16 Jan 2012 : Column 575

9.36 pm

Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): We have heard much this evening from Opposition Front Benchers about celebrating the role of private providers, but the message that goes out from so many of the Back-Bench speeches is one of fear and alarm. It is the single message “public good, private bad”, and it tries to tarnish every private health care provider with that notion.

I want to use my brief remarks this evening to pay tribute to the staff of the newest NHS facility in my area who are working hard to tackle health inequalities and offering a great service to busy people in my constituency, but these hard-working health workers work for a private sector provider. When they are providing their service in an NHS facility, they must feel mystified and rather let down, I suspect, to be constantly criticised by the Labour party.

I agreed with the hon. Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall), who is not in her place, when she said in 2008 that the private sector has much to offer in tackling health inequalities. That is what that NHS facility run by Care UK is doing in my constituency—tackling health inequalities, helping busy, highly mobile young people who cannot register with a GP to get the service that they need, and helping shift workers, migrant workers and those whose working day starts too early for them to get to the doctor during normal hours.

The Junction health centre in Clapham junction, a busy transport hub, opened in March 2010. It was commissioned in 2007-08 and provided by Care UK, a private sector provider but an NHS facility, working to agreed NHS standards. Yes, the Opposition should take pride in having commissioned it. Instead, we see them rowing back from that previous sensible pragmatic position. The facility in my constituency is an excellent example of partnership working, and it is providing care for my constituents. They judge it as an NHS facility. They do not worry about who is providing the care. They worry about the quality of the care and service being provided, and they are voting with their feet.

The target that the facility was set was 2,000 patients by March 2012. There are already well over 3,000. Many of them were not registered with a GP before. The facility is registering homeless patients. How much more universal a service can there be than that? It deals with unregistered walk-in patients—more than 30,000 last year, and in many cases people who would not otherwise have got to see a GP. This is all good. But what do we hear from Labour Members? They talk it down. A previously consensual position on private sector provision is now incredibly polarised around an ideological position that suits this Parliament. Alan Milburn was right when he said in 2009:

“Quality should be the only yardstick, not the type of provider.”

The thousands of people who have attended the Junction health centre in Battersea over the past two years are being well served by hard-working and dedicated health professionals. It might suit the Opposition for narrow party reasons to denigrate the efforts of those health workers who work on behalf of the NHS, but I want to pay tribute to them publicly and say how glad I am that they are providing this much needed and greatly appreciated NHS service, free at the point of delivery, to my constituents. I oppose the motion.

16 Jan 2012 : Column 576

9.40 pm

Mr Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): Private sector involvement in the NHS will always be an emotive and contentious subject. As members of the party that founded the NHS, we on the Labour Benches are clear that there are, have been and always will be times when the private sector can and should provide an important function in supporting the delivery of NHS care, but recognising that role is in no way comparable to opening up the NHS to full-blown privatisation, which is the clear intention of the Government’s shambolic Health and Social Care Bill, which is quickly acquiring the same level of popularity as the poll tax. There is a world of difference between using private providers to support the work of the NHS and privatising the NHS. This legislation and the Government’s desire to set free the ravages of the market on what we believe to be the country’s most treasured institution commands no public support and no democratic mandate.

The reality is that the NHS, as a publicly owned and publicly funded world-class health care service providing medical care free at the point of need, is one of the defining institutions of our society and one of the most important hallmarks of our national identity. Established in the aftermath of the greatest conflict our country has ever faced, the NHS was built by a tired nation and an exhausted people from the wreckage of the second world war. They knew that it would help to build a better country and that it could not be done by the private vested interests that so bitterly opposed its creation, and they were right. Every Member of Parliament must recognise that to the people we serve and to our country as a whole the NHS is more important than any of us, collectively or as individuals, and that it is much more important, more trusted and more respected than any one of the political parties represented in the House.

Politicians across the House must recognise that they damage the NHS at their peril. The public do not want the NHS to be opened up to the market, because they know where that leads: the wealthy customer will take priority over the patient in need. The Government know that the public would never have voted for any party with that objective at the heart of its health policies. For that reason, the privatisation of the NHS is being undertaken by stealth. It was a former Conservative Secretary of State, Michael Portillo, who told the BBC’s Andrew Neil last January that the Conservatives

“did not believe they could win an election if they told you what they were going to do because people are so wedded to the NHS.”

He was entirely right. The Prime Minister knows it, the Secretary of State—the architect of so many privatisations when he worked for Lord Tebbit—knows it, and the Liberal Democrats know it.

We in this Chamber are often too slow, too ungracious and, frankly, too partisan to pay tribute to those outside our own parties when tribute is deserved, so I now commend the four Liberal Democrat MPs who voted against the Bill on Second Reading. They did so not simply because it was not in the coalition agreement and has no democratic mandate, and not just because they recognise that the NHS is bigger and more important than any of us or the fortunes of any political party, but because they recognise that the Bill paves the way for the privatisation of the NHS. May I just say “Ahoy” to the Education Secretary, who has just entered the Chamber?

16 Jan 2012 : Column 577

To paraphrase the hon. Member for St Ives (Andrew George), for whom I have a great deal of respect, those Liberal Democrats at least did not want to become the architects of the NHS’s demise.

We have heard many promises from the Prime Minister on the NHS, none of which, sadly, is backed up by his or his Government’s actions. He promised real-terms increases for the NHS, but in his first year in office he delivered a real-terms cut. He promised no top-down reorganisation, yet he delivered the biggest and most unwanted reorganisation since the NHS’s creation. Most sickeningly of all, he played fast and loose with the trust of health campaigners across the country when he promised a bare-knuckle fight against hospital and ward closures. Now the Department of Health talks openly of nationwide hospital closure programmes, and wards and services are being lost all over the country.

It is essential to listen to health professionals on matters of health service reconfiguration, but it is deceitful to pretend to oppose those reconfigurations, to trade on the hopes and fears of ordinary patients and to say one thing in opposition and do another in government. But it is perhaps the Prime Minister’s assurance of “no privatisation” in the NHS, given in May last year, that illustrates that pattern of behaviour most clearly.

Last year, Mark Britnell, one of the Prime Minister’s hand-picked health advisers, told a conference of private health care providers:

“In future, the NHS will be a state insurance provider, not a state deliverer.”

He continued:

“The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years”—[ Interruption. ]

I advise those Government Front Benchers who are chuckling—perhaps the bars have closed early—to dwell upon the phrase “no mercy”.

With the shambles of a Bill plunged into crisis, the Prime Minister was forced to demonstrate that he was across the detail of the Bill, and in a speech at Ealing hospital he said:

“Let me make clear: there will be no privatisation… These are red lines we will not cross.”

Yet just before the Christmas period, perhaps ignorant of the Prime Minister’s guarantee or based on the fact that there is no mandate for the changes and the Government are not in the habit of ever doing what they say they will, the Secretary of State tabled amendments to his health care Bill that would allow NHS hospitals to devote 49% of their beds and theatre time to private patients, opening the door to an explosion of private work in NHS hospitals and inevitably resulting in longer waiting times for ordinary NHS patients and widening health inequalities not just between but within different communities throughout England.

I therefore call on the Government to answer this simple question: how can it be right to allow the wealthiest in our country to use publicly funded services, paid for by the taxes of those most in need, to jump the NHS waiting lists that are now growing under this Government?

That is a Mickey Mouse policy, and speaking of Mickey Mouse I should say that Members who have

16 Jan 2012 : Column 578

been to Disneyland or any other holiday park for that matter—perhaps on a Tory party policy seminar—will have seen fast-pass systems in operation. The fast-pass system works in exactly the same way as the Government hope 49% private sector involvement in the NHS will: everyone pays to get into the theme park, the queues are too long so the richest pay more to beat them, and eventually all but the poorest buy the fast pass and the queues become as long as they were in the first place. The only difference is that everyone ends up paying double for the same queues they were suffering at the beginning.

The Prime Minister may not want to admit to the privatisation of the health service, and he may not be able to acknowledge that his attempt to change his party, based on a cosmetic change of attitude to the NHS, was never real and was always hollow, but the inescapable reality is that his Government, through the Health and Social Care Bill, are taking a sledgehammer to Britain’s most valued public service by not simply allowing but encouraging, as a matter of principle, a private sector free-for-all in England’s health service.

That is why in a speech in November last year the Prime Minister stated that he wanted the NHS

“to be a fantastic business for Britain”—

a line strangely omitted from the official transcript of the speech—[ Interruption. ] The Minister of State, Department of Health, the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns), chunters from a sedentary position, but he himself told “Newsnight” in January last year that the Prime Minister’s Bill would turn the NHS into a “genuine market”.

Labour Members believe that the NHS is an unprecedented force for good in our society, the mainstay of so many of our communities and the guarantor of a fairer, better society. We believe it speaks to who we are and what kind of nation we aspire to be. It is not the Prime Minister’s to sell, and it is not for sale.

Only a few months after becoming a Health Minister, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow), representing the Liberal Democrats—he is not in his place—told reporters from The Daily Telegraph:

“I don’t want you to trust David Cameron…he has values that I don’t share.”

The Minister was right then, and if we listen the to the rank and file membership of the Liberal Democrats we find that that is what they believe now.

The inescapable reality is that the Liberal Democrats find themselves in a constitutionally and historically unique position. They can now determine the future of the NHS in England, as either a world-class public service treating people equally, providing medical care to those who need it and free at the point of use, or as a fragmented, US-style health system, that will see publicly owned hospitals, publicly funded services and health professionals employed by the public purse giving up 49% of hospital beds and theatre time not to those who need them but to those who are most able to pay for them. That is an enviable responsibility, and Liberal Democrats Members can stop that creeping, stealth privatisation of the NHS. The Minister was right to distrust his Prime Minister, and his party colleagues can stop this attempt to take a wrecking ball to the NHS as we know it.

16 Jan 2012 : Column 579

After the gold rush, the NHS might never be the same again. That is why the editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, told the “Today” programme last week:

“What we will see with private providers is a fragmentation of the NHS, with no accountability…we will see the diminution in the quality of care. And unfortunately what we are seeing with the breast implant scandal is the future of the NHS, it will be destroyed.”

Tonight, the Secretary of State has dissembled and fumbled his way through an attempted defence and explanation of the Bill, but he could not provide it. He does not know what he is for, what he is against, what he is replacing or what he is introducing. It is no wonder that the medical profession neither believes nor trusts him. He either does not know what his policy is or he is afraid to say. The country deserves better. This is now a bare-knuckle fight and the Government must think again.

9.50 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr Simon Burns): To begin on a conciliatory note, I congratulate the hon. Member for Copeland (Mr Reed) on his first speech from the Front Bench as a junior shadow Health spokesman. I did not agree with a single word that he said, but I congratulate him on the way in which he spoke.

I have no idea what new year resolutions the Labour party has made, but perhaps I could suggest one: to get their facts right. Having listened to the endearing speech of the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson), the same speech that I have heard on many occasions from the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris), the slightly bizarre speech of the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr Anderson) and the speech from the hon. Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper), I have to say that they really have got it wrong. It is wrong to seek to misrepresent by repeating a fallacy.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Mr Dorrell) on his lucid exposé of the contradictions in the arguments of the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham). I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter), for Crawley (Henry Smith) and for Battersea (Jane Ellison) for their thoughtful contributions. I listened carefully and with great interest to the speech by the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh) but, to be honest and frank, I was not carried by the strength of his argument on the issues.

I fear that many of the contributions of Opposition Members that my hon. Friends and I have had to listen to have given a series of misrepresentations and misinformation. I remind them that for 36 years, just over half the 64 years of the national health service, it has been under the stewardship of the Conservative party. We have never sought to privatise the health service and we never will privatise the health service.

Frank Dobson: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Burns: Because of the time, I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman, but to no one thereafter.

Frank Dobson: The Minister suggested that I had used figures that were not factual. If they are not, he should know that they all came from parliamentary answers signed by him.

16 Jan 2012 : Column 580

Mr Burns: I did not in any shape or form suggest that the right hon. Gentleman’s figures were wrong. I argued that his arguments and his philosophy were wrong. They are based in a time that is pre-Blair, let alone Blair, which I know is now anathema to the Labour party. Ironically, one might say, as I think did my right hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood, that Government Members, in this respect, are all Blairites now.

Rather than pour scorn on an invented problem, the Opposition should welcome the healthy relationship between the national health service and private providers—a relationship that is mutually beneficial, that has existed since 1948, that is better for patients and, I hesitate to remind the right hon. Member for Leigh, that flourished under his Government. The previous Labour Government expanded the involvement of the private sector in the provision of NHS care in a way that no previous Conservative Government had done. Labour’s general election manifesto of 2010, which was written by the current Leader of the Opposition, said:

“We will support an active role for the independent sector working alongside the NHS in the provision of care”.

Rather more surprisingly, given the nature of today’s debate, the Labour manifesto also stated:

“Patients requiring elective care will have the right, in law, to choose from any provider who meets NHS standards of quality at NHS costs.”

To reinforce that, it went on to promise to remove the private patient cap on foundation trusts. In addition, on 8 February 2010—at No. 10 Downing street, no less—the now Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell), who I believe is a close personal friend of the right hon. Member for Leigh, hosted a meeting with non-NHS providers to examine their future role in delivering NHS services, among other public services. There is a certain irony and nerve in Labour’s bringing this motion before the House tonight.

I remind Members of the benefits of extra income to the NHS, which are so clear as to be self-evident. Any and all money made by the NHS is returned straight into care, not to the Treasury. The principal purpose of NHS providers has always been to serve NHS patients, and that will not change. In fact, trusts say that changing the cap will help them do that better than ever. The Labour party knows that. In 2009, the then Health Minister, Mike O’Brien, said that to cap the number of private patients would be nothing but a sop to militant Labour MPs. It now seems, though, that they are all militant Labour MPs.

I know that he has not been the flavour of the month for a while now, but as none other than Tony Blair once said, the private sector

“has got a valuable role to play in delivering NHS services.”

Even the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) called for greater use of the private sector.

I wish to take a second to look at the last Government’s record on using the private sector. Through choose and book and through giving patients the right of the choice of provider, the number of patients treated as NHS patients in the private sector escalated. Under choose and book alone, the number of procedures increased from only 11 in 2000-01 to more than 208,000 10 years later. By May 2010, more than 7% of all NHS-funded

16 Jan 2012 : Column 581

first out-patient appointments were booked with independent sector providers. In monetary terms, between 2006 and 2010, £12.6 billion was spent in the private sector on NHS health care.

Let us pick an example at random—say, independent sector treatment centre contracts. “Wonderful things”, said Labour. “Cutting waiting times”, it said. What happened? Private companies were paid even when they had not treated any patients; hundreds of millions of pounds were taken from the public purse and wasted; and the NHS was barred from competing with private companies, even if it could offer a better service. What is more, seven of those ISTC contracts were signed while the right hon. Member for Leigh was a junior Minister at the Department of Health—hardly a glorious record.

My hon. Friends and I had a while in opposition, and I know how uncomfortable the Benches on that side of the House are. They make people itch—itch to disagree with everything that is said by Government Members. However, I say to the right hon. Gentleman that it is wrong to scaremonger about the role of the private sector in the NHS. As he found out in government, because his Government greatly expanded that role, there is a responsible role for the private sector not at the expense of the NHS but working with it. On that basis, I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against the motion.

Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 234, Noes 321.

Division No. 423]

[9.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Bell, Sir Stuart

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Danczuk, Simon

David, Mr Wayne

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Lloyd, Tony

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McCrea, Dr William

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Jim

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Miliband, rh David

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Walley, Joan

Watts, Mr Dave

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wood, Mike

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr David Hamilton and

Nic Dakin


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Clappison, Mr James

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Edwards, Jonathan

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hancock, Matthew

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huhne, rh Chris

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lloyd, Stephen

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

Maude, rh Mr Francis

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Mensch, Louise

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Mr Richard

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Hywel

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Greg Hands and

Mark Hunter

Question accordingly negatived.

16 Jan 2012 : Column 582

16 Jan 2012 : Column 583

16 Jan 2012 : Column 584

16 Jan 2012 : Column 585

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


That the Accession (Immigration and Worker Authorisation) (Amendment) Regulations 2011 (S.I., 2011, No. 2816), dated 23 November 2011, a copy of which was laid before this House on 25 November, be approved.—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question agreed to.

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Early Reading

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

10.14 pm

John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab): I am grateful for the chance to introduce this debate. I want to praise and promote the inspirational Imagination Library in Rotherham, thanks to which, each month, more than 13,600 young children receive a book sent directly to their home and addressed to them. I want to press the Minister to work with us to assess and fully evaluate the Imagination Library. In the meantime, I also want to press him to extend the scheme to three special groups of children who start life facing some of the biggest hurdles and who could benefit most from this scheme.

I am glad to see the Minister of State, Department for Education, the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb), in his place. If I had to choose one of the Education Ministers to answer the debate, it would be him. We might disagree with much of what he is doing, but I have watched closely over 18 months how thoroughly he has mastered what I regard as one of the big six Minister of State jobs. He and I were elected and entered the House together in 1997, which set me thinking this evening. In almost 15 years as an MP, one of the very best things I have done has been as a dad, when our son first went to primary school. Every Friday afternoon during that reception year, for nearly an hour at the end of Friday afternoons, I read with children in my son’s class—one to one, outside in the corridor, perched on those small chairs. Some, at the start, could read fluently and had a big appetite for books, but we spent a whole month with one little girl teaching her to recognise two letters, an R and a D—the initials of her first and second names. The difference lay in what had happened to those kids at home before they came to school.

It hit home how important early reading was to giving a child a good start in life and at school—and the importance of learning at home, not just in school. As I have gone on and looked harder, it has become clear that this conclusion is strongly supported by academic studies as well as anecdotally. The Institute of Education did a report in 2008 into pre-school, school and family influence on children’s development, and it noted that

“the quality of early years HLE (home learning environment) promoted intellectual and social development in all children”

and that reading at home was an important part of cultivating that environment.

What parents do is much more important than who they are. The Institute of Education report came to an important conclusion:

“The case study findings on pupils who ‘succeeded against the odds’ showed that what they had in common was higher scores on the early years home learning environment”.

That evidence is borne out by the evidence of international studies as well, including some of the institute’s own work comparing early years reading programmes across Europe. The Minister himself has recognised that. Last year, on the number of pupils who still did not reach the expected reading level at the age of 7 at key stage 1, he explained:

“It is vital that all children learn how to read early in their education”

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and that

“we need to do more to ensure that our children have the skills as early as possible, to develop into confident, enthusiastic readers.”—[Official Report, 24 March 2011; Vol. 525, c. 61WS.]

Given the clear link between early reading, the home environment, a child’s development and successful learning, let us keep in mind this stark fact: one in three young people do not have books of their own. Last year, the National Literacy Trust, in “The Gift of Reading”, a report that established that fact, underlined the importance of children having books that they see as their own and

“the clear relationship between receiving books as presents and reading ability”.

Teachers in Rotherham report that there are children who, without the books they receive from the Imagination Library, would have no books at home at all.

Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. Friend makes his case eloquently. I rise to speak not only as something of an early years reader myself, but as someone who has seen the work of the Imagination Library in action in my constituency in Luton. I know that he will speak about this, but I just want to mention the sponsorship given by Wates, the construction company, which worked with us on the Building Schools for the Future programme, the partnership with the local authority and the fact that kids in my constituency are getting 60 books by the age of five, growing with their learning and learning to love reading, which is making such a big difference in my constituency.

John Healey: My hon. Friend has been a strong supporter of the scheme in Luton right from the outset. I pay tribute to the council for helping it get off the ground, and to Wates and its foundation trust, as the Building Schools for the Future partner in the borough, for providing the funding to make that happen. I think around 2,000 children in Luton—but a number growing every month—are now receiving books in that way.

As Labour in government, we set up the Bookstart scheme, which took some useful steps in providing all young children with the opportunity—the gift—to read at home. However, the Imagination Library takes a running leap over the limitations of the Bookstart scheme by ensuring that all children, wherever they live and whoever they live with, regularly receive their own books directly at home. Something similar was first started in the United States by Dolly Parton, who has backed our book scheme in Britain. I am proud that the first Imagination Library in this country was set up in Rotherham, and is now run right across the area. I pay tribute to Roger Stone, our council leader, who took the idea forward with great vision and determination. As you know, Mr Speaker, my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) is a good friend of mine. However, when I tried to see him while he was Education Secretary, it was less my links and more the fact that our council leader promised to bring Dolly Parton with him that opened the doors to his office on that occasion. Indeed, they report in the Department that the permanent secretary had never been so keen to attend a meeting with the Secretary of State—and, of course, have his picture taken with Dolly Parton.

I also pay tribute to Alison Lilburn, who now runs the Imagination Library in Rotherham for us, and to Natalie Turnbull, who runs the national Imagination Library, making the links with Luton and a small-scale

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scheme supported by primary schools in two wards in Wigan, as well as Scotland, where work is beginning through local authorities to ensure that every looked-after child has access to the scheme. In Rotherham, we now have more than 13,600 children, all aged between nought and five, receiving a book a month. Those signed up to the scheme at birth will have received their own library of 60 books in total by the age of five, as my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Gavin Shuker) said. Importantly, nine out of 10 of our Rotherham youngsters are signed up to the scheme, which goes from strength to strength each year. It has been running for four years now, but no child will have completed the full five years of the programme before the summer of next year, 2013. It is therefore still too early to draw conclusive evidence about its long-term effects.

However, Rotherham has seen a year-on-year improvement in young pupils achieving a good level of development at the foundation stage, with 50% in 2009 and 58% in 2011. Within that improvement, children enrolled in the Imagination Library have outperformed those who are not enrolled by more than 6.5%. Above all, our Rotherham scheme shows the power of a parcel arriving with a child’s name on it and their own book inside. It sparks a kid’s imagination from the very earliest age, giving every young child a better start in life and a better chance to read.

Teachers, parents and—most importantly of all—children love the scheme. It fires a desire in the child to read, but it often fires a determination to do so in the family as well. I was with a group of parents and their young kids in Rawmarsh about 10 days ago, and one of the dads was telling me how excited his son was whenever the postman arrived. He thought that every parcel was for him; it was like Christmas every month. One of the mums said that whenever her daughter got a new book, she would bring it directly to her and demand that she read it as soon as it arrived.

Some of the teachers across Rotherham report similar experiences. Anita Butcher is a lead teacher in one of our children’s centres. She says:

“Many of the children in our area are brought up in low income homes where English is an additional language and parents have poor literacy skills. Without the Imagination Library gifting scheme it is very unlikely that these children would experience books within their home environment, leaving them at a distinct disadvantage when starting school.”

Another of our lead teachers is Sarah Lyall. She counters the sense that we sometimes get that learning and education are purely instrumental, saying:

“Once this foundation to reading has been installed you have children on the right path to a whole world of imagination, awe and wonder.”

Donna Mackinnon is the foundation stage co-ordinator at Wath Victoria primary school. She reports on the way in which the school has started to use some of the same books that the Imagination Library is sending to the children’s homes, saying:

“The children started to talk to their parents/carers about how we had used the books and were then asking for them to be read at home. The book lending scheme at school is now used by significantly more children…This has developed directly from the Imagination Library texts being sent into the homes of our children.”

What about the cost? The Rotherham Imagination Library, which is funded by the council, cost about £300,000 to run last year. The scheme costs £2 per child

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per month, and that covers the cost of the books and the postage. That is £24 for each child each year, or £120 over the full five years. Let us compare that to the average spending on each child in the country during their primary school years. Last year, it was £4,139.

I shall now turn to my direct asks for the Minister. First, I ask him to take a serious look at our Rotherham scheme and to work with us to evaluate fully its potential to be widely followed across the country. Secondly, I ask him to look hard at how the scheme could be extended, and to make a start by backing the young children who start life facing the biggest hurdles. They include children who are in care, babies born to mums who are in prison and children whose parents are serving in our UK armed forces.

Our experience and the academic evidence show that getting our kids to love reading often happens at home before school, but children in care can miss out on that. Once they fall behind, many never catch up. Long-term looked-after children’s achievements are far lower than those of others. In this country last year, 58% of students—almost three in five—gained five A to C grades at GCSE, including English and maths. For children in care, however, the figure was one in eight. In March last year, there were 65,620 looked-after children in England, of whom one in five—about 18%—were under the age of five. With the cost at £2 per child per month, extending the Imagination Library to benefit every child under five in care could be expected to cost less than £300,000 for the books and postage. Of course, signing up the children would be straightforward, as local authorities are the legal guardians of looked-after children; this is what is being done in Scotland and it should now be done in England.

As far as mums in prison and their babies are concerned, there are seven special mothers and babies units in women’s prisons around the country with a total capacity of 75 places. It is hard to get firm figures on the numbers born in prison each year, as many of the babies do not stay there long, but the Imagination Library would offer a small contribution to both the mother’s and the child’s start in life.

That brings me finally to forces children. Forces families move around a lot, with their children’s education often disrupted by their parents’ postings. Imagination Library books follow the kids, so the scheme is a great fit for the lives of service families. There are about 120,000 children whose parents are in our armed forces, most of whom live in the UK. If the proportion under five is similar to that in the general population, about one in four of those—about 30,000—will be armed forces children under five years old, so extending the benefit of the scheme to every child under five with a parent serving in the forces would cost about £750,000 a year. Indeed, the Education Secretary has recognised this special case, saying:

“Service children…face unique challenges and stresses.”—[Official Report, 13 December 2010; Vol. 520, c. 71WS.]

He has pledged £200 a year as a pupil premium to the school of every such child. A much smaller sum—£120 over five years—would give all children in forces families a boost in the vital earliest years as babies and toddlers. I would like to see the Government make this extra modest effort to reward the extra sacrifice that forces families make for the rest of us. Ministers say that they

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are on the side of Britain’s servicemen and women. Extending Rotherham’s book scheme would be a simple way of showing it.

Finally, I would like to say to the Minister, “Come and see for yourself. We will make you welcome in Rotherham. You can meet Roger Stone, our council leader, and if you are serious about extending the scheme, we might even be able to arrange for you to meet Dolly Parton as well.”

10.32 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr Nick Gibb): I congratulate the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) on securing this debate on a subject that could scarcely be more important, and thank him for his kind words in his introductory remarks. We entered the House at the same time in 1997—in the last century—and if I recall correctly, we agreed that we would pair for voting purposes. Alas, after 14 and a half years, this is our first pairing in the House—and it is a pleasure to be on the other side for this debate. I watched the right hon. Gentleman’s ministerial career under the last Labour Government with huge admiration and not a touch of envy.

It is clear there are still too many children failing to learn to read properly. The figures speak for themselves: only 73% of all pupils on free school meals and only two thirds of boys eligible for free school meals achieve the expected standard in reading at key stage 1; more than 83,000 seven-year-olds achieved below level 2 at key stage 1 this year; and one in five 11-year-olds leave primary school still struggling with reading. Even worse, 9% of 11-year-old boys achieve only level 2 or below at key stage 2, which means a reading age of seven or younger.

Looking just at white boys eligible for free school meals, 60% are still not reading properly at the age of 14, and the reading ability of GCSE pupils in England is more than a year behind—this is right across the age group population—the standard of their peers in Shanghai, Korea and Finland, and at least six months behind those in Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia. Overall, over the last nine years, England has fallen in the programme for international student assessment tables from 7th to 25th in reading.

We know that children who cannot read are more likely to become disengaged and behave badly in school, creating a vicious circle of underachievement and isolation. A recent report by the Centre for Social Justice showed that between half and three quarters of children permanently excluded from school display significant literacy problems. As the author of that report said,

“many display challenging behaviour to hide the fact that they cannot read.”

There are still too many children who grow to adulthood without learning the basic literacy skills they need to be successful in their adult lives. Army recruiting officers recently revealed that hundreds of would-be soldiers are being turned away because they cannot pass the most basic literacy and numeracy tests as they do not have a reading age above that of an 11-year-old. As a report by Civitas has stated:

“Weak reading lies at the heart of the educational apartheid between the advantaged and disadvantaged, and England’s low social mobility. The inability to read properly is the single greatest handicap to progress both in school and adult life.”

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Tackling literacy is an urgent priority for this Government. We are determined to improve the teaching of reading in primary schools and to help all children from all backgrounds to become fluent and enthusiastic readers and to develop a lifelong love of reading—and that is not just a Government priority. A range of charities and organisations are doing excellent work in supporting literacy and encouraging children to read. Tesco now provides books as part of its vouchers for schools initiative, and only last week McDonald’s and the publisher HarperCollins announced that they are linking up to give away copies of Michael Morpurgo’s “Mudpuddle Farm”—which I have not read, I hasten to add—with children’s meals.

We welcome initiatives that make it easy for children and parents to access and share good books and that encourage them to read more. Anyone who cares about reading should welcome that approach. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the work he has being doing personally in Rotherham to promote reading and on the work he is doing with the Imagination Library. I also thank the Imagination Library for what it is doing around the country.

The Government fund the book gifting programme delivered by Booktrust to the tune of £7.5 million. That programme gives books to all families with children of six to 12 months as well as to three to four-year-olds and four to five-year-olds. The books come with advice about sharing books and about stories and rhymes. In 2012, it will reach more than 2.5 million babies, toddlers and children. We will continue to reflect on the appropriate shape of book gifting in the coming years in terms both of the models of delivery and of the groups that can benefit the most. Local authorities remain free to work with book gifting schemes such as the Imagination Library and Letterbox Club to provide the support that they consider is most appropriate to their community’s needs.

I listened very carefully to the right hon. Gentleman’s speech and I will look at the evaluation of the Rotherham Imagination Library programme. Cost is of course a factor in the current climate. A quick calculation based on the figures he presented shows that his £300,000 would extrapolate to roughly £45 million a year, which is not an insignificant sum in the current climate. However, I would like to take up his invitation to return to Rotherham. I stood for election there in 1994 with mixed success, and it would be a pleasure to return and see the scheme in action. Any scheme that can promote a lifelong love of books and reading is hugely valuable, and we will say more about this issue and how to develop that lifelong love of reading in the coming year.

For children to love reading, they must be able to read. That is why we are placing such strong emphasis on promoting the use of systematic synthetic phonics, which international evidence has shown to be the most effective way for children to learn to read. Synthetic phonics is equally effective for children of all abilities, from all backgrounds and for boys and girls alike. We also know that it is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success in reading. It should be taught as part of a language-rich curriculum, so that children can develop their vocabulary and comprehension at the same time. Grasping the mechanics of reading early on allows children to go further and to begin to read quickly with comprehension and understanding.

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To ensure that children have that building block, from June, a year 1 phonic screening check will help teachers to confirm whether individual pupils have grasped the fundamental skill of phonic decoding, and will identify which children may need extra help. The check will consist of a list of 40 words and non-words that a child will read one to one with their teacher. The pilot for the check took place last year in around 300 schools across the country. It was independently evaluated by a team from Sheffield Hallam university, and showed that three quarters of the schools taking part felt that the check assessed phonic decoding ability accurately, while the vast majority of schools—90%—thought that most aspects of the check’s content were suitable for their pupils. Most important, half of the pilot schools indicated that the check had helped them to identify pupils with phonic decoding issues of which they were not previously aware. The check will provide a national benchmark for phonic decoding, allowing schools to judge their performance on a local and national level.

Only 32% of pupils in the pilot for the screening check met the expected standard, which was set by teachers themselves. That shows that some schools will benefit from reviewing their phonics teaching to make sure it is systematic, with sufficiently high expectations being set for their pupils. It will also help to give parents confidence that their child has learned this crucial skill, reflecting research that found that 73% of parents thought a year 1 reading check was a good idea.

To support teachers before the check, and so that all schools have access to high-quality resources, we have introduced match funding of £3,000 per school. That funding, together with our new catalogue of well respected phonics products and training, will support schools in choosing and purchasing the appropriate resources for their pupils. We are considering running a new procurement process for inclusion in an updated catalogue in the spring.

To ensure that teachers have the necessary skills and training, we have reviewed, under Sally Coates, the qualified teacher status standards. It is now an explicit requirement that teachers of early reading should demonstrate a clear understanding of the theory and teaching of systematic synthetic phonics. As a consequence, the Training and Development Agency for Schools, together with the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, is working to ensure that all university teacher training faculties are improving the training of teachers in this area. I listened with interest to what the right hon. Gentleman said about his experience of a primary school teaching a child the basic sounds of the alphabet, which is a key part of learning to read, with no exposure to literature and books at home.

Finally, Ofsted has published a new inspection framework that draws a closer link between teacher quality and the overall grade schools receive. That new way of inspecting schools will allow Ofsted to spend more time in the classroom, and I am very pleased that, for the first time, Ofsted inspectors will listen to pupils reading aloud to check their rate of progress, with a particular focus on the weakest readers in the school.

We hope that those measures will help all children to master the essential and life-changing skill of turning words on the page into images, information and ideas in their heads. Nothing could be more important than

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children developing a lifelong love of reading. I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for the work he is doing in Rotherham, and I look forward to joining him there in a few months.

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Question put and agreed to.

10.43 pm

House adjourned.