At Prime Minister’s Questions, Duncan sought a commitment from David Cameron to protect education funding in the next Parliament, to ensure that cuts to Wiltshire schools’ budgets aren’t used to pay for Tory tax cuts for the richest.
In Coalition Government, the Liberal Democrats have protected education funding in real terms for children aged 5-16.
Duncan has also helped to secure an extra £5.7 million for Wiltshire schools next year in a big step towards fairer funding.
At Conservative Party Conference, the Prime Minister ruled out tax rises while announcing that his party plans to cut income tax for the top 10% of earners by £1,600, and he has revived his plans to cut inheritance tax for the wealthiest 4% of estates.
By contrast, the Liberal Democrats at their conference agreed to protect the education budget in real terms right through from the early years to age 19, so that sixth forms are protected too, while eliminating the structural current budget deficit by 2018.
“As the economy recovers, it’s disappointing that the Prime Minister couldn’t even commit to protect current spending on schools beyond 2016.
“As we approach the Autumn Statement, I’ll continue to press the government to make a long-term commitment to the education of our children and extend opportunity.
“With Liberal Democrats in government, even given the parlous state of the public finances over the past few years, we have protected our schools.
“If that’s a commitment the Conservatives are not prepared to make for the next Parliament, then it raises the prospect of schools being left to pay for Tory tax cuts for high-earners and people left inheriting large estates if they win a majority.”
Full text of Duncan’s question and the Prime Minister’s response:
Duncan Hames: “As the economy gets stronger, we on the Government Benches will not forget the deficit, but if the Prime Minister can afford his tax cuts, will he also commit to continuing the protection of school budgets that we have achieved under this coalition, or must tax cuts for high earners and those inheriting estates come first?”
David Cameron: “As my honourable Friend knows, the truth about all these things is that we can only afford a strong school system and a strong health system if we maintain a strong economy. That’s why he is absolutely right: we must not forget about the deficit, as the Leader of the Opposition did. We have to make sure that we keep getting the deficit down and keep getting the country back to work. The truth is that, as we stand here today, the British economy is growing and more people are getting into work. We are making good progress on all our economic plans, but there is no complacency, because we face real challenges in terms of what is happening in the rest of the world. But the biggest threat to the British economy are sitting a few feet away from me: people who have learned absolutely nothing. They would borrow more; they would tax more; they would spend more. They would take us right back to the start.”