The second instability that affects our economy is free movement. According to the Government’s figures, 1.162 million have settled from the European Union in the past decade. That puts pressure, including economic pressure, on the number of school places and the number of houses we require before we see any benefit to the UK population. It also puts pressure on health services. It might well be that those who fund the remain campaign, such as Morgan Stanley and the big oil companies, are not particularly worried about the lack of school places

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in this country—they will probably not use those places—but free movement has a huge impact in large parts of this country and applies financial pressure on the Government if they are to provide those things. That is even before we take into account the mass migration coming across Europe, which is leading to political and social instability, which will have an economic cost in the longer term.

I want briefly to deal with a completely separate issue that the Chancellor raised yesterday. In his Budget statement, he said:

“We have also agreed a new West of England mayoral authority”.—[Official Report, 17 March 2016; Vol. 607, c. 960.]

That is not true. We have not reached such an agreement. A draft agreement will be put to some of our councils in the coming weeks, but we have not agreed to the authority. Let me make it clear that the Members of Parliament—the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose), my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Ben Howlett) and I—fundamentally and totally oppose the concept of a mayor being applied to the west of England.

We had the experience of Avon, when the outlying areas became nothing much more than an automated teller machine for Bristol’s spending plans. We have no wish to see it re-imposed on us by stealth. I am completely opposed to it and urge my colleagues in North Somerset to reject the proposal when it is put in front of them. If we want devolution, let us devolve down to existing democratic local government structures. We do not need another layer imposed on top of us—a metro mayor. That it works in the north of England is not a reason for it to be applied to the south of England. I have always believed it is a great Conservative policy to have whatever works in place, and not to apply a one-size-fits-all policy from Whitehall.

As I have said, the Budget comes against an extraordinarily good economic backdrop. Britain is outperforming almost all other EU countries, and almost all other developed countries. We have sound finance, free markets, low taxes, deregulation and political stability. The Government have presided over a veritable job creation miracle in this country while the European Union stagnates. We have a chance in the referendum on 23 June not only to reboot Britain, but to deliver much needed electric shock therapy to a sclerotic, failing and stagnating EU. I hope we take the economic opportunities available to us.

1.39 pm

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): I am told by the House of Commons Library that I have been in the House for 41 Budget debates. I have not spoken in all of them, but I have a lot of experience of Budgets and Budget debates. They are always such high octane occasions: the Budget comes out and then there is usually a fundamental disagreement across the Benches. I have always believed, however, that we never really know what a Budget contains, or how it has been received, until we at least get to the Sunday papers. Let us wait for the Sundays to see how it is going down, and wait even longer to see how it will affect the people we represent.

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In the run-up to the Budget, one of the most interesting speeches I heard was from someone who is a very classy journalist, Andrew Neil. Many people think, well he is humorous and he has “The Politics Show” and so on, but he used to be the editor of The Sunday Times. He has a sharp intellect. I heard him speak to the Engineering Employers’ Federation only two or three weeks ago. His analysis was chilling: the world economy, as the Chancellor himself said, is in a febrile and delicate state. If we look at what is happening with Putin in Russia, what has happened in the middle east and the lack of leadership in the United States, with the possibility of a President Trump, it is an unstable and worrying world. He said that if people think the UK leaving the EU would be just a little local ripple, they should think again. It could well lead to a breakdown in the world economy. I believe that that analysis is correct.

I get on quite well with the right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) on a personal level. I do not know what people do in North Somerset, but I represent a university town. We in this country receive more research income from Europe than any other country per capita. The other day we could not find anyone in the higher education world to speak in favour of Brexit. Not only do we have all that research money and research partnerships, we have, because of the English language, the tremendous stimulus of many European students coming to this country. I do not want to detain the House on this point, but I believe we are successful, will be successful and have to be successful in Europe. We have been successful in Europe. We have been weathering the storm, but that is largely because of our own efforts within Europe.

I would like to say, very briefly, something about what was not in the Budget. I know that that is permissible under the rules. The missing element is health. Dr Mark Porter, chair of the British Medical Association Council, said earlier this week that George Osborne should use Wednesday’s Budget to stop the NHS heading to “financial ruin”. He said there is a

“complete mismatch between the Government’s promise of extra funding and the reality on the ground…If the Chancellor squanders this chance the NHS will continue to slide further into financial ruin.”

We are told that the NHS is ring-fenced. The truth is that one third of hospital trusts across the country are in deadly distress and trouble. My local hospital serves the big university town of Huddersfield and one of the biggest urban areas in the country, Kirklees. Unless we win the fight, we are likely, very shortly, to not only lose accident and emergency for the whole of Kirklees—Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Holmfirth; it is a very big area—but not have a major, proper hospital.

Mr Kevan Jones: My hon. Friend says there was nothing in the Budget about health, but there was a stealth tax on the NHS. It was the announcement that employers’ contributions to pensions, including in the NHS, will increase. That will be another burden on the budgets of his local health trusts and mine.

Mr Sheerman: My hon. Friend makes a very good point and I absolutely agree with him. I spoke to the chief executive of my local trust the other day—I would like the right hon. Member for North Somerset to listen

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to this—and he said that if it was not for the Spanish nurses we have been able to recruit from Spain, we could not provide a service in the hospital.

Dr Fox: I regard that as an entirely irrelevant argument. We would be able to employ whoever we wanted outside the European Union. The difference is that we would be making that choice, rather than having the numbers imposed on us by free movement.

Mr Sheerman: Moving on—the House would expect me, after 10 years as Chair of the Education Committee, to say something about education today. I am very concerned about the proposal for the academisation of all our schools. I spent a lot of time with the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, talking about academies. The previous Labour Government created academies because none of us in this House should put up with the underachievement of young people. If we know that there are towns, cities and coastal communities where kids are not getting the opportunity to find that spark to realise their potential and get good qualifications, and, through those qualifications, gain entry into a good life, we should all be ashamed of ourselves—on all Benches in this House. That is the fact of the matter.

Too often, however, Governments look for a holy grail or silver bullet to produce good standards across the country in a hurry. I do not believe that such a holy grail or silver bullet exists. My experience as an amateur historian looking at the history of education policy leads me to believe something quite revolutionary: we do better on education policy when we co-operate across these Benches, rather than when we are ideological and fight over education policy. Forced academisation and the finishing of local education authorities as a real power in the land are deeply damaging to the future of education, deeply damaging to local government and deeply damaging to our local democracy.

The Government say they are in favour of giving power to the people. If we keep taking resources and functions away from local government, what will be the point of local government? Local government must have local roots. The right hon. Member for North Somerset said the same thing just now, in relation to his opposition to the big elected mayors. I have an open mind on that, but if we take away functions from local authorities, we have no trust in them. Good local authorities have been brilliant at education. They have produced some of the greatest educators and experts on education that this country has ever known. If we get rid of that wonderful core of people and cease to have them coming into the system, we will do great damage to the future of education. Many of those people have been very fine chief inspectors, including two of the recent ones. We need to fight for a real, accountable education system. There was even a high degree of co-operation and agreement across the House on the need for comprehensive education. Indeed, Mrs Thatcher, as Secretary of State for Education, made more schools comprehensive than any other Secretary of State.

The way things are going under this Government, we will have a top-down, tiny Education Department in London with 20,000 schools and just the inspectorate. Time and time again, we will have crises in our schools, as we had in Birmingham. We will then have to have a firefighting exercise. We will have to find a former chief

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inspector of schools to sort it out. I believe the Budget should not have been about education. That is the job of the Secretary of State for Education. It is not up to the Chancellor to make these decisions; these decisions should have been made independently. If we make a highly ideological divide between those people in favour of academies and those against them, it will damage not only our education system but our young people who deserve the very finest education for their lives.

1.49 pm

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): Compared with the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), I am a mere callow youth in the House, having sat through only 35 Budgets, I think, and spoken in most of them. I sometimes feel I am constantly repeating the same theme, but generally in this place, unless one stays with a personal theme and keeps repeating it, one will probably not get anywhere.

Over those 35 Budgets, I have argued constantly for tax simplification. For instance, the cut in corporation tax is no doubt greatly welcomed by our larger companies, which have been the biggest cheerleaders for our remaining in the UK, but whatever they save from these modest cuts in corporation tax has been clawed back in other parts of the Budget. Unless we can achieve tax simplification and move gradually towards a flatter tax system, instead of having one of the longest tax codes in the developed world—as long as India’s—we will never make progress on tax avoidance.

The Minister for Security (Mr John Hayes): My hon. Friend’s consistency and sagacity are well established in the House, and I take his point about tax simplification, but would he not agree that the best form of simplification is to take people out of the higher tax band and out of tax altogether? Is that not the ultimate simplification and precisely what the Chancellor has done—once again—in this Budget?

Sir Edward Leigh: Yes, of course I acknowledge that, and I congratulate the Chancellor, the Government and my right hon. Friend the Minister on creating an economy in which more people are in work than ever before and more people are being taken out of tax than ever before. We are returning to the historical position of actually making work pay for people at the bottom of the heap. Helping people at the bottom of the heap and taking them out of tax is what the Government should be doing. So everything he says is absolutely right.

If I make a few suggestions or criticisms in the few minutes allowed to me, I do not want it to take away from the Government’s achievement in their macroeconomic management of the economy, and nor do I want to resile from my criticism of Labour Members, who must learn from history and become a credible Opposition. It is not good enough for the shadow Chancellor to come to the House today and refuse to answer any questions about his borrowing plans. There is no point just repeating a generalised mantra about borrowing to invest. It is fair enough to say that—it is the old golden rule of Gordon Brown, and we know how that was broken—but one must be prepared to provide concrete facts and figures. Would the shadow Chancellor borrow more than the present Government?

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I repeat, however, that I am in favour of a much-simplified, flatter tax system, and in that context, I recognise that the Chancellor is at last—I have been campaigning for this for years—indexing the higher 40p tax band.

Mr Kevan Jones: I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman in terms of the position he describes in respect of the Opposition. That did not stop his party in opposition agreeing to all the tax and spending proposals and all the Budgets right up to 2008 but then, as soon as it was in government, condemning the Labour Government for overspending—we heard that again today from the Front Bench.

Sir Edward Leigh: All I can say is: not in my name.

I agree with tax simplification. The sugar tax is a fairly benign proposal and is not coming in for two years, but, generally speaking, as a Conservative, I believe we should cut people’s taxes and then let them make their own choices. We all know there is as much sugar in Heinz tomato soup, which I love and is not going to be taxed, or in some of these baguettes one can buy from one of the increasing number of coffee shops in the Westminster village, as there is in Pepsi or Coca-Cola. These companies, of course, will find a way around it—they will probably just ensure that a Diet Coke costs the same as a normal bottle of Pepsi.

I should mention, however, that the Chancellor is repeating a mistake perhaps made in the 18th century. The 1765 Sugar Act, which imposed a tax on sugar, led to boycotts of British-made goods in Boston and sporadic outbreaks of violence on the Rhode Island colony. It was one of the Acts, along with the more famous Stamp Act, that provided ample inspiration for the American revolution. I say to the Chancellor, if he is listening, that we should be aware of that lesson from history.

My right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) mentioned the proposal for a mayor. I was quietly sitting over there, gently dozing, as the Chancellor was going through his complicated plans for business rates, when suddenly I sat up with a start, because he said we were going to have a mayor of Lincolnshire. I was not consulted, although when I talked to a colleague last night—I will not say who—he said, “Well, of course we didn’t consult you, because we knew you’d be against it.”

It is true that some of the greatest achievements in local government have been made by the mayors of great cities—I am thinking of the likes of Joe Chamberlain—and I have nothing against cities such as Bradford, Manchester, Birmingham and London having mayors, but mayors are for towns. Are they for huge rural areas such as Lincolnshire? It takes an hour and a half to drive up the southern part of Lincolnshire to Stamford, where the Minister’s constituency lies, and another hour and a half to get up to Grimsby. Does it make sense to have a mayor? None of my local councillors wants a mayor, but they have been bribed into accepting one, although it is only a draft proposal, and they can still vote it down in their councils.

If councils want a mayor, I will not stand in their way, but they should consider it very carefully. The fact is they would have preferred a devolution of power from the centre, which is fair enough. They are being offered another £15 million a year. They would like a co-operative

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body, comprising the existing district and county councils, with a rotating chair, to disburse the extra £15 million, but they have been told by the Chancellor that, unless they accept a mayor, they will not get the £15 million. That is quite wrong. It is not true devolution; true devolution is passing powers down.

We have experience of this, in the imposition of the police and crime commissioner. It was not done with public consent, there was a derisory turnout, an independent was elected in Lincolnshire, and the first thing he did was to fall out with the chief constable, and we have barely made progress since then. I say to the Chancellor and the Government: we are Conservatives and we believe in true devolution. They should not attempt these top-down solutions. An elected mayor might work fine in the big cities, but it is not necessarily the right thing for a large rural county such as Lincolnshire. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset, who talked about money being sucked into Bristol, I worry about money being sucked from rural areas up into Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Lincoln.

The Conservative-controlled county council is doing an excellent job. It is not fair that a large part of its budget will be sucked out through the academisation of schools, leaving it with a share of the extra £15 million. I am a strong supporter of academies, but I believe in true independence and devolution. We have a mixed system in north Lincolnshire: we have grammar schools and some very good comprehensive schools. We should not insist, in an area such as Lincolnshire, which has some excellent schools, that the county council give up control of all its schools. In rural areas, we have some very small schools, with just 50, 60 or 100 children, and a top-down, imposed solution is not necessarily right for the education of the kids.

In conclusion, there are many good things in the Budget and in what the Government are doing, but I urge them to pause and listen to local opinion on the imposition of mayors in rural areas.

1.58 pm

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab): In common with all right hon. and hon. Members, I listened very carefully to the Budget that the Chancellor delivered yesterday. It was his eighth Budget—an opportunity to show that, after six hard years nearly, his plan has worked. Although I welcome the introduction of the sugar tax and his clear commitment to a Britain that will be stronger, safer and better off inside a reformed European Union, the reality is that, yesterday, his record of failure became clear: fiscal rules broken; cuts targeted at the most vulnerable in society; no compelling vision for our country; an ideological Budget for the better-off that seeks to reshape the state on the back of our country’s poorest. This was from a Chancellor who frankly focuses too much on the politics and not enough on the economics.

I want to speak today about the Chancellor’s fiscal record, his Budget rhetoric and his short-sighted approach to the future of our economy. First, on the fiscal record, the Chancellor stood here in 2010 and said he was going to get a grip on our country’s finances. In his Budget shortly after the general election, he said:

“This emergency Budget deals decisively with our country’s record debts.”—[Official Report, 22 June 2010; Vol. 512, c. 166.]

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Despite that bold claim, six years later, public debt is still rising and household debts are growing. The Chancellor also said he would eliminate the deficit, but we learnt yesterday that this year the deficit will be over £70 billion. It has been just a few months since the Chancellor came to Parliament and presented his “long-term economic plan”—what was supposed to be the plan for the next five years. Yet already those plans are being revised, with deeper spending cuts, growth revised down and borrowing and debt as a percentage of GDP revised up. I have had goldfish that have lasted longer than some of the Chancellor’s fiscal rules.

Secondly, let us look at the Chancellor’s Budget rhetoric. Each year, he stands up and delivers a great line, but if we look at it more closely, we find it is just rhetoric, a mirage. In yesterday’s Budget, the Chancellor said that this was a Budget “for the next generation.” The reality? The Children’s Society says that the Budget “fails the next generation”, and the Child Poverty Action Group says that the next generation are to be the poorest generation for decades. The Chancellor has now been found out for what he is—someone who when he says “long-term economic plan”, really means “short-term political gain”.

The Chancellor says that he wants to talk about the future and that he wants to build a northern powerhouse, but he is not willing to fund it. He is spending three times more on transport in London than in Yorkshire and the Humber, and we now know that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is responsible for the northern powerhouse, is closing its Sheffield office, moving to London and taking the 200 jobs along with it. You could not make it up. I do not think that the people of South Yorkshire will think that this is what a northern powerhouse should look like.

Infrastructure is crucial to our country’s future. Although I welcomed yesterday’s announcement of money to scope the trans-Pennine tunnel, a project that has been championed by my hon. Friends the Members for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) and for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds), the reality is that investment is too low. Where it is happening, things are moving too slowly. Figures show that just 114 out of 565 infrastructure projects are in construction. If our economy is going to compete in the “global race” the Prime Minister has talked about, R&D spending will be key to our future success. Despite that, Britain is spending less than France, less than Germany, and less than half of what South Korea spends on R&D.

Speaking of our future, where were the measures to build more homes? Where were the measures to help the NHS? Where were the policies to boost the earnings of those living on low pay? These are crucial issues that will define our future, yet we got nothing from the Chancellor yesterday.

On the one issue relating to our future where the Chancellor was decisive, he was completely wrong—our children’s education. Forcing every school to become an academy is an ideologically motivated policy, and there is simply no evidence that standards will be improved. There are already concerns about the rapid expansion of a number of academy chains. This policy is likely further to antagonise the biggest asset in our education system—the teachers.

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Who is going to pay for the Chancellor’s fiscal failure? It is my constituents in Barnsley and people across the country. As the Resolution Foundation said this morning, it is those in the bottom half of the income distribution who will lose £375 a year by the end of this Parliament. It is the disabled people who will be denied personal independence payments, the single biggest spending cut announced in the Budget, and one made on the same day that taxes are cut for big business. As the charity Sense said yesterday, it was “a bleak day” for disabled people. Parents who use the children’s centres in my constituency of Barnsley Central—centres that are rated outstanding and good by Ofsted—have seen their nursery provision stopped as a result of Government cuts. Women, too, have suffered from the Chancellor’s tax and benefit changes, with 81% of savings coming out of the pockets of women.

That is the cost of this Chancellor—a Chancellor who puts his own interest before the national interest; a Chancellor who talks about fixing the roof while the sun is shining, but who should be fixing the foundations; and a Chancellor whose economic record is now being exposed as a mirage.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. Before I call the next speaker, I am going to reduce the time limit to six minutes.

2.5 pm

Alok Sharma (Reading West) (Con): My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) described himself as a “callow youth” when it comes to the number of Budgets he has attended. By that calculation, I am probably an infant when it comes to Budget debates.

The hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) referred to the emergency Budget of 2010. I and many other Members were in their places to hear it. Let me take us back to what the economy was like in 2010. It is all very well for Labour Members to criticise what has happened over the last six years, but let us just examine what the economy was like. Actually, it was not growing. In 2009, growth was going down. There was a 4% drop in growth. Wages were going down and unemployment was high—all the things we do not want to see again in our economy. The markets had given their chilling verdict on Labour’s management of the economy.

Mr Kevan Jones: Let me remind the hon. Gentleman that, when his party was in opposition, it actually agreed with our spending targets and the measures we took to rescue this country from the world crash. Moreover, what the emergency Budget did—I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman is wrong because economic growth was moving in the right direction and unemployment was coming down—was suck out demand from the economy, which perpetuated the decline.

Alok Sharma: I have to disagree. If the hon. Gentleman looks at what Tony Blair said in his autobiography—he won three elections, but it does not look like any of this lot are going to—he will see that Tony Blair realised

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that Labour was spending more in the good years and that is why we got into the position we did. At the time, Bill Gross, the founder of global investment management firm PIMCO, said this about the UK economy. He described it as a “must avoid” and said that UK gilts were

“resting on a bed of nitroglycerin”.

Those were incredibly strong words from the market. We were looking over an economic precipice. Thank goodness we had a change of Government. That is why we are in a much better position now, with growth and wages up and the deficit down.

I of course welcome this Budget. It is a Budget for business and for individuals. It is a Budget for young people and a Budget for investment in infrastructure. When it comes to schools, I welcome what the Secretary of State said. In my constituency, I have helped to found two free schools and academies, and they are doing incredibly well. One that has been going for a few years was rated as outstanding in its first year.

Michael Tomlinson: Was my hon. Friend, like me, surprised that the Labour party did not welcome, or even mention the subject of fairer funding, which will have such positive effects on our schools?

Alok Sharma: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As the Secretary of State said, Labour had 13 years to fix this and it did not. This Government are now getting that right.

I spoke this morning at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, which is much more interesting and exciting than it sounds. It greatly welcomed the business measures in the Budget, particularly the drop in corporation tax. I have to say to the shadow Chancellor, who is now back in his place, that if we drop corporation tax rates, investment will come into the country, which will allow us to raise more money. That is something that he needs to understand if he ever hopes to become Chancellor himself.

The changes to business rates are incredibly welcome to many small businesses, for which business rates constitute a large component of their fixed costs. I welcome, too, the abolition of class 2 national insurance. I hope that we are seeing a move towards a merger of national insurance and income tax. I know that this is potentially very complicated, but the dividends it will pay in terms of tax simplification will be huge, as will be the benefits for businesses.

Investment in infrastructure—many billions have been invested since 2010, and there is more to come during this Parliament—has been a hallmark of this Chancellor’s Budgets. My own constituency has benefited from significant rail investment: nearly £1 billion has been invested in Reading station, and Crossrail is coming, as is rail electrification. There has been investment in local stations as well. However, may I issue a plea to those who are looking at the Hendy report consultation? Two stations in my constituency, Theale and Green Park, are fully funded, but their development has been delayed. I hope that, as a result of the consultation, we can actually get moving so that my constituents can benefit. I welcome the work that the National Infrastructure Commission is doing in driving forward investment and infrastructure in the United Kingdom.

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A few weeks ago, I was appointed the Prime Minister’s infrastructure envoy to India. I think that the experience that will be gained by us in this country, and by our companies, will be fantastic. It will not only allow us to help countries such as India with growing economies to raise finance in the London market, but enable our world-leading businesses that are involved in infrastructure to go out and assist those economies.

Finally, let me say something about Europe. I am very much in favour of a stronger, safer, better-off, reformed European Union, and I will be campaigning for us to stay in the EU. I know that we have a limited amount of time today, and I do not want to initiate a huge debate on the subject, but I will say this: if, on 24 June, we wake up and find that the British people have chosen to leave the European Union, there will be a period of uncertainty. That is the one thing with which no one can disagree. There will be uncertainty because we will not know how long it will take us to renegotiate some kind of relationship with Europe, what the cost will be, or how investors will react. I have heard Conservative Members say that investment will continue to flow in, but I do not agree. Given what is being said by foreign countries and foreign companies, I think that they will think twice, and will wait to see what our relationship with Europe looks like before investing in the United Kingdom.

Uncertainty has two impacts. Businesses hate it, which means that they stop investing, and consumers hate it, which means that they stop spending money. The effect of all that will be very bad news for our economy. Both the Office for Budget Responsibility’s book and the Red Book contain all sorts of predictions about how our GDP could be hit if we left the European Union, but, by any measure, it will go down. All the net savings that my colleagues who want us to leave the European Union say we will gain will, I think, disappear as a result of the losses that will follow a fall in GDP and a consequent hit on tax revenues. I therefore hope that all of us, not just in the House but throughout the country, will think very carefully before voting in the referendum on 23 June.

Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con): Does my hon. Friend remember the same concerns being expressed when this country was considering whether it would be wise to join the eurozone?

Alok Sharma: I have never been keen on our joining the euro. All I can say is that I think there will be a huge amount of uncertainty if we decide to leave the European Union. That is what I want to guard against, so I ask everyone to vote to remain in the EU.

I commend the Budget to the House.

2.13 pm

Joan Ryan (Enfield North) (Lab): We heard a lot from the Chancellor yesterday about creating stability, ensuring fairness, and choosing to put the next generation first. I must say that his promises sound particularly hollow today, as we debate the important issues of education, women and equalities.

I want to join other Labour Members in raising concerns about the impact on women of the Chancellor’s economic failures. I agree with the assessment of the

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Fawcett Society that women are facing the greatest threat to their financial security and livelihoods for a generation. Changes in the welfare system and Government cuts in local authority funding and social care budgets have hit women hardest, and many women and young families in my constituency have been driven into abject poverty as a result. According to the Trussell Trust, the London borough of Enfield now has the fifth highest food bank usage in London. That is not a record of which the Government can be proud, and in the light of it I have little confidence that they will be able to deliver on the Chancellor’s promise to do

“the right thing for the next generation”.—[Official Report, 16 March 2016; Vol. 607, c. 963.]

I do support the proposal for a sugar levy on the soft drinks industry. The rise in childhood obesity is alarming. However, although the funds raised from the levy are due to go towards the money that is available for primary school sport, we now learn that there is a £560 million black hole at the heart of the Government’s academisation plans for schools. That forced academisation programme will therefore not be fully funded. It seems that the Chancellor could do with some extra maths lessons of his own.

I have serious reservations about the drive to turn all schools into academies. In some parts of the country where standards remain a concern, all schools are already academies, and the Government seem to have no other school improvement strategy for those areas. What will it be like when all the schools in the country are academies? Academies were introduced with the aim of lifting failing schools and helping to improve standards, but the model is now being stretched to fit all schools. This is an ideological approach on the part of the Government, and it constitutes an attack on local education authorities, which will become surplus to requirements. It is disheartening to note the virtual silence from the Government on the important role that LEAs play, both in supporting schools and in helping them to build positive working relationships with each other.

The Chancellor may claim that the academy process offers a “devolution revolution”, but in fact it will centralise power in the hands of the Department for Education. Local parents will no longer be able to hold elected councils, as well as the Government, to account for education standards and provision. Indeed, they will have no say whatsoever. That is a very backward step in democratic accountability.

I know from speaking to parents in Enfield that the structure of the education system is not the first thing that springs to their minds when they are discussing their children’s schooling. They want to know that their children are happy and settled, are doing well at school, and can achieve their full potential. Where are the Government’s grand plans to tackle the teacher recruitment and retention crisis? How do their structural reforms resolve that pressing issue? This matter is of great concern to parents and head teachers in my constituency, and the situation is getting worse, not better.

The Chancellor said yesterday that the performance of the London school system had been one of the great education success stories of recent years. I agree, and I would like to keep it that way. However, the inability of schools to recruit and retain the staff they need is liable to have a lasting impact on the standard of education on offer to children in Enfield and throughout

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the capital. It will prove very difficult for schools in my constituency to maintain their strong track record of raising standards if their funds are substantially cut, but that is what the new national funding formula threatens to do.

Most London boroughs have per pupil funding rates that are above the national average to reflect the higher costs of education in the capital, but head teachers now face the prospect of money being taken away. That does not seem very “fair”, despite the Chancellor’s claim. We need to be levelling up, not down. I know that the consultation on the funding formula is under way, but I think that schools in my constituency would appreciate reassurances from the Secretary of State today that the Government will continue to invest fairly in the London school system. Such reassurances are vital. I recently conducted a survey involving head teachers in my local primary schools, secondary schools and colleges, which established that real-terms budget cuts were their No.1 concern. Several said that they would be running significant budget deficits within the next three years.

Despite the evidence from schools of increasing levels of poverty and social deprivation, there has been a significant drop in the number of pupils who are eligible for free school meals. According to the Enfield schools forum, that has

“resulted in a drastic and untimely reduction of funding provided to schools.”

The Government need to give further consideration to reviewing the indicators that they use to measure deprivation for funding purposes. Rather than putting the next generation first, this Budget—particularly in relation to school reforms—could do great damage to the provision of high-quality education for all pupils. That is not fair on children, schools or families.

2.19 pm

Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con): It is a pleasure to speak in the debate and warmly to welcome the Budget. There is much in it for my constituents and for small businesses in my constituency to welcome, including the tax-free personal allowance, the fact that fuel duty has been frozen yet again and the introduction of the lifetime ISA. I also welcome the measures to tackle homelessness. Poole has an issue with homelessness, and I am delighted to have been elected as an officer on the newly formed all-party parliamentary group for homelessness. The measures announced yesterday will help to raise awareness; they represent a small step in the right direction.

Today, however, the focus is on education and I want to focus on three areas: a fairer funding formula, academies and the sugar levy. I disagree with the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) that Budgets should not be about education, because education and money go hand in hand. The Budget has to be right and the funding formula has to be right for our education to flourish. The manifesto pledge that I stood on was to deliver a fairer funding formula, and I congratulate the Secretary of State for Education and the Chancellor on delivering it. I have campaigned with F40 and I am a parliamentary patron of it. I also pay tribute to my hon.

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Friends the Members for Worcester (Mr Walker) and for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) for their steadfast campaigning on this issue.

Poole and Dorset fall within the bottom two and the bottom 11 respectively in terms of funding per pupil—[Interruption.] I hear Labour Members chuntering. I am surprised and disappointed that there is no support for fairer funding from the Opposition. When Labour was last in power, the then Secretary of State—I believe it was Ed Balls—admitted that the formula was unfair, and it is time that Labour Members recognised that fact.

Mr Kevan Jones: No one is opposed to fairer funding, but some Labour Members believe that this Government should be done under the Trade Descriptions Act for their track record on dealing with so-called fairer funding, especially in local government. They clearly take out the element of need, which leaves us in the ridiculous situation in which poor parts of the north-east are getting their local government budgets cut, while areas such as the hon. Gentleman’s, which have less demand as a result of poverty, are getting their budgets increased. That cannot be fair.

Michael Tomlinson: I disagree with the hon. Gentleman, and I can give him three examples. Local authorities in Doncaster, Barnsley and Leeds will all benefit under a fairer funding scheme. There is no rhyme or reason to the current scheme. I understand what the hon. Gentleman is trying to say, but the present funding formula is in place due to an historical anomaly. The right hon. Member for Enfield North (Joan Ryan) mentioned levels of deprivation, but it must be understood that that is not the basis for the funding formula. For example, funding can differ by up to 50% in two areas that share exactly the same characteristics. That is neither right nor fair. Indeed, the top 10 schools receive £2,000 more per pupil than the bottom 10 schools. If the formula were based on areas of deprivation, I could understand that and I could explain to my constituents why their funding was in the bottom two and in the bottom 11, but that is not the case. I therefore welcome the changes.

I also welcome the fact that there is to be a consultation and I invite Opposition Members, who are still chuntering, to join in the two stages of that consultation and to make their case. I also welcome the announcement on timing, and the fact that 90% of schools can expect to have this funding by the end of this Parliament. I shall be inviting all schools in my area to contribute to the consultation, and I urge all hon. Members to do the same.

Turning to the subject of academies, I am a parent governor at my local primary school and I know that there will be concerns about academisation. I pay tribute to the teachers in Poole and Dorset, who work so hard.

Bill Esterson: Has the hon. Gentleman had a chance to read the White Paper? Paragraph 3.30 states that there will no longer be parent governors. Does he realise that he would have to stand down as a parent governor as a result of that?

Michael Tomlinson: Doubtless there are many on the governing body who would be relieved if I had to stand down, but I am sure that there would be opportunities

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for others to step forward. I have not yet had the opportunity to read that paragraph, but I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman to drawing it to my attention. I shall look at it in due course.

I was about to pay tribute to the hard work of our teachers in Poole and Dorset, and indeed across the country. They work tirelessly. The school of which I am a governor recently went through an Ofsted inspection and I saw the hours that the headteacher and everyone else in the school put in. It is right to pay tribute to our hard-working teachers. There is a risk that the rhetoric from the Opposition Benches will come across as talking down the teaching profession, and that must not happen. It will certainly not happen here, because every time I stand up to speak on this subject I pledge to pay tribute to the hard work of our teachers.

However, academisation will be unsettling to our teachers. I urge the Secretary of State to reassure the teaching profession about the structuring and the process involved and to offer support. I know that she will do this. Dare I say that communication will be absolutely vital in this regard, as will setting out the positives—including the financial positives—that can result from academisation. It will be critical for our schools to be supported.

I want to touch briefly on the sugar tax. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) went into great detail about a previous sugar levy, but I do not share his pessimism that we risk such disastrous consequences this time round. Instinctively, I too am a low-tax Conservative and therefore cautious about this measure, but I warmly welcome the direction that this money will go in. I am passionate about sport and I believe that the additional funding for sport in primary and secondary schools will be warmly welcomed. I will invite secondary schools in my area to bid for funding so that they can be among the quarter of secondary schools to benefit from these measures.

Sport is vital in our schools. I hugely benefited from playing sport on Wednesday afternoons and on Saturdays, and I miss those days. I miss the opportunity to play sport at the weekends. Perhaps, Madam Deputy Speaker, there should be time on Wednesdays for parliamentarians to play sport and to show the way. I put in that mini-bid to you today in case it is within your gift to make that happen. Perhaps time could be found in our busy lives to play sport. There is a serious point here: sport benefits our children and it can benefit everyone.

I support this Budget. In particular, I support the measures on education, especially those relating to a fairer funding formula for our schools, which will be vital for Poole and for Dorset.

2.28 pm

Jim McMahon (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab): I refer the House to my declaration of interest as a serving member of Oldham Council. I have found quite a lot of this debate rather patronising. The way in which the Secretary of State for Education addressed Opposition Members and gave us lessons in maths and other issues was quite condescending. I hope that we can raise the tone a little.

When we give people an education, we ought to do it in a way that is easy to digest and to remember when they leave. I tend to think that if I cannot explain

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something to my seven-year-old son, I am probably over-complicating it. That is the way I am going to pitch my speech to my friends across the House today. It is no more complicated than this: Georgie Porgie spun a lie. He kicked the poor and made them cry. When the rich came out to play, Georgie delivered a tax giveaway. It is really no more complicated than that: he is taking money from the poorest and giving it to the richest. And I can tell you that teachers in schools across the country will repeat that rhyme to the children when they realise the true implications of academisation for the future of their schools.

We accept that we have a complex and diverse education system. Councils must adapt, as must communities and schools. Indeed, many have done so, but if the question is “How do we address the disconnect between democracy, local accountability and leadership?”, how on earth can more fragmentation be the answer? Taking schools away from local control and dismissing the community in the mix makes no sense at all. Looking at my local area, I see Oldham getting a grip. Oldham recognised that it needed a different approach, which is why, with the support of Baroness Estelle Morris, the Oldham Education and Skills Commission was established. That was quickly followed by a political commitment to a self-improving education system owned by every school in the borough, parents, business and the wider community, all of whom had a part to play in ensuring that schools performed to the best of their abilities and that our young people were set up for the best possible future, to which they are of course entitled.

Mr Steve Reed: Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government’s decision to centralise the control of 24,000 schools in the Department for Education in Whitehall shows the hollowness of their rhetoric on devolution?

Jim McMahon: Most people accept that we have a diverse education system and most of us have reached the conclusion that we should allow for local determination and that councils should not be fighting schools that might want to consider a different model. Equally, councils should ensure that the right considerations have been taken into account and parents should be central to the decision-making process. For the Secretary of State to impose the change on local communities, whether they like it or not and whether they have a good track record or not, makes no sense whatsoever. It beggars belief that the Secretary of State has taken that approach. When the Oldham Education and Skills Commission report was finalised, the three borough MPs wrote to the Secretary of State to seek her support because we wanted the support of central Government and of the regional schools commissioner. Two months on, we have not even had the courtesy of a response. No Conservative MP can convince me that the Secretary of State has one jot of interest in education in Oldham.

Not all councils are the same in the same way that not all schools are the same. It therefore follows that not all academies are the same. We recognise that there is good practice across the board, that some excellent progress has been made, and that schools have been turned around, but what is true for state schools and community schools is true for academies. This polarised debate about having one or the other makes absolutely no sense

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and does nothing for the people we represent. If anything, it could send us backwards. The evidence suggests that where local partnerships work and where councils step up and take a wider leadership role, good results can be delivered for local communities.

The Chancellor made several references to the change being devolution in action. How can that be when the Government are saying, “You’re getting it whether you like it or not”? But that is a hallmark of this Chancellor. For example, people get a mayor whether they like it or not, and it is the same with schools. There will be no devolution at the grassroots level either. E-ACT, a sponsor with a school in Oldham and a range of academies across the country, decided to sack every single one of its community governors. I was so concerned by that, as were my constituents, that I again wrote to the Secretary of State to ask for her support in stopping it. Her response was that she was actually quite relaxed about it, because it was a decision for the academy, so we now have a school in Oldham with no community representation whatsoever.

Where are the safeguards to ensure that academy sponsors go out to tender for the support services provided to schools? Academies are required to seek such services at cost value if they do not go out to contract, but academies and trading companies will include an overhead, which will contain director and non-executive director salaries, gold-plated pensions, to which public sector workers are not entitled, and company cars. Where are the safeguards to ensure that that cannot happen?

Where are the safeguards to ensure that salaries are published in the same way as in local authorities? Everybody in Oldham knows exactly how much senior officers are paid, because the information is published every year. It is not the same for academies or their sponsors. The chief executive of one academy is paid £370,000 a year for looking after 37 schools. Were that to be replicated in Oldham, with its 100 community schools, the director of education would be paid £1 million a year, which is nonsense. How many people know that that is happening? It happens behind the scenes and is an exercise in smoke and mirrors.

Let us get a level playing field and ensure that academies and their sponsors publish every decision that they make in the same way as councils. Let us ensure that academies cannot give contracts to their parent companies through trading companies and that they are forced to go out to contract like councils. Let us ensure that they publish a pay policy statement and senior salaries just like councils do. Let us ensure that academies publish freedom of information requests in the way that councils do. It is ridiculous that the local education authority, which has been there since 1902, is being unpicked for short-term political gain without any safeguards being put in place. The Government cannot say that they are doing it for democracy, because that does not stack up. They cannot say that it is being done for the communities that we represent. We can no longer say that it is being done in the interests of the taxpayers, because the safeguards are just not in place.

Mark my words: this is heading towards disaster. The structures are not sound enough, the safeguards are not in place, and providers are not mature enough to step

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up and take on all schools. There are some real questions about whom the Tories represent. Is it the pupils? Is it the teaching profession? Is it the wider community interest? Or is it the narrow sponsor interest? It would be an interesting piece of work to find out just how many Conservative party donors are involved in free schools and academies.

2.46 pm

Michelle Donelan (Chippenham) (Con): The Chancellor coined this Budget as one for the “next generation”. What struck me was the focus not only on today or next year, but on the years to come after that. “Long-term economic plan” has been said in this Chamber about as many times as “Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker” but the Budget has highlighted that the phrase is not rhetoric or jargon, but a tangible plan to create a saving, home-owning, business-friendly and education-focused nation. Education is the bedrock of opportunity and key to helping the next generation, so it is necessary that a Budget with such a label focuses on education and is bold—and bold it is.

The acceleration of fairer funding to help 90% of affected schools by 2020 will ensure that some older children in Chippenham will also have the chance to benefit from just and equal funding. It will mean an end to the ludicrous existing funding system and will ensure that Wiltshire’s schools get the money they deserve and can continue to offer the fantastic education for which they have become known. Pupil funding in Wiltshire is over £2,000 per pupil less than the national average, so teachers, parents and pupils will be thrilled by this week’s announcement, because they will recognise that their cry has been heard.

I am also delighted that the Government are backing academisation. To be clear, I do not for one moment think that it is the panacea to solve all our problems, but it offers independence, choice, economies of scales and high standards. Abbeyfield School in Chippenham is going through the process and is desperate to become an academy because of the huge benefits and freedoms on offer.

Michael Tomlinson: Does my hon. Friend recognise that some schools will have genuine concerns about the change and will need support and guidance about restructuring and the rest of the process?

Michelle Donelan: I completely accept my hon. Friend’s point. One of the reasons for the announcement was to encourage schools to take ownership and the process will be school-led. We want schools to choose which multi-academy trusts they join, so it is very much a bottom-up reform.

Moving on, I must also stress my support for the sugar tax on soft drinks, which is another bold move. It sends a message that will educate and encourage consumers, parents, children and the drinks industry. With the two tiers, it will also encourage manufacturers to try to reduce sugar in order to move to the second tier. My grandmother died of diabetes when my father was very young. She had a complete addiction to soft drinks. Although it was a different era and we cannot be 100% sure that soft drinks were the cause of the diabetes, it is extremely likely. The household had a modest income, and I often think what a difference might have been

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made if we had had the tax back then. So I ask anybody who doubts this policy what they mean when they say it will not have any effect. Do they mean it will save only one or two people? Do they mean it will save only someone else’s grandmother or mother? This tax is not just about that, however; it is also about cutting the obesity rate, which means that we will have more money for the NHS to pay for dealing with ailments such as cancer.

This policy will not deter everyone, and nobody is suggesting it will. You can only lead a horse to water, you cannot make it drink. We can, however, send a strong message about the threat that these drinks pose. I believe that this policy is very Conservative; it is a responsible action by a responsible Government. It is a forward-thinking action, one that does not ban but which encourages personal responsibility. It encourages people to take ownership when they have the right facts and the right message from the Government. A recent study by Public Health England found that the average teenager consumes more than three times the recommended amount of sugar. The report also showed that if they cut down to the 5% target within five years, 77,000 lives would be saved and the saving to the NHS would be £14 billion. That makes the case on its own.

Using the money generated to double the primary school PE and sport premium from £160 million to £320 million per year is a great step forward in encouraging sport and fitness, and tackling childhood obesity. The £285 million a year to allow 25% of schools to extend their school day by an hour will assist parents and reduce their childcare bill. That, too, is a forward-thinking move, one supported by the Sutton Trust. The use of the hour will be key, and I look forward to reading more information about that.

This Budget was business-friendly and it was aimed at combating our productivity crisis. It will help businesses in my constituency and around the country, and it will encourage start-ups. However, we also need to encourage and enable the next generation of business owners, managers, directors and employees, and they will need to be proficient in maths. We need to use this opportunity to bring maths to life—to teach practical and applicable maths. We need to teach maths for real life, to ensure that students are work-ready and life-ready. We need, thus, to be able to give them help with their mortgages, tax returns and balance sheets. We need to give them maths for technical applied roles and basic business mathematics—the list goes on. This is particularly important, given that we have a growing number of self-employed in the economy. There will be 40,000 self- employed people in Wiltshire alone in the next five years.

I must stress that we must not allow this to be the start of a journey towards compulsory A-level maths or a broad-based maths course pegged at this level. I hope that Sir Adrian Smith’s report will reflect the need to enliven and enrich students’ mathematical basis for the real world. We need to ensure that our system creates numerate and mathematically proficient young people, but we must also remember that not everyone needs to be a mathematician—as I well know. We will need to ensure that they have the element that is necessary for the workplace. I repeat that this report and this reform offer us a massive opportunity, but only if we go about it this correctly. I also welcome the additional support

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to encourage lifelong learning, and the recognition it shows that the economy and labour market are moving at a fast pace in our international world.

There are many things I would have liked to have said, but the time limit has severely handicapped me. I just sum up by saying that this is a bold Budget. It is an opportunities-based Budget. It is a Budget designed not only to improve our education system in the long term, but to offer opportunities in the short term and the long term for all.

2.43 pm

Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): Yesterday, the Chancellor stood at the Dispatch Box proclaiming that this is a Budget for the “next generation”. Beyond the headlines what we heard was that debt is higher than it has ever been; that growth forecasts have been cut; and that he is missing his own targets for reducing the deficit. What we heard is the Chancellor admit that he is failing. He may have tried to add some fizz to his speech, but we know it was just sputterings of more cuts, more cuts and more cuts. These are cuts to the police, cuts to youth services, cuts to support for disabled people and cuts to the fire service. He has been Chancellor of the Exchequer for six years and no matter how much he wants to, he simply cannot blame Labour any more.

The Chancellor was quick to proclaim his Budget for the “next generation” but there is one glaring omission with that: he has forgotten this generation. To be honest, he has even forgotten the next generation, too. Research by the World Health Organisation puts us way down a list of 42 countries, with only the children of Poland and Macedonia being less satisfied with life than the British. The report says that our teenagers are suffering high levels of stress and have big worries about their health. They feel pressured by school work, and school-related stress is on the rise. What is the Government’s answer? It is: turning every school into an academy; removing democratic control; extending the school day; removing collective bargaining for teachers; and getting rid of governors. In short, the Government are restructuring a whole system, adding to teachers’ concerns and stress. We know that the Government do not have a good track record in top-down reorganisations. Have they learnt nothing? Clearly they have not learned, as this is another top down reorganisation that nobody voted for; they have no mandate. These proposed changes will turn our education system into the wild west, with everyone doing their own thing and with the Department for Education running it all—it is ridiculous. Will academies be able to run selections? Will we see a mass return of the 11-plus? This reform will increase the cost of education, make our country more unequal and embed unfairness throughout our education system. This reform takes us backwards, not forwards. Let it go on the record now that I will fight this every step of the way.

It is not just in education where we find problems, as the Government’s failures are letting young people down all over the place, with one example being on housing benefit. The Government have said they will cut housing benefit for 18 to 21-years-olds, without any consideration being given to the needs of any of those young people, what they might be escaping and what their situation is. What are the Government doing? This benefit is an essential safety net. Removing it just increases the risk

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of homelessness and damages these people’s prospects of finding work in the future.

We are also seeing the death of youth services, which provide—or should I say provided— a vital safety net. Unison has reported that at least £60 million was cut from youth service budgets between 2012 and 2014, which meant that more than 2,000 youth workers have disappeared since 2010. But that is not all, because on top of this more than 350 youth centres have closed. What is going on? If we look at what happened from 2013 to 2014 alone, we see figures from the Department for Education showing a cut of more than £103 million from youth services. Children’s social care—cut; family support services—cut; adoption services—cut; youth justice teams—cut; Sure Start centres—cut; child protection services—cut; and looked-after children services—cut. The list goes on and on. More and more young people are falling through the gaps left by a lack of services. The choices that this Government are making are damaging young people’s life chances, worsening their mental health, and increasing the possibility of them getting into trouble, as they are open to abuse and potentially at risk of becoming involved in serious youth violence.

Quite simply, the impact of the Government cutting council budgets is putting children’s lives at risk. Children are dying on our streets because councils can no longer afford to fund crucial services. That makes me angry, but what makes me really angry is the fact that, in the eyes of many young people, all MPs are the same, and that cannot be further from the truth. This is a shocking Budget, as it harms the country’s young, but it does not have to be like that. Young people do have the power to change things at the ballot box. More young people need to register to vote and to use that vote. Labour will invest in our young people, and we will do so not because we want headlines, but because we know that they are the future.

2.49 pm

Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con): I followed the remarks of the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft) with a great deal of interest. Clearly, I do not agree with many of them, but I do commend her for the passion with which she prosecuted them.

This is a good Budget, and it is a good Budget for the next generation. I am the father of five children, so the next generation is important to me. I also represent a number of schools that have benefited from the pupil premium and other such changes, and a large number of service families who have been particular beneficiaries of them. I most certainly welcome the acceleration of the move towards fairer funding for schools.

However, I am ever so slightly cautious about the maths thing. I noticed that we will be consulting on whether we should have maths to the age of 18. Maths can be great, particularly vocational or lifestyle maths—the sort of maths that my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan) had in mind—but it can also be demotivating and a somewhat depressing experience for children for whom maths is not their bent. I would be a little bit of cautious about making the introduction of that particular discipline compulsory to the age of 18.

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I am a strong supporter of the sugar tax. The Opposition has suggested that this may be a pun-rich artifice to draw attention away from the three fiscal tests. That is grossly unfair, because the sugar tax will come to be seen as an historic tax. It is an indication that the Government are prepared to act on important public health measures when it becomes clear that voluntary measures have not succeeded.

I am very conscious of Robert Chote’s clarification of the position of the Office for Budget Responsibility on Brexit and the importance of not misrepresenting organisations such as his. However, as we have already had talk of the European Union as part of this Budget debate, I would like to weigh in with my own observation about the tampon tax. I commend the Chancellor for his imagination in finding £12 million from this tax to spend on relevant women’s charities, but it is a great pity when a country such as ours has to tiptoe around a requirement instituted by the European Union. Where on earth is the sovereignty in a state that cannot determine even the tax paid by its citizens on tampons?

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury will be undertaking a drive for efficiency and value for money. In so doing, I hope that he pays attention to Lord Carter’s review of efficiency in hospitals, which was published last month. It is a marvellous piece of work that draws attention to the unwarranted variation across our national health service that is costing somewhere in the region of £5 billion a year. The concept of a model hospital and metrics such as the adjusted treatment cost and the weighted activity unit are absolutely necessary if we are to make what is an efficient service even more efficient, and bring our healthcare outcomes up to the level of the very best in Europe, and not, as is so often the case, around about the level of the worst.

Simon Stevens’ £22 billion funding gap seems unbridgeable without measures of the sort that has been presented by Lord Carter of Coles. Part of the answer is right-sizing the national health service estate, and we will increasingly have to get to grips with the need to regionalise our acute sector and secondary care hospitals. That will involve some difficult political decisions, but we must not baulk at them if we are to drive up healthcare outcomes.

Yesterday, I was called a health fascist by a colleague for my views on the sugar tax and on taxing tobacco. I make absolutely no apologies if indeed that is the case. I am particularly exercised about tobacco. Smoking is the captain of the men of death in this country. It kills 100,000 people a year, far more than obesity, alcohol and illicit drugs put together. It causes death before normal retirement age in 50% of those it kills. It causes 20 times as many smokers as die to have smoking-attributable diseases and disability. If we are serious about public health, we have to be serious about smoking, and although rates have fallen in recent years, they appear to have reached a plateau, and we need to drive them down much more and much more rapidly.

There is no safe threshold for smoking. Unlike many substances which we might like to control—I am thinking particularly of alcohol—there is no safe threshold. It is surprising, maybe, that this product is available for sale at all. Half of all health inequality between social classes 1 and 5 is thanks to cigarettes. Poorer people consume more, draw on their cigarettes harder, use

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higher tar products and leave shorter stubs. Their smoking is worse not only in quantitative terms, but in qualitative terms.

Bravo to the Chancellor for listening to Action on Smoking and Health. Well done for raising the duty by 2%. I would like to see it higher. Well done for the innovative minimum excise duty tax to head off trading down. In all, it is a good Budget—a good Budget for the next generation.

2.55 pm

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison). I have great respect for him and his views on health and I would never call him a health fascist. He is measured in the way that he presents health issues, particularly in relation to public health.

I will repeat some of what was said from the Front Bench by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell). This is the eighth Budget of this Chancellor in six years—eight Budgets of big promises to eliminate the deficit by 2015. He has broken his own budgetary rules on debt and on welfare, and he is heading towards breaking his rules again on the budget surplus in this Parliament. Why? Because of the actions of this Chancellor. Yes, there are global issues that will impact on any country’s economy. That was the case when the Labour party was in government, it was the case when the previous Conservative Government were in office, and now this Chancellor is admitting that they will impact on his plans.

Early Budgets choked off growth. The initial emergency Budget in 2010 contained cuts and an increase in value added tax.

Mr Kevan Jones: Does my hon. Friend agree that it is remarkable that the Chancellor now refers to global headwinds that may knock him off course, but in 2010 when he choked off demand—and we have heard it again today—he claimed that the recession in 2008 was nothing to do with the global situation, but was all down to a Labour Government? Is it not ironic that he chooses to use the global situation as an excuse for what he blamed the Labour Government for in 2010?

Albert Owen: My hon. Friend is right. He and I and the Chancellor came into Parliament together and we know he has form on these issues, which have been laid bare in this Budget.

The early Budgets choked off growth. I mentioned value added tax because it is forgotten that initially this Government raised value added tax by 2½ pence in the pound. That took money out of the economy at a time when there should have been a fiscal stimulus, as there was in many other countries, to ensure that we got out of the recession and out of austerity as quickly as possible. So it is the Chancellor, in his eighth Budget over six years, who is responsible for not being able to balance the books, which he promised he would do.

The poorest, the vulnerable are paying the price of extended austerity, and less so those on higher incomes, who have seen their income tax cut. Now we hear in this Budget that capital gains tax will be cut at a time when the personal independence payment is being taken away from some disabled people. That is the priority of this Chancellor, and that is why we are in the present situation.

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I talk about value added tax being raised because the Chancellor is always talking about how thresholds are going up and how that is helping. However, that is eliminated by the additional value added tax that people have to pay on goods. The big announcement yesterday about a freeze in petrol duty and a freeze on beer duty is wiped out when people have to pay 2½ pence on each pound when they buy petrol, drink beer or go out for a meal. This Chancellor is putting taxes up, not down, and families are suffering across the country. Ordinary people are paying the price.

I refer to the insurance premium tax. Yes, we all want to see investment in our flood defences, but again, it is ordinary families who will pay for that through a stealth tax. Rather than being the work of a tax-cutting Chancellor, the Osborne taxes are hurting ordinary families in this country.

The biggest losers are women and the disabled. The Chancellor really missed an opportunity to use the Budget to help the many women born in the 1950s through transitional pensions. He missed the opportunity to use some imagination to come up with a formula to try to smooth out the issue of those whose pension age is going up but who were not given sufficient warning to plan for that.

The Chancellor talked about an ISA for young people under 40. He needs to get out and about. I have two daughters under 40, and they are burdened with student debts—they are struggling to pay the bills. People like them do not have £4,000 in their back pockets to invest for the future. They need help and support—not to be told that they can get an extra £1 for every £4 they save. The Chancellor is out of touch.

I do agree with the sugar tax, but it is not a silver bullet. To deal with child obesity, there needs to be long-term, careful planning, and there needs to be a change in lifestyles as well. I welcome the proposals on sports provision in English schools—I do not think it has been cut in Welsh schools—but it was the Chancellor who cut the funding for it, which he is now reintroducing.

When the Chancellor talked about infrastructure for the future and the next generation, there was one area he missed out: digital infrastructure. The Prime Minister has promised universal superfast broadband coverage across the United Kingdom. Again, the Chancellor had an opportunity to stand up and say how we will fund that in a way that will allow us to compete with the South Koreas of the world and to have modern infrastructure.

Mobile coverage is poor across most of the United Kingdom. There is a small plan in the Budget for 5G in 2017. Many areas that I represent in north-west Wales do not even have 3G, and they certainly do not have the luxury of 4G. Poor broadband, alongside poor mobile coverage, makes businesses in that area difficult to operate. We talk about education, but what about those who are not in conventional education but doing Open University courses? They cannot complete their studies, because they do not have the basic infrastructure in the 21st century.

The Budget is therefore a missed opportunity, although I welcome many of the things the Chancellor talked about. He mentioned north Wales, which I was very pleased about, because I have been lobbying the Conservative Government to link north Wales into the

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so-called northern powerhouse. I will work with the Welsh Government, the UK Government and local authorities to get a good deal for growth in north Wales, but we need to see the detail. What we heard were big plans for the long-term future that we have heard before. What we wanted were radical, bold initiatives to invest in this country, invest in people now, invest in those who are losing out on pensions and invest for those in the next generation, helping them today—not giving them false promises for tomorrow.

3.3 pm

Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con): It is a privilege and an honour to follow the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen), but I am afraid I cannot agree with much of what he said, and particularly not with his pessimism about what he called ordinary people. Thanks to the enormous growth in jobs, many of those people are now in work when they were not before. They are paying lower taxes and getting higher wages, so I think he is wrong to be pessimistic and should welcome much more of the Budget than he did.

I might also remind the hon. Gentleman of where we were in 2010, when more than 2.5 million people were unemployed and Government borrowing was more than 10% of GDP. That was a consequence, unfortunately, of years of reckless spending under the last Labour Government, who built up a ballooning budget deficit, even when the economy was strong. That, in turn, built up the country’s debt month by month. Opposition colleagues have no plan to pay off that debt—I can only assume that they plan to pass it on to future generations.

Mr Kevan Jones: The hon. Lady was not in the House at the time, but will she explain why it was, then, that the Conservative party not only agreed with the last Labour Government’s spending until 2008, but, in some areas—including defence, which was my area—asked for more spending?

Helen Whately: There are areas where we disagree on the allocation of expenditure, but overall my party has a plan for stability and Labour does not have a plan and simply wants to borrow more.

This Government have worked hard, and are working hard, to turn the economy around. We know that involves some tough choices, but one part of being a Conservative is thinking of the long term. I do not think that any of us, on either side of this House, wants to pass debt on to our children as individuals, and we should not do so as a country either. I welcome a Budget that looks to the future, investing in education, cutting taxes for businesses to stimulate growth, and balancing the books so that we are prepared for whatever financial shocks we may face.

I want to live in a country where every child has a chance to succeed and make the most of their lives, and that starts with a good education. Educational standards have gone up, but it is a mixed picture. I welcome the Chancellor’s and the Secretary of State’s announcement on schools, particularly the new funding formula, which I have campaigned for. The old funding formula was arbitrary and unfair. It left some schools in my constituency receiving far less per pupil than other schools with very

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similar students. As a result, those schools have had to cut back on important subjects and extra-curricular activities. We are also going to get an extra £500 million of funding that will speed up the introduction of the new funding formula. That is very important, because with every year that goes by another group of children in my constituency loses out under the current system.

My hon. Friend the Minister will know that I care a great deal about health. In the Health Committee, expert after expert told us that obesity is one of the greatest threats to the health of the nation, particularly among children. One in five children leaves primary school overweight. Obese children are more likely to grow into obese adults, with the associated health risks that that brings, as well as the cost to the economy. In the Health Committee we have also heard evidence on the quantities of sugar hidden in soft drinks. For instance, an average can of cola can contain nine teaspoons of sugar, or even up to 13.

I am therefore very happy that the Chancellor has been bold in introducing a levy on the soft drinks industry. That, in itself, sends a really strong message, rightly, about how unhealthy these drinks are, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan) said. I hope it will encourage manufacturers to reformulate their products. It will also raise some £520 million that will go to fund school sports. Despite the existing school sports fund, there is not enough sport in schools. Some children get to do sport for only one hour a week, and that is not enough for their health or for their academic achievement.

I look forward to the childhood obesity strategy that the Government are due to publish in the summer. I urge them to include in it more of the Health Committee’s recommendations: for example, its recommendations on controls on advertising and on promotion of sugary foods and its recommendations on giving greater powers to local authorities to ensure a healthier environment. A levy on sugar, or a sugar tax, is just one of the proposals that we put forward, and just one of the things that needs to be done to tackle the problem of sugar consumption and obesity.

Much in this Budget will be welcomed in my constituency, not least the tax cut that will mean that 1,854 people in mid-Kent are taken out of income tax altogether; the freeze in fuel duty, which is so important to rural areas; and a higher threshold for business rates, which will boost small businesses, hundreds of which will be completely taken out of paying business rates. The hon. Member for Ynys Môn might have laughed at the freeze in beer duty, but it will be very welcome in my constituency, not just to beer drinkers, who may raise a glass to the Chancellor, but to Shepherd Neame, the brewery, which is the largest employer in my constituency, so there will also be a big boost for jobs.

Rebecca Pow: I would like to praise the fact that we have also frozen cider duty. In my constituency of Taunton Deane, cider is a very important industry.

Helen Whately: I am glad that the cider industry in my hon. Friend’s constituency is benefiting as well. However, one of my local industries in this sector that did not benefit was the English wine industry. While

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beer and cider have been supported, I would like the Chancellor to give some support to the fast-growing English wine industry.

Farming is very important to my constituency, and I know that farmers will welcome the alignment of the national living wage and national minimum wage cycles. I am afraid that they will be disappointed, however, that there are no mitigations to help them to cope with increased labour costs, which hit fruit farmers particularly hard. May I ask the Government to keep considering how they can help farmers who have large numbers of employees to manage to pay the national living wage, which they very much want to do to, without going out of business?

Young people in my constituency can struggle to buy a home, because houses in the south-east are very expensive and not everyone is on a high income, so I think that young families will welcome the lifetime ISA to help them do so.

Unemployment in my constituency has more than halved since 2010. Stability and jobs are the best thing that the Chancellor has given the country, and this Budget will continue to provide them.

The UK expects to have the fastest growth of any G7 country, but the fact that the OBR revised down its growth estimate shows that we cannot be complacent. These are turbulent times and we need to be prepared.

Many of us would love to spend money on shiny new buildings, as past Labour Governments did, but unless we do that out of a balanced budget we will just pass debt on to the next generation. I have heard Labour Members complain about the savings that need to be made, but if this Government had not made difficult decisions to reduce the structural deficit, cumulative borrowing would have been on course to be £930 billion higher in 2019-20, and we would have been in a much worse position today.

I welcome this Budget for the next generation. It supports education, employment and businesses as the engines of growth, puts long-term stability ahead of short-term fixes, and sets Britain up for the future.

3.11 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): In following the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately), it is worth setting the record straight: it was a worldwide banking crisis that caused the recession, not Labour investing in teachers, nurses, doctors and shiny new buildings, as she called them. I think what she meant to say was hospitals and schools. In fact, in 2010, the economy was growing when Labour left Government.

It has been 24 hours since the Chancellor’s Budget statement, and I think it will be remembered not as a Budget for the next generation, but as a Budget of unfairness. That is most starkly emphasised by the £4.2 billion-worth of support taken from disabled people, many of whom cannot work, to give £2.7 billion-worth of support in capital gains tax cuts to wealthier people, many of whom do not need to work.

It is certainly not a Robin Hood Budget, because he was good at hitting his targets. I also note that the Chancellor pledges to fix 214,000 potholes in the next year, but I think that filling the huge one in his deficit plans will take much longer.

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The bulk of what I want to say is about the effect of this Budget on my constituents in a city in the north that is apparently a key player in the northern powerhouse, although the Government seem to forget that Hull is part of the northern powerhouse, because they focus mostly on the Manchester area. As someone who has been a Hull MP for 11 years, I know that we have to fight every inch of the way for a fair deal and we often have to make our own luck. After getting only £1 million in the autumn statement, I was pleased that the Budget made available to Hull a more fitting £13 million for its year as city of culture in 2017. That happened only after the issue was raised on numerous occasions in the House and with Ministers, but I am pleased that the lobbying by the three Hull MPs has paid off. Granting the £5 million to renovate Hull’s new theatre will leave a legacy after 2017, which is one of the main city of culture objectives. I also welcome the £1.2 million for the British mercantile marine memorial collection in Hull.

Elsewhere, however, the news is more mixed for people in Hull. Although Labour in particular has championed changes to business rates for small businesses and letting local areas keep business rate revenue, the Government’s approach ends any recognition of the needs of poorer areas—the cause that George Lansbury went to prison for so many years ago. This Government constantly favour wealthy areas that have a stronger local tax base and that have experienced less deep cuts than more deprived areas such as Hull.

Hull, like many other northern cities, is left facing a social care crisis, even with the social care levy that the Government have announced. It worries me greatly that local social care providers and other small businesses in the area are not getting enough help to ensure that the living wage meets its objectives and does not mean job losses in the months ahead.

There is little hope in the Budget for Hull’s policing or NHS services. Today, the Secretary of State for Health is in Hull demanding that the people who work in the NHS in Hull perform better, but taking no responsibility for the disastrous Lansley reforms introduced in the last Parliament. Neither is the Secretary of State taking any responsibility for his mishandling of the junior doctors’ contracts, which is affecting morale and recruitment in an area where it is very difficult to recruit doctors in the first place.

I want to move on to infrastructure investment, which is a vital part of rebalancing the economy, increasing productivity and raising overall UK growth. There is good news, I note, for those in Hertfordshire who want to travel to Surbiton via Chelsea, with the £27 billion for Crossrail 2. Although High Speed 3 between Leeds and Manchester was announced again, our privately financed initiative for rail electrification between Selby and Hull, to get average speeds above 42 mph, has been stuck in the sidings in the Department for Transport’s decision-making process for the last two years. The Department has been studying the business case since September, but time is running out on the proposal if we are to get it by 2021.

Clearly, Hull is not given the same priority as building a £500 million Crossrail station at Canary Wharf or plans for a £175 million Thames garden bridge. With no A63 road upgrade, and even a delay in building the bridge over the A63, Hull faces running city of culture

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2017 with not one of the transport improvements that would have assisted in its success. It beggars belief that we cannot even get a bridge built over a road, but we can put a man on the moon. Similarly, I am concerned about the increase in flood insurance premiums. Hull flooded terribly in 2007, and I want to make sure that some of that investment comes to our city.

I want to close by talking about devolution. We heard about the greater Lincolnshire model for devolution yesterday, but we heard nothing about Yorkshire. That is a real pity, because it will divert attention away from the Humber estuary.

Albert Owen: On the issue of devolution, only a few months ago the Chancellor said that he would devolve business rates to local authorities. Does my hon. Friend feel that local authorities will lose out as a consequence of the threshold changes?

Diana Johnson: The poorer areas of the country are going to lose out. The way in which the Government have handled devolution is really sad. They have rushed it through and imposed arbitrary timescales for putting deals forward. The public have not been properly engaged. I have talked to people in Hull who say that they have not been asked for their opinion about what they would like. They also object to the fact that the Government want to impose this one-size-fits all model of an elected Mayor. That may not be suitable for whole swathes of the country, but it is the only option available.

There is a real problem, particularly in my area, with the idea of the greater Lincolnshire model. There is nothing for Yorkshire at the moment, and I think that there will be real problems for Hull. All in all, if we are serious about getting devolution right, we need to go back to the drawing board and think carefully about what suits the needs of different parts of the country, rather than rushing ahead. My constituents will find the Budget wanting, and they will think that it does not really meet the needs of a city such as Hull.

3.18 pm

Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane) (Con): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson). Among her negativity, I was pleased to hear her praise for the Chancellor and the funding that he is giving to Hull for the year of culture and for its theatre, in particular. I would like to visit and have a look. Hull got more from the Budget than we did in Taunton.

I cannot imagine that too many children listened to the Chancellor’s statement yesterday—no offence to the Chancellor—but if they had they would have heard that the school day for secondary school children is likely to get longer. That may not be welcome news for some children, but when they see what they are going to get, they will realise the benefits of it. I welcome the new funding provided for extracurricular activities, such as Mandarin, Chinese or music lessons and special clubs. I would like to put in a bid to the Secretary of State for Education for, and talk to her about, teaching children more about where their food comes from. I am working

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with local farmers on that, and we have a “Farm to Fork” event coming up. Our children could benefit a lot from such teaching.

Helen Whately: I support my hon. Friend’s point about the benefits of an extended school day. One of the greatest divides between the state sector and the independent schools sector is how much extra is offered by independent schools after the main school day, so this is a very good initiative to narrow that gap.

Rebecca Pow: Interestingly, when I asked one teacher at a school in the most deprived part of my constituency what single thing would make the biggest difference to the children’s lives, he said, “Extending the school day.” That gives them many more opportunities. They may not be fortunate enough to have such opportunities at home. If the parents are working, they may not be able to run around with their children to the after-school activities we all want our children to take part in. The Chancellor must have been listening because we now have this funding, which I welcome.

I welcome many of the other things connected with education in the Budget. A good education underpins everything we are doing to raise standards for our children. Ultimately, such an education will have an impact on the skills, businesses and opportunities we are so trying to encourage and increase. In Taunton Deane, we have great ambitions to do that. We are part of the way there, but we need to do more. I hope the Secretary of State will listen when I ask this: how about a university for Somerset?

Primary schools have scored well in the Budget, with the funding for sports provision doubling from £160 million to £320 million. I was a governor of a village school for quite a number of years, so I realise how difficult it is to provide good PE input. I welcome this funding because it will enable schools to get in outside coaches, have specialist PE classes and even to share a teacher with other schools. That point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson) and other colleagues.

It makes so much sense to get our children to take up sport because it will make them fitter and healthier, while the incidence of cancer, diabetes and all the other awful diseases increases for those who become obese. Upping the profile of sport in schools will also have an effect on mental health, about which there is an awful lot of data. Only this week, the launch of the mental health charter for sport and recreation highlighted the fact that physical activity is as effective as medication in treating depression. The money for the sport scheme will come from the tax on sugary drinks, which has been much mentioned today. The funding is welcome, but because we are tackling obesity, it also means there will be fewer such diseases and the NHS will therefore have more money to spend on other things.

The move to make every school an academy by 2020 will simplify the education system. We have two systems at the moment, so having only one will mean the system is much more dynamic. In such a system, the best schools will benefit with more freedom, and the schools that need help will get help from others. In many cases, that will be done through forming multi-academy trusts. The sharing of resources in such trusts will bring advantages. The Taunton Academy, which is part of a multi-academy

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trust, already receives such an input, including through sponsorship from our excellent Richard Huish sixth-form college. On that note, will the Secretary of State provide clarification about whether academies can take international students and offer higher education?

We have heard quite a lot about students doing more maths, including from my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan). Students may not fancy the idea of continuing to do maths to the age of 18, but maths is a must. This will not be highly academic maths, but the sort of user-friendly maths—reading balance sheets and all that kind of thing—that will help people in the world of work, and I welcome that.

I welcome the fairer funding deal mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately). I, too, campaigned long and hard in Taunton Deane for fairer funding, because pupils in my constituency get, on average, £2,000 less than those in the 10 best funded schools. That is unfair, and I welcome the fact that that anomaly will be ironed out, as well as the extra funding announced by the Chancellor to speed up that introduction. Much in the Budget is designed to benefit the next generation, and for the sake of my three children, and indeed everybody’s children, I welcome that.

I also welcome initiatives to benefit the self-employed, who too often have been regarded as second-class citizens in our society. I will not refer to all those initiatives because I am running out of time, but we all know what they are, and they will be of benefit. In 2015, employment in the south-west grew faster than anywhere else in the country, but we must build on that with the better skills that we will get through better education. That is all referred to in this sensible, sensitive Budget, which is very necessary in a time of global uncertainty. We will build on a low tax, enterprise economy with a special emphasis on education as the building block. It is as simple as A, B, C, and I welcome it.

3.26 pm

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) and I agree with some of the points she made in the early part of her speech. Like her, I want to comment on the education measures in the Budget.

In 2001-02 I was the Schools Minister responsible for the introduction of the Teach First programme. That was a successful response to the teacher recruitment crisis at that time, and it has continued to do a great job until the present day. We now need that kind of innovation and imagination from current Ministers, to respond to the teacher recruitment problems that we have at the moment. There was nothing in the Budget about teacher recruitment or retention, but those problems are building and we need an initiative on that front.

Along with London Challenge, Teach First was a key element in the dramatic improvement in the performance of London schools since 1997, and it is important that the new national schools funding formula does not put that improvement at risk. As has been mentioned, the Chancellor said yesterday that he was providing an additional half a billion pounds to speed up the implementation of the school funding formula so that it will apply to 90% of schools by 2020. Will that extra money be used—as I hope it will be—to ensure that the

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formula is implemented by levelling up the finances of underfunded schools, not by taking funding away from schools that are adequately funded at the moment? I hope that that is what the half a billion pounds is for, and I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm that at the end of the debate.

Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that some boroughs, particularly in London, are affected by as much as 10% by some of these worrying proposals?

Stephen Timms: There is a lot of worry about the proposals, and I hope that the Government will assure us that there will be no real-term cuts in the funding of individual schools. Half a billion pounds could go a long way to achieving that, and it would be helpful if the Minister could give us that assurance.

As we have heard, the Red Book contains a chapter called the “Devolution Revolution”, but the Budget ends local authority influence over education, which always used to be devolved. The hon. Member for Taunton Deane said that it was wonderful that we will have one system for education in the future, but I thought the Government were in favour of devolution, and the Red Book claims that they are. It is a big contradiction to proclaim devolution on the one hand, at the same time as ending local influence over education.

I am particularly sceptical about the benefits of turning every primary school into an academy, because I have seen no evidence that doing that will be a good thing. The Minister and the Secretary of State will know of local educational authorities—other Members have spoken of them in the debate—that do a very good job in supporting the local network of primary schools, enabling schools that are struggling to be supported, for example by a gifted head from another school nearby. I therefore want to put this question to the Minister and ask him to respond on behalf of the Secretary of State: what is the case for simply dismantling and smashing up all the successful arrangements of that kind?

The Church of England referred in its response to

“the particular challenges that many smaller primary schools will face as they seek to develop such partnerships”.

The Sutton Trust was quoted by the Secretary of State and by me in an intervention. It rightly makes the point in its impressive research that good

“academy chains are having a transformational impact on pupils’ life chances”,

which is a very good thing, but it also says that

“others have seriously underperformed and have expanded too rapidly.”

That is why I pressed the Secretary of State specifically on whether the mass process of turning every primary school and every remaining secondary maintained school into an academy will be done by adding those schools on to existing chains, too many of which are underperforming. Only about a third are doing well, according to the Sutton Trust. The chains that are doing badly are doing badly because they have expanded too quickly. The process could make that far worse by forcing hundreds of additional schools into those same underperforming chains. I therefore press the Minister again. I did not get the assurance I was seeking from the Secretary of State that the process would not be done

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by adding new schools on to underperforming chains. I hope he can give us that reassurance in his response.

Local authority support for families of primary schools is successful. Do the Government envisage those simply being rebadged as multi-academy trusts? Perhaps that is one way out of the problem. Destroying those arrangements is potentially very damaging.

Mr Steve Reed: My right hon. Friend makes an interesting observation. What are his thoughts on the initiatives of Labour councils such as Brighton and Hove, which are setting up co-operatives for their schools to join together to try to undermine the Government’s attempts to isolate and atomise schools?

Stephen Timms: I very much welcome that. I thought everybody agreed that diversity in school provision was a good idea rather than having the one-size-fits-all model for which the hon. Member for Taunton Deane argued. Surely we should be encouraging exactly the kind of arrangement that my hon. Friend draws attention to, so that we can enjoy the benefits of the diversity that results.

I am glad that, in opening the debate for the Opposition, my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) focused on the failures that the Budget highlighted yesterday. The OBR pointed out to us that the Chancellor had three fiscal rules in the run-up to yesterday’s Budget. He has broken two of those. He has broken his commitment, which was made less than a year ago, to reduce debt as a proportion of GDP in every year. We had that rather puzzling passage in the Budget speech when the Chancellor talked about numerators and denominators and a paradoxical outcome. It turns that he was saying that he had failed on that rule.

The second rule he failed was on the welfare cap. It is hard to think of any Treasury legislation of the past 20 years that has backfired so spectacularly as the welfare cap. It was legislated for last summer with great fanfare, but within weeks it was announced that it would be broken. The OBR now tells us that it will be broken in every single year of this Parliament. The whole thing has become a complete fiasco.

The third rule that the Chancellor went into the Budget with was the commitment on delivering a surplus. Of course, in the last Parliament, the centrepiece of the Chancellor’s project was to eradicate the deficit by 2015. He failed on that, and it now looks very likely that he will fail to achieve the surplus he has promised by 2019-20. To deliver it would require extraordinary fiscal tightening in what will almost certainly be the year leading up to the next general election. I cannot see that happening. By then, the Chancellor will have failed on all three of his rules.

The Budget raises important questions and I hope we get answers on the specific education points when the Minister winds up.

3.34 pm

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) and his typically thoughtful contribution. Both

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he and I will know that the great disadvantage of speaking late in a debate is that everything that can be said has been said, although of course not everybody who can say it has said it. I will try not to be too repetitious, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I commend both Front Benchers for taking so many interventions during their speeches. That set a very good tone for the debate. I trust that that will continue. Perhaps the shadow Chancellor will even extend me the generosity of allowing me to intervene on him next time.

When I was listening to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor make his eighth Budget speech yesterday, I was thinking about how different the world was six years ago when he made his first Budget speech. At that time, unemployment in Tamworth was rampant. Businesses and jobs were going to the wall. Walking down Glascote high street, one would see notices of repossession in the windows of people’s houses. When Gordon Brown left office not only were people losing their jobs, but their homes too.

After eight Budgets, the situation has been transformed. Unemployment in Tamworth is now less than 300. Just about everybody who can work in Tamworth is working in Tamworth. The Jobcentre has turned into a recruitment agency, going out looking for people to do better-paid, better-skilled jobs. House prices are going up and people are better off. Having continually raised the income tax threshold, my average constituent is now £1,000 better off than he or she was in 2010.

I heard Opposition Members, in particular my otherwise good friend the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen), criticise the lifetime ISA. This savings initiative sends a very good message to young people about the importance of the savings culture. As the Chancellor was making his speech, I got a message from a young constituent of mine called Dan Ball, aged 19 from Amington. He said, “How can I get one of these ISAs?” I will be writing back to him before the end of this week to tell him just what he can do to save and invest in his future.

The support that the Chancellor has given to businesses—for big businesses, in the form of corporation tax; and for small businesses by reforming and changing the business rate—will help businesses in my constituency, from small newsagents in the high street to companies such as Tame Plastics and Invotec. That will help jobs and growth, so I commend what the Budget has to offer.

If I could make two pleas in the time I have left, they would be these. Given that we want to create a Budget for the next generation, part of it must be about infrastructure investment. The Chancellor made great play—rightly so—of the midlands engine. One of the overlooked pieces of infrastructure in the midlands is the A5 corridor running through Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire. Much of the A5 is single carriageway. It would benefit from being dualled, so that we could open up developments and house building along the corridor. There are plans for such development and house building. I hope the Exchequer Secretary will make a note of that and use all is artistry and eloquence to prevail on the Transport Secretary to put the dualling of the A5 in the next road investment strategy.

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May I also encourage more house building? Hon. Members on all sides of the Chamber have mentioned the need for more house building. Some 88,000 new houses are needed in the west midlands. We are building, and are planning to build, more houses in Tamworth, but one of the challenges—even though we have reformed planning, introduced Help to Buy and are selling public land to private developers—is the number of small and medium-sized enterprises in the development supply chain. Many were wiped out during the crash, and we need to get them back in. I would like the Government to encourage big developers, such as Bovis, Persimmon and Redrow, to franchise some of their land bank to smaller developers so that they can build houses on that land. It would de-risk the big developers, because they would not have to take the risk of building the houses, and help smaller developers, because the planning activity would already have been undertaken and so would not cost them so much. That would get more SMEs into the supply chain and help us build those homes for the future in the midlands and beyond.

I listened attentively to the Budget, and I was not carried away by the doom-mongers on the Opposition Benches, and I listened attentively to the Leader of the Opposition, who I thought began rather well but then, like the rest of us, lost interest in his own speech halfway through. He can do better next time by listening to and learning from the Chancellor and by supporting our plans for a Budget for the future.

3.40 pm

Mr Steve Reed (Croydon North) (Lab): I share the many concerns raised about the Budget’s giveaways to the rich at the expense of the poor and disabled. It is despicable and against the British sense of fair play but entirely in line with the behaviour of a Government who are pushing more people into poverty and then blaming and punishing them for it.

Others have spoken movingly about that, but I would like to focus on what the Budget says about the Government’s commitment to devolution. Their actions do not match their rhetoric. The Secretary of State, who introduced the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, at the same time introduced the Housing and Planning Bill, which contained more than 30 new centralising measures. The Budget contains more of that same centralising instinct. Yesterday, the Government centralised control of every school in the country. They have learnt nothing from the Trojan horse scandal in Birmingham and are now stripping away local accountability from every school.

There is no way that the Department for Education can provide proper oversight of 24,000 schools from Whitehall, and a lack of oversight means that problems will not be noticed or tackled until they have grown into crises. It is not devolution to hand schools over to giant national academy chains, and it is not localist to do that in the teeth of opposition from parents, teachers and communities. I do not understand how the Secretary of State can come here and lecture the House on the need to listen to parents, when she will not listen to parents over forced academisation.

Catherine West: What does my hon. Friend make of Conservative Peter Edgar, the executive member for education at Hampshire County Council and a former

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teacher, who said that the scheme could result in Britain’s education system “imploding” and urged the Government to think again? He said:

“I am horrified to think that the county council’s role in education is going to be destroyed by George Osborne in his budget. We have worked with the government to deliver the reforms and have been congratulated”—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. The hon. Lady has said enough.

Mr Reed: It is sad that the councillor has felt forced to say that, but he is absolutely right of course.

There is little evidence of devolution over how local services are funded as a result of the Budget. Yesterday, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies has now confirmed, the Chancellor tightened his fingers around the neck of local government funding. He has handed over limited powers to city regions and others but refused to link those powers to resources. I want to see the Government go much further on devolution—more local control over schools, housing, health and the Work programme—but we need real fiscal devolution as well. If the Government hand over services but then cut the funding centrally, all they are really doing is devolving the blame for cuts made in Downing Street.

Yesterday’s Budget graphically underscored that point. The Chancellor made much of his plans to allow 100% retention of business rates, which of course sounds good, but he will not be clear about which services they will have to pay for. At the same time, he is entirely scrapping the central Government grant, leaving councils far worse off and less able to fund the services that local people rely on. He will not explain, either, what mechanism, if any, will be in place to ensure that business rates retention does not just benefit areas that are already wealthy and penalise those that are not. There needs to be a fair funding mechanism in place that helps areas to expand their capacity for economic growth, otherwise they will be locked into a downward spiral, with no way out.

Of course, we should not be surprised that the Budget did not include anything about fair funding. Under this Government, the 10 poorest councils have suffered cuts 23 times bigger than the 10 richest. Last month, the Government voted to cut Croydon’s funding by another £44 million, but handed a £23 million windfall to far wealthier Surrey next door. Unfairness is the defining feature of this Government.

What these further cuts mean for the vast majority of communities in this country is the closure of libraries, museums, youth services and children’s centres. They will leave streets unswept and street lights turned off at night. They will mean home care taken away from frail older people, and disabled people left to struggle alone. They will mean a cut to early intervention in troubled families, and social workers will not be there to protect children from the impact of domestic violence. Services will not be there any more to protect children at risk of abuse. We are simply storing up problems for the future, while watching young lives get ripped apart.

This Chancellor has got so much wrong. He has had to downgrade growth forecasts that he made only four months ago. He missed his own deadline for paying down the deficit caused by the banking crash. He delayed the recovery by cutting big infrastructure projects

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early on in his tenure, and he is now struggling to make up for lost time. He has failed to tackle the economy’s desperately low levels of productivity. Now, the IFS has questioned his ability to meet yesterday’s forecasts without more cuts or tax rises to fill a £55 billion financial black hole. The IFS further says that the Budget will reduce wages, lower living standards and lead to further austerity.

Quite simply, this is a Chancellor who cannot be trusted, and who is himself unable to trust. He gets the big decisions wrong, and he is afraid to devolve decisions to others. Instead of reforming public services, this Government are laying them to waste. Instead of sharing the proceeds of growth more fairly, this Government are presiding over growing inequality. Instead of handing decision-making to local communities, this Government are centralising power in their own hands. Instead of shaping a fairer Britain, this Chancellor has thrown a financial bung to his wealthy mates and thrown the rest of the country to the dogs.

3.46 pm

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): I rise to support the Budget statement, particularly for the support it gives to small businesses. Of the 4,000 businesses in my Congleton constituency, all but a handful are small and medium-sized enterprises, started up and sustained by hard-working individuals and their supportive families. It is right to champion the value of and encourage SMEs, which are the lifeblood of my local economy.

It is a truism, but it is well said that every big business started small. When Lord Digby Jones was head of the CBI he said that

“without businesses there are no taxes and without taxes there are no schools or hospitals.”

I am therefore delighted that the Chancellor is taking 600,000 small businesses across the country out of bearing the burden of any business rates at all, while another 250,000 firms receive a reduction in those rates. This will save small businesses £6.7 billion over the next five years, enabling them to take on more staff, invest and grow. I know it will be warmly welcomed in my constituency.

Welcome, too, are the new tax-free allowances of £1,000 a year for micro-entrepreneurs who trade goods or rent property online on a small scale. Positive, too, are reductions in capital gains tax, the reform of stamp duty on commercial premises to help small firms move to bigger premises and, for incorporated businesses, the substantial reduction in corporation tax to 17% in 2020—down from 28% in 2010. This means that we will have the lowest corporation tax in the G20, and it will benefit more than a million businesses.

For 3 million self-employed people, the cancellation of class 2 national insurance contributions is also welcome. Some may say, “Well, that’s only a saving of £2.80 a week”, but that fails to appreciate that many small businesses live on the margins, particularly in the early years, as I know from experience. My husband and I had to sell our home to keep our business going, and live above our offices with our first child, with the staff tea and coffee-making area being our kitchen.

My story is not unusual, and I mention it only because that is so and because I know that, just as Government support for small business matters, so does

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Government support for the families who stand behind the businesses. Stable families contribute to a stable economy. If we want small business to flourish, we need families to flourish, too. It is important to note that these are related: the one sustains and supports the other. I therefore greatly welcome the Government’s commitment to including family stability measures in their life chances strategy. However, just as family stability supports business, family breakdown has a negative impact on productivity. According to a survey conducted by Resolution, the family justice organisation, one in seven workers said that relationship breakdown had had a negative impact on their businesses’ productivity.

In his Budget statement, the Chancellor said:

“We as Conservatives understand that tax affects behaviour.”

I welcome that, and I therefore also welcome the tax on sugary drinks, which the Chancellor is introducing to incentivise healthy behaviour. He said many times that it was

“to help children’s health and wellbeing”,

and that this was

“a Government not afraid to put the next generation first.”—[Official Report, 16 March 2016; Vol. 607, c. 964.]

May I urge the Chancellor also to do what he can to encourage healthy family relationships for our next generation?

Sir Edward Leigh: The marriage tax allowance that the Chancellor has introduced is still very low. Moreover, its aim is not, as has been claimed, to encourage people to get married and stay married, but simply to remove the disadvantages in the overall tax and benefit system that are incurred by women who look after their children at home. Will my hon. Friend say a word about the allowance, and about how we should upgrade it?

Fiona Bruce: I will, and I thank my hon. Friend for raising the issue.

The Prime Minister said recently:

“Families are the best anti-poverty measure ever invented. They are a welfare, education and counselling system all wrapped up into one.”

I have heard that the cost to the national health service of treating child obesity has been estimated at £5 billion. By contrast, the cost of breakdown is £48 billion. Increased investment in relationship strengthening to help to prevent that would be money well spent. According to a survey carried out by the Department for Education, every pound invested in strengthening family relationships would save the Treasury £11.50. I believe that spending on creating healthy relationships for the next generation is as valid as promoting that generation’s physical health and wellbeing. Few Members can disagree with the principle that such early intervention is key if a child’s life chances are to be maximised, or with the principle that maximum support should be given to children in the areas of greatest need.

Let me end by making a few practical suggestions. The Chancellor would do well to think again about the transferable tax allowance for married couples. He should consider refocusing it on the families with the youngest children. That would be an exponential investment, as the highest rate of family breakdown occurs in families with children under three. By focusing the scheme on couples with low incomes and children under five, and

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doubling the amount receivable to about £9 a week, the Treasury could offer more substantial support for some of the country’s lowest earners and neediest families, and could do so at no extra cost, because there is an underspend in the money already allocated for the purpose in a previous Budget. A further nuance would be to target for greater take-up those living in the 100 housing estates that the Prime Minister identified for regeneration, and those living in the 100 local government wards with the highest levels of family breakdown.

Perhaps the Chancellor could also consider using any remaining underspend to strengthen parenting and relationship support. A practical suggestion from the Centre for Social Justice is the provision of an online one-stop shop to give families information about local relationship support.

Strengthening families by supporting healthy relationships should be an aspiration for the Government. Reversing family breakdown and building strong and stable family life as a foundation block of a healthy society must be our ambition. That would really put the next generation first, and it also makes sound economic sense. If we want our productivity to flourish, families must do so as well.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. We are running out of time. I must reduce the speaking limit to five minutes.


3.54 pm

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): Yesterday I listened intently to both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, hoping against hope that we would see a Budget for the poor as well as the rich—a Budget that would be not just for private businesses but for local services, and not just for London and the south-east but for the north-east of England.

First, I heard the Prime Minister boast about a very welcome drop in unemployment in the UK, but he did not have a word for the 3,000 more people out of work in the north-east of England than 12 months ago. The Chancellor, apart from mentioning his pet project to impose an extra tier of politicians on an unwilling electorate to deliver devolution of power without devolution of real resources, failed to announce anything that would provide the north-east with the investment in infrastructure—or anything else, for that matter—that would help to create the jobs we need to employ the people this Government have clearly forgotten.

Today’s theme is about education and equality. It is time the Chancellor recognised that there is tremendous inequality between the regions, and that it has been created as a direct result of his policies and those he shared with the Liberal Democrats. Others have already detailed the colossal failures of the Government in missing self-imposed targets, but still the Chancellor maintains that all will be well because he can always squeeze those who have been squeezed before. Sadly, this means that women and less well-off folk are again in his sights.

The Chancellor’s warm words about acting now to protect future generations, about shrinking inequalities and about us all being “in this together” were designed

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to create an image of fairness and social justice, but they do not paint an accurate picture. They do not, for instance, detail how 81% of the Chancellor’s cuts, totalling £82 billion in tax increases and cuts in social security, have fallen on women. Nor do they mention the fact that the Government’s policies are projected to be even more regressive than those of the coalition that went before, hitting women and lone parents disproportionately hard.

In fact, contrary to what the Chancellor would have us believe, women in Britain are now facing the greatest threat to their financial security and livelihoods for a generation. Never before has a Chancellor upset so many middle-aged women at a stroke of his red pen; the pensions issue for women born in the 1950s is just one area of their income he has attacked. An awful lot of people will remember this, should he ever realise his ambition to lead the Conservative party. He might do that, but his blindness to the anger and upset felt by women on all manner of issues will probably mean that he will not fulfil his second ambition: to win a general election.

I spoke last week to my constituent, Amey-Rose McGrogan, who manages a small but successful independent business in Stockton North. The business is about to celebrate its second birthday. As of this coming Monday, the non-domestic business rates for which the business is liable are set to rise from £157 a month to £581. The business is facing tremendous increases in costs all round. The measures announced yesterday will help a little, but they are perhaps going to be a bit late. As the North East Chamber of Commerce has highlighted, this is just another example of a Government paying lip service to stability and failing to provide businesses with sufficient detail to plan for the future.

The Chancellor is not really doing anything to help our overall economy. He is not using any of the money available to central Government to fund this planned benefit to small businesses. Instead, he is stealing it from the local authorities, which are planning their budgets based on his previous proposals for the localisation of business rates, only to find out that he has cut their income yet again. That simply places further constraints on their ability to deliver the vital services that local people need, and I have no doubt that that will create untold difficulties for local authorities as they strive to cope with cut after cut and change after change.

Bill Esterson: My hon. Friend is right to point out that the Government are giving to small businesses with one hand and taking away from local government with the other. Does he agree that these measures will take money out of the local economy that those same small businesses were relying on for part of their success, and that the overall package is far less impressive and attractive than the Chancellor has made it out to be?

Alex Cunningham: Indeed; I certainly agree with that.

The Minister needs to tell us what assessment has been made of the impact on local economies and on local authority funding of this policy change. In my constituency, Stockton Borough Council has faced funding cuts of £52 million in the last six years, and that is set to continue with a further reduction of £21 million over the next four years. The concessions to businesses are

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great, but local authorities should not be suffering as a result. Instead of empowering local councils, the Chancellor is undermining their effectiveness. Authorities such as Stockton with low tax bases will lose out as the vast wealth realised by rich councils in the south will no longer be redistributed to provide vital services across the country.

Unemployment is another particularly pertinent issue. When the Chancellor spoke in the House yesterday, he chirped merrily about a labour market delivering the highest employment in our history and unemployment having fallen again. What he did not say, however, was that that is not the case across the whole country. In Stockton North, for example, unemployment has actually increased, adding to the pressures that have been created by a spate of business closures and by Government failures to do more to protect our vital steel industry and related supply chains. As recently as Friday, 40 highly skilled workers at a specialist steel foundry in Stillington in my constituency were told that their jobs would go in May. What did the Budget offer such firms? Simply nothing. This Government stood in the way of EU tariffs on steel produced in the far east and now prefers to use foreign-made steel, rather than home-produced materials, to build Navy ships.

Speaking of materials, despite the hint from the Business Secretary during departmental questions on Tuesday that we would soon hear whether the materials catapult proposed by the Materials Processing Institute would be created, we heard nothing. It is all very unfair. We need fairness for the north-east of England.

4 pm

Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): It is a pleasure to be able to speak in this Budget debate, particularly because the topic is education. Since being elected, I have visited a school a week in my constituency, which has given me the opportunity to discuss with heads, staff and pupils what they want from their schools. I have visited almost 50 schools and must say that I do not recall academisation being a particular ask of any of them.

Of my five secondary schools, only one is an academy and it has made me somewhat open-minded about academies. When it was built only six years ago, it was decided to build classrooms, or pods, for 90 students and that students would need a microphone to ask a question. As it was situated in a ward that is ranked within the bottom 5% for deprivation, it would not have taken Einstein to work out that that would cause some pupils to shrink into themselves and for behaviour to deteriorate. The situation became so bad that thanks to our new headteacher, a visionary leader, a welcome £6 million was awarded by the Department for Education to turn the pods into classrooms for 30.

The school is being transformed under a new head, but the situation should never have been allowed to happen and the £6 million would have been better spent improving the ageing facilities of my neighbouring schools, which are ranked as outstanding despite their buildings being poster children for the 1950s. Had the school been under the governance of East Sussex County Council, I would venture that the situation would not have arisen. That is not to say that I do not recognise the virtues of schools operating outside of local education authority

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control, I just happen to be an advocate of choice. I also believe that, call it a free school, an LEA school or an academy, the key is having the right leadership in place and the good times then tend to follow.

Prior to moving to East Sussex 10 years ago, I spent five happy years as a governor of the Phoenix High School in White City. There were over 50 different first languages, a high proportion of pupils received free school meals, and just 9% of its pupils achieved five grades at A to C compared with a national average of over 50%. Our new headteacher, William Atkinson, was empowered by his team of governors to transform the school and did so through strong leadership, discipline and an expectation of excellence from staff and pupils. I spent many an hour dealing with disciplinary procedures as another child was excluded for a period of time. The head transformed the school from one that a parent would not want to consider into a centre of pride. The GCSE comparison went from 9% to over 60% and the head is now Sir William Atkinson. I recall that he did not have too much time for the services offered by the LEA, and it was no surprise that our school became an academy.

I make that point because it is proof that some schools work brilliantly as academies, but they should not be seen as bullet-proof. A good leader, excellent staff, a committed board of governors, and support are key for any school to thrive. Ultimately, however, I am excited by schools having the ability to make their own decisions.

Of my five secondary schools, only one has a sixth form. Two are outstanding, but the children have to leave at 16 years old. Children at one of the schools, Claverham Community College in Battle, are required to leave the town and travel long distances to study A-levels. I would like such schools to be able to make their own decisions on expansion and not be told by the LEA that they have to fit into a wider model. If academies allow that to happen, I can see the positives. However, we should be mindful that the considerable support that a good LEA such as East Sussex County Council provides, particularly to small primary schools, will need to be found from elsewhere. I look forward to reading the White Paper.

Yesterday, I happened to meet pupils from Herstmonceux Church of England Primary School straight after the Budget and was able to tell them the exciting news that they may be required to study maths until the age of 18. I did not detect a huge amount of excitement in their faces, but I recognise the desire, fuelled by our employers, that our young people should have the basics of maths and English covered when getting ready for the workplace. Much is made of this country learning from attainment in south-east Asia, but this is not Singapore, it is Britain. As well as mastering Maths and English, I want my children to explore the creative subjects, as that has allowed their fellow countrymen and women to become global leaders, inventors, entrepreneurs, explorers and pioneers.

Time will not permit me to continue, but ultimately, I would say, as a son of a teacher, that if we could give our heads and teachers more freedom to do their jobs and inspire our children, we may surprise ourselves and find that the need to dictate becomes less of an imperative.

Several hon. Members rose