissioner has today written to the school, informing it of the decision to terminate the funding agreement. I am happy, of course, for there to be a further discussion—if not with me, with one of my ministerial colleagues—about the information that can be made available. There may be some issues of confidentiality or sensitivity, but I will of course endeavour to keep Members updated.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): The Secretary of State will know that in 2013-14, her Department spent £328 million on oversight of academy schools, yet the National Audit Office said that her Department still does not know enough about school-level governance. Does she think that is good enough, and what is she going to do about it?

Nicky Morgan: We do not agree with the National Audit Office conclusions. We take a close interest in the way all academies and free schools are run and governed, and we of course work with local authorities in respect of maintained schools. We want all children to have access to a good local school, and I think it important to note that since 2010, 1 million more children are in good and outstanding schools.

Apprentice Minimum Wage

4. Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): How many apprentices aged 16 to 18 are paid the apprentice minimum wage. [907036]

The Minister for Skills and Equalities (Nick Boles): The 2014 apprenticeship pay survey found that 76% of 16 to 18-year-old apprentices were paid at or above the minimum amount. On average, they were paid a basic hourly rate of £4.34.

Diana Johnson: Non-compliance with apprenticeship minimum wage is highest in the sectors that young women traditionally go into, such as hairdressing and child care. I think that with hairdressing a third do not receive the minimum wage and with child care it is a quarter. There are obviously issues there around gender inequality as well as poverty pay, so will the Minister tell us what he is going to do about them?

Nick Boles: The hon. Lady is quite right to say that it is perhaps especially unacceptable that this should impact on women in particular, although it is always unacceptable for an employer not to pay the national minimum wage. That is why we have increased the Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs enforcement budget from £8 million in 2013-14 to £9 million this year and to £12 million next year. In 2013, we introduced the naming and shaming of those companies found not to pay the minimum wage. We repeated that last week and have now named and shamed 92 employers. We will continue to do that and I will make sure that we look particularly at cases where young women are affected.

Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con): The card is in the post, Mr Speaker.

The number of people taking up apprenticeships in Basingstoke has doubled under this Government. Fujitsu is guaranteeing a permanent job to all apprentices who

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complete their training. Of course bad employers should be taken to task, but given that the Government have got this in hand, does the Minister share my concern that the Opposition risk casting apprenticeships in a bad light at a time when we should be talking them up as an option for young people in school?

Nick Boles: I agree with my right hon. Friend, particularly about the fantastic work of Fujitsu, which is one of the best apprentice employers in the country, and I am delighted about that as it is to the benefit of her constituents. She is absolutely right to say that we should all be selling the advantages of apprenticeships to young people. Most employers of apprentices pay dramatically more than the minimum wage—and quite right, too, because they value young people and their efforts—but this Government will always bear down on those who fail in their responsibilities.

Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West and Abingdon) (Con): As the Minister saw for himself at Abingdon and Witney college last week, we have seen a superb 63% increase in apprenticeships in my constituency. In fact, local employers and apprentices told us that the main barrier to an even better performance going forward was the historical local bias towards university education. What work is the Minister doing with schools to ensure that apprenticeships are seen as a good career option?

Nick Boles: I thank my hon. Friend for organising this visit, which was fascinating and very encouraging. Perhaps we all understand why there might be a bias in favour of university in the city of Oxford, but nevertheless a huge number of young people in my hon. Friend’s constituency decide, quite rightly, that they can benefit even more from an apprenticeship. We are investing in a marketing campaign to ensure that their teachers and parents have the same understanding of the value of an apprenticeship as many enlightened young people do themselves.

Statutory Guidance on School Organisation

5. Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab): Whether her Department monitors local education authorities’ adherence to its statutory guidance on school organisation. [907038]

The Minister for Schools (Mr David Laws): The Department responds to any concerns that are raised with us, but has no formal role in the decision-making process.

Rosie Cooper: Parents are raising concerns with me about the consultation on the possible closure of Glenburn sports college. They are particularly concerned that no assessment has been made of transport issues, and no statements on special educational needs or the possible impact on the use of community facilities have been issued to accompany the consultation. Perhaps most important of all, there is a major conflict of interest. Given that the acting chair of the Glenburn foundation trust governors is also the head of Lancashire county council’s directorate of education, is he acting as judge, jury and executioner? Parents want to know from the Minister whether this process is being handled fairly, and, indeed, what they can do if it is not.

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Mr Laws: I know that the hon. Lady is concerned about the situation. I should be happy for her to raise her concerns with me, and I should be happy to consider them, although, as she will understand, the Department has no formal role. The formal process requires representations to be made to the local authority, and potentially to the local government ombudsman. She will be aware that if the governing body does not like the decision reached by the local authority, it can appeal to the schools adjudicator, which is able to deal not only with issues of process but with issues of substance.

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): The organisation of Hexham high school, which the Minister visited only last year, would be considerably improved by its inclusion in the second-priority school building programme. When will a decision be made about the programme?

Mr Laws: I know that my hon. Friend is passionate about this matter, and he has been particularly ingenious in raising it under the current subject heading. I have noted his strong representations on behalf of the school, which we will bear in mind as we make our decisions on the programme over the next few weeks.

Mr Speaker: The ingenuity of the hon. Gentleman is matched only by the generosity of the Chair in affording him that opportunity. I am sure that he is keenly conscious of that.

Young Carers

6. Mr Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South) (Lab): What guidance her Department issues to schools, colleges and other educational institutions on identifying young carers. [907040]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr Edward Timpson): Since 2011 we have worked with the Children’s Society and the Carers Trust to develop good practice materials for schools in order to increase teachers’ awareness of issues affecting young carers, including those relating to identification. In preparation for the introduction of the new young carers duty this April, we are planning to invite bids for the development of further materials to help school staff to understand and respond better to the needs of young carers.

Mr Marsden: We have a fantastic branch of the Carers Trust in Blackpool and Fylde. I have worked with the trust and seen its young carers project over the last eight years, and last year I saw an inspirational presentation by Lauren Codling, its young carers champion. Given that the trust has identified 450 young carers and the last Blackpool census revealed the existence of more than 1,000, the trust believes that a statutory duty is urgently required to help young carers, schools and colleges to do things that they could and should be doing. There are good links between our college and Blackpool council, but the carers group has spoken to Ofsted about inspections only once in the last eight years. Looked-after children benefit from a statutory duty; why should not young carers do so as well?

Mr Timpson: I am aware of the superb work that is done by the Blackpool carers centre in helping young carers, many of whom are coping with parents with

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addictions. The identification of those carers, and the support that we give them, are vital to ensuring that they have the childhood that they deserve, at the same time as taking on a role that is often beyond their years. That is why we have introduced the new duty, and why we are working closely with charities in Blackpool and in Cheshire East—where I have also met young carers—to ensure that they continue to receive the support that we need. However, when we inspect those services, we need to be confident that the outcomes for young carers are measured in a way that demonstrates that the duty that we have introduced is having a discernible effect, and we continue to pay attention to that.

Children’s Services

7. Simon Danczuk (Rochdale) (Lab): What response her Department has received to its advertisement for intervention experts to work with underperforming children’s services departments. [907041]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr Edward Timpson): We have received 26 bids. That is a good response to our call for experts to work with underperforming children’s services departments and help them to improve.

Simon Danczuk: As the Minister will know, there is concern about a number of organisations that have failed to deal with child abuse allegations. I am sure the whole House agrees that no one who has been implicated in the ignoring or covering up of abuse should be appointed under this particular scheme. Will the Minister assure us that there will be a proper vetting process to prevent that from happening?

Mr Timpson: I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman, and the whole purpose of trying to bring additional expertise into children’s services is that we know that, sadly, there are still too many parts of the country where children are not being served adequately by those who are meant to be there to protect them. We want to encompass the whole range of expertise that is available in order to tackle that issue, but of course we need stringent checks in place to make sure that no one involved in such advisory roles has been doing what he describes, and I will happily write to him with further details of how we are ensuring that that is the case.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): On 27 October at Education questions I asked the Minister for a rigorous evaluation of the Department’s various experiments in the provision and management of children’s services. The Minister denied he was experimenting and said he was engaged in a series of “carefully thought out” improvement measures. Strangely enough, he failed to mention improvement experts, so when did the need to appoint external improvement experts by tender become Government policy, how many experts does he estimate he will need, what will they cost, and who will evaluate whether this experiment is value for money or just another step down the slippery slope of commercialising services and commoditising children?

Mr Speaker: That is a fourfold question, but I know the dexterity of the Minister will facilitate a speedy single response.

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Mr Timpson: I am tempted not to give a response at all, Mr Speaker, and I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has been tempted down that line of questioning. He knows full well that our intervention, whether in Birmingham, Doncaster or any other local authority, has had a positive effect: 29 of those local authorities where we have had direct intervention since 2010 have come out of that process. However, we need to make sure that where there is ingrained failure in children’s services we do all we can to bring those services up to scratch, and I am not going to shy away from making decisions that ensure children across this country have better services, better protection and better lives.

Nursery Care

8. Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab): What assessment she has made of the effect of recent changes in child care costs on the affordability of nursery care for families on low and medium incomes. [907043]

13. Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): What assessment she has made of the effect of recent changes in child care costs on the affordability of nursery care for families on low and medium incomes. [907049]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr Sam Gyimah): The cost of some of the most popular forms of child care has come down. We have seen that with nurseries, for example: the cost of nurseries is down by 2%, and the cost of childminders is down by 13%. But we are not complacent: we are funding 15 hours of free child care for all three and four-year-olds and all disadvantaged two-year-olds, and we are introducing tax-free child care for working families. This should be compared with the record of the previous Government, under which the cost of child care went up by 50% between 2002 and 2010.

Bridget Phillipson: The charity 4Children recently published figures showing that one in five parents with child care costs this year will either have to reduce their hours or are considering giving up work altogether because of child care costs. This is certainly the case when I speak to parents in Sunderland. Will the Minister go further and extend free child care for three and four-year-olds so that parents can stay in work and contribute to the economy?

Mr Gyimah: The research by 4Children to which the hon. Lady refers confirms that we have a clear plan for child care. As a result of our work, more families than ever before in this country are now eligible for free child care. She refers to the Labour party plan to extend free child care for three and four-year-olds from 15 to 25 hours, but the Labour party is the only party that thinks a clear plan is where it decides to fund a pledge through a bank levy that it has already spent 11 times. That is not a clear plan.

Karl Turner: One in 10 working families spend one parent’s wages on child care, so why will the Minister not back Labour’s call for 25 hours a week of free child

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care for parents of three and four-year-olds, to help working families with this cost of living crisis created by this Government?

Mr Gyimah: I refer the hon. Gentleman to my earlier answer, just in case he was on autopilot and asking a Whip’s question: it is not possible to fund a pledge with a bank levy that has already been spent 11 times. This Government have a clear plan for child care. Over the course of this Parliament we are spending an extra billion pounds on not just three and four-year olds, because children are not only three and four; parents need child care for children below the age of three and for children older than three and four. That is why we have a clear plan, because we have a strong economy.

Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): It pleases me greatly that the Minister is happy to repeat our very popular pledge of a bank levy to fund child care. Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson), we saw another survey last week which found that 300,000 parents want to go back to work but just cannot do so because of soaring child care costs—since 2010, they have increased by 30%. Will the Minister now admit that this Government simply must do more, and accept that we need an increase in free child care?

Mr Gyimah: Just in case the hon. Lady was not listening, let me say that child care costs went up by 50% under the last Labour Government, whereas under the current Government child care costs have stabilised and are falling for some of the most popular forms of child care. In addition, we are saving families who have three and four-year-olds £370 a year per child; we are saving disadvantaged families £2,300 a year per child through the free entitlement for two-year-olds; and tax-free child care will save families up to £2,000 per child per year from this autumn. That is because we have a clear plan, funded because we have a strong economy. Labour’s plan is not funded.

Teachers (Work Loads and Teaching Time)

9. Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): What steps she is taking to ease teachers’ work loads and increase the proportion of the time they spend teaching. [907044]

The Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan): High-quality teaching is the single most important school-based factor determining how well pupils achieve. This Government are committed to supporting the profession, and reducing unnecessary work load is an absolute priority. We have already reduced the burden from the centre by increasing autonomy and streamlining unnecessary paperwork, and we have received more than 44,000 responses to the work load challenge, which asked teachers to share their experience and ideas. We are discussing the results with teachers and unions, and an action plan will be published shortly.

Andrew Bridgen: Does my right hon. Friend agree that what teachers need from a Secretary of State is someone who listens to their concerns and respects their professionalism, as opposed to the patronising attitude of the shadow Secretary of State, whose latest gimmick is asking teachers to take an oath?

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Nicky Morgan: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that it is not my job to tell teachers how to do theirs. This Government are committed to treating teachers as mature and confident professionals. It was on the “Left Foot Forward” blog that somebody had written:

“It is genuinely difficult to fathom what was going through Tristram Hunt’s mind when he decided that a Hippocratic oath for teachers was a good idea.”

I suggest that the shadow Secretary of State might want to look at the reaction on social media to his Hippocratic oath.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): I am afraid that 44,000 teachers responded not because the Secretary of State has reduced the burden; this Government spent four years increasing the burden on teachers and then spent many months suppressing the evidence in the teacher work load survey by not publishing it. Andrew Carter has said:

“What…matters most in a child’s education is the quality of the teaching.”

Can she confirm to the teachers of this country that, following his review, the Conservative party will go into this election with a commitment to expand the number of unqualified teachers?

Nicky Morgan: In May, the Conservative party will be committing to have the highest-qualified teaching profession ever, something we have already achieved under this Government. We now have more teachers with 2:1 or first degrees in our schools, and the successful initial teacher training system, as Andrew Carter has reported in his review today—[Interruption.] If the Labour party wants to talk about unqualified teachers, it ought to look at the shadow Secretary of State, who teaches in his local schools as an unqualified teacher.

Faith Schools

10. Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): What recent assessment she has made of the role of faith schools; and if she will make a statement. [907045]

The Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan): Church and faith schools have made a significant contribution to the education system in England for hundreds of years. Many of the best performing schools in our country are church and faith schools. Parents of all faiths and none value these schools for the quality of the education and for their strong ethos, and I am a great supporter of them.

Keith Vaz: As the Secretary of State knows, Leicester has the Hindu Krishna Avanti school, Madani Muslim school and the Falcons school, which she opened very recently. They all provide an excellent education for local children. I am sure that today many of them, as part of their duties, will be painting birthday cards to send to Mr Speaker. There will be an application for a secondary Hindu school by the Krishna Avanti group. Will she look favourably on that application?

Nicky Morgan: Knowing the right hon. Gentleman, I suspect that he will have a photograph taken of him with the children painting their cards and it will appear in the Leicester Mercury very shortly. I would be delighted to join him if that is the case. He will know that all

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applications for new schools are studied rigorously by the Department and by colleagues. We have to follow a process, but I will look forward to hearing more about that application in due course.

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): The Jews free school is in my constituency in Brent North. The Secretary of State will be aware of the deep concern in the Jewish community at the moment about security around schools. Many other Jewish and other faith schools around the country are in a similar position. What steps is her Department taking to ensure that the children in those schools are being kept safe?

Nicky Morgan: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to ask that question. It is truly shocking, as the Home Secretary said today, that, in our lifetimes we are seeing a rise of anti-Semitism in this country, and, in relation to my role in the Government, that Jewish schools are having to worry ever more about their security. The Department has provided funding for security, guarding Jewish maintained and free schools in England, through a grant since 2010. Around £2 million a year has been provided and continued funding for this and the next financial year has been confirmed. I will always be open to further conversations on this, because, at the end of the day, all children must go to school free of fear, and be able to concentrate on their studies. Their families must know that they are secure when they are in those school environments.

Schools (Character Development)

12. Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con): What steps her Department is taking to promote the development of character in schools. [907047]

The Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan): As part of our plan for education, I want to ensure that all young people are prepared for life in modern Britain. I am committed to ensuring that all young people develop a range of character attributes such as resilience and grit, which underpin success in education and employment. My Department is investing £5 million to expand capacity and character education, to build evidence of what works and to deliver a national award scheme to recognise existing excellence.

Pauline Latham: I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. As she will be aware, one school in my constituency recently had its successes recognised in the Tatler and came in the top 22 in the country. Will she tell the House what steps her Department is taking to encourage more schools to follow its example?

Nicky Morgan: We want to recognise and share excellent practice in schools in Mid Derbyshire and across the country. I recognise the work that my hon. Friend does with her local schools. I encourage any school doing good work in this area to apply for the character awards, which I have mentioned. Applications close on 30 January, and I look forward to hearing how schools up and down the country are already working to develop well-rounded young individuals.

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): On the subject of birthdays, I am sure that you, Mr Speaker, would like to extend birthday greetings to Sir Simon Rattle—the man who put Birmingham on the map in

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terms of music—who shares a birthday with you today. However, on character building, I encourage the Secretary of State to look at the work of Professor James Arthur at Birmingham university who is doing a lot of work on how character education can be brought into the curriculum at every level in our schools.

Mr Speaker: Personally I am inclined to offer up birthday wishes to Stefan Edberg, a six-time grand slam champion and currently coach to the greatest tennis player of all time, Roger Federer.

Nicky Morgan: I understand that several hon. Members are celebrating their birthdays in the House today, but we would be here for a long time if I named them all. I am trying to remember some of their constituencies. There is my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (David Tredinnick). I have not quite memorised all the names and constituencies in the way that you have, Mr Speaker.

I have met Professor Arthur and I think that he is doing fantastic work in Birmingham and I look forward to him taking part in our work on building the plans for character education in our schools.

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Does the Secretary of State agree with me that if first aid was made part of the national curriculum as part of her inquiry into character building and well-rounded citizens it would greatly help with both of those objectives?

Nicky Morgan: The hon. Gentleman is right that those are of course important skills that we would like to see in all our young people. In the work of the Department I need to balance demands for additional subjects and for academic qualifications, but many schools already teach life-saving skills. As a Department, we have recently negotiated a contract so that schools can obtain defibrillators at reasonable rates and they will of course want to train their pupils on how to use them.

Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): Some time ago, I asked 15-year-olds in Birkenhead what they most wanted from their school. They said that they wanted to know how to be good parents, how to make lifelong friendships and how to get and keep jobs. When we have done some more work in secondary schools in Birkenhead, might I come and present it to the Secretary of State and the shadow Secretary of State?

Nicky Morgan: Perhaps the Secretary of State and I should show true character, resilience and grit by sitting in the same room and listening to what I am sure will be a very interesting presentation.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): Just before Christmas, the Department announced plans to downgrade highly popular skills-based qualifications on developing personal effectiveness and to use section 96 powers to revoke approval for such qualifications. As ASDAN, based in my constituency, told me on Friday, it is difficult to imagine more contradictory policy making. Those qualifications were aimed exactly at what the Secretary of State is talking about, so why is she planning to downgrade them?

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Nicky Morgan: Those qualifications did not help the young person who took them to get work and were not valued by employers. The qualities we are talking about run all the way through education at all ages and are important skills, but having spoken to providers of ASDAN qualifications in my constituency, I know that other skills and qualifications give those young people the best start in life and the greatest credibility with employers.

Funding Formula (Schools)

15. Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): What progress her Department is making on delivering a fair and transparent funding formula for schools and supporting areas that have been historically underfunded. [907051]

The Minister for Schools (Mr David Laws): We have now made significant progress towards fairer funding for schools and in 2015-16 we will distribute an additional £390 million to 69 of the least fairly funded local authorities, including Worcestershire, which will receive almost £7 million a year extra as a consequence. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his robust campaigning over a long period of time on this issue.

Mr Walker: I am grateful to the Minister for that answer and this Government have done more than any other to address long-standing flaws in our school funding system and to commit to fairer funding. We have started the process, as my right hon. Friend says, but it still has further to go. Even with the £6.5 million for Worcestershire, local schools tell me that they are struggling to manage cost pressures. Is my right hon. Friend committed not just to the creation of, but the delivery of, a fair and transparent formula in the lifetime of the next Parliament?

Mr Laws: I think I can reassure my hon. Friend on behalf of both coalition parties that we are committed to the delivery of a fair and transparent national funding formula in the next Parliament. We have already made the first big step and I agree with him that it is vital that we deliver a full solution to this long-standing injustice, which Labour failed to tackle in its long years in office.

21. [907057] Mr Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker) is right that we need a fairer funding formula for our schools and as part of that we need capital funding to be allocated over three years rather than one. Does the Minister agree that the long campaign for the consolidation of St Nicholas primary school in Beverley will be more likely to be realised if such a change can be effected?

Mr Laws: I agree with my hon. Friend that long-term capital funding is highly desirable and he will know that we have already moved to multi-year allocations of basic need funding. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are now looking very carefully at the argument for moving to longer term allocations of other parts of the capital budget.

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Vocational Education

16. David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con): What steps she is taking to improve the status of vocational education. [907052]

The Minister for Skills and Equalities (Nick Boles): We have removed thousands of low-quality qualifications from performance league tables, introduced the requirement to carry on studying English and maths for young people who have not yet achieved Cs at GCSE and invested in 2 million high-quality apprenticeships since 2010.

David Morris: Will the Minister join me in praising the fact that last month we celebrated having more than 2 million apprentices? What else are the Government doing to promote apprenticeships in areas such as mine?

Nick Boles: I had the great pleasure of meeting the 2 millionth apprentice, a young woman working in an extraordinary business whose work I could not understand because it was so complicated. She is doing something very clever in engineering near Oxford in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood). We are supporting smaller employers who create apprenticeships with a grant worth £1,500 and we are working closely with the fantastic apprenticeship ambassador network, led by David Meller and championed in this House by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones) and the hon. Member for Burnley (Gordon Birtwistle)—[Interruption.] Not that David Mellor.

Mr Speaker: That is a great relief to all of us to learn.

Regional Schools Commissioners

17. Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con): What assessment she has made of the effect of the introduction of regional schools commissioners. [907053]

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr Nick Gibb): In the four months since the eight regional schools commissioners took up their responsibilities for the academies and free schools in their regions, they have been working efficiently with their head teacher boards to inject experience, expertise and valuable local knowledge into the management of the academy system, playing a vital role in the development of a self-improving school system.

Craig Whittaker: Prior to the schools commissioners being in place, it was my experience that the Department’s approach to failing academies was sometimes inconsistent. How does the Minister envisage that schools commissioners will apply a consistent approach to drive up standards and make academies more accountable?

Mr Gibb: Given their proximity to schools that are underperforming and their local knowledge, regional schools commissioners will act far more swiftly in taking failing schools to academy status than we have seen to date. That is the purpose of the regional schools

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commissioners, and I am confident that we will see a faster and smoother process of conversion to academy status.


18. Stuart Andrew (Pudsey) (Con): What progress her Department has made on tackling bullying. [907054]

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr Nick Gibb): This Government take bullying very seriously. We have strengthened teachers’ powers to tackle bullying, we have provided anti-bullying advice for schools, we have provided approximately £4 million of funding to anti-bullying charities and announced a further £2 million to address homophobic bullying, and we have included internet safety in the national curriculum. According to our longitudinal study of young people published in November last year, around 30,000 fewer young people are being bullied than 10 years ago in England.

Stuart Andrew: The ultimate consequence of bullying can be that the victim takes their own life, as a friend unfortunately did when I was at school. Given that these days cyber-bullying is an additional pressure for victims, what advice and support does my hon. Friend’s Department offer to teachers to deal specifically with that problem?

Mr Gibb: It is always tragic when young people take their own life for whatever reason, but particularly when that is linked to cyber-bullying. As this is a particular worry for parents, we recently issued advice on how they can help protect their children from cyber-bullying, the signs to look for and what to do if children are being cyber-bullied. We also produce advice for schools on how to support pupils facing cyber-bullying.

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): A two-year research project entitled “Addressing Sexual Bullying Across Europe” has just been published by Leeds Beckett university, revealing that sexual bullying in young people is widespread across Europe, with 73% of young people aged 13 to 18 having experienced at least one form of sexual bullying on more than one occasion. This is horrendous. What more can we do in our schools to deal with this very worrying problem?

Mr Gibb: My hon. Friend makes an important point. This is an increasing trend and we have to make it very clear in our schools that this form of behaviour in our schools is unacceptable. The guidance issued by the Department makes it clear that issues such as consent have to be taught in our sex and relationship education lessons.

Emergency Life-saving Skills

19. Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon) (Con): What steps she is taking to promote the teaching of emergency life-saving skills in schools. [907055]

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr Nick Gibb): Three in a row. Schools are free to teach emergency life-saving skills and may choose to do so as part of personal, social, health and economic

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education. The Department, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, is encouraging schools to purchase automated external defibrillators and has made arrangements to help them do so at a competitive price. We have also published a guide to defibrillators on school premises, in which we suggest that schools may wish to consider offering cardiopulmonary resuscitation training throughout the school.

Justin Tomlinson: Of the 30,000 cardiac arrests that occur outside the hospital setting each year, only one in 10 people survive. Will the Minister agree to meet me and the British Heart Foundation to discuss how, in countries where two hours of emergency life-saving skills are taught, survival rates often increase to up to 50%?

Mr Gibb: I agree that first aid and life-saving skills are very important, but the Government do not believe that it should be a statutory requirement for schools to teach those skills. We trust schools to make their own decisions about what is best in their circumstances. Many schools do choose to teach these skills, working with organisations such as the British Heart Foundation or St John Ambulance. I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to consider what more can be done to promote these programmes in schools.

Topical Questions

T1. [907073] Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con): If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan): This is the first Education Question Time since the terrible massacre in Peshawar. I am sure that the House will want to offer our support to the brave students and teachers who have gone back to the school, and to offer our condolences to those who lost loved ones.

Since the last Question Time, my Department has announced plans to back a college of teaching, if that is what the profession chooses to opt for. Today we have published the Carter review of initial teacher training, as well as revised head teacher standards developed by those in the profession themselves.

Sir Oliver Heald: I join in the condolences expressed by my right hon. Friend.

Given the vital importance of budgeting and money management in tackling personal debt, does my right hon. Friend agree that numeracy is more important than ever? Will she update the House on what progress is being made in our schools in this vital area?

Nicky Morgan: I absolutely agree that numeracy is a critical life skill. Our new primary maths curriculum places a greater focus on understanding numbers and on calculation skills. To reinforce that, we have removed calculators from national curriculum tests, and new maths GCSEs will be more challenging and will ensure vital numeracy skills. As my hon. Friend the Minister for Skills and Equalities has said, young people beyond the age of 16 without a good pass at GCSE are now required to continue with mathematics, and for those

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with a grade C or above, new core maths qualifications that include financial literacy will improve numeracy further.

Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab): The whole House is united in its horror at the attacks in Paris, which, sadly, form part of a growing tide of intolerance that seeks to undermine civil society by targeting symbols of pluralism and tolerance. As the right hon. Lady has highlighted, from the assault in the school in Peshawar, to the kidnappings of Boko Haram, to the murder of Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse, Islamist terrorists hope to close down learning and debate. That is why it is more important than ever that we provide safe schooling for every English community. Following the question by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner), will the Secretary of State join me in supporting the work of the Community Security Trust in providing security for Jewish schools across the UK? Will she join the Labour party in committing to retaining the CST’s funding for the entire Parliament so that whoever wins the general election on 7 May, the Jewish community knows that the education of its children will always be protected by the British state?

Nicky Morgan: The hon. Gentleman is of course right to point to the terrible events in Paris and the importance of standing up for the values that we hold dear, including, obviously, freedom of speech, but also the values that we have previously discussed in this House and want to see taught in our schools: mutual respect and tolerance, democracy and the rule of law. I am happy to join him in promising to support the Community Safety Trust. I have already mentioned the £2 million per year provided since 2010 and the commitment already given by the Department for the next financial year.

Tristram Hunt: Last week the Secretary of State told the “Today” programme that 100,000 infants educated in classes of more than 30 represented a “very, very small number”. It is not a small number to every child in that class and every parent concerned about overcrowding. In his 2010 manifesto, the Prime Minister promised us smaller class sizes, but he has failed to deliver, instead wasting money on free schools, such as The Durham free school, in areas with surplus places. Will the Secretary of State now come to the Dispatch Box to apologise to the parents of pupils in Bury, where over 50% of local primary schools are over capacity; in Reading, where nearly 30% of local primary schools are over capacity; and, indeed, in Leicestershire, where 53.3% of local primary schools are over capacity? In their final months in office, how about the Government ending the ideology and putting school places where they are needed?

Nicky Morgan: I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman was not Secretary of State in the previous Labour Government, but let me remind him that they took away 200,000 primary places at a time of a baby boom, a rising population, and the uncontrolled immigration that took place under them. There are 11,400 fewer pupils in primary schools operating over their agreed capacity since 2010, and 31,900 fewer such pupils in secondary schools. If he wants to talk about this Government’s approach, he should look at the chaos created by the previous Government’s failure to plan for an increase in the population.

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T3. [907075] Angie Bray (Ealing Central and Acton) (Con): Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating teachers and pupils at primary schools across Ealing on their latest key stage 2 standard assessment test results, which have taken them well above average? It is particularly good to note that pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds have done especially well this year.

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr Nick Gibb): I happily join my hon. Friend in congratulating primary schools in her constituency on that achievement. It is true that during the last few years we have narrowed the attainment gap between those from poorer and wealthier backgrounds. In particular, I cite key stage 2 reading, writing and maths figures, where we closed the gap by one percentage point between 2013 and 2014, which is a staggering achievement, but there is more to do.

T2. [907074] Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): More than 10,000 people have now signed an e-petition urging the Government to introduce a VAT refund scheme for sixth-form colleges. Does the Minister now accept that it is time to drop this learning tax on sixth-form colleges, which does not have to be paid by schools, academies and free schools?

The Minister for Skills and Equalities (Nick Boles): I am aware of this long-standing issue, which the last Government also failed to correct. One of the things that I am looking into is the possibility of enabling sixth-form colleges to change their status if they are willing to link up with other schools. But that is something that has to be brought forward by sixth-form colleges themselves, and it is still subject to discussions with the Treasury, which is always pretty fierce on these matters. [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Mr Campbell, calm yourself. All that hot curry in the Kennington Tandoori is making you fierier than ever. I have never known anything like it.

T4. [907076] Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con): Parents look for certainty when they are planning family finances and child care can be a considerable cost. Does the Minister share my concern that in announcing unfunded new child care policies, the Labour party could create real and unwelcome uncertainty in the child care market, which will help neither parents nor children?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr Sam Gyimah): My right hon. Friend has huge experience in this area, having held the portfolio that I hold when we were in opposition. It is absolutely right that we need to give parents certainty to plan their child care needs. Child care hits family finances, so it is right that the Government have a clear plan to give parents of all three and four-year-olds free child care. For parents who want additional child care there is tax-free child care, but the Labour party’s plan, funded by the bank levy, which has been spent 11 times and more, is not a clear plan. Certainly, given its economic stance, it cannot fund that plan.

Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): According to the Minister, schools should be able to choose whether to

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teach emergency life support skills, but we do not allow a choice in other subjects. Does he not agree that it is worth two hours so that we can transform our society, make every school leaver a life saver, and so save potentially 150,000 lives a year?

Mr Gibb: I understand the hon. Lady’s passion on this, which is shared by Government Members as well, but what is taught in personal, social, health and economic education is up to the schools, and we do not want to have an over-prescribed school curriculum. We have created a carefully balanced curriculum between central prescription and autonomy for professionals, and this is a matter for professionals. All schools are free to teach these very important skills, but we must leave some matters to schools to decide.

T5. [907077] Sir Nick Harvey (North Devon) (LD): Is the Minister aware that Chulmleigh academy in my constituency has been three quarters rebuilt for just £3.7 million, compared with the £18 million it was due to have cost under Building Schools for the Future? Given the school’s superb record of delivery and astonishing value for money, will Ministers smile upon the bid now in for funding for the last stage of this superb project?

The Minister for Schools (Mr David Laws): I agree with my hon. Friend that the Government have delivered far better value for money in the capital programme than their predecessor, and that is why we are able to do so much on the capital front. He will not expect me to make a final statement now on the bid from his constituency, but his strong support is carefully noted by Ministers.

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): When do the Government expect to produce the report on asbestos in schools, which was completed in June 2014 but has not yet been published?

Mr Laws: We intend to make an announcement on this matter shortly.

T6. [907078] Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Con): Will any of the capital programme be available for small village schools, such as Scorton and Winmarleigh primary schools in my constituency, so that real dining spaces can be created? At the moment, they face the daily burden of turning classrooms into dining rooms and dining rooms into classrooms as they carry out the new free school meals policy.

Mr Laws: I can reassure my hon. Friend that the Government have now allocated a total of £175 million to support the universal infant free school meal policy with extra capital. In addition, local authorities have the £1.2 billion maintenance budget from the Department each year, and they are at liberty to use it in any way they want.

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): On Friday, I attended #NEDigitalGirls, at which girls from across the north-east saw the fantastic range of careers supported by science, technology, engineering and maths, or STEM, subjects—including politics, Mr Speaker. However, EngineeringUK’s recent report has highlighted the dire state of careers advice, particularly

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that for engineering, in this country. It has challenged the Government to offer every 11 to 14-year-old an engineering experience with a company. How will the Minister ensure that there is professional careers advice? Will she meet EngineeringUK’s challenge?

Nicky Morgan: The hon. Lady is absolutely right to say that the aspirations of girls in particular should be opened to engineering and other subjects that have traditionally been seen as something for the boys. I have frequently made the point that we need 83,000 more engineers every year for the next 10 years—and they cannot all be men. That is why the new careers enterprise company that I announced before Christmas is to be employer led. I fully expect that companies offering engineering careers will be heavily involved in going into schools. However, I think that the hon. Lady will agree that we are not doing children a favour if we advocate just one set of subjects.

T7. [907080] Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): I thank the Government for their support for rural schools on the sparsity factor and dealing with Labour’s historic legacy of underfunding for Britain’s most rural schools. Will my right hon. Friend pay tribute to schools such as Upper Wharfedale school in my constituency, which have federated with other primary schools around them, are taking responsibility for their own efficiency and are being more competitive?

Mr Laws: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that that is the right way for many schools to go. I agree that it should be on a voluntary basis—locally supported by the Government, but not imposed. I also agree that we have hugely helped schools in rural areas by addressing the historic underfunding in many parts of the country. My hon. Friend’s own area of North Yorkshire has gained £10 million per year from the changes that we have made.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Does the Secretary of State agree with me and the overwhelming majority of my constituents who think that the healthiest pattern for this country, its communities and society is for kids to go to school together? Is she not worried by the proliferation of faith schools in our country, in which children learn only in the shadow of their faith?

Nicky Morgan: As I said earlier, I strongly support faith and Church schools in this country. They offer an excellent education, but the Government have already made moves to ensure that all schools have to teach a broad and balanced curriculum, which many, if not all—almost all—faith and Church schools already do. There is the importance of teaching values of mutual respect and tolerance of others with other faiths and beliefs. If that is not happening, we will not hesitate first of all to inspect and then to take further action.

T9. [907082] John Pugh (Southport) (LD): An hour ago, in Mr Speaker’s House, there was a broadcast edition of Michael Sandel’s “The Public Philosopher” and many parliamentarians were present. What are the Government doing to encourage philosophy and critical teaching in schools?

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Mr Gibb: I am grateful for that question. There is already an Oxford, Cambridge and Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, or OCR, GCSE qualification called “Religious Studies GCSE (B): Philosophy and Applied Ethics”. The philosophy of religion will feature in the new revised religious studies GCSEs. There are also post-16 level 3 qualifications in critical thinking and philosophy. There is significant choice in schools for students wishing to study philosophy.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): The National Audit Office has raised concerns about the DFE’s accounts relating to the academies programme. The NAO qualified signing off the DFE’s accounts, given uncertainties and errors. What has the Secretary of State done to ensure that these serious financial irregularities have been addressed by her Department?

Nicky Morgan: The hon. Gentleman will know that qualifications to accounts do not necessarily equal the same as the severe financial irregularities to which he appears to allude. I hold regular conversation updates with the permanent secretary and officials to look at the status of the Department’s financial statements.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): The cluster academy of Montsaye academy in Rothwell, together with local primary schools in Rothwell, Desborough,

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Wilbarston and Rushden, is working very well in providing a more seamless education for local children from primary all the way through to 18. How might the best practice from clusters such as Montsaye be best spread across the rest of Northamptonshire and the rest of the country?

Mr Gibb: I congratulate my hon. Friend on his involvement as a former governor at that school. The Government’s academies programme is actively encouraging schools to collaborate and support each other as part of developing a genuinely school-led system. We are encouraging groups of schools to form strong partnerships by converting to academy status like the Montsaye cluster. The Department is working closely with Northamptonshire schools and the local authority to support the development of strong clusters led by teachers and head teachers to secure the best education for pupils in Northamptonshire.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. I apologise to any disappointed colleagues, but we must now move on.

19 Jan 2015 : Column 25

Bill Presented

Fixed-term Parliaments (Repeal) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Alan Duncan, supported by Mr Jack Straw, Mr Kenneth Clarke, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Keith Vaz, Sir Peter Tapsell, Dr Liam Fox, Ms Gisela Stuart, Mr David Davis, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Mrs Cheryl Gillan, Mr John Redwood and Sir William Cash presented a Bill to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 March, and to be printed (Bill 156).

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Point of Order

3.36 pm

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Will you correct me if I have got this wrong? During last Thursday’s business statement, I did not hear the Leader of the House refer to a “Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill: Allocation of Time (Motion)”. Has there been a change over the weekend to how we describe a Bill?

Mr Speaker: No. There has been no change, but if the hon. Gentleman wishes to consult distinguished, bewigged advisers, he can do so. Reference was made to an allocation of time motion on Thursday; whether the precise formulation of words was as today is open to interpretation or memory.

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Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill: Allocation of Time

3.37 pm

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Tom Brake): I beg to move,

That the following provisions shall apply to the proceedings on the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill–


1.- (1) Proceedings on Second Reading, in Committee, on consideration and on Third Reading shall be completed at this day’s sitting.

(2) Proceedings on Second Reading shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) four hours after the commencement of proceedings on this Motion.

(3) Proceedings in Committee, on consideration and on Third Reading shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) six hours after the commencement of proceedings on this Motion.

Timing of proceedings and Questions to be put

2. When the Bill has been read a second time—

(a) it shall, notwithstanding Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills not subject to a programme order), stand committed to a Committee of the whole House without any Question being put;

(b) the Speaker shall leave the Chair whether or not notice of an Instruction has been given.

3.- (1) On the conclusion of proceedings in Committee, the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

(2) If the Bill is reported with amendments, the House shall proceed to consider the Bill as amended without any Question being put.

4. For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 1, the Chairman or Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others) in the same order as they would fall to be put if this Order did not apply—

(a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;

(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed;

(c) the Question on any amendment moved or Motion made by a Minister of the Crown;

(d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded.

5. On a Motion so made for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

6. If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph 4(c) on successive amendments moved or Motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the Chairman or Speaker shall instead put a single Question in relation to those amendments or Motions.

7. If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph 4(d) in relation to successive provisions of the Bill, the Chairman shall instead put a single Question in relation to those provisions, except that the Question shall be put separately on any Clause of or Schedule to the Bill which a Minister of the Crown has signified an intention to leave out.

Consideration of Lords Amendments

8.- (1) Any Lords Amendments to the Bill may be considered forthwith without any Question being put; and any proceedings interrupted for that purpose shall be suspended accordingly.

(2) Proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments shall be brought to a conclusion, if not previously concluded, one hour after their commencement; and any proceedings suspended under sub-paragraph (1) shall thereupon be resumed.

9.- (1) This paragraph applies for the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 8.

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(2) The Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question already proposed from the Chair.

(3) If that Question is for the amendment of a Lords Amendment the Speaker shall then put forthwith–

(a) a single Question on any further Amendments to the Lords Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown, and

(b) the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown that this House agrees or disagrees to the Lords Amendment or (as the case may be) to the Lords Amendment as amended.

(4) The Speaker shall then put forthwith–

(a) a single Question on any Amendments moved by a Minister of the Crown to a Lords Amendment, and

(b) the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown that this House agrees or disagrees to the Lords Amendment or (as the case may be) to the Lords Amendment as amended.

(5) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown that this House disagrees to a Lords Amendment.

(6) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the Question that this House agrees to all the remaining Lords Amendments.

(7) As soon as the House has–

(a) agreed or disagreed to a Lords Amendment; or

(b) disposed of an Amendment relevant to a Lords Amendment which has been disagreed to, the Speaker shall put forthwith a single Question on any Amendments moved by a Minister of the Crown and relevant to the Lords Amendment.

Subsequent stages

10.- (1) Any further Message from the Lords on the Bill shall be considered forthwith without any Question being put; and any proceedings interrupted for that purpose shall be suspended accordingly.

(2) Proceedings on any further Message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement; and any proceedings suspended under sub-paragraph (1) shall thereupon be resumed.

11.- (1) This paragraph applies for the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 10.

(2) The Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has been proposed from the Chair.

(3) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown which is related to the Question already proposed from the Chair.

(4) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown on or relevant to any of the remaining items in the Lords Message.

(5) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the Question that this House agrees with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Proposals.

Reasons Committee

12.- (1) The Speaker shall put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the appointment, nomination and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons and the appointment of its Chair.

(2) A Committee appointed to draw up Reasons shall report before the conclusion of the sitting at which it is appointed.

(3) Proceedings in the Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion 30 minutes after their commencement.

(4) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with sub-paragraph (3), the Chair shall-

(a) first put forthwith any Question which has been proposed from the Chair but not yet decided, and

(b) then put forthwith successively Questions on motions which may be made by a Minister of the Crown for assigning a Reason for disagreeing with the Lords in any of their Amendments.

(5) The proceedings of the Committee shall be reported without any further Question being put.

19 Jan 2015 : Column 29


13. Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business) shall apply so far as necessary for the purposes of this Order.

14.- (1) The proceedings on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.

(2) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business) shall apply to those proceedings.

15. Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply in relation to any proceedings to which this Order applies.

16.- (1) No Motion shall be made, except by a Minister of the Crown, to alter the order in which any proceedings on the Bill are taken or to re-commit the Bill.

(2) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

17.- (1) No dilatory Motion shall be made in relation to proceedings to which this Order applies except by a Minister of the Crown.

(2) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

18. The Speaker may not arrange for a debate to be held in accordance with Standing Order No.24 (Emergency debates) on a day on which the Bill has been set down to be taken as an Order of the Day before the conclusion of any proceedings to which this Order applies.

19.- (1) This paragraph applies if the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the conclusion of any proceedings to which this Order applies.

(2) No notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

20. Proceedings to which this Order applies shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

21.- (1) Any private business which has been set down for consideration at 7.00pm, 4.00pm or 2.00pm (as the case may be) on a day on which the Bill has been set down to be taken as an Order of the Day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day.

(2) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the

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conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before the moment of interruption, for a period equal to the time elapsing between 7.00pm, 4.00pm or 2.00pm (as the case may be) and the conclusion of those proceedings.

The motion applies to the proceedings on the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill. The motion timetables all stages of the Bill, guaranteeing six hours’ debate, with up to four hours on Second Reading and a further two hours for Committee and remaining stages.

This is a short, single-issue Bill that the Government have introduced in response to the recent decision by the Church of England to allow women to be consecrated as bishops. The provisions will fast-track female diocesan bishops in the House of Lords, as current legislation will otherwise mean it would be many years before female bishops could take seats on the Lords Spiritual Benches.

More will be said about the detail of the provisions and the necessity for this legislation when we come to debating the Bill itself. This is an important Bill, strongly supported by both the Government and the Church, and it has broad support across the House. It is a tightly focused Bill with only one substantive clause, and it is for that reason that the motion allocates six hours for debate. I commend the motion to the House.

3.37 pm

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): This is an important Bill and it has Labour’s support. As the Minister has said, the change proposed is significant, but it is also very straightforward. We are, therefore, content to support all of the stages being considered today.

Question put and agreed to.

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Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill


3.38 pm

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Tom Brake): I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Bill, has consented to place her prerogative, so far as it is affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

3.39 pm

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Sam Gyimah): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill has been brought forward by the Government in response to the welcome decision by the Church of England to allow the ordination of female bishops. It will ensure that female diocesan bishops can join their male counterparts on the Lords Spiritual Benches sooner than they would have done under the current rules.

Bishops have attended Parliament from its earliest beginnings. In the first Parliaments, abbots as well as bishops and archbishops attended as Lords Spiritual alongside the nobles and peers of the realm—the Lords Temporal. Several Archbishops of Canterbury served mediaeval kings as Lord Chancellor. After the Reformation, abbots ceased to be Lords Spiritual. In the reformed Church of England, there were 26 diocesan bishops, all of whom had the right to sit as Lords Spiritual.

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): I am sorry to bring a note of discord to the proceedings, but I am bound to observe that the whole arrangement is for one denomination of the Christian Church. If we are to have religious people in the other place in the 21st century, surely they should be more representative of all Christian denominations and, indeed, should reflect all faiths.

Mr Gyimah: The Bill is very focused. It does not seek to change the composition or powers of the House of Lords, but to allow something that will happen anyway—the admission of female bishops to the House of Lords—to happen sooner than it otherwise would.

Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that the Church of England provides a structure right across the country for faiths to come together? It is the only Church of any size to do so and, as such, it plays a vital role. Other faiths support the role of bishops in the other place; it is not controversial, as the hon. Member for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell) said.

Mr Gyimah: My hon. and learned Friend makes a very valid point. The Bill is not controversial. As the Opposition spokesperson, the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), has pointed out, it has cross-party support from Members throughout the House. It is not to do with the composition of the House of Lords.

Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Through the Minister, may I remind my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell) what Her Majesty the Queen said at the start of her diamond jubilee year? She said:

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“The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated. Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.”

Mr Gyimah: I could not put have put it better or more eloquently than my right hon. Friend.

We lost the bishops, briefly, under Cromwell’s commonwealth, but they were welcomed back to Parliament at the restoration. No new bishoprics were created until 1847, when the population had increased and previously small towns were becoming industrial cities. The Church responded by increasing the number of bishops, but it was agreed that the new bishops would not add to the number of Lords Spiritual. The Bishopric of Manchester Act 1847 and subsequent Acts kept the number of Lords Spiritual at 26. The Government have introduced the Bill in a similar spirit to those Acts, which adapted the constitutional arrangements in line with the changes made by the Church as it modernised.

The current arrangements by which Lords Spiritual sit in the House of Lords are set out in the Bishoprics Act 1878. Twenty six bishops—the two Church of England archbishops and 24 of its diocesan bishops—are entitled to sit in the House of Lords as Lords Spiritual. Five of the 26 bishops automatically receive writs of summons to attend the House of Lords on the basis of their see: the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishops of London, Durham, and Winchester.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): Given that women in the Church have waited so long for this to happen, and that many of them hold senior positions but are not yet bishops, does the Minister think that we might see a woman automatically going into one of those five senior positions rather than having to work her way through the diocesan route?

Mr Gyimah: That is an interesting point, but it is a matter for the Church. The Bill seeks to affect the process by which female bishops can enter the House of Lords, but the question of which female bishops occupy which position is a matter for the Church. I agree with the hon. Lady’s sentiment that women have waited for this for a long time.

The remaining 21 bishops take their seats on the basis of seniority. When a vacancy occurs, it is filled by the longest-serving bishop, and that is why we have the Bill before us today. Clearly, the present seniority rules mean that it would be many years before a female bishop would be eligible to sit in the House of Lords. In consequence, the Archbishop of Canterbury, after consultation the Lords Spiritual and others, requested on behalf of the Church of England that amendments be made to the arrangements under the Bishoprics Act 1878 to enable female bishops to enter the House of Lords sooner than they would under the current rules.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): As a Stockport Member of Parliament, I was delighted when Rev. Libby Lane was appointed Bishop of Stockport. However, she is a suffragan bishop and will therefore have no automatic right to take a seat in the other place. What assessment has the Minister made of the Church

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of England’s ability to appoint women bishops to represent dioceses, so that they will become eligible to sit in the other place?

Mr Gyimah: The length of time involved will be a matter for the Church. The Bill, which could come into effect by the end of this Parliament, would mean that whenever a vacancy occurred in the House of Lords, a female bishop occupying a diocesan seat would be able to leapfrog the next male bishop in line. So we could see the first female bishop in the House of Lords as early as the start of the next Parliament, but the question of who that will be is a matter for the Church. I shall say more about that later.

The arrangements that the Bill will put in place will last for 10 years, by which time it is expected that there will be a pool of both male and female bishops. This is therefore a temporary arrangement that will sunset at the end of that 10-year period, by which time it is anticipated that the issue it is intended to address will have ceased to exist.

Andrew Gwynne: I accept what the Minister says about introducing measures to allow women bishops to leapfrog others so that they can be appointed to the House of Lords, and I appreciate that individual appointments are a matter for the Church, but what assessment has he made of the number of bishops in the Church of England who are coming up for retirement? That assessment could be useful in informing us about the appointment of women diocesan bishops.

Mr Gyimah: It is not for the Government to make such an assessment, but we believe that the 10-year period will allow enough time for the Church to appoint a sufficient number of women as diocesan bishops and that, once they have become eligible for appointment to the House of Lords, they will be able to fill those positions as and when they become available. However, that is a matter for the Church, and the Bill has been put together in consultation with the Church, which will ultimately control the number of bishops. Ten years is seen as sufficient time in which to enable the Lords Spiritual to reflect the number of women bishops.

Sir Tony Baldry: As my hon. Friend will be aware, several diocesan vacancies—in Gloucester, in Oxford and in Southwell and Nottingham—are being considered at the moment by the Crown Nominations Commission. It is perfectly possible that one—or indeed all—of those new diocesan bishops could be a woman. The Bill will ensure that if and when they are consecrated, they will be able to go straight into the House of Lords without having to wait behind every male bishop who is, at present, ahead of them in the queue. Depending on when those dioceses determine who they have as their new diocesan bishops—that will depend to a certain extent on the Crown Nominations Commission—we could see a woman bishop in the House of Lords very speedily.

Mr Gyimah: My right hon. Friend makes the point clearly. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) asked about the Government assessment, but, as my right hon. Friend points out, vacancies are available. I would not want to speculate from the Dispatch Box on

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whether a vacancy will be filled by a male or a female, but the Church has shown its commitment to increase the number of female bishops and the number of female bishops who become members of the Lords Spiritual. That is, after all, why we are here today. One retirement from the Bishops’ Bench in the next Parliament has already been announced: the Bishop of Leicester will retire on 11 July 2015.

Diana Johnson: I wonder whether the Minister will be able to help me to understand this fully. An assessment has been made, because 10 years is the time period in the Bill for when the sunset clause will come into effect. On that basis, is the assessment that in 10 years’ time we will have 50:50 male and female bishops in the House of Lords? What does the Minister think will be the position after 10 years?

Mr Gyimah: There are no quotas and there is no target for 50:50 representation. The intention of the Bill is to enable the Church to fast-track women bishops into the House of Lords. The system, as it currently operates, is based on length of service. If we allow it to operate, then even in 10 years’ time it is theoretically possible that we will not have any women bishops at all. The Bill will allow the Church to reflect on the number of women bishops represented in the House of Lords, but there is no target. This is not about 50:50, but about being able to reflect the fact that women bishops, appointed on merit, can serve in the House of Lords and not be limited by the rules on length of service.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): Why is there a need for a sunset clause? I do not understand why we feel that everything will have been solved in 10 years. Would it not be better to leave it open-ended and repeal the legislation in 10 years’ time if we feel that the situation has been dealt with? I would hope that in 10 years’ time we will have moved to a democratically elected House of Lords.

Mr Gyimah: The 10 years is because the Church believes that that will be enough time to ensure that the Bishops’ Bench better reflects the gender diversity in the Church. At the end of 10 years, there is nothing to stop the Government of the time asking for the Bill to be extended. We are responding to the request of the Church. Whether it is 10, 20 or 30 years, it is down to the Church. Women bishops will end up serving in the Lords based on how fast they are appointed as bishops. The key driver is not the length of the sunset clause per se, but how speedily the Church appoints women to be bishops.

Sir Oliver Heald: If one looks at the experience of women priests—who now make up roughly half of the priests out there—there is no reason to think that there will not be plenty of women bishops coming through. This provides an opportunity for them to go into the House of Lords.

Mr Gyimah: Indeed. The Church proceeded speedily with women priests and I suspect it would move speedily with the appointment of women bishops, based on merit. The Bill will ensure, as I have pointed out, that

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female diocesan bishops, as they are appointed, do not have to wait to join the House of Lords as Lords Spiritual.

The Church’s decision to ordain women has been gradual and has taken place over the past 30 years or so. It has been something of a journey for the Church, beginning in 1975 when the General Synod passed the motion

“that there are no fundamental objections to the ordination of women into the priesthood”.

In 1985, it passed legislation to allow women to become deacons; in 1992, it allowed women to become priests; and in 2014, it took the historic decision, warmly welcomed in this House and elsewhere, that women as well as men could become bishops. Last December, the Rev. Libby Lane was announced as the future suffragan bishop of Stockport in the diocese of Chester. As a suffragan, rather than diocesan bishop, she is not yet eligible to join the Lords Spiritual.

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): Just in case the Minister is coming to the end of his remarks, may I refer him back to the intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell)? Tomorrow, in the chapter house of Westminster, 100 yards away, we will be celebrating the 750th anniversary of our first Parliament. Back then, of course, every bishop would have been Catholic. I and my hon. Friend are not asking for a statement today. Bearing in mind the fact that women priests unfortunately make union between our two Churches less likely, we simply ask that the Government have an open mind about allowing bishops of other denominations to enter the House of Lords.

Mr Gyimah: The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), made it clear during the brief debate on the timetable motion that this is a tightly focused Bill with one substantive clause, and that is what we would like to focus on today.

The Bill would come into effect on the first day of the next Parliament. Subject to the Church appointing a female diocesan bishop, we could therefore have a female bishop among the Lords Spiritual as early as next year. The Bill is supported by the Church and the Opposition. It has been brought forward by the Government, working closely with the Church, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the bishops, senior clergy and Church officials for their help. In particular, I thank the Archbishop of Canterbury, whom I am delighted to see in the Gallery today.

This is a modest but important Bill, and it has one simple aim: to bring female bishops among the Lords Spiritual sooner rather than later. Given how long women have waited to become bishops, that is right. The House of Lords should not have to wait for an unknowable period before its Lords Spiritual Benches reflect the new make-up of the episcopate. I look forward to further debating these provisions in today’s debates.

3.57 pm

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): The Bill has a single and momentous purpose: to enable vacancies among Church of England bishops in the House of Lords to be filled by female bishops, instead

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of the male bishops who would otherwise have become Members of the House under the current law. It is about recognising the important reform that the Church has undertaken and ensuring it is reflected fully in Parliament.

As the Minister said, the journey has been long, and there has been heated and passionate debate within both the Church and wider society. Over 20 years ago, the Church decided women could be priests. It took a long time, but the success of equality campaigners shows the merits of considered and careful argument taking on a thorny issue and creating a consensus about the need for change, and on 17 November 2014, the General Synod enacted the final legislation necessary to allow women to become bishops.

The Bill represents an important milestone towards gender equality. As the Minister said, if the arrangements legislated for under the Bishoprics Act 1878 were left unamended, it would take years for a newly appointed diocesan bishop to become sufficiently senior to take a place in the House of Lords. For that reason, the Archbishop of Canterbury, after consultation with the Lords Spiritual, requested that changes be accelerated to allow the entry of female bishops into the House of Lords. The Opposition welcome this important change. We applaud the Church’s decision to appoint female bishops and we support its decision to speed up their introduction into the House of Lords.

We are proud of Labour’s record on reform of the House of Lords and the equality agenda. In government, we removed all but 92 of the hereditary peers. We created an elected Lord Speaker and a Supreme Court and we introduced people’s peers. We were the party that introduced the Equality Act 2010, establishing a clear legislative platform to tackle discrimination, including barriers to women in all areas of public life. Against that background, the significance of today’s Bill cannot be overestimated.

For the Church, allowing women to take up a diocese will show a renewed relevance. Experience from other countries is interesting. Research from Denmark shows the effect the Church of Denmark’s decision to promote gender equality has had on the service and presence of the Church in communities up and down the country, with a renewed emphasis on pastoral work and delivering everyday, often practical help to families and communities. Having women at the very top of any organisation not only ensures a female perspective and voice at the top table; it can also improve that organisation’s ability to achieve its wider aims. Research has also shown that female clergy are often less interested in tribal conflicts within the Church and more focused on getting the work done for their members and the community. That is perhaps yet another argument for improving female representation in this place as well.

We should not forget the effect this change will have on wider society. Although church attendance is not as high as it used to be and more people do not identify with any faith, the Church of England remains the established Church in England. It is central to many state occasions and many other aspects of community life. Its presence in wider society remains important. We know from our constituencies, including my own, the impact the Churches have, including the Church of England—for example, in running food banks and working with homeless people and various other community

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groups—as well as the crucial role the Church plays in education. Although operating in different ways, the Church remains a vital institution in our society, so to have gender equality at the very top of its hierarchy is a necessary and long overdue step in the modern world. Ensuring that that is properly reflected here in Parliament seems to me a basic step in affirming this important change.

Let me say something about the broader context of reform of the other place. In supporting the Bill, the Opposition are in no way moving away from our commitment to a democratic second Chamber. We favour an elected senate of the nations and regions, which would ensure a clear voice for the nine English regions in the other place, as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Sir Edward Leigh: Presumably the Opposition are also open-minded about representatives of other religions and denominations being Members of the House of Lords.

Stephen Twigg: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. Part of the argument that I would make for a democratic second Chamber would be about ensuring that the diversity of our modern society is reflected, including people who are from or are representatives of other faiths. There are practical issues with different faiths, such as the representative institutions they have, but as we debate reform of the other place it is absolutely right that, in seeking to have a second Chamber that is a senate of the regions and nations, the diversity of faiths is reflected, alongside the representation of the Church of England.

Diana Johnson: I am very interested to hear what my hon. Friend is saying. He paid tribute to the role of the established Church in this country and then said that it is important, if there is reform of the House of Lords, that other faiths are reflected. Does he think there is a special place for the established Church, while it remains established, in any second Chamber?

Stephen Twigg: My hon. Friend is tempting me to go beyond the realms of this legislation. Let me say this in answer to her. Personally, I am in favour of fully electing the second Chamber, which clearly has implications for whether any Church or other faith is directly represented in it. However, it is important that we engage fully with all sections of society as we look at reforming the second Chamber. That is why, as we said, we think this matter should be considered by a citizen-led constitutional convention, to be set up as soon as possible to examine precisely how we best ensure a senate of the nations and regions. The very proper point my hon. Friend has raised about what that means for direct representation through the bishops in the second Chamber should be part of that consideration.

Today, however, is in a sense an opportunity to leave to one side those wider debates around constitutional reform and the House of Lords. They are important matters, but matters for another day. Today we can all come together to recognise what could be a momentous occasion for our Church and our Parliament—another step towards true gender equality.

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We know there is a long way to go. As the Minister said, female priests were introduced 20 years ago, and out of 8,000 full-time priests in this country, 1,700 are now women. In the original draft of my speech, I pointed to the slow progress that that represented, but on reflection, when I worked out the percentages, I found that there was about same proportion of women priests in the Church of England as we have women Members of Parliament in this House. In other words, the Church of England has achieved in 20 years what we have achieved in over 100 years, so it is very significant progress none the less. Today’s Bill provides an opportunity to build on that progress. It is an important symbolic moment, which is why the Labour party is very pleased to support the Bill today.

4.5 pm

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry): In my capacity as Second Church Estates Commissioner, I should like to thank the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for the support they have personally given to this Bill. I should like also to thank the Leader of the House, the business managers and the usual channels for providing an early opportunity for the Bill to have its Second Reading and other stages undertaken, so that, if agreed by this House, it can go promptly to the House of Lords for consideration, ensuring sufficient time for it to be enacted before this Parliament is dissolved at the end of March.

When in 2012 the General Synod failed to agree a measure that would have enabled women to become bishops in the Church of England, I was summoned to this Chamber to answer an urgent question. Shortly after that, we had a half-day debate. The number of hon. Members present on those occasions—from every part of the United Kingdom and from all political parties—who asked questions and made speeches indicated that Parliament was keen for the Church of England to get on and ensure that women could become bishops. When the General Synod did agree the measure, there was genuine rejoicing and happiness that that could now happen, and that sense of happiness was well reflected in the debates on the measure for women bishops in the House of Lords on 14 October last year and in this House on 20 October.

Bishops have been part of Parliament ever since Parliament began. This year, for example, we will celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, and it is worth recalling that the whole idea of Magna Carta had been initiated by Stephen Langton, the then Archbishop of Canterbury who dusted off a 113-year-old proclamation of King Henry I and showed it to the barons, when the idea of a new improved charter, “a great charter” took hold. Indeed, Magna Carta begins, and I translate from the Latin:

“John by the Grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou, to his Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Earls, Barons, Justices, Forresters, Sheriffs, Reeves, Officers and all his Bailiffs and faithful subjects, greetings. Know that for the sake of God, and the salvation of our soul and the souls of all our ancestors and heirs to the honour of God and the exultation of the Holy Church and of the reform of our Realm, by the advice of our venerable Father, Stephen Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church; Henry Archbishop of Dublin, William Bishop of London, Peter Bishop of Winchester, Jocelain

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Bishop of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh Bishop of Lincoln, Walter Bishop of Worcester, William Bishop of Coventry and Benedict Bishop of Rochester”.

So, it is quite clear that archbishops, bishops and abbots took precedence over earls and barons, and that the list of those from whom the King had taken advice was headed by the bishops. Indeed, we rightly remember that Magna Carta has a number of noble sentiments, such as:

“No free man is to be arrested or imprisoned or disseized or outlawed or exiled or in any other way ruined nor will we go or send against him except by the legal judgement of his peers, or by the law of England”,

and that

“to no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice.”

In fact, the opening commitment of Magna Carta, chapter one, clearly states beyond all of those other commitments to the rights of barons or freedoms of individual citizens:

“Firstly, we have granted to God and confirm by this our present Charter for us and our heirs in perpetuity that the English Church—

“Ecclesia Anglicana” in the original—

“shall be free and shall have its rights in full and its liberties intact and we wish this to be thus observed which is clear from the fact that before the discord with our Barons began we granted and confirmed by our Charter free elections which are considered to be of the utmost importance and necessity to the English Church.”

Sir Edward Leigh: I am very disappointed that my right hon. Friend did not read all that out in Latin. I am sure that you would have been happy to let him do so, Mr Speaker.

Earlier, in an excellent intervention, my right hon. Friend said, quite rightly, that the established Church represented all our churches. I am a warm supporter of the Church of England and its establishment nature, but—I mentioned this earlier—presumably it has no principled objection to the representation of bishops from other denominations, or leaders of other faiths, in the House of Lords.

Sir Tony Baldry: That was made clear in evidence to the Wakeham commission, and by the body that set up the Joint Committee earlier in the current Parliament. However, I think my hon. Friend will find that it is said by the Vatican and by the Roman Catholic Church itself—not just in England, but throughout the world—that bishops and cardinals cannot be members of national legislatures. That is entirely an issue of authority. By definition, any Catholic bishop who sat in the House of Lords would have to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Queen, and the Vatican is not willing to allow Catholic cardinals or bishops to take an oath of allegiance that acknowledges the authority of the Crown.

Sir Edward Leigh: We do not want to become involved in too theological an argument. My right hon. Friend is of course entirely right, but the Catholic Church has absolutely no objection to the appointment to the other place of lay people who can represent the Church. Believe me, I am not trying to talk myself into a job; I am merely making a point.

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Sir Tony Baldry: There are some excellent members of the Roman Catholic Church in the other place, including recent Lord Great Chamberlains such as Lord Camoys, whose ancestors fought at Agincourt. Nevertheless, others who are much more senior than me may well take what my hon. Friend has said as an indication that if there were ever a need to augment the galaxy of talented Catholics in the other House, there would be a willing and, I am sure, very worthy volunteer.

Bishops have continued to contribute to our national decision making down the centuries, although, rightly, they played a much less prominent role as we moved into the modern era. The number of Lords Spiritual has remained at 26 since the Reformation. In 1847, when the passing of the Bishopric of Manchester Act created a 27th diocese, Parliament broke the ancient arrangement whereby all diocesan bishops immediately became Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords, and a queuing system became necessary. Today there are 40 English diocesan sees, five of which confer immediate entitlement to a writ of summons, while the other 35 confer entry to a queue according to seniority for the other 21 places.

There are those who might ask why we still have bishops in Parliament. That issue is much wider than the issues dealt with in this modest Bill, and there will be a range of views on it in both Houses. It is worth remembering, however, that the Wakeham report on reform of the House of Lords concluded:

“The Church of England should continue to be explicitly represented in the second chamber”,

although it added that

“the concept of religious representation should be broadened to embrace other Christian denominations, in all parts of the United Kingdom, and other faith communities.”

I think it fair to say that the Church of England supported that approach.

Earlier in the current Parliament, the Joint Committee on the draft House of Lords Reform Bill resolved that

“bishops should continue to retain ex officio seats in the reformed House of Lords.”

Of course, the Committee was recommending the establishment of a considerably smaller second Chamber. It agreed

“that the number of reserved seats for bishops be set at 12 in a reformed House.”

That would have been proportionate to their present membership.

Speaking recently at a lunch in the Parliamentary Press Gallery, the Archbishop of Canterbury observed in response to a question:

“it is helpful to have an institution that thinks in terms of centuries rather than weeks, which considers the eternal as well as the temporal, the global as well as the local, the grassroots as well as the establishment.”

The House of Lords now has some 790 members, and I think that a total of 26 bishops—in fact, two archbishops and 24 bishops—focusing on the eternal, the global and the grass roots constitutes a worthy and useful addition to Parliament. Each of these bishops has a portfolio or policy area on which they focus. For example, there is a lead bishop for education, a lead bishop for welfare reform and a lead bishop on overseas development, and the bishops work hard at understanding their policy areas and how the Church of England might best make a contribution to policy development.

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It is also worth remembering that the Church of England is part of the Anglican Communion. There are 37 other provinces in the Anglican Communion, mostly in the global south, mostly poor, and many in areas of war and persecution. We have a worldwide network of contacts and briefings different from that, say, of the Foreign Office, and through the archbishops’ and bishops’ membership of the House of Lords we are able to share the benefit of those briefings, intelligence and contacts with Parliament.

As Archbishop Justin observed when he spoke to the Parliamentary Press Gallery:

“We are, by tradition…a Christian society”.

He went on to say:

“The Church generally—and perhaps the Church of England especially—has influence in two ways. First, it is everywhere in England and it does the stuff we think Jesus wants done…Since 2008, the networks of food banks have been set up by the churches. Local churches…are involved in the renewal of the credit union movement, usually with debt counselling. We have chaplains in every prison, every unit of the armed services, every hospital, people living in every parish…we educate almost 1 million children a day, we bury the dead, we marry, we baptise, we care for those ignored, and the list goes on.”

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): My right hon. Friend is making a very powerful speech. On geographical representation, does he agree that often bishops represent parts of our country that are under-represented in Parliament? My own Bishop of Truro does such a good job of representing remote rural communities in the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall, for example.

Sir Tony Baldry: My hon. Friend makes a very good point, and I think the whole House was grateful for the work done by the Bishop of Truro in co-chairing an inquiry by the all-party group on hunger and food poverty.

Archbishop Justin concluded that

“the Church of England remains one of the glues of society”,

and I would suggest it is a worthy glue to be included within the fabric of parliamentary life.

As my hon. Friend the Minister made clear, the provisions in the Bill before the House are straightforward. It is a two-clause Bill which, if passed, will mean that for a period of 10 years the most senior eligible female bishop will fill any vacancy that arises on the Bishops’ Bench for the 21 places in the House of Lords filled by seniority, in preference to the most senior eligible male bishop.

A helpful comment in the Bill’s explanatory note makes it clear that unless the law is changed, it will take “some years” before a newly appointed female diocesan bishop will be eligible to enter the House of Lords. Quite what “some years” means is hard to specify because the period between appointment and going into the Lords has varied greatly over the decades, depending on when retirements and other unexpected vacancies occur. In the past three Parliaments, it has ranged at times from less than four years to at one point more than seven. I think this House, as much as everywhere else in the country, would find it unacceptable if, having waited so long to get women bishops, we then had to wait perhaps the duration of a further Parliament before they started to reach the top of the queue.

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Under the current law, the two Church of England archbishops and 24 of its other diocesan bishops are entitled to sit in the House of Lords as Lords Spiritual. This Bill enables women diocesan bishops to skip the queue, which, when all sees are filled, is 14 bishops long. It is a Bill which, I can assure the House, has the very broadest support across the Church of England. The Bishop of Lincoln, the Right Rev. Christopher Lowson, who is the diocesan bishop currently at the head of the queue—the bishop who, if the law were not changed, would be the next to enter the House of Lords—has with characteristic generosity welcomed the Bill and has observed:

“On the one hand, this is quite frustrating because greater Lincolnshire is under-represented in the House of Lords. However far more frustrating has been the wait for women to be able to be ordained bishop, and for an anachronism to be consigned to history. For that to happen completely, it is absolutely right that women bishops are fully represented in all levels of society, Parliament and the Church, and I look forward very much to seeing that happen.”

The campaigning group WATCH—which stands for Women and the Church—has over many years led the campaign for the ordination of women bishops. Before Christmas it issued a statement, saying it had

“always campaigned for women and men to be bishops on equal terms including as members of the House of Lords…Sometimes, however, equality is so far distant that some speeding up is necessary to make it happen within a reasonable time frame.”

WATCH went on to say:

“The Bill recognises the fact that for the first Diocesan bishops who are women this hasn’t been a level playing field and they won’t have had the same opportunities historically to fulfil their full and true calling.”

The Bishop of Leicester, who is convenor of the Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords, has made it clear that he believes that women bishops will “enrich and strengthen” the voice of the Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords.

As the Leader of the House made clear in business questions recently, if the Bill passes all its stages in the House today, the intention is for there to be sufficient time for the Lords to consider the Bill and for it to receive Royal Assent before Parliament is dissolved. As a result, when women start being consecrated as diocesan bishops, they will be able to take a place in the House of Lords straight away.

I very much support the Bill and commend it to the House.

4.20 pm

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): I am pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry), who made a characteristically interesting and sensible speech. I am also pleased to support the Bill this afternoon. We have had a long wait for women bishops, and it is important that when women are consecrated as bishops in the Church of England they are seen to play a full role at the national as well as the diocesan level. Clearly, it would be unacceptable if there was a seven-year wait, and this Bill tackles that.

The Bill will also be an extremely popular measure. Before Christmas, I went to the annual general meeting of WATCH, the lobby group within the Church of England that has been campaigning, first, for women priests and, now, for women bishops. It is a dynamic group, and many there will be interested in what we do

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today. I have also received a letter from Rev. David Tomlinson, the vicar of Shildon, in my constituency, and there is support throughout the Church, from both men and women, for this Bill. The role of bishops in the House of Lords is important, and the Bill corrects an anomaly. If the Church of England were to continue to appoint only male bishops once women had been consecrated, it would bring into question the legitimacy of the Church having guaranteed places in the House of Lords.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), who spoke from the Labour Front Bench, mentioned the great contribution that women can make to churches and drew on the experience of Denmark. I was particularly pleased about that—[Laughter.] I am half-Danish, so I was pleased. The first time I saw a woman priest was on Ascension day in 1972. As a teenager, that was a complete revelation to me, but I knew then that it was possible, and it has become possible in this country, too. Like him, I want to see reform of the second Chamber and an elected second Chamber. In 1998, I gave evidence to the royal commission on House of Lords reform, suggesting that we should have a Chamber that was elected, but on a non-geographical basis, rather like the city guilds. That would allow us to have people elected by the trade unions, elected from the professions and, indeed, elected from all faiths—that matter was raised by the hon. Members for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell) and for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh). After all, the House of Commons represents people in their communities, and what matters to people is not just where they live, but other issues, too. However, it is clear to all of us that major reform of the House of Lords continues to be some way off, and as long as we have the House of Lords in its current form and constitution, women should be appointed on an equal footing with men. In particular, women bishops should sit in the House of Lords.

4.24 pm

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): I recognise the importance of this Bill, and am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for his work and to the Second Church Estates Commissioner, my right hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry), for the way in which he has set out the matter. I recognise that there are many in the Church who welcome the Bill, and I do not seek to do otherwise. None the less, I do seek to raise constructively just one caveat by way of context, which is that the strength and value of the Church of England as our established Church is the richness that it brings to our public life. While we have the House of Lords in its current form, I certainly firmly believe in the importance of the role of the Lords Spiritual. It is important of course, and the argument has been made, that the Lords Spiritual should represent and be reflective of the Church. To that extent, the Bill fulfils the necessary and appropriate function of recognising the will of the Church decided through Synod.