22 Jun 2015 : Column 715

We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell), although I must correct her slightly. She referred several times to the Bill as “draft legislation”. It is understandable why, as a new Member, she might think it is a draft Bill, and many hon. Members have pointed out that it has the lack of quality of a draft Bill, but it is the actual Bill. This is what the Government have introduced, and they are asking us to give it a Second Reading. I am not surprised that she has decided not to support it tonight, given that in her eyes it is only a draft Bill.

We had a contribution from the hon. Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson)—I am glad to see him in his place—who told us that his wife struggles to get our proceedings on broadband in his constituency, so that she can watch his speeches. I recommend the BBC Parliament channel, where his wife could join dozens of other viewers in enjoying our proceedings. [Laughter.]

My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck) spoke passionately and with great knowledge about adoption. We heard from the hon. Member for Telford (Lucy Allan), who is not yet in her place. I am sure she will be with us shortly. We heard a very fine speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), who put her finger on the shortfalls in the Bill. In particular, she emphasised its illiberality, and I will return to that issue later.

We had contributions from the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately) and from my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson), who brought his great experience from the Education Committee, and pointed out that the Bill does not seem to be based on the Committee reports published earlier this year.

The hon. Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond), who is in her place, told us that she had been a lay inspector, and I very much welcome the expertise she brought to the debate. In responding to my intervention, she showed the difficulty with the vagueness of the definition of coasting. She seemed to suggest that only inadequate schools could be deemed to be coasting. Obviously, there is a lot more we need to tease out in Committee on what exactly the Government’s thinking is on this matter. A lot of hon. Members seemed to suggest that they knew what a coasting school was, but there seemed to be very different interpretations of that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans) spoke passionately about the importance of education and in particular the quality of teaching, and we heard from the hon. and learned Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer). My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) emphasised that the Bill is deficient in not dealing with the key issue of teacher shortages, which we predict will be a problem in the next few years. The hon. Member for Fareham (Suella Fernandes) made a very fine speech, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Peter Kyle), who spoke passionately about schools in his constituency and the need for all of us to be passionate about school improvement.

We had a contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson). My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) made a brilliant speech and put his finger right on the

22 Jun 2015 : Column 716

problems in the Bill and why it is not worthy to be placed in front of the House of Commons. We had contributions from the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich South (Clive Lewis). He took the trouble to congratulate all hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches by saying: “It’s a lovely feeling when you’ve nailed it—I know what it’s like.” He did not add, “even if I say so myself.” He raised extremely important and powerful points about conflicts of interest and the use of public funds and public resources. I am sure we will hear more about that in the weeks to come.

We had a very fine speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh). There were contributions from my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner), who spoke extremely well about schools in his constituency, and from my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor). There were 30 contributions in all from the Back Benches and it was an excellent debate.

Mrs Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (Con): Fairer funding is vital to my area. Do the hon. Gentleman and the Labour party back the F40 fairer funding campaign that is so key to my constituents in Northumberland?

Kevin Brennan: I recommend to the hon. Lady the very good debate we had on this matter in Westminster Hall just before the end of the previous Parliament. I spoke for the Opposition and said we absolutely support fairer funding. If she would like to consult that debate—it is not the subject under discussion today—she will see our position in more detail.

We have had a very good debate. I will deal principally with the education part of the Bill, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) dealt with the clauses on adoption, but there are a few points in relation to adoption that I would like to put on the record. I understand that the solution put forward in the Bill is extremely similar to the one the Government withdrew last year when the measures were put in front of the House of Lords. If I am wrong about that, I am sure the Minister will correct us in Committee, but it does seem that this is perhaps a second bite of the cherry. We will be interested to know from Ministers, if that is the case, why they have come back with this having withdrawn similar proposals extremely recently.

We are concerned about the impact on small specialist agencies and we are also worried about those children who may not be suitable for adoption. I am disappointed that the Bill has so little to say about special guardianship, kinship care, grandparents and long-term fostering. We will want to take up those issues in Committee.


I hope that Members on both sides of the House agree that, fundamentally, all of us—heads, teachers, support staff, governors, parents and even politicians—want the best for our children. I was going to say “politicians, and even parents”, because parents’ rights have been rubbed out by the Bill, but I decided against that in favour of trying to try to establish a point of consensus at the outset of my speech. If all of us want the best for our children, however, why do the Government consistently pursue paths that are not based on evidence of what is best for our children’s education? We have reached an extraordinary state of affairs. A Bill that was cobbled

22 Jun 2015 : Column 717

together during the two weeks after the election has been presented as if it were the answer to all the educational problems in the country, although it patently is not. As the Education Committee said earlier this year,

“the Government should stop exaggerating”.

The Bill has been so rushed and so inadequately drafted that it does not even provide a definition of its central term. Its first clause, on page 1, permits intervention in “Coasting schools”. We agree with the proposition that everyone should seek to tackle underperformance in schools, even schools that may be superficially performing well. Indeed, we championed it in government through, for example, the London Challenge and national challenge programmes. We introduced sponsored academies because we saw them as one way in which entrenched under- performance could be tackled, although not the only way. However, the Government have included the word “coasting” in the Bill without being able to tell anyone what it means. They have not been able to supply draft regulations to explain it in time for this debate, and I understand that they have now announced, through the usual channels, that they will not be able to supply such regulations in time for the start of the Committee stage. Perhaps we should rename this the Adoption and Education Bill, given that Ministers will have to deal with it back to front in Committee owing to their inability to provide a definition of “coasting” in time.

This is no way in which to make law that affects the education of millions of children throughout the country. A Bill should not be introduced when the Government cannot even explain or give a definition of its central term. I am reminded of a scene in the film “The Wrong Trousers”, starring Wallace and Gromit, when Gromit has to lay the track when the train is already racing along apace. If the Government cannot define “coasting” at the point when we are debating the Bill in the Chamber, they obviously deserve their own “inadequate” rating.

Why does the Bill have nothing to say about academies? Everyone who is involved in education knows that a school is a school, and that its success is built not on the nameplate on the sign outside, but on the quality of the leadership and teaching within. If the answer to turning around a failing school is always to make it an academy, what is the answer to turning around a failing academy? As the Secretary of State acknowledged recently, there are many of them—145, at the latest count—including IES Breckland, which is managed by a for-profit provider, and which has been deemed inadequate for more than a year without its sponsor being removed. So much for the right hon. Lady’s statement that

“a day spent in special measures is a day too long where a child’s education is concerned.”

That is not the case, it would seem, when the child attends an academy that is run by a favoured foreign edu-business. A fundamental flaw at the heart of the Government’s approach is that they do not even entertain that question in the Bill.

Why do the Government not listen to the Conservative councillor David Simmonds, the chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board? He recently said:

“Hundreds of schools, often in disadvantaged areas, are being turned around thanks to the intervention of local councils.

22 Jun 2015 : Column 718

It’s clear that strong leadership, outstanding classroom teaching and effective support staff and governors are the crucial factors in transforming standards in struggling schools.

We want to see bureaucratic barriers that have for a long time prevented councils from intervening swept away…We need to ensure that we focus our resources on ensuring there are enough outstanding school leaders, rather than on structures and legal status, as it is this which makes the difference we all want to see.”

That sounds to me like common sense from a Conservative councillor at the sharp end trying to deliver a quality local education, rather than the proclamations of remote Conservative Ministers who take their cue from right-wing think tanks and policy wonks with an ideological axe to grind.

Catherine West: Does my hon. Friend agree that Councillor Simmonds has also added to the debate about school places, particularly in London, where he is a representative? So many parents raise with us daily, in surgeries and emails, their worries about their three and four-year-olds. Indeed, we also need to be predicting that when they turn 13 there will be a secondary school crisis.

Kevin Brennan: I agree with that and say to my hon. Friend that teacher recruitment and the problem she raises are serious lacunas in the Bill.

The comments I cited sound like common sense from a Conservative councillor because this Bill is not only severely undercooked, but breathtakingly illiberal and in direct opposition to the Government’s professed desire to devolve power to communities. Let us be clear about this: the Bill seeks not only to extend the power of the state, as exercised by the Secretary of State, who is not even listening, to impose its will locally, but to remove the ability of local communities to object to, or even to make representations against, the exercise of that state power. We can see that she does not like to listen because she will not listen to local communities or even to the debate in this House. It is said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but what of power wielded by the state without even the right to make representations against its use, which in addition creates a duty to conform, comply, co-operate and promote the exercise of that state power? How have we reached a state of affairs in Conservative education policy where that is regarded as democratically acceptable? It would seem that not only does the Prime Minister not know the meaning of the words “Magna Carta”, as we saw on David Letterman’s TV show, but, as Tony Hancock might have put it, the poor Hungarian peasant girl did after all “die in vain”.

This is a horrible little Bill in so far as it extends to education. It is more of an election slogan than a piece of genuine education statute, written in a rush, out of a need to do something rather than the need to do the right thing. It could be so different: we could be recognising that real school improvement is based on the sort of approach taken by Sir David Brailsford, who took the Great Britain Olympic cycling team to such great heights. It could have been based on teamwork, collaboration, and a passion for excellence, success and the accumulation of marginal gains, not on a fetish with structures and policies that are unfounded in evidence. Perhaps we could have an educational equivalent of NICE—the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence—and have a national institute for clear evidence in education policy, which would put a stop to the educational

22 Jun 2015 : Column 719

quackery of Ministers, which leads to the empty “exaggeration” so heavily criticised earlier this year by the Education Committee. Then, perhaps, we could agree with a vision based on that insight I mentioned at the outset, which is that deep down we all want the best for our children.

We should therefore have a vision where we promote partnership and collaboration to raise standards, with an inspection system where quality inspectors provide challenge and support, rather than having low-quality private contractors. We could have a system where standards trump structures and where every child matters. Despite the claim in the explanatory notes that the Bill intends

“to improve education for all children”,

those in coasting or failing academies are ignored by the Bill. We could have a vision where: parents are listened to; teachers are trusted; school admissions are made fairer; special needs are taken seriously; genuine social mobility is promoted; more than the one pathway to success—GCSE, A-level and then university—is valued and promoted; more than data matter; and exams are not used as a tool to narrow education but as an instrument to accredit broad and balanced learning. We could have a system that believes in more than teaching to the test.

To be an educator or a teacher is an incredible privilege. It is one that I was fortunate enough to enjoy for many years. It is a very hard job. It is much harder, believe it or not, than being a Member of Parliament, and it is so much more than what is envisaged in this dreary Bill. To be a legislator is also a privilege, and we can do much better than this.

9.40 pm

The Minister for Schools (Mr Nick Gibb): This has been an excellent debate on issues that could not be more important to hon. Members and to the country. In 2010, the coalition Government inherited a legacy of stagnation. The voices of complacency told us that all was well—key stage 2 results were rising and GCSE grades were inflating. But the reliable data told a different story. International benchmarks consistently showed that our schools were failing to progress, while those elsewhere—in Poland, Germany, Austria and Estonia, for example—were leaving us behind.

The adoption system was too bureaucratic and time consuming and left some of our most vulnerable children waiting too long. We were not prepared to accept the status quo. Our reforms of education and adoption over the past five years have been the most radical and far-reaching for a generation. They have led to dramatic improvements across the country.

Today, 100,000 more six-year-olds are on track to become confident readers as a result of our focus on phonics. Some 200,000 fewer pupils are persistently absent from school compared with five years ago, and more than 1 million more children now attend a good or outstanding school than in 2010.

The work of the Minister for Children and Families to improve the adoption system meant that, last year, more than 5,000 children were found the permanent home that they desperately needed—a record increase of 26% in just 12 months. It is now around four months quicker for children to be placed in a stable loving home.

22 Jun 2015 : Column 720

Such improvements have been secured thanks to the hard work and expertise of teachers, social workers and adoption teams. They are all motivated by the same passion for building a fairer society, in which every child reaches their potential, regardless of their background. Despite their efforts, too many children are still not getting the start in life that they deserve. Even after the rapid improvements of the past five years, 1.5 million children still attend schools that are less than good.

Wendy Morton (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): Schools in my constituency of Aldridge-Brownhills are a key issue. I welcome this Bill. May I put in an early plea for a ministerial visit, so that I can show the Minister the good things and the challenging aspects of the education system in my constituency?

Mr Gibb: I would be delighted to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency. The Chief Whip is in his place, and I am sure that he will allow an early visit.

Wes Streeting: The Minister is more than welcome to visit my constituency, as he did during the election campaign. I very much enjoyed playing the recorder with him. Given the stab that Government Members have made at defining a coasting school, will he put us out of our misery and give us his definition of a coasting school? He has not yet told us.

Mr Gibb: The hon. Gentleman will just have to be patient. I will say a bit more about that later.

By strengthening our ability to turn around failing and coasting schools, the Bill will ensure that more children receive a good education, regardless of background, neighbourhood or circumstance.

The adoption system remains fragmented and inefficient. Around 180 different adoption agencies currently recruit and match adopters to children in need of a caring, stable home. That over-localised system cannot deliver the best service to some of our most vulnerable children. We are therefore introducing regional adoption agencies, which will work across local authority boundaries and in partnership with voluntary adoption agencies, to find the right homes for children without delay. That policy was supported by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Devon (Mr Streeter), who spoke powerfully about the need for ongoing adoption support.

We had some excellent speakers and speeches in the debate, but we also had one not so excellent speech from the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt), who wanted to know when he could see the definition of the word “coasting”. He should not be so concerned about the definition of “coasting”, because his performance today falls squarely in the “failing” category, which is very well defined. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we intend to publish draft regulations on the definition of coasting schools for full parliamentary scrutiny in Committee. We can be clear now about the principles that will underpin the definition. This is fundamentally about social justice and a coasting school is one in which pupils are not reaching their potential. Will the hon. Gentleman support that definition?

Tristram Hunt: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Will he now provide us with the legal definition of a coasting school, given that we are voting on his Bill in exactly 13 minutes? What is the legal definition?

22 Jun 2015 : Column 721

Mr Gibb: We have made it very clear that the hon. Gentleman will see the legal definition of a coasting school on the first day in Committee. He will have plenty of time to table amendments to clause 1 in Committee.

We have had some excellent maiden speeches today, including that from the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan), who cited the recent education initiative in Scotland, the 1496 Education Act, and pointed out the challenge of having aspiration when living in destitution. Of course, only aspiration and education provide an escape route from destitution. That is the whole objective of our education reforms.

In a moving maiden speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry), I was struck by his Reginald Perrin-like commute on the 6.41 from Surbiton. I noted also that his parents were both teachers, and we were all—[Hon. Members: “There he is.”] He moved—perhaps on the 6.41 from Surbiton. We were all saddened to hear that his father died soon after his selection as a parliamentary candidate. The same thing happened to me in 1996.

James Berry: May I follow my maiden speech with a request that the Minister meet me and other new colleagues who are passionate about increasing social aspiration through education, so that we can share with him our experiences and examples of best practice locally?

Mr Gibb: I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend. That sounds like an invitation to meet in the Palace of Westminster, so I am sure that the Chief Whip will allow it to happen.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton made very clear his commitment to education and high aspiration for all children, which I have no doubt were inspired by his parents. We also heard a passionate maiden speech from the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown), who had some interesting ideas about how we can ensure a Conservative majority in the House of Lords by culling some of the Labour Members.

In a humorous maiden speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (William Wragg), a former primary school teacher, fretted about how his first contribution would be rated by Ofsted, but I can tell him that the Secretary of State has intervened and graded his first speech as outstanding. He is right to believe that real Ofsted inspections should be done with and not to schools.

In an honest and thoughtful maiden speech, the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) pointed out that the education system in Wales is sliding down the international league tables. That country has steadfastly refused to follow the reform programmes that we have introduced in this country.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): Is my hon. Friend aware that when I was on “Any Questions?” with Carwyn Jones, who is the leader of the Welsh Government, he told me and the listeners to BBC Radio 4 that the Labour Welsh Government had taken their eye off the ball on education? His words, not mine.

Mr Gibb: I think Mr Jones is absolutely right, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention.

22 Jun 2015 : Column 722

In a funny and self-deprecatory maiden speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate (Luke Hall) described how he was slightly taken aback by the ease and grace with which his employer took his resignation from the company on his election to Parliament. He made a serious point, however, about the importance of a good-quality education to a good start in life—something this Government are committed to giving to every young person.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson), in an excellent maiden speech, expressed concern about the quality of broadband in parts of his constituency. Given the quality of his speech, I do hope that his wife managed to live stream it. My hon. Friend has already become an active member of the F40 group and today he again made the compelling argument for fairer funding. He also mentioned apprenticeships and, more broadly, the value of people working their way up to gaining experience in work. The Government are committed to 3 million apprenticeship starts over this Parliament, building on 2.2 million starts since 2010. These are real, paid jobs with real training.

A number of Opposition Members claim that the Government are wrong to pursue sponsored academy status to turn around failing or coasting schools, but it is the success of the academies programme over the past five years, and indeed before that, that gives us confidence that this is the right approach. The chief inspector of schools, in his annual report, wrote that:

“Overall, sponsor-led academies have had a positive and sustained impact on attainment in challenging areas”.

That is backed up by results that show that sponsored academies are improving their performance faster than maintained schools.

Christian Matheson: Is it not the case that Ofsted recently dispensed with the services of up to 40% of its inspectors? Does not that call into question the quality of some of the more recent school inspections?

Mr Gibb: Including the outstanding grade awarded to St Martin’s Academy in the hon. Gentleman’s Chester constituency? I would not be too scathing about Ofsted judgments if I were him.

Secondary schools that have been academies for four years have GCSE results that are, on average, six percentage points higher than results in the predecessor school. By comparison, results in local authority maintained secondary schools are, on average, 1% higher now than they were in 2010. For example, Outwood Academy Portland in Nottinghamshire became a sponsor-led academy in June 2012. In 2012, the proportion of pupils achieving five good GCSEs was just 57%; last year, the figure had jumped to 76%. There are many more examples that show how a school being an academy improves academic standards.

The Bill is about social justice. It is another important step to ensuring that all our state schools are delivering the quality of education currently found in only the best and that our adoption system is swift and efficient, so children can escape the unhappiness of a life of neglect or the uncertainty of life in care as swiftly as possible.

This Bill is about one nation—more action to ensure that schools in weak local authority areas such as Knowsley are as strong as schools in the best performing

22 Jun 2015 : Column 723

parts of the country; further progress to ensure that every child is a fluent reader by the age of 6, not just at Ark Priory Primary Academy in Ealing, but in every school in the land, and that every child is fluent in arithmetic and knows their times tables by the age of 9. We want every parent’s local secondary school to be preparing their children for life in a competitive world, and giving their children the best academic education, the best GCSEs, the best preparation for work, college or an apprenticeship, and the best preparation for entry into the best universities. We want that standard to be high in north Yorkshire, Blackpool, London, Birmingham, the west country and throughout the nation, in rural areas and on our coasts. That is what we mean by one nation.

We want those standards for everyone, regardless of social or economic background. That is what we mean by social justice. It involves taking on the vested interests, which is why in this Bill we are asking for the powers to say no to those who frustrate or delay improvement—enemies of aspiration and rigour. If hon. Members across the House believe in social justice, and if they believe in a one-nation education system, I urge them to support this Bill.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The House divided:

Ayes 193, Noes 308.

Division No. 22]

[

9.56 pm

AYES

Abrahams, Debbie

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Benn, rh Hilary

Betts, Mr Clive

Blomfield, Paul

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burnham, rh Andy

Butler, Dawn

Byrne, rh Liam

Cadbury, Ruth

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Julie

Cooper, Rosie

Cox, Jo

Coyle, Neil

Crausby, Mr David

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cummins, Judith

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

De Piero, Gloria

Debbonaire, Thangam

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Peter

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Fletcher, Colleen

Flint, rh Caroline

Fovargue, Yvonne

Foxcroft, Vicky

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Greenwood, Margaret

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Haigh, Louise

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harpham, Harry

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Hayman, Sue

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mr Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hermon, Lady

Hillier, Meg

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hollern, Kate

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Huq, Dr Rupa

Hussain, Imran

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kinnock, Stephen

Kyle, Peter

Lammy, rh Mr David

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Clive

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Lucas, Ian C.

Lynch, Holly

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

Matheson, Christian

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McInnes, Liz

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Murray, Ian

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Osamor, Kate

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Perkins, Toby

Phillips, Jess

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Qureshi, Yasmin

Rayner, Angela

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees, Christina

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rimmer, Marie

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Ryan, rh Joan

Shah, Naz

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sherriff, Paula

Shuker, Mr Gavin

Siddiq, Tulip

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Andy

Smeeth, Ruth

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Cat

Smith, Jeff

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Smyth, Karin

Spellar, rh Mr John

Starmer, Keir

Stevens, Jo

Streeting, Wes

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turley, Anna

Turner, Karl

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

West, Catherine

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodcock, John

Wright, Mr Iain

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Ayes:

Tom Blenkinsop

and

Nic Dakin

NOES

Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Allan, Lucy

Allen, Heidi

Amess, Sir David

Andrew, Stuart

Ansell, Caroline

Argar, Edward

Atkins, Victoria

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Mr Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Borwick, Victoria

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Sir Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, rh Alistair

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, Neil

Cartlidge, James

Caulfield, Maria

Chalk, Alex

Chishti, Rehman

Churchill, Jo

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Cleverly, James

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Costa, Alberto

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, Byron

Davies, Chris

Davies, Glyn

Davies, James

Davies, Mims

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Donelan, Michelle

Double, Steve

Dowden, Oliver

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Fernandes, Suella

Field, rh Mark

Foster, Kevin

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Frazer, Lucy

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Fysh, Marcus

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Ghani, Nusrat

Gibb, Mr Nick

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, rh Robert

Hall, Luke

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, rh Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heappey, James

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Heaton-Jones, Peter

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoare, Simon

Hollinrake, Kevin

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Howlett, Ben

Huddleston, Nigel

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

Javid, rh Sajid

Jayawardena, Mr Ranil

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kennedy, Seema

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Main, Mrs Anne

Mak, Alan

Malthouse, Kit

Mann, Scott

Mathias, Dr Tania

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Merriman, Huw

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Mrs Maria

Milling, Amanda

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Opperman, Guy

Paisley, Ian

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Philp, Chris

Pickles, rh Sir Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Pow, Rebecca

Prentis, Victoria

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pursglove, Tom

Quin, Jeremy

Quince, Will

Raab, Mr Dominic

Redwood, rh John

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Robinson, Mary

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Sandbach, Antoinette

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Royston

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Solloway, Amanda

Soubry, rh Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Sunak, Rishi

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Thomas, Derek

Throup, Maggie

Timpson, Edward

Tolhurst, Kelly

Tomlinson, Justin

Tomlinson, Michael

Tracey, Craig

Tredinnick, David

Trevelyan, Mrs Anne-Marie

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Tugendhat, Tom

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, rh Mr Andrew

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Warburton, David

Warman, Matt

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Whately, Helen

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Craig

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Wragg, William

Wright, rh Jeremy

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Margot James

and

George Hollingbery

Question accordingly negatived.

22 Jun 2015 : Column 724

22 Jun 2015 : Column 725

22 Jun 2015 : Column 726

22 Jun 2015 : Column 727

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 62(2)), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Education and Adoption Bill (Programme)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Education and Adoption Bill:

Committal

1. The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.

Proceedings in Public Bill Committee

2. Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Tuesday 14 July 2015.

3. The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.

Consideration and Third Reading

4. Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.

5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.

6. Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading.

Other proceedings

7. Any other proceedings on the Bill (including any proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further messages from the Lords) may be programmed.—(George Hollingbery.)

Question agreed to.

education and adoption Bill (money)

Queen’s recommendation signified.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order no. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Education and Adoption Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under any other Act out of money so provided.—(George Hollingbery.)

Question agreed to.

Mr Speaker: Perhaps I can appeal for the co-operation of colleagues. They should follow the example of the right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan), who is leaving the Chamber in a most decorous manner, as is his wont. If colleagues are, unaccountably, declining to stay to listen to the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Jason McCartney), perhaps they could leave quickly and quietly so that we can hear the thrust of his case on stone theft.

22 Jun 2015 : Column 728

Stone Theft

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

10.11 pm

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): I am delighted to have been granted this Adjournment debate on stone theft, which is plaguing my local communities in the Colne and Holme valleys and Lindley. There have been some light-hearted comments about the unexplained disappearance of a certain slab of stone with writing on it towards the end of the general election campaign; however, for my constituents, stone theft is extremely serious. Our heritage is being systematically dismantled.

Stone theft in my beautiful part of West Yorkshire has reached epidemic proportions. For the past two years I have been receiving weekly reports from my local West Yorkshire police of multiple stone thefts. Many constituents have told me of their first-hand experiences of this ever-increasing crime. Homes, schools, farms and places of worship have been victims of thieves snatching building materials. Roof tiles, topping stones on dry stone walls, York stone path slabs and many other types of stone are being systematically stolen. Some are clearly being sold on. Others are being used by rogue builders so that they do not have the expense of sourcing their own materials.

Scapegoat Hill Junior and Infant School was targeted by stone thieves twice in less than a fortnight. Slates were stolen from the school roof overnight. They were replaced at great expense, but just a couple of days after the scaffolding had come down they were stolen again.

Places of worship have been repeatedly targeted. A freedom of information request by my local newspaper, the Huddersfield Examiner, to West Yorkshire police has revealed that since 2012 building materials have been by far the most commonly stolen items from religious buildings in my area. Shockingly, the figures show that thieves have targeted places of worship in Kirklees 132 times in the past three years. Earlier this year, 200-year-old Yorkshire stone paving slabs were ripped up from Christ Church in Linthwaite. Replacing them cost in excess of £2,000. Nowhere has been safe from this crime.

Mr Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that this crime is far more prevalent than people appreciate? Last year, in my own village of Pendleton, Mr Tony Ormiston had eight slabs removed from his backyard. It seems to me that stone theft is not taken as seriously as it should be.

Jason McCartney: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and it is why I wanted to highlight this issue. The problem is of epidemic proportions in my constituency, where we have so much wonderful stone, whether it is on pathways or stone walls, or on buildings and places of worship. That is why I wanted to bring the matter before the House.

A constituent from South Crosland has told me how distressing it was when just two weeks ago vehicles pulled up in the middle of the night at their farm and thieves took away the topping stones of their boundary walls. Those walls have marked the boundary of their farm for hundreds of years. The toppings on the walls are very old black-faced local sandstone and hard to replace.

22 Jun 2015 : Column 729

Another constituent from Colne Valley told me that the theft of stone slates is totally out of hand in the valley and has asked for the sale of stone to be registered in the same way as scrap metal. I shall come to that in a moment. Meanwhile, just up the road in Leeds, in the past year, Leeds City Council has replaced £50,000-worth of York stone stolen from pavements across the city—an increase of more than 50% on the previous 12 months. That comes at a time when local council budgets are tight. It is costing tens of thousands of pounds, and as I have said, these are far from victimless crimes.

I am proud that the coalition Government acted very quickly to tackle metal theft. The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, which requires dealers to hold a licence to trade and gave councils powers to deal with rogue businesses, slashed the number of metal thefts. The targeted operations against unscrupulous scrap metal dealers, in conjunction with police and local agencies, resulted in more than 1,000 arrests for theft and related offences, and police seized more than 600 vehicles involved in that kind of criminality. Statistics show a 40% fall in the number of offences in the first three months after the passage of that Act, to the end of March 2013, compared with the three months to the end of June 2012, so the action taken then was incredibly successful against metal thefts. We are looking at that sort of action to try to curb the crime of stone theft.

I would like to praise West Yorkshire police for their action so far in tackling the epidemic of stone thefts in my part of West Yorkshire. They have launched a campaign using SmartWater. The Kirklees safer communities partnership acquired funding to protect walls in the area with SmartWater—for those who do not know, that is a uniquely coded forensic liquid that shows up under an ultraviolet lamp. It means that stone merchants or police can easily identify whether stone is stolen, and if so, it can be traced back to its original location. Letters went to hundreds of homes, warning residents of the dangers of stone theft and advising ways to protect their home and property. A similar project that operated in my area recently led to a temporary reduction in incidents of stone theft.

Many of these thefts take place in broad daylight with thieves posing as workmen—sometimes they are even brazen enough to wear dayglo jackets—so vigilance is definitely required. In the last week, West Yorkshire police have had a publicity campaign with Yorkshire’s world-famous landscape artist Ashley Jackson highlighting that the theft of stone from our beautiful stone walls causes great damage to our countryside and our heritage. I have the leaflet here, which says:

“Yorkshire Stone. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Our landscape is not replaceable so let’s stop the thieves from taking it. Stone theft and the removal of old stone tiles from roofs might look innocent activity. Examples of where this could be happening include a rural location, outside a church, from someone’s garden or in the middle of a town or village. You have no way of knowing if it is a job of work or a theft.”

The police advise:

“See it, note it, let’s hang on to our Yorkshire.”

That is the scale of the problem. I appreciate that this is not as straightforward as tackling metal theft, as the materials are not always sold on immediately for cash. However, I will finish with three specific policy requests.

22 Jun 2015 : Column 730

First, I would like there to be a dedicated stone theft taskforce, like the one that was set up to tackle metal theft in 2011. Secondly, I would like there to be a national and regional awareness campaign so that householders and businesses that deal with stone, tiles and paving slabs check where they are from, and so that the public can challenge those who pose as workmen in dayglo jackets, whether they are ripping up stone pavements or taking off roof tiles. Finally, I would like to see an increase in the fines that are handed out to those who are convicted and the introduction of exemplary punishments to deter these extremely antisocial criminals.

Our heritage is being stolen, brick by brick. Let us tackle the scourge of stone theft, as we did metal theft.

10.22 pm

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice (Mike Penning): It is a pleasure to reply to my first Adjournment debate of the Parliament. The subject caused some smirks among my colleagues when I mentioned it to them, but they would realise that they were wrong to do so if they knew what was happening in their constituencies and in Colne Valley.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Jason McCartney) on securing this debate. His comments concentrated on heritage and high-value stone. In general, stone has become a very expensive commodity. It is used in myriad different ways in our communities. Often, people do not know whether it is old or not, because it can be made to look old and it matures quickly.

Stone theft is not new, but has been going on for many years. Once, I was a young man, Mr Speaker, and as a fireman in Essex, I would go and fish off Canvey island on my off days. Many Members will know that Canvey island flooded badly back in 1952. I used to beach-cast off the point and sometimes, in the early hours, just as it was getting light, I would suddenly see some characters creeping around. I was sure that they were not fishermen, because I knew the community quite well. In fact, people were stealing stones from the breakwater—the walls that protected an area that is prone to flooding. That was some 30 years ago. Mobile phones were not available then and it was difficult to report it. When I had conversations with the police, which firemen often did, they said that it was known to them, but very difficult to handle.

This is an opportune moment for my hon. Friend to bring this matter to the House. As he said, the Government acted quickly on scrap metal and iron. Appallingly, some historic pieces of wrought iron vanished from our streets and communities, just to be melted down for scrap. In my constituency, people were injured in industrial areas when they fell down places where the grates had been removed. People walking their normal routes to work in the morning, particularly during the winter, went straight down the drains. That was very dangerous indeed.

As this is such an important issue, people would be right to assume that West Yorkshire and other constabularies are doing their best to tackle it. I will rule out nothing that my hon. Friend has asked for this evening. We are already working on two of the three things he asked for and I will touch on those in a moment. However, it is much more difficult than introducing the sanctions and licensing that we brought in for metal, as I am sure he understands.

22 Jun 2015 : Column 731

The chief constable for my area, Chief Constable Andy Bliss of the Hertfordshire Constabulary, heads up the efforts against heritage theft in the United Kingdom on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers. I have raised this matter with him and he knows about it, not least because the milestones were stolen in my constituency. You know my constituency well, Mr Speaker. I have the great privilege of having Watling Street, the Roman road, going through my constituency. Interestingly, we got back the milestones that were stolen from it, but it was the public who were the eyes and ears in that.

We often think of neighbourhood watch as being in our towns and cities, but it is vital in our rural communities as well. Over recent years, neighbourhood watch has come together well to tackle such thefts, particularly from farms. SmartWater has helped to prevent expensive farm machinery from being stolen, often to order. I am pleased to hear that West Yorkshire police is using SmartWater, which requires infrared light to see that something has been marked.

It is not just about stone, and it is not just about heritage; it is about slate; basically, where people feel they can make a profit, they steal. Therefore, we need to ensure that we have legislation on the statute book. Across the country, police forces are aware of the problems and are treating them seriously. As Policing Minister, I say to the 43 authorities under my control that they need to take this matter enormously seriously. I expect it to be brought up and addressed at the next chiefs’ meeting.

The Crown Prosecution Service already has 14 specialised prosecutors in this area. I will meet the Solicitor General in the next couple of days to ensure that we know exactly where they are based, and I will then write to my hon. Friend. I do not want to give out too much information about where they are based, because we need to surprise some of those people who think they can get away with whatever they feel like. We need to have some high-profile prosecutions and ensure that the full force of the law is brought down on them.

The impact of this sort of theft is not isolated. It is not just a theft on a farmer or on a local authority or on the breakwaters that protect our coastline. As has been alluded to, it is about where the money could have been spent otherwise. If people are involved in this sort of criminality, they are often involved in other sorts of criminality. One thing we must ensure is that we have a publicity campaign. When people purchase these stones, they need to ask where they come from. It is often the case that if we start asking questions, the people standing on the doorstep trying to sell them to us vanish quite quickly—I was asked recently whether I wanted cash-in-hand building work done on my house, and when I told them what I did for a living, they vanished rather quickly. They were obviously not from my area. It is important to recognise that we, the public, have a responsibility as well; it is not just an issue for the police and prosecutors.

Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con): One big issue in my constituency during the two years of my listening campaign was rural crime. That was a pressing problem, particularly in the east Northamptonshire villages. The Northamptonshire police are dealing with it in two ways. The first is through introducing a parish special scheme, which will have a “volunteer special” on the

22 Jun 2015 : Column 732

beat and available to local residents so that they can have some reassurance and be able to report things. The second is that we are seeing much more cross-border policing through the “futures” policing scheme, which I think is welcome. Does the Minister agree that what we need is more police officers out on the beat, catching criminals and deterring crime on a continual basis?

Mike Penning: That is a leading question. Let us start with the first point. The specials play a vital role in our communities. Long before I was the Policing Minister, I had the pleasure of launching in my own constituency not only rural specials, but mounted rural specials. Members of the rural community felt that they were able to be out there protecting their own livelihoods and homes. Even though we have had these difficult times of austerity over the last five years, there are in percentage terms more officers in uniform on the beat than there were before 2010—and, of course, crime has dropped by 20% across the nation as a whole. We must not be complacent: as crime changes, police forces must change the way in which they detect different sorts of crime. I cannot think of a better group of people to serve as rural specials than the people who live in the constituency, who know the people that live there and actually feel part of the community. Anybody listening to this evening’s debate—I am sure there will be millions—can hear my encouragement: please sign up to be a special; it is never too late to do so; the age restrictions on the specials are very generous.

Mr Nigel Evans: I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Jason McCartney) on his successful Adjournment debate. He asked for exemplary sentencing. Does the Minister agree with me that exemplary sentences just might wake up the criminals to the fact that what they are doing is a crime and might also deter others?

Mike Penning: If I could just finish my point about the specials, I will come back to my hon. Friend’s point.

The point about specials has been proven in the House. Two of our colleagues have been specials in the British Transport police until recently, serving their community in parts of London.

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend about sentences, but we have to catch people first and ensure that we understand the value of the products that have been stolen and the effects on the community. That is why, as I said earlier, the CPS is so important. We have specialist prosecutors, but the judiciary also have to understand the will of Parliament, which is probably one of the best reasons for reiterating tonight that stone theft is such a serious crime. It is often organised crime, which is another part of my portfolio. Organised crime does not always mean millions and millions of pounds of goods being stolen, but in my opinion orchestrated crime such as we are discussing is organised crime.

It is important that we are having this debate on the Floor of the House. I was slightly concerned when my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley indicated right at the start of his speech that a certain stone that the Labour party owns may have gone missing. If so, I understand that it has not been reported to the police. However, we are talking this evening about high-value

22 Jun 2015 : Column 733

stone, not a stone that was a complete waste of time and effort, even though Great British craftsmen probably made it for the Labour party.

On a serious note, our heritage is what we are sent here to protect, whether it be here in this great House where we are lucky enough to work, a piece of milestone on Watling Street, the A5, in my constituency, or something in the constituencies of my hon. Friends who are here this evening. We must highlight to our communities

22 Jun 2015 : Column 734

that it is their job, as well as the police’s job, to ensure that we catch the criminals in question, that they are prosecuted and that the full force of the law comes down on them.

Question put and agreed to.

10.31 pm

House adjourned.