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Page last updated at 15:03 GMT, Sunday, 7 December 2008

Ed Balls: Cameron 'undermining the Speaker'

The row involving the Speaker Michael Martin is turning into a political dogfight after the Schools Secretary Ed Balls attacked David Cameron for not offering complete support to the Speaker.

David Cameron
I want to have confidence in the Speaker, in the Speaker's Office.
David Cameron

In an interview with the Politics Show, ahead of a crucial House of Commons debate on Monday 8 December, over Damian Green's arrest, the Conservative leader said: "Clearly mistakes have been made. The Speaker explained that in his statement.

"I want to have confidence in the Speaker, in the Speaker's Office. Things need to be done to put right the situation and I know the Speaker's working hard to do that."

On being asked if he would support Mr Martin staying on as Speaker until the next election, he replied: "I think, as I say, mistakes have been made, things have got to be put right. The Speaker is doing that.

"We have our debate on Monday. I'm not happy with the motion that has been put down. I don't think it deals with the problem properly.

"But I want to have the confidence that we should all have in the Speaker's Office and in the Speaker and that needs to be put right."

The Education Secretary, Ed Balls, said Mr Cameron's comments were wrong: "I can only speak from my personal experience as a Minister. I've always found the Speaker to be challenging, to be tough and to be demanding of me and other Ministers in protecting the House of Commons.

"So on the basis of my experience, I do have confidence in the Speaker.

"And I have to say, I don't think it's sensible for MPs or Ministers, or Leaders of the Opposition to make these kind of comments. I think, in the end, drip, drip, drip is undermining the office of the Speaker and the office of Parliament."

Social Service changes

Ed Balls
We need our schools and our social workers to work more closely together
Ed Balls

Mr Balls also spoke about the overhaul he has announced of social services in the wake of the cases of Baby P and Shannon Matthews:

"This needs to be a very radical review. It needs to ask some very hard questions.

"In my view, the training of social workers is too theoretical. There isn't enough on the job training, there isn't enough challenge and supervision through the early years.

"We need our schools and our social workers to work more closely together, we need to boost leadership. There's lots to be done.

"I wish that it could have happened earlier but in the end, in the Baby P case, I don't think it would in the end have changed it, because that was a particular and harrowing tragedy."

Curriculum change

Ed Balls also gave the Politics Show and exclusive preview of Monday's report into the future of the primary school curriculum.

In particular, he said, it would address the problem of children born in the summer months and the concern that they may fall behind at an early age.

"Some people fear that if children start school later because they're born in July and August, they never catch up.

"The thing he (Sir Jim) is saying is that the evidence shows that that is true. It is better for children, even if they're born in August, to start reception in September.

"But he's saying there should be flexibility and therefore parents should have the option to start part-time.

"It's better to start even part-time than to wait until January or Easter to start reception - if not, the kids never quite catch up."

Review of the year

And three of 2008's politicians of the year - Ken Livingstone, David Davis and Vince Cable - joined Jon Sopel on the sofa to look back over the last year in politics.

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