I make that one-all from each side of the House, so I will move on.
That brings us back to the context for the other announcements, which is the funding crisis facing our schools. We learn from The Times today that the Government are now in retreat over the new funding formula. Perhaps the Secretary of State will use this opportunity to clarify the Government’s position to the House, rather than to Conservative Members in private meetings. They might say that they are still consulting and have not seen the results, but we still have not yet had the results of the “Schools that work for everyone” consultation and that did not stop the Prime Minister using the Budget to announce most of the forthcoming schools Bill to the press.
It was the same story with the initial plans for new grammar schools, the new school improvement funding, the new capital spending on free schools and every other education announcement made in last week’s Budget. Announcements are being made behind closed doors or behind the paywalls of the Prime Minister’s favoured newspapers, rather than to this House. It is no wonder they would rather avoid our scrutiny, because the Budget failed to mention the pledge the Conservative party made in its manifesto:
“Under a future Conservative government, the amount of money following your child into school will be protected…there will be a real-terms increase in the schools budget in the next Parliament.”
The last Prime Minister made clear what he meant:
“the amount of money following your child into the school will not be cut. In Treasury-speak, flat cash per pupil.”
The Conservatives were clear: not a single pupil in the country would see their funding cut by a single penny. That was their promise. Yet the National Audit Office has found that there will be an 8% drop in per pupil funding this Parliament, leaving schools forced to make cuts worth £3 billion. Up and down the country, we hear that schools are seeing less money in their budgets. They are being forced to cut hours or subjects, or to ask parents to chip in. Yesterday, on Europe, the Government were clear that their justification was the mandate of the British people, yet they had a mandate when it came to funding our schools too. I know the Tories would like to airbrush the last Prime Minister from history, but will they tell us today whether that pledge still stands, and, if so, when the Treasury intends to meet it?
The Government had much to say about education in this Budget, but when it came to meeting their own promises they were selective with their facts and comprehensive in their failure. They must do better.