Stephen's contribution to the Queen's Speech Debate

Below is the Hansard copy of the speech Stephen delivered during the Queen's Speech Debate on Tuesday 27th June 2017. 

Stephen Twigg

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Martin Whitfield, who has made a powerful and eloquent speech on behalf of his truly beautiful constituency, as he put it. I also congratulate the other hon. Members on both sides of the House who have made their maiden speeches today.

I welcome the commitment in the Queen’s Speech to maintaining our 0.7% international development commitment. The new Government have two Ministers of State—one of whom I welcome to his place today—who are working jointly in the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I wish them well. Greater co-operation between the two Departments is to be welcomed, but I hope that this will be a partnership and not the first step towards a takeover of DFID by the Foreign Office. Shortly before the election, the cross-party International Development Committee reaffirmed, on a cross-party basis, the importance of maintaining DFID as a stand-alone Department, and I urge the Government to continue to do so.

In the recent general election, my pledge to my constituents was to seek a fair deal for Liverpool. Austerity has hit all parts of our country, but it has hit cities such as Liverpool the hardest. Liverpool City Council has faced budget cuts of nearly £100 million since 2010. Merseyside police have lost 1,700 officers or staff, and the Merseyside fire and rescue budget has been cut in half. In the next three years, the Liverpool City Council budget faces a further cut of £90 million. To protect social care, the council made the difficult decision to increase council tax by 4.99% this year, but even with that tax increase it is having to cut social care by £58 million. That is a loss of 5,000 care packages, which will affect some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Liverpool.

Investment in education is vital for social mobility, community cohesion, and our future economy. There is real concern in the schools in my constituency about the impact of the proposed funding formula. The proposal that was consulted upon last year would result in a loss to Liverpool’s schools of £3 million. The Secretary of State today repeated the pledge in the Conservative manifesto that no school will have its budget cut but, as others have said, the crucial question is about whether that is in real terms. Otherwise, it will represent a cut for schools that desperately need to protect their funding. I urge the Government to maintain the deprivation and prior attainment factors in the proposed funding formula, which are vital for schools in some of the most deprived parts of my constituency.

This is not just about schools; we also need investment in our early years education. Children’s centres do vital work, but there are also nursery schools. I have two outstanding nursery schools in my constituency: East Prescot Nursery School, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this week, and Ellergreen Nursery School. I want assurances from the Government about long-term funding for our nursery schools, which do such a vital job.

Finally, I want to discuss the promised major reform of technical education. There is no doubt that it has been a long-term weakness that goes back decades, as my hon. Friend Vernon Coaker reminded us. Let us look to countries such as Germany and Switzerland, which have done this so much better than us. I say to the Government, “Good luck with major reform of technical education, but you cannot do it on the cheap.” The biggest cuts in recent years have been to 16-to-19 funding and, in particular, further education. As well as investment in our schools and in our crucial early years education, let us invest in FE, because only then will we achieve the promised major reform of technical education.