Hopwood Hall college in my constituency does not offer, and never has offered, courses in balloon artistry, yet the Secretary of State cites such courses. In so doing, she repeats the misinformation spread in March 2014 by the then Skills Minister, the right hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matthew Hancock), when he, too,

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claimed that courses such as balloon artistry would no longer be paid for by the taxpayer. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills then revealed that such a course had never been listed for Government money anyway. It is disappointing in the extreme to hear the Secretary of State for Education incorporating such myths into her arguments. In this case I would suggest that she herself is guilty of scaremongering.

Hopwood Hall college is one of more than 100 colleges to write recently to the Prime Minister to urge a rethink of his Government’s proposals. They have highlighted many major problems with the current and planned system of funding, including repeated year-on-year cuts to adult funding, which now total about 40%; a significant reduction in funding for students aged 18; and large reductions in annual funding allocations being announced to colleges only weeks before a new academic year, severely harming their ability to plan and to invest in staff and resources. The letter was signed by the chair of Hopwood Hall college, Robert Clegg OBE, who is also a Tory councillor in Rochdale. I wonder whether the Secretary of State would accuse him of scaremongering.

The further education sector has taken a kicking over the past few years. I remember the sadness and anger in my constituency when the coalition Government withdrew the education maintenance allowance and poorer students were forced to withdraw from their courses as they simply could not afford to attend them anymore.

The principal of the college wrote to me last year, expressing his concerns about last year’s round of cuts and the detrimental effect they would have on the provision of adult further education. He said:

“Cuts of this magnitude could mean the end of this essential education in every city, town and community in England and the consequences will be felt by individuals and the economy for years to come.”

That was last year. Now it seems that FE and sixth-form colleges are staring another round of swingeing cuts in the face. There is a real fear that further funding cuts in the next comprehensive spending review will tip our sixth-form and FE colleges over the precipice. Colleges are asking that this Government give consistent and equitable funding to all 16 to 18-year-olds, and that this should be the same as that given to 14 to 16-year-olds. They want more certainty and predictability of funding to enable planning and investment to occur with certainty and confidence. I urge the Secretary of State to take seriously the problems stated in the letter signed by over 100 chairs of FE colleges and listen to their warnings—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order.

6.25 pm

Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab): Today’s debate is particularly important to me as Salford city college and other further education institutions in my constituency have had to battle savage cuts over the past five years. The college is under review as part of the Government’s post-16 areas review policy. Indeed, Salford city college was one of the 129 colleges to sign the open letter sent to the Chancellor earlier this month. I wish to make clear my support for them.

In the previous Parliament the education budget for 16 to 19-year-olds fell by 14% in real terms. Funding for 18 and 19-year-olds was cut further, so provision for

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these students is 17.5% lower than for students aged 16 and 17. In July the National Audit Office reported that the

“financial health of the FE college sector had been declining since 2010”.

In addition, the Further Education Commissioner warned that over 55% of colleges will be in financial difficulty by the end of next year.

Despite these clear warnings, I fear that the Chancellor appears to be gearing up for another round of cuts to further education in the spending review next week. Let me be clear. Colleges in my constituency cannot cope with further cuts to their budgets. The city college has already had to lose teachers and support staff, make cuts in pastoral care and extracurricular activities, and drop a number of courses just to survive. These services were not a luxury. They were integral to ensuring that the young people of Salford participated and excelled in education. A person who comes from a poor background and whose family has suffered the savage effects of a lack of education and poor employment prospects for generations could be forgiven for feeling that aspiration was not for them, but only for a select few. Pastoral care and a wide range of courses are key to lifting these people out of poverty and breaking the cycle for their future children.

Without this support, how many young people will fall through the cracks of our education system? This is not just a bad thing in and of itself, but economically short-sighted. Education is critical for employment, especially in constituencies such as mine that have suffered from de-industrialisation and need both new jobs and a workforce equipped to do them. MediaCityUK, for example, is the hub of media creativity in the UK and is a fantastic asset to our city, but when it opened hardly anybody there came from Salford, and we have had to work hard and fight tooth and nail locally to ensure that we have educational courses to upskill our young people and make sure that they can be employed there. This is all under threat.

From the Conservative Government’s rhetoric, one would think that they support the institutions that allow people who work hard to get on, but the cuts already inflicted on further education services and the threat of more to come tell a completely different story. How do the Government expect people to improve their skills when the vehicle for doing so is breaking down? How do they expect these young people when they grow older to gain well-paid employment that will ensure that they do not have to depend on financial assistance from the Government? This is not long-term economic planning, as the Chancellor would have us believe, and it does not lend itself to a sustainable welfare system in the future.

6.28 pm

Julie Cooper (Burnley) (Lab): I support the motion. I have experience of an FE college. As someone who went to a school that did not have a sixth form and who benefited personally from FE, I know at first hand how useful that can be in getting on in life. I am also a former governor of the FE college in Burnley.

At the beginning of the debate, much was made by the Minister of the Labour Government’s legacy in education. Let me share with the House the education legacy in Burnley. Burnley has a brand-spanking-new FE college built by the previous Labour Government

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that is an inspiring learning environment. As a governor, I watched it go from strength to strength, providing excellent academic, vocational and educational training, and supporting local apprenticeships and the local economy. It had a 100% pass rate at A-level and it was judged by Ofsted to be “outstanding”. The principal tells me that this is all now at risk. Recent cuts—this is before we consider any that might be announced next week—mean that our college is struggling to continue that excellent work giving life opportunities to young people across the constituency from academic and other skilled backgrounds. All those opportunities will be denied if the college cannot be sustained.

I know that strictly speaking adult education provision is not the subject of this debate, but FE provides excellent opportunities to deliver it. In the current climate, where we are seeking to prevent radicalisation and extremism, it is extremely unhelpful when budgets to deliver English language training to those whose first language is not English are slashed, already, by 40%. The Minister seemed to think it was funny that we were all worrying about what funding cuts might be announced next week, but the institutions know what they have seen since 2010, so they are understandably very nervous.

Those cuts have been administered to the sixth-form and FE sector in a way that shows total disrespect to staff, governors and students. The short notice allows for no planning whatsoever for restructuring and long-term, effective savings. This year, funding cuts were announced in March, with a further round announced in July, for implementation in August. That shows absolutely outrageous disrespect to the sector.

This is not a case for political argument. People in all parts of the House have said today how much they support giving young people opportunities for apprenticeships, vocational training and academic training. The motion merely seeks to ensure that that provision is protected. The contribution of such training to our local and national economies cannot be overestimated. Funds invested in this sector are never wasted.

6.32 pm

Marie Rimmer (St Helens South and Whiston) (Lab): I will not go into funding, because we have heard much about that during this debate.

Earlier today, Members in this Chamber heard my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Tom Blenkinsop) read a list of hundreds of job losses additional to those caused by the devastating cessation of steel production. This country continues to de-industrialise, with manufacturing going to countries that subsidise such production. Generations of families in Middlesbrough will have worked in the British steel industry. Education and skills retraining will be necessary to assist them in searching for employment and in attracting alternative employment opportunities. My constituency has suffered the same experience, and I feel for those people. I also know of numerous success stories. Deep coal miners and glass workers have gone on to achieve degrees, including master’s degrees. Some have become entrepreneurs and some have set up businesses providing services.

I want to talk about adult education and training. The Workers Educational Association is under threat. It has been educating adults for over 100 years, and

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millions have benefited from the programmes and courses that it has provided. The WEA provides opportunities for many for whom school was not a positive experience, and that can be, and has been, a real and effective second chance. It is imperative to maintain the vital service provided by the WEA, and I sincerely hope that it survives the BIS review.

Sixth-form colleges are an educational success story. Sixth-form college associations representing colleges across England tell us of those that are outstanding providers of 16-to-19 education, outperforming academy sixth forms and educating more disadvantaged students, yet receiving less funding. Sixth-form colleges also offer superior value for money by delivering better outcomes than academies at a lower cost to the public purse. All that is achieved with a greater proportion of students eligible for free school meals: 11% of sixth-form college students are eligible for this benefit at the age of 15, compared with only 8% of students in academies.

The Government need to address the indefensible VAT anomaly from which sixth-form colleges suffer. I have listened to what further education colleges have said in condemnation of the previous Labour Government, but they funded the St Helens FE college. It is a wonderful piece of architecture and I invite hon. Members to come along to see it. This excellent college is innovative, providing education and training where and when it is needed. For instance, a course ran at 7 am in Dock Road, Liverpool and was paid for by employers for 200 Chinese-speaking adult pupils. However, the course did not meet the tight criteria set by this Government.

Flight Hospitality chartered a plane for the use of the college. However, like many FE colleges, the college struggles to hire maths and English tutors as it cannot compete with schools. The Government need to support FE colleges to recruit such tutors, rather than making further cuts to their budgets. Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak.

6.36 pm

Jo Churchill (Bury St Edmunds) (Con): In the last Parliament, the Government committed themselves to and delivered quality and rigour in post-16 education by driving forward 2.4 million apprenticeships. I am dedicated to that scheme, and over the years I have enjoyed employing apprentices and seeing them thrive. I am keen to see the Minister for Skills get to 5 million apprenticeships by 2020, because that is a brilliant aspiration.

West Suffolk college in my constituency of Bury St Edmunds is an exemplar of what the Government are striving to achieve. It is a high-achieving, highly collaborative education forum that works with successful local businesses—Greene King and British Sugar among others—the local Suffolk chamber of commerce, which is embedded in the heart of the college, and, most importantly, the local enterprise partnership. Only recently, the LEP supported the college with £7 million for a STEM centre.

The college concentrates on student opportunities, in accordance with the Government’s drive, and it delivers hundreds of highly skilled apprentices in East Anglia. Jack, whom I have met there, is an apprentice on a welding course. His aspiration is to have his own business,

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which I applaud. Working with the apprenticeship trailblazers the Secretary of State mentioned earlier, the college offers a skills pipeline to empower young people and combat socioeconomic barriers in the region.

In its pursuit of the Government’s ambitious plans, that college in my constituency is flourishing, so much so—this is a plug—that it has ambitions to become an institute of technology, in recognition of its standards in apprenticeships and its professional sponsorship. However, West Suffolk college, like the Association of Colleges, is asking us to look carefully at how to move forward. It is asking for parity between schools and colleges. We have formed an academy with a sixth-form college, and it seems slightly ironic that the two funding models are not treated the same. I echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) that we should look at a better entry level for maths and English because it is important to encourage people to move up to a higher level.

The college in my constituency wants to be able to plan for the future with confidence, and it is looking to the Government to allow a three-year funding packing, if possible, so that it can do so. Colleges such as mine are keen to help the Government to meet their ambitions for skills and productivity, and to deliver the Government’s commitment to have more apprenticeships. If the Government can give them certainty in further education funding, colleges will enable the Government to achieve the ambitions they want for our young people and others.

6.39 pm

Mr Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South) (Lab): The best of today’s debate has been the powerful advocacy we have heard from Members from all parts of the House for further education in their constituencies and colleges.

I praise in particular the Labour Members who have spoken. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth) said that we were right to consider the devolution issues. My hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Jo Cox) gave practical examples of good work in her sixth forms and FE colleges.

There was a powerful speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), who drew on his experience as a former skills Minister. He pointed out that the Government have said very little about the completion figures for apprenticeships and the calibre of apprenticeships. He also touched on the huge collapse in adult learning. Although that is not central to the motion, it is another symptom of the failure of the Government to address this issue holistically.

My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North West (Mr Robinson) talked about the funding uncertainties. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey) talked about the almost apocalyptic feeling among many FE colleges. My hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) cited the situation in her college and rightly shamed the Secretary of State for her reliance on scaremongering about balloon artistry in her speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey) asked how we can deal with the savage cuts to colleges. My hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Julie Cooper) said that FE had helped to transfer—[Interruption.] The Secretary

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of State chunters from a sedentary position. If she wants to claim that she did not refer to balloon artistry, she is welcome to do so.

Nicky Morgan: I am happy to say that I mentioned courses such as marzipan modelling and balloon artistry, which were funded by the Labour Government. Young people were led to think that they were gaining qualifications that would stand them in good stead in their education, but they did not.

Mr Marsden: If the Secretary of State checks the facts, she might find that they are rather different.

My hon. Friend the Member for St Helens South and Whiston (Marie Rimmer) is a powerful advocate for the role of FE in her empowering sixth-form colleges. As a former WEA tutor, I was pleased that she spoke about the importance of the WEA.

Regardless of her artistry, balloon or otherwise, I found the Secretary of State’s speech rather sad and waffly, with a dash of Europhobia thrown in. [Interruption.] I am sorry that Ministers do not like that, but it is true. The Secretary of State talked about not showing her hand before the spending review. The problem is that most of us do not believe that she had a hand to show in the first place. The way in which she talked about apprenticeships without mentioning any of the difficulties or complexities reminded me of the old sitcom, “Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width”.

The Secretary of State did not look at the unsustainable division between school education, which has ring-fenced funding, and FE, which faces growing marginalisation and an ever-greater burden of cuts. The area review of local FE provision is adding to the instability in the sector and there is unclear information from the Government on funding applications. Further education for 16 to 19-year-olds was the most cut area of education in the last Parliament, with its funding falling by 14% in real terms. That was a combination of lower budgets to support 16 to 19-year-olds after the scrapping of the EMA and a direct funding cut to colleges of about 10% in real terms. This year, per-student funding in colleges and sixth forms has faced a real-terms cut and stands at £4,000.

It is a pity that the Secretary of State did not come out of her press release bubble a little more and talk about what other people in the sector are saying. Many Members referred to the open letter that warned about further funding cuts in the spending review, as was reported in Monday’s FE Week. Colleges and courses do not exist in silos. If there are funding cuts for 16 to 19-year-olds, it will have a knock-on effect on other age groups. Earlier in the week, the shadow Chancellor and I spoke to hundreds of FE staff in London. There was genuine fury not just because they will be less able to help students, but about the life chances that will go astray.

The National Audit Office rightly reported on the problems in FE earlier in the year. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), in her role as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, described it as a “deeply alarming report”.

It is not just in Department for Education policy that the Government are failing to support the skills and growth that we need. There is a failure of joined-up thinking across the Departments and there is no

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acknowledgement of the impact that the Government ‘s cuts are having on post-school education. The Minister knows that business and the budget for further education are closely linked, but the new higher education Green Paper threatens to stack the deck against FE colleges that derive precious revenue from providing degree-level skills. If he plans to ensure that colleges that do not immediately meet the desired standards are supported to improve and bounce back, rather than starting on a cycle of decline, fair enough, but the Green Paper has no answers to that question.

The analysis by our shadow Education team showed just what the cuts would mean for 16 to 19-year-olds. Assuming the Department met the lower target of 25%, spending on 16-to-19 provision could fall by £1.6 billion a year by 2020. No wonder the alarm bells have been rung all across the sector. No wonder the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, in its spending review submission, said that funding for 16-to-18 education should be maintained. The Government need to realise that people from across the sector, including the Association of Colleges, which has spoken out strongly, and the University and College Union, which has said that colleges

“cater for the learning needs of a wide range of people, including many from vulnerable or disadvantaged groups”,

are saying that colleges should not lose out to schools but that the Government are in danger of allowing that to happen.

We have heard a lot from the sixth-form college sector. Research by the Sixth Form Colleges Association at the beginning of August painted a picture of a beleaguered sector under serious threat from three separate funding cuts since 2011—never mind what might come up next week. Only this week, the principal of my sixth-form college said to me:

“Last year 81.42% of our students progressed to HE, a further 12.21% to employment with training…and only 0.94% remained NEET… Another cut in funding threatens all this. Not only will the college have to seek significant savings in its day to day operation, we will also have to consider…reducing the curriculum offer…to students”


“removing key specialist subjects from our portfolio”.

He also said the college risks not meeting its work experience requirements or the local needs of the community. A paper from the Sixth Form Colleges Association has made the same point. The principal of the excellent Blackpool and The Fylde further education college, which teaches 3,000 under-18s, has said to me: “Given the attainment in schools in the locality, post-16 providers have to compensate for poor performance and need to be remunerated accordingly. I hope you will continue your support for the college in the forthcoming year, particularly by offering robust challenges to any further funding cuts in the autumn spending review.”

Even on their most clearly stated aims, the Government cannot help shooting themselves in the foot. Ministers proclaim that they protected schools from cuts by ring-fencing funding, but they do not recognise the effects of cuts on schools with a sixth-form attached, many of which use the secondary education budget to cover the huge cuts. Ministers have encouraged 169 new school sixth forms to open since 2010, but there are now 1,200 with fewer than 100 students. There are already indications that pressures on the sector mean that providers cannot offer the service our young people need, even in core

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areas such as maths. In answer to a parliamentary question, the Minister told me that 150 graduates would be offered bursaries to train this year, but that figure represents only about 3% of the current maths teaching force. Some 25% of experienced teachers are approaching retirement, and those older teachers are three times more likely to have a maths qualification than younger recruits.

Government Members who think that these FE cuts and area reviews will pass them by should listen to the warning given by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) last week in Question Time, when he asked the Minister to assure him

“that the area reviews are not just a cover for further, unrealistic cuts that will threaten their viability altogether”.—[Official Report, 10 November 2015; Vol. 602, c. 213.]

The Government claim that they want to energise technical and professional skills, but then they fail to deliver level 4 work experience in schools. They claim they want to boost productivity, but then, in their area reviews, ignore the vital role that colleges and providers play. They claim they want to give everyone a proper chance, but then produce cuts with unforeseen consequences. They claim that they want to talk about equalities, but as we have heard, colleges and schools are short of funding, which often means that support for disabled young people is not forthcoming or co-ordinated. They do not understand—or they do not care to understand—the cumulative effects of those cuts, just as they did not understand the awful damage that was done by cutting the education maintenance allowance and aid for social mobility.

Further education must no longer be the whipping boy when the spending review is delivered. If the Government will the ends, they must will the means. Otherwise, meanness and lack of focus will leave thousands of young people at risk of having their life chances shredded by the ignorance or incompetence of this Government.

6.50 pm

The Minister for Skills (Nick Boles): It is, as always, a pleasure to debate in this House education for 16 to 19-year-olds, and particularly further education and sixth-form colleges. It is a subject on which I can bore for Britain. Unfortunately, the debate got off to a bad start, because the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) detained the House for 13 minutes on a question that does not affect her constituents in any way.

Carol Monaghan rose

Nick Boles: I will not give way to the hon. Lady. We heard quite enough from her earlier on. She strangely failed to mention that her party’s Government in Edinburgh have slashed funding for further education and closed colleges in order to subsidise free university education for students who will go on to earn far more than many who graduate from further education colleges. She should be ashamed and keep quiet in our debate.

Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP): Will the Minister give way?

Nick Boles: I will not give way to the right hon. Gentleman. [Interruption.] I will not give way.

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Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. The right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) knows that he cannot just remain standing. If the Minister wishes to give way, I am sure he will; if he does not, that is his choice.

Nick Boles: I might well have given way to the right hon. Gentleman if he had attended any of the debate apart from his own intervention.

Alex Salmond: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am sure that the Minister—if he is that—did not mean to mislead the House, but if he checks the record, I think he will find that funding for further education in Scotland is immeasurably superior to funding for further education in England.

Mr Deputy Speaker: The right hon. Gentleman has been here over many years. He is back, and I know that he will never ever forget what is, and what is not, a point of order. That was not.

Nick Boles: When any question is asked in this House, from the Government side we hear about reforms—reforms of institutions, standards, leadership and incentives. In this debate my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael), Chair of the Education Committee, made an extremely interesting proposal for sixth-form colleges to be allowed to convert to academy status, and I know that Ministers will have listened to that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes) spoke about the economies of scale that large college groups can enjoy, and which enable them to support enrichment programmes. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill) spoke passionately about apprenticeships and applauded Jack’s ambition to set up his own business. I have no doubt that that ambition will be fulfilled. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan), and I enjoyed visiting a college with her before she was elected. She made a good argument that we must encourage students to opt for courses that will help them to get good jobs, and that is exactly what the introduction of destination measures will achieve.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer) spoke of Cambridge regional college, which educates more than 5,000 apprentices. I point out to her and the House that colleges currently win only 37% of the funding for apprenticeship training, and there is no reason why they should not win more of that growing funding stream. Yesterday, I suggested to the Association of Colleges annual conference that we should work together with colleges to help them to achieve two thirds of the much larger budget for apprenticeship funding that will be in place once the apprenticeship levy has been introduced.

In what was without doubt the best speech of this debate, my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) rightly said that Opposition Members should be careful before they sneer at apprenticeships in hairdressing and retail. We know that level 2 and level 3 apprenticeships increase people’s incomes by, on average, 11% and 16%, and Conservative Members will not sneer at those people and their hard work.

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From the Opposition side of the House, we hear about money. It is their stock answer to everything. Indeed, it is their only answer to anything. The shadow Secretary of State waved a bloody shroud based on nothing more than her wild speculation about the spending review. The hon. Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth) made a reasonable point about the need for some funding to support the implementation of the conclusions of area reviews, and she will be aware that we already provide interim funding for colleges in financial difficulties. We are absolutely aware of the need to provide funding to support the implementation of area reviews.

Melanie Onn: Will the Minister give way?

Nick Boles: I am not going to give way to the hon. Lady.

The hon. Member for Batley and Spen (Jo Cox) seemed to regret the fact that colleges can borrow money to invest in new facilities, whereas that is a key freedom that I know colleges enjoy and make use of. The right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) decried cuts in adult learning budgets, but then criticised the inclusion of 35-year-olds in apprenticeships. I have to admit that I was confused by his argument. If apprenticeships are not right for adults, why is adult learning so much better?

The hon. Member for Coventry North West (Mr Robinson) said that Coventry City college, which is indeed a fine college, wants to bid for more apprenticeship funding this year. I can tell him that fortunately we will be able to meet some bids for growth funding for apprenticeships in the remainder of this financial year. I hope that the college has made such a bid. I cannot promise that it will be successful, but if the college is as good as he says it is, it has a very good chance. We heard further contributions from the hon. Members for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey), for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) and others.

This debate has distilled the essential difference between the Government and the Opposition. The Government stand for, and propose, reform—reform of institutions to make them stronger, and reform of technical and professional courses to make them more valuable. That is why I am so delighted that an excellent former Labour Minister, Lord Sainsbury, will chair our independent panel, along with Professor Alison Wolf and Bev Robinson, the principal from the local college of the hon. Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden), to ensure that we improve technical and professional courses. We propose reform of apprenticeships to increase their number, quality and impact on the future earnings of our constituents.

What the Opposition stand for, and propose, is money—from higher taxes, from higher borrowing and from higher debts that the next generation will have to pay. I will ask the House to reject the motion tonight because there is a clear choice. We will invest in the future generation and their capacity to earn money for themselves by investing in apprenticeships and making apprenticeships better, longer and more rigorous. The Opposition will load more debt on the next generation’s backs. The Opposition will ask future generations, the people who will attend these colleges that the Opposition want to support, to pay for their decisions now, and for their

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failure to get borrowing under control. We will not go down that path: we will invest in reform and improvement, and I therefore reject the motion.

Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 203, Noes 292.

Division No. 128]


6.58 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Alexander, Heidi

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burgon, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Butler, Dawn

Cadbury, Ruth

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Champion, Sarah

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Julie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, rh Jeremy

Cox, Jo

Coyle, Neil

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cryer, John

Cummins, Judith

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davies, Geraint

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dowd, Peter

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Farron, Tim

Field, rh Frank

Fletcher, Colleen

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Greenwood, Margaret

Griffith, Nia

Haigh, Louise

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Hayman, Sue

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mr Mark

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hollern, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Hussain, Imran

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Khan, rh Sadiq

Kinahan, Danny

Kinnock, Stephen

Lamb, rh Norman

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Clive

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marris, Rob

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

Matheson, Christian

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McGinn, Conor

McInnes, Liz

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morris, Grahame M.

Mulholland, Greg

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Phillips, Jess

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Pugh, John

Qureshi, Yasmin

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees, Christina

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rimmer, Marie

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Ryan, rh Joan

Saville Roberts, Liz

Shah, Naz

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

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

Stuart, rh Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turley, Anna

Twigg, Derek

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Watson, Mr Tom

West, Catherine

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williams, Mr Mark

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodcock, John

Wright, Mr Iain

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Ayes:

Vicky Foxcroft


Holly Lynch


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

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Borwick, Victoria

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brokenshire, rh James

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Robert

Burns, rh Sir Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, rh Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Cartlidge, James

Cash, Sir William

Caulfield, Maria

Chalk, Alex

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Churchill, Jo

Clark, rh Greg

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, David T. C.

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Dr James

Davies, Mims

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Donelan, Michelle

Dorries, Nadine

Double, Steve

Dowden, Oliver

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duddridge, James

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

Frazer, Lucy

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Fysh, Marcus

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Gauke, Mr David

Ghani, Nusrat

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

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

Halfon, rh Robert

Hall, Luke

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, rh Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Heaton-Jones, Peter

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoare, Simon

Hollingbery, George

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

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jayawardena, Mr Ranil

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Boris

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

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

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, Mr Alan

Malthouse, Kit

Mann, Scott

Mathias, Dr Tania

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Karl

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Merriman, Huw

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Mrs Maria

Milling, Amanda

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

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

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

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

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

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

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

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

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Warburton, David

Warman, Matt

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Whately, Helen

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Williams, Craig

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wood, Mike

Wragg, William

Wright, rh Jeremy

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Guy Opperman


Jackie Doyle-Price

Question accordingly negatived.

18 Nov 2015 : Column 789

18 Nov 2015 : Column 790

18 Nov 2015 : Column 791

18 Nov 2015 : Column 792

Business without Debate

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With the leave of the House, we shall take motions 3 and 4 together.

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

European Union Documents

European Defence: Implementation Road Map

That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 11358/14, a Commission Report: A New Deal for European Defence: Implementation Roadmap for Communication COM(2013)542: Towards a more competitive and efficient defence and security sector; agrees that any further development of the Commission’s proposals in the defence sector must be in close cooperation with EU Member States; and shares the Government’s view that the focus for any Commission action should be on improving competitiveness and economic growth, while avoiding any activity that could constrain the UK’s ability to obtain the best capability for its Armed Forces, conflict with NATO, or otherwise impinge upon the UK’s national security interests.

Use of Genetically Modified Food and Feed

That this House takes note of European Union Documents No. 8344/15 and Addendum, a Commission Communication: Reviewing the decision-making process on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and No. 8356/15, a Proposal for a Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No. 1829/2003 as regards the possibility for Member States to restrict or prohibit the use of genetically modified food and feed on their territory; and endorses the Government's approach not to support the proposal because of its negative implications for international trade, the single market and science based regulation.—(Margot James.)

Question agreed to.

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Employee Pay (DWP)

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

7.11 pm

Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP): I wish to raise the important issue of the pay of employees in the Department for Work and Pensions—or, perhaps more accurately, the low pay of those employees.

As we know, pay throughout the public sector has been subject to restraint for a number of years, and the pay in the DWP is no exception. A TUC report published in 2014 showed that public sector workers were, on average, £2,245 worse off in real terms than they had been before the previous Government took office. However, the issue of low pay is felt particularly acutely in the DWP, as it is one of the lowest paid civil service Departments, and staff now struggle to make ends meet.

Some 87% of DWP staff—74,701 employees—now earn less than the UK mean average wage of £27,200 a year, and 47% of staff—39,526 employees—earn less than £20,000. The Public and Commercial Services Union estimates that thousands who are at the bottom of the DWP pay scale will not even earn the national living wage that was announced by the Chancellor in the Budget if their pay rises by only 1% a year until 2020. DWP pay increases have been heavily capped for the last six years, and in 2010 and 2011 there was a 0% increase for staff earning over £21,000.

Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP): As my hon. Friend knows, in 2011, when we were in the very depths of the recession, the Scottish Government were able to introduce a living wage for all civil service staff in Scotland, along with a non-redundancy clause agreement. Why was such a move not possible for either the Labour Government or the coalition Government—or, for that matter, the present Conservative Government?

Chris Stephens: I do not know the reasons for that, but I think that it should have been possible. As my right hon. Friend will know, in Scotland those earning less than £21,000 a year have received a £250 pay rise over the last couple of years.

Between 2012 and 2015, all DWP staff received a 1% increase, and the Chancellor has announced his intention to limit civil service pay increases to 1% for the next four years.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): I am sure the hon. Gentleman agrees that, if inflation is taken into account, that 1% increase effectively amounts to a 6% or 7% wage cut, and women in particular are bearing the burden.

Chris Stephens: The hon. Gentleman is correct, and I will come on to the fact that it is estimated that what has taken place in the DWP is effectively a cut of £2,245.

There is also the issue of no pay progression within the Department. Since 2009 there has been no mechanism for DWP staff to move from the bottom towards the top of the pay range for their grade. This has meant staff have become frozen at the bottom of the pay range with no means of ever progressing further. Around 70% of DWP staff are in this position.

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Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing this matter to the House. The issue he has just mentioned is very important. Surely it is right to reward people as they progress and achieve goals and standards of knowledge and expertise, which is very important in the DWP, and move from one level to the next. Does he think that the Government should consider retraining people so that they can step up the wage scale?

Chris Stephens: I agree with that, because if there is a pay range and scale, there should be natural progression through experience and training.

With pay increases limited to 1% year on year, simply not enough money is available to create meaningful pay progression and give all staff some annual pay increase. The Treasury has consistently prescribed that any pay progression must be funded from the 1% increase and no additional funds have been made available. My first question to the Department is this: will the DWP change its attitude towards pay progression and allow employees to move up the pay grades and scales?

Let me turn to the increase in pensions and national insurance contributions. DWP staff are members of one of the civil service pension schemes and since 2010 members’ contributions to the pension schemes have been steadily increasing, averaging 3.2% by 2015. These increases have, effectively, eroded the value of the recent 1% pay rise. This has meant that DWP staff take-home pay now has hardly increased at all since 2012. DWP staff also expect to see an increase of around 1.4% in their national insurance contributions in 2016, when the new state pension comes into effect.

Some 40% of DWP staff are on tax credits. The DWP has told the PCS that 40% of DWP staff have to rely on tax credits to supplement their low rates of pay. This is clear evidence of how low pay rates are in the DWP. If the measures to reduce tax credits that were announced in the July Budget were ever to be implemented, there would be a significant impact on DWP staff.

The Government have made many public statements saying that employers should pay a living wage and not make their employees rely on tax credits to supplement low pay. It is ironic, therefore, that so many DWP employees are made to rely on tax credits because the Government will not pay their own staff a decent salary. Furthermore, the Government have justified tax credit cuts by declaring that when their employees lose their tax credits, employers will naturally pay higher wages. However, if the Government rely on tax credits to subsidise the low pay of their own workforce and they are unwilling to compensate these workers who stand to lose from changes to tax credits and the 1% pay cap, it is hard to see how other employers can be expected to practise anything different.

DWP pay is an equality issue. Some 69% of staff are female, predominantly employed in the lower grades.

Mr Jim Cunningham: There is a contradiction. On the one hand, Government policy is equal pay for women, but on the other hand they reduce women’s wages at the DWP and other Departments.

Chris Stephens: I entirely agree, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that we are seeing an increase in the pay gap between male and female workers.

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Low pay in the DWP therefore has a detrimental effect on women. As the highest paid grades in the DWP have a majority of male staff, this has created a significant gender pay gap in the DWP. My next question is this, therefore: what equality impact assessment has been carried out to ensure the DWP complies with the Equal Pay Act 1970 and is not at risk of equal pay claims?

There have been increased workloads and efficiency, but no reward. Time and again, Ministers and those running the Department thank DWP staff for their hard work in keeping the Department afloat and delivering welfare reform. Recognition is always welcome, but DWP staff feel that the thanks need to be translated from mere words into a form of recognition visible in their pay packets.

Furthermore, the DWP workforce has been cut by 30% since 2010, so the pressure on those remaining has increased. In March 2015, the Secretary of State told DWP staff that productivity had increased significantly. He cited record levels of employment, faster processing, fewer calls chasing progress, and an annual operating cost £2.5 billion lower than in 2009-10, yet none of those improvements in productivity has been reflected in increases in DWP pay.

The DWP is one of the lowest paid Departments in the civil service. Prior to civil service pay being delegated to individual Departments, all civil service grades were paid the same, irrespective of which Department they worked in. However, as a consequence of pay delegation, pay levels now vary greatly from one Department to another, and DWP pay is particularly low. There are now well over 100 pay bargaining units across the civil service, and the DWP, as the largest Department, does not do well compared with other civil service Departments.

This will be brought into sharp focus with the roll-out of universal credit, when 2,000 HMRC colleagues, earning considerably more than DWP staff, will transfer into the DWP and will be earning a lot more for doing the same work. For example, 40% of staff in the administrative officer grade in the DWP earn less than the HMRC administrative officer grade minimum. Anyone who joins HMRC on its administrative officer minimum will come in more than halfway up the DWP administrative officer pay scale at £18,415.

People who work in the private sector are better off. This Government seek to justify public sector pay restraint by spreading the myth that life in the public sector is altogether cosier than in the private sector, but the truth is that pay for those in the DWP is now so low that some people in the private sector employed on civil service contracts are leaving them behind. For example, in Steria, the company that won the contract for HR shared services, where some DWP workers saw their work privatised, members have just been awarded a 2.3% pay increase. In Maximus, another DWP contractor, members have recently accepted an offer that will give the majority of them increases of over 15%, with the lowest paid receiving an increase of nearly £5,000.

Increases for private sector workers on DWP contracts are therefore considerably in excess of the 1% awarded to DWP staff. Of course, those pay increases in private sector contracts are funded by the taxpayer every bit as much as DWP pay is funded by the taxpayer. We commend the pay increases for those staff, but we fail to see the logic of the 1% pay cap being so rigidly imposed

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on public sector workers when that is not the case for private sector workers delivering Government contracts.

We fear that there is discriminatory performance-related pay in the DWP. The Department also pays some staff a non-consolidated payment each year. This is worth 1.9% of the annual pay bill—around £44 million. The payments are distributed based on performance appraisal markings and grade. Staff who have received a “must improve” box marking—around 8% of DWP staff—receive no non-consolidated payment. Other non-consolidated payments vary from £450 for an administrative assistant to £1,750 for a grade 6 employee. These non-consolidated payments have been shown to be discriminatory in many ways. You are more likely to receive the higher award if you are full time, white and under 60, and more likely to receive no non-consolidated payment if you are over 60, BME or part time.

Terms and conditions are also diminishing. At the same time as pay increases in the DWP have been subject to central Government pay restraint and caps, DWP staff have seen a gradual erosion of other terms and conditions. This has taken the form of increased pension contributions and changes to pension entitlements, repeated attacks on the civil service compensation scheme, restricted access to flexitime, a draconian approach to attendance management, and cuts in staffing.

The sense of anger among DWP staff is high. When the 1% pay award was imposed on DWP staff in July, more than 5,700 protest letters were sent to the Secretary of State and the permanent secretary. The PCS receives constant feedback from its members on the impact of pay restraint. My next question therefore is: what assessment has been carried out to ensure that DWP staff reach the so-called living wage target? Or will steps be taken to ensure that this is delivered earlier? Some DWP staff reported regularly borrowing from credit cards to make up the shortfall in their wages and being unable to afford to tax their cars.

My last question is: do Ministers believe that the enormous improvements in productivity that DWP staff have achieved on their watch should be rewarded with an additional pay increase above the 1% cap?

7.25 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People (Justin Tomlinson): I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens) on securing this important Adjournment debate and all the other Members who have contributed in it. My office took particular interest in this one. I also congratulate him on his 25 years of work in public service, his role as vice-chair of the PCS parliamentary group, and his interest in DWP and its valuable work.

DWP is the largest Government Department, with a pay bill of £2.5 billion in 2015-16. The Department employs more than 84,000 staff, who work in various locations across the country and serve more than 22 million claimants and customers, some of whom are the most vulnerable in society. When I have spoken about that before, many of my colleagues have been surprised, because a lot of MPs are not aware of just how vast the organisation is and the diversity of work we do in job centre networks, benefit centres and the corporate services. For example, we support people to find work, develop policy, pay pensions and investigate fraud. The Department is delivering substantial welfare reform changes, including

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the roll-out of universal credit, the introduction of personal independent payment and pension reforms, while meeting our efficiency challenges.

We appreciate the professionalism and contribution of DWP employees in continuing to deliver those changes. The results of their efforts have included a new record high UK employment rate of 73.7%; unemployment at a seven-year low of 5.3%; an employment rate for young people who have left full-time education up at 74.3%, the highest in more than a decade; and a reduction in operating cost of £1.9 billion since 2009-10. I have made many trips around the country to meet those front-line DWP staff and to see the great work that they do, with great professionalism. Tomorrow I am off to Blackpool as part of my visits, when I am going to see the work being done on PIP. I am sure that hon. Members from all parts of the House will join me in acknowledging the hard work and contribution of the dedicated DWP staff.

In 2010, the country was facing tough economic challenges, and the Government had to make some difficult decisions in order to address the country’s huge budget deficit. As was the case across Europe, public sector pay restraint was part of the overall approach taken to reducing the deficit. That was not unique to the public sector; not only did many workers in the private sector also face pay freezes, but some faced pay cuts. As a Government Department, DWP has to comply with the Government public sector pay policy to set pay awards in line with Her Majesty’s Treasury and Cabinet Office guidelines.

Let me now deal specifically with our Department’s approach. Since 2010, DWP has focused on increasing the pay of its lowest paid. In the emergency Budget of 2010 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a two-year pay freeze for those in the civil service earning more than £21,000. But, crucially, for those earning under £21,000, DWP took advantage of the flexibility and opted to pay more than the minimum £250 flat-rate increase proposed in HMT guidance. DWP actually provided awards ranging from £400 to £540. In 2010, it also increased the base salary of the lowest grade by £890. The pay freeze was followed by an annual pay remit of 1% on consolidated pay increases for the remainder of the last Parliament. During that time, DWP pay negotiations included discussions on how best to distribute the available funding. DWP opted to pay the majority of its staff a 1% increase each year, but continued to focus on increasing the pay of its lowest paid through higher base salary increases—for example, 3% in 2014 and 2.5% in 2015.

In addition, Departments have flexibility over how they allocate their non-consolidated performance payments. DWP is the only large Department that pays this to the majority of its employees, distributing on the basis of grade and performance marking. This year, DWP allocated performance awards of between £450 to £750 to junior staff.

Alex Salmond: I am listening carefully to the Minister, but the reality is that the Government have been rumbled on tax credits. They have been rumbled on payments to junior doctors, and now they are going to be rumbled on the treatment of DWP staff. When will the Minister

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address the very specific questions that my hon. Friend asked him in this Adjournment debate?

Justin Tomlinson: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but all good things come to those who wait patiently. I am only part way through my contribution, and I have already addressed some of the points, but more is to come.

Pay and allowances are part of the total reward package. Employees also benefit from a package including a staff discount scheme, generous annual leave entitlement and a defined benefit pension scheme.

On the point about equality, DWP has one of the lowest gender pay gaps in Whitehall. It currently stands at 3.4%. Typically, it is rated at 5%. If an organisation or body is below 5%, they are making progress. The Department is committed to improve that further through the introduction of a range of measures including name-blind recruitment and female representation on senior recruitment panels. This is something that we take very seriously, and we are proud to be leading as a Department in that area.

Let me turn now to the future. The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in this year’s Budget that the Government will fund the public sector workforce for a pay award of 1% for the length of this Parliament. Each year, DWP negotiates with PCS and other unions on their pay awards and that will continue for future pay deals.

Jim Shannon: Very quickly on that, can the Minister give us some indication of the wastage among the staff—those who move on to other jobs? I do not expect an answer now, but could he give me a response later? I ask my question because the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens) referred to the wage increase for those in similar jobs in different companies. The increase in their wages was significant. I was wondering whether the Minister’s Department was holding on to its staff. If it is not, what steps is he taking to address that?

Justin Tomlinson: I will have to come back on those specific details.

The Chancellor also announced in the Budget earlier this year the very welcome introduction of a statutory national living wage for those aged 25 plus from April 2016. Our Secretary of State has long championed the principle that, if people work hard, they should be rewarded. He welcomed the introduction of the national living wage as

“perhaps the most significant measure in all the Budgets that I have listened to during my many years in this House.”—[Official Report, 9 July 2015; Vol. 598, c. 482.]

Chris Stephens: Will the Minister also provide us with an assessment of DWP staff who are younger than 25 years of age, because they will not get access to that living wage? If there is a 1% pay increase year on year, DWP staff will be earning 36p more than that national living wage.

Justin Tomlinson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. My next bit will specifically address the under-25s. Our pledge is that the national living wage will go over £9 by 2020. From my recollection at the general election, the Scottish National party pledged to

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pay about £8.60 or £8.80, and Labour pledged £8. I think that we can all support our decision to get the figure to over £9 by 2020.

Crucially, on the point about the under-25s, DWP will meet its statutory requirement and pay the national living wage to all employees regardless of age. That will include those under the age of 25. All Members will welcome that.

DWP will raise the pay of around 600—0.7% of our staff—who will fall just below this level from April 2016. The Department is ensuring that our contracted staff will also be paid at the new national living wage from April 2016 onwards, as we are conscious that we have large supply chains and people with whom we have direct work. For the remainder of the Parliament, all increases in employees’ salaries will be in line with the guidance from Her Majesty’s Treasury.

Mr Jim Cunningham: Can the hon. Gentleman tell me how many agency people the Department employs, how many consultants it does business with and how much that costs?

Justin Tomlinson: I thank the hon. Gentleman; I will be providing a written update in answer to that very good question.

I was asked about pensions. As changes are made to pensions, we have made sure that the lowest paid see the smallest increase and that those paid more contribute

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more progressively, but it remains a good pension scheme, with a defined end. As for promotion through the pay scales, for those who can get promoted through the bands—there is typically a 10% difference between them—that remains in place.

Chris Stephens: The Minister is being very generous in giving way. Can I ask him about Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs staff coming into the DWP as part of the roll-out of universal credit? That will expose a lot of differences in civil service pay.

Justin Tomlinson: I cannot give a specific answer, but we are aware of that issue, which is something we continuously look at, because it is a significant point that has been raised.

In conclusion, while endeavouring to provide increases for all, the DWP has focused on its most junior grades, and that will remain our focus—again, I think we have cross-party support for that. We are proud that the DWP’s gender pay gap has consistently been one of the lowest in Whitehall and we are committed to continue to focus on this. I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this very important debate.

Question put and agreed to.

7.35 pm

House adjourned.