Education and Health

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 5:21 pm on 2nd June 2010.

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Shadow Secretary of State for Education 5:21 pm, 2nd June 2010

I am happy to get into robust debates and look forward to seeing the hon. Gentleman defend his coalition, but between 1979 and 1997 the party that he is now propping up in government saw child poverty double. From 1997, we had one of the fastest falls in child poverty of any country in the developed world because we prioritised money going to tax credits, which the Conservative party is now putting into question, and his party as well. We will wait and see what the record shows when his party has had a chance to make a few decisions, but I am a bit of a sceptic about what it will do for child poverty.

Let me come back to money, because, as I said, without the promise of extra and rising resources, not just this year but next year and the year after, I do not see, on the basis of my experience, how it is possible for the new Government to fund free schools and more academies without cutting deep into the budgets of existing schools to pay for it. Even with the settlement that I negotiated, which had within it £1 billion of efficiency savings passed to the front line, it was tough for us to be sure that we would protect front-line staff, and that was before the new schools, the new academies and the thousands of extra places that the Secretary of State wants to finance, and even before the pupil premium, which I understood was to be paid for by abolishing the child trust fund, but that has now been used to cut the deficit, so that is one source of money that has been taken away from the right hon. Gentleman.

My first question therefore is where will the money come from? We have already seen parents, teachers and head teachers throughout the country planning for long-awaited new school buildings. I have lost count in the last two weeks of the number of Members, not just from my side of the House, asking what will happen to the Building Schools for the Future programme and the months of work, the thousands of pounds spent and the raised expectations in 700-plus schools that thought they were getting their new school and now find that it is at risk. We had no reassurance today from the right hon. Gentleman or in Prime Minister's questions from the Prime Minister about the future of those new school building plans. All we have heard so far from the Secretary of State is a promise of £670 million of cuts from his Department this year to help reduce the deficit in 2010-11. Even then, he provided almost no details.

When I set out efficiency savings in March, I specified the £300 million I had found and said that I needed to find more. So far there has been no statement to the House and no details have been set out. There are hints of cuts to school transport through the local government line and to one-to-one tuition, but there is no detail at all. This is not good enough. The right hon. Gentleman is in government. It is he who must answer the questions now when he is making these big policy announcements. In passing, we would also like to know-we will ask this at Question Time next Monday-how the £1.2 billion of in-year cuts to local government services this year will impact upon vital children's services such as child social work, libraries and looked-after children.