The Education Bill

Being lobbied about ethical business behaviourLobbied today by Rozie and Sam – two 16-year-olds from Highgate Wood School. They are taking up the ActionAid campaign to make businesses behave more ethically – I agree! Will take further to ActionAid about what I can do in Parliament on the issue.

In committee today on the Police and Justice Bill. We fought hard to stop the Home Secretary being able to intervene directly on police forces or police authorities without so much as a by your leave or any objective criteria. But Ms Blears (Labour minister) batted all away. Labour want power for the Home Secretary to dive into anything that takes his fancy police wise regardless of anyone else. Hardly the new localism, saying all power to the Home Secretary!

When I dared to suggest that Labour didn’t like bad headlines about crime – and obviously wanted these powers so they could posture and claim they were acting swiftly when things went wrong – Ms Blears savaged me and the Lib Dems. Unwarranted attacks and untrue as usual – it’s a Labour mantra – but sadly for them we also support tackling anti-social behaviour despite their wish that we didn’t. Anyway – stung by the multi-attack aspersions on our record – I pointed out to Hazel that a recent example of Labour’s sensitivity to a bad headline was this very week when a bad headline about Labour sleazy loans had meant the very next day the Minister came to the House and said they were going to put through legislation in a current in process Electoral Bill to make loans declarable! Well – to a man and woman- they were audibly very cross. Their problem – probably one that comes with power – is they can dish it but they can’t take it

Stumble out of committee at 7pm and go straight into chairing an education debate on Labour’s Education Bill. There’s a lawyer from Matrix Chambers (yes – of Cherie Booth fame) who gives an absolutely riveting insight into what lies beneath many of the Academies that we are all having to have. It’s quite sinister really. They are exempt from virtually all the checks, criteria and balances applied to other schools. That is why you are seeing some being ‘bought’ for religious proletysing. Really, really scary.

Melian Mansfield, Chair of CASE and organiser of the event, also spoke. She was clearly absolutely resolute in her determination that we should understand why it was so important to try and defeat the Bill (not much hope with the Tories supporting it – but thank goodness am on the side of the angels in this one – the Bill stinks).

She put a good case and introduced seven people who all gave very short – but my goodness interesting and informed points of view – on the Bill. They ranged from the concerns over ‘sponsors’ such as Nestle – and how undue influence would inevitably be brought to bear – through to the lack of parent voice in the new structures and yet – from another contributor – how much was to be landed on parents’ shoulders in terms of responsibility and punishment. There was a wealth of ammunition here to fight the Bill and put amendments down at committee stage. So I invited them all to send short briefs and potential amendments to Sarah Teather who leads for us on education.

As far as my own views go – the Bill is all about structures and will do nothing to raise standards. When, when, when will the Government learn that resource needs to go into the processes to add quality? We still have 180 kids without a secondary place in Haringey. So much for choice. As for his Bill – it’s not a great reforming Bill as Blair would have it. It simply reforms ownership.