Ben Bradshaw

Working Hard for Exeter

Blog

Disclaimer: I am not currently an MP, as Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election.

Disclaimer

Disclaimer: I am not currently an MP, as Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election.

My personal manifesto to the people of Exeter - read online here.

My Latest Echo Column

My personal manifesto to the people of Exeter - read online here.

I always predicted that Mrs May, despite her public statements to the contrary, would call an early election. With a working majority and no discernible public clamour for an unnecessary early election, she is acting, as always, in the interests of the Conservative Party, rather than those of the country. If an election is approved by Parliament, I shall relish the fight. I shall be campaigning on my record as MP for Exeter and the sole opposition voice to the Conservatives in the Westcountry. It is vital for the health of any democracy to have an effective opposition, particularly at a time when the Conservative Government is pursuing a damaging hard Brexit and our public services are facing their worst crises in a generation.

General Election Statement

I always predicted that Mrs May, despite her public statements to the contrary, would call an early election. With a working majority and no discernible public clamour for an unnecessary...

On EU nationals in the NHS

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

It will take many years for the doctors the Secretary of State has just talked about to come on stream, and we have a workforce crisis in the NHS now, partly because of the cuts the Government made in the last Parliament, but also because of their irrational pursuit of the hardest of Brexits. He could do something very simple today to address this crisis in the short term, and that is to announce that all EU nationals who do vital work in our NHS will be able to stay when we leave the European Union.

​Mr Hunt

The one simple thing the Government are not going to do is refuse to listen to what the British people said when they voted on 23 June. We will do what they said—it is the right thing to do. However, the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight the vital role that the around 10,000 EU doctors in the NHS play in this country. I can reassure him that the number of doctors joining the NHS from the EU was higher in the four months following the referendum result than in the same four months the previous year.

On Russia

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Are the Government or any other public agency in Britain investigating whether laundered Russian money was channelled to any individuals in either the leave campaign or the Trump presidential campaign? Is the Minister aware of any other investigations?

Simon Kirby

I make it clear that I am not aware of any connection. It is right and proper that the FCA and the NCA have been watching that issue for some time. It is a confidential matter; if there is new information, I am sure they will consider it.

On President Trump

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

But what damage is done by fantastical and ridiculous outbursts like those levelled at GCHQ by President Trump? Will the Foreign Secretary assure the House that our invaluable intelligence relationship with the United States is not compromised by the current incumbent of the White House?

Boris Johnson

The damage done by such remarks can be likened to that of a gnat against a rhinoceros or an elephant. They will not make any difference to a fundamental relationship that is, as I say, of great international importance. As for the assertion that there was some sort of collusion by GCHQ to bug the presidential candidate, I think that has been accurately described as absurd and ridiculous.

On HIV treatment

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer) on securing this debate, on his all-party group’s excellent report and, indeed, on all the work he does on HIV and AIDS. I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and declare an interest: I am a trustee of the Terrence Higgins Trust.

The hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green is absolutely right, as is his report, on the impact of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 passed in the previous Parliament. I am sure the Minister has read not only his APPG’s report but the Health Committee report that we published last year on public health in general and the impact of that 2012 legislation on the delivery of public health, and particularly the delivery of sexual health and HIV services across the country.

The hon. Gentleman is right that in our report, we identified a number of problems and challenges with the new landscape and commissioning structure. We heard from people up and down the country in evidence—HIV/AIDS organisations, those who work in sexual health, consultants and virtually everyone else—that ​the area that has been hit most negatively by the Health and Social Care Act and the changes in commissioning arrangements are HIV services and sexual health services more generally. We all have our own ideas of why that might be the case. Although the jury is still out about the decision to pass the responsibility for public health to local authorities, there were concerns expressed at the time of the Health and Social Care Act—some of us warned the then Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley—about the potential impact of giving local authorities the responsibility for HIV support and other sexual health services, but I am afraid those concerns were not listened to. I hope the Minister will explain to hon. Members and to the country at large what monitoring the Government have been doing on the impact of the Act on services and what measures or action the Government will take as a result of anything they find.

Dr Poulter

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. Does he agree one the challenge is the fact that local authorities are now commissioning the provision of health services in complete isolation from many of the other HIV and associated services? That is very different from our general understanding of public health at the core of the Act—it is a fault.

Mr Bradshaw

I completely agree with that point. The different commissioning responsibilities for different bits of sexual health and HIV and AIDS are all over the place. On top of that, although the Government can, with some justification, claim to have protected NHS spending in cash terms if not in real terms, they cannot claim to have done that when it comes to public health, which has taken significant cuts and will continue to take significant cuts over the next few years. Of course, those cuts are being imposed on local government. As the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members know, local government faces huge financial challenges across the piece. There is also the threat of the withdrawal of the ring fence on public health funding in the next two or three years. In our report we made it clear that we thought that was a risky move indeed.

I do not want to repeat a lot of what was said by the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green, who made a comprehensive and excellent speech, but I hope the Minister will explain to us what monitoring the Government are doing on the impact. What will they do in response both to the concerns raised and the recommendations of the all-party group report and our Select Committee report to address the problems? We have known about them for some time—our report is now more than a year old.

The news about PrEP is very welcome, but will the Minster clarify the timing of the commencement of the trial? While we are on the subject, another potentially welcome development is the big fall-off in HIV presentations or positive tests at some of the London clinics in the past few months, which some people suggest may be to do with the availability of PrEP. Can the Minister tell us whether she has made an assessment as to whether that is the case, in which case it is a promising development indeed?

Finally, one of the things that concerns me is the plight of older people living with HIV and AIDS. Around a third of the people in Britain now living with HIV and AIDS are over 50. About 60% of them live at ​or below the poverty line. When many of them were originally diagnosed, they did not expect to have a long life expectancy, but they are still here thanks to the fantastic treatment and care that has been invented and developed, which has not only helped to keep people alive but enabled them to lead lives of reasonable quality. Back when they were diagnosed, they may have been less cautious about spending their money to get by at that time, and now they find themselves hopefully with many years stretching ahead and no more means at their disposal, so there is a particular challenge when it comes to older people living with HIV and AIDS. That will require the Department of Health to work more closely with the Department for Work and Pensions. Some of the people that my charity—the Terrence Higgins Trust—deals with face problems when it comes to benefits and benefits sanctions. Those sorts of things add extra pressure and misery to the challenges that people living with HIV already face.

On Article 50

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

In her letter and again in her statement today, the Prime Minister has made it clear that she believes it will be necessary to agree the terms of the divorce alongside the details of our future relationship with the European Union. If the other 27 come back in their reply and say that they want to agree the terms of the divorce first, including the issues of citizenship rights, our liabilities and borders, particularly with Northern Ireland, how will she respond?

The Prime Minister

We will go into a negotiation with the European Union about the best way to take these issues forward. I have been putting forward the case, as have other Ministers, that it makes sense from a pragmatic point of view to ensure that at the end of the two years, we have both of these decisions concluded, namely the withdrawal process and the future relationship. That is because I do not think it is in anybody’s interest for the UK to agree withdrawal, withdraw and go on to one set of arrangements, subsequently having to negotiate another set of arrangements that come into place at a later date. It makes much better sense—for individuals, for businesses and indeed for Governments—to conclude those two parts of the negotiation at the same time.

Commons Interventions 21st - 29th March

On EU nationals in the NHS Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) It will take many years for the doctors the Secretary of State has just talked about to come on...

On the Bishops' Report

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

8. What discussions she has had with Church leaders on the vote by the General Synod to reject the bishops’ report on human sexuality; and if she will make a statement. [909032]

Dame Caroline Spelman

The majority of members of the General Synod voted to take note of the report of the House of Bishops, but the motion did not pass because a small majority was against it in the House of Clergy. Following that, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a statement committing them to find a way forward.

Mr Bradshaw

Was it not very significant that it was the clergy, who are in the frontline of providing pastoral care to their parishioners, who voted down the bishops’ paper? Is it not increasingly untenable for our Church, which enjoys significant privileges in this country because of its established status, to continue to discriminate against its own members simply because they happen to be gay?

Dame Caroline Spelman

There was a narrow margin in the House of Clergy vote—93 in favour of taking note to 100 against—but a majority is required in all Houses. The way forward, as outlined by the archbishops, is that the pastoral oversight group led by the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rev. Christine Hardman, will now work on how to be as generous as possible to welcome all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people into the Church and to include them in the work of the pastoral oversight group.

On the fishing industry

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

The Secretary of State knows that our fish processing industry is more important to our economy than the catching sector, and that it is very dependent on imports. We export more than 80% of what we catch, so is not maintaining tariff-free and other barrier-free access to the single European market more important than sterile arguments about fishing rights that could result in battles or worse?

​Andrea Leadsom

I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. Our fishing communities around the UK provide a vital vibrancy to local communities and the rural economy, so I do not agree with the suggestion that processing is somehow far more important. We will seek the freest possible access to European markets, but when I was in China last year I signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese worth £50 million, which included UK seafood. It will be very important for us to be able to find new export markets.

On a posthumous levy on estates

Mr Bradshaw

Will the Minister clarify the Government’s position on the idea of a posthumous levy on estates? The Chancellor ruled that out, yet we read in the newspapers that the Prime Minister slapped him down over that. Are the Government ruling it out or not?

Mr Dunne

I will not pre-empt anything in the Green Paper, and it is not for me to give the right hon. Gentleman any comfort on discussions that might or might not have happened around the Budget.

We recognise that the NHS and social care face huge pressures and that there is more for us as a Government to do. However, we can be confident that we have plans in place both to cope with the pressures that we currently face—winter, A&E pressures and delayed discharges—and to sustain the system for the future. We have a long-term plan in place through the “Five Year Forward View” and the efficiency work being undertaken and rolled out progressively this year. We have given extra funding to both the NHS and social care to support those plans, and we have plans to bring forward a Green Paper on social care. I am pleased that that was broadly welcomed and recognised by hon. Members and distinguished parliamentarians in the debate, and I am grateful for that support.​

Commons Interventions 2nd - 14th March

On the Bishops' Report Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) 8. What discussions she has had with Church leaders on the vote by the General Synod to reject the bishops’ report...

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I think there is a consensus in Westminster Hall, informed by multiple Select Committee reports that have highlighted the crisis in our health and social care system. My clinical commissioning group is facing a £40 million deficit. My local hospital, which is one of the best run in the country, is facing a £20 million deficit. It is obvious that that simply is not sustainable.

As other colleagues have pointed out, accident and emergency figures are deteriorating, waiting times are lengthening and there are increasing difficulties in seeing a GP. In Devon, we face controversial plans to close community hospital beds and to close a number of community hospitals completely. That is not an accident; it is the result of seven years of the most stringent restraint on NHS investment in its history, combined with 40% cuts to social care when we have a growing elderly population and increasing demand. The issue was exacerbated by the disastrous Lansley reforms in the Health and Social Care Act 2012—the biggest structural upheaval in the NHS’s history— implemented at the same time as maximum spending restraint.

As well as that organisational upheaval, we face a workforce crisis in health and social care, as the Chair of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) pointed out. That has been exacerbated by the uncertainty over Brexit. Until recently, the Government have appeared pretty oblivious to all that. The £2 billion extra in the Budget was welcome, but it is a drop in the ocean compared with the amount of money that is needed.

I welcome the commitment in the Green Paper to look root and branch at a sustainable funding solution for health and social care. I worry, however, that a Green Paper is often a euphemism for kicking an issue into the green grass. I would like to see a policy announcement or a White Paper. As colleagues have pointed out, we have had much cross-party support. One proposal was scuppered in the run-up to the last general election. I worry that to grapple with the issue in the second half of a Parliament is not sensible timing. Governments need to get a grip on the issue at the beginning of a Parliament so that there is maximum time for cross-party working to get something in place. I am not optimistic that the Green Paper will come to a conclusion.

We also need to have an honest conversation with the British public about how we fund health and social care. I share Members’ regret that the Chancellor seems to have ruled out any sort of posthumous levy on people’s estates. We need to look at all options, including the excellent sugar tax that was recommended by our Select Committee. It is already having a dramatic effect in getting drinks manufacturers to reduce the sugar in their products and therefore improve public health.

Finally, we would like the Government to end the uncertainty over EU nationals working here in our health and social care system. They could do that today when the Prime Minister stands up in the House and gives her statement on article 50. That would give a huge boost to morale and end the uncertainty. People are already leaving, and the system is not able to recruit. That workforce crisis will do more damage in the short term than anything else.​

Health and Social Care Speech

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) I think there is a consensus in Westminster Hall, informed by multiple Select Committee reports that have highlighted the crisis in our health and social...

On diesel emissions:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

The penalty is going to be the millions of pounds of fines faced by our constituents because of the Government’s failure to act. When are we going to hear about some practical action from the Government to reduce the number of diesel vehicles? The Minister has not answered the question. Air pollution is the second biggest avoidable killer after smoking.

​Mr Hayes

Let us be clear: we have made real progress to date. In 2016, the UK was the largest market for ultra-low emission vehicles in the EU and a global leader in this development.

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, in the spirit of bipartisan generosity that characterises all he does in the House, will welcome the announcement in the autumn statement setting out a further £290 million of funding for ultra-low emission vehicles. He says that he wants action, but what more action does he want than the policy, the legislation and the resources—we are taking action. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is feeling grumpy because it is Thursday morning, but he really ought to welcome that.

On Jamal al-Harith:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

It is not good enough for the Minister, as the Prime Minister’s official spokesman did yesterday, simply to hide behind intelligence as an excuse for not answering the most basic questions about this dreadful case, so let me try a policy question: what assessment has he made of the impact of the ​coalition Government’s disastrous decision to scrap Labour’s control orders and his ability to monitor people like this?

Mr Wallace

The right hon. Gentleman forgets the position of Labour’s control orders before the courts. Funnily enough, as I pointed out earlier, his Government did not seem to have quite the right regard for the Human Rights Act 1998 or the rule of law that they should and were constantly seeing their measures struck down. We do believe that TPIMs are a good policy—one of the tools in the toolbox to enable us to monitor these people. We will use them wherever we can and whenever we need to do so, to make sure that we do everything to keep people who pose a threat under control. So far, we have not abandoned them or failed to use them when the need presents itself.

On NHS SBS:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I raised my concerns about the contracting out of the patient record service to SBS back in 2011, and I was told by the Secretary of State’s predecessor that this was about saving money. Will he tell us how much money has been saved, given all the problems, and how many of the 708,000 patients affected are in the south-west?

Mr Hunt

The south-west was one of the regions affected, as I mentioned in my statement. I am happy to write to the right hon. Gentleman to tell him exactly how many patients I think were affected in the south-west. I gently say to him that the use of the private sector was championed when his Government were in office and when he was a Health Minister. I know that this is not ​very fashionable in his party at the moment, but on this side of the House, we think that if we want the NHS to be the safest and best in the world, we should be open—

On cider duty:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

When considering beer duty, will the Minister maintain, or at least not further erode, the differential with cider duty? Labour’s lower cider duty has led to a fantastic renaissance in both cider drinking and orchard planting in England, but if the differential is narrowed any further I am afraid it will do untold damage to our cider makers.

Jane Ellison

I am well aware of the sensitivities around the duty bands, on which we have received a number of representations, and of the renaissance not just in the industry to which the right hon. Gentleman refers but, for example, in respect of the number of microbreweries and the flourishing investment in that area. There have been a number of good news stories in this sector in recent years.

Commons Interventions 23rd - 28th February

On diesel emissions: Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) The penalty is going to be the millions of pounds of fines faced by our constituents because of the Government’s failure to...

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...

Liquid syntax error: Error in tag 'subpage' - No such page slug cookies