Labour Aims to Force Disclosure of PM’s Advice on School Concrete Crisis
The Labour Party plans to use an arcane parliamentary mechanism known as a humble address motion to compel the government to release written advice given to Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he was chancellor regarding the issue of crumbling concrete in schools.
Concrete Concerns Lead to School Closures
Over 100 schools in England have either partially or fully closed due to concerns related to reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac).
Rishi Sunak’s Involvement in the Dispute
Rishi Sunak, the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, has become embroiled in the dispute. A schools minister suggested that when Boris Johnson was chancellor, he approved the rebuilding of 50 schools annually but rejected an application to rebuild 200 schools facing similar issues.
Labour’s Demand for Disclosure
During an Opposition Day debate in the House of Commons, Labour intends to demand the publication of evidence submissions sent by the Department for Education (DfE) to both No 10 (the Prime Minister’s residence) and the Treasury concerning the crisis. The party also seeks access to all related correspondence prior to the 2020 and 2021 spending reviews, as well as the 2022 spring and autumn statements, to understand what advice Rishi Sunak received as chancellor regarding the need to replace Raac.
Shadow Education Secretary’s Statement
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson criticized the government’s handling of the situation and emphasized the need for transparency. She stated that parents deserve to know who is responsible for the crisis affecting their children’s safety in schools.
The PM’s Role in the Crisis
Labour has pointed the finger at the Prime Minister, asserting that he is directly responsible for the chaos and disruption in schools caused by the concrete crisis. They argue that Boris Johnson’s decision to reduce budgets for school rebuilding, reportedly against the advice of officials, has led to the current situation.
Schools Minister’s Statement
Schools minister Nick Gibb previously suggested that while he was chancellor in 2021, Boris Johnson prioritized other issues over increasing funding to address the problems with England’s schools. The Department for Education (DfE) acknowledged that only four schools have been rebuilt under the program designed to overhaul 500 sites by 2030.
Former DfE Official’s Accusation
Former DfE permanent secretary Jonathan Slater accused the Prime Minister of refusing to fully fund a program to rebuild schools when he was in the Treasury. He claimed that funding was provided for only 100 schools annually instead of the necessary 400. However, Rishi Sunak has strongly refuted these allegations.
Education Secretary’s Defense
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan defended the Prime Minister’s actions during his time as chancellor, highlighting the introduction of the school rebuilding programs and substantial investments in schools by the Conservative government. She also criticized Labour’s approach to school funding and suggested that they had failed to address the issue of Raac in schools, particularly in Wales.