|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, these advisers are the personal appointments of Cabinet Ministers. Their job is to help Cabinet Ministers to do their job even more effectively than they would otherwise have done if they had not had such an appointment.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, I am not sure that the Leader of the House answered the question put by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours precisely. The question is really this: if any Minister, in relation to his or her activities in connection with a special adviser is seen to be in breach of the Ministerial Code, would it be the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister who would have to exercise disciplinary action against them?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, in the first instance it is up to the Minister who appointed the special adviser, but if there was a most serious breach of the code, I am sure that it would be for the Prime Minister to take a view.
Lord Clark of Windermere: My Lords, bearing in mind that it is readily accepted that no one should benefit from public service, will the Minister give an assurance that the incoming special advisers will receive less income as special advisers than they were receiving immediately prior to taking up office?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, as I said in answer to an earlier question, these figures will be made public when we make the announcement. I said also that we will draw to a close the regime whereby special advisers told civil servants what to do, and we will end that hideous rogues' gallery where special advisers became even better known than their Ministers-for example, Alastair Campbell, Damian McBride, Charlie Whelan, Derek Draper. Their reign is now firmly over.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I had the responsibility, under my noble friend Lord Lawson of Blaby, of constructing the original structure for special advisers' salaries. Can my noble friend indicate whether the same logical rationale to the structure will be published on this occasion?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the depths of knowledge of my noble friend never cease to amaze me. I am amazed because I did not know it beforehand and so I am unable to give him a positive answer. However, when he sees what we publish, I think he will be very impressed.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the noble Lord cited the names of various special advisers, but I remind the House that this Prime Minister is the first Prime Minister to have been a special adviser and I am sure that he would agree that, on the whole, they do an excellent job. Does the Leader of the House agree that
7 Jun 2010 : Column 504
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the Leader of the Opposition is right-the Prime Minister has made a firm commitment about the number of special advisers appointed. It will be up to us all to make sure that his resolve is maintained.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the Government recognise the concerns expressed by your Lordships' Select Committee report on the Barnett formula, the Holtham commission on Welsh funding and other commentators on the system for devolution funding. However, as set out in the coalition programme for government, at this time the priority must be to reduce the deficit, and therefore any change to the system must await the stabilisation of the public finances.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, the noble Lord must know that he has not answered my Question. The Select Committee to which he referred unanimously pointed out that approximately £1,600 per head more is spent in public expenditure in Scotland than in England, which has serious implications for the coming cuts. The Select Committee, which included a former Conservative Chancellor and two former Conservative Secretaries of State for Scotland, unanimously recommended that the system should be changed and based on need. What is he going to do? Is he going to do nothing at all?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, not only for producing his eponymous formula at the end of the 1970s, when he was a much respected Chief Secretary to the Treasury, but also for his powerful arguments in recent years for change. He of course knows more than I will ever know about the Barnett formula, and he makes a valid point; and the coalition understands his concerns very clearly. However, I am sure that he will be among the first to acknowledge that, in the light of the grave financial situation that the country faces, it would be wrong for a new Government to rush to a decision on this complicated matter.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, perhaps I may assist my noble friend. I entirely agree that the number one objective-the Government are right-must be to reduce the appalling size of the deficit. If he re-reads the unanimous report of the Select Committee to which he referred, he will discover that its recommendations would assist that task, not fly in the face of it. I hope he will embrace it.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his intervention. We recognise the force of the arguments and are carefully considering the various reports. There is as yet no consensus on exactly what a needs-based assessment would take account of. In the mean time, the coalition's priority, as I have said, is to reduce the deficit.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, given that the Barnett formula funds on the basis of population and not need, does the Minister agree that it is profoundly unfair to overfund Scotland by the extent of some £4 billion to £5 billion a year, while requiring underfunded local authorities in the rest of the country to make further savage cuts as their contribution to reducing the deficit?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, in circumstances where the public sector debt is approaching £900 billion and the PBR forecast for 2009-10 is for net additional borrowings of £156 million, or about 11 per cent of GDP, I am surprised to hear that the noble Baroness thinks that the Barnett formula is a more urgent matter.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, is it not the case that the whole economic and financial landscape has changed so fundamentally over the past 30 years that a rough and ready yardstick of calculation, as it was then, now becomes something utterly inequitable; and that if there is no radical change, parts of the United Kingdom, such as the land and nation of Wales, will suffer the perpetuation of this inequity? Is it therefore a matter not of waiting for events to happen but of radically tackling a massive injustice?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the Government hear what the noble Lord and other noble Lords say. However, while we recognise the concerns expressed by, for example, the Holtham commission, as I said, the priority must at the moment be to tackle the deficit.
Does the Minister agree that, unlike its author, the Barnett formula is now well past its sell-by date? Does he recognise particularly the concerns expressed so thoroughly by the Holtham commission on the whole system of public sector or devolution funding? While obviously accepting that the deficit is the immediate problem, does he not also accept that moving towards fairness between all four nations of the United Kingdom is an important part of getting the deficit sorted?
Lord Peston: My Lords, I was under the impression that the Liberal Democrats were part of the Government. I know that we need to sort out the protocol, but they really have to get used to what they have sold their souls for. They really do.
May I ask the noble Lord, with all lack of respect to my noble friend Lord Barnett, whether it is not about time that the Barnett formula was simply allowed to die? Should we not let it rest happily in its grave until we can come back to invent a new formula?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the dulcet words of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, when he was a Minister answering almost an identical question, were along the lines that the Barnett formula is simple, robust, and it works. The coalition, on the other hand, and as the noble Lord, Lord Peston, implies, recognises that there are concerns over the allocation of funding. But, as I said, there are other priorities.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, the House will be aware that I am now the Minister in charge of this Bill rather than my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire, in whose name the Bill was introduced. I am happy to assure the House that I, too, believe that the provisions of this Bill are compatible with the convention rights and I would have been content to sign the necessary statement had I been in a position to do so when the Bill was introduced.
This Bill will grant more freedoms to schools, give more responsibility to teachers and help to ensure that standards rise for all children. Last week we had an excellent debate on the measures contained in the gracious Speech. Rereading the whole debate over the weekend-that is the kind of pastime that I now find myself reduced to-I found that there was broad agreement on the need to trust professionals more, to reduce the bureaucracy that they face and to give them more opportunity to drive their own improvement and
7 Jun 2010 : Column 507
I have had some very thoughtful discussions with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln and others about managing expectations for this Bill, so let me be clear from the outset that the Bill does not in our view represent a revolution in our school system. Rather, it builds on what has gone before. We can trace its roots to the reforms introduced by my noble friend Lord Baker through the Education Reform Act 1988, which led to the opening of the first city technology colleges in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, it was under a Labour Government that the pace of reform really picked up-I recognise that contribution very clearly. The Learning and Skills Act 2000 saw the beginning of the academies programme and the education White Paper of 2005 built on it. I hope that I will not embarrass the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, by saying what I said in his absence last week-how much I respect his achievement and what high standards he has set for those who have come after him. I am happy to pay tribute to him and to my other predecessors, who should feel pleased at the good that they have done through the academies programme and the thousands of children's lives that they have already changed for the better.
I am not arguing that academies will always be the answer. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, reminded us in the debate on the gracious Speech that many outstanding schools are not academies and that not all academies are outstanding-and she is, of course, right. Overall, however, academies represent one of the best and fastest routes to school improvement. They have transformed some of the worst-performing schools in the country into some of the best and, in doing so, they have transformed the prospects of tens of thousands of young people. In 2008-09, academies saw GCSE results increase twice as fast as the national average.
It is also clear that the extension of the academies programme that we now propose seems to be what the previous Labour Government intended to do. In a speech given the day before the publication of the 2005 White Paper, the then Prime Minister, the right honourable Tony Blair, said:
"We need to make it easier for every school to acquire the drive and essential freedoms of Academies ... We want every school to be able quickly and easily to become a self-governing independent state school ... All schools will be able to have Academy style freedoms ... No one will be able to veto parents starting new schools or new providers coming in, simply on the basis that there are local surplus places. The role of the LEA will change fundamentally".
It is perhaps worth reminding ourselves why we need reform. Despite the best efforts of previous Governments, 81,000 11 year-olds still left primary school last year without achieving the required standard in reading. Half of young people left secondary school without achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths. In the last year for which we have data, out of 80,000 young people eligible for free school meals, just 45 made it to Oxbridge.
Raising standards is not simply about structures, a point made well in last week's debate; it is about the quality of teaching, which is why we will also build on the previous Government's excellent Teach First programme. At a time of great pressure in public spending, we have prioritised investment in education by protecting front-line spending this financial year for Sure Start children's centres, 16 to 19 learning and, of course, schools. However, giving schools and teachers more freedoms will help them to do the job that they came into teaching to do.
The Bill will give all schools-including, for the first time, primary schools and special schools-the opportunity to apply to become an academy. I stress "opportunity"; this is largely a permissive rather than coercive Bill. Its aim is to help schools across the spectrum, from the very worst to the very best. Schools already rated as outstanding by Ofsted may have their applications fast-tracked and may open this year if they wish. In return, we will expect every outstanding school that acquires academy freedoms to partner with at least one other school, to raise performance across the system.
Schools that are really struggling will see government intervention. There has always been a focus in the academies programme on the weakest schools, which will continue. The Bill will therefore allow the Secretary of State, where a school is struggling, to remove it from the control of the local authority and reopen it as an academy. That will mean that we should be able to deliver faster and deeper improvements in deprived and disadvantaged areas. For the schools in between-those doing well that could do better-academies will present a real opportunity to achieve excellent results through the core freedoms that all academies enjoy: making their own decisions about the curriculum, teachers' pay, the length of the school day and how they spend the money that is currently spent on their behalf by local government. Again, it will be for head teachers, governing bodies and school trustees to decide whether to apply.
"There is a good argument for successful schools being given more managerial autonomy and flexibility, provided that that is on the basis of fair admissions, fair funding and a recognition of their wider school improvement responsibilities".-[Official Report, 3/6/10; col. 382.]
I shall say a few things about what the Bill will not do. It will not help just a small proportion of pupils in leafy suburbs. The original focus of the academies programme on underperformance and deprivation will remain a key feature. The Bill will not allow a small number of schools to float free above the rest of the state school system. It should help all schools to improve standards by increasing the number of heads inspiring other heads and teachers learning from other teachers through greater partnerships between schools. It will not impinge on a school's unique ethos or religious character if it becomes an academy. We want to give schools greater freedom and the preservation of a school's unique ethos will be an important
7 Jun 2010 : Column 509
The Bill does not provide a back door to selection, which is, I know, another concern of some noble Lords. While the small number of schools that are currently selective will be able to keep their selective status, non-selective schools, if they choose to become an academy, will not be able suddenly to become selective. A fair and open admissions policy will mean that intakes at academies will be diverse, inclusive and drawn from the local community. We will aim to ensure that the position with maintained special schools is mirrored. We want a special school that converts to an academy still to take only children with statements. The Bill will not disadvantage any maintained school financially, nor will there be extra funding for academies that maintained schools will not get.
The Bill will not create a two-tier school system; indeed, we believe that it will help to close the gap in our current system. Most important, while it is not catered for in the Bill currently before noble Lords, we will also target resources on the poorest through a new pupil premium. That will take money from outside the schools budget to make sure that those teaching the children most in need get extra resources-for example, to deliver smaller class sizes, more one-to-one tuition, longer school days and more extra-curricular activities.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|