Examination of Witness (Questions 660-663)|
MONDAY 24 JUNE 2002
660. That leads me on to the second part of
your speech I wanted to comment on. You say, "But I am absolutely
clear that public support for investment is conditional on the
money going into programmes that deliver." Part of this Committee's
central reason for existing is to see what actually delivers and
try to evaluate what delivers. You go on to say, "So in this
we are bound together. You want more investment; so do I. You
want higher standards; so do I. But the public wants reforms to
ensure their money is well spent. Deliver them reform and they
will deliver the funds." I thought you absolutely put your
finger on the issue in that reference in that speech. Do you believe
that you are getting the necessary reforms for the investment?
We have had massive investment in education over the last five
years. We will be asking the Permanent Secretary on Wednesday,
is it filtering through fast enough, is it money being spent fast
enough. Do you think that if you notch up the last five years
you have got the reforms you think you deserve in terms of the
money put in?
(Mr Miliband) First of all, if every time I come here
you quote my speeches, you will convince even me they are quite
661. It was only two bits!
(Mr Miliband) That's reassuring! I won't let it go
to my head! I think we have got significant leverage for the investment
we have made in the last five years, however I put in a couple
of points. First, we should not over-egg the pudding. If you look
at the international league tables, we should not pretend that
somehow we are spending vast sums more than comparable countries.
I cannot remember the exact figures but we are now approaching
the G7 average I think for education expenditure. So let's keep
a sense of proportion. In historical terms there has been more
or less double the increase which was the historical average.
Does that make up for 30 or 40 years where the increase was half
what it is now? No, it does not. The second thing to say is, we
have been digging ourselves out from some deep holes in the last
five years and we have had some success in doing that, but what
we now have to focus on is the reform for the next five years.
I hope some of that will be continuity, but the hardest thing
in public policy is to get step change while you get incremental
improvement. If you look at any organisation in the private sector,
it has to keep on doing its core business. If you are a local
council, you have to keep on emptying the bins while at the same
time demanding community leadership. If you are in business you
have to keep on delivering the bottom line while you are thinking
about your long-term strategy. That is also true for the Department
for Education. We have to keep on doing the business and helping
teachers do the business day in day out in schools around the
country, while at the same time fashioning the step change. You
need reform to oil the wheels of that.
662. The private sector recognise that very
well because if a private sector company is going to maintain
its position and market share, it knows it has to invest in what
they do well all the time, plus they have to invest in future
products and innovation. What worries me sometimes about the Department
you now have a senior role in is, to give you a comparison, you
have just now said, "What a good idea, I am going to go into
universities and higher education, which is not my remit",
and all of us felt a warm glow of agreement with what you said
about the role of universities. But we have had ministers come
before this Committee and we have had a lot of evidence before
this Committee which absolutely speaks with one voice on this,
the real role which universities can play, but it does not come
cheap. It cannot be done out of current resources. When we as
a Select Committee went to the United States what we saw was where
that is done well it is done professionally, and that means hiring
people of a high professional calibre and giving them a remit
to do it, and it does not come on the side, a little bit added
on to what universities for example do. In a sense, what I am
saying to you is, the obligation is to come back and say, "Yes,
we want this to happen but we are willing to put resources in
to make it happen."
(Mr Miliband) I hope I can do that, although I think
it would be wrong to say I could come back to you on all the things
that give us a warm glow and say we are going to do them all.
The easy thing is to say yes; the hard thing is to say no. We
will have to say no to things which are perfectly good projects
but we are going to be saying no because we really want to pile
in behind things that we think are going to make the most difference.
If we can be in that dialogue where we are trading evidence about
what is going to make the difference and discussing where resource
should be best spent, that seems to me to be a really productive
dialogue where we would not all be saying we would like to do
everything, but we are saying there is a resource constraint.
We are saying with the best will in the world, money spent on
X means you cannot spend it on Y and we want to spend it to maximum
effect. That is a really good agenda. One of the things that is
most important for me is, if we come back to where we started,
which is about values, objectives and priorities, I want to be
at the stage where everything that is done within the Schools
Directorate is directly linked to raising standards. There should
not be anyone who comes into work in the Schools Directorate who
is not thinking about higher standards, whether they are in the
teaching division or the ICT division or the schools capital division
or the funding division. They should feel in the end that what
counts is not their hermetically sealed unit but the bigger goal
of raising standards and that is where you get an organisation
that is about innovation, drive and high expectations, and I think
that is what we are trying to do.
663. That also comes back to how we started
in terms of your opening remarks about the high quality of civil
servants in your Department and that you are not a manager. It
is going to be very important that you make sure the quality of
the management you have in your Department gives you the right
answers and certainly gives you the right information in order
to make decisions because just before you came in Lord Puttnam
was explaining to us how the legislation was right about the General
Teaching Council, the commitment was right and the ministerial
commitment was there but when it actually came to it the civil
servants did not really believe in it and it was a botched piece
of legislation. It has taken a lot of work to get right because
the civil servants were not convinced of the necessity of a GTC.
So we are putting in your mind, Minister, that it is not only
going to be about wanting things to happen; it is making sure
you have got the people. Do you think you are up to the job?
(Mr Miliband) We will find out. My motto is "under-promise;
over-deliver". Let's see if we can stick to that.
Chairman: Thank you for your attendance.