Free schools are Michael Gove's 'pet project' - Labour

Michael Gove: "Responsibility lies with the Labour government that cut funding for new school places"

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Labour has accused the government of wasting money on free schools, calling them "pet political projects".

The party was granted an urgent question in Parliament after reports of a coalition row over funding.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said ministers were spending "£400m to fill a black hole".

But Education Secretary Michael Gove said his rival had "more contorted positions on free schools than some Indian sex manuals I could name".

Free schools, of which more than 170 have been created in England, receive direct funding from the Department for Education and are independent of councils.

Set up by parents, teachers, religious groups and academy chains, they have priority for funds over other new schools.

'Commitments'

Liberal Democrat sources say 30,000 local authority school places are being lost as money is diverted to free schools.

Tristram Hunt: "Spending on this programme is spiralling out of control"

But Conservative sources respond that more places are being created overall.

The Lib Dems supported the creation of free schools, but in recent weeks growing tensions between the coalition parties have become evident.

According to sources in Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's office, last December Mr Gove overruled the Lib Dem schools minister David Laws to take £400m from the Basic Need Budget for 2015-17.

They claim the money was diverted to help cover a projected £800m overspend between 2013 and 2016 in the budget for free schools - a project close to Mr Gove's heart.

Mr Laws was not present for Labour's question in Parliament. His spokesman said he had "pre-existing commitments" which could not be rearranged at short notice and that people "shouldn't read too much into it".

'Get stuffed'

Addressing MPs, Mr Hunt said: "The coalition - both parts - has raided the schools budget to pay for petty political projects."

He added that free schools had been "underperforming" and that the education department was "spiralling out of control" under Mr Gove's leadership.

Mr Gove replied that standards were improving as a result of free schools being set up and said that there was no longer a shortage of places across England.

He added: "He has had more contorted positions on free schools than some Indian sex manuals I could name."

The education secretary said: "The truth about free schools is that they help children in areas where they've been let down in the past."

In an interview with BBC Two's Newsnight, Mr Gove's former adviser Dominic Cummings said: "In government I certainly did stop a great deal of Clegg's interference in school policy. He would routinely call demanding £100m for an unknown gimmick in a speech the next week. We told him to get stuffed."

Mr Gove's allies said the Basic Need Budget would still rise by more than £200m a year in 2015-17 and argued that expansion of free schools would lead to more school places overall.

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  12.  
    13:28: Major incidents rules The World at One BBC Radio 4

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  13.  
    13:17: 'What is NHS England's involvement?' House of Commons Parliament

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  14.  
    13:16: Conservatives reject 'war on Wales' charge Robin Brant Political Correspondent, BBC News

    In the post-PMQs briefing, the Conservatives say Ed Miliband's claim the PM was mounting a "war on Wales" was an "extraordinary comment to make". PM was "absolutely right" to highlight problems in Welsh NHS, they add.

     
  15.  
    13:13: 'Rely on professionals' House of Commons Parliament

    Conservative MP Stephen Mosley says ministers should "rely on local health professionals to make the best choices". Jeremy Hunt agrees. "We don't want an NHS where every single operational decision is taken from behind the health secretary's desk," he tells the House, claiming that this approach will keep politics out.

     
  16.  
    13:07: 'My duty to weaponise NHS' House of Commons Parliament

    Labour MP Barry Sheerman says "it is my duty as a member of the opposition to weaponise" the NHS.

    He argues that Labour needs to win the election and stop the government's "disgraceful policies".

    Jeremy Hunt replies that "there are too many on the Labour side who think exactly like that".

     
  17.  
    13:04: TV debates Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Pollster Ben Page of Ipsos Mori, interviewed on the Daily Politics, says the televised election debates are "almost certain" to happen. He says voters aren't particularly bothered, "to be honest", about the to-and-fro over their exact format which is getting Westminster types so worked up. But he accepts David Cameron is doing well in negotiating to ensure the debates that suit him best.

     
  18.  
    13:03: 'One of the first' House of Commons Parliament

    Labour's David Winnick says Walsall Manor Hospital was "one of the first to declare a major incident" over demand in its A&E department. The Walsall North MP calls on the health secretary not to "minimise" the problems.

     
  19.  
    13:02: Ammunition for Labour Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    Norman Smith says the fact the NHS document at the centre of today's exchanges refers to local politics and the media will give Labour ammunition with which to maintain their claims that hospitals are being put under political pressure to avoid calling major incidents.

     
  20.  
    13:00: Breaking News Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    The former leader of Plaid Cymru has compared the Trident base on the Clyde to Auschwitz in an interview with the BBC. Lord Wigley's comments come the day after events across Europe to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi camps.

    Asked about a report that the Trident base could be moved to Wales, Lord Wigley said: "No doubt there were many jobs provided in Auschwitz and places like that but that didn't justify their existence and neither does nuclear weapons justify having them in Pembrokeshire."He is currently Plaid Cymru's general election coordinator.

    (You can listen to the interview on BBC Radio 4's World at One, via the Live Coverage tab on this page.)

     
  21.  
    12:59: Women in politics Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    With a pic of New Labour's 'Blair babes' in the background, the Daily Politics is now looking at the issue of getting more women into Parliament. As Caroline Flint points out, Labour has more women MPs and ethnic minority MPs than all the other parties put together. But she adds: "There was positive discrimination going in favour of men in my party and in other parties for many, many years." David Willetts accepts the Conservatives "need to make more progress" - but says he hopes there will be many more Tory women in Parliament after the election.

    Daily Politics on women in politics
     
  22.  
    12:58: 'Not seen that way' House of Commons Parliament

    Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, says that Jeremy Hunt's argument that the decision to declare a major incident is purely operational "is not seen that way on the ground". Mr Hunt insists that the decision "must be taken locally".

     
  23.  
    @bbcnickrobinson Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor

    tweets: Real NHS story is not who said what about it but who will do what to strengthen an NHS under real pressure in future #pmqs

     
  24.  
    12:53: In Pictures: Prime Minister's Questions
    PMQs
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  25.  
    12:54: Listening to the doctors Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

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  26.  
    12:53: Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

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  27.  
    12:50: 'Leaning from on high' House of Commons Parliament

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  28.  
    12:47: 'A new low' House of Commons Parliament

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  29.  
    12:45: 'Called into question' House of Commons Parliament

    Andy Burnham says the NHS guidance he has seen means "the claims that this is purely local is called into question right now".

     
  30.  
    12:45: Keeping the backbenchers happy James Landale Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

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  31.  
    13:17: Pienaar's verdict BBC Radio 5 live

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  32.  
    12:44: Andy Burnham urgent question House of Commons Parliament

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  33.  
    12:41: 'Local issue' House of Commons Parliament

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  34.  
    12:39: Commemoration service House of Commons Parliament

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  35.  
    12:39: Urgent question on the NHS House of Commons Parliament

    PMQs ends and now shadow health secretary Andy Burnham puts an urgent question to the government. He asks Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to make a statement on what guidance has been issued by NHS England on declaring a major incident.

     
  36.  
    @robindbrant Robin Brant, BBC Political Correspondent

    tweets: .@David_Cameron reveals there will be a special service at St Pauls and parade in March to mark end of UK military role in Afghanis

     
  37.  
    @paulwaugh Paul Waugh, PoliticsHome editor

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  38.  
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  39.  
    @anntreneman Ann Treneman, political sketchwriter

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  40.  
    12:33: Trident 'not moving'

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  42.  
    @ShippersUnbound Tim Shipman, Sunday Times political editor

    Tweets: In the House that felt like 4-2 to Cameron. On television I suspect it was 4-2 to Miliband. So I'm going 3-3. More hot air than light

     
  43.  
    12:29: Hinchingbrooke hospital House of Commons Parliament

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  44.  
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  45.  
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  46.  
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  47.  
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  48.  
    @bbcnickrobinson Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor

    tweets: Small irony. Watching from my sickbed as PM tries to shield himself on NHS by quoting my "weaponise" report. Time for an aspirin! :) #pmqs

     
  49.  
    @MSmithsonPB Mike Smithson, Political Betting

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  50.  
    @Kevin_Maguire Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror associate editor

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  51.  
    @thomasbrake Tom Brake, Lib Dem MP

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  52.  
    @andybell5news Andy Bell, Channel 5 News political editor

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  53.  
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  54.  
    Robin Brant, BBC Political Correspondent

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  55.  
    12:17: Leaders clash House of Commons Parliament

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  56.  
    @iainmartin1 Iain Martin, political journalist

    Even by the standards of #PMQs this is dire.

     
  57.  
    @ShippersUnbound 12:16: Tim Shipman, Sunday Times political editor

    Tweets: Michael Gove doing a good impersonation of the Churchill dog, nodding judiciously as Dave speaks

     
  58.  
    @DavidJonesMP 12:15: David Jones, Conservative MP

    tweets: Remarkably, Miliband raises Welsh NHS; silly, silly.

     
  59.  
    @tombradby Tom Bradby, ITV News political editor

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  60.  
    12:14: Miliband v Cameron House of Commons Parliament

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  61.  
    12:12: Picture: Ed Miliband asking question
    Ed Miliband in the Commons
     
  62.  
    12:13: House of Commons Parliament

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  63.  
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  64.  
    @iainjwatson Iain Watson, BBC political correspondent

    Tweets: No surprise that Ed Miliband goes on the #NHS consistently top of voters concerns according to polls

     
  65.  
    12:09: Picture: Ed Miliband House of Commons Parliament
    Ed Miliband
     
  66.  
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  67.  
    12:06: Labour's Eds listen to first answer
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  68.  
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  69.  
    @MartynExpress Martyn Brown, Daily Express political correspondent

    Tweets: Women on front bench - Tories 8 v Labour 8 #pmqs

     
  70.  
    12:05: Picture: Cameron takes first question
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  71.  
    12:04: Picture: Frank Field House of Commons Parliament
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  72.  
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  73.  
    12:04: UKIP defector James Landale Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

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  74.  
    @nedsimons 12:03: Ned Simons, Huffington Post UK assistant political editor

    Tweets: Can't wait for Miliband and Cameron to shout NHS statistics at each other for ten minutes. #PMQs

     
  75.  
    12:01: Miliband's only PMQs option: The NHS James Landale Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

    James Landale on the Daily Politics says he thinks the Labour leader will focus all six of his questions on the NHS. "I would be amazed if Ed Miliband doesn't go on health - that's his subject of the week, he has to go on it. "

     
  76.  
    12:00: Immigration target Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Earlier on Daily Politics David Willetts was pressed by Andrew Neil to accept that the Conservatives have failed on immigration. Ministers had sought to cut net migration below 100,000. Mr Willetts suggested a Tory-only government might have made more progress, saying: "We had a commitment in our manifesto which was not part of the coalition agreement and therefore not the basis on which the government was to act."

     
  77.  
    12:00: NHS England BBC News Channel

    Dr Barbara Hakin, national director of commissioning operations for NHS England, says: "Local hospitals continue to have responsibility for deciding whether to declare major incidents, but before doing so best practice dictates that they take account of the wider impacts on other parts of the NHS so that patient safety in the round is protected. That's why NHS England's local area team in the West Midlands decided to issue these guidelines. This was not a decision of the Department of Health."

     
  78.  
    12:00: Major NHS incidents BBC Radio 5 live

    John Pienaar tells 5Live that Guidance to NHS Trusts on declaring a major incident will surely feature during PMQs

     
  79.  
    11:57: EU-US trade deal

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  80.  
    11:55: 'No-go areas' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

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  81.  
    11:52: 'Responsibility of the government' House of Commons Parliament

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    Conservative Andrew Robathan had suggested that Labour should speak to Sinn Fein about security in Northern Ireland.

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  82.  
    11:46: Daily Politics line-up

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    Daily Politics
     
  83.  
    11:42: Labour and Sinn Fein House of Commons Parliament

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    A cry of "absolute rubbish!" is heard from the Labour benches.

     
  84.  
    11:38: Northern Ireland questions House of Commons Parliament

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  85.  
    @EmmaReynoldsMP 11:32: Emma Reynolds, shadow housing minister

    tweets: Since 2010 we have been building 356 fewer homes than we need - Gov't is presiding over the lowest level of house building since 1920s.

     
  86.  
    11:24: 'Trojan horse' plot

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    Sir Michael Wilshaw
     
  87.  
    11:23: Commons questions House of Commons Parliament

    MPs will meet in the House of Commons in a few minutes' time.

    Prime Minister's Questions is at noon and Labour's urgent question on the NHS will follow.

    First, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers will take questions from MPs. That's from 11:30 GMT.

     
  88.  
    11:14: Ambulance times 'worst on record'

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    Ambulances at a hospital The Welsh Ambulance Service has said it was working to address underlying issues
     
  89.  
    11:11: Urgent question

    We'll be hearing plenty more about hospitals' "major incidents" in the House of Commons today. Labour's Andy Burnham has just been granted an urgent question on today's developments, which will follow PMQs. Will Ed Miliband choose the same subject for his clash with David Cameron?

     
  90.  
    11:10: Strike news

    The PCS union says workers at the National Gallery in London are to stage a five-day strike in a row over the privatisation of services.

    National Gallery staff protest
     
  91.  
    11:04: Hunt hits back

    More from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has responded to Labour criticism over revised guidance on when some hospitals can call a "major incident". In a series of tweets, he says a local decision taken in the West Midlands has been "cynically exploited" by Labour's Andy Burnham and criticises the NHS in Wales, for which Labour is responsible.

    Jeremy Hunt tweets
     
  92.  
    Sebastian Payne, The Spectator

    tweets: I'm going to be covering #GE2015 for @spectator in a Mini. Track my progress at http://specc.ie/1CcLE4b #MiniElection

    Sebastian Payne
     
  93.  
    10:55: Trident staying put

    A Ministry of Defence spokesman denies a report in the Daily Mail that officials are examining plans to move the Trident nuclear fleet from Scotland to Wales.

    The spokesman says: "The Ministry of Defence is not doing any work on this. There are no plans to move the deterrent."

    Trident
     
  94.  
    10:52: Ofsted under scrutiny

    MPs continue to press Sir Michael Wilshaw - they want to know whether allegations that inspectors asked children inappropriate questions about sexuality and faith are true. He's insisting that, having "looked at the evidence base thoroughly", there is "no evidence to suggest inspectors used inappropriate language to these children". What the inspectors were trying to establish, he explains, is whether homophobic bullying was taking place. So they had to use direct language in order to establish this.

     
  95.  
    @Jeremy_Hunt Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

    tweets: Labour should focus on improving care for patients in Wales instead of trying to score political points in England.

     
  96.  
    10:45: Care costs: Regional variations BBC News Channel

    Paul Lewis, who presents Moneybox on BBC Radio 4, says the costs of care in old age vary widely in different areas. There will be a £72,000 cap on costs in England from 2016, but no such measure in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, he adds.

    Care calculator launched by BBC

    Paul Lewis
     
  97.  
    10:42: Jonathan Beale, BBC Defence Correspondent

    tweets: Best factoid in Fallon speech : the MOD owns 15 golf courses! #defence

     
  98.  
    10:35: Christian schools & Ofsted

    Sir Michael Wilshaw is in defensive mode over at the Education Select Committee where MPs are quizzing him on Ofsted's critical reports for Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland and the Durham Free School. He denies a "political agenda" against Christian schools, telling MPs the lead inspectors were "very critical of what they saw".

    "They saw poor behaviour, they saw declining standards, they saw a lot of bullying. I think it has to be recognised that parents always - even when schools are declining very badly - always try to support the school. These two schools are doing badly. Parents deserve better."

     
  99.  
    10:25: Care calculator

    Caring for people in old age - and how it should be funded - is rarely far from the political debate. The BBC has launched an online guide which will tell you how much care costs in your area.

    Older person's hand
     
  100.  
    10:20: On the committee corridor

    It's not just Ofsted's Sir Michael Wilshaw who's facing questions in Parliament today:

    • Mark Harper, the disability minister, is being grilled over the impact of the coalition's disability and incapacity benefit reforms.
    • Universities minister Greg Clark faces questions over the government's approach to science policy.
    • And, starting at 10:30 GMT, trade minister Lord Livingston will again address the concerns of some MPs that the EU-US trade deal known as 'TTIP' imperils the NHS.
     

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