Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Would the Minister suggest that there should be a limit on how big the gap can be between the best and the worst per-pupil level of funding, as that would be a starting point for getting some justice?
The Minister for Schools (Mr David Laws): That is certainly a sensible principle, and it is exactly what we have tried to do through many of our reforms.
Throughout the Parliament we have introduced major reforms that have improved the fairness and simplicity of the system and laid the essential foundation stones to allow us, the two coalition parties, to introduce a full national funding formula in future. The major reforms we have made are changes to the local funding system, and changes to the way in which we fund disadvantage, with the introduction of the pupil premium and minimum funding levels. Time does not allow me to speak in detail about the first two changes, but I would like briefly to say something about the third—minimum funding levels.
We introduced minimum funding levels last year. I thank not only all the Members who lobbied for that change in the system but the excellent officials in our Department who worked hard, over a sustained period, on the new model. This Government have introduced the first reforms to the distribution of funding between local areas in over a decade. In 2015-16, every local area will attract a minimum level of funding for each of its pupils and schools. The £390 million increase in funding that we introduced as part of minimum funding levels represents a huge step towards removing the historical unfairness of the schools funding system. It ensures an immediate boost to the least fairly funded authorities and puts us in a much better position to implement a national funding formula in the next Parliament. All the logic of the reforms we have made indicates that they should be baselined into funding in the next Parliament. I can certainly make that commitment on behalf of my party; it is for others to make commitments on behalf of their parties.