Ben Bradshaw

Working Hard for Exeter

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On EU Referendum debate

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Does not my hon. Friend’s point show, as does the fact that hon. Members are now restricted to just three minutes per speech, how outrageous it is that the Government are allocating just three days for detailed scrutiny of the most important Bill this country has faced in our lifetimes?

On the National Funding Formula

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

4. What representations she has received on the effect of the proposed funding formula on schools in Devon; and if she will make a statement. [908589]

The Minister for School Standards (Mr Nick Gibb)

We received 6,000 responses to the first stage of the consultation on the national funding formula, which sets out the principles and factors to be used in the formula. We continue to receive representations on the second stage of the consultation, which closes on 22 March. Our proposals for funding reform will mean that schools will, for the first time, receive a consistent and fair share of the schools budget, addressing the anachronistic unfair funding system that has been in place since 2005.

Mr Bradshaw

Exeter schools already suffer a double whammy—they are in one of the lowest funded counties in England, and they have to subsidise the high cost of providing school transport and keeping open small rural schools—yet the new funding formula will actually make them worse off. How will the Minister explain that to my constituents and to the schools themselves?

Mr Gibb

In Devon, as a result of the new funding formula and on the basis of the figures for 2016-17, school funding would rise from £377.2 million to £378.7 million, an increase of 0.4%. In the right hon. Gentleman’s Exeter constituency, there will be no overall change in the level of funding, although there will of course be changes between schools. Whenever we introduce a new national formula and illustrate it on the basis of the current year’s figures—in this case, 2016-17—some schools will inevitably gain and others will lose. Overall, 54% of schools across the country will gain under the new national funding formula.

On Russian Interference

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

What did the Prime Minister say to her fellow European leaders about her assessment of the Trump-Putin relationship, and specifically about Russian interference in western democracies, including our own?

The Prime Minister

Concern has been expressed both at this Council meeting and at others about the role that Russia is playing, in a number of ways, with its interference.

On the EMA

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

The Health Secretary told the Health Committee the other day that he had already thrown in the towel on the EMA—that we were leaving it and giving up the headquarters in London, along with hundreds of jobs, meaning far slower approval of vital drugs in this country and the loss of all our influence and all those jobs.

Chris Leslie

Yes, and, again, we have heard no strategic alternatives from the Government and have no idea what their plan will be.

On NHS Funding

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Is it not a coincidence that, whenever we hear about disastrous figures for NHS performance and a huge deterioration in waiting times, as we did at the weekend, the Government re-announce yet another measure to crack down on health tourism? Is not the main problem with our health and social care system the fact that it is chronically underfunded, and that this Government are doing nothing about it?

Mr Hunt

I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what we are doing about the underfunding. We are raising three times more from international visitors than when he was a Health Minister, and that is paying for doctors, nurses and better care for older people in his constituency and in all our constituencies.

On EU Negotiations

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I welcome, as my hon. and learned Friend does, the concession from the Government Benches, but does he agree that, as well as the timing, it is the scope of that vote that will be absolutely vital? As the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) says, if we are faced with a choice ​between a hard Brexit and World Trade Organisation rules, that is no choice—the Government will have to go back and renegotiate.

Keir Starmer

At the moment, I agree that we should have as big a say as possible on all of this, but I do not want to understate what has been conceded in the last 10 minutes. I do take the point, but where we have made significant progress on scrutiny and accountability, we should recognise where we have got to.

On EU Withdrawal

Mr Bradshaw

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for tabling and speaking to this new clause, which I think is important in view of the concerns expressed on all sides of the Committee about the so-called concession offered earlier by the Government Front-Bench team. Will my hon. Friend confirm that she will press her new clause to a vote?

Helen Goodman

I may wish to test the will of the Committee on this new clause when we reach the end of the debate.​
I think most rational people would say that the new relationship is more important than the terms of withdrawal.

On EU Withdrawal Debates

Mr Bradshaw

Does that not make it even more important for the House of Lords to take its time to consider everything that we have not been able to discuss here, and indeed much of what we have?

I do not wish to give advice to the other place, because it is possible to get into trouble if we do that. I simply say that it is fortunate for democracy and accountability that there is an opportunity for the other place to give more consideration and time to these matters, without being subjected to programme motions in the same way as we are.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to these amendments. I shall support new clause 2 and a number of other amendments, but particularly my amendment 29.

Commons Interventions 1st - 9th February 2017

On EU Referendum debate Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) Does not my hon. Friend’s point show, as does the fact that hon. Members are now restricted to just three minutes...

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

On 23 June, the British public voted to leave the European Union. Leaving the single market and the customs union was not on the ballot paper, and nor was the even worse option of falling back on World Trade Organisation rules, yet that is what this Conservative Government are now pursuing with no mandate.

Yesterday, the Centre for Cities published a report showing that Exeter, which voted remain, is the most dependent community in Britain on exports to the rest of the European Union. We send 70% of what we export to other EU countries and just 7% to the United States. My neighbouring city of Plymouth, which voted leave, is second on that list, sending 68% of its exports to the European Union. The south-west of England as a whole is the most dependent region in the United Kingdom on exports to the rest of the EU.

Full and unfettered access to the single market is crucial to thousands of businesses and the people whom they employ in my constituency and the south-west of England. Falling back on WTO rules would mean tariffs of up to 51% on the goods that we currently export, as well as tariffs on imports, which would put up prices in the shops even higher for the hard-pressed consumer.

Let us be clear that there is no going back once article 50 is triggered. Unless there is a successful challenge to the current interpretation, this is a one-way street out of the EU to the hardest of hard Brexits.

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)

I have the greatest respect for the right hon. Gentleman, who is making his argument powerfully, but does he not believe that the time for such arguments was during the referendum campaign and that now we should focus on a positive future using our entrepreneurial flair, our trading skills and our inventiveness to make a success of what lies before us?

Mr Bradshaw

Yes, that was the time for arguing the principle. This is the time for arguing about the type of Brexit that we believe is in the best interests of our country. I am afraid that some of my colleagues are clinging to the straw of the vote that the Government have promised on any deal at the end of the two-year negotiation process, yet the Government have made it absolutely clear that the only choice will be between their hard Brexit and WTO rules. This could be our only chance to prevent the hardest of Brexits or to soften its blow, and I cannot and will not vote to destroy jobs and prosperity in my constituency.​

I fully accept that it is easier for me to vote against article 50 because my constituency voted remain. I have been overwhelmed by the support for my position that I have received from my constituents and Labour party members, but I completely understand that some colleagues, particularly those in areas that voted heavily to leave, will find it more difficult to do this. In the end, however, as the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) so ably reminded us, we are elected representatives who are called upon to use our own judgment about what is in the best interests of our constituencies and the country. Do we really believe that cutting ourselves off from our closest friends and main trading partners will hurt or help our constituents and our country? Do we honestly think it is in our national interests to hitch ourselves instead to this American President? We will all be judged in the future on how we voted on this Bill.

Finally, let me say that I am disappointed and saddened by the decision of my party’s leadership to try to force Labour MPs to support this Tory Bill. Even more, I regret that we are being whipped to vote to curtail our detailed debate to just three days—and this on the biggest issue of our lifetimes, which will have repercussions for generations to come. Scores of amendments to this Bill have been tabled, yet there is no chance of most of them being debated or voted upon. The situation is completely unacceptable and this is a dereliction of our duty as parliamentarians and as an Opposition.

Mr Winnick

rose—

Mr Bradshaw

If my hon. Friend does not mind, I will finish now.

I will therefore vote against the Government’s programme motion to curtail debate. For the first time in nearly 20 years in this place, I will be voting against my party’s three-line whip on a Bill. In doing so, I am reflecting what I believe to be the majority view of those who elected me, and the view of millions of others in Britain who oppose this Government’s choice to pursue the worst and most destructive form of Brexit, and all the negative consequences that that will bring.

Article 50 Speech

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) On 23 June, the British public voted to leave the European Union. Leaving the single market and the customs union was not on the ballot...

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I congratulate the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir Hugo Swire) on securing this debate. However, although it is very important that we discuss and focus on the Government’s new proposed funding formula and its impact on Devon, we should not lose sight of the big picture, which is that funding for all schools in England will fall dramatically in this Parliament. The National Audit Office has confirmed that by 2020 English schools will suffer overall a cut of 8% in real terms in their funding.

As the right hon. Member has already said, huge expectations were raised when the Government said they would consult on the new formula. At the time, I warned Ministers in a meeting with them that changing any funding formula when overall funding levels are falling is a risky business, because it inevitably creates more losers than winners. My assessment of what is being proposed for Devon rather mirrors that of the right hon. Gentleman, namely that we are just fiddling around the edges here. Overall, Devon would gain a tiny amount—a 0.38% rise in overall schools funding—but many schools would lose out. As he has already pointed out, that minuscule improvement would be more than wiped out by the cost to our schools of the increase in the apprenticeship levy, although that is only a 0.5% increase and is dwarfed by the overall cut of 8% in school funding in this Parliament that I referred to a moment ago.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about a “triple whammy”. If Devon faces a triple whammy, Exeter will suffer a quadruple whammy, because—like many cities in shire counties—we are already at a double disadvantage. Devon schools are already among the worst funded in England, receiving £270 per pupil less than the England average, but Exeter schools lose out even more badly because they subsidise the huge cost of providing school transport in a largely rural county and the cost of keeping open small rural schools. Two of my high schools, St James School and Isca Academy, have each lost £300,000 a year since 2014.​
Despite Exeter’s position, under the Government’s new proposed formula we will lose out by 0.14%. All the Government seem to be proposing for my constituency is to take money away from primary schools, the majority of which would lose out in the new formula, to give a tiny bit more to most, but not all, of my high schools. That is not robbing Peter to pay Paul; it is more like robbing Peter to pay Peter. The overall impact will be that by 2020 the average student in Exeter will suffer a £420 cut in annual funding compared with 2015-16, and that is after seven years of coalition and Conservative Government. That will have very serious consequences for children’s education in my constituency.

Two of my primary schools in the least well-off parts of Exeter will actually lose funding. I have been told by a headteacher that one primary school in Exeter is planning to move to class sizes of 45 to cope with the funding squeeze. Under the Labour Government, we got class sizes down to a maximum of 30. We are losing teaching assistants, school counsellors and support for children with complex and special needs at a time when the Government claim they are concerned by the deterioration in young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Since the Labour Governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown invested significant extra resources in all our schools, attainment in Exeter’s schools has risen significantly. We have also benefited from five brand-new high schools, which replaced the dilapidated schools that I inherited in 1997, and new and improved primary schools. That has given a huge boost to the life chances of my constituents’ children, and that progress has been maintained despite the funding freeze since 2010. However, that quality will not survive the sort of cuts our schools now face. As the right hon. Gentleman has already said, Conservative-run Devon County Council is proposing to raid the schools budget even further, to the tune of £2.22 million, because of the big deficit it faces in the budget for children with special needs. I am sure we all agree that Devon must fulfil its legal obligation to some of our most vulnerable young people, but that will mean a further cut of £33 per pupil cut to schools funding across the county.

There is widespread reporting in the media and discussion in this place about the crisis in our health and social care system, but we are also seeing the beginning of if not a crisis, then a serious deterioration in education. We have a recruitment, retention and teacher morale crisis, even in an attractive place like Devon, where people like to live and work. But the Government, as the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged, focus on irrelevancies, such as their ideological obsession with free schools, forced academisation and the reintroduction of selection. I hope that we see real opposition from Devon’s Conservative MPs to some of those damaging Government policies, rather than just warm words. They should stand up and fight for the interests of Devon’s children and families and vote against their Government’s damaging policies.

School Funding Speech

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) I congratulate the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir Hugo Swire) on securing this debate. However, although it is very important that we discuss...

Today I told the Express and Echo that I would vote against Article 50 - you can read my full comments here.

Article 50 Ruling

Today I told the Express and Echo that I would vote against Article 50 - you can read my full comments here.

On Aleppo:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

The shadow Foreign Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), said that what is happening in Syria shames the Assad regime, Iran and Russia; it shames all of us in this House and every political party in this country. It shames the democratic world, the United States, and the United Nations, and if we do not do anything about it—let us not kid ourselves that Assad will stop here; Idlib will be next—that will be the end of the rules-based global order we thought we ​had achieved after the horrors of Srebrenica, with all the grave consequences that will entail for our future peace and security.

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Bradshaw

I will not give way for the moment.

There have been so many missed opportunities. As the former Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Tatton (Mr Osborne), said in his excellent speech, many people across the world have been calling for action against Assad since he started slaughtering his own people five years ago. In August 2013, after the international outrage at his use of chemical weapons, we had the chance, but we blew it; the Conservatives blew it, we blew it—every political party in this House blew it. The former Chancellor was absolutely right when he said that that had a direct impact on what the United States did then, with President Obama fatally withdrawing from the red line he had drawn on the use of chemical weapons, with absolutely horrendous consequences, not just now in Syria, but for the future of our world to come.

At any stage since that calamity, the Government could have come back to this House with proposals for safe areas, no-fly zones and, most recently, aid drops, but they did not. Just two weeks ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury made it quite clear that we would support airdrops. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), hid behind the excuse of not having parliamentary authority, but he did not even seek it, which has been a pattern of this Government over the past few years. As a desperate aid worker told the BBC yesterday, it might now be too late.

We now have the disgusting spectacle of a combination of far right and far left from around the world, united only in their contempt for democracy and human rights, celebrating what they call a “liberation”. Why do we constantly forget the lessons of appeasement, whether from the 1930s or more recently from the Balkans? Statements on Syria from Conservative Ministers have sounded just like the ones I remember from when they were dealing—or not dealing—with Milosevic as he rampaged through Bosnia. When will we understand that dictators such as Assad and Putin only respect strength and the credible threat or use of force? When will we realise that Russia’s strategy is to weaken and divide the free world and that driving the biggest refugee flows into Europe since world war two is a deliberate part of that plan? When will we admit that Putin is already achieving what he cannot achieve militarily through cyber-warfare and propaganda?

The motion that we are debating is welcome, but it is pathetic. It refers to the House considering “international action” in Aleppo. There will no international action, because there is no political will, either here or in the other countries where such will is necessary.

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab)

Is my right hon. Friend as anxious as I am? With Putin and Russia linked to interference in the American election, with the bombing of Syria leading to a refugee crisis in Europe and with many central European countries looking inward, like we are, Putin’s expansionist tendencies and ​desire for a warm port should make the Foreign Secretary think carefully about the actions from this point on onwards.

Mr Bradshaw

I completely agree. We have not even begun to wake up to Russia’s cyber-warfare. Its interference in the American presidential elections is now proven. It probably interfered in our own referendum—we do not have the evidence for that yet, but it is highly probable. It will certainly be involved in the French presidential election. There are already serious concerns in the German secret service that Russia is already interfering in the upcoming elections. We have to wake up to this, but when?

Finally, the tragedy today is the tragedy of the benighted people of Aleppo issuing desperate, and probably futile, last-minute appeals for help to the outside world. The tragedy tomorrow will be all of ours for failing to stop this happening and for the consequences. Shame on us.

On Russia:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Did the Prime Minister discuss with fellow leaders interference by Russia in the political processes of western democracies, including our own, through the use of propaganda and cyber? What action is she taking to investigate what may already have happened in this country, and what is she doing to prevent it from happening in future?

The Prime Minister

I think that everyone is aware of the way in which Russia is currently operating, and of the more aggressive stance that it is taking in a number of respects. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not expect me to go into detail about how we look at these matters, particularly cyber-related matters—which were mentioned earlier by the right hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson)—but I assure him that we take the issue of state-sponsored intervention and cyber attacks very seriously indeed.

On NHS Funding:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I associate myself with the Secretary of State’s comments about Berlin, my one-time home.

Does the Secretary of State accept that we have the best clinical leaders anywhere in the world? The challenge facing the NHS is not one of clinical leadership, or the dedication or skill of staff, but one of chronic underfunding by this Conservative Government.

Mr Hunt

We do indeed have superb clinical leaders, such as Marianne Griffiths at Worthing, which was recently given an outstanding rating. We also have superb non-clinical leaders, such as David Dalton at Salford Royal. I would gently say to the right hon. Gentleman that if he is worried about funding, why did he stand in the election on a platform that would have seen the NHS have £1.3 billion less this year?

On the NHS:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

The Secretary of State seems to be blaming the public for overwhelming A&E departments, when he well knows that the reason they go to A&E is that they cannot get to see their GP and social care is in crisis. Will he confirm that he has just announced another significant watering-down of the four-hour A&E target, following the watering-down by the coalition in their first year in office back in 2010? What is he personally doing to address the chronic long-term underperformance of hospitals, such as that at Worcester, where two people died on trolleys, and Plymouth, which is one of the hospitals that had to call in the Red Cross over the Christmas period?

Mr Hunt

I think—probably because of the forum we are in now—the right hon. Gentleman is misinterpreting what I have said, and it needs to be put right. Far from watering down the four-hour target, I have today recommitted the Government to that four-hour target. In just the answer before he spoke—maybe he was not listening—I actually said I thought it was one of the best things about the NHS that we have this four-hour promise. But the public will go to the place where it is easiest to get in front of a doctor quickly, and if we do not recognise that there is an issue with the fact that a number of people who do not need to go to A&Es are using them, and we do not try to address that problem, we will not make A&Es better for his constituents and mine. If he asks what we are doing to turn around hospitals in difficulty, we have introduced the new Care Quality Commission inspection regime and a chief inspector of hospitals—the most rigorous inspection regime in the world, which the Labour party tried to vote down.

Latest Commons Interventions

On Aleppo: Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) The shadow Foreign Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), said that what is happening in Syria...


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