6.43 pm

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot) (Con): I shall be brief. Every child deserves a fair level of funding. The fact that so many Devon MPs are here today demonstrates how strongly we feel about being the sixth lowest funded authority. We get £4,602 per pupil, which compares with a national average of £5,082—there is a funding gap of £41 million. We face specific problems and I wish to mention two. First, the existing formula contains no recognition of high-growth areas, of which Devon is one. As a result, Devon has to set aside £1.5 million to deal with growth every year for the next seven years. Secondly, the transport costs are completely ignored. We have 16,051 children being bused to school every day—that is 33% of the transport budget. I thoroughly recommend the F40 proposals. They need to be introduced as a matter of urgency. If they were, Devon’s children would be better off by £205.64 per pupil by 2015-16. Roll on the change!

6.44 pm

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): I will, of course, be brief. School funding has been an issue in my constituency and my county for about 30 years. We have been grossly underfunded and nobody did anything about it. We are currently the worst funded in the entire country—£600 per pupil per year below the English average. That hits the schools. Teachers do a great job and pupils work hard, but it puts a huge strain on them and we are seeing a widening gap as a result of that lack

10 Mar 2015 : Column 260

of support, which is why it is such great news that after a huge amount of effort from many people throughout Cambridgeshire, on an issue that I have prioritised, my right hon. Friend the Minister was able to give us £23.2 million a year extra, a 7.9% increase.

That is a large sum and very welcome, but it fills only about half the gap which leaves a typical primary £250,000 a year below the English average. It still leaves us with problems for a number of schools subject to minimum funding guarantees, which will not see all the benefits—typically, smaller urban schools. That problem will continue as long as we do not have a proper national fair funding formula. I am, however, grateful that we have got some more money, finally, for school capital because we are growing fast as well as being grossly underfunded. That will make a huge difference. I massively welcome the pupil premium, which is making a difference to lives in my constituency and in the county. I welcome free school meals, which are making a difference to pupils in the county, but until we have a national fair funding formula, we will not get a fair settlement.

Simon Wright (Norwich South) (LD): Does my hon. Friend agree that there is no reason why the introduction of a new funding formula should jeopardise other elements of spending in the two-to-19 education budget?

Dr Huppert: Indeed. We need the national fair funding formula, free school meals and the pupil premium. That package is the right one.

6.46 pm

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), whom I congratulate on raising this matter, referred to the observation of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) that this subject resembles the Schleswig-Holstein question. As I recall, Palmerston said that of the three people who knew the answer to that, one was dead, one had gone mad and the other one had forgotten the answer. Perhaps that is why it has been so difficult for the Government to do what they pledged to do at the beginning of this Parliament: to introduce—[Interruption.] I am struggling to make myself heard because the Parliamentary Private Secretary is saying that it is ridiculous to suggest that it was difficult for the Government to introduce what they pledged to introduce at the beginning of this Parliament—that is, a national funding formula. It has been extremely difficult.

That is why the Schools Minister last year, rather than do what was promised in the coalition agreement and introduce that new national funding formula in the course of this Parliament, decided, understandably, to throw some money at it. I am not criticising him for finding it difficult to tackle this Schleswig-Holstein-style question with which he has been wrestling for some of the past five years.

Richard Graham rose—

Mr David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD) rose—

Kevin Brennan: I will give way first to the hon. Member for Gloucester, as I mentioned him.

10 Mar 2015 : Column 261

Richard Graham: That is very kind of the shadow Minister. The reason why I used the Schleswig-Holstein analogy was that if one looks at the funding for Gloucestershire at £4,195 per head and compares the schools that we have, which are multicultural, urban, inner-city schools, with those of Birmingham, which get £5,210—over £1,000 more per pupil—it brooketh no understanding. Does the shadow Minister agree?

Kevin Brennan: I know the hon. Gentleman is not the one who is dead, I know he is not the one who is mad, and I do not think he has forgotten the answer because he has tried to provide us with it, but as I said last year when we debated the subject in Westminster Hall, I accept that there are undoubtedly wide disparities in funding among different areas. Some of those disparities—[Interruption.] Again, I am being barracked by the PPS. If he wants to intervene, I will be happy to give way. If not, I give way to the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr Heath).

Mr Heath: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I was one of the founder members of the F40 group back in 1996 as chair of education in Somerset, and signed up to it with a lot of Labour colleagues who then ran county councils, who were equally incensed about this issue. I do not understand—this relates to the point made earlier—why this anomaly was not dealt with when school budgets were rapidly rising. Of course that is more difficult in a period of austerity.

Kevin Brennan: As confirmed in a House of Commons Library note, the hon. Gentleman is correct to say that education funding has fallen by the greatest amount in real terms under this Government, and that secondary funding has borne the greatest burden of that, with it facing a 7.6% cut in real terms during the course of this Parliament. However, people have forgotten that the last Government started this process with a pledge to have a national funding formula, which the coalition Government promised would be delivered during the course of this Parliament, but they have been unable to fulfil that promise because it is not easy.

Mr Jim Cunningham: It is a little rich for the Government parties to raise this issue when they have had five years to sort it out. One would think they were not in government. But there is a more important point here. [Interruption.]

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. In fairness, I have tried to make sure that every Member had a chance to speak. At least respect those who intervene and answer from the Front Bench.

Mr Cunningham: It is a little rich Government Members talking about young people when they are cutting further education budgets, as they have at City college in Coventry by 24%. What does my hon. Friend think about that?

Kevin Brennan: In fairness to the Government parties, they have acknowledged that there was record investment in education under the last Labour Government. It is a fact that we have suffered—check the House of Commons note—a real-terms cut during the course of this Parliament. Under the plans outlined, certainly by the Conservative party, there will be real problems with school funding in the next Parliament.

10 Mar 2015 : Column 262

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con) rose—

Kevin Brennan: I would be delighted to give way, but I cannot if I am to allow the Minister time to speak. [Interruption.]Hon. Members know I would be delighted to give way if we had more time, but I must wind up my remarks if I am to be fair to the Minister and give him an opportunity to respond.

We do need a fair funding formula, but let us acknowledge that it needs to be transparent, and let us all acknowledge, including the Minister, that there will be winners as well as losers in any such process. When the Government laid out their original plans for a national funding formula, they did not outline the details. They had to let the Institute for Fiscal Studies do it for them. It showed that their plans would have resulted in at least one in six schools losing 10% of their budgets, that one in 10 would gain at least 10% and that nearly 20% of primary schools and 30% of secondary schools would experience a cash-terms cut in funding. That is why it is not easy. That is why Ministers have not been able to deliver what they said they would in the coalition agreement. I do not criticise them for that because it is difficult. We need to find a way forward, on a cross-party basis, on a national funding formula. The type of party political sniping we have heard tonight will not help to achieve that.

6.52 pm

The Minister for Schools (Mr David Laws): We have had a short but on the whole excellent debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker) on his leadership of the campaign, on opening the debate, and on putting the case so powerfully and in a way that sought to unite Members across the House. I also pay tribute to the other hon. Members who spoke, who in most cases have been involved in the campaign for quite some time, including the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), the Chair of the Education Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs Spelman), and my hon. Friends the Members for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown), for North Devon (Sir Nick Harvey), for South Dorset (Richard Drax), for Hexham (Guy Opperman), for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris), for Norwich South (Simon Wright) and, of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), who has done such a fantastic job in representing his constituents’ interests on this issue of revenue funding in the same way as he has done on capital funding. As he noted, as a consequence of those representations, parts of the country, such as Cambridgeshire, which were underfunded for many years under the last Government, have at last seen a massive move towards fair funding.

I do not want to make a partisan speech, particularly after the good example set by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester, but I was a little disappointed by the shadow Minister’s response. He might at least have started with an apology for doing nothing in 13 years to correct the problems in the funding formula. I thought that we might have had a clear plan from the Labour party, given that he had so much to criticise about the coalition’s policy, on how he would introduce a national fair funding formula. What I heard was something of a policy free zone of a speech. Perhaps the

10 Mar 2015 : Column 263

lack of support behind him on the Labour Benches indicates the lack of enthusiasm among members of his party to sort out the injustices that have dogged our funding system for so long.

When this Government came to power in 2010, the funding system for schools that we inherited at the start of the Parliament was opaque, irrational and unnecessarily complex at both national and local levels. Similar pupils were funded at vastly different levels simply because they happened to be in different local authorities or in different types of school building. Previous Governments knew that the school funding system was unfair but failed to reform it.

Mr Redwood: Would the Minister suggest that there should be a limit on how big the gap can be between the best and the worst per pupil level of funding, as that would be a starting point for getting some justice?

Mr Laws: That is certainly a sensible principle, and it is exactly what we have tried to do through many of our reforms.

Throughout the Parliament we have introduced major reforms that have improved the fairness and simplicity of the system and laid the essential foundation stones to allow us, the two coalition parties, to introduce a full national funding formula in future. The major reforms we have made are changes to the local funding system, and changes to the way in which we fund disadvantage, with the introduction of the pupil premium and minimum funding levels. Time does not allow me to speak in detail about the first two changes, but I would like briefly to say something about the third—minimum funding levels.

We introduced minimum funding levels last year. I thank not only all the Members who lobbied for that change in the system but the excellent officials in our Department who worked hard, over a sustained period, on the new model. This Government have introduced the first reforms to the distribution of funding between local areas in over a decade. In 2015-16, every local area will attract a minimum level of funding for each of its pupils and schools. The £390 million increase in funding that we introduced as part of minimum funding levels represents a huge step towards removing the historical unfairness of the schools funding system. It ensures an immediate boost to the least fairly funded authorities and puts us in a much better position to implement a national funding formula in the next Parliament. All the logic of the reforms we have made indicates that they should be baselined into funding in the next Parliament. I can certainly make that commitment on behalf of my party; it is for others to make commitments on behalf of their parties.

Mr Graham Stuart: Will the Minister give way on that point?

Mr Laws: I will not, I am afraid, because of the lack of time.

In the next Parliament, multi-year spending plans will allow us to give certainty to local authorities and schools about how we transition to a national funding formula. Meanwhile, no local authority or school will lose out from the introduction of minimum funding levels from 2015-16, but about four in 10 areas will gain. We have already heard from my hon. Friend the Member

10 Mar 2015 : Column 264

for Worcester, whose area gains some £100 per pupil—an increase of just over 2%—as a result of the changes for which he lobbied. My hon. Friend the Member for North Devon has been a great campaigner on this issue for many years and has helped to secure an uplift of about 5% in his part of the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge has helped to secure a huge increase of about 8% for funding in his part of England—an additional £311 per pupil that will make a massive difference to schools. This is only one step in the transition to fairer funding and a national funding formula, but it is the biggest step towards fairer schools funding in a decade.

The three major reforms over this Parliament do not, of course, complete the reform of school funding. We recognise that we still need to introduce a full formula to ensure that pupils with similar characteristics attract the same level of funding regardless of where they live. Nevertheless, I am proud that the changes we have made have delivered the big improvements that we have seen. They put us in a much better position than we were in at the beginning of this Parliament. We now have to do the important preparatory work that will be necessary to put in place a national fair funding formula in the next Parliament. We also need to review funding on deprivation to make sure that it is fair across the whole country, and that we can build on the enormous improvements made in this Parliament and the massive contribution that the pupil premium has made.

We are now in a position to finish the job of introducing, for the first time in decades, a fair funding system for schools in this country. Once we have long-term spending plans, we will be in a position to introduce, in a stable and sensible way, the full national funding system for schools for which Members have argued. Both governing parties in this House—both coalition parties—have put on the record very clearly their commitment to a national fair funding formula. Those of our constituents who care about this issue can best ensure the delivery of this policy through the choices they make—

7 pm

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

Business without Debate

Governance Committee Standing Order Changes

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 9(6)),

That the following amendments to Standing Orders be made with effect from the start of the next Parliament:

Standing Order No. 144 (Finance and Services Committee)

In the title and in line 2, leave out “and Services”.

Line 5, leave out “Management Board” and insert “Executive Committee”.

Standing Order No. 139 (Administration Committee)

Line 8, leave out “and Services”.

Line 13, leave out “sixteen” and insert “eleven”.

Line 14, leave out “of whom five shall be a quorum”.—(Harriett Baldwin.)

Question agreed to.

10 Mar 2015 : Column 265

Delegated Legislation

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

Road Traffic

That the draft Crime and Courts Act 2013 (Consequential Amendments) (No. 2) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 16 January, be approved.—(Harriett Baldwin.)

Question agreed to.

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


That the draft Immigration (Health Charge) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 2 February, be approved.—(Harriett Baldwin.)

Question agreed to.

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


That the draft Groceries Code Adjudicator (Permitted Maximum Financial Penalty) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 28 January, be approved.—(Harriett Baldwin.)

Question agreed to.

European Union Documents

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

EU Development Assistance: EuropeAid’s Evaluation and Results-oriented Monitoring Systems

That this House takes note of unnumbered European Union Document, the European Court of Auditors’ Special Report No. 18/2014: EuropeAid’s evaluation and results-orientated monitoring systems; welcomes the report as an important assessment of the EU’s performance in this area; and supports the Government’s efforts to closely monitor the Commission’s progress in implementing the Court of Auditors’ recommendations, and in pressing the Commission to implement improvements in both evaluation and monitoring.—(Harriett Baldwin.)

Question agreed to.

Delegated Legislation

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

Public Health

That the draft Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 23 February, be approved.—(Harriett Baldwin.)

The Deputy Speaker’s opinion as to the decision on the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 11 March (Standing Order No. 41A).

Business of the House


That at the sitting on Monday 16 March—

(1) the provisions of Standing Orders No. 16 (Proceedings under an Act or on European Union documents) and No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the Motions in the name of Secretary Theresa May relating to the draft Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Acquisition and Disclosure of Communications Data:

10 Mar 2015 : Column 266

Code of Practice) Order 2015, the draft Retention of Communications (Code of Practice) Order 2015 and the draft Authority to Carry Scheme (Civil Penalties) Regulations 2015 and the motion in the name of Secretary Chris Grayling relating to the Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2015; the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of those Motions not later than three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the first of those Motions; and proceedings on those Motions may continue, though opposed, after the moment of interruption;

(2) Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the Motion in the name of Secretary Patrick McLoughlin relating to the draft Drug Driving (Specified Limits) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2015; and

(3) notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 20 (Time for taking private business), the private business set down by the Chairman of Ways and Means may be entered upon at any hour, and may then be proceeded with, though opposed, for three hours, after which the Speaker shall interrupt the business.—(Harriett Baldwin.)


Radiotherapy facility at Lister Hospital

7.2 pm

Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con): This is one of three linked petitions. The other two are from the Stevenage and the Hitchin and Harpenden constituencies. My hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Stephen McPartland) has placed his petition in the bag today, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) will present his shortly.

The petitions are from local residents. They highlight the very tiring journey that cancer patients currently have to make from north Hertfordshire to London for radiotherapy, and call for a centre at the Lister hospital in Stevenage. This petition has 4,211 signatures.

The petition states:

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage NHS England to provide a radiotherapy facility at Lister Hospital in Stevenage in order to make the journey for radiotherapy treatment much easier for patients who live in Letchworth Garden City and the surrounding towns and villages.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Petition of residents of the constituency of North East Hertfordshire,

Declares that patients who are residents of Letchworth Garden City and the surrounding towns and villages have to travel to Mount Vernon Hospital in Hillingdon to receive radiotherapy treatment and that this journey is long and exacting and often has to be made on consecutive days.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage NHS England to provide a radiotherapy facility at Lister Hospital in Stevenage in order to make the journey for radiotherapy treatment much easier for patients who live in Letchworth Garden City and the surrounding towns and villages.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.]


10 Mar 2015 : Column 267

Compulsory CPR and Public Access Defibrillator education

7.3 pm

Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): Following this afternoon’s Westminster Hall debate, during which the Labour Front Bencher committed to the introduction of mandatory life-saving skills in schools, but the Minister would not, I am presenting this petition on behalf of the residents of Bolton West. It is similar to a British Heart Foundation petition signed by 83,500 people.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of Bolton West,

Declares that all young people should leave school knowing how to save a life and further that the Petitioners believe that every child across the UK should be taught CPR and Public Access Defibrillator (PAD) awareness at secondary school in order to become part of a Nation of Lifesavers.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to put measures in place to ensure that every child is taught CPR and Public Access Defibrillator awareness at secondary school.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Compulsory CPR and Public Access Defibrillator education

7.4 pm

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): Following on from the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling), I rise to present this petition on behalf of my constituents and the 83,500 people across the country who want every child to be taught life-saving skills. Our out-of-hospital survival rate for cardiac arrest is 10%. In parts of Norway, it is up to 25%. If we as a country could achieve that by having every child learning how to do basic CPR, it would save 5,000 lives a year. That is something that my party would like to achieve and I hope that it will become Government policy after the next election.

The petition states:

“The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to put measures in place to ensure that every child is taught CPR and Public Access Defibrillator awareness at secondary school.”

10 Mar 2015 : Column 268

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Petition of residents of Cambridge,

Declares that all young people should leave school knowing how to save a life and further that the Petitioners believe that every child across the UK should be taught CPR and Public Access Defibrillator (PAD) awareness at secondary school in order to become part of a Nation of Lifesavers.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to put measures in place to ensure that every child is taught CPR and Public Access Defibrillator awareness at secondary school.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.]


Closure of Dudley Police Station to the public

7.5 pm

Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): I rise to present a petition opposing the closure of Dudley police station to the public. West Midlands police announced last year that Dudley police station is one of 27 across the region that are set to have their front offices closed to the public to protect police numbers in the face of funding cuts. That will leave Dudley as the largest town in the country without a police station that is open to the public.

That is completely unacceptable, which is why I launched the petition. The fact that 2,200 residents, including our former superintendent, Mr Roger Bagley, signed the petition shows that local people agree. Our campaign has kept the station open so far, but we are stepping up our efforts to ensure that it stays open for good. There is huge opposition to the plans in Dudley, which is why the petitioners

“request that the House of Commons urges the Government to make resources available to keep Dudley Police Station open to the public.”

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Petition of residents of the Dudley North constituency,

Declares that the Petitioners are opposed to the proposal to close Dudley Police Station to the public.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to make resources available to keep Dudley Police Station open to the public.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.]


10 Mar 2015 : Column 269

Trading Relationships with Europe

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

7.7 pm

Mr Gordon Brown (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Lab): Across each generation during the long march of our country’s history, we the British people have always had to choose how we engage with the world. In particular, we have had to decide, century by century, how and on what terms we engage with our nearest neighbours in Europe. This generation is no exception.

I acknowledge the current strength of anti-European sentiment in the country and I believe passionately that there is no way forward for Europe other than through reform. I have always insisted on reform of the Commission and its bureaucracy, the Parliament and its accountability, and the flawed economic model of the euro, which I recommended that we should refuse to join, just as we should refuse to Europeanise everything—we should certainly not Europeanise our armed forces, as was recently suggested by my old friend President Juncker.

I asked for this debate not just because we must never allow sections of our country to indulge in the delusion that we can discount the 3 million jobs, 200,000 British companies, £200 billion of annual exports and £450 billion of inward investment that are linked to our trade with the continent, but because we must resist defining every part of our relationship with the continent in confrontational terms that pit Britain against Europe and that wrongly make the issue Britain versus Europe, asking, “Are you for Britain or are you against Britain?”, as if to be patriotic one must reject Europe in favour of Britain.

Up against the view, which I see is represented by some Conservative Members, that sees Britain as wholly separate, defiantly independent of others and standing to gain strength from a European exit, there is another strongly patriotic view, which I believe in passionately, that affirms that Britain is not the Britain we know unless we are outward-looking, unless we are engaged with the continent and unless British values—tolerance, liberty, fairness, social responsibility—play a leading role in shaping Europe and helping Europe to lead in the world.

Let me state three maxims that sum up what I believe is the patriotic view of Britain’s future. The first is the belief that:

“Our links to the rest of Europe, the continent of Europe, have been the dominant factor in our history.”

The second is a desire that we should

“let Europe be the family of nations…doing more together”,

a Europe that is more united, with a greater sense of purpose. The third is to have

“a Europe which plays its full part in the wider world, which looks outward not inward”.

I know that many Conservative Members may find some of those statements challenging or difficult, but they are exactly the statements that Lady Thatcher set out in her seminal Bruges speech in the late 1980s.

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that many Conservative Members could agree with everything he has said so far, and also

10 Mar 2015 : Column 270

recognise that the opportunity in the renegotiation with Europe is to improve Europe for the whole of Europe, not just for Britain, so that this great continent goes forward progressively?

Mr Brown: My view is that the hon. Gentleman does not speak for many Conservative Members, some of whom are present, and he should accept that Britain is linked geographically, historically, economically and culturally, as set out in the Bruges speech, to the rest of the continent. We cannot meet and master the challenges of the future for a country like ours unless we accept that co-operation was always desirable and advisable. Now, in the ever-more interdependent and integrated world we live in, that is even more essential and imperative, not as a surrendering of the British national interest, but as the best way to realise it in the modern world.

Cross-border trade used to be one fifth of the world’s economic activity and it may soon rise to being one half of it—evidence that we can be an island geographically but we can never again be an island economically or geopolitically. Like all Europe, Britain is engaged in the same fiercely competitive struggle for global markets, not just with America but now with Asia, which will soon be what Europe once was—half of the global economy.

Just as the US, the biggest economy in the world, needs its economic union, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the rising Asian nations need to be part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, how much stronger is Britain, which, at her peak, captured nearly 20% of the world’s economic activity but now has only 2.5%? How much stronger will we be in future when competing and negotiating with China, India and the rest of the world to secure the best deals in trade, address pollution, deliver financial stability and set the rules for tax, patents, action on money laundering and corruption, and to protect our basic security, most recently against Russian aggression, as part of Europe?

If we look further ahead, how much stronger will we be in exploiting the economic and employment benefits of modern science, from the human genome to the semantic web to space—projects too big for one country alone—if we, the Britain of 60 million people, have alongside and around us the strength of our neighbours, a Europe of 500 million people? If anyone is in any doubt about the wisdom of co-operation with our nearest neighbours, they should think of how young people today see the world as interconnected and think nothing of linking up and communicating with friends across Europe and the world.

Whether it was our indispensible role in the defeat of Napoleon, the containment of Germany, the defeat of fascism, the resolution of the cold war, or more recently the response to the global recession, Britain is not truly Britain if we are anything other than engaged. Looking at our history, there was never for us, I believe, any long period of splendid isolation, tempting as retreat may sometimes appear. It is never the British way to be anything but in the vanguard in Europe at the continent’s decisive moments. In doing so, we help make Europe the biggest instrument for peace that the world has ever seen, as vital to ensuring stability now against Russian aggression in the east as it was against Nazism at the heart of Europe.

There is not one single shred of evidence that our engagement with Europe has made us any less British, any less true to ourselves, and any less patriotic. What

10 Mar 2015 : Column 271

sort of message will the British people send to the world if we, Britain, the most open, outward-looking, seafaring and trading country the world has ever seen, gives up on centuries of ever-growing co-operation with our nearest neighbours, casts aside the London-Paris-Berlin axis that we have painstakingly built up over decades, and surrenders our rightful influence over future events on the continent, even though it is directly on our doorstep?

What message do we send if, in a betrayal of our history and of our future, the Britain that did more than any single nation to spread liberty across Europe and stood resolutely for democracy, the Britain that helped take on fascism, communism, totalitarianism, anti-Semitism, and is now working with others to defeat extreme Islamic fundamentalism, simply walks away from and abandons our historic role of standing with Europe against ideologies that threaten to deny opportunity and spread prejudice, discrimination and intolerance around the world?

The real challenge is to convert a far too inward-looking, self-obsessed Europe not into some federal superstate—all the European nations that I have visited are proudly independent, with their own traditions—but into an outward-looking, globally oriented Europe with a reach and influence spanning every hemisphere. What message do we send if, by abandoning not only our history of engagement but our history of being at the forefront of Europe, we give up on the opportunities and obligations of a central leadership role in shaping the next stage of our continent’s destiny?

This is the fundamental truth about Britain in Europe. Given our history, the question for Britain can never just be whether we are in Europe; it has to be whether we lead in Europe. Our destiny can never be to be some kind of bit-part player on someone else’s stage or a bystander hectoring from the wings. We must at all times be setting the agenda, bringing people together and championing change. Indeed, Britain makes more sense to the British people, and will enjoy more popular support, if we are more than just part of Europe and we are at its heart, leading from the front and charting the way forward.

The way to reconcile what has too often seemed irreconcilable—in Hugo Young’s famous words, the British past we cannot forget and the British future we cannot avoid—is to see our leadership in Europe not as an abandonment of our patriotism but as the truest modern expression of it.

Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Brown: I have given way once, and I have to get through this.

There is no doubt that millions of our fellow citizens now feel more insecure than ever because of the bewildering pace and destructiveness of what seems to them to be an out-of-control and uncontrollable global economy. They are looking for someone or something to shelter, insulate, protect and cushion them from these bewildering and often alien forces that are on occasion taking their livelihoods from them. They are looking for someone to hold responsible, and they are now being urged to turn what started off as an economic protest, rather than cultural prejudice, into a culture war whose main weapon is to blame foreigners, target immigrants and engender a siege mentality against the outsider.

10 Mar 2015 : Column 272

In this culture war, arid statistics on exports and investment from well-meaning, London establishment-led, corporate-financed campaigns by the great and the good, who will be accused of being elites who do not understand Britain, will appear to many to be no match for the cultural charge from the right that Britain has ceased to be the Britain that they know and love. We cannot win in a culture war which asserts that Britain is no longer a country we recognise just with factsheets about the percentage rises and falls in business investment. Technical arguments are not enough to trump cultural grievances. When we are fighting back in a culture war that others have started, we must take on one strongly felt set of beliefs with another strongly felt set of beliefs.

If we are to win hearts as well as minds, our core message must be bigger than the business case and bigger even than the principled case for engagement in Europe. We must tell the British people not just about our patriotism and our historic role at the hinges of history but about how, through putting our enduring progressive British values to work, we will lead in, and shape the future of, this continent. The Britain that has consistently championed toleration, liberty and social responsibility before any other country in Europe—and that, as far back as the days of Adam Smith, invented the idea of civic society and mutual obligation, influencing Europe massively in the process—is ready once again to lead a progressive movement mobilising Europe towards the greatest challenge we face: to make the global economy and global change work for people by tackling their injustices, their inequities and their unfairnesses, and by giving globalisation what it most needs now—a human face.

Let no one tell us that the Britain that changed the world in every century in modern times is today some powerless, hapless victim unable to wield power in Europe for good. And let no sceptic tell us that we need to be an impotent bystander when we are, by our history, our values and our temperament, the country that is best equipped to lead Europe forward.

So let us deal confidently with the argument that the European single market somehow hobbles our trade with the rest of the world and undermines London. Let us show that London’s unique role, essentially one of bringing together financial services for the continent, could not now so easily be performed outside the European Union. Let us in championing European reform avoid another trap of representing pro-Europeans as the status quo and anti-Europeans as change. Let us be honest with the British people that those who say that if we exit we can retain the benefits and ditch the burdens have not thought through the alternatives, including the folly of the Switzerland or Norwegian alternatives to membership— even the Norwegians warn against the Norwegian option—which leave us subject to European rules but with no vote in shaping them. To rephrase the aphorism, we would be out of Europe but still run by Europe.

Let me end by saying that positioning ourselves half in, half out, as a Britain that is somehow semi-detached and disengaged, the Britain of the empty chair even when we are in the room, is already making us weaker than we have been before. We have been irrelevant on the Greek crisis, a fringe player on climate change and a mere spectator in the debate that could have shaped a European growth policy. We are marginal on Ukraine, with Ministers looking faintly ludicrous as, in one and

10 Mar 2015 : Column 273

the same breath, they say, “Russia must be confronted with a more united Europe,” and, “By the way, we are thinking of leaving Europe.”

In a few years’ time, as the German population falls, Britain can once again become Europe’s biggest and most powerful economy. It would be a terrible irony if, just at the moment we are in an even stronger position to lead in this more interdependent world, Britain were to opt out, leaving Europe divided, Russia empowered, the United States bypassing us for a French-German axis and Scotland threatening to leave a non-European UK. An England that glories in isolation is not the England that I know and love.

Instead we must stand up for a Britain leading Europe, not leaving Europe, and for a Britain that has always seen the English channel not as a moat but as a highway and the North sea not as a defence against engagement in the world but as the route to it. In doing so, we have shaped the destiny of Europe and the world and it is only those defeatists who claim to be championing a patriotic future but who have, in fact, given up on British leadership in Europe who will say that we cannot make leading rather than leaving Europe our mission again.

I stand for Britain in Europe because just as I came into this House believing in Britain, I leave it believing in a Britain that can lead in Europe. I will never stop believing in that vision of Britain’s future.

7.22 pm

The Minister for Business and Enterprise (Matthew Hancock): It falls to me to respond for the Government on this historic occasion of what might be the last speech in the House of the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown). Before I respond in detail to his case, it is only right that the House acknowledges that moment. Since the right hon. Gentleman entered the House in 1983, he has been a warrior for social justice, a master at the Dispatch Box, a Chancellor who dominated both the Treasury and this House, and a Prime Minister who never gave less than his all in the service of his nation.

The right hon. Gentleman has been a brilliant debater, besting Nigel Lawson in his prime and humbling a long series of opponents throughout his career. This House exists to ensure that the great issues of our time are debated, that progress is secured and reforms are made through the vigorous exchange of views and a vote to settle matters. That is why it seems so odd for him to make the case today against vigorous debate, open argument and a vote to settle matters.

The right hon. Gentleman was a champion of the referendum to give Scotland its Parliament, and he spoke movingly and from the heart during the referendum to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom, but he stands steadfast against giving the people of the United Kingdom a debate and a vote on our membership of the European Union. I agree vigorously with him that such votes are won with a fight for hearts and not just heads and bank accounts, but for his party to deny the British people a say in a debate of such central importance to this country is surely to make exactly that mistake. We need that debate and that vote, because no one can be happy

10 Mar 2015 : Column 274

with the status quo. We want the whole of Europe to work better, and we want to resolve once and for all our relationship with it.

We must see a more dynamic, entrepreneurial and innovative Europe, with more jobs, investment and growth. The right hon. Gentleman made that case and it is something of an irony that now, towards the end of his long and distinguished time in this House, he makes the impassioned plea to stay in Europe when he was first elected in 1983 on a party platform to leave it. In this age of global competition—what the right hon. Gentleman coined as the new global economy—we need reform of Europe in order to compete with an increasingly open, connected and competitive world.

These past five years have seen Britain transformed from a country lacking in confidence that suffered the greatest banking collapse in history and in which youth unemployment and our deficit were rising even before the great recession. That was the Britain we found five years ago and it has been the task of this Government to reverse that inheritance with all our energy and all our means and with difficult reforms, which we stuck to even while others told us to turn back.

Now we can see a record number in work—including 6,500 more in work in the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency, where unemployment is also down by a third—as well as 2 million more apprenticeships, 750,000 more businesses, rising living standards and the fastest growth in the G7. We on the Government Benches want to see the whole of Europe reformed for the better prospects and opportunities of people across that continent.

Richard Graham: My right hon. Friend is making a series of extremely valid points about our role in Europe today. Does he not think it symbolic that, just at the moment when this country will have created more jobs than all the rest of Europe put together, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath believes that, somehow, ours is the party that advocates leaving Europe and is no longer at the level of competing with Europe? Surely we are in a position to lead it forward into a much better era of growth.

Matthew Hancock: Our country has been and is being turned around, but it will prosper whatever the institutional arrangements of our relationship with Europe. We are a brilliant country with the most enterprising and innovative people in the world, and it ill behoves anyone, least of all the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, to compare Britain’s future to a brutal dictatorship such as North Korea. For him to compare Britain to North Korea shows a perverted sense of reality. Indeed, he loses heads and hearts when he makes such a comparison

There is nothing God-given about the prosperity of our nation or our continent, but with the right policies there is nothing to stop us becoming the most successful major nation upon earth. That cannot be done, however, without reform.

Those who argue against a referendum make the following case. They speak of the risk to investment, which the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned. However, since my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced our policy of a referendum before the end of 2017, investment to the UK has increased by 14%. We have attracted the most inward investment since records began in the 1980s and business investment has risen by 6.8%.

10 Mar 2015 : Column 275

They speak of the dangers of uncertainty, but this referendum does not bring uncertainty. That uncertainty already exists, because we live in a democracy with an unhappy relationship between the British people and the European institutions. Many of us have never even had the chance to vote on the question. The uncertainty is there because in the past politicians repeatedly signed over yet more powers to the EU and repeatedly refused to ask the British people for their consent.

Just as we were left in 2010 on the verge of bankruptcy, so our credit with the British people on the issue of Europe had run out; and just as we on this side of the House are turning around our nation’s economy, so we plan by this renegotiation and referendum to restore trust in our relationship with Europe by putting the final decision to the British public, whom we are here to serve. The referendum does not create uncertainty; it will resolve it and give the British people the say that they have been for so long denied.

The right hon. Gentleman speaks of jobs, but there are record numbers of jobs, and unemployment has been coming down at a record pace. He speaks of British influence in Europe, but our influence is strengthened, not weakened, by taking a clear-eyed view of the British national interest. I ask this: where was the influence in Europe in the past when red lines were printed in such faint ink that they were stepped over again and again, when rebates were surrendered and powers handed over with so little in return?

Mr Michael McCann (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (Lab): The Minister speaks of red lines. Is he in a position to outline tonight the Government’s red lines in the European renegotiation?

Matthew Hancock: I will tell the hon. Gentleman what we do with red lines. Shortly after his election in 2010, the current Prime Minister threatened to veto a proposal that would have damaged Britain, and our European partners were so used to those threats being made and then abandoned by previous Prime Ministers that they did not believe he was serious. But he was serious and he vetoed the proposal. Now when Britain speaks about the need for reform, we are listened to. That is leadership in Europe: no longer on the hook for eurozone bailouts; no longer increasing the regulatory burden but reducing it; and the European budget no longer rising but being cut. That is our policy.

10 Mar 2015 : Column 276

Let me be clear about our policy in the next Parliament: it is not the narrow vision that sees Europe as the centre of the universe at a time when we export more to the rest of the world than to the EU for the first time in my lifetime, but a patriotic, outward-looking vision of reform and a referendum.

Mr Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): My right hon. Friend will note that this country has turned its back on the policies left behind by the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), just as he has now turned his back on a Minister answering a debate that he himself brought to the House, which is no way to behave—and it was no way to leave the country when he left office.

Matthew Hancock: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It makes clear, does it not, the choice for the British people for the first time in a generation. We on the Government side reject the pessimism that says we can have influence in Europe only by subordinating our goals. Instead, we have influence through the steadfast pursuit of our national interest. We must drive those reforms that are in Britain’s national interest, and in the interests of every member state; a long-term plan for Europe, with free enterprise at its heart, so that the whole continent can rise, compete and thrive in the 21st century. We will stand up for businesses on red tape, for exporters on free trade and for industry on the free movement of capital, and we will restore fairness to the free movement of people, for work rather than benefits. Before the end of 2017 we will put that reformed Europe to the British people in a referendum so that they may decide our future. That is the policy our country needs: reform, vigorous debate and then a vote to settle the matter, putting our trust in the decision of the British people.

As the right hon. Gentleman bows out from this House, and with the best wishes of the House to him and his family, it is that better future that we must surely follow the path to, so that Britain once again can be among the most prosperous nations upon earth.

Question put and agreed to.

7.33 pm

House adjourned.