Tory MP: English standards "far higher" than in Wales

Happy New Year. MPs are back from their Christmas break today, amid signs that some things won't change in 2014.

Chancellor George Osborne has been out and about, donning his first high-visibility jacket of the new year as he tries to put Labour on the spot over Conservative plans to cut welfare spending.

In the House of Commons itself, MPs have been talking in Wales (again). Last year was the year the Welsh government got noticed at Westminster - or at least its record delivering public services did.

David Cameron and Michael Gove were among senior Conservatives who attacked ministers in Wales over health and education. The attacks became so frequent they generated a private debate within Conservatives circles about their effectiveness, with some Tory MPs (and AMs) concerned that being seen continually to dismiss the performance of students in Wales may be politically unwise.

But once question time (to Michael Gove and his team) began today, it didn't take long before the education record of the Welsh government was in the spotlight.

Cue David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth and chair of the Welsh affairs select committee: "The Pisa results also showed that not only in Wales have things stagnated but have actually gone backwards and that educational standards in England are still far higher than they are in Wales, where the Welsh assembly's Labour Minister (Huw Lewis) recently had to make a fulsome apology on the front page of the Western Mail for his party's abysmal failure.

"Why do you believe it is that educational standards in England are so much higher than they are under the Labour-run Welsh Assembly?"

(English) Schools Minister Elizabeth Truss replied: "You are absolutely right and the Welsh minister was right to apologise for letting children in Wales down.

"The reality is what happened in Wales is the government there caved in to the unions, they abolished national tests, they abolished league tables and they have seen their results plummet to lower than 40th in maths in the Pisa tables.

"This shows how vital it is we do increase accountability in this country, we do keep up the pace of our reforms to make sure we push ahead, like countries like Germany and Poland, rather than falling behind like Wales."

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones offers his own defence of his government's record here.