Previous Section Index Home Page

Chris Mole (Ipswich) (Lab): I welcome my right hon. Friend’s comments about spreading new technologies and best practice, and I urge him to ignore the sniping of the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) about the connecting for health programme. I used the recess as an opportunity to see the photo electron and x-ray—PAX—digital programme at Ipswich hospital, which is absolutely
10 Oct 2007 : Column 311
fantastic. It delivers improved diagnostic imaging, which elicited unrequested congratulations from members of staff on the quality of the investment that the Labour Government have made in the PAX programme and on the benefits to them and their patients, as well as the savings—

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members should be putting questions. The hon. Gentleman can write to the Secretary of State and tell him what he did during the recess.

Alan Johnson: The gist of my hon. Friend’s contribution was absolutely right.

Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con): What was the question?

Alan Johnson: The question was about whether I agreed that lots of good things were happening in new technology in the NHS, and I am happy to say yes.

Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): Why was there an important omission from the statement? Will the Secretary of State confirm that the GPs in all the new medical centres that he proudly announced will be free to prescribe what they consider the most appropriate and best medication for patients with conditions such as Alzheimer’s and age-related macular degeneration? There should be not only social equity but health equity between some of the most vulnerable and elderly people in England and their counterparts in Scotland and Wales.

Alan Johnson: Unless I am wrong, Opposition Front Benchers would not go back to pre-NICE days.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Ivan Lewis): The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) would.

Alan Johnson: Well, I can happily say that I am not prepared to go back to those days. One of the world-class features of our NHS system that people around the world try to imitate is NICE. For the first time we have a system under which it is compulsory for all parts of the NHS to offer a drug, provided that it has been approved by NICE, which was a huge step forward. We could not go back to the days when it was up to a GP to decide such things, without a proper clinical examination.

Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood) (Lab): I welcome the announcement of additional funding for social care and a radical rethink in social care. However, as well as being radical, will the rethink be careful? Vulnerable adults and frail elderly people are already anxious about the services that they receive. They need reassurance that they will continue to receive support. They also need reassurance that their voices will be heard in any development of new services.

Alan Johnson: My hon. Friend is right. As I mentioned earlier, tackling the Green Paper does not mean that everything goes on hold. That additional funding is another real-terms increase on top of the 39 per cent. real-terms increase in social care. It is a
10 Oct 2007 : Column 312
combination of the funding from the Department of Health and from the Department for Communities and Local Government that goes to local government. That funding will result in far greater independence for the vulnerable people whom my hon. Friend mentioned.

Andrew George (St. Ives) (LD): May I tease out the limits—if there are any—to what the Secretary of State described in his statement as the matching of local ownership and greater local accountability in Lord Darzi’s work? I am thinking especially of the integration of all health care with social care. Would the Secretary of State be prepared, for example, to consider local authorities taking on entirely decision making and budgetary control from PCTs?

Alan Johnson: “Steady as we go”, is the answer to that question. I am not yet able to say that we are getting to that position. However, in many local authority areas somebody from local government is on the PCT, so there is far greater integration. I do not know whether that is the final solution to the issue. I accept that I do not have the solution; I just know that Darzi’s work is important to ensure local accountability. Otherwise if we remove politicians at national level and there is no increased accountability further down the system there will be a gaping hole. That is where the accountability needs to be. We need to talk the issues through, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will make an important contribution to that debate.

Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State agree that the £250 million access fund, which will deliver 100 new GP practices, and the establishment of 150 new GP-run health centres, are nothing but good news for areas such as County Durham and for my constituents in Sedgefield? Will he meet me to see how best to implement those changes in Sedgefield, where health centre provision has been an issue?

Alan Johnson: Following the recent by-election, I know the constituency of Sedgefield. Those provisions will specifically help areas such as Sedgefield and others such as my constituency in Hull which have been under-doctored and have been for many years.

For GP practices in the 25 per cent. of areas that are most poorly provided for, the statement unleashes 900 staff—doctors, nurses, health professionals, health visitors and community nurses—into the most deprived areas in our country, giving the very best services to areas that previously had the worst. I will happily talk to my hon. Friend about how that is being implemented in his constituency.

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): Does the Secretary of State recognise that although the title of his statement is “Health and Social Care”, only 12 words in it were about the major providers of social care in this country—local authorities? Does he recognise that they are spending billions over their standard spending assessment on social services, withdrawing preventive work, intervening only in life-threatening cases, pushing up charges and piling pressure on the council tax? Would it not have been better to share the proceeds of growth more evenly between the national health service and social services?

10 Oct 2007 : Column 313

Alan Johnson: Lots of the money that we provide through the NHS will provide greater resources. I am not a representative of the Department for Communities and Local Government, but we will have an opportunity to talk about that issue.

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about local authorities, which, incidentally, will have ring fencing removed as part of the settlement to give them greater freedom to spend money on priorities. That could well mean spending much more on social care. The problem that he identifies is how we keep that contribution sustainable, as the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Angela Browning) said, so that an increasing elderly population receive better care services than they do at the moment. [ Interruption. ] It is a question not just of putting in better resources, but of dealing with the whole organisation and, as the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Lewis) says from a sedentary position, of the better use of existing resources. That can be done and some local authorities are doing it brilliantly. We need to spread that best practice more widely.


Microgeneration and Local Energy

Dr. Alan Whitehead, supported by John Austin, Lorely Burt, Colin Challen, Mr. David Chaytor, Mr. David Drew, Dr. Ian Gibson, Julia Goldsworthy, Chris Huhne, Alan Simpson, David Taylor and Mr. Mike Weir, presented a Bill to make further provision in relation to microgeneration; to promote local energy provision and energy efficiency; and for connected purposes.: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 19 October, and to be printed. [Bill 155].

Fixed Term Parliaments

David Howarth, supported by Mr. David Heath, Simon Hughes, Chris Huhne, Danny Alexander, Lynne Featherstone, Paul Rowen, Mr. Paul Burstow, Mr. Nick Clegg and Norman Baker, presented a Bill to fix the date of the next general election and all subsequent general elections; to forbid the dissolution of Parliament otherwise than in accordance with this Act; to allow the House of Commons to change the day of the week on which a general election is held; and for connected purposes.: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 19 October, and to be printed. [Bill 157].

10 Oct 2007 : Column 314

Points of Order

1.32 pm

Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. While reading my Hansard this morning, I realised that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the hon. Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), in summing up last night’s debate, said that I had got my figures wrong when I told him that only 3 per cent. of lamb served to our troops is actually British. He said that it was 13 per cent. Whoever is right—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to continue. This is a matter of debate and rebuttal; it is not a point of order. It took place during a debate, and the hon. Gentleman should find an opportunity to rebut the case that the Under-Secretary made.

Bill Wiggin: It was his answer.

Mr. Speaker: Even if it was his answer, it is not a matter for me.

Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Secretary of State for Health has now on two occasions accused me of failing to mention the new community hospital that will be built in Beverley, even though that hospital is only at the stage of putting in a bid to the strategic health authority, and therefore has no certainty of funding whatsoever. I wonder whether you could advise me, Mr. Speaker, on how I could get confirmation from the Secretary of State that it will be funded, or on how I can ask him not to mislead the House and the nation by suggesting it is going ahead.

Mr. Speaker: The Secretary of State would not mislead the House, nor would any other Member. If the hon. Gentleman comes to the Chair on a quiet occasion, I will tell him how to go about these things.

10 Oct 2007 : Column 315

Opposition Day

[19th Allotted day]

Department for Children, Schools and Families

Mr. Speaker: We now come to the first debate on the Opposition motions. I inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

1.33 pm

Michael Gove (Surrey Heath) (Con): I beg to move,

May I say what a pleasure it is to see the Secretary of State in his place? Having read the newspapers last week, it is something of a surprise that he is here with us today because in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph just a fortnight ago—how long ago that must seem— he boasted proudly:

Now that the Prime Minister has shot himself in his general election footing, I am glad that we can get back to debating the issues. However, may I congratulate the Secretary of State on something? That campaign office must be the one building officially opened by a member of the Government this year where the Minister was actually present and the building was genuinely new.

May I also congratulate the Secretary of State on something else? I was intrigued by his speech to the Labour party conference, where he made so much of where some of my colleagues went to school. I turned to “Who’s Who” to see where he might have been educated, presuming it was a properly inclusive sort of place. But imagine my surprise when I saw that no school—primary or secondary—was listed. I know that when the Secretary of State was growing up in Nottingham—fine town that it is—a very good independent boys school there sent many of its lads to Oxbridge. But in the Secretary of State’s entry—penned of course, I presume, by himself—the first establishment mentioned is Keble college, Oxford, where I read he got a first in philosophy, politics and economics. What an amazing achievement: a first at Oxford without having been to any primary or secondary school. All I can say is what everyone in the Labour party is saying: what a phenomenon.

It is a pity, however, that I cannot congratulate the Secretary of State on more, but the news from his Department during the past few months has been grim. For our youngest school children, just starting out in life, the education system is flatlining. The proportion of students achieving level 2 in maths and reading at key stage 1 is exactly the same as in 2002.

10 Oct 2007 : Column 316

Sarah McCarthy-Fry (Portsmouth, North) (Lab/Co-op): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Michael Gove: No. Writing results have declined from 86 per cent. to 80 per cent. since 2002 and are now at their lowest level for a decade. That is a failure to support the youngest. For children at the end of primary school, making the transition from seven years of education under this Government to the testing environment of secondary school, the Government are also failing. Nearly half of children are unable to read write or add up properly at age 11: a failure to prepare a whole generation.

For young people preparing to meet the challenge of a changing world of work, this Government have failed to deliver on the basics. The number of students getting five good passes at GCSE, including English, maths, science and a modern language, is now 25 per cent. of the total, down since 1997: a failure to equip the young for a world of rapid change. [ Interruption. ] I notice that the hon. Member for Dudley, North (Mr. Austin) is monosyllabic; he is capable of uttering only one word. If he would care to make an intervention, I shall be delighted to hear it. [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. We are debating serious matters today. We must not have continual interventions from a sedentary position— [ Interruption. ] Order. From either side of the House.

Michael Gove: I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. John Spellar (Warley) (Lab): On a point of order, I was wondering whether the hon. Gentleman will take interventions from a standing position.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Whether or not Members addressing the House take interventions is entirely a matter for them.

Michael Gove: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I look forward to taking interventions in just one moment, including from the right hon. Member for Warley (Mr. Spellar).

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Michael Gove: I will come back to the hon. Lady in just one second because it is important that she realises the scale of this Government’s failure.

We now have the tragedy of more than a million young people not in employment, education or training: wasted talent let down by a system this Government failed to reform. Ministers, and ambitious Back Benchers, cannot deny the scale of this failure, for one of their own has acknowledged it. According to Lord Adonis, a Minister in the Secretary of State’s Department, a quarter of secondary schools in this country are “wasting pupils’ talents”. Some 800,000 pupils are in schools that, according to Ministers, are simply unacceptable. As Mrs. Alastair Campbell wrote in The Guardian this week:

10 Oct 2007 : Column 317

How fortunate for the Secretary of State that, after last week, no one else in the Labour party is at all unhappy with him.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I thank the hon. Gentleman for eventually giving way. Last year, my local education authority was the second most improved at key stage 2 in English and maths. The children and the teachers are proud of themselves. Would the hon. Gentleman have me tell them that they are failures?

Michael Gove: I certainly would not. I am happy to congratulate teachers and pupils. Ministers are the people who have been failing—they are incapable of securing results. How can anyone be complacent about education in this country when 43 per cent. of young children leave primary school incapable of reading, writing or adding up properly? Labour Members might consider that good enough, but millions of parents and I are not satisfied.

Anne Snelgrove (South Swindon) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Michael Gove: Perhaps we will hear more complacency from the hon. Lady.

Anne Snelgrove: Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that 100,000 more 11-year-olds attain level 4 in maths now than in 1997?

Michael Gove: As I said, 40 per cent. of children leave school incapable of reading, writing or adding up properly. Since the hon. Lady mentioned mathematics, is it not a scandal that fewer than half the people who teach it in secondary schools have a degree in the subject? After 10 years of massive investment, there is still a failure to provide the teaching that we need. There is complacency among Labour Members and a desire for change among Conservative Members.

The Minister for Schools and Learners (Jim Knight): The hon. Gentleman is strong on statistics for where we are now. Would he like to rattle off those for where we were in 1997 after 18 years under the Tories?

Michael Gove: As I have already pointed out, fewer people are getting five good passes in good GCSEs, including maths, science, a modern language and English, now than in 1997. As the Minister knows, the Office for National Statistics has pointed out that productivity in education has fallen under the Government. Again, there is complacency among Labour Members and an agenda for change in the Conservative party.

I mentioned Lord Adonis, the Minister’s colleague, whom he failed to defend at the Dispatch Box. I am sure that full notice of that will be taken at the other end of the Building. Although Lord Adonis may be more candid than prudent, the Secretary of State should be grateful to him because his honesty emphasises the need for genuine reform to improve our education system. It also creates an opportunity for the Secretary of State to live up to his noble Friend’s high hopes and prove himself to be a genuine reformer.

Next Section Index Home Page