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School Uniform Costs — [Mark Pritchard in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:11 pm on 5th November 2019.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education) 3:11 pm, 5th November 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I hope it will not be for the last time, even if it is the last time during this long parliamentary Session. I echo the comments made by Mike Kane, whose views I share. It is a worthwhile occupation to stand for election to public office in our great democracy. It is a pity that politicians are treated in the way that too many of us are. We need to do more across parties to re-establish the safety and position of politicians and how they are regarded by the public. I am sure that together we can do a lot to enhance their reputation.

I congratulate Emma Hardy on securing this important debate and on her powerful opening speech. I am aware of the hon. Lady’s concerns, given her role as a member of the Education Committee. I also congratulate her on her work with the RE:Uniform campaign, and Stephanie Peacock on similar campaigns in her constituency. Such campaigns facilitate the exchange of second-hand school uniforms for many in both their constituencies. I am sure that the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East, will not be the only person stealing her ideas.

The hon. Gentleman said that school uniforms reduce bullying and that when he was a teacher he dreaded non-school uniform days, which reveal too harshly who has designer clothes and who does not. That is why I am a keen adherent and supporter of school uniform in this country. Where I disagree with him is on how we ensure that poverty is reduced to an absolute minimum. A driving objective of Conservative economic policy is to reduce poverty. We have the lowest level of unemployment since the mid-1970s. There are fewer workless households and fewer children living in workless households today as a consequence of our presiding over a strong and what I would call a stable economy, which is our objective going forward. We want to maintain a stable and strong economy, keeping unemployment low and the number of jobs at record levels. That is how we reduce poverty in this country. Opposition Members should know that no Labour Government has ever left office with unemployment lower than when they came into office. People need to take that very seriously if they are as determined as we are to reduce poverty in this country.