17 Mar 2016 : Column 1187

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): I am sorry, but we have to reduce the time limit to four minutes.

4.5 pm

Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab): The Chancellor hailed his Budget as being for the “next generation”, so I want to focus on a nationally significant research and development, industrial and economic issue that feeds through from STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and maths—to higher education and into our industrial base, to which I urge the Government to give their attention. Disappointingly, there was nothing in yesterday’s Budget to address this matter, but I wish to address it now.

Against the backdrop of the steel closure debacle at SSI on Teesside, many deficiencies and challenges were identified in our steel industry, and several asks were made of the Government. Sadly, there was no meaningful or timely intervention from them to save the SSI plant, which employed many hundreds of my constituents, but there could have been and there should have been. Although, without doubt, the entire materials sector is still critical to the UK economy, it is also widely accepted that critically important innovation in the sector is patchy and poorly co-ordinated. The UK industry Metals Forum has said:

“A forward-thinking, collaborative approach to R&D will have embedded innovation throughout the industry, from the smallest firms to the largest, directed by customers’ needs.”

In the UK, the catapult concept is where we have the mechanism for innovation intervention whereby we transform our capability and drive economic growth. Sadly, there is no catapult for the metals and materials sector, but there is an opportunity right under the Government’s nose and I ask them to seize it. The proposal is a joint one from the Materials Processing Institute, the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, and The Welding Institute—TWI—which jointly propose to meet that very need by establishing a new national materials catapult, as a not-for-profit partnership. The partners have letters of support from leading universities, which show this to be a major concern for the development and upscaling of fundamental research. There is widespread support for the proposal across industry. In a short period, more than 50 letters of support have been received from employer associations, trade associations, industry, small and medium-sized enterprises, universities, the public sector and private consultants.

The beauty of the proposal is that the partners are already in play. The catapult will work with universities and the other catapults, across all the sectors, and it would be headquartered at the campus of the Materials Processing Institute in Redcar, in close proximity to TWI in Middlesbrough and Teesside industry. Of course, the proposed location for the catapult would also enable the Government to deliver on the commitment they made in the Tees valley city deal, signed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the right hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), to encourage Innovate UK to establish this catapult at the Tees valley innovation and commercialisation hub.

The concept of a materials catapult was raised by the CBI in 2014 and has been reaffirmed in its Treasury submission in advance of yesterday’s Budget. Support has also been expressed by UK Steel and FSB, but, sadly,

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1188

that was not reflected by the Chancellor yesterday. With the partners having collectively more than 300 years of experience, world-leading facilities and an immediate national presence, the catapult presents excellent value for money. There are minimal start-up costs and because it is proposed to use existing buildings there is no lead- in time for construction activity. The ask is for £5 million per annum of revenue support and £2 million per annum of capital, under the normal catapult funding model, and an initial capital award of about £10 million to fund equipment for core projects. The catapult will leverage recent and secured future investments that have been used to upgrade materials research and support facilities in Rotherham, Port Talbot and Cambridge, as well as on the two sites in the Tees valley.

Alex Cunningham: This must be an organisation worth backing because this week it actually started a new steel production facility on Teesside.

Andy McDonald: My hon. Friend is absolutely right about that, and it shows the value of these initiatives. I regret to say that sometimes we have to keep on pressing and repeating these requests. We are talking about a major contribution to our economy and it should be grasped, because, based on previous studies, a benefit of £15 per £1 of Government spending would be expected, giving a gross value added benefit of £75 million per annum.

The catapult is needed by industry nationally and could be delivered immediately. It would give some credibility to the much-vaunted but singularly absent northern powerhouse. The catapult is an entirely appropriate response to the steel crisis and builds on existing capabilities and expertise. It is cost effective and would have an immediate positive impact on UK companies. As well as that fifteenfold return, it could be a beacon for inward investment, and there is the real potential for a £300 million project to come to the catapult.

The catapult would improve productivity in the materials sector, strengthen manufacturing supply chains and drive growth by supporting new and growing technology-based small and medium-sized enterprises. It would improve international competitiveness by addressing the UK’s relative disadvantage in materials innovation compared with Germany, the USA and Japan.

I urge the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills not to block this proposal, because I am convinced that it is vital for our industrial base and will provide immediate and significant research and employment opportunities. It will be readily achievable and make a huge contribution to our economy.

4.10 pm

Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) on his excellent speech. He and a number of other Conservative Back Benchers gave the Government fair warning that the proposals in the White Paper will not be accepted without a great deal of scrutiny and challenge. He raised some very serious and correct concerns.

I am a parent of two children who are at secondary schools in my constituency, and a community governor of a primary school, which is also in my constituency. I must say that the primary schools in particular work

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1189

extremely closely not just with other primary schools, but with the local authority. They view the education proposals with growing horror, as they see the flaws in what is being put forward.

Let us examine the Government’s record on education since 2010. One of their first actions was to cut the Building Schools for the Future programme and to make other cuts in capital spending, with a disastrous effect on the then recovery—yes, it was a recovery, which was happening as a result of the actions of the outgoing Labour Government.

When the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury responds to the debate, I am sure that, as a former member of the Education Committee, he will want to comment on the Government’s education plans. Over the past nearly six years, we have seen cuts in sixth form college funding, with a third of colleges facing an uncertain future, the forced academisation programme with a likely price tag of half a billion pounds and an extra £500 million cost for extending the school day, which is on top of £4 billion of cuts over the next four years. I have been asked: what will happen to special schools and to children with special educational needs?

Mr Steve Reed: Does my hon. Friend share my view that it is hypocritical of the Government to claim that they support localism while forcing schools to academise whether they want to or not?

Bill Esterson: Absolutely.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. Just before anyone else gives way or intervenes, it must be noted that there is only a certain amount of time for this debate and that Members who are at the end could be squeezed out altogether. Giving way and adding an extra minute to somebody’s speech does not add any more minutes to the time in a day.

Bill Esterson: I was going over the Government’s approach over the past six years. They scrapped compulsory work experience, with the knock-on effect on the economy. The education and business partnership in my borough is a great success, but it has been consistently undermined over that six-year-period. It had established very good working relationships with businesses and employers generally, and there is a profound economic effect of that policy, as there is with the undermining, and almost destruction of, the careers service.

Turning to forced academisation, we have many good and outstanding schools in the maintained sector. We have parents, children, staff and communities that value the partnership between schools and the local authority. We have academies that are successful, so why are the Government hell-bent on making changes?

In an intervention earlier, I referred to the White Paper and the section on removing the requirement to have parents on governing bodies. Parents will be ignored in the forced academisation process, despite the words from the Secretary of State in her foreword expressing confidence in parents and calling on them to join in the process to improve standards, but clearly not so much that the Department wants parents to be involved in the governance of schools in future.

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1190

All that is done in the name of localisation. I think not. This is centralising to the Whitehall desk of the Secretary of State and her Ministers, as is the land grab—the biggest land grab since Henry VIII ransacked the monasteries—with the Government taking ownership of all the land. When the Treasury Minister responds, he will have to demonstrate to me that that is not the case. That is what is proposed by transferring ownership of the land to the Secretary of State.

We have a centralising Secretary of State and a centralising Government who do not trust local people, parents or school leaders. At a time when we have a shortage of staff and a great lack of confidence in Government, all they can do is force schools to do things against their wishes. That is not the way in which education should be run.

4.16 pm

Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab): Growth has been revised down last year, this year and for every year of the forecast. Business investment has been revised down last year, this year and for every year of the forecast. In this Budget the Chancellor has failed to provide a future for the next generation.

I have some fantastic schools in my constituency and I have been privileged recently to visit two of those schools which have improved their Ofsted results, Fleetwood High School and Carter’s Charity Primary School in Preesall, both coastal schools which, with strong leadership and under the headships of Richard Barnes and Brendan Hassett, respectively, are showing great signs of improving, with the support of the local authority. But all this is at risk from the Chancellor’s reckless plans to force all schools to become academies, whether they want to or not. Parents must have a say in the future of local schools, and it is wrong for this Government to impose a one-size-fits-all solution on schools. That will take away the national curriculum, accountability to local people through councils, and the ability of parents and of the community to obtain information to find out what is going on through freedom of information requests.

How does removing local authorities’ role from our schools put power in the hands of local people? Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, has written to the Secretary of State, highlighting to her the serious weaknesses in academy chains, but this Government have failed to listen to the evidence.

I have great concerns for my constituents about the future of museums. Although I welcome the announcement in the Budget of support for museums, that is of little comfort to my constituents, who are worried about the future of Fleetwood Museum, the Maritime Museum in Lancaster, the Judges’ Lodgings and the Cottage Museum, all of which are supported by Lancashire County Council, but after budget cuts year after year, the council is unable to provide that support and we risk losing our northern museums.

On disability, I pay tribute to my constituent Graeme Ellis who, until yesterday, had been a lifelong Conservative party member. He felt that the choices made by the Chancellor to hit disabled people to give tax breaks to the rich was a step too far. He resigned in style.

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1191

I welcome the principle of the sugar tax as a positive step towards encouraging people to make healthy choices. As an MP with a heavy dairy-farming constituency, I welcome the decision to remove milk-based drinks from the levy. The situation in the dairy industry is far from good right now. Average dairy farm incomes are forecast to fall by half in 2015-16 and arable incomes are expected to be down by almost a quarter. Sadly, there is little comfort for the 90% of UK farm businesses which are unincorporated and therefore will not be beneficiaries of the Chancellor’s continued focus on reducing corporation tax.

Three months on from Storm Desmond, the Chancellor’s announcement of £700 million for flood defences is welcome for the parts of the country that benefit from it. I was concerned to see that Lancashire was not included, and it is little comfort to my constituents around the River Cocker and in Winmarleigh and Thurnham, who suffered so badly in the flooding.

One of the biggest issues, which fills my inbox every week, is the effect of council cuts and losing local services, but there is nothing in the Budget that helps councils. This Budget fails local government.

Rather than investing in building new homes to fix Britain’s broken housing market and cut housing benefit costs, the Chancellor has slashed housing investment by 60%, and housing benefit has risen by more than £4 billion a year in cash terms.

This Budget is a failure, it lacks any fairness and it offers nothing for the future. If anything it only amplifies the question: how can we trust the Chancellor to get it right for the next four years, when he has not had it right in the last four months?

4.20 pm

Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab): Yesterday, in his Budget announcement, the Chancellor made much capital out of the economic recovery and the rate at which unemployment was falling, but he needs to understand that not every part of Britain is enjoying this economic recovery. In my constituency, not only do we have above-average unemployment, but the latest figures from the House of Commons Library show that unemployment recently increased for the third month in a row. The Chancellor says he wants to put the next generation first, but youth unemployment remains stubbornly high in my constituency, at nearly twice the national average.

The Chancellor says all schools have to become academies by 2020. While I wish the schools in my constituency that are already academies every success, there is simply no evidence that forcing all schools to become academies will deliver higher educational standards and more qualified teachers. I am also concerned that removing accountability to local authorities may put children with special educational needs and disabilities at risk of losing the vital support they need. Schools are also still struggling financially, and we have a particular problem in my constituency with recruiting and retaining teachers, which puts huge strain on our schools’ ability to meet the educational needs of our children.

We struggle to recruit skilled professionals in not just education, but healthcare, and that is in part down to our poor transport infrastructure. It is all very well the Chancellor announcing money for the northern powerhouse and talking about High Speed 3, but that does nothing

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1192

for people in Cumbria, who have totally inadequate road and rail infrastructure. To get people to come to west Cumbria, we need to be accessible from the outside world. Simply upgrading the A66 between Scotch Corner and Penrith does not help west Cumbria or our recruitment crisis. I have been calling for investment in the crucial A595 artery, which will be heavily relied on following the new investment in the nuclear new build at Moorside.

To be honest, people in west Cumbria are fed up of the usual warm words and rhetoric from the Government. It is about time Ministers recognised that the north extends beyond Lancashire. With the nuclear new build at Moorside, Cumbria will physically put the power into the northern powerhouse.

The money announced yesterday for flood defences is welcome, because it is important we do everything we can to ensure we do not see a repeat of the devastation caused by Storm Desmond. My constituents need safe, secure homes and businesses, and I understand from the Treasury today that money will be available for the village of Flimby in my constituency, but there is no mention of Workington or Cockermouth.

The Budget documents talk about investing in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, yet the Government want to close the office at Lillyhall in my constituency and to centralise operations in Manchester and Newcastle—more than two hours away. That means not only that my constituents will lose any access to face-to-face interaction, but that hundreds of people will lose their jobs.

My constituents are absolutely fed up of being left out of the Government’s plans. Just because west Cumbria is remote, that does not mean we should be forgotten. We have huge potential—given the right tools to make things happen. I urge the Government to look again at how west Cumbria can be properly incorporated into the northern powerhouse so that all our people can have a future.

4.24 pm

Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP): George Osborne’s Budget yesterday was nothing more than an attempt to—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. The hon. Lady has to say “the Chancellor of the Exchequer” or “the right hon. Gentleman”.

Patricia Gibson: The Chancellor’s Budget yesterday was nothing more than an attempt to confirm that austerity is king for this Government. Ideology has blocked the path of any attempt to ease the burden on the backs of the less well-off. Even setting aside the cuts to welfare and capital spending, the OBR estimates that between 2009-10 and 2019-20 Westminster funding for day-to-day public services is forecast to fall by the equivalent of about £1,800 per head. Chillingly, the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that the scale of the cuts to departmental budgets and local government will reduce the role of the state to a point where it will have “changed beyond recognition”, with £3.5 billion of new cuts in this Budget. That is an additional £3.5 billion of cuts for 2019-20 that will once again hit unprotected Departments. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not specified where that money will come from, either.

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1193

Scotland faces a £1.5 billion cut in its funding for public services, which means that between 2010-11 and 2019-20 Scotland’s fiscal departmental expenditure limit budget has been reduced by an eye-watering 12.5% in real terms.

I listened earlier to this Government lauding their support for young people, but we have already witnessed the slashing of student maintenance grants for some of the poorest students and their being converted into loans. Housing benefit for unemployed 18 to 21-year-olds has been scrapped, which will create enormous hardship for young people. Student fees will continue to rise. Student nurses will no longer receive grants, but loans instead. All calls for the reintroduction of the post-study work visa in Scotland have gone unheeded.

Of course we welcome the support for the oil and gas industry—as far as it goes—but what is really required is a strategic review of the whole tax regime for oil and gas. The SNP called for a such a review ahead of the Budget, but again that went unheeded. The freeze on fuel duty is to be welcomed. This is a victory for small businesses and rural communities such as Arran in my constituency, and it will also be welcomed by families with stretched budgets across the UK.

More than anything, this Budget bolsters and consolidates inequality across the United Kingdom. Increasing the personal tax allowance is a very expensive approach and it badly targets help for the low paid. That is the view of the Child Poverty Action Group, and the Government should take note. It is not a social justice measure when 85% of the £2 billion that the Treasury spends goes to the top half and a third goes to the top 10%. For every £1,000 by which the personal tax allowance goes up, basic tax rate payers gain £200, but universal credit rules will claw back 65% of that gain from the low paid, leaving them gaining only a maximum of £70 a year. Child poverty campaigners have concluded that this Budget sets the next generation up to be the poorest for decades. Yet there is still money—between £15 billion and £100 billion—to be found to renew Trident. Disability rights groups have warned that these changes will be a devastating blow to disabled people. This is a Budget of missed opportunities.

4.28 pm

Imran Hussain (Bradford East) (Lab): With time not permitting me to go further, I will focus my remarks on the northern powerhouse schools strategy.

Bradford lies near the bottom of the school league tables, as I have mentioned several times in this place. From what I have seen in the few paragraphs of the Chancellor’s Red Book, I tentatively welcome some aspects of the strategy to improve education in the north, as it is clear that we cannot carry on as we are, but the proposal needs a greater level of detail. I hope that the report from Sir Nick Weller in the next six months will provide that detail. I also want to point out that I am extremely cautious of other aspects.

Schools that are classed as vulnerable and coasting are often those in the most deprived areas, and that is the case in my constituency. They are the schools that are most in need of funding to get them on the road to recovery and to provide the standards of education that

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1194

we expect and need for our children. We need to support those schools, so I will be interested to see how the Department for Education plans to implement the funding boost for turnaround activity in coasting and vulnerable schools.

I also note the intention to look at ways of recruiting and retaining the best teachers. The situation is close to crisis, particularly in Bradford, and it was recently highlighted by a damning report by the National Audit Office. I hope that the Department for Education will carefully consider that report and that it recognises the problems with teacher recruitment and retention. I look forward to its response to the report.

I cannot help feeling that I have seen some of the measures before. They look very much like the London challenge, which achieved extraordinary results in London, but the Government scrapped it in 2011. They also happen to look like the Bradford or northern challenge, which I have called for repeatedly. The Government appear to have finally seen sense, accepted the results the previous scheme achieved and decided to bring it back in another form.

Unfortunately, however, the Chancellor’s proposal appears to be an academised version of the London challenge. Despite the promise shown by some of the other measures, I am unsure about the Government’s plans to invest in expanding academy chains, as I see little evidence to suggest that academies are the best way forward.

I am also perplexed as to how the academisation of all schools fits in with the Government’s devolution agenda, as it will take responsibility for education out of the hands of local authorities and centralise it in the Department for Education. As well as removing the ability to focus on and scrutinise school performance, the proposal leaves me questioning what the role of local authorities will be after they have had huge funding cuts and responsibility for education taken away from them.

I await the publication of Sir Nick Weller’s report in the next six months, and I hope the Government will finally deliver solid recommendations for an effective strategy for improving the state of education in the north once and for all.

4.32 pm

Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (SNP): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bradford East (Imran Hussain).

What a dismal failure of a Budget from a failing Chancellor. We heard yesterday that there are to be additional spending cuts of £3.5 billion in 2019-20, as austerity is forecast to still be with us 12 years after the financial crisis. Yet we hear that, among other measures, capital gains tax is to be cut. Let us contrast those two measures: tax cuts for the wealthy, and ongoing austerity for everyone else. That demonstrates once again that austerity is no more than a political choice by this Government.

Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP): I agree with my hon. Friend. Does he agree that this Budget contains more cuts than a Bates motel shower curtain?

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1195

Ian Blackford: Indeed it does. This Government have missed an opportunity to create hope for a better future, with investment in our economy and people.

When the OBR tells the Chancellor that growth forecasts are below expectations, he finds room for tax cuts and balances the books with further spending cuts. He said yesterday,

“nor as a nation are we powerless. We have a choice.”

No kidding! He is choosing to punish the poor again with the choices he is making. He also said that

“productivity growth across the west is too low”.—[Official Report, 16 March 2016; Vol. 607, c. 951.]

He made no analysis of why that is, and he did not reflect on why productivity in the UK, which we were told was central to the long-term economic plan, has been flatlining for so long.

There is no long-term economic plan. It is a myth and a meaningless soundbite from a Chancellor who does not have a plan to deliver sustainable economic growth. His only plan is to move out of No. 11 and into No. 10 Downing Street as soon as possible. Without a plan to drive productivity, we cannot drive sustainable economic growth.

Let us look at what the Chancellor is changing in the pensions world. We need predictability and a high degree of certainty if we are to encourage savings in this country and make sure that people have security and dignity in their old age, but the Chancellor carries on fiddling with the arrangements and undermines confidence in pension savings. The Chancellor’s abandonment of radical reform of tax relief in the Budget was a missed opportunity to rebalance the system and instil fairness at the heart of pension savings. The current pension tax relief regime is regressive, because it benefits higher-rate taxpayers exponentially, while modest earners miss out. The Financial Times last week ran a story with the headline:

“How to double your money instantly using pension tax breaks”,


“Welfare for the wealthy has rarely been so generous in the UK”.

That is the reality from this Conservative Government. The SNP support the offering of incentives through tax relief, but we want that to be done in a way that supports equity and fairness.

It is wholly remarkable and unacceptable, when we are told that welfare must be cut—when the poor have to pay the price—that pension tax relief, which is skewed towards helping higher tax-rate pensioners, is left untouched. Just where are the Government’s priorities? We are incentivising the wealthy and squeezing the poor; that is the Chancellor’s Britain.

The Chancellor has sat on his hands on tax relief in the week in which the Select Committee on Work and Pensions has published its report on the communication of state pension age changes. It is worth highlighting that the report’s conclusions and recommendations state:

“We recommend that, if the Government is subsequently able to allocate further funding, it should commission an independent assessment of the merits of the following options: slowing the increase in the state pension age to 66; revising the timetable for increases in the state pension age to reach 65 by April 2019 and 66 by April 2021…and a transitional pension benefit.”

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1196

Why has the Chancellor not reflected on that in the Budget, and why is he refusing to do something about frozen pensions? I tabled an early-day motion asking that we look at the issue of frozen pensions, because 550,000 foreign pensioners have paid into Britain, but their frozen pensions mean that they cannot benefit fully from that. The Government have to answer this charge. We are going into a European referendum. If the Brexiters win the day, an additional 400,000 British citizens will lose the automatic uprating of their pensions. That is something that the House must address.

Why does the Chancellor not look at redirecting some of his funds from pension tax relief to benefit the women born in the 1950s who are suffering inequality? This is a Budget that could do far better than it has done.

4.37 pm

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): We heard in the Budget yesterday the story of a record of failure, which was highlighted by my hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor this afternoon. Growth has been revised down. Investment has been revised down. Debt—both public debt and household borrowing—is rising. Productivity has been revised down. The welfare cap has been breached, and it will be in every year in this Parliament.

The Opposition welcome increases in the employment rate, although we should acknowledge that such rises have not been seen everywhere—particularly not for young people, as my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) pointed out—but the scandal of in-work poverty is one that Conservative Members really should attend to. I say to the right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) that it is not enough just to create the jobs; they need to be secure, sustainable and adequately remunerated to ensure that work really lifts families out of poverty. The Government’s strategy does not do that. Indeed, secure jobs and a secure economy are made all the more vulnerable by the Tory chaos over Europe.

We heard from the Chancellor yesterday that this was

“a Budget for the next generation”—[Official Report, 16 March 2015; Vol. 607, c. 995.]

and we heard from the Secretary of State for Education earlier today about the detail of the policies that would give effect to the Chancellor’s intentions. Concerns have been expressed by many of my hon. and right hon. Friends, including my hon. Friends the Members for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), for Enfield North (Joan Ryan), for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) and for Croydon North (Mr Reed). It is fair to say that there is real concern among Members on both sides of the House about the policy of forced academisation in the teeth of a report by the head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, that is at best ambivalent about the performance of academy institutions.

The proposals are against the wishes of teachers—the Secretary of State herself said that we ought to treat them as professionals—and they ignore the fact that some, indeed many, local authority schools, especially primary schools, around the country perform extremely well. That was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms), the hon. Member for

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1197

Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) and, indeed, by the Tory chair of the Local Government Association children and young people board.

There is no guarantee that failing academy chains will not expand their failure by absorbing more schools into their academy structures. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham specifically asked about that, but he received no reply from the Secretary of State. There is a lack of clarity, although the Secretary of State made a welcome commitment to look at the particular situation of co-operative schools, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas). There are real worries that the proposals ignore the wishes of parents, who will no longer have the right to be on school governing bodies.

Michael Tomlinson: I understand what the hon. Lady is saying about academies, and she will have heard the points I made. Will she say whether Labour Members are now in favour of fairer funding for our schools, as they were when they were last in power?

Kate Green: Of course we are in favour of fairer funding, but as we have always said, the devil is in the detail. It is particularly important to ensure that it does not create a situation in which schools serving a large number of disadvantaged students lose out. That will be a challenge for the Government to address if they are not prepared to put in funding where it is most needed and make sure that that funding is sufficient.

We have heard several right hon. and hon. Members express the concern that the Secretary of State’s proposal for academisation will in fact replicate the massive top-down reorganisation we saw in the NHS. In particular, the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) made that point. The proposal was not in the Conservative party manifesto, and we have not had the opportunity to put it to the electorate, but now it is being forced on us. [Interruption.] It is not Labour policy to force academisation on any successful school. The Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah), really ought to get the detail correct before he intervenes from a sedentary position.

We have heard real concerns about the crisis in teacher retention and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford East (Imran Hussain) said, in recruitment. The target for teacher recruitment has been missed in each of the past four years. In particular, there are recruitment issues in mathematics, an area that the Secretary of State wishes to expand. We heard no mention of how rising class sizes and the crisis in school places is to be addressed. There was no mention of the cuts to further education and sixth forms, and no acknowledgment of the need not just to increase the number of apprenticeships, but to improve their quality.

The proposals do not form a coherent and complete strategy for education for young people, and we must also remember that the Government’s failure of young people goes further than failing them in their education. I was particularly struck by the passionate speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft) and for Croydon North, who highlighted the slew of policies that have been or have the potential

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1198

to be extremely threatening to the wellbeing of young people—from cuts to Sure Start and child protection to cuts to youth services.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) highlighted the IFS’s projections about the very worrying rise in child poverty during the course of this Parliament, and many colleagues have also raised concerns about young people’s lack of access to housing. We of course agree that many young people aspire to own their own homes, and we wish to see measures to support them to do so. It is very disappointing that, alongside that, the Government are not prepared to support young people who are renting, whether from choice or necessity. Indeed, the situation of those young people has been made significantly worse by cuts to housing benefit. Members from right around the House acknowledge that the fundamental problem in housing is the lack of supply. The central part of this Budget should have been about building more houses.

Inequality in the Budget stretches beyond young people. We heard again and again about the disproportionate burden of the cuts to tax credits and benefits and the tax changes that have fallen on women, and there does not seem to have been much progress in negotiating away the tampon tax. My hon. Friends the Members for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) and for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham), and the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford), spoke about how the needs of women pensioners born in the early 1950s have been overlooked.

The Labour party is appalled at the further cuts to benefits for disabled people, which will shred the dignity of those who need help with dressing or using the toilet. We are also concerned about the geographic unfairness inherent in many of the measures announced by the Chancellor, which have been highlighted by my hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), for Croydon North, and for Stockton North. In particular, given that the business rate cuts that will help small businesses are not being funded by central Government, they will place a significant burden on local authorities—[Interruption.] Well, I am glad to hear that, but we did not hear that from Ministers earlier. [Interruption.] I am pleased to acknowledge it if I am in error, but the issue was raised earlier and not challenged by Ministers. I would expect them to be more on the ball in defending their policies.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) highlighted the need to ensure that the extra support for communities devastated by flooding reaches those communities, and my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald) highlighted the need to ensure industrial investment in his constituency. Overall, this Budget will benefit the better off at the expense of the poorest. The Resolution Foundation stated that 80% of changes to income tax will benefit the 20% richest people in the country, and capital gains tax changes will certainly benefit the better off. The TUC says that workers are on average £40 a week worse off than they were before the recession. This Budget does not deliver fairness, prosperity or a secure future for the next generation. It is a hotch-potch of excuses, revisions, disguises and failures driven by ideology. That is not fair to today’s young people, or to the next generation.

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1199

4.47 pm

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Damian Hinds): Today’s young people can look forward to some of the most exciting opportunities that a generation has ever faced, but also to a much more uncertain world. They face a changing world order, where the economic and political dominance of the west is increasingly challenged by developing and emerging economies. They face a changing labour market, with a growing premium on high value added jobs and the knowledge economy. They are unlikely to stay in the same job for life, they are much less likely than their parents to have a defined benefit pension, and they face much higher house prices, albeit that those are greatly mitigated by the low interest rates that have come about from our sound economic stewardship.

That comes on top of long-standing issues that the Government inherited in 2010 but that, to be fair, have existed for much longer. There is a productivity gap between the UK and other major global economies, an educational gap between rich and poor and between different parts of the country, and a lack of financial resilience in many parts of the population, without even the cushion of a small savings account.

The Government have been facing up to those structural issues through our educational reforms, the revolution in apprenticeships and the national living wage. This Budget puts the next generation first. It builds up our young people’s skills, and builds the infrastructure for a modern economy and higher productivity. Alongside all that is rightly being done to increase housing supply, it also helps young people to save for their retirement and for owning a home, with all the security that that can bring. For many, the Budget makes possible a rainy-day savings cushion for the first time.

The Budget also commits £1.6 billion extra over this Parliament to education in England. Academies are a key part of our education reforms, as the Education Secretary outlined earlier, and research from the OECD, the European Commission, and others, has repeatedly shown that more autonomy for individual schools can help to raise standards.

The right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms), my cloakroom neighbour, rightly talked about the performance of London schools and the London challenge. Many factors have gone into improving the performance of London schools. In fact, the improvement in performance predates the London challenge—the year the London challenge started is the year that the GCSE performance in London caught up with that of the rest of the country—but one of the factors in London’s outperformance was the school mix, including the disproportionate contribution to improvement made by academy schools.

Alex Cunningham: I am grateful to hear the lovely compliments for my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms). The Secretary of State could not tell us where the extra money was coming from to fund the forced academies programme. Can the Minister do so?

Damian Hinds: The money announced in the Budget comes on top of what was announced in the spending review.

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1200

The right hon. Member for East Ham asked how the national funding formula would be done. We will consult on the principles through which it will work, but the intention is to ensure that it is fair and that it reflects need, unlike the rather arbitrary system we can have currently.

Stephen Timms rose

Damian Hinds: I am sorry but I am going to make some progress.

A number of hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), talked about post-16 maths. There is a massive premium on the study of maths and maths qualifications, as the report by Professor Alison Wolf identified. Maths will become more important as time goes on, but it is right that we ask the question and work out the best way to have further maths study, including by taking into consideration the questions that a number of hon. Members raised.

Hon. Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson) and for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow), raised the importance of sport in school. My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately) rightly mentioned in an intervention that the difference in opportunity in sport and other extracurricular activities is part of the gap in opportunity between children in state schools and children in public schools. It is therefore very important for social mobility.

A number of right hon. and hon. Members talked about the levy on manufacturers and importers of sugary soft drinks. My hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan) movingly spoke of her own family and reminded us of the health benefit that is at the centre of the policy, which was also mentioned by my hon. Friends the Members for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison) and for Faversham and Mid Kent, and the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis). Of course, we would rather not collect that much of that tax. The reason for the delay before it is introduced is to allow the manufacturers to change the formulation of their drinks or change their marketing so that they are pushing and promoting more the lower-sugar variants and products. We hope they will do so.

Rightly, a number of times in the debate, the important subject of the support that is given to people with disabilities has come up. I reassure the House that real-terms spending on the personal independence payment and its predecessor, the disability living allowance, has increased by more than £3 billion since 2010. The PIP budget will continue to increase from now until 2020. The reforms announced last week will bring spending closer to the level forecast in November and ensure that increased spend is targeted on those who need it most.

Catherine West rose

Damian Hinds: I am sorry but I will not give way.

We are exempting disability benefits from the uprating freeze and exempting recipients of them from the benefits cap. We are aiming to halve the massive employment gap between those with disabilities and those without. Over the past year, the number of disabled people in employment has risen by 150,000, but there is much

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1201

more to do, hence the increase in the Budget for the Access to Work programme, the expansion of the Fit for Work scheme, and the increase in funding for dedicated employment advisers in IAPT— improving access to psychological therapies—services, among other programmes.

As today’s theme is education and young people, I should mention the replacement—it comes from the previous Parliament—of statements for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities with educational health and care plans, which for the first time bring together the care, health and education needs of some of our most vulnerable young people from the age of zero right up to 25. It is too early to measure the full effect of the programme, but most hon. Members would welcome it—I hope so.

On some of the other issues raised in today’s debate, the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald) talked about the catapult proposal. I am not in a position to comment on that in detail, but I am very happy to hear more about it. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) talked about tax simplification. We have eliminated the carbon reduction commitment part of the tax system, and there is also the zero rating of petroleum revenue tax. We are making the filing of taxes easier and making sure there are more people in HMRC call centres to take calls.

On the carer’s allowance, raised by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford), the spend has increased by almost half since 2010. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole rightly mentioned the increased funding to deal with homelessness and the attention being given to provide second stage accommodation for people leaving hostels and refuges.

The hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) and the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green)—it is a pleasure to speak opposite the hon. Lady from the Dispatch Box for what I think is the first time—suggested that inequality was rising due to the Government’s policies and the Budget. Inequality is actually coming down. The simple fact is that, if we look at the effect of policy over the period, the pattern of how public spending goes to different income groups in society remains broadly flat, while the incidence of taxation has shifted towards the top end.

My right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) and my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent reminded us of the Government’s employment record. I remind the Opposition that the bulk of those jobs have been in full-time and higher-skilled occupations. My hon. Friends the Members for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), for Reading West (Alok Sharma) and for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) reminded us that only business can create the wealth that gives security to families, and affords us the excellent schools and our world-leading national health service. We are therefore right to reform small business rate relief; fuel duty, which is an important cost for many businesses; and corporation tax to make sure that investment is incentivised, while at the same time introducing a further £8 billion package on tax avoidance by multinationals. We say that we are going to have a very competitive tax system

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1202

and that we want to attract investment to this country, but when companies operate in this country we expect them to pay the full tax that is due.

Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor was candid with the House about the challenges facing the global economy. They are challenges from which no economy is immune, particularly a globally connected, trading economy such as ours. That is why it is so important to make Britain fit for the future, whatever challenges may lie ahead. It is why we focus on stability, employment, enterprise, innovation and opportunity. It is why we put in place policies helping people at every stage in their lives: from early-years childcare, to financial security and dignity in old age.

The reforms in education announced in this year’s Budget take that agenda forward. They help our aim of creating a society where everybody can achieve their aspirations and fulfil their potential—for children to get the best start in life, regardless of background; for them to be able to go to work in businesses as committed and skilled employees, companies that are incentivised towards productive capital investment; for young people to get on to the housing ladder; for our towns and cities to prosper, and to attract investment; for families to save for their retirement; and for everyone in our society to have a stake in the prosperity that, through this Budget, this Government are continuing to deliver.

Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab) rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): If the hon. Lady wishes to speak, she may.

4.59 pm

Catherine West: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thank the Minister for being very quick in his remarks and allowing a little time. I just wanted to know what he thought of Councillor Edgar, from his own authority, who stated that he was very angry with the Chancellor about the proposals brought forward yesterday for academisation. He almost sounds ready to rip up his Conservative card, so upset is he about the fact that all schools—[Interruption.] He is a local authority man who is very proud of his schools and who would like to reiterate his dedication to education—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. The hon. Lady has made her point, but a response is not possible. Things are rather in the wrong order.

5 pm

The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

Ordered, That the debate be resumed on Monday 21 March.

Business without Debate

Adjournment (Easter, Whitsun, Referendum Recess, Summer, Conference Recess, November and Christmas)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 25)

That this House:

(1) at its rising on Thursday 28 April 2016, do adjourn until Tuesday 3 May 2016;

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1203

(2) at its rising on Thursday 26 May 2016, do adjourn until Monday 6 June 2016;

(3) at its rising on Wednesday 15 June 2016, do adjourn until Monday 27 June 2016;

(4) at its rising on Thursday 21 July 2016, do adjourn until Monday 5 September 2016;

(5) at its rising on Thursday 15 September 2016, do adjourn until Monday 10 October 2016;

(6) at its rising on Tuesday 8 November 2016, do adjourn until Monday 14 November2016; and

(7) at its rising on Tuesday 20 December 2016, do adjourn until Monday 9 January 2017.—(Guy Opperman.)

Question agreed to.

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1204

School Places (Barking and Dagenham)

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

5.1 pm

Jon Cruddas (Dagenham and Rainham) (Lab): I want to make several points regarding school places and school funding in the London borough of Barking and Dagenham. I will not use all my allotted time so that my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge) can also contribute before the Minister responds.

From the outset, I should say that our local authority appreciates the work carried out between the Education Funding Agency and local authority officers and that the need to meet additional demand has been recognised by the Government. My concern today is to ensure that this recognition translates into genuine action and appropriate funding arrangements over the years that lie ahead. I want to go into some detail regarding the challenges we face that are difficult for national allocation formulae and systems fully to understand, in the hope of ensuring that the Treasury grants the Department for Education the money it needs.

To set this in context, there are obvious London-wide pressures on school places. London Councils’ “Do the Maths 2015” analysis shows that London’s pupil population is set to increase by a further 146,000 between 2015 and 2020; that London needs to create 113,000 new school places over the course of this Parliament; and that it needs £1.5 billion of basic need funding by 2020 to create the new places required. Even set against that capital-wide challenge, the challenges facing Barking and Dagenham are unique in terms of demographic change, pressure for school places and an ageing school estate.

When I was first elected, the borough would have been characterised as a relatively stable community with a slightly ageing population. This picture of stability was reflected in the school numbers: between 2000-01 and 2005-6, primary school numbers actually fell by 150. In contrast, over the last 10 years, the borough has become one of the fastest-changing communities in Britain. We have to deal with demographic changes the likes of which we could never have imagined back in 2001, let alone 2005, driven by the fact that we remain the cheapest housing market across Greater London.

We saw a 43% increase in primary pupil numbers between 2009-10 and 2014-15, and this is likely to rise to 48% by 2016-17. At 48%, this will be the highest increase in England. Between 2009 and 2013-14, the headcount rose by 7,421. Those areas with a higher headcount were Birmingham, Bradford, Hertfordshire, Manchester and Surrey—none comparable in terms of the size of the community. Barking and Dagenham remains a relatively small London borough. This year—in a single year—we saw a 12.7% increase in the number of year 6 children applying for secondary school places next year, which is the highest in London by over 3%. The proportion of children under 19 in the population is expected to reach at least 33% before 2020. This is 10% higher than the average for England and around 8% higher than the average for London.

All those increases are before the significant increases we expect owing to increased housing units across the borough. For example, we are looking at development sites across Castle Green, Barking Riverside, Barking

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1205

town centre, Creekmouth, Thames road and Beam park and the old Ford stamping plant, which amount to some 29,300-plus units over the next decade or more.

Already, the borough has committed to support the London Mayor by providing 5% of the planned growth in housing for London—some 75% higher than we might have expected on a pro-rata basis. This will go a long way to meeting London’s housing crisis, but we must make sure that it does not fuel a deepening school places crisis locally. The latest estimates from the LEA are of a further 5,500 increase in the primary school population by 2021-22 and a 7,700 increase in the secondary school population. Overall, we are witnessing a unique population surge. Just after the 2020 election, the school population will be over 50,000—virtually double the headcount compared with when I was first elected in 2001.

Let us now consider some of the funding implications. Based on our place projections for up to 2021, a total of 20 additional forms of entry will be needed at primary level, which is equivalent to around seven new schools, costing approximately £63 million. At secondary level, we anticipate 41 extra forms of entry, which is about the size of four large secondary schools, costing about £100 million. We will also need to expand our special educational needs provision, while early years numbers are also rising.

I have just alluded to an awful lot of money, but we are talking about an awful lot of children. Within these estimates, and given the record of our borough, our capital costs per place are well below the median for the region—and below our immediate neighbours—for both expanding and new school places. To add to the picture, we cannot forget how we as a borough lost out badly with the end of both the Building Schools for the Future and the primary schools capital programmes.

BSF covered all nine secondary schools in the borough. In the event, only two schools, Sydney Russell in the Barking constituency and Dagenham Park in my Dagenham and Rainham constituency, were covered by the residual BSF programme. Those two schools cost roughly £50 million. The BSF programme was valued at some £250 million, so the investment gap stands at about £200 million. Since BSF, capital spending on Eastbury, Eastbrook and the Riverside schools has reduced this investment shortfall to about £105 million, according to the latest estimate. Given that the primary capital programme never happened in any significant way, money to improve the structure of existing buildings has had to be spent on addressing our primary places shortfall. Obviously, things do not stand still, and programme cancellations have contributed to a growing need for capital repairs and minor works to keep the school estate functioning.

Basically, we receive £4 million from the Government for this, but estimate that we need £32.5 million for secondary school condition improvement and £40 million for primary school condition improvement. Why? Well, unlike much of the London schools estate, many of our schools were built during the 1921-1935 period and now require major infrastructure repairs.

Two of our largest and most popular secondary schools, Barking Abbey and Robert Clack, missed out on both the Building Schools for the Future programme

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1206

and the more recent bid rounds for the priority schools building programme. We also have some schools that require significant investment to make them 100% accessible—with the growth in pupil numbers, our schools are serving many more children with special education needs and disabilities. Cumulatively, given the exceptional demographic growth, the investment shortfall and deteriorating estate, we face extraordinary funding problems.

Barking and Dagenham has been allocated £162 million between 2011-12 and 2017-18, yet we need to expand our primary provision at the same time as needing to meet the growth in demand reaching our secondary schools. This is simply not enough to build the quality of schools that our children deserve. Overall, we need to use revenue funding to supplement capital costs and maintenance—vital money that is needed to improve outcomes and meet the needs of a very mobile community.

We also have to factor in how the Government wish to create a national funding formula, but we hope this will not further disadvantage students in our borough. We will obviously respond in detail to the national funding formula consultation, but fear it will impact on the revenue available to support our schools in meeting this huge population increase.

On a more positive note, I can say that, despite all those challenges, Barking and Dagenham has a strong track record of delivering sufficient places. We have opened, on time, a higher number of school places than any other borough in the country, but if we are to continue to achieve that, we shall need sufficient long-term funding commitments. We have invited Lord Nash to visit the borough so that he can see at first hand the state of the buildings and the pressures on space. He has acknowledged that the borough has taken a pragmatic approach to securing school places, working with the EFA. We should like to extend, again, that invitation to view schools and meet headteachers, officers and local politicians to discuss the issues.

Despite needing to manage a huge increase in population, our schools are improving. Over the past five years, we have closed the gap between ourselves and others in good Ofsted outcomes by some 30% at primary level. In November 2014, Ofsted said:

“A good quality education for all and improving academic standards are at the heart of Barking and Dagenham’s ambitious vision. The local authority is facing significant demographic changes and challenges, such as an increasing population, increasing population mobility, greater ethnic diversity and increasing poverty. None of these is accepted by officers and elected members as a barrier to educational achievement.

Senior officers and elected members provide strong leadership. The impact of the local strategy is fewer schools causing concern and rising standards across all phases of education that now match or exceed national averages.”

As I have said, we appreciate that we are recognised as a special case by the Government, but that is not enough. During the Budget debates yesterday and today, we have heard a lot about school structures, but very little about the kinds of pressures we are facing locally.

Literally within the last hour, the Department has sent LEAs the 2018-19 allocations. We welcome the allocations of some £5 million in 2018-19 and £17 million in 2017-18, which increase our capacity to start planning in advance of some of the changes to which I have referred. We hope that longer-term allocations will be available, as secondary schools cannot be built bit by

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1207

bit, and need to be planned several years in advance. The figure is lower than we hoped, given the cost of building a new secondary school, but it is a contribution, along with the allocation of free school places to the borough.

I assume that the Minister’s response will be to acknowledge the pressures and challenges that I have described. May I suggest it is now time to move beyond mere acceptance, and towards detailed discussions of the actions and funding that are required to secure continued school expansion and improvement in the years that lie ahead?

5.12 pm

Dame Margaret Hodge (Barking) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham and Rainham (Jon Cruddas) on securing the debate, and on selecting this issue.

I will not give all the figures, but Barking and Dagenham has experienced the greatest increase in school numbers in the country over the last five years, a massive increase of 48%. Although the increase will slow down a bit over the next five years, it is still huge. The growth in primary school figures is now hitting the secondary school estate, which will experience a 57% increase over the next five years. It is predicted that a third of the borough’s population will be under the age of 19. I think that we face a problem of huge proportions, and I hope that the Government will accept that.

I want to add two comments to what my hon. Friend has said. First, the current estate, especially the secondary estate, is horrific in some instances. Barking Abbey, a secondary school in my constituency, teaches to really high standards in atrocious buildings, all of which are portakabins. When I took the Public Accounts Committee down to see the borough during our an inquiry into school places, we saw dangerous wires coming out of some parts of the building. There are not enough science classrooms, and the entire sixth form is being taught in portakabins; yet the school has been asked to accept more young people. That is an impossible ask when the current conditions are so atrocious.

Gascoigne primary school, which is also in my constituency, is the largest primary school in the country. We are constructing a new building for it some distance away. I am always very sceptical about the ability of a headteacher to manage two buildings that are not on the same site. When I last visited that school, it had lost practically all its playground space. In a week when the Government are talking about encouraging school sports, I have to tell the Minister that the places are simply not there. It has also had to lose its library, which has moved into a portakabin, and it will be impossible for it to meet the aims of the anti-obesity strategy that the Government have spelled out. I just want to draw to the Minister’s attention the reality of people’s lives as they try to manage, given the insufficient number of school places.

I get endless cases of this nature, and I am sure that my hon. Friend does as well. One involves a young girl who is looking for a secondary school place. She has not been given a place at either of her first two choices of school. She wanted to go to Sydney Russell school, where her older sibling is, but she is being sent instead to a school right in the east of my hon. Friend’s constituency,

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1208

a 45-minute bus ride from where she lives. Another involves a young boy who has also not been given a place at either of the schools he wanted to go to. He wanted to go to the new school, Riverside school, which is a 15-minute walk from his home, and we should be able to cater for his needs. However, he has been given a place at Eastbrook school, which involves a 40-minute journey on two buses. I hope that the Minister agrees that that is unacceptable. It is not what any responsible Government should be providing, which is the very best start in life for our young children.

5.16 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr Sam Gyimah): I congratulate the hon. Member for Dagenham and Rainham (Jon Cruddas) on securing this debate. I also congratulate him and the right hon. Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge) on speaking so passionately about the educational opportunities available to young children in their constituencies. This debate is timely as it allows me the opportunity to set out clearly the Government’s position on the provision of sufficient quality school places across the country as well as, more specifically, in Barking and Dagenham. I agree with the right hon. Member for Barking that this is about not just the availability of places but the quality of the school buildings.

First, I want to take the opportunity to reiterate that ensuring that every child is able to attend a good or outstanding school in their local area is at the heart of the Government’s comprehensive programme of reform of the school system. We know that our growing population means that new school places are needed in many parts of the country, so the Government are absolutely committed to providing capital investment to ensure that every child has a place at a school.

We have already shown the strength of our commitment to ensuring that good quality places are available, and we are investing a further £7 billion to create new school places between 2015 and 2021. We are also investing £23 billion in school buildings to create 600,000 new school places, open at least 500 new schools and address essential maintenance needs. This is on top of the £5 billion we allocated to local authorities to invest in school places in the last Parliament, which was over double the amount spent in the equivalent four-year period between 2007 and 2011. Today, we released new data showing that nearly 600,000 additional pupil places were created between May 2010 and May 2015, with many more delivered since then and in the pipeline; 150,000 places were delivered between 2014 and 2015 alone.

The hon. Member for Dagenham and Rainham mentioned the Budget, and referred to the absence of commentary on school places. I want to draw his attention to an announcement that we have made today. We are announcing £1.1 billion of funding for local authorities in 2018-19 to create the school places needed by the 2019-20 academic year. I know that he is concerned about that matter. This is part of the £7 billion that I referred to earlier and, alongside our investment in 500 new free schools, we expect this to deliver a further 600,000 new places by 2021. In making these allocations, the Government are continuing to target funding effectively, based on local needs, using data we have collected from local authorities about the capacity of schools and

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1209

forecast pupil projections. Those are the announcements that we have made today, and I will definitely ask the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Lady to look at the detail.

Returning to the central point of the debate, ensuring that every child has access to the benefits of a good-quality education is a fundamental responsibility of everyone across the education system. As the hon. Member for Dagenham and Rainham knows, the statutory duty for providing school places rests with local authorities. Our financial commitment is therefore a concrete demonstration of the level of importance that the Government attach to the provision of places and of our wider commitment.

Our manifesto referred to the creation of 500 new free schools, and 40 applications have been approved since the election in May, with many more entering the process. We continue to encourage businesses, cultural and sporting bodies, charities, community groups and parents to come forward with their proposals for new schools, adding to the nearly 400 schools opened since 2010 and the more than 190 currently in the pipeline.

It is important that local authorities across the country seek to capitalise on the opportunities presented here. The free schools programme is working alongside local authorities to create the school places we need in order to provide a good education for all our children, and many authorities are choosing to work actively with the Government to meet the challenge. I pay tribute to all those in authorities and in schools who have helped to deliver the significant progress of recent years. The task is not yet done, however, as the increase in the number of pupils moving through the primary phase is now beginning to be felt at secondary level. Local authorities and schools must rise to that additional challenge. We should not pretend that that will be easy, which is why we are committed to helping through funding and through establishing new schools directly under the free schools programme.

London’s situation is unique, and the unsurprising surge in pupil numbers has been mentioned. As a thriving global city, London has a large part to play in meeting that challenge. Some 34% of new places delivered by 2015 were in London, and the capital will clearly have a big part to play in coming years. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the London borough of Barking and Dagenham has played its part in that regard. The local authority has effectively created places to meet demand, but it will face, as he pointed out, further challenges as pupil numbers continue to rise and larger primary cohorts transfer into the secondary sector. Rising pupil numbers in neighbouring local authorities will also reduce the number of pupils able to take up places outside Barking and Dagenham, further increasing the challenges to be managed.

The way we provide funding for new places is based on local authorities’ assessments of the number of pupils that they expect to have, taking local factors into account. That approach has helped the Government to allocate Barking and Dagenham a further £6 million, taking the total to £167 million in funding for school places from 2011 to 2019, on top of more than 3,300 places in free schools that we have funded centrally. The funding

17 Mar 2016 : Column 1210

has been put to work. By May 2015, there were 7,450 more primary places and 4,450 more secondary places than there were in 2010, with plans to create many more when they are needed in the coming years. Barking and Dagenham has four open free schools, including an all-age special school. In addition, it has a university technical college and a further secondary school is due to open in 2017.

Of course, providing sufficient quality places is about not only capital investment, but ensuring that revenue money for schools gets to where it is needed most. The hon. Gentleman was bang on the money when he talked about the likely consequences of the national funding formula for Barking and Dagenham. In the spending review, we delivered on our manifesto pledge to maintain per pupil funding for the core schools budget for the duration of the Parliament, providing an overall real-terms protection. That includes protecting the extra funding for our most disadvantaged children through the pupil premium, worth over £2.5 billion this year. Next year, we will be providing over £40 billion of schools funding, the highest ever level of any Government.

We also committed in the spending review to introduce a national funding formula for schools and for pupils with high needs from 2017 to ensure that funding reaches the places where it is needed. I believe these reforms will be transformative and the biggest step towards fairer funding in more than a decade.

The current funding system is unfair and out of date. It means that a primary pupil with low prior attainment in Barking and Dagenham attracts £800 to his or her school, but in neighbouring Newham the same child would attract nearly £1,800. The situation is similar for pupils with high needs—funding is not correlated to need and there is wide local variation in the way children’s needs are assessed. Earlier this month, we launched the first stage of our consultation on proposals to end this postcode lottery and to put in its place a funding system that gives every pupil the same opportunities in education; where children with the same characteristics and the same needs are funded at the same rate, wherever they live; and where there is one, consistent, fair formula, instead of 152 local variations.

Across all our proposals for a national funding formula, we want to deliver three key priorities: to allocate funding fairly and get it straight to the frontline; to match funding to need, so that the higher the need, the greater the funding; and to make sure that the transition for such significant reforms is smooth. The proposals in our consultation include arrangements for funding schools with significant growth in their pupil numbers, and I look forward to the response to the consultation from the Barking and Dagenham local authority. This Government are committed to long-term investment in education. We have already protected revenue funding for this Parliament and we are acting now to make sure this money is allocated equitably for all pupils, wherever they are in the country. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Dagenham and Rainham for raising this important issue today.

Question put and agreed to.

5.26 pm

House adjourned.