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Macur Review

11.29 am

The Secretary of State for Wales (Stephen Crabb): With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on the publication of the report of the Macur review.

On 5 November 2012, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of an independent review of the scope and conduct of Sir Ronald Waterhouse’s inquiry into allegations of child abuse in care homes in Clwyd and Gwynedd between 1974 and 1990. Let us be clear: we are talking about dark and shameful events that are a stain on our nation. The children were in the care of the state because they were vulnerable, and the state let them down. That is why our first thought will always be with the victims, supporting them and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The Prime Minister’s announcement of a review of Waterhouse followed significant public concern that its terms of reference were too narrow, and that allegations of child abuse were not properly investigated by Waterhouse, particularly where those allegations concerned prominent individuals. The Waterhouse inquiry was established in 1996 by the then Secretary of State for Wales, now Lord Hague of Richmond, following allegations of endemic child abuse at care homes in Clwyd and Gwynedd. Waterhouse’s final report, “Lost in Care”, published in 2000, concluded:

“Widespread sexual abuse of boys occurred in children’s residential establishments in Clwyd between 1974 and 1990”,

and that there was a paedophile ring operating in the north Wales and Chester areas, but no reference was made to any abuse being carried out by nationally prominent individuals.

On 8 November 2012, the then Secretary of State for Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), and my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones), announced that the review would be headed by Mrs Justice Macur DBE, a High Court judge of the family division. Her terms of reference were to review the scope of Waterhouse; determine whether any specific allegations of child abuse falling within the Waterhouse’s terms of reference were not investigated; and to make recommendations to the Secretaries of State for Justice and for Wales.

Lady Justice Macur submitted her report to the Secretary of State for Justice and me on 10 December 2015. I pay tribute to her and her team for their work and for their thoroughness and diligence in carrying it out, particularly in the light of the huge amount of material that needed to be considered. She and her team have examined the 1 million-plus pages of documents relating to Waterhouse provided to her from many sources. She has conducted interviews with individuals closely involved with the work of Waterhouse; with those who provided written submissions to Waterhouse; with those involved in police investigations; and with those who worked on the prosecution files of those accused of abuse of children in care in north Wales. She published an issues paper, in English and in Welsh, with suggestions of broad areas of interest, to prompt written submissions from those affected. She also arranged a public meeting in Wrexham specifically to engage those in the local area.

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Having completed that work, Lady Justice Macur’s main finding is as follows:

“I have found no reason to undermine the conclusions of”

Waterhouse

“in respect of the nature and the scale of abuse.”

Lady Justice Macur looked carefully at the specific issue of nationally prominent figures and concluded that there was no

“evidence of the involvement of nationally prominent individuals in the abuse of children in care in North Wales between 1974 and 1996”.

While the Government welcome that finding, the context in which it is made must never be forgotten.

In addressing concerns about the time taken by the former Welsh Office to set up the Waterhouse inquiry in the mid-1990s, Lady Justice Macur does recognise that there was some reluctance in that Department to undertake a public inquiry. However, she concludes that any reluctance to undertake a public inquiry was

“not with a view to protect politicians or other establishment figures”

and that

“the government was right to consider the different options since a public inquiry...was correctly understood to be a major undertaking”.

Lady Justice Macur is also clear that waiting until Crown Prosecution Service investigations had been completed was the correct decision, as

“the government would be justifiably subject to criticism in creating any situation that compromised ongoing criminal investigation or prospective trials of accused abusers”.

Lady Justice Macur makes it clear that she is satisfied that Waterhouse’s terms of reference were not framed to conceal the identity of any establishment figure, nor have they been interpreted by the tribunal with a design to do so. She has also found that, despite the Welsh Office being both the commissioning Department and a party to Waterhouse, there was ample independence of Waterhouse from the Welsh Office.

Freemasonry has been a persistent theme of concern in relation to the events in north Wales and is referenced extensively in Waterhouse. I am grateful to Lady Justice Macur for her thorough explorations of this issue, but she is satisfied that

"the impact of freemasonry on the issues concerning the Tribunal was soundly researched and appropriately presented and pursued”

and that

“there is nothing to call into question the adequacy of the Tribunal’s investigations into the issue of freemasonry at any stage of the process”.

As I mentioned earlier, Lady Justice Macur states:

“I make clear that I have seen NO evidence of child abuse by politicians or national establishment figures in the documents which were available to the Tribunal, save that which could be classed as unreliable speculation.”

On the direct evidence before them, she also found that it was

“not unreasonable for the Tribunal to conclude that there was no evidence of a further paedophile ring in existence"

outside of that described by Waterhouse.

In addition to her main finding that she has no reason to undermine Waterhouse’s conclusions, Lady Justice Macur makes a total of six recommendations. Her first relates to ensuring that any public inquiry, investigation or review can be objectively viewed as

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beyond reproach. The Government agree. We have already been clear that, during the establishment of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse in 2014, we did not get it right in initially appointing two chairs who had failed to win the trust of survivors. This is a principle that should be rigorously observed in the establishment of inquiries, investigations or reviews.

Lady Justice Macur’s second recommendation is that the preservation and correct archiving of material of an important public inquiry or review is essential. This links to her third recommendation that all Government Departments should possess an accurate database of the documents and materials held by them. Again, we agree with both those recommendations.

When the Welsh Office, which established Waterhouse, was disbanded in 1999, the files it held on newly devolved issues such as social care and children’s services were transferred to the National Assembly for Wales. This included the Waterhouse computer database. When Lady Justice Macur requested this, it was found that in 2008 Welsh Government IT contractors had declared that its contents were “corrupted and unreadable” and they had therefore been destroyed. She finds that it was an

“innocent mistake, rather than a calculated ploy”.

Files relating to Waterhouse will not be returned to the Wales Office; given their historical importance, they have been transferred to the Welsh Government for onward transmission to the National Archives.

The Government accept the criticisms made by Lady Justice Macur of the way documents were stored. Similar criticisms were made of the Home Office in the first Wanless and Whittam inquiry in 2014. Following the recommendations made by Wanless and Whittam on the management of files containing records of child sexual abuse, the Cabinet Secretary asked all permanent secretaries to consider how their Departments can learn lessons from the review and put in place appropriate safeguards. Likewise, following the establishment of the Goddard inquiry, the Cabinet Office announced a moratorium on the destruction of information, and put in place processes for the storage of such material. The failure of the new Wales Office in 1999, under a previous Government, to adequately archive the material is simply inexcusable, but a much more rigorous approach to records management is now in place in the Department, abiding by National Archives policy on records management.

Lady Justice Macur’s fourth recommendation is that due criminal process is better suited to the disposal of any unresolved complaints and allegations that were not investigated during the course of Waterhouse, rather than a public or a private inquiry. The Government agree, and welcome particularly the work of Operation Pallial in this area.

Lady Justice Macur’s fifth recommendation relates to consideration of criminal charges relating to events referenced in paragraphs 6.45 to 6.75. For the sake of clarity, let me say that this does not relate to the actions of the Welsh Office or any other Government Department. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service are aware of the specifics of this matter and it is for them to consider further.

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The final recommendation relates to the process of establishing a review of previous tribunals or boards of inquiry. Lady Justice Macur notes that

“the conclusions of any such body will not meet with universal approval, and that those with an interest, personal or otherwise, will seek justification for their views and be unlikely to accept the contrary”.

The Government note this and understand that it is inevitable that some people will remain dissatisfied, despite the comprehensive work undertaken by the Waterhouse inquiry and now by Lady Justice Macur.

Hon. Members who have long campaigned on this issue have said that the report should have been published without delay. I absolutely share the same instinct for openness and full transparency. However, Lady Justice Macur has acknowledged that her final report contains information, including the names of some individuals, that it would not be possible to publish. In particular, she notes that certain parts of her report ought to be redacted, pending the outcome of ongoing legal proceedings or police investigations. We have worked closely with the Director of Public Prosecutions and the police—specifically representatives of Operations Pallial, Hydrant and Orarian—to ensure that no investigations or trials will be prejudiced by the release of this report. The names of those found guilty of crimes of child sexual abuse in a court of law have of course not been removed.

The names of contributors to the review and Waterhouse have not generally been redacted, but Lady Justice Macur also cautioned that, under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992, victims of alleged sexual offences are entitled to lifelong anonymity. As such, these names, along with names of individual members of the Crown Prosecution Service and police informants, have been considered carefully by Sue Gray, director general of propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office. We have accepted her advice in full, and a small number of redactions have been made in those categories. The full details of the process by which redactions in these areas were made is set out in a letter from Sue Gray that I am today publishing alongside the redacted report.

Lady Justice Macur urged caution in relation to releasing the names of individuals accused of abuse, or speculated to be involved in abuse, who have not been subject to a police investigation, have not been convicted of a criminal offence, and/or whose names are not in the public domain in the context of child abuse, whether establishment figures or not. She argued that to do so would be

“unfair in two respects and unwise in a third:…first, the nature of the information against them sometimes derives from multiple hearsay;…second, these individuals will have no proper opportunity to address the unattributed and, sometimes, unspecified allegations of disreputable conduct made against them;…and third, police investigations may be compromised”.

We have followed that advice and removed those names from the report published today. It is a fundamental tenet of the law in this country that those accused of a crime are able to face their accusers in court, with a jury of their peers to consider the evidence, and not tried in the court of public opinion as a result of “multiple hearsay”. It would be irresponsible for the Government to behave differently. To provide total clarity on the process by which this group of names was redacted, I am also today publishing a letter from Jonathan Jones, Treasury solicitor and head of the Government Legal Department, setting this out.

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I should also like to stress that a full and unredacted version of the report has been provided to the wider independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, chaired by Justice Lowell Goddard, to aid its investigations. It has also been seen by the Director of Public Prosecutions, the CPS and representatives of Operations Pallial, Orarian and Hydrant.

As a Government, we are determined to see those guilty of crimes against children in north Wales brought to justice, and this is happening through the excellent work of Operation Pallial. In November 2012, the chief constable of North Wales police asked Keith Bristow, director general of the National Crime Agency, to lead Operation Pallial, which would look into specific recent allegations of historical abuse in the care system in north Wales. A total of seven men have been convicted of one or more offences following investigations by Operation Pallial, and a further eight have been acquitted after a jury trial. That includes John Allen, who ran Bryn Alyn Community, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in December 2014 after a jury found him guilty of 33 charges of serious sexual abuse. Five members of a predatory paedophile group received a total of 43 years in jail in September 2015, having been found guilty of a total of 34 offences of abuse.

Operation Pallial has now been contacted by 334 people, who have had the trust and confidence to come forward to report abuse. A total of 102 complaints are actively being investigated at this very moment. A total of 51 men and women have been arrested or interviewed under caution, and work to locate further suspects is continuing. A total of 16 people have been charged or summonsed to court as a result of Operation Pallial so far. Charging advice is awaited in relation to a further 26 suspects.

A total of 32 suspects are believed to be dead, and work is ongoing to confirm this. An independent review of evidence against 25 of these deceased suspects has indicated that there would have been sufficient evidence to make a case to the CPS for them to be charged with various offences. Those who made complaints in such cases have been updated personally by the Pallial team. A further two trials have been set for 2016, with further trials expected.

In closing, I would once again like to thank Lady Justice Macur and her team for their diligent and exhaustive work in providing this report. I would like to pay tribute to the courage of those victims for coming forward and reliving the horrible detail of their experiences to ensure that the truth can be established once and for all. I would like to pay tribute to the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions for their collective work to ensure that those who were involved in the abuse of children in north Wales, who perhaps thought that the mists of time had hidden their crimes for ever, are now being made to pay for what they did. I commend this statement to the House.

11.46 am

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and for advance sight of it.

The horrific abuse that was carried out at care homes in north Wales has shocked us all and our thoughts today must be with the survivors. Not only did they

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endure violence from those who were meant to protect them, but they have had to wait years—decades—to be heard.

I would like to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) who has campaigned tirelessly for the survivors ever since these allegations came to light. As she has highlighted before, some of those who were abused at Bryn Estyn and other homes have since taken their own lives. It is therefore right that we think of their families today and of everyone affected by this scandal.

The extent of the abuse revealed by the Waterhouse inquiry was staggering. It found evidence of “widespread and persistent” physical and sexual abuse, including multiple rapes carried out against young boys and girls. This abuse was allowed to take place over many years, sometimes decades, in the very homes where vulnerable children should have felt safe. The scale of the abuse is shocking, but what is also shocking is that many of the inquiries into this abuse have encountered a reluctance to co-operate with them, and a refusal to publish their conclusions—in short, cover-ups and missed opportunities.

As the Secretary of State has indicated, the Macur review was

“set up to examine whether any specific allegations of child abuse falling within the terms of reference of the Waterhouse Inquiry were not investigated.”

On behalf of the Opposition, I would like to extend our thanks to Lady Justice Macur and her review team for the work that they have undertaken. In the light of what has happened to previous reports and the overwhelming need for transparency, I welcome the fact that the Macur review has now been published.

There may be cases where redactions are needed, not least to ensure that no ongoing police investigation is compromised, but these redactions must be as few as possible and they must be justified to the survivors. Can the Secretary of State confirm that this review, along with the many other reports on and inquiries into abuse in north Wales, will be made available in full to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and that this inquiry will be able to see full, unredacted copies of these reports?

The Waterhouse inquiry found that most children did not feel able to come forward to report what had happened to them. The few who did were discouraged from taking matters further. In fact, were it not for the bravery of whistleblower Alison Taylor, many cases of abuse would not have been uncovered. Although we recognise that processes for safeguarding children have changed radically since many of these cases took place, we must always be ready to learn lessons to ensure that we can protect children better in the future.

Having studied the report, what changes in policy or practice do the Government feel are necessary? What steps will they take to ensure a co-ordinated response to any future cases, wherever they occur—in the public, private or third sector? Does the Secretary of State believe that there is sufficient protection for whistleblowers such as Alison Taylor?

We know that physical and sexual abuse has a lasting impact on the lives of those affected. In recent years, many survivors have felt able to come forward and report the abuse that they experienced. Indeed, we know that a number of people contacted the Children’s

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Commissioner for Wales following the announcement of the review, and it is possible that others will come forward as a result of the report’s publication. No matter how long ago the abuse took place, survivors need support to rebuild their lives. What support is being given to the survivors of abuse who have come forward, and what conversations has the Secretary of State had with agencies, including the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, to ensure that survivors of abuse know where to turn?

The scale of the abuse that has become apparent in recent years has shocked the whole of society. It is now clear that many thousands of children were targeted by predatory abusers in places where they should have felt safe. Far too many of those children were let down for a second time when they reached out for help, but nothing was done. Our duty is to make sure that survivors of abuse are heard and listened to, that those who report abuse are given sufficient protection, and that anyone who is responsible for acts of violence against children is brought to justice. Above all, we must ensure that this appalling abuse can never be allowed to happen again.

Stephen Crabb: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her response to the statement, and for the spirit and tone in which she made it. I join her in paying tribute to the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) for her long-standing work in trying to achieve justice not only for her constituents who suffered abuse, but for the wider number of care home residents at the time.

When we discussed this issue during a recent session of Wales Office questions, the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley asked me about the redactions. I gave her a commitment that everything possible would be done to ensure that they were kept to a minimum, and that we would be able to explain the reasons for them fully. As I said in my statement, I believe that the letters that we have published along with the report set out those reasons very clearly, but I suggest that Members read Lady Justice Macur’s remarks in the report urging caution in relation to the publication of the names of individuals in the various categories that she describes. I hope that those explanations will provide ample justification for the redactions.

The hon. Lady asked whether we would make a full, unredacted version of the report available to the independent Goddard inquiry. The answer is yes, absolutely. We have also made a full, unredacted copy available to the Crown Prosecution Service, the Director of Public Prosecutions and Operations Pallial, Hydrant and Orarian.

The hon. Lady asked about changes in policy and practice, and about looking to the future. As I said in my statement, Lady Justice Macur has made a number of specific asks of the Government. She has asked for changes to be made, and made recommendations about, in particular, the way in which material is stored and archived. That is one of the weaknesses that she found in establishing her inquiry after 2012, when it was set up. She referred to the “disarray” that many of the files were in. There are important lessons to be learned by Government as a whole—devolved Administrations and the United Kingdom Government—about the way in which sensitive material is archived and protected for the future. Those lessons have been and are being learnt.

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As for the wider issue of how we support the survivors and victims of abuse, I think that there has been an enormous cultural change in the last 30 years in Wales and throughout the United Kingdom. That is one of the reasons why more survivors now feel empowered to come forward as part of Operation Pallial, to relive those horrific events, and to make specific allegations, which are being pursued rigorously by the National Crime Agency.

The really positive developments that have taken place since the 1990s, including the establishment of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, show that as a society we have made a lot of progress. Of course we do not get everything right, and there is much more that we need to learn to do, but we have made a lot of progress over the past 30 years on the way in which we support victims of sexual abuse and address this issue. I do not wish to sound complacent in any way, however, and indeed there is no sense of complacency in Lady Justice Macur’s report that we are publishing today. I hope that that addresses the hon. Lady’s specific question.

The hon. Lady also asked what support was being provided through the independent Goddard inquiry. The inquiry will shortly open an office in Cardiff to reach out to survivors in Wales, and it will work through the mediums of English and Welsh.

Mr David Jones (Clwyd West) (Con): I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. I also pay tribute to the work done by Lady Justice Macur. I know that it has been a monumental undertaking for her. The events she was investigating have cast a dark cloud over north Wales and the Chester area for many years. I am hopeful that the report published today will ease those concerns, but I have to say to my right hon. Friend that I continue to have my own concerns in two respects. The first relates to the absence of documentation. I fully accept what he has said about its storage, which has frankly been little more than a catalogue of disaster, but will he assure the House that not only his Department and Her Majesty’s Government but the Welsh Assembly Government, who had custody of the documents but lost them, have learned the lessons from this?

My second concern relates to the redactions, which I believe will cause the most concern in north Wales. I fully understand the reasons that my right hon. Friend and Lady Justice Macur have given for this, but can he confirm that Justice Lowell Goddard will have the right to pursue in her own inquiry the identities of those whose names have been redacted in today’s report?

Stephen Crabb: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his questions. He was one of the joint commissioning Secretaries of State for the foundation of the Macur review. He asked two specific questions. The first was about the absence of the relevant documentation. The conclusion that Lady Justice Macur comes to is that she is confident she has seen enough documentation from the Waterhouse tribunal to make some strong conclusions about the overall findings that Waterhouse reached, and that she supports the overall findings of Waterhouse based on her exhaustive trawl through 1 million-plus pages of documentation. Where there are gaps, she has concluded that they are not sufficient to cast into doubt her overall findings.

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My right hon. Friend’s second point related to redactions. Again I make the point that a full unredacted copy has gone to the Goddard inquiry. He asked whether Goddard would be able to pursue those names in the unredacted report. Let us bear it in mind that one of the specific recommendations of the Macur review is that the police and the judicial process will be best placed to go after those people against whom specific allegations have been made, and that public or private inquiries are not the best forum in which to do that.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Page 300 of the Waterhouse report lists the names of 13 young men who could not give evidence to the new review because they had lost their lives. Most of them took their own lives following the case, when they appeared before those who had been accused. They were all used to give evidence in court, some of them because of their police backgrounds. The victims were mercilessly torn to shreds and several of them took their own lives as a direct consequence of the abuse being continued by our court system. That is still continuing today. What this report covers would not have been revealed were it not for the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) and Bruce Kennedy and Paddy French, journalists at HTV. It is difficult to judge the report before giving it full consideration, but this is a heart-breaking story of abuse. Those who were responsible were laughing as they went away from court, and the lives of innocents were ended prematurely. We still need to look further into the matter and to consider carefully why some names are still redacted. Is this historical abuse continuing?

Stephen Crabb: The hon. Gentleman is exactly right. We are talking about heinous, horrific acts of abuse. We are talking about children who were in the care of the state and got anything but the care of the state. It is a long and tragic sequence of events. Of course, today’s report not will bring full closure to absolutely everybody who lived through those experiences, but Lady Justice Macur has been thorough and diligent in her task of trawling through all the paperwork of the Waterhouse inquiry to try to make sense of whether victims got a fair shout and whether questions about nationally prominent individuals, further paedophile rings, and the role of freemasonry were addressed appropriately. I encourage all hon. Members with an interest in the matter to read the report in full and to reflect on its conclusions.

As for continuing the investigation of those who are guilty, let me be clear that there are people walking around in north Wales and elsewhere in the United Kingdom right now who were there at the time, who participated in and witnessed these acts, and who have gone for years thinking that they are untouchable. I hope that the summary of the achievements of Operation Pallial that I read out earlier demonstrated that such people should be looking over their shoulders.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. These are extremely sensitive matters, so I say this with care, but it would be appreciated if colleagues could be economical in their questions and

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answers, simply because the Budget debate is heavily subscribed. We will now have an exemplary lesson from Mr Mark Pritchard.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): What happened in north Wales is nothing short of a national scandal for Wales, but will the Secretary of State put on the record his thanks to all those who work day in, day out in childcare, orphanages and other facilities, both in Wales and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and do so professionally and with care?

I am glad that the Government, the police and the National Crime Agency are taking action. What recent discussions has the Secretary of State had with the NCA about Operation Pallial to ensure that we get more people in court and prosecuted for these heinous crimes?

Stephen Crabb: We absolutely put on the record today our thanks and appreciation of the hard work of those who work in the care sector, supporting vulnerable children wherever they are in the United Kingdom

The National Crime Agency has kept me regularly updated with the progress of Operation Pallial. Just yesterday, I had further discussions with the agency’s deputy director. I am absolutely confident that the NCA is vigorously pursuing all lines of investigation.

Liz Saville Roberts (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): Abuse survivors will be dismayed at this morning’s litany of name-concealing and the destruction of evidence. They may rightly feel that their evidence is transient, disposable and not worth safeguarding. How will the Secretary of State work with the Children’s Commissioner for Wales and the Welsh Government to ensure that lessons are learned and that this never happens again?

Stephen Crabb: The hon. Lady is right that people will still be feeling like that. All I would say is that they should take the time to go through the report and look at how Lady Justice Macur has handled to the very best of her ability all the sensitive, difficult questions that have plagued survivors for years and years. A lot of lessons have already been learned from the events we are talking about. As I said in answer to a question a few moments ago, that is not to say we are complacent, as there is always more we can learn as a society. But in terms of where we are in Wales right now, we have the Children’s Commissioner and the work that the Welsh Government are doing. There is good collaboration between UK Departments and the Welsh Government on these issues to do with social services, childcare and vulnerable people. The work is positive and will carry on.

Ian C. Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): The people of Wrexham, where many of these horrible events took place, will be astonished by the contents of today’s statement. As a solicitor who practised in the courts around Wrexham in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I am astonished by its contents. I note that the Secretary of State referred only fleetingly to some reluctance in the old Welsh Office to undertake a public inquiry in the 1990s, and I will read the report closely in that respect. Will he please tell me why the prosecutions that are now taking place as a result of

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Operation Pallial did not take place in 2000, following the Waterhouse inquiry? He did not address that at all in his statement.

Stephen Crabb: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. He expresses astonishment. What I say in response to that is that if he has specific information about specific individuals, he knows where to go with it—to the police. His question as to why the arrests are being made now and were not being made 30 years ago is a specific question that I have put to the NCA. Its response was that, first, this is because of the publicity of recent years and, secondly, it is because of the culture change, with a lot more witnesses feeling empowered to come forward. That is part of the reason why much greater convictions are being secured; the police are receiving greater, specific evidence from survivors and victims who feel willing to come forward.

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): Has the Macur review had unfettered access to those who can explain why the original Waterhouse inquiry did not name the persons of public prominence in its report?

Stephen Crabb: Some of the individuals who worked on the Waterhouse tribunal are no longer living, but Lady Justice Macur has pursued, to the very best of her ability, direct conversations with people who worked on the tribunal at the time. As I explained earlier, she has also reached out to survivors. She held that public event in Wrexham to explore this as fully as she possibly could. This was not just her trawling through boxes of documents to explore all these questions. She explains why names should not just be bandied about and she explains clearly why a redaction process is necessary, and I encourage the hon. Gentleman to look through that, along with the letters I am publishing alongside it today, in order to understand this.

Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): The Secretary of State was right to acknowledge the anguish and suffering that these events have caused and the fact that

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the police need to continue inquiries in respect of any of the perpetrators. Does he agree that it is vital that victims get support with mental health services and therapy? Will he be making representations to make sure that some of the money the Government are rightly investing in mental health goes to helping victims of these types of terrible crimes?

Stephen Crabb: My hon. Friend makes an important point about the way we support survivors and victims of abuse, no matter how far back the events occurred. I assure him that for those people who have come forward it is not just a question of our listening and receiving evidence; consideration is given to what further support can be given. Some victims do not feel that they can come forward. Some have moved on and now have families of their own, and for them these are episodes in their past that they are keeping deeply buried. This is obviously a matter of choice for individual survivors.

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): Many of my constituents who have been abused have felt let down because of the long, long delays in this and other reports being produced. They feel that because their abusers have died they will not now get the justice that they deserve. Does the report cover records held by the local authorities in north Wales? I have encountered constituents who have found it difficult to obtain records held, particularly those of the Gwynedd authority.

Stephen Crabb: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. Lady Justice Macur’s specific recommendations relate to records that have been kept by national Government. Parts of her report does go, in detail, into how information was handled by local authorities. We are talking about the former local authorities of Clwyd and Gwynedd, which were disbanded and turned into new local authorities. At this point in time, I would just encourage him to read through the report. If he has further questions, he will have an opportunity next week in a Westminster Hall debate secured by the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) to explore this further.

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Ways and Means

Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Amendment of the Law

Debate resumed (Order, 16 March).

Question again proposed

That,

It is expedient to amend the law with respect to the National Debt and the public revenue and to make further provision in connection with finance.

(2) This Resolution does not extend to the making of any amendment with respect to value added tax so as to provide–

(a) for zero-rating or exempting a supply, acquisition or importation;

(b) for refunding an amount of tax;

(c) for any relief, other than a relief that–

(i) so far as it is applicable to goods, applies to goods of every description, and

(ii) so far as it is applicable to services, applies to services of every description.

12.10 pm

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): It has now been the best part of 24 hours since the Chancellor delivered his Budget. There are some things in it that I would like to welcome. On the sugar tax, we look forward to seeing more detail about how it will be put into practice. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) who said yesterday that we needed a comprehensive strategy to tackle the growing problem of obesity. I regret, therefore, that £200 million has been cut from public health budgets this year—those are the budgets that were to be used to develop that strategy.

We are also pleased that the Chancellor is looking at addressing savings overall, though we wonder whether the new lifetime individual savings accounts will do much to address the scandal of low retirement savings for the less well-off. On the rise in tax thresholds, we welcome anything that puts more money in the pockets of middle and low earners, but we wonder how that aim can sit alongside the Conservatives’ plans to cut universal credit.

It is about time that we had some straight talking about what this Budget means. It is an admission of abject failure by the Chancellor. For the record, in the six years that he has been in charge of the nation’s finances, he has missed every major target he has set himself. He said that he would balance the books by 2015, but the deficit this year is set to be more than £72 billion. He said that Britain would pay its way in the world, but he has overseen the biggest current account deficit since modern records began.

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): I want to help the Labour party in every way that I can. I want it to be credible at the next election, but the shadow Chancellor took to the airwaves this morning and talked about borrowing more money. Will he give us an absolute commitment that, if he were to become Chancellor, he would not borrow more money than the present Chancellor? He can just say yes.

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John McDonnell: The present Chancellor has borrowed £200 billion extra than what he promised. Let us be absolutely clear that like any company, UK plc under us will invest—it will invest in plant and machinery to create the growth that we need if we are to afford our public services.

Let me go back. The Chancellor promised us a “march of the makers”, but manufacturing still lags behind its 2008 levels. He said he would build his way out of our housing crisis, but we have seen new house building fall to its lowest level since the 1920s. He said that he had moved the economy away from reliance on household debt, but, yesterday, the Office for Budget Responsibility said that his entire plan relied on household debt rising “to unprecedented levels.” He said that he would aim for £1 trillion of exports by 2020. Yesterday’s figures suggest that he will miss that target by the small matter of £357 billion.

When it comes to the Chancellor’s failures, he is barely off the starting blocks. The fiscal rule he brought before Parliament last year had three tests. We already knew that he was likely to fail one of them, with the welfare cap forecast to be breached. Yesterday, it emerged that he will fail the second of his tests. Having already raised the debt burden to 83.3% of GDP, it is set to rise now to 83.7% this year. Therefore, since the new fiscal rule was introduced, it is nought out of two for the Chancellor’s targets.

Lucy Frazer (South East Cambridgeshire) (Con): The hon. Gentleman started by saying that we needed some straight talking. In order to be fiscally credible, one needs to have concrete figures. The Chancellor has said in his Budget that he will borrow £1 in every £14 in 2016-17. Will the shadow Chancellor tell us what his borrowing figure will be?

John McDonnell: Unlike the current Chancellor, we will not set ourselves targets that can never be realised, and we will create an economy based on consultation with the wealth creators themselves—the businesses, the entrepreneurs and the workers. In that way, we will have a credible fiscal responsibility rule.

Yesterday, the OBR revised down its forecast for growth for this year, and for every year in this Parliament—in some cases by significant margins. That is reflected in lower forecasts for earnings growth. The Resolution Foundation says that typical wages will not recover to their pre-crash levels before the end of this decade. It is not just forecasts for economic growth and wages that are down. Those are driven by productivity, which has also been revised down for every year of this Parliament. Any productivity improvements last year have disappeared. As the OBR said, it was, “Another false dawn”. Perhaps that is not surprising. After all, productivity is linked to business investment, which should be driving the recovery, but which plunged sharply last quarter.

Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con): I have noticed that the hon. Gentleman does not like answering the question on how much he would be willing to borrow were he Chancellor. Is there any limit to the amount that he would be willing to borrow and to the debt that he would be willing to pass on to future generations?

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John McDonnell: I find it extraordinary that this Government want to talk about debt. Under this Government, the debt that our children will inherit will be £1.7 trillion. Under their watch, the debt has risen significantly—it has almost doubled. When we go forward, we will ensure that our borrowing will be based on sound economic advice from the wealth creators. Unlike this Government, we will create economic growth. This Chancellor is borrowing to fund cuts in public services, not to invest in growth or productivity.

Several hon. Members rose

John McDonnell: I will press on, and then I will give way—[Interruption.]

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Members may think that this noise is not loud, but it is very loud when you are in the Chair trying to listen to the shadow Chancellor. The problem is that it does not do this Chamber any good in the eyes of the public when they cannot hear either.

John McDonnell: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker—[Interruption.}

Mr Deputy Speaker: Did somebody wish to comment? Okay, we will carry on.

John McDonnell: Let me assure Members that I will give way, but let me proceed a bit further.

As I have said, perhaps the fall in productivity is unsurprising, because productivity is linked to business investment, which should be driving the recovery, but which plunged in the last quarter.

Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con) rose

John McDonnell: I will give way in a moment. I can tell the House what happened to business investment forecasts—they were revised down again in this Parliament. None of this should be a surprise for the Chancellor, but it seems that it is. At the autumn statement, he said that he wanted a plan

“that actually produces better results than were forecast.” ”.—[Official Report, 25 November 2015; Vol. 602, c. 1385.]

Rishi Sunak (Richmond (Yorks)) (Con) rose

John McDonnell: I will come back to the hon. Gentleman. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said this last week about the autumn statement:

“If you can’t forecast more than two months, how in heaven’s name can you forecast the next four or five years.”

That is what we all want to know.

Jeremy Quin: Productivity, to which the shadow Chancellor is referring, is also linked to employment. Does he welcome the extra 2.3 million people in work since 2010?

John McDonnell: Of course we welcome that employment growth, but we are concerned about the insecurity of that employment. The number of zero-hours contracts has gone up by another 100,000 over the past month, and the insecurity of that employment, unfortunately, is affecting people’s long-term investment plans as well.

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Yesterday the Chancellor pointed repeatedly to global economic headwinds as an explanation for his failure. His problem is that we have known about them for a while. Many of us were warning him last summer about the challenges facing the global economy. I spoke about them in this place, as did others on the Labour Benches, but rather than adapting his proposals to deal with the global reality, the Chancellor has charged headlong into another failure of his own making. He has failed to heed our warnings and the warnings of others, he has failed to invest in the key infrastructure that our economy needs, and as a result he has failed to boost Britain’s productivity figures.

Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane) (Con): Is it not the case that our Chancellor is being very adaptable, as we heard yesterday? Is it not the case that the Opposition have an economic credibility strategy which essentially reverts to exactly what they did before—more borrowing, more spending, and higher taxes? It did not work then, so why would it work now?

John McDonnell: The hon. Lady might describe the Chancellor as adaptable. Most of the media and most independent analysts described him today as failing—failing on virtually every target he set himself under his own fiscal rule.

Imran Hussain (Bradford East) (Lab): Is it not the case that this Budget has failed on growth, productivity and fairness? Is this not a failed Budget that has been sugar-coated?

John McDonnell: Regrettably I do not think it has been sugar-coated for many of those who will be suffering the cuts included in this Budget.

On productivity, it is the Chancellor’s failure to boost Britain’s productivity that is at issue. The Office for Budget Responsibility is very clear on this point. British productivity, not global factors, is the reason the Chancellor is in trouble. Robert Chote, the head of the OBR, confirmed in an interview last night that “most of the downward growth revisions were not driven by global uncertainty, but by weaker than thought domestic productivity.” As a result of that, we now see drastically reduced economic forecasts and disappointing tax revenues.

The Chancellor has been in the job six years now. It is about time he took some responsibility for what has happened on his watch. It is not just on basic economic competence that the Chancellor has let this country down. Unfairness is at the very core of this Budget and of his whole approach.

Lucy Frazer: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

John McDonnell: I will press on, if the hon. and learned Lady does not mind.

The Chancellor said in 2010 that this country would not make the mistakes of the past in making the poor carry the burden of fiscal consolidation. The facts prove that that is just not accurate. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the long-run effect of all tax and benefit changes in last year’s autumn statement would mean percentage losses around 25 times larger for those in the bottom decile than for those in the top decile.

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Alok Sharma (Reading West) (Con): The hon. Gentleman and the Opposition are suffering from some form of collective amnesia. Does he not remember that the British economy was on life support in 2010 when the Chancellor took over? The body of the economy was barely twitching. Why does he not acknowledge the fact that since 2010 growth is up, wages are up, employment is up and the deficit is down? He should be praising the Chancellor, not saying the economy is going down.

John McDonnell: Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the objective statements of the past 48 hours have demonstrated that all the factors that he mentions are falling back, and that we now face a serious problem that should be addressed by a responsible Government when they see their own fiscal rule and economic policies failing?

Let me repeat what the IFS said so that everyone is clear: the percentage losses were about 25 times larger for those at the bottom than for those at the top. So much for the Government’s statement about the broadest shoulders taking the strain. Furthermore, time and again, it is women who have borne the brunt of the Chancellor’s cuts. Recent analysis by the Women’s Budget Group showed that 81% of tax and welfare changes since 2010 have fallen on women.

Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op): Does my hon. Friend agree that it is not just women who have borne the brunt, but disabled people? Half a million disabled people are losing between them £1 billion. Surely not even Conservative Members can stand this anymore.

John McDonnell: I fully concur with my hon. Friend. I will come back to that point.

The distributional analysis by the Women’s Budget Group shows that by 2020 female lone parents and single female pensioners will experience the greatest drop in living standards—by 20% on average. In the case of older ladies, the single female pensioners, the cuts in care are falling upon their shoulders. I find that scandalous in this society.

It is disappointing, too, that the Budget offered no progress on scrapping the tampon tax. The Chancellor is hoping for a deal from the EU on the tax. If there is no deal, we will continue to fight for it to be scrapped.

Lucy Frazer: The hon. Gentleman mentioned that productivity was down for domestic reasons, not for international reasons. Can he therefore explain to me why the Congressional Budget Office in the US has reduced its forecast for potential productivity growth by 8.9 percentage points, which is lower than that for this country?

John McDonnell: That relates to the US economy. The figures that I quoted were not mine. They were from the Office for Budget Responsibility, which referred to domestic productivity falls.

Young people have also paid a heavy price during the Chancellor’s tenure. It is not just the education maintenance cuts in the last Parliament, or the enormous hikes in tuition fees; it is the dream of home ownership receding into the distance for young people on average incomes.

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The new Lifetime ISA will not resolve that. With pay falling so sharply for the young, there can be very few who can afford to save £4,000 a year.

We know that so far on the Chancellor’s watch, people with severe disabilities have been hit 19 times harder than those without disabilities. If that were not enough, the Government are now taking over £100 a week out of the pockets of disabled people. Even for a Chancellor who has repeatedly cut public spending on the backs of those least likely or least able to fight back, this represents a new low. I believe it is morally reprehensible.

Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): The shadow Chancellor is being very generous with his time. With respect to owning one’s own home, will he not take into account that the Help to Buy scheme has helped thousands of first-time buyers, 82% of whom would not have been able to buy their home without that scheme?

John McDonnell: The problem, as the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge, is housing supply. Because of the failure to build homes under this Budget, I fear that the interventions that the Government may make, which I often welcome, may force up prices, rather than allowing access to homes. The hon. Gentleman shares with me the desire that young people should be able to afford a home, and with me he should campaign now for more housing construction. That means investment, and sometimes you have to borrow to invest.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): Will the shadow Chancellor give way?

John McDonnell: I will come back to the hon. Gentleman.

On disability, I am appealing to the Chancellor to think again. We will support him in reversing the cuts in personal independence payments for disabled people. If he can fund capital gains tax giveaways for the richest 5%, he can find the money to reverse this cruel and unnecessary cut.

Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that if the Chancellor is not going to listen to the Opposition on the draconian cuts to these benefits, he will perhaps listen to Graeme Ellis, the chair of the Conservative Disability Group, who, as a result of these pernicious cuts, is cutting all links with the Conservative party?

John McDonnell: I just say this across the House: this is a very important issue—we will not make party politics of this. As someone who has campaigned on disability issues in the House for 18 years, I sincerely urge all Members to press the Chancellor to think again. This cut is cruel, and it is, unfortunately, dangerous for the wellbeing of disabled people.

Several hon. Members rose—

John McDonnell: With the greatest respect, I have just been reminded that I have spoken for more than 20 minutes, and I know there is a crowded schedule. I have given way extensively, and I would like to press on.

If corporation tax—already the lowest in the G7—can be reduced yet further, money can be found so the Government can think again about making yet more cuts to people with disabilities.

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Finally, I want to talk about the future. Yesterday’s Budget does not meet the needs and aspirations of our society. It fails to equip us for the challenges ahead. It fails to lay the foundations for a stronger economy that could deliver prosperity shared by all.

The Chancellor has repeatedly told us we are the builders, and yesterday we heard more of it. On infrastructure, we are back to press-release politics: projects announced with no certainty of funding to complete them—projects that should have started six years ago. It is always tarmac tomorrow. If stories about garden suburbs sound familiar, it might be because we have heard them before. Announcements about garden suburbs have become a hardy perennial of the Chancellor’s announcements.

However, despite all the rhetoric, all the re-announcements and all the photo opportunities in high-vis jackets, one statistic is in black and white in the OBR’s documents: public sector investment as a share of GDP is scheduled to fall from 1.9% last year to 1.5% by the end of this Parliament—a lack of investment in our infrastructure that will hold back the growth of our economy.

On education, it seems that we are back to the politics of spin and stunts. Forcing schools to become academies will do nothing to address the shortage of teachers, the shortage of school places and increasing class sizes. Forcing schools to compete for the extra-hour funding places more bureaucratic burdens on headteachers, with only a one-in-four chance of gaining that additional funding.

We have learned this morning that there is a half-a-billion-pound black hole in the funding needed for the Chancellor’s plans for schools. I would welcome the Secretary of State for Education confirming whether she will find the money to ensure that, if academisation is funded, schools are fully funded for that process.

As for long-term financial planning, it is increasingly clear that the Chancellor is determined to flog off anything that is not nailed down, in a desperate attempt to meet his self-imposed targets.

Several hon. Members rose—

John McDonnell: I have spoken for more than 25 minutes. You have made it clear, Mr Deputy Speaker, that there are many Members who want to speak. I have been extremely generous in giving way—more than any other shadow spokesman before.

Last year, we noted that the Chancellor could meet the conditions of his fiscal rule only by selling off profitable state assets, even at a loss to the taxpayer. Official figures yesterday suggested that taxpayers will face a loss of more than £20 billion pounds as a result of the Chancellor’s decisions on RBS share sales.

Yesterday, again, we learned that the Government are considering the privatisation of the Land Registry. That is despite their deciding against it as recently as 2014. That is despite the Land Registry returning millions of pounds in profits to taxpayers. That is despite a 98% customer satisfaction rate. It makes no difference to this Chancellor: everything must go, everything is up for sale. When will he learn that you cannot keep paying the rent by selling the furniture?

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The Chancellor has consistently put his political career ahead of the interests of this country. Yesterday he tried to do the same, and he failed. His disastrous economic failures are the result of putting personal ambition ahead of sound economics.

The Chancellor is clinging to the tattered remains of his fiscal charter, using it to justify brutal cuts to vulnerable people. In contrast to his rule—widely savaged by economists, and now on the point of being torn up by Government statisticians—Labour has a real alternative. Labour will build a society based on a fair tax system, where the wealthy and powerful pay their fair share. In line with recommendations from the OECD, the IMF, the G20, the CBI and the TUC, Labour will invest to grow opportunity and output. Labour will eliminate the deficit by growing our economy. Labour will invest in skills for a high-wage, high-tech economy.

In contrast to the Chancellor’s broken promises, we will balance Government spending, using a fiscal credibility rule developed, and recommended to us, by the world’s leading economists—our economic advisory council. We will balance Government spending, but not, like the Chancellor, by bullying those who will not fight back. We will invest to deliver shared prosperity, with people able to fulfil their potential, and a country meeting its potential.

Let me make this clear: Labour does not want to see the Chancellor drive the economy over a cliff, blinded by his adherence to a fiscal rule that everyone now knows cannot work. In the interests of this country, we are making him an offer: let us work together to design a fiscal framework that balances the books without destroying the economy. However, let me also make this clear: if he refuses our offer of co-operation, Labour will fight every inch of the way against the counter- productive, vindictive and needless measures the Chancellor has set out in this Budget. Britain deserves better than this.

12.37 pm

The Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan): It is a pleasure to respond to the shadow Chancellor on behalf of the Government. Let me welcome him to his place on the Front Bench for his first Budget debate contribution in that role.

The shadow Chancellor recently unveiled Labour’s fiscal credibility rule, which we are told is part of its economic credibility strategy. Well, let me suggest that what Labour is missing is a political credibility rule, which would go something like this: the British people expect the same rule to apply to politicians as applies to them; they expect Governments to live within their means, and that is what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has been doing for the past six years.

The shadow Chancellor proved today that he is incapable of answering any of the questions put to him by my colleagues on the Government Benches. However, he is able to tell us a few things. He has told us he wants to transform capitalism. He has told us his heroes are Lenin and Trotsky. He has told us that he wants to borrow more—in fact, had we carried on with the Labour party’s plans from when it was in government in 2010, we would have borrowed £930 billion more in the past six years.

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Listening to the Labour party speak on economics is a bit like listening to the arsonist returning to the scene of his crime. It is a constant criticism from Labour Members that the firemen are not putting out the fire swiftly enough to correct the mistakes they made.

The Budget presented to the House yesterday by the Chancellor puts education at its core and invests in the future of young people right across Britain. I noticed that the shadow Chancellor got on to education only right at the end of his speech. This Budget will ensure that we give young people the best possible education, no matter where they are born, who their parents are, or what their background is.

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab) rose

Nicky Morgan: Let me make a bit more progress and then I will give way.

Having listened intently to the shadow Chancellor, I have to ask this: why has he found it impossible to welcome in its entirety a Budget that puts the next generation first? He talks about productivity, but I did not detect any mention at all of investment in skills and the future education of the young people of this country.

Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con): Did it strike my right hon. Friend, as it struck me, that the hon. Gentleman made no mention at all of the Government’s commitment to fairer funding for our schools, which will even help schools in Labour Members’ constituencies—in Doncaster and in Barnsley? This is not about party politics; it is about helping the next generation.

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention; he makes a very good point. We are tackling, as in so many other areas, the issues that Labour Members failed to tackle for 13 years when they were in government. In fact, the shadow Schools Minister, the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), has himself campaigned for fairer funding across the country for our schools.

Several hon. Members rose

Nicky Morgan: I will take one more intervention and then make some progress.

Alex Cunningham: The Chancellor announced a grand plan to academise all our remaining schools. The cost of doing that will be in excess of £700 million. He has allocated £140 million. How is the Secretary of State going to plug the gap?

Nicky Morgan: Let me nail this point once and for all. It shows that many Labour Members could also benefit from staying on to do more maths education. What Labour Members—including the shadow Education Secretary, the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), who I note is not here today—have missed is the money allocated by the Chancellor in the spending review in November to make sure that we can academise all schools: those that are failing or coasting, and those that are good and outstanding.

Based on the shadow Chancellor’s previous exchange at the Dispatch Box with the Chancellor, I had assumed that he would be an advocate of our “great leap forward”

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in education reform. I thought that he would welcome the Chancellor’s £1.6 billion of new spending to make our education system fit for the 21st century.

Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con): Before I came to this place, when I was the chairman of FASNA—Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association—which led the self-governing schools, I discussed with Labour Members on many occasions the unfair funding system that they had, and they agreed that it was unfair, but did nothing about it. Will my right hon. Friend finish the job and deliver a fair and transparent funding formula by 2020, given the money that she has been given by the Chancellor?

Nicky Morgan: I completely agree with my hon. Friend. As in so many areas of Government policy, we will of course finish the job that was not even started by the previous Labour Government.

Julian Knight (Solihull) (Con): I congratulate the Secretary of State on the bold steps on academisation. I will relate to her my own personal experience in Solihull, where the majority of secondary schools are academies and we have some of the finest schools in the country. We have found the academisation process to be transformative, and I now want to see it spreading out across the United Kingdom.

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. Not long ago, I had the pleasure of visiting a school in Solihull with him and my right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs Spelman). He is absolutely right to talk about transformative education, which is what Conservative Members want to see. It is a basic right for every young person in this country to have an excellent education. We now have 1.4 million more children in schools rated “good” or “outstanding”.

Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State realise that many people outside this Chamber will think it extremely odd that, a week after the head of Ofsted described very serious weaknesses in the main academy chains, her answer to that criticism is to force every single school in this country to become an academy?

Nicky Morgan: No. I think that what people in the country will want, particularly parents, who often are not spoken about nearly enough in this debate—

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): Why not ask the parents?

Nicky Morgan: Absolutely. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman read the White Paper and then he will see exactly how parents are going to be involved in this. What parents want is for their children to be in a good school.

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab) rose

Mr Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op) rose—

Nicky Morgan: Let me just answer the intervention by the hon. Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson). The head of Ofsted, who did the right thing in identifying weaknesses that we have said we will tackle, said in his report:

“I also want to be clear that there are some excellent”

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multi-academy trusts

“that have made remarkable progress in some of the toughest areas of the country.”

Stephen Timms rose

Mr Thomas rose—

Nicky Morgan: I am going to make some progress.

What the next generation really needs is better schools, the skills they need to succeed in life, affordable housing, and secure pensions. The Budget that the Chancellor outlined yesterday is designed to give them all those things. It is designed to achieve that while making sure that we are managing the economy properly, protecting the next generation from the burden of debt and affording them the bright future that they deserve. It is a Budget in which we have chosen to act now so that the next generation does not pay later.

I know that the shadow Chancellor will understand me when I say that in 2010 we had to embark on a “long march” to reform our schools because we inherited an education system that was more concerned with league tables than with times tables, where an “all must have prizes” culture prevented the pursuit of excellence, and where the centralised structure and bureaucratic control of schooling stifled the sort of leadership and classroom innovation necessary to drive improvement.

Stephen Timms rose

Mr Gareth Thomas rose

Nicky Morgan: I am going to make some progress and then I will give way again.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Are you sure it is?

Mr MacNeil: Fairly sure, Mr Deputy Speaker. This debate is about schools in this country. Clearly, “this country” is not the UK—it is England. This debate does not apply to Scotland. That is not made clear, and in the days of English votes for English laws, it should be clear.

Mr Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order.

Nicky Morgan: We owed it to our young people to tackle the soft bigotry of low expectations and to give them the education they deserve: an education that will help them to fulfil every ounce of their potential; an education with knowledge at its core, even if that does include the shadow Chancellor’s greatest influences—self-confessed—of Lenin and Trotsky. This Budget will provide the resources to translate into reality the vision for the future of our education system in the schools White Paper that I will outline later today.

Stephen Timms: The Secretary of State will know that the Sutton Trust, in its comment on the Government’s proposals on academies, said that it is

“the quality of teaching that has the most substantial impact on pupil outcomes, especially for the disadvantaged, regardless of school type or setting”.

Is not the Sutton Trust absolutely right about that?

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Nicky Morgan: The Sutton Trust also recognised that the quality of teaching in academies is extremely good. If the right hon. Gentleman reads the education White Paper, he will see how we are going to invest even further in what is already a great profession.

We want an education system that is regarded as the gold standard internationally—one that is based on high expectations and an intolerance of failure, treats teachers as the professionals they are, and unlocks real social justice in allowing every young person to reach their potential. Those who are saying that we are not addressing the critical issues could not be further off the mark, because our White Paper published today is a vision for raising standards in teaching, and raising them higher than any Government have before. Teachers will be better qualified and accredited, they will have access to the best development opportunities, and they will command more respect than any generation of teachers before them, taking their rightful place among the great professions.

Rebecca Pow: Did we not go through years and years under Labour when our standards fell so low that we did our children absolutely no favours? I applaud this White Paper. I would like to tell the Secretary of State that a school in my constituency, Court Fields, which was turned into an academy, has seen its maths GCSE results improve by 20% in the past year.

Nicky Morgan: My hon. Friend sets out very well the transformative effect that academies and great teaching have on the lives of young people. It is really quite extraordinary that Labour Members, who started the academies programme, have now moved so far away from their original intent.

Mr Gareth Thomas: On the point about the forced academisation of all remaining schools, may I ask the Secretary of State specifically about the 800 Co-operative schools? A few of those are run by the Co-operative Academies Trust, but the vast majority are Co-operative trust schools. Will she comment on the implications for those schools? Is she willing to commit either herself or her Schools Minister to meet representatives of those schools to discuss the implications for them?

Nicky Morgan: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that very sensible, measured question. The Schools Minister or I would be delighted to meet him and those representatives. When I go around the country, schools say to me that they understand that the direction of travel is for academisation. We want to work with schools. I suggest that the relevant schools speak to their regional schools commissioner, but also of course to the Department, to make sure that we are able to help them to academise in a way that continues with excellent education and continues to transform the lives of young people, because that is what we all want to see.

Let me turn to the longer school day. We know the difference that positive character traits can make to the life chances of young people, including the resilience to bounce back from life’s setbacks, the determination to apply themselves to challenges, and confidence in their own ability to improve themselves. Such traits also include persistence and grit—the sorts of characteristics that some Labour Back Benchers might need to

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demonstrate as they face years in the wilderness under their current leadership. With those traits, we know that young people are more likely to achieve their potential and make a positive contribution to British society.

Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): I thank the Education Secretary for giving way and rewarding character and grit. Although most of us agree that the extension of the school day is welcome, there are schoolchildren who are hungry and therefore find it most difficult to benefit from any reforms. One welcomes the Chancellor’s sugar tax, which will give more children the ability to start school with food in their bellies, but will the Education Secretary break convention and lead a cross-party group to meet the Chancellor, who is sitting next to her, so that we can lobby for some of that sugar tax to feed the poorest children during the school holiday?

Nicky Morgan: I and the Chancellor would be very happy to meet the right hon. Gentleman to discuss that. One of yesterday’s announcements that has not received attention—I will come on to it—is the significant additional funding for breakfast clubs. Of course, the Government have also committed to continuing the pupil premium, which is another way in which schools are able to support those most disadvantaged children. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the need for holiday funding and feeding, and I am certainly prepared to look at that.

Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con): A recent Public Accounts Committee report looked at the pupil premium and highlighted that, due to the vagaries of the existing funding system, funding per pupil in depravation can vary massively. Does the Education Secretary agree that fairer funding will help to tackle that and mean that schools such as those in Torbay will not have to explain why a child there is worth hundreds of pounds less than a child elsewhere?

Nicky Morgan: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. One of the reasons we are having a two-stage consultation is to make sure that we get the factors in the new formula right. One of those factors will be to reflect those children who are disadvantaged and in need. One of the figures we uncovered during the course of preparing the consultation was that a child with characteristics of need could receive about £2,000 in Birmingham and £36 in Darlington. That cannot be right if we want to have a proper national funding formula across the country.

The new investment in education means that £559 million is going towards a longer school day to support more schools in offering vital enrichment activities. I welcome the support of the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field) and others. There is evidence, including from the Sutton Trust, that a longer school day is likely to be particularly beneficial for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Participation in physical activity and sport in particular is associated with better cognitive functioning, better mental health and improved concentration and behaviour in the classroom.

It is an investment that will particularly raise the life chances of the most disadvantaged young people, who may otherwise struggle to access enriching activities. The new funding will allow 25% of secondary schools to extend their school day by up to five hours per week per child. There are added benefits, as we continue to

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lighten the burden of childcare costs to parents who can work longer, knowing that their children are engaged in worthwhile extracurricular activities such as sport, debate and music, and are receiving additional support for their academic studies. We are doing that because we are determined to spread opportunities. As a one nation Government, we want to make sure that as many young people as possible have access to those opportunities.

The £413 million promised for education in yesterday’s Budget will double the primary sports premium, because we know that getting young people engaged in sport and fitness early is vital to tackling the growing levels of obesity in children. This significant investment in school sport will have a game-changing impact on the health of young people.

Stephen Timms: The Education Secretary will know that there were very impressive school sports trusts in place up to 2010, with a big focus on secondary and feeder primary schools working together. Unfortunately, they were lost in earlier budget cuts. Will the funding that has now been announced be used for that purpose again?

Nicky Morgan: The funding that has been announced will be used even more effectively, because we are not going to tell schools how to spend it, apart from the fact that we want them to be doing more sport and more physical exercise. The belief that runs right through my party’s education policies is that the people who are best placed to make decisions in schools are the heads, the teachers and the governors—those who know the needs of their pupils best.

What is more, that will be paid for by the new levy on producers of excessively sugary drinks. I thank the Labour party for putting on record its support for that policy. I hope that in the longer term the levy will serve as an incentive for the industry to offer products that are lower in sugar and therefore healthier for young people.

Mr Steve Reed (Croydon North) (Lab) rose

Nicky Morgan: The hon. Gentleman is leaping up and down, so I must give way to him.

Mr Reed: The Education Secretary says she is not going to tell schools how to spend the sports money. Is she going to tell schools that they must convert to academies, even if parents make it crystal clear that they do not want that to happen?

Nicky Morgan: The academies policy was started under the Labour party. We have adopted it and taken it forward, and it is providing a transformative education for young people in this country.

On breakfast clubs, £26 million will go towards developing and running breakfast clubs in up to 1,600 schools over three years, so that children can receive a healthy breakfast and start school ready to learn. The money promised for the longer school day, sport and breakfast clubs underlines this Government’s commitment to happy, healthy students who will be well placed to become the active citizens of tomorrow, contributing more to our economy and relying less on the welfare system.

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We want to be absolutely certain that the investment in education promised by the Chancellor yesterday is felt up and down the country. Our new “achieving excellence areas”, supporting, among other regions, the northern powerhouse, will do exactly that. The Budget has given £70 million of new funding for the education powerhouse to add to the Department’s existing commitment to prioritise its programmes in the areas that most need support, and to deliver a comprehensive package to target an initial series of education cold spots where educational performance is chronically poor, including in coastal and rural areas. The investment will help to transform educational outcomes and boost aspiration in areas that have lagged behind for too long.

Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury) (Lab): On the northern powerhouse, a recent written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) shows that 100% of the Treasury’s senior civil servants are based in Whitehall and that 60% of them are men. Apparently, the Chancellor really does think that the man on Whitehall knows best—he had a lot of men on Whitehall making decisions for this Budget. Is that why they have failed to come up with a solution to the tampon tax?

Nicky Morgan: I had the pleasure of working in the Treasury with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in the last Parliament, and hon. Members could not find anybody who is more supportive of promoting women and of women’s causes. On the tampon tax, we hope very much that we will make progress with the EU on the VAT rate. I know that the hon. Lady is new to Parliament—she joined last year—but the last Labour Government, including female Ministers at the Treasury, had 13 years to tackle the issue. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has put aside money and there is a fantastic list in the back of the Red Book of the charities and organisations that will benefit from it. We can all agree that it would be better not to have VAT levied on sanitary products, but we support those organisations.

I have talked about support for the northern powerhouse. The review of northern schools will be carried out by Sir Nick Weller, executive principal of the eight Dixons Academies in Bradford.

Imran Hussain rose

Nicky Morgan: I invite the hon. Gentleman, who is a Bradford Member, to make an intervention.

Imran Hussain: I thank the Secretary of State for giving way. To be fair, we welcome the £20 million for the northern powerhouse school strategy. Nevertheless, does she not think that that would operate a lot better without the forced academisation agenda?

Nicky Morgan: No, I do not. Nick Weller is the executive principal of the eight Dixons Academies in Bradford and they are transforming young people’s life chances. Academies are bringing in strong sponsors and strong multi-academy trusts. I cannot think of anyone better to conduct the review. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and other Bradford Members will work

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with him to make sure that we identify exactly how we can continue to transform education in Bradford and elsewhere.

We have already discussed the national funding formula in interventions, but I just want to put on the record that we believe that the same child with the same characteristics deserves to attract the same amount of money, wherever they live in the country. A national funding formula will mean that areas with the highest need attract the most funding, so pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds will continue to receive significant additional support to overcome the entrenched barriers to their success. We are going beyond our manifesto pledge to protect per pupil funding for the core schools budget by investing an extra £500 million in the schools budget. That means that, as part of our consultation on these reforms, we can aim to deliver a fair funding formula allocation to 90% of schools that should be gaining by 2020. That further demonstrates that we deliver on our promises.

Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab): rose

Nicky Morgan: I will give way briefly, but then I will make some progress.

Jeff Smith: The Chancellor yesterday announced a plan to teach maths until age 18. That may be a laudable aim, but how can it possibly be delivered when there is a chronic shortage of maths teachers—a teacher shortage that she is presiding over and failing to tackle?

Nicky Morgan: We are looking at that for precisely this reason. One of the reasons why recruitment is difficult is the recovering economy. I welcome that, in many ways, but as Education Secretary I recognise that it means that there are more opportunities for graduates to go into careers other than teaching. The number of students taking A-level maths, which enabled them to study it further and perhaps to become teachers, fell under the last Labour Government. There are fewer such people around, so we are having to look very hard, but that is the purpose of the review. As I have said, the review also needs to look at the shadow Chancellor’s calculations about how we can afford the full academisation policy. The numbers set out are from the spending review.

Helen Whately: Quality of teaching is the most important factor in education. I welcome the focus on quality of teaching, teacher training and recruitment in the White Paper that has been published today. May I welcome the Government’s grip on that factor in education? That is such a contrast to the previous Labour Government, who spent so much money on buildings rather than on teachers.

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend, who makes an excellent point. I thank her for looking at the White Paper, and I hope that other hon. Members from all parts of the House will do likewise. The Government absolutely agree that the quality of teachers is the single most important factor in great education for our young people. If we were to follow the example of the Opposition, we would constantly be saying, “We cannot teach that, because of issues around finding the right teachers.” It is a totally defeatist way of looking at the matter. We

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have identified the important subjects that we want our young people to study, and we will make sure that teaching is a rewarding and exciting profession that the best people want to go into.

I have already talked about full academisation. We firmly believe that the policy continues to put power into the hands of school leaders and teachers so that they can decide how best to teach and nurture young people, as the great leaders in our best academies already are. We want schools to have the freedom to innovate and demonstrate what really works, but they will be able to do so within the scaffolding of support needed to realise the full benefits of autonomy. Crucially, this funding will support the reform and growth of multi-academy trusts with the people and the systems they need to enable them to drive real, sustainable improvement in schools’ performance.

For Opposition Members who say that the structure of the school system is not important, let me quote a Labour leader who knew how to win elections:

“We had come to power saying it was standards not structures that mattered…This was fine as a piece of rhetoric…it was bunkum as a piece of policy. The whole point is that structures beget standards. How a service is configured affects outcomes.”

What an acknowledgement from the former Prime Minister who started the academies programme of the fact that this policy has the power to transform our school system. That is another demonstration of the current Labour party’s lack of ambition for England’s schools, and of the way in which it has retreated into the fringes and kowtowed to unions rather than putting the interests of children and parents first.

There now 1.4 million more children in good or outstanding schools than there were in 2010.

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab) rose

Stephen Timms rose

Nicky Morgan: I am going to make some progress, because I know that the Budget debate is oversubscribed. I have been very generous with interventions, and I will try to take a few more towards the end if I can.

We stand by our record of getting young people into study and training. We have the lowest number of people not in education, employment or training on record, but we are not going to rest on our laurels, because we believe that any young person who is NEET is wasting their potential. The Prime Minister has announced a mentoring scheme, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced yesterday that a further £14 million would go towards mentoring, so that we can recruit a new generation of mentors from the world of business and beyond, who can help to engage young people who are at risk of underachieving. By 2020, we want those new high-calibre mentors, businesspeople and professionals to reach 25,000 young people who are just about to start their GCSEs.

We have talked about reviewing our maths curriculum. If we are successful in keeping all young people in education for as long as we can, we have to be sure that we are offering them the education that they need to get a job and to get on in life. Among OECD countries, we have among the lowest level of uptake of maths among young people post 16. That is of great concern, but, more importantly, it is of concern to universities and

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employers, who need young people with sound maths skills. The review will be led by Professor Adrian Smith, vice-chancellor of the University of London. He will review how to improve the study of maths from 16 to 18 to ensure that the next generation are confident and comfortable using maths. That will include looking at the case for, and the feasibility of, more or all students continuing to study maths until the age of 18.

It is national apprenticeships week, so let me bang the drum for apprenticeships for a moment. The Government have championed apprenticeships consistently since taking office. We have delivered more than double the number of apprenticeships delivered by Labour in their last term of office, and we have committed to 3 million more by 2020.

Liz McInnes rose

Nicky Morgan: I will give way very briefly for the last time.

Liz McInnes: Will the Secretary of State tell me how she envisages the future of the national curriculum, given that academies do not have to follow it? The forced academisation of schools will create a free-for-all when it comes to what schools teach our children.

Nicky Morgan: The hon. Lady’s question demonstrates an absolute lack of trust and belief in the professionals who run our schools. The national curriculum will be a benchmark. If the hon. Lady goes and talks to those who are running our schools, she will find that many academies are teaching above and beyond the national curriculum.

Stephen Timms: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Nicky Morgan: I have already given way to the right hon. Gentleman several times, and I really need to finish now.

The Budget has been all about setting the next generation up for the future. The shadow Chancellor, unlike the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, finally got around to recognising and congratulating the Government on the enormous progress that has been made on the employment figures. The creation of jobs is a true success. The female employment rate is at a record high, with 1 million more women in work since 2010. The OBR is forecasting 1 million more jobs across the economy throughout this Parliament.

It is essential that we have a well-rounded, well-educated and highly skilled generation of tomorrow, and they need the security that only the Conservative party can deliver. The next generation also need the ability to secure their own future, with incentives to save, both to buy their own home and to make provision for their retirement. In the past, people have had to make a choice between the two, but the measures announced yesterday leave them in no doubt that we are on their side. The ISA allowance has been increased to £20,000, and in the new lifetime ISA the Government will give people £1 for every £4 they save.

This is a Budget in which the Government have had to take the difficult decisions that will continue to deliver the economic security that has been the hallmark of this Government’s time in office. The decisions have

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been made because we want to balance the books fairly across all generations. Let me point out that while we have been making the right decisions, gender inequality in the labour market is down in our society. We have the smallest gender pay gap ever, but we are not complacent, which is why we are taking action to make sure that it is reduced even further.

We know from Labour’s great recession that those who suffer most when the Government run unsustainable deficits are people who are already at a disadvantage. When Government spend recklessly, the next generation are burdened with debt. At a time of public sector spending restraint, education has not been spared difficult decisions, but the Government have chosen to invest in the next generation. The choices that we have made represent a huge boost to funding for children and young people. As I have outlined, we have put in place plans to use it effectively and ensure that it is targeted where it is needed most. Later today, I will set out more about our vision for the entire school system and how we truly deliver educational excellence everywhere.

Stephen Timms: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Nicky Morgan: No, I am going to draw to a close. Labour’s plans to spend, borrow and tax more are exactly what got us into a mess before, and they led to a rise of almost 45% in youth unemployment. We cannot risk the kind of youth unemployment seen today in places such as Spain and Greece.

Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you can give me some guidance. I understood that when a Minister had a major announcement to make on policy, as I think the Secretary of State just said she had about education policy, they are supposed to come to the Chamber and make it first before it is reported elsewhere. Why has she not done that as part of her speech?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Of course, all statements of policy come through this Chamber.

Nicky Morgan: Let me just remind the hon. Gentleman that I am standing here and giving the House information about the White Paper. It is kind of him to allow me the opportunity to talk again about the White Paper that we are publishing today, setting out our vision of the school system. He can also read the written ministerial statement that I have laid before the House.

Stephen Timms: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Nicky Morgan: I will give way, as the right hon. Gentleman asks so nicely.

Stephen Timms: I am extremely grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. She has talked about the policy of converting all schools into academies. Will she assure us that that will not be done by expanding underperforming multi-academy trusts?

Nicky Morgan: We have been very clear that we want good and outstanding schools to expand and we do not want to hold them back. As the right hon. Gentleman

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has asked that question, I hope he will offer support to new free schools that are set up in his constituency and elsewhere to challenge the expansion of places in schools that require improvement or are in special measures.

As I was saying, we cannot risk the kind of youth unemployment seen today in places such as Spain and Greece. We should not forget that the shadow Chancellor has recently asked for and taken on board the advice of Yanis Varoufakis, that successful Greek economy Minister. In Spain and Greece, there have been thousands of school closures and there have been cuts to teachers’ pay, because they have failed to balance the books. We know that the previous Labour Government left 287,000 more young people unemployed than when they came into office. That cannot be allowed to happen again.

As we promised in our manifesto last year, this is a Government with a plan for every stage of life. From the start of a young person’s life, their schooling and the decisions they make about their career to the choices they make on housing and pensions, which will determine their future happiness, this Budget will deliver the most confident and secure generation ever.

This is a Government who deliver on their promises. From fair funding to further support for families and giving every child the best start in life, we have shown the British people that this Government are on their side. It is clear that Labour Members have not learned from their mistakes. They spent and borrowed too much last time they were in power, and the shadow Chancellor’s speech last week revealed that they are happy to do so again. It should have been entitled a speech on fiscal implausibility, because the Labour party has no credibility when it comes to the economy. They would repeat the same mistakes again and expect a different result—the very definition of madness.

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Nicky Morgan: No, of course I will not give way.

The truth is that not only would Labour Members fail to deliver, but their economic policies would risk our nation’s security, our economy’s security and the security of families up and down Britain. The Conservatives will continue to deliver fairness, stability, security and opportunity for everyone. We, the Conservative Government, will continue to put the next generation first.

1.12 pm

Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Yesterday, the Chancellor highlighted the huge uncertainties and risks facing the global economy, and he painted a fairly bleak picture of what might lie ahead just around the corner. These have been very tough years for a lot of people, characterised by financial insecurity and drops in living standards, which have started to recover only in very recent times.

One response, as advocated by the IMF and the OECD, would be to boost public investment as a means of pushing up productivity and growth. Instead, yesterday’s Budget confirmed a decade of austerity—austerity of choice, not of necessity; austerity that is falling on the shoulders of those least able to carry the burden; and

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austerity that is harming our public services. There are £3.5 billion of new cuts in this Budget. Even if we exclude cuts to capital spending and social security, the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that funding for day-to-day public services is forecast to fall by the equivalent of £1,000 per head over the course of this Parliament.

Yet all this pain has failed to deliver the economic benefits that we were promised. As the shadow Chancellor said earlier, the Government have failed to meet their own targets on debt, borrowing and bringing down the deficit. They have missed every key economic target they have set themselves. Another target that the Chancellor quickly glossed over yesterday was the fact that the Government are once again set to miss their own self-imposed limit on welfare spending. In fact, the OBR predicts that the Government will breach their welfare cap by £4.6 billion in the coming financial year, and will miss their own target in the next four years as well.

The quagmire that is the implementation of the new universal credit is right at the heart of the Chancellor’s problems. The difficulties with universal credit are not new. However, the OBR has said that universal credit is

“one of the largest sources of uncertainty”

in forecasting spending on social security, and that it has identified

“new sources of significant concern”

in trying to assess the impact of universal credit on spending. I think we all appreciate that predicting spend on universal credit presents some inherent challenges and that certain aspects of universal credit spend will be driven less by policy than by the economic cycle and the state of the labour market, but given the OECD and others’ sobering account of the turbulent global economic outlook, the problems with universal credit are likely to become much more acute.

In that context, I am not convinced that the Government’s arbitrary welfare cap is helpful. The reality is that the austerity cuts of recent years have fallen heavily on budgets for social protection. The £12 billion of cuts already identified in the autumn statement will largely come out of the pockets of low-income households with children and of those who need support to cope with illness or disability. The cuts to work allowances and other changes to the tax credit system, which are due to come into effect from April, will significantly reduce the support to parents working in low-paid jobs, some of whom are going to be thousands of pounds worse off, even when we take into account the increase to the minimum wage, the increase to the personal allowance and other changes confirmed or announced yesterday.

The research published in recent days by the Women’s Budget Group has shown how austerity cuts have fallen disproportionately on women—that point was well made earlier—and points out that women face “triple jeopardy” because they are more likely to be in low-paid work, more likely to work in the public sector and more likely to be in receipt of tax credits or other benefits subject to cuts or freezes. Its research suggests that as many as one in four women are earning less than the living wage.

I want to pick up that point about wage levels and say a wee bit about terminology. It is very important that we distinguish between the minimum wage, which is now being rebranded as the national living wage, and

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the real living wage, which is calculated on the basis of the actual cost of living and is significantly higher. I of course welcome the increase in the minimum wage to £7.20 an hour for those over 25, but let us not pretend that it is a living wage. Let us also not forget that those under 25 are not so fortunate. For the life of me, I can see no rationale for such a significant differential in pay as the one experienced by younger workers.

The real living wage is currently £8.25 an hour, although we should bear in mind that that calculation was based on the assumption that low-paid workers would be claiming their full entitlement to tax credits at the present rate, not the new reduced rates. In Scotland, we have a higher proportion of workers paid the real living wage than in any other part of the UK, and there are ambitious plans to increase further the number of accredited living wage employers. However, I think we all recognise that there is a long way to go if we are to tackle low pay.

One of the questions I want to ask Ministers today on the subject of the minimum wage is whether and when they plan to raise the carer’s allowance earnings threshold. They seem to be ficherin’ about with their papers, so I do not know whether they have even heard that question. There is no automatic link between the level of the national minimum wage and the carer’s allowance earnings limit. In the past, the limit has just been raised on a very ad hoc basis as something of an afterthought. The limit has huge implications for carers who might be working part time and receiving tax credits, so I hope Ministers will confirm that they plan to increase the carer’s allowance earnings limit in line with the increase in the minimum wage and to do so at the same time. I put it to Ministers that it might make more sense for this to be included in the annual benefits uprating order in future.

I want to return to the guddle of the Government’s social security spending and their cack-handed attempts to save money. The Chancellor confirmed yesterday that the Government intend to take a further £1.2 billion from sick and disabled people through changes to the assessment points awarded to sick and disabled claimants for personal independence payments on the basis of the aids and appliances that they need to carry out daily living activities. PIP is in the process of replacing disability living allowance. This is yet another transition process in the Department for Work and Pensions that has been fraught with problems and lengthy delays.

Jonathan Portes, principal research fellow at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, has pointed out that

“delivery and implementation failures related to welfare changes, particularly related to disability benefits, continue to push up OBR forecasts of welfare spend”.

In his view, the £1.2 billion cut in support for aids and appliances within PIP is being done partly to offset such failures. Personal independence payments are, however, really important. They are the means through which those with very substantial disabilities and long-term health conditions receive extra support to help them to meet the extra costs they incur because of their disability. For many, DLA or PIP is what enables them to work and live independently, and what allows them to participate in their community.

These further cuts come hard on the heels of a raft of measures that have reduced the incomes of sick and disabled people since the start of the Government’s

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austerity drive. The Welfare Reform Act 2012 has already cut the budget for PIP by £1.5 billion and raised the bar on eligibility for the new benefit. The Government’s forecasting has consistently underestimated the cost of the policy, which is why—once again—disabled people are in the front line.

The transition from DLA from PIP has been blown far off course. By making it more difficult to qualify for PIP, the Government thought that they could save money, and they expected 20% fewer claimants to be eligible for the new benefit. However, they grossly underestimated how many, and how badly disabled, those claimants were. Making disability benefits harder to claim does not change the health or support needs of claimants. In practice, cuts in support have meant that many sick and disabled people have been pushed further into poverty, and some into destitution or worse.

Around 370,000 people in the UK are likely to be affected by this new cut, including around 40,000 in Scotland. That comes on the back of a string of austerity measures that adversely affect disabled people, from the bedroom tax—eight out of 10 households affected in Scotland were the home of a disabled adult—to cuts to the independent living fund, the loss of eligibility for Motability vehicles, and the most recent changes to ESA that we debated the other week, which will reduce support to some disabled people by £30 a week.

Nigel Huddleston (Mid Worcestershire) (Con): I have heard what the hon. Lady is saying, but does she recognise and accept that disability spending is going up, and there will be more than £1 billion of spending on disability? Is it not appropriate for welfare spending to go to those in most need?

Dr Whiteford: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue because those figures deserve much greater scrutiny. The rise in the overall budget for disability spending to 2020 is easily explained by the fact that as the baby-boomer generation start to lose their health, and as life expectancy increases but healthy life expectancy does not increase at the same rate, there is more demand for disability support.

I accept that those with the most extreme disabilities need more support—that is definitely the case—but those who are losing out from PIP are probably those who are closest to the labour market, and their PIP, or DLA, enables them to participate in that market and support themselves. Those people have ongoing additional extra costs, whether for aids and adaptations, transport, or because they do not have sight and need support to get to and from their place of work. Such people need and deserve support, so why should they be put on the frontline when many other able-bodied people are not being asked to bear the same level and proportion of that burden? I hope I have addressed the hon. Gentleman’s point, and I am grateful for the opportunity to unpack those top-line figures that sound so generous to disabled people, but mask systematic cuts to the support that individuals who need help can expect to receive.

In response to the Budget yesterday, Citizens Advice Scotland said that

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“the confirmation of changes to the Personal Independence Payment will mean that disabled people are set to lose entitlement of up to £3,000 per year to support them to live an independent life.”

Liz Sayce of Disability Rights UK said that the cuts to aids and appliances

“will impact on people’s ability to work, enjoy family life and take part in the communities they live in.”

Before I conclude, let me address the Chancellor’s announcements on savings. In the weeks leading up to the Budget, it was widely reported that he was planning to reform pension tax relief, to rebalance the pension system and make it fairer for basic rate taxpayers and other modest earners. That opportunity was missed yesterday, and instead we got measures that will further widen the gulf between the haves and have-nots, and which lay bare the stark priority that this Government seem to attach to maintaining, and even celebrating, the gross income inequalities that characterise modern British society.

There were some great wheezes for very high earners, not least the increase to the personal allowance. Although everyone can potentially benefit from that, those set to benefit the most are higher rate taxpayers like ourselves. The Resolution Foundation estimates that a third of the benefit of that change will accrue to the top 20% of earners. Meanwhile, a lot of low-paid and part-time workers—most of them women—will not even earn enough this year to take them over the threshold.

Similarly, raising the ISA limit to £20,000 will benefit only those who happen to have a spare twenty grand lying around. To take full advantage of that tax break, someone would need to save more than £1,666 pounds a month, which is a lot more than many people’s take-home pay. The same applies to the new lifetime ISA, because a young person would need to save £333 pounds a month to take full advantage of it. For a 20-year-old working full time on the minimum wage, that represents 38% of their gross salary. It is not realistic. Even among better paid young people, many of those eligible for the scheme are likely to struggle to pay grossly inflated rents in the private sector, and many will be servicing substantial student debts and be unable to take full advantage of the scheme.

Mr Kevan Jones: The hon. Lady raises an interesting point, because the assumption is that people have spare money sloshing around to put into a lifetime ISA. Does she agree that even if someone saved the maximum amount every year over the period allowed, they would not be allowed to buy a pension at the end of that, and in many cases—especially in London—they would not even be able to buy a house?

Dr Whiteford: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point and highlights the fact that young people’s housing problems are caused by undersupply of affordable housing. With the best will in the world, people on normal wages will never be able to buy a house in an urban area such as London, or in places such as Aberdeen and Edinburgh where the housing market is inflated.

Michelle Donelan (Chippenham) (Con): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Dr Whiteford: I will make some progress.

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The lifetime ISA is a nice little bung for trustafarians and others with munificent parents or grandparents. An 18-year-old whose wealthy parents put £4,000 into a lifetime ISA every year until he or she is 40 will get a tidy wee £22,000 handout from the Government. That stands in sharp contrast to the Help to Save scheme under which people on breadline incomes—if, by some miracle, they manage to save £600 pounds a year—will get £300 from the Government. In other words, they receive less than a third of the annual benefit available to those who are already wealthy and privileged.

Michelle Donelan: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Dr Whiteford: I will not give way at the moment. No wonder that the Chancellor did not have much to say about the Help to Save scheme yesterday. It is a sham opportunity that is being dangled in front of people who can never hope to insulate themselves properly against financial shocks, whose financial security is increasingly precarious, and who are most exposed to the risks of global economic instability. Some people have already started calling the lifetime ISA the LISA, but out of deference to my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Lisa Cameron) I will resist that temptation. Instead, we might consider calling it the PIERS— for People Inherently Entitled to Rich Savings.

However, this is a serious point because we all recognise the need to encourage people to save more for later life, and for almost all of us the best way to do that will be through a workplace pension to which an employer can contribute. At best, the lifetime ISA is a fairly gimmicky sideshow, and at worst there is a danger that it could undermine auto-enrolment, which is the key vehicle for incentivising savings and promoting fairer universal pensions. We must shore-up confidence in auto-enrolment and not distract focus from it. The pensions industry and sector has suffered a real crisis of confidence over recent decades because people have not seen adequate rewards from the process and do not believe that that is the best way to protect themselves for the future.

This morning the Resolution Foundation published a graph that shows how the Government’s income tax cuts will benefit people across the income distribution. It shows that the lowest 20% of incomes will gain a miserly £10 on average, while the wealthiest 20% will gain an average of £225 each. For me, that encapsulates in a nutshell this Government’s warped priorities and the unfairness at the heart of this Budget. There is an alternative to austerity, and I am sorry that the Government have chosen not to take it.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. There are 29 Members who wish to speak. I will start with a time limit of eight minutes, although that will inevitably drop down if people make too many interventions.

1.28 pm

Dr Liam Fox (North Somerset) (Con): Perhaps the most important thing about the Budget is also the most understated, which is that it is occurring against a veritable job creation miracle in this country. Since

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world war two, jobs have never been created at the rate that they are being created now, and that is the starkest difference between the economic management of this Government, and that of Labour when it was in power in recent years.

There is much in the Budget to boost that job creation further: the increase in tax thresholds, which is a further incentive to work; the doubling of small business rate relief, which will help to generate more wealth and jobs; the lifetime ISA, which is an encouragement to saving; and the cut in corporation tax, although that will not happen for a number of years.

There was a great welcome in the west country for the measures specifically outlined by the Chancellor. It is great to see the west country getting that long-overdue recognition from the Treasury.

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): My right hon. Friend rightly emphasises that the Chancellor has provided funds for the west country. Rail, road, housing and broadband are all needed there.

Dr Fox: That advertisement for the west country’s economic potential was nicely put, and does not really require any response from me.

I share the disappointment that the Chancellor expressed about the fact that the growth figures were downgraded and that debt was rising as a proportion of GDP. The figures make it more difficult to see how we can achieve the substantial and sustainable surplus that is needed to make a meaningful reduction on the level of debt. However, I must say to some Conservative Members and many of the commentators who call for faster fiscal consolidation that they cannot get it by wishful thinking. Their objection to every tax rise and every spending cut proposed by the Chancellor makes it all the more difficult to achieve what we all want.

The Chancellor yesterday set out his view on the European Union element and the impact on our economy. It will not surprise anyone to learn that I do not take the same view as he does, but I want to tackle one or two of the myths and the claims that are made. The first claim, which comes from the Governor of the Bank of England onwards—I almost said “downwards”, but I am sure that is not correct—is that being in the European Union is key to our economic wellbeing. Of the OECD countries, 16 of the 20 with the highest unemployment are in the European Union. Of the 10 OECD countries with the highest unemployment, only one is not in in the European Union. Unemployment averages 6.5% in the OECD; 5.5% in the G7; 8.9% in the EU; and 10.3% in the eurozone—if we extract Germany, it is something like 14% or 15%. I should therefore like to know in the response to the debate the answer to this question: if the EU is so good and so key for economic wellbeing, why is it failing almost every other country in the EU?

The second claim is that inward investment in the United Kingdom comes because of our membership of the European Union. That does not strike me as being logical. If the UK gets the lion’s share of inward investment in Europe, it cannot by definition be simply because we are a member of the EU—we would otherwise get a proportionate share of inward investment. There must be other reasons that are nothing to do with our EU membership that enable that inward investment.

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Stephen Timms: Chinese companies looking to move into the Asian business park in my constituency want to come to the UK because it is the best place in Europe for them to be located, it is English speaking and so on. Is it not the case that they want to address the European market, and that if we have left the European market, they will not come?

Dr Fox: I simply do not believe that that——the idea that, if we are not in the EU, we will no longer trade—is credible. Countries do not trade with countries; companies sell to consumers. They will sell to consumers when they have products of the appropriate quality at the appropriate price. The worst case scenario is having World Trade Organisation tariffs, but sterling’s depreciation since November was a far bigger change in the financial costs to business than anything tariffs could produce.

Mr Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Dr Fox: I will not.

I believe we will get investment into this country because we have a skilled workforce, a good tax structure, and fiscal and political stability. I also believe that money will go to where money can be made and moved. Our commercial law is one of the main reasons why money will continue to flood into this country. Those who invest in this country know that they can take their profits out, unlike other countries where they might consider investing.

Rather than providing the great opportunity, the EU provides two major risks to our economic stability, the first of which comes from the euro. The decision not to join the euro was one of the most beneficial in recent British politics. The euro is a vanity project. It is a political project dressed up as an economic one. The wrong countries were allowed to join, and when they joined, they were allowed to follow fiscal policies that caused them to diverge from the original premise. As a consequence, millions of young Europeans face structural, high and long-term unemployment, sacrificed on the altar of the single currency.

That will have a huge cost, and it has an economic cost to the UK because of the budgetary mechanism by which we support the EU. In other words, the more our economy continues to grow in relation to the EU, the higher our contributions will be, because they are a factor of our GDP. We in this country and our taxpayers will be penalised for our economic success and for remaining outside the project that we said from the very outset was doomed to failure. The one thing that we did not hear yesterday in the Budget was how we could otherwise spend the £350 million a week we currently send to Brussels.