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It is a pleasure to follow Anne Milton, who I know shares my passion for public services.
We are doing this in the context of a potential general election, and we have to address the elephant in the room: what will happen if we go ahead with a no-deal Brexit, or indeed any Brexit at all. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that if we go off the cliff edge of no deal, we will be looking at this country’s borrowing rising to a 50-year high. The finances of this country will pale into insignificance compared with even the worst of the financial crash. There is only one way to ensure that we properly fund our public services, and that is to stop Brexit altogether, which is what the Liberal Democrats want to do. We want to do that because we care deeply about our NHS and our schools and about the day-to-day things that make a real difference to people and that save their lives. Unless we stop Brexit, we will not have the money to pay for all that, but I am sure that we all agree across the House that what we want to do is fully fund our public services.
We have a short amount of time today, and it will perhaps be unsurprising that I shall focus my remarks specifically on schools. As ever on such occasions, I have looked at the text of the Queen’s Speech. I looked and looked for a mention of schools, but I found only one “motherhood and apple pie” statement about them. Just one, at a time when our schools are going through an incredible funding crisis. I like to judge people by their words, but given that there were so few, let us instead judge this Government by their actions.
Even this year, even now, with all the funding announcements that this Government have made, schools are under enormous financial pressure. They include my own, where I am a governor, and all the others in the surrounding areas. I had an email from Liz from Botley, who is the mother of a child at a local school. She said of the headteacher:
“They have now asked parents to contribute a recommended donation of £10 per month per child. What a disgraceful state of affairs that the education of our young people is just left for parents who can afford it to pick up the bill. This is obviously totally unfair, and if allowed to continue, this will lead to a disastrous two-tier system where parents that can afford the top-up will be ‘buying’
into better-funded schools. No one cares as deeply as the parents that the education is the very best it can be, so we are unfairly pressured into filling the hole left by central government.”