§ 11. Mr. Hilary Benn (Leeds, Central)
Who will take the decision as to whether the provision of education services in Leeds returns to the local education authority once the contract with the joint venture company ends. 
§ The Minister for School Standards (Ms Estelle Morris)
Leeds city council will be responsible for ensuring that services to schools are delivered on its behalf to an agreed specification through a contract with the proposed joint venture company. Towards the end of the contract, the Secretary of State and the council will need to reach a view on arrangements for the future delivery of services.
§ Mr. Benn
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, as we all want an effective and democratically accountable 380 service within the city. Does she agree that the establishment of the new arrangements in Leeds would be greatly assisted if staff in the education department were to be seconded to the new partnership rather than have their employment transferred, with all the complexities that that would create, not least for their pensions?
§ Ms Morris
First, may I put on record my appreciation for the help that my hon. Friend has given in a difficult period for Leeds LEA. The key point is that we must keep our eye on what matters, which is that schools, governors and children in Leeds get better support than they have had in the past. Of course, we shall need to ensure that the new joint venture company, which will consist of Leeds city council and another partner, has the powers to direct and manage the staff who will raise standards. That will be central to our decision, but we also want to ensure that staff receive the protection to which they are legally entitled. The way in which those two things come together is under discussion at the moment, and I know that my hon. Friend would not want me to say anything today that would stop a proper decision being arrived at in, I hope, the near future.
§ Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead)
Of course, as the Minister says, it is right that we focus on the needs of children in Leeds. However, we must be clear that outsourcing is necessary as the result both of a highly critical Ofsted report that showed local Labour councillors failing local children and of perceptions of political interference. Does the Minister accept that grabbing headlines by outsourcing services in Leeds and other LEAs such as Southwark and Sandwell while leaving Labour councillors in charge will fail local children? Is not the best thing for children in Leeds and other LEAs to set the schools free from the LEA, let heads, governors and teachers get on with providing children in Leeds with what they need to achieve rising standards in school and a good quality of education, and get rid of the political interference from Labour politicians?
§ Ms Morris
I am sure that the Conservative leader of Bradford city council, where we are also intervening, will be pleased to hear that a spokesperson down in Westminster has just done her out of a job.
The hon. Lady was unfair to the many local authorities in the north, the midlands and the south that have received outstanding reports from Ofsted. When run well, local authorities can be genuine partners that work with schools to raise standards. However, they cannot do that by themselves and the difference between this Government and the previous one is that we will act when local authorities fail to discharge their functions effectively. Many local authorities on which we are intervening were poor local authorities under the previous Government, who took no action. As a result, schools went without the local authority support that they needed.
The combination needed for high standards is good schools, schools managing themselves, heads with the ability and resources to manage schools, and good LEAs supporting them in that. We have made it clear that local authorities should be allowed to do their job when they do it well. However, when they do not, we will intervene, act and make sure that schools receive the support that they need.