16/06/2011 Business Questions


Live coverage of the announcement of Commons business for the week ahead and questions to Leader of the Commons George Young.

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Honourable Gentleman and members that wish to make it will be


considered at that time of consideration. It's a if -- the


Government is keen it you find new ways to scrutinise European Union


issues. It's as the Government and would welcome proposals from other


parliamentarians. In a written reply I understand that the


Government is keen to end gold plating of the key directors but


the only way of doing so is granting MPs the power to amend a


statutory implementation. Is there something that the government will


approve? I think the problem is that we will need a reconciliation


process and what we have is a bill going through parliamentary


procedures. There are some difficulties in what she proposes


but I will pass her concerns on to the Minister for Europe. During the


last two years of the parliament the opposition row against the fact


that the structure of the standing committees had collapsed. There


used to be put in nine committees - a rogue members on three committees


that would -- do in a Members on three committees that would discuss


things like this and it is time to put people back on those committees


to learn the business of Europe before they stand up and open their


mouths. I will not comment on the latter's observations made by the


gentleman but he is right. That is why I am sure the minister for


Europe is a very much engaged in talking to him and his colleagues


to make sure that we get the pro- military structures right and as


soon as possible. It's -- parliamentary structures. For what


action up are the Government taking a say in response to what is going


on at Southern Cross? Government has made it very clear


that the welfare of residents living in Southern Cross homes is


paramount. We appreciate that recent events and media speculation


has caused concern to people in the Southern Cross care homes and to


staff and I regret that. I would like to reassure everyone that no


one will find themselves homeless are without care. The government


will not stand by and let that happen. Department of Health


officials have been a constant contact with senior management over


the last few months and that will continue. We are engaged with the


company and are monitoring the situation very closely. The


Government is acting to ensure that all parties involved are working


towards a swift revolution -- resolution which must have the


welfare of a residence at its heart. It is for Southern Cross, a


flamboyant and those with an interest in the business to put in


place a plan that is jaws operational continuity of the care


homes. That work is happening and we must let it continue. This is a


commercial sector problem and we look to the commercial sector to


solve it. All the business interest involve fully understands the


responsibility. But it is also the case that the Government has a role


to play as well and that is why we are working closely with the


Association of Directors of adult social services and local parties


to -- local of parties to make sure that robust arrangements are in


place to address the restructuring plan meant to put in place a


business on a stable footing. Yesterday there was a meeting would


delay a Lloyd's and other members and they agreed on May things. They


made clear that the continuity will be maintained and every resident


will be looked after. This is a welcome development and the


Government is encouraged by this positive agreement by the main


stakeholders. The exact details will be set out every the next few


days and the following weeks. I think the joint statement issued


yesterday by the company provides further reassurance that the


continuity of care of the residents is at the centre of its consensual


restructure. The Government will continue to keep close contact with


all involved and I will continue to In recent months we have seen a


drip, drip of new stories about the financial stability at Southern


Cross. After yesterday's meeting with the landlords the company's


future is still uncertain. However residents of Southern Cross, their


relatives and the director of social services will need further


information Suton -- sooner rather than an later. What next? Residents


and their relatives need peace of mind, they need it now. The company


appears to be hanging by a thread, the number speak for themselves. It


is reported half year losses of �311 million since 2006 per share


prices drop by 91st -- 97%. There are 31,000 residents and 750 care


homes and this is a UK problem with 400 consider disease affected in


Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England. The Government has


been too slow to get a grip on the situation. Issues has been since


last December but Age Concern say the Government has allowed it to


reach this crisis point. Questions that need answering include,


newspaper reports say 20 million is owed by HMRC by Southern Cross,


will the Government allowed the company to be dragged down by this


�20 million that? What banks borrowed money and how much is owed


and what action will the banks take? How is the company working


with the landlords? What is the government doing to ensure


financial probity in this crucial sector? We need to stop the get


rich quick merchants brink on our elderly relatives? Can ask the


Minister who will lead on this very at the highest level, this is a


cross Government matter needing health, business and regulatory


intervention. We need reassurance that residents would be safe in


their homes, the continuing care will be of the high standard and in


the coming months, the Government is focus on ensuring stable,


financial Government's with these companies for the care of our old


and a vulnerable. There are reign number of questions


at their, so of which are for ministers and some are for the


landlords. He asked about NHP? He is right to identify the fact NHP


it largest landlord and asked about bank lending and the lenders have a


key part to play in the sovereignty restriction of this business and


that is why they were at the meeting yesterday and he asked


about the he HMRC and the body responsible making for these


decisions they are making decisions at the moment. We have about the


financial problems and the seeds of those financial problems? I would


urge the honour would gentleman in look at a history of this to look


back several years to the restructuring of this company and


the business model was established that caused the problem and asked


himself who was in Government at that time?


Does My honourable friend agree the government has just one priority in


this set of circumstances and that is to secured the interests of


residence. Can he reassure the House, he will send a clear message


into the system there will be zero tolerance of any slippage of the


quality conditions that what are -- that are imposed on the providers


of care and he will continue to keep his eyes firmly focused on the


day by day quality of care that is delivered to the residents of these


homes? He is right. That is the


Government's paramount interest and it is the interest of all of us to


ensure the welfare and interests of the residence of these homes and


that is why that has been the message I have been given to


Southern Cross and to the landlords and will continue to do so and see


QC will have the responsibility it is carried out. It is clear all of


us in this House have to ensure that this restructuring takes place


successfully and that is in the best long-term interest of the


residents. Her would like to thank the


Minister for his statement and congratulate the Member for being


granted this urgent question on this issue of great importance.


This is not the first time members have tried to bring the Minister


there for them to respond to their concern of of leadership and


information during this period of uncertainty and anxiety for


residents and their families and the employers has been notable and


as a result of the agreement we have a period of relative stability


but great uncertainty remains for residents and employees. We've


heard Southern Cross will now begin a period of restructuring from the


report of around 300 homes changing management but contracts have been


ripped up and 3,000 jobs are being lost. Water shares can the Minister


give for security of employment for those working at Southern Cross and


safety, last we we heard Southern Cross as a result of making 3,000


people redundant there we have heard from the quality care


commission that Southern Cross has breached standards in 164 care


homes, 20% of the English estate, can the Minister guarantee the


safety of the residents? Will they carry out more frequent inspections.


There's been widespread condemnation of the business


practices that led to Southern Cross financial problems and is OK


to point fingers of what may have happened many years ago but the


problem exists now and the Minister is in Government now. The question


is, when people are treated as commodities were no thought to the


consequences of them in this risky business model it is important that


governments set up to the plate and do something about it. Southern


Cross is not the only company in this industry to have financial


difficulties and we have heard from the business secretary that the


model will be looked at by his department and will the Minister


provide more details on timings of this review and how members will be


told about its findings. Cuts, the Minister says that there will be


robust local arrangements and they agree sure local authorities will


step up to the plate if asked but he must recognise local authorities


are under enormous straight as a result of the cuts imposed by his


Government and the cuts they are having to make to adult social care


and how can they be expected to pick up the pieces of this national


problem without assistance from Government and given more resources


to be able to deal with the problem at Southern Cross.


She was long on critique but shallow when it comes to the ways


in which she would approach to this. Last week I set out in a return


Minister a statement reproach the Government was taking and we also


dole with this in health questions last week. She asked about the


3,000 job losses that are being proposed as part of redundancy


measures and let us be clear they have an obligation to declare the


ceiling in terms of number of job losses that may take place. I have


asked the see QC to take additional inspections to address concerns


arising from those job losses. She talks about cuts in social care


spending and glosses over the fact this Government through the


spending review agreed to an unprecedented transfer of resources


from the NHS to social care, 2 billion extra into social care by


2014. Perhaps the area we might have some agreement is we need to


learn lessons from all that is currently occurring with regard to


Southern Cross, regulation, how we make sure we have a stable and


successful social care sector in the future and that is why the


Government is completed -- committed to an overhaul into


should wear -- social care. Would he grew the real fundamental


problem here is there was a flawed business model and that was allowed


to exist for far too long and certainly during the last


Government? You are right to draw attention to


that and his is one of the things commented on by the financial pages


of our media that is one of the reasons we are in a position with


this company now on why such a restructuring is necessary. I take


heart from a joint statement issued yesterday from an the meeting


between the landlords, the company and between the lenders which does


not suggest there is a clear map be worked out that will ensure the


continuity of care and that is what all members of this House must want


to happen because we must be interested ultimately in the


welfare and interested of the Isn't it clear that the business


model employed at Southern Cross, selling off properties at colossal


profit and then leasing them back, with the state played -- paying the


fees to meet the rent, with the rental income being siphoned off by


beat -- the landlords into tax havens, leaving the home is grossly


underfunded and failing basic CQC standards in 164 homes, is that not


a national disgrace? Does it not mean or so that the Prime


Minister's commitment to selling off all public services to any


willing provider must be abandoned? Well, I think we need to perhaps


have an important reality check when it comes to the social care


sector. About 78 % of care provided in England is provided in the


private sector and that is not something that has happened in the


past 12 months. What we do have to do in the light of the experience


of the last few months is to make sure that we draw lessons from that.


But we have to be focused on now the paramount interest of the


residents. Can I thank the Minister for the information he has given


the House. The there are two homes in my constituency and this is a


matter of great concern to the residents and also the start and


there -- and their morale. Can I urge my honourable friend to


facilitate as best he can a speedy resolution but also to look at the


model that we expect local authorities to adopt book-buying


care, the residents themselves should be more involved in the


process. I am grateful for that question and it points for the need


for greater personalisation in the way that care is delivered in the


longer run but what we need to do at the moment is make sure that in


concert with local authority colleagues we are clear about what


happens in the event of failure but also we ensure that there our


successes. I think a lot of people know that it has been a licence to


print money, running care homes. This is the second time in about a


fortnight that we have had a case like Winterbourne. There are


billionaire's making a ton of money. However, there is now evidence that


it is not just Southern Cross. The goose might have stopped laying the


golden eggs. It is time to go back to what we had in the old days,


local authorities being in charge and owning these care homes. Let's


get back to that. What's more, wouldn't it be wonderful as well if


we had everybody being able to go to hospital free of charge? I think


it is important to put on record something that the honourable


gentleman said that is not and never has been the case. Social


care in this country is not free. It is one of the inequities of the


current system and one of the challenges that we are determined


to address. On his direct question about the good old days, I have to


say that for many, they did not see those days because the care was not


personalised or always good quality. To say something more about the


specific steps he is taking to ensure that the Ku -- the CQC


ensures that standards of care in homes in my constituency are


maintained during this transaction period. -- transition. That is, I


think, a key preoccupation for all members of this House who have


residents in homes owned by Southern Cross. We have been clear


in our discussions with the CQC that they have to maintain a clear


focus on the behaviour and conduct of these homes during this


restructuring period. CQC has already identified issues and is


addressing them through its enforcement powers. The Minister


will know that many residents of Southern Cross homes have dementia.


He will also know that many people with dementia cope poorly with


changes and therefore it is of enormous concern to the relatives


of what might happen. He must have had these discussions with his


officials. What is the legal conditioned -- position, what is


the backdrop if the worst case scenario develops, what will he do


to reassure my constituents that the government really will make


sure that their relatives are not put in a position where they will


have changes which will dramatically affect the quality of


their light? She posed three questions but I know there will be


an immaculate single reply. assurance I can give the honourable


lady is that first and foremost we need to make sure that in the event


of a catastrophic failure that there are clear arrangements in


place to deal with that. Those importantly we need to learn


lessons from past care home closures to ensure that those are


taken into account in the future. What we can also be clear about is


that the viability of this business is very strong indeed. We need care


homes and this is why Eddie Izzard, Kriss Akabusi, Martin Bell and Greg


Dyke is now a route which sets us on a Cork -- Road to having a


solution. It would be wrong if anybody tried to use this as a


political shield to try to make cheap political points, but can the


Minister tell us a, given that there will be up to 3,000 job


losses, what measures will the government be taking to monitor the


quality of care in individual homes to make sure that there is no


negative impact on residents. asks a very important question


about the quality of care and its impact is there mack were staff


losses and that is why that when it became clear that the company was


posting 3,000 redundancies I asked the CQC to look into that and make


sure that there is no impact on the quality of care. What is the


Minister doing to beef up the CQC? I understand there have been a


number of redundancies there. If he wants to maintain the quality of


care, he has to be -- beef up the commission. Does he also know that


recently the Telegraph investigated an investigation in 10 homes which


were found to be very wanting in terms of standards and hygiene.


the question on the staffing of the CQC, I can confirm than in October


of last year I authorised an additional 75 posts for inspectors


to be filled in that organisation. Given that it was the changing


business model that seems to have led to the current difficulties,


what procedures have the government put in place to prevent such


procedures leading to similar collapse of the business? Is he


convinced that the CQC has sufficient investigative as opposed


to enforcement powers should this sadly we are care? -- sadly re-


occur. There are issues that we would want to look at a rising from


this situation in terms of forming social care but I think it would be


wrong in the midst of the restructuring that the company is


undertaking to come forward with a hard and fast set of solutions to


the long term so -- stability of the sector. Tomorrow I will visit


Bellevue Court in my constituency, one of many Southern Cross homes


around the country. I note what the Minister has said about the


government guaranteeing that nobody in the care of Southern Cross will


be left without care as a result of what is happening. Clearly it is


preferable for Southern Cross and their landlords and lenders to


reach a solution that ensures that but let me pressing harder on what


will happen if that does not come about. How will he live up to be


guaranteed -- they guarantee that if the rescue plan that they are


trying to work through that the government will ensure that


nobody's care is compromised? grateful to the honourable


gentleman and I understand why he would want to press for further


details as to what would happen in those hypotheticals, but in the


very nature of these commercial discussions to give credibility to


hypothetical situations is to create the possibility of them


becoming a reality. I do not want that to happen. The failure of the


last government a regular the banks led to a crisis in that sector. Is


the national disgrace which is Southern Cross a similar


dereliction of duty? What I am really entirely focused on at the


moment is making sure that through the facility of officers of the


government we ensure that all of the parties are clear about their


responsibilities and that they understand that reputation will


damage to them if they do not do what they must do, which is to


ensure a timely and thorough restructuring of this business that


ensures continuity of care for the residents. In opposing these


proposed sell-off of care homes by Nottingham County Council, I have


been warning the council about the crisis in Southern Cross but this


is not the only big care provider in problems. A care provider in my


constituency is also now in crisis and threatening to throw people out


of Forest Hill care home. Will the Minister be prepared to meet


families from my constituency so that on the next occasion he is


ahead of the game rather than behind it? Have caused the Minister


will be happy to provide a be her - - brief reply but we must focus on


the specific question of Southern Cross. This is not a general debate.


In the spirit that the question was asked, I would be only too happy if


he was to write to me to consider the request. The residents of


Bradfield House care home in Bradfield will welcome what the


Minister has said today. Could he say some more about how we will


learn the broad lessons of this situation and ensure that this


never happens again? I am grateful to my honourable friend for that


question and as I have indicated, in the work that we are currently


doing preparatory to producing a paper, we are engaged with many


stakeholders are discussing the issues of quality and regulation to


make that we are, A, equipped to make -- get the right questions but


also get the right policy for the future. The Minister has been very


careful not to say what he should be saying here, and I understand


why his officials will have told him not to. Will he pledged to the


House that no vulnerable person who should not be moved if there is a


catastrophe of the kind we all want to avoid will be able to stay in


their residential home? That is the pledge we need to hear from him to


show some leadership as the Minister responsible from him.


pledge that I can give to the House is that every local authority with


Southern Cross care homes is clear about their statutory duties to


guarantee and provide care for not just the state funded Presidents


but also be self- funded residents. That is the clearest guarantee that


My constituency -- constituents are in clear about the early warning


system for social care, how can any mechanism be improved? A number of


members asked questions about how we ensure we improve the system?


Indeed, in the reforms we have brought forward in the Health and


Social Care Bill, one of the questions that Bill right raises is


a role in the future potentially for monitoring effective regulation


of the social care sector, an issue we are exploring with colleagues in


the Department of business and continue to discuss it with other


stake holders and that could offer a longer term solution.


The care sector is increasingly reliant on private-sector providers


and the care sector includes not only people who run care homes, but


kept agencies as well. I suspect that will be one of our next


problems. As a significant proportion of both care homes and


care agencies comes from public funds i think the Government and


local authorities have the right and responsibility to assess the


financial stability of providers who they are interested in the care


of very a vulnerable people. Why has far not been done?


I think that, I have in fact spoken to those in the devolved


administration and my officials maintain contact and dialogue with


them and in Wales with 1,700 residents in care homes, 54 in all


their real concerns. As to the wider issues of the sector, she is


right, we need to look at other issues. In the current arrangements,


for the Sikh QC there is a duty to examine that financial viability


and there is an issue will cut further C Q c. Following the marks


made, directors have very specific duties in stewardship of the


company. Has the Minister had any discussions with the Secretary of


State about referring this matter? I have not had those discussions


and the need for those discussions has not arisen. The company itself


feels that the consequences, the outcome of yesterday's meetings has


been very important in terms of its ability to be able to carry forward


a restructuring which safeguards the interests of residents.


My constituents asking me specifically about whether their


elderly and sometimes frail relatives may face the prospect of


having to move. I know my honourable friend has raised this


issue but this is specific and has been risen by my constituents?


For think I tried to give the House a number of reassurances on that


point and I would add over a number of years, they have been home


closures and what we have to do is make sure we learn lessons from


those and one of the lessons is we have to minimise the possibility of


home closures and ensure a meeting place their done sensitively,


slowly and in a careful way. I very much will come to work the


Association of Directors of adult social services have done and what


they published which sets out clear evidence based guidance to assist


local authorities in managing any closures in the future.


I'm rather concerned about what Mr to this morning, the complacent


attitude the Department of Health is showing about the role of local


authorities. Is there a co- ordinated plan for the whole of the


country bringing together all the local authority's plans so we know


there's coverage across the country if the worst happens? I'm not sure


there is? Such work is in hand and has been


in hand for some time. There is concern across this House


that 31,000 of the most vulnerable people in our country are facing


the risk of having to move care home and all the risks that come to


that for the health. Can the Minister in some of reducing of


white paper saying there is an injured -- urgency for this and


come forward with regulation and make sure this does not happen


again? I understand the desire of all on the members to have urgent


action but up what I did not here in her question was asked what


changes would be. When he cares to offer those, we can look at that.


I'm very grateful for the ministers' reassurances this


morning but there was reassurances ring a little hollow because I was


already aware of a great deal of shortcomings in terms of levels and


quality of care in the homes that Southern Cross having Gateshead


before the financial crisis became a matter of public record. Is seems


to quality council are looking at homes on a individual basis and not


a national pattern on how their rotten care ethos in this whole


organisation will stop where will the Mr Justice as a whole national


problem cure -- the Minister as a whole national problem. Her can


remind them of the merits of brevity. Residence in the care


homes in my constituency, about six care homes in my constituency would


be horrified at the remarks. The fact they say it was a commercial


sector problem to be dealt with by the commercial sector is outrageous


and will frighten the wits out of those that are 1,000 residents,


this is a society problem and should be dealt with by the


Government. What crumbs of comfort can he give to the people of my


constituency we stop abusing elderly people and use them as


marketplace commodities? There have been to contributions to


this statement which really do conflict separate issues, we have a


business that is in serious financial stress and is working its


way through to be a viable business for the future and this is not


about the abuse of all the people in these homes and we should not


conflate in the way, that is not helpful to having a sensible debate


and securing a sensible restructuring of this business.


He is displaying complacency when it comes to this crisis. Like it


will not this crisis is his responsibility and honourable


members on both sides will be having surgeries this weekend and


meeting the families of people who are very vulnerable living in these


care homes and he has failed to give any guarantee about the future,


he has not convinced the House of what lessons he has learned in


short term, who can we phone, who will be the Department this weekend


if there is a problem? In a statement I've made it clear


that both the steps the Department of Health has taken working with


landlords, working with some cross and others to make sure each party


to this is clear about their responsibilities and clear about


what actions they would take in the event of business closure. What I


want to be clear about is that as we move forward we need to make


sure that we learn lessons from this, lessons from this in the


context of regulation, lessons about how this was allowed to occur


in the first place the this is not the time for those, the focus I


have as a minister was focused on this as an issue is making sure we


have a successful restructuring of this business and the business


remains focused on the welfare of the residents.


I'm sorry to press the Minister again and I think he recognises


that changes to care, even when well planned, have a serious impact


on the health of residents in care homes. Can I ask him again, can he


guarantee that if those commercial discussions fail, residence will be


guaranteed to be continued to care for cash cared for in their


existing homes? Who Government has made it clear in no circumstances


will we allow the residents of any of these care homes to find


themselves made homeless without good continuity of care and that is


the pledge we make. Is not a real issue, how will he secured that?


There is a real tension between care and commerce. It seems to me


in the restructuring it could well affect areas disproportionately and


we need to have something from the care quality commissioned measure


members have a feedback and reports on how this is being dealt with.


I have said one of the things I take very seriously is the need to


keep the House informed as we progress on these matters. I'm


clear that the paramount interest, the interest the regulator has a


statutory duty to enforce is the welfare of the residents and that


is what we're doing and will continue to do.


I welcome the Mrs comment that every resident would be looked


after, can he further reassure residents in my constituency that


they will suffer no detriment as a result of this situation?


What I can say is we need to make absolutely clear to the landlords


and to the company that their actions do have consequences and


that their actions us be focused on a speedy resolution to the way in


which this business he's restructured that insures the


business canned continue to employ good god is staff and insures it


can continue to provide care for the 31,000 people who live in its


homes. I heard the Minister say he had discussions with the devolved


administration and could the say during the discussions with the


Scottish counterparts, was he made aware of the real concerns of the


conventions of Scottish Local authorities should there be a


catastrophic issued they do not have the funding to deal with there


consequences and what will he offer to -- for that respect? The most


unlikely, by far of all of the outcomes of Southern Cross is that


catastrophic outcome, the most likely outcome is the least


successful -- the successful restructuring with business moved


to other operators. When I spoke to Nicola Sturgeon earlier this week


we discussed all of the issues that concern her and me and we were


agreed about the need to pursue this path of a consensual, solvent


restructuring of the business as the best way of securing the


welfare of the residents in the homes.


80% of the income for Southern Cross it comes from the taxpayer,


yet the Thames seem to have been made to of shop as much of that


money as possible. Age UK as in future all care home providers


should demonstrate to the regulators they have a solid


business model. In his answer to my friend from Wolverhampton, he


implies there was no weight regulation can be strengthened,


would he look sues the at the suggestion over the coming months.


It does allow me to make the case age UK... We are in discussions


with them and will continue to look at that. I understand that the


Department of Health was invited to the meeting yesterday with Southern


Cross and with that 1,000 people being vulnerable with the chance of


losing their homes, why did no-one from Dublin attend? Meeting in his


character changed significantly over the last couple of days to


meeting which have focused on getting to a clear agreement


between the lenders, landlords and Southern Cross and we wanted to


make sure they were focused on doing that and that is why there


was no DH represented at the meeting.


Or the contributions be made have concentrated on the rights and


plight of the residents and that is understandable, but we should think


about the work force at Southern Cross. Yesterday I was into it for


the local organising and he told me with the homes in Dundee, the work


force are demoralised and that is not the best atmosphere in which to


provide care. What has been said earlier, would the Minister


consider setting up and in MPs helpline, a Claudia Lawrence said


he would have families coming into the surgery and it would help if I


could contact someone? Two days ago I had a meeting our we will put


right a range as to be made in event of those scenarios he talked


about. I thank the Minister and colleagues, urgent question, Mr


Andy Burnham. -- the Secretary of State for Education to make a


statement on funding for the academy programme. The errors


reported in the Financial Times today relate to mistakes made by


local authorities in their returns to the department. It relies on


local authorities to provide accurate information about their


spending and occasionally individual local authorities make


errors which can lead to academies getting too much or indeed to


little funding. The system for funding academies set up by the


previous Government is unclear, unwieldy and in our view and fair.


It is no surprise therefore that some errors do occur. This is why


we are proposing changes to the school funding system to ensure all


schools and academies are fully funded and three system without the


complexities that lead to these types of problems. It is brought up


of the right honourable gentleman to ask these questions and


attacking us for failing for the system created by the previous


Labour Government of which he was a part. We are the ones sorting it


out just as we are sorting out the historic budget for deficit. Does


he agree we should raise the bar on secondary schools from 35%


achieving five good GCSEs and English and maths to 40% next year


and does he agree that we should further raise it to 50% by the end


of this Parliament. Does he agree with our announcement today... I do


not why the opposition do not want to hear this, does he agree with


our announcement today to extend the Academy's programme to


underperforming Paris schools and in particular to the 200 worst


performing primary schools many of which were in that state for a


decade while his party was in When will they learn that they can


never backed away the question and always blame at something --


somebody else? Today's Financial Times says that his department has


given a large number of academies in England more money than they are


entitled to. This comes days after the Secretary of State caved in to


a legal claim that too much money had been taken from councils to pay


for academies. Does the Secretary of State and the Minister have a


grip on the budget? Wary is the Secretary of State? This is a day


on which serious questions are being asked about the rapid


expansion of his Academy's programme and whether it is backed


up with a serious plan. Why is he not here making that statement to


the House of Commons? Shouldn't he be here to reassure members that he


can proceed with his programme fairly and efficiently without


penalising other schools? Will the Minister tell the House how many


schools have been over funded and what is the total amount paid in


error? Will this money now be clawed back from schools? It is not


good enough to blame everybody else. When will he take responsibility


for the budget of his own department? If they had not spotted


this mistake before the F T reported it, why not? Under threat


of legal action, the government has announced a U-turn on Academy


funding. Can the Minister set out the details for that review and


does he accept the need for urgency? Is indeed the case that


the Secretary of State repeatedly finds himself in these situations


because he fails to consult people? -- isn't it the case. The only way


that people can make you listen to them is to launch her legal action.


That is no way to run a department. We hear that he will pay the


councils' legal costs. He has paid more money on solicitors' fees than


Ryan Giggs and Fred Goodwin tomorrow. -- together. Isn't this a


scandalous waste when money is needed for children's education? He


has been converted to Labour policies. We support raising


standards in schools. It is the standards of the Secretary of State


we are worried about. Maybe the plan necessary today was for poorly


run government departments to be taken over by successful ones.


Today the Secretary of State pathetically tried to blame Labour


for his latest blunder. Isn't it time he took responsibility for his


serial incompetence? Who yet again the honourable gentleman overstates


his case. The Secretary of State is speaking in Birmingham to the


national college as school leadership. I am sure his


predecessors spoke to them every year. We are taking action to


tackle these problems. They occur every year and they did so every


year under the last Labour government. The difference is that


we are taking action to sort out this problem and that is why we


announced a fundamental review of the school funding system. We are


making further announcements on the details of that review later this


year. He also raised the issue of double funding, where central


government is funding both the local authority and the Academy for


the same services. This is something that occurred under the


last Labour government and we are sorting it out. That is why the D C


L G sliced money off the funding of local government to deal with that


funding. We are looking about again. -- looking at that again. I would


like to know whether the right honourable gentleman supports us in


supporting a clearer and simpler system. We want a system that has a


per pupil funding system that everybody can understand and that


is fair. Rather than the system that his government had, where


schools were receiving thousands of pounds more per pupil a than


another school in a similar situation. Isn't it the case that


the question is a smokescreen for those who opposed academies? We


created more in 12 months than they created in 12 years. The last


government left half-a-million children illiterate. They want to


wallow in mediocrity rather than pursue excellent. -- excellence.


is clear where the opposition stands in relation to free schools,


for example. Since the election the right honourable gentleman has said


he opposes the establishment of free schools but since the news


broke that one of Tony Blair's closest aides is setting up his new


school he has now said that he supports them. Does he support the


academies programme or would he closed down those schools if he


came to power? When I published the original policy paper 10 years ago


on academies it was never intended that they should be overpaid and


local authorities under paid for doing the job of supporting pupils.


Can the Minister confirm that the 2.25 % that has been withdrawn from


school funding general and the overspend on academies has denied


other children the key services they need to raise standards and


give them a life chance that all of us should want for every child?


think it is a rich when former Education Secretary is attack us


for this policy because this is a system that this government


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