Education Bill

Part of BBC Licence Fee Payers (Voting Rights) – in the House of Commons at 4:02 pm on 8th February 2011.

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Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Education 4:02 pm, 8th February 2011

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

What a pleasure it is to appear before you, Mr Speaker, for the third time within 24 hours.

The Bill is a response to three specific challenges that our country faces in this the second decade of the 21st century-the challenge of how to respond to an economic crisis, the challenge of how to respond to the scandal of declining social mobility, and the challenge of how to respond to our educational decline, relative to competitor nations.

We on the Government Benches, both the Conservative and the Liberal Democrat parties, believe that it is only by radically and fundamentally reforming our education system and learning the lessons of the highest performing nations that we can generate the long-term economic growth on which prosperity depends and that we can produce the level of social justice that is appropriate for a modern liberal democracy. I hope that across the House tonight we can develop consensus on the need for fundamental reform.

It was striking that just five years ago across the Dispatch Boxes in the House there was consensus between those on the two Front Benches on the fundamental need for education reform. My right hon. Friend Mr Cameron and the then right hon. Member for Sedgefield both recognised the fundamental need for reform. I hope that we can see the same consensus across the Front Benches tonight. If not, that will tell us something about the state of the Labour party in the second decade of the 21st century.

What about the state of the economy that the Labour party bequeathed the coalition Government-the state of the mess that we have to clear up? It is against that backdrop that we need to appreciate the fundamental need for educational reform. It is only by having a well-educated, capable and highly skilled work force that we can deal with the economic crisis generated by the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench. We had a structural deficit for seven years before the banking crisis began. When we entered that period of unprecedented global turbulence, our economy had been undermined by the actions of the previous Government. [ Interruption. ] I know that Opposition Members find that difficult and that it is painful to be reminded of the desperate position in which they left the country, but the need for urgent reform is underlined by the terrible mess they made- [ Interruption. ] No matter how much they chunter, object or interject from a sedentary position, these are truths that they and the country have to face. They cannot run away from that fact.

When the OECD graded this country in 2000, we had the best fiscal position in the G7, but in 2007 we had the worst fiscal position, and that was before the banking crisis. By 2010, we had the largest deficit of any G20 country, and today we are paying £120 million a day in debt interest. Manufacturing output fell by 9% as a share of the economy in Labour's years and we lost 1.7 million manufacturing jobs. According to the World Economic Forum's ranking of global competitiveness, we moved from fourth to 86th. No country can succeed economically or respond to an economic crisis unless it ensures that its education system is fit for purpose, and under the previous Government it was not.