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Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:09 am on 13th March 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Lewer Andrew Lewer Conservative, Northampton South 10:09 am, 13th March 2020

It can. I put a big question mark next to this section of my speech in case it instigated a wide range of people’s recollections of various kinds. However, I have been pleased to hear those from Members. I do want to mention Duston School in my constituency, led by the no-nonsense head, Sam Strickland.

An aversion to philosophy and a preference for pragmatism has overall served this country well, in contrast to some others, right back to the glorious revolution of 1688. That aversion is echoed in Lord Palmerston’s statement in Parliament in 1864:

“We cannot go on adding to the statute book ad infinitum.”

Lord Palmerston was not necessarily prescient there, considering the amount of statute that has been passed since. But it in no way detracts from the concerns of Members across the House on a whole range of issues, including this one, not to wonder sometimes whether regulation is always the answer and whether we benefit from being what groups as diverse as The Economist, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Cities and the Institute for Public Policy Research regard as the most centralised state in the western world. That is a question for Government—especially a Conservative Government with a healthy majority—to ponder henceforth.

However, with this legislation, we are where we are. To seek comfort, I ask the Minister to address three matters. First, will the schoolwear sector be fully consulted and have its role respected as guidance goes out for consultation? Secondly, will sole-supplier arrangements be allowed when there has been tendering? Thirdly, will the key consideration be value for money? In tendering, quality of product can be a consideration as a better way often of saving parents money than the pure sticker price for a fast-fashion, not ethically sourced poor product that may wear out quickly.