HC Deb 08 July 1970 vol 803 cc667-802
Mr. Speaker

As I announced yesterday, I have selected for debate the Amendment on education in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and his right hon. Friends. Again may I announce to the House that I have a heavy list of speakers; 40 hon. Members wish to speak, among them 12 maiden speeches. As I said yesterday, I must balance the debate as between old and new Members. If those hon. Members who wish to make maiden speeches will come to the Chair once the debate has started, I may be able to indicate to them the likelihood or unlikelihood of their being called. Frankly, it is impossible to call them all.

3.36 p.m.

Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)

I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add but humbly regret the policy for the organisation of secondary education envisaged in the Gracious Speech, and foreshadowed by the withdrawal, without consultation, of Circular 10/65, and believe that it will reinforce the system of eleven-plus segregation and thus perpetuate a system which is educationally indefensible, socially unjust and economically wasteful. I should like first of all to apologise for my voice, which I hope will last for the whole of my speech.

Secondly, I should like to congratulate the right hon. Lady on becoming Secretary of State. I cannot wish her a long tenure of office, but what is left of it to her—it will not be very long if she goes on as she is doing—I hope she enjoys.

The first policy decision announced by this Tory Government will perpetuate the 11-plus for tens of thousands of children and bring it back for a great many others who had been liberated from it. I am not sure whether this announcement preceded the one about commercial radio or the universal leak to the Press about the sale of arms to South Africa, but, whether it did or not, it is clearly part of an emerging pattern of lowest common denominator policy from this Government.

Before I discuss the circulars, I would like to make two points about the Government's handling of this matter. The decision to withdraw Circular 10/65—and that, presumably, is what the Gracious Speech means by "setting the local authorities free"—was announced to a Press conference of education correspondents in Curzon Street by the right hon. Lady before she had announced it to this House, although the policy in 10/65 was based upon a Resolution of this House of 21st January, 1965. The right hon. Lady has not yet had the courtesy to inform Parliament that she has set aside its earlier decision.

Secondly, her new Circular 10/70 must surely be the first major Department of Education and Science circular sent out without any consultation whatever with the other two partners in the education system—the teachers and the local authority associations. The education system in this country is a partnership, and it cannot work unless this partnership functions with mutual trust on both sides.

This Government's first action in education has gone a long way to destroy that trust as far as the teachers are concerned. When she has time to do so—and I quite understand that she is very overworked at the moment, but when she has time—perhaps she should contrast the way in which she has handled this matter with the long and painstaking discussions which took place in the first six months of 1965 between the Government, the local education authorities and the teachers on the content of Circular 10/65.

My right hon. Friend who was then Secretary of State mentioned these discussions in a speech in Hull on 29th May, 1965. He said: These discussions have gone a considerable way, and I think it important to say that there has been a very marked degree of agreement on basic approach. The tone of negotiations throughout has been extremely cordial. The result of these months of discussion was Circular 10/65, which the right hon. Lady, without consulting her Cabinet colleagues as far as I gather, certainly without informing the House of Commons, set aside at a secret tea party for journalists in Curzon Street. For sheer high-handed ideological arrogance that is hard to beat. Her action—both the method of doing it and the content—have been almost universally condemned. I will not embarrass her or any of her new feminine colleagues by reading out the condemnations of the Press, the local authorities and the teachers. I remind her that there was a meeting of head teachers in her constituency, and they decided by a majority of between 80 and 90 per cent. that they wanted to go ahead with reorganisation of their secondary schools. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are debating education. We cannot debate by running comment.

Mr. Short

She has the support of the most reactionary chairman of an education committee in Britain—in Birmingham—and the Birmingham Tory really has to be seen to be believed. She has the support of Mr. Izbicki of the Daily Telegraph, and she is welcome to it. She must get all the comfort she can from this support, but I warn the right hon. Lady that, if she continues along the doctrinaire reactionary path she has taken so far, she will find herself in the middle of utter chaos before many months are past.

I now turn to say a few words about the circular which she has withdrawn. The Resolution of the House on 21st January, 1965, to which I have referred, read as follows: That this House, conscious of the need to raise educational standards at all levels and regretting that the realisation of this objective is impeded by the separation of children into different types of secondary schools, notes with approval the efforts of local authorities to reorganise secondary education on comprehensive lines which will preserve all that is valuable in grammar school education for those children who now receive it and make it available to more children; recognises that the methods and timing of such reorganisation should vary to meet local needs; and believes that the time is now ripe for a declaration of national policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st January, 1965; Vol. 705, c. 541.] Circular 10/65, which followed after six months of discussions, requested local authorities who had not done so by that time to prepare plans and submit them. It went on to say: The purpose of this circular is to provide some central guidance on the methods by which this can be achieved. The right hon. Lady will recollect Section 1 of the Education Act, 1944. She knows about it, because she quoted it in a debate in the House in February. That Section lays upon the Minister the duty— to secure the effective execution by local authorities, under his control and direction, of the national policy for providing a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area. So, in providing for central guidance, the Secretary of State in 1965 was doing no more and no less than his statutory duty required him to do. The right hon. Lady has been said by some commentators to be neglecting that duty, but I take quite a different view; I do not accuse her of that; quite the reverse; I believe that her circular is a clear invitation to local authorities to change their plans. It is a clear invitation to return to an élitist selective system. I may be wrong on that—[HON. MEMBERS: "You are."] If I am wrong, if she is not inviting them to do so, then she is neglecting her duty by giving them no central guidance. If I am right, then her action is reprehensible.

Circular 10/65 then leans over backwards to make the point that: While the essential needs of children do not vary greatly from one area to another, the views of individual authorities, the distribution of population and the nature of existing schools will inevitably dictate different solutions in different areas. It is important that new schemes build on the foundation of present achievements and preserve what is best in existing schools. The circular then discusses at length different forms of secondary reorganisation which had emerged by that time. Others have emerged since. This was an agreed approach by the teachers, the local authorities and the then Secretary of State which has guided the vast majority of local education authorities in their secondary planning and building for the past five years. This is what the right hon. Lady by a stroke of her quill pen has cancelled and withdrawn—central guidance which has guided local authorities for the past five years. It is almost inconceivable, not only to me but to the whole educational world, that anybody could act so stupidly and irresponsibly.

There then follow some general considerations about building, staffing and so on, but I refer only to one of these because the right hon. Lady is rather obsessive about it. She referred to it in the Ministerial broadcast which Mr. Jack de Manio, with his usual impartiality, gave her last week, and she has raised it frequently in her anti-comprehensive campaign. I refer to the neighbourhood school.

Circular 10/65 points out that the comprehensive school should be a neighbourhood school, but only if the geographical neighbourhood produces a school which is socially comprehensive. The circular goes on in clear, specific terms to ask local authorities to ensure that their schools have this social cross-section. The right hon. Lady frequently uses the argument that because, admittedly, one or two schools in downtown areas are not socially comprehensive, the comprehensive concept is wrong. In these cases the local education authorities are not following the guidance given in Circular 10/65; but the right hon. Lady cannot complain that they are not following the guidance while she is at the same time withdrawing the guidance. So she cannot continue to use this argument. I hope that we shall hear no more on this point, not only because she has withdrawn the guidance, but also because her policy of bringing back the 11-plus selection will inevitably lead to the growth of socially divisive schools.

There are the clearest links between social class and measured performance in school. If the right hon. Lady wishes to pursue the subject, I will give her one or two references. It is time she did a bit of reading on this. She might read the "Early Leaving" Report of the Central Advisory Council, 1954, the Floud Halsey work on "Social Class and Educational Opportunity", 1956, the Philip Vernon Enquiry a year later, the 1963 analysis by Professor Moser in an appendix to the Robbins Report, or Dr. Douglas's work on "The Home and the School" in 1964. [Interruption.] I realise that this mass of reputable research means nothing to the backwoodsmen opposite.

The right hon. Lady's policy is to bring back selection, to bring back the measuring of educational performance at a given age in order to forecast the subsequent educational development of a child. This imposes a pronounced handicap on working-class children and will inevitably lead to the growth of largely middle-class selective schools. How hollow and shabby are the right hon. Lady's complaints that the comprehensive school does not contain an adequate social mix when her own policy will lead directly to class segregated schools.

I now read to the House the final paragraph of Circular 10/65. The Government are aware that the complete elimination of selection and separatism in secondary education will take time to achieve. They do not seek to impose destructive or separate change on existing schools; they recognise that the evolution of separate schools into a comprehensive system must be a constructive process requiring careful planning by local education authorities in consultation with all those concerned. But the spontaneous and exciting progress which has been made in this direction by so many authorities in recent years demonstrates that the objective is not only practicable; it is also now widely accepted. The Government believe that both the education service and the general public will welcome the further impetus which a clear statement of national policy will secure. The right hon. Lady has withdrawn all this in order to set the local education authorities free.

I now turn to examine what she has put in its place—a tiny one-page document, Circular 10/70. It will go down in the history of education as the circular which tried to put back the clock, which tried to stop the evolution of our schools, and which tried to impose Tory élitist philosophy on our major social service. [An HON. MEMBER: "Horses for courses."] Circular 10/70, which is the chosen instrument for doing this, is more notable for what is said between the lines than on the lines.

It is significant that its opening words take us back a quarter of a century to the 1944 Education Act, with its criteria of age, ability and aptitude as the determinants of the type of school a child shall attend. The right hon. Lady is seeking to carry out this policy at a time when progressive educationists everywhere—I know how much the Conservative Party hate the word "progressive", and we have all seen the frenzied writing of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) about progressive educationists—are thinking much more in terms of a continuous development of potential rather than in terms of presuming to measure innate ability and making projections about a child's future educational needs as a result.

The circular goes on to say that it would be wrong to impose a uniform pattern, and yet Circular 10/65, which has been withdrawn, describes no fewer than six different patterns which had emerged all of which would be acceptable to the Secretary of State. Indeed, the only uniformity there was about Circular 10/65 was the insistence on ending of selection and consequent separatism. Any objective observer of the educational scene would agree that a more valid criticism of the developments in the last five years since Circular 10/65 is that there has been perhaps too much variety and too little uniformity. It is an age of extremely mobile labour, and people who have to move from one area to another often tell me of the problems met by their children when moving from one kind of comprehensive system to another. But these problems and difficulties will be nothing compared with the problems that parents will now face when they move from a fully comprehensive local authority to one which brings back selection under the right hon. Lady's circular.

We are then told that it will no longer be necessary for secondary building to be compatible with a comprehensive system. This presumably means that local education authorities are now free to build grammar schools and secondary modern schools. If it does not mean that it does not mean anything. This is sheer doctrinaire irresponsibility. The Government must realise that the movement to reorganise on comprehensive lines will go on in a great many areas in spite of them. They must realise that they will be in office only for a season. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, there have been eight elections since the war, of which we and the party opopsite have won four each. There will be a Labour Government again and the Conservative Party must face the fact that in the next five years the Labour Party will win back most of the local authorities. School building is to last for many years and it is a sheer waste of educational capital to use it now to bolster a system which has been discredited in almost every progressive country in the world.

The circular then turns from this sort of irresponsibility to rather crafty hints to local education authorities. Those who have plans approved are told that they may notify the Department of Education and Science that they wish to modify them. If that is not a clear hint, I do not know what is. Those who have submitted plans but not had them approved are invited to say if they want them considered or wish to withdraw them. The Minister says she will be "pleased" to consider new plans. I bet she will. Who does she think she is kidding? This is a clear invitation to local education authorities to revert to selection and separatism.

Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that he would prefer that local authorities should be forbidden to change their minds about what they want to do and should not be allowed to tell the Government about their plans? I wish he would tell the House.

Mr. Short

Local authorities had five years in which to submit their plans, and in the great majority of cases a perfectly amicable agreement was reached.

Hon. Members


Mr. Short

I have answered the question. This is a clear invitation to local authorities to revert to selection. Some will not do so, but the Birminghams and the Kingstons will continue to subject their children to the educationally indefensible and socially unjust 11-plus This is precisely what the right hon. Lady wants. She has said so.

In this House on 12th February, 1970, I asked if she was in favour of retaining selection in order to select pupils for grammar schools. She replied: At the option of the parents."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1970; Vol. 795, c. 1483.] That was exactly the system we had in the 1930s. The Secretary of State attempts to rationalise this by her Alice-in-Wonderland claim that comprehensive schools can exist side by side with grammar schools. Whatever these schools may be, they are certainly not comprehensive when the top range of ability is creamed off to go to the local grammar school. Who could blame parents for wanting to send their children to grammar schools when the so-called comprehensive school does not have any top ability range? But perhaps the biggest absurdity of all in Circular 10/70 is the injunction that local educational authorities in deciding the pattern of their schools must consider "educational needs in general". I do not know what that means. But the right hon. Lady means that they should ignore educational thinking since the war, as she herself is doing.

In the Second Reading debate on 12th February I set out the educational case for ending selection, and I will not repeat it today. The right hon. Lady loftily dismissed it as a lecture on genetics, inheritance and intelligence. But what a pity she has not bothered to read some of the research on intelligence since the war. She is a lawyer and is used to weighing evidence. I now invite her to look at even the few works I mentioned on that occasion, let alone the great volume of other research on intelligence in the last 25 years.

From all this, two irrefutable conclusions emerge. First, that the so-called intelligence quotient which she wishes to continue to use to close the options for children at the early age of 11, 12 or 13 is as much a product of environment as it is of inheritance. The second irrefutable conclusion is that the genetic element of it cannot be measured separately from the environmental part. For these two reasons, it is educational nonsense and social injustice to allocate children to different secondary schools.

Perhaps the right hon. Lady would tell us what she means by "general educational needs". Perhaps she would tell us whether she agrees that there must be a social dimension in our decisions on educational organisation. Her circular ignores 25 years of research on measured intelligence, and it is an affront to all who believe that social considerations enter into educational decisions.

I have spoken about the immediate threat to the nation's children from this Tory Government. But the withdrawal of Circular 10/65 and the substitution of 10/70 are merely the latest episodes in a process about which I warned the educational world in a speech to the N.U.T. conference at Easter, 1969. It is part of a reactionary attack on progressive ideas in education which is concerning itself with the organisation, the content and the methods of education. Its mouthpiece is the Black Paper, and its vehicle is the Tory Party. Its diagnosis is that educational standards are falling and that youth is decadent. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon says this over and over again. Its cure is simple. It is a return to élitism in secondary organisation and to authoritarianism in method and content. In the right hon. Lady we have now seen the feminine version of Selsdon Man operating in education. If hon. Members want to see these ideas developed, they should read some of the articles of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon.

The context of what we are discussing today concerns every parent in Britain and concerns the freedom and professional integrity of every teacher in Britain. Of course, élitism and authoritarianism are the purest Tory philosophy. We on this side utterly reject this regressive concept of education. Our starting point is that all children are of equal importance, irrespective of their social background, the attitude of their parents or the amount of so-called intelligence. To us, it is all children who are the élite, not just the most able. There is an impassable gulf between the two sides here. We are poles apart on this. That is why we shall fight this Government's outdated educational policies by every legitimate means both in the House and in the country.

4.4 p.m.

The Secretary, of State for Education and Science (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

It is clear from the speech of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) that he has not yet got over losing the election. I marvel that anyone can talk of intelligence and in the same breath equate authoritarianism with the enlargement of freedom. It is also clear from his speech that local authorities and parents can have views and carry them out only if they agree with the right hon. Gentleman's views, and not unless.

I will try to deal with the matter under three heads. First, the right hon. Gentleman spoke about the withdrawal of his circular. Secondly, he spoke about the existing position under the 1944 Act, as amended. Thirdly, he spoke about my circular. I will follow him in the order that he has taken.

Dealing with point No. 1; when I met the education Press correspondents shortly after my right hon. Friend appointed me, naturally they asked me what I intended to do. I told them that I intended to implement the promises in the manifesto. In the climate of the last six years, of course, that was news. The pledges on Circular 10/65 were clearly given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in a letter to the National Education Association on 13th October, which was published in both The Times on 21st October and the Daily Mail on 18th October. It said: Meanwhile you will have seen that in recent statements Sir Edward and I have been very specific both about the repeal of legislation enforcing comprehensive education and the need for continued variety. Certainly a Conservative Secretary of State would not continue to operate Circulars 10/65 and 10/66. From the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's speech one would never have thought that the circular was followed by an attempt, which he and his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition lost between them, aided and abetted by their back benchers, to implement the circular by legislation. He knows full well from the many debates that we had—and they were all repeated because he lost Clause 1 and we had to go over it again—that it does not represent Conservative policy on education. But he has deliberately tried to take the matter in as extreme a way as he can.

Against the background of the pledges given by my right hon. Friends, against the background of the manifesto, in which we said clearly that we will maintain the existing rights of local education authorities to decide what is best for their areas, I had no alternative but to attempt to withdraw the circular. The right hon. Gentleman knows possibly what I did not appreciate at first, that one cannot just withdraw a circular; one has to issue another short circular, and this one implements, and very quickly, the election pledges which we gave.

Against that background and having just completed the biggest consultation of all on 18th June—[Interruption.]—it would not have been appropriate—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We listened to one side reasonably. We must be fair.

Mrs. Thatcher

—it would not have been appropriate to enter into consultations. I believe that consultation is meaningful only if it is entered into in a state of mind where one intends to be influenced by the representations which are made. Unlike right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, I could not be influenced to go back on an election promise. Moreover, this action in withdrawing the circular and replacing it with a short one was enlarging the rights of local authorities and not circumscribing them.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke as if he had always consulted about every matter in the educational world. But, during the Second Reading of the Bill which he lost, he stood at this Dispatch Box and was asked whether he had consulted the Church authorities. He then said that he would be willing to do so.

The point is that if the consultation was in the future it could not have taken place at the time the Bill was introduced, which had a very considerable effect upon their rights and which would have involved them in considerable extra expense. Further, the direct-grant schools were seriously affected under that Bill but no consultations took place with them.

Mr. Short

I had the longest consultations with the Churches and the direct-grant schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

The direct-grant schools did not even know that the Bill would affect them.

Mr. Short

If the right hon. Lady looks at the records in her Department she will see that I had a very long meeting with the Direct Grant Schools Association.

Hon. Members


Mrs. Thatcher

In that case, I do withdraw. I only say that the direct-grant schools were very surprised and expressed their surprise that they were affected by Clause 1. During the General Election the right hon. Gentleman had a complete party political programme on television to describe his educational policies. It could be said that with his rigid ideas of compulsion he made a positive contribution to his party's defeat. No one can say that the Labour policy on education was not put before the people. The right hon. Gentleman did that and they rejected it.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Not in my constituency.

Mrs. Thatcher

The cardinal issue of secondary reorganisation was whether the existing rights of local education authorities to decide what is best for their area should be upheld.

I will now follow the right hon. Gentleman in trying to analyse those rights as amended many times under the 1944 Education Act. May I remind the House that many of the most positive, progressive and far-reaching educational changes were made by Conservative education Ministers—for example, the noble Lord who has returned as Minister for the Arts, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) and the noble Lord, Lord Boyle—without the aid of Circular 10/65. They were made under the existing legal provisions of the 1944 Act about which the right hon. Gentleman has been so critical. Among those changes which took place without any circular was the movement in the Conservative counties towards a new comprehensive system. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. Friends took the view that if one has something good to sell one does not have to force people to buy it. It is of interest to know that on 27th November, 1964, the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said: Nearly two-thirds of the secondary school population is already living in the areas of authorities that are either implementing or making concrete plans for reorganisation on comprehensive lines."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th Nov., 1964; Vol. 702, c. 1784.] This was months before Circular 10/65 and its counterpart 10/66 which used the building programme as a form of sanction against those who did not toe the line. It shows that the 1944 Act, as amended, was no passive Measure but set out actively to promote full educational opportunity for all children. That had been the position for many years. Indeed the four big reports on educational advance, including Newsom, Robbins and Plowden, were all set up by successive Conservative Ministers. It is no defect in the Act which has held back educational progress and prevented it from going faster. The right hon. Gentleman knows the reason, namely, that we have never had sufficient resources to do all that we want to do in education.

That is the central issue. It was during the right hon. Gentleman's time and it is now. I accept that his Government did a great deal for schools. He knows now that even if we were to replace for example all the primary schools built before 1903 it would cost £200 million and would take 15 years at the rate at which they were being replaced last year, which was a comparatively good year. This shows the dimension of the problem and the importance that resources play in the future development of education. To return to the duties and rights under the Act of Parliament, the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the distribution of power between central and local government. He did not leave a great deal to local authorities and attempted to alter the balance which had been agreed over many years.

The position now is as follows. The powers under the Act as they affect local education authorities are expressed in the central provision of Section 8 which places the duty on local education authorities to secure the provision of schools sufficient in number, character and equipment to afford for all pupils—to use the phrase which the right hon. Gentleman did—opportunities for education appropriate to their ages, aptitudes and abilities. Wisely that provision did not lay down the type of institution in which that duty should be discharged. Had it at that time adopted such a rigid policy and stipulated the best school system then known, and none other, the comprehensive system could never have developed as it has from the early 1950s.

A rigid system is the enemy of advance. Almost every practical educationist advises one to have policies which are flexible so that one can stand ready to take advantage of new methods and new research. We will continue to discharge our duties in a number of ways. Many of the best educational ideas do not start in central Government but come up from local areas, provided that those areas have enough latitude to develop their ideas. The central Government powers as expressed in the 1944 Act are extremely important.

May I say now a word about the plans for secondary reorganisation. These plans have not and never have had any statutory standing, any legal status. They are extra-statutory plans with no legal status under the 1944 Education Act. When those plans come to the Department for approval that approval has no legal status either. The law comes in when those plans begin to be implemented by closing the schools, significantly altering their character or extending or altering their age group or opening new schools. In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, it might be of interest to him to know that I have just approved the Leeds scheme, for its development of secondary education which is on totally comprehensive lines.

I wish to make it quite clear that there is nothing in the circular which stops this development and where the local education authority wishes it, and it is appropriate for the area, full approval will be given. Leeds has a 5–9, 9–13, 13–18 scheme. It is one which in many ways appeals to me because one of the things I have always feared from some of the early comprehensive schemes is the massive size of school which they produce. I do not believe that all children flourish by being placed in a very large school. Sometimes the transfer from a very small school to very big one can be difficult; and I have, therefore, found this scheme attractive.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)

As a Leeds hon. Member, I am pleased to hear what the right hon. Lady says.

However, is she aware that last Friday it was announced in Leeds that a number of Conservative councillors were saying that in view of the return of a Conservative Government this scheme should now be rejected to fit the new ideas of the new Secretary of State? Are we to understand that that will not happen? Will the plan go forward whatever may now be decided as a result of what was said last week?

Mrs. Thatcher

The Leeds authority said that it wished its existing plan to be considered. I considered it. I thought that Leeds had taken great steps to inform parents and teachers and that there were no major objections to the plan. I therefore approved it under my existing policy.

The legal powers under the Education Act, 1944, come into play when notices must be issued either to close or alter the age grouping of schools. It is then that one must act in a semi-judicial capacity, and the powers we have are these: Any proposals submitted to the Secretary of State under this section may be approved by him after making such modifications therein, if any, as appear to him desirable. This is when it comes to considering separate, individual schools in implementing a plan.

This is a wide discretion. It must be exercised on educational grounds within the policy and objects of the Act, as determined from its construction. If the effect of the decision was to frustrate the policy of the Act, the decision would, no doubt, be challenged in the courts, as was a similar decision under another Act in the Padfield case in 1968.

My right hon. Friend the last Conservative Minister of Education used to describe the powers under this Section as "reserve powers" to turn down any proposal he thought educationally damaging. That was probably the way in which he viewed the exercise of his discretion.

However, I think that it is safer for me at present to stick to the wording of the Act and to say that all educational factors must be taken into account, including of course—and this is where the reorganisation comes in—other plans for schools in the area, objections from parents and teachers and representations made by educational bodies and so on. I cannot say in advance what decisions would be given or enumerate what factors might be relevant or the weight that would be attached to them.

Before leaving this question, it might be helpful if I were to indicate the way in which I shall view the non-statutory plans. I have mentioned Leeds. I think it is fair, in regard to any general plan submitted by a local education authority, to start by presuming that the responsible local authority, being a democratically elected body with statutory duties, has submitted sound proposals.

This presumption can, of course, be rebutted by sufficient evidence to the contrary. In addition to matters such as the disposition and distance between buildings, one will need evidence that the advice of teachers has been taken into account, that parents have been able to express their views and that the explanations given to them have been clear and accurate.

The last point with which I wish to deal under the existing Act is the one raised by the right hon. Gentleman; namely, the age of transfer, whether to a selective or non-selective school. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, there are many ages of transfer under the different schemes. Indeed, theoretically it is possible now to transfer at each and every age, from 8 to 15, because of the many different schemes affecting middle schools.

There will be a variety of schools for many years to come, and it seems to me that, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say, we could not, even if one wished it to be so, automatically have a totally comprehensive system because, as he knows, the cost of doing that would be, to use his word, "astronomical". That was the point he made in Committee.

The Government accept the view that the age of 11 is too early to make final decisions about a child's future. The manifesto and the previous document "Make Life Better" were clear about this and stressed the need to provide for late developers. In some ways, the debate about the type of schools has perhaps distracted attention away from what is every bit as important; namely, what happens inside the schools. At present there is a mixed system of schools and, because the costs of comprehensivisation would be so great, there will be a mixed system for a long time to come.

When the right hon. Gentleman left office there were 1,137 comprehensive schools, 2,690 secondary modern schools and 1,026 grammar schools. It is up to us, whatever type of school a child is in, to do everything possible to assist it to develop its full educational abilities and not in any way to knock the children or teachers in any one type of school.

I believe that it is possible—the right hon. Gentleman does not—to have a mixed system of both comprehensive and grammar schools—[Interruption.]—alongside. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I believe this to be so.

Mr. Short

That is a contradiction.

Mrs. Thatcher

This is not a contradiction. There are existing systems, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, so how can it be impossible? It varies enormously with the catchment area. Certainly, with a small rural area, I do not believe that it would be possible to have a comprehensive school and a grammar school, but in some of the very large urban areas it is possible, because the grammar school and direct grant school have quite different catchment areas from the comprehensive school. [HON. MEMBERS: "Impossible."] It is of little avail for hon. Gentlemen opposite to say that this is impossible, because it happens now.

Some of the best comprehensive schools are in areas where there are very good selective schools. The right hon. Gentleman is always putting forward Tulse Hill as one of the best comprehensives in London. This school is in an area where there are a number of very good selective grammar and direct grant schools. It has not prevented the grammar, direct grant and comprehensives from being extremely good schools.

Mr. Heffer

I entirely agree with the right hon. Lady that there are local authorities which have the two systems running side by side. We have this in Liverpool. Is she aware, however, that it is a totally unsatisfactory system and that it creates more than enough problems? She must understand that one either has one system or the other. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] The system that is obviously required and that has been shown to be totally necessary in the interests of the children is the fully comprehensive one.

Mrs. Thatcher

I obviously disagree with the hon. Gentleman.

I was interested in an article in New Society of 25th June, 1970, by David Donnison following an extensive survey—a much more extensive one than the pollsters did—about what the British public wanted from their schools. He pointed out that the majority said that they favoured comprehensive education and that that majority was growing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] However, an even larger majority wanted to "retain grammar schooling". I believe that if one is not doctrinaire and rigid about this it is possible to have the best of both systems. That is the difference between us.

Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)


Mrs. Thatcher

I must get on. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to express his views.

I come to another subject to which the right hon. Gentleman referred; namely, the content and significance of Circular 10/70. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not dissent from the aim contained in paragraph 1. We all agree that the aim is that all pupils should have full opportunities for secondary education suitable to their needs and abilities. This is indeed a wide aim, and we shall pursue the aim of increasing the quality of education throughout the system.

Secondly, it points out that we believe that it is wrong to impose uniform patterns. We had this argument during the proceedings on the Bill that the right hon. Gentleman lost. Even he agreed that he would not necessarily impose a uniform pattern, in that there were exceptions, I think for music and ballet. What he would not agree to was that there could be separate schools of excellence to develop mathematical and scientific ability. The right hon. Gentleman also said that there could not be any school in his scheme of things which depended for its entry partially on selection by ability. I also believe that this is wrong. I believe that there is still a place for certain selective schools of excellence. Other nations which have largely comprehensive systems have found the necessity to have them. I believe that it is wrong to exclude this from our future plans.

The next point in paragraph 1 is— restrictions on the character of secondary building projects will no longer apply". Hon. Members will know that if local education authorities did not toe the right hon. Gentleman's line approval was withheld from building projects, even though those projects were part of the basic needs programme and their absence would materially affect the education of the pupils. Three million pounds worth of school-building projects have now been released into the educational building programme so that those children will get the buildings which they need for their proper education.

The second paragraph of the circular points out that authorities will now be freer—this is what the right hon. Gentleman does not like—to determine the shape of secondary provision in their areas. I believe that the best educational schemes have come when authorities have not been coerced and have insisted at every stage on having the proper equipment and buildings. In the book "In Our Experience" this was said by Stewart Mason about one of the best schemes before Circular 10/65, he having initiated the scheme: We were unwilling to make the change"— that is, to comprehensive— unless we had the minimum physical conditions (particularly sufficient practical accommodation in the upper schools-to-be) to enable the scheme to work smoothly. The last selective area in the county disappeard after the Summer Term of 1969—so that what started as an experiment in 1957 has taken 12 years from its inception to spread over the whole county. Our approach throughout has been pragmatic. We have never attempted to follow a holy way from which any divergence would be an act of renegation. I believe that that is the way to approach comprehensive schemes and that local authorities do it better without coercion.

The other point in paragraph 2 is guidance as to what kind of schemes for secondary reorganisation will be approved. I tried to be a good deal more flexible than the right hon. Gentleman. At the time of his Bill the journal Education put forward two criteria for schemes of reorganisation for schools—first, full educational opportunity and, second, proposals that were cost-effective. I have adopted similar criteria in our slightly different language and added the third of fulfilling local needs and wishes. I have, however, in this circular stressed that where a particular pattern is working well and commands general support I do not wish to cause further change. I fail to see what is reactionary or extreme about that. This applies whether the scheme is fully comprehensive or whether there is another scheme. Where there is so much to be done for schools in deprived and poor areas, it seems to me to be a misuse of resources and efforts to concentrate on upsetting a scheme which is working well when we should be trying to help those where opportunity is less than equal.

Paragraph 3 is a machinery section telling authorities what they can do about their plans if they are currently lodged with the Department—whether they want to leave them lodged or whether they want to have them reviewed. The right hon. Gentleman really does hate local authorities to have freedom, but they must have freedom to reconsider their plans if they were put up against an undue amount of pressure. The journal The Teacher said this on 3rd July, 1970: Some of the shoe-string schemes submitted in response to Circular 10/65 were educationally very poor indeed. I do not want educationally poor schemes. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman can read on. I want to have good schemes, whether they are comprehensive or other schemes.

The last paragraph says, if I may paraphrase it, that if local authorities are to make changes these must be discussed with teachers and parents, because they are most affected. I emphasise that the changes are not brought about by virtue of this circular. The changes are brought about by virtue of the decisions taken by local authorities. It is in making those changes that the consultation must be extensive, and that is a condition of approving the plans.

In view of the upheaval of the last four years and the great challenge yet to come with the raising of the school-leaving age as planned—the right hon. Gentleman will never forget, as we shall never forget, his and his right hon. Friend's action about that—local education authorities have a lot to cope with. In the course of the next few months I shall be taking stock of the present state of secondary education, both its organisation and the problems within the schools. The main purpose of this circular is to honour an election pledge to reject compulsion on democratically elected authorities. I ask the House to reject the Amendment.

4.37 p.m.

Mr. Barry Jones (Flint, East)

I begin with the diffidence expected of an hon. Member making his maiden speech.

I have the honour to represent the people of East Flintshire. I think that they are some of the kindest and friendliest of people to be found in Wales. I understand that in a maiden speech it is customary to refer to one's predecessor. I can with great sincerity refer to Mrs. Eirene White, because she was held in high affection and great esteem in East Flintshire. People of all political opinions have testified to her integrity, her conscientiousness, and her industry. She is much admired for her work in the Welsh Office, where she did signal service for all of Wales. It was very widely regretted that she decided to step down at an age relatively early in a politician's life. She will be sorely missed by many people in East Flintshire. I shall have a very difficult job in living up to the reputation which she justly earned in her 20 years' service as Member for East Flint.

My constituency faces a very exciting future with a potential which may exceed that of all the rest of Wales. Our Broughton factory sells so many Hawker-Siddeley executive jets that another 1,500 jobs are to be created. Our textile mills occupy an important place in the local economy maintaining hundreds of women and girls in employment. The justifiably famous Shotton Steelworks is supreme in its production of sheet steel and the new discovery, Stelvetite. It fully deserves the £40 million development plan announced before the General Election. I hope that the change of Government does not mean a change of plan and investment.

Nevertheless, it is felt in East Flintshire that we need a further diversification of industry. This is why, with qualifications, I welcome the proposed Dee Barrage and New Town project. My priority is strong Welsh Office control of the development throughout. I want to see no laissez-faire hotch-potch, no bonanza for the get-rich-quick developer. It would be an appalling error if our fair county were exploited for the benefit of the richer Merseyside commuters and the Wirral's gin and tonic brigade. We have a language and a culture to protect. But steel and the steel men have made East Flintshire what it is and will largely dictate what it will be for at least a generation. I hope, therefore, that the House will listen to what I have to say on this vital industry.

I have worked at a blast furnace, and my father and my father's father each worked in steel. All of us at the moment in East Flintshire are puzzled and perturbed by the lack of clarity concerning Government policy on steel. The fear is that the Government will sell off, possibly at a knock-down price, the giant Shotton works and unscramble the new products division. It is largely felt on Deeside that at the Shotton works insufficient money is spent on the steelmaking processes themselves. The men are rightly worried. The men would also like to see an improvement in the retirement pensions granted by the British Steel Corporation. In summary, the Deeside steel men feel that the Government's steel policy as it now stands is too vague by half.

As we are debating education today, I feel I should tell the House that I have been and still am, for a short time anyway, an organiser for the National Union of Teachers. I interpret the Government's secondary school policy as a severe body blow to educational advance today. It is a retrograde step which is an affront to the vast majority of teacher opinion, and it might be termed an incredible misjudgment of the national mood as it now stands. I fear that it heralds a social petrification, when the national need is for fluidity and mixing.

I have always regarded the case against selection as one of wasted ability. At 11 years of age I failed the selection processes current in my county of Flintshire. I went to a secondary modern school. Fortunately, I did well, and within the year I was promoted—if that is the word—to the local grammar school. But what haunts me is that I left behind some 40 classmates of equal or greater ability than myself, and I think there is the heart and the nub of the matter when one considers selectivity. Those whom I left behind were denied the chance of the prize O- and A-levels which we know are now the social currencies by which we purchase privilege, favour and esteem. I found from my own experience that selection at 11-plus is open at times to huge error. It assesses only partly the innate ability, just as it brutally assesses the influence of the child's environment. Selection is measuring a child's home life, the quality and the interests of the child's parents, the state of the neighbourhood and its amenities as well as the quality of the primary school. I found that an I.Q. owes as much to nurture as it does to nature.

My failure at the selection process is still a very hurtful memory. There was the shame of failure the evident familial disappointment and the actual and imagined "tut-tutting" of the neighbourhood's street gossips. I should like to try to forget the statistical and slide rule approach to selection and consider the effect psychologically, physically and socially upon the children themselves—indeed, upon their whole families—because one's whole circle of playmates and friends was disrupted, altered and pressured. Uniforms, bus trips—indeed the very neighbourhoods of the schools themselves—often crudely undermined the carefree disposition of the primary school life that one had previously shared.

Childhood is time irredeemable. Why should 1970's child be intimidated unnecessarily by the torture of selection, by examination or by stealthy termly tests? I am thinking of those in the vast new owner-occupier estates springing up all over my constituency. They are young, go-ahead, carefree, intelligent folk who make up the families in those estates. They care deeply about the schooling of their children. I know that they will never forgive the Government if they adopt the principles of selection again. They do not want at the heart of their homes the downright unhappiness, tension and nervous strain which selection at 11 entails.

If the Government will heed neither the nervous cry of the child nor the worries of the parent, will they consider the professionalism of the teaching profession itself? Let us remember that when one discriminates against children, one discriminates also against the teachers themselves. For over three years I have visited hundreds of schools and have met thousands of teachers in Wales, Lancashire and Cheshire. I find that they are solidly against back-pedalling on the previous Secretary of State's universal comprehensive schemes, and not least the primary school teachers. Indeed, I would say that the mind of the forward-looking teacher boggles at the proposal to turn the educational clock back a whole generation.

Far too many youngsters are battling against social environmental odds, as it is, and it is very rough luck on them that the new Government are raising further hurdles for them. Under the new Government, all over the country the lights of educational advance are being dimmed, and on the shoulders of the current Secretary of State a very heavy burden lies. Perhaps it is for her to decide whether she wishes to enter our history books as an educational Canute. I find that it is difficult to resist saying that the Government Front Bench are walking backwards with their faces to the future.

4.47 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)

May I first of all thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye. May I also thank hon. Members in anticipation of the usual indulgence which I am sure they will show to a maiden speaker.

The first convention that I should like to follow, I follow not out of convention but quite sincerely, and that is to say a brief word or two about my predecessor, Mr. Tony Gardner, who represented the constituency of Rushcliffe in the last Parliament. Other hon. Members will know better than I the work that he did in this House. I can bear witness to the popularity in which he was held in his constituency and to the hard work that he did on behalf of his constituents of all parties. I am sure that in my constituency there is some regret at his absence from this House.

In that remark, I reveal that I represent the constituency of Rushcliffe which, like so many marginal seats, is not one entity at all but contains a number of areas which do not have a great deal in common. One part of the constituency is predominantly rural and agricultural. Another part is a collection of former mining villages which are slowly being rejuvenated, and the largest area is an urban district on the edge of the City of Nottingham.

One thing that those areas have in common, in so far as they have one local political problem in common at all, is the problem of education, which concerns parents throughout the constituency, and particularly the problems of secondary reorganisation. I should like to use the example of my constituency because the situation in the County of Nottingham, and in my constituency in particular, is not only of local interest but is of real relevance to the national debate. I think that the examples will illustrate how unreal this debate on secondary reorganisation can be if reduced simply to a contest, as it were, between those who are in favour of 11-plus selection and élitist education, on one side, and those who are against it, on the other. In my view, that would be a complete distortion of what ought to be the real debate on the ground in areas such at Nottinghamshire.

The first example I give is that the present Conservative local authority in the County of Nottingham is building purpose-built comprehensive schools without any local Conservative opposition whatever. A new school is being erected at Chilwell in my constituency, which will be a purpose-built comprehensive school having excellent educational amenities and will replace unsatisfactory earlier education buildings. It will be clear to all hon. Members who listened to what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said today that that project will go ahead under the auspices of the Conservative-controlled authority and without the slightest hindrance or obstruction from her, either by way of her new circular or otherwise.

I contrast that with another example from my constituency, of a reorganisation which took place under the former Government and which was initiated when a different party was in control in the local authority. It was a reorganisation carried out following Circular 10/65, creating a school in West Bridgford known as the Rushcliffe Schools. As a result of that change, the present system is that three separate buildings are described as one school; they are 1½ miles apart, the pupils travel from one to another by bus, and the staff travel from one to another by car. That is called comprehensive education.

It goes further than that. Many hon. Members have examples of that sort of thing in their constituencies as a result of reorganisation, but few will have the additional problems affecting the Rushcliffe Schools. Part of the catchment area is genuinely comprehensive in its admissions policy and has all-ability entrance. But part of the catchment area lies within the constituency of Rushcliffe itself and comprises a number of villages in Nottinghamshire south of the River Trent. Pupils from that part have to sit the 11-plus examination, and those who are thought suitable for an academic education enter the grammar school stream of the comprehensive school while the others enter the local secondary modern schools. That was called a system of comprehensive education and was approved by the former Secretary of State.

I do not oppose such a system because I oppose any abolition of the 11-plus or because I believe in an élitist selective form of education, and nor do my right hon. and hon. Friends, but I should expect all hon. Members on both sides to oppose that sort of educational nonsense which results in such unfortunate effects on those villages where pupils either go or do not go into a school like the Rushcliffe Schools.

We have heard a good deal from the benches opposite, notably from the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) who moved the Amendment, about the need for central guidance from the Secretary of State in helping local authorities to deal with their problems. I look forward to central guidance from the present Secretary of State along the lines not of doctrine but of policy directed to avoiding the problems such as those which I have outlined in connection with the Rushcliffe Schools. That guidance should be based more on a concern for the best use of educational facilities in a particular area and should have more regard to parental wishes and the wishes of staff, having regard also to whether an existing school system in an area is in need of reform or is working properly. I dare say that if those criteria had been applied at an earlier stage to the reorganisation in my constituency, the present situation in the Rushcliffe Schools would not have materialised.

I make one more point in the same connection. That particular change-over was carried out and was approved by the then Secretary of State in the name of uniformity. Hon. Members opposite will understand how it happened, and may, perhaps, be able to think of some excuse when they learn that there was a purpose-built comprehensive school in the same district as the Rushcliffe Schools, it being argued on that ground—in terms familiar to those who have listened to the debate thus far—that because there was a purpose-built comprehensive school in the area, it was illogical not to have the whole area go comprehensive. On that ground, it was said that one should go in for the strange concoction which is now the Rushcliffe Schools.

Although, in the abstract, it may seem illogical to combine the two doctrines, on the ground, as soon as one looks at this particular problem one sees that it is quite illogical to say that because one purpose-built comprehensive school was built, one should totally disrupt the secondary education of pupils throughout the area. Uniformity introduced in that way will do great harm. Indeed, nothing will do more to discredit any move towards comprehensive education than to couple it with an insistence that the change-over must come as soon as any comprehensive school is built. If, whenever a comprehensive school is built, the result is that throughout the surrounding area schools in totally unsuitable buildings are brought into the change-over and are called comprehensive, the whole idea will be discredited and the pupils of the area will be adversely affected.

As I see it, the Government face two problems arising out of the change-over where it has taken place in the way which I have described. First, it will be necessary to reintroduce the flexibility and the common sense which, much to my reassurance, we heard the Secretary of State emphasise today. Although it may catch the notice of the education Press a little less often, it makes far more sense to look at individual cases and to consider them carefully before plunging into changes which may seem on the face of them to have some doctrinaire attractions.

Second, because of what has happened, I feel that the present Secretary of State should be generous in approving the building programmes and new resources in such areas—again, I have particularly in mind schools such as the Rushcliffe Schools—where the damage resulting from what has been done needs to be repaired. The only solution to that school is the necessary building of new premises to make sure that the schools can be put in one place and adequately provide for their area. I hope that the new Secretary of State will regard as one of her priorities in considering future building programmes the need to put right mistakes of this sort which have flowed from Circular 10/65 and the previous Government's education policy.

I thank the House for its indulgence. I hope that the problems which I have outlined and the illustrations which I have given from my constituency will help to shed a little more light on what I feel should be the real issues in this debate on secondary education.

4.58 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

At the outset, this being the first opportunity I have had, I congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your appointment. Perhaps I may add that I made my maiden speech 25 years ago, and it was some consolation and support to me in the election campaign when a constituent intervened to say that he thought I should be re-elected as I was half way to emulating the record of Lord Shinwell. The occasion of my maiden speech was a long time ago, but I still recall the trepidation which I felt and I, therefore, genuinely congratulate the two hon. Members who have just spoken on the ease and facility with which they addressed the House.

Perhaps the greatest tribute which I can pay to my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mr. Barry Jones) is to say that everything he said echoes what Mrs. Eirene White would have said if she had taken part in this debate, as I am sure she would have done. It is a delight to the House to know that Mrs. White has been succeeded by someone as interested and as well informed in education as she was.

I assumed that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) must have been an excellent candidate to have defeated Mr. Tony Gardner. He has demonstrated this afternoon that my assumption was correct, and we look forward to his further contributions. Meanwhile I agree with a good deal of what he said about education.

I congratulate both hon. Members on making their maiden speeches in this debate, which I regard as far and away the most important debate in this series on the Address. I found the debate yesterday on economic affairs depressing, tediously repetitive, and basically displaying a consistent bipartisan Treasury policy and an unimaginative rigid orthodoxy which I regard as totally inadequate to the times in which we live.

After that depressing comment on the two Front Benches, I should add that it was fortunate that the last Parliament was a progressive and radical one. Unfortunately, the present Parliament is less progressive and less radical, and, moreover, there has been a marked polarisation between reactionary and progressive forces.

An Hon. Member


Mr. Willey

The hon. Gentleman, as a good reactionary, says, "Splendid", but this disturbs me. I believe it is very important to keep the House progressive.

The Front Benches will be judged by their records, and I have commented on their achievements. We need a progressive element in the House to encourage originality and imagination to tackle the very real, difficult problems facing this country. There is a danger that, far from being progressive, we may turn to more reactionary solutions. It is because of my obsession with this possibility that I speak quite frankly. I know that after an electoral defeat we are advised to consolidate our strength and not recriminate. But I will recriminate to a certain extent, because I think it is necessary. We should recognise some of the weaknesses and failures of the Labour Government. We should recognise that they depended far too much on improvisation and far too little on principle, and that Ministers were far too often diffident, far too often antipathetical to progressive ideas, too dependent on the official advice they received.

I can speak from experience. One day I shall reveal quite frankly to the House my experience on land reform and, more surprisingly, on leasehold reform and the bitter opposition I encountered from my colleagues. I emphasise this because I think that today and tomorrow it will be absolutely necessary for us to be more progressive and advanced than we have been. Unfortunately, this is particularly true of education. Everyone knows that for too much of the time the most conservative, most unimaginative Department was the Department of Education and Science. This was a sorry reflection upon the Labour Government.

Now I will deal with the subject under debate. The right hon. Lady need not display her maternal concern for the tripartite division of secondary education. It had nothing to do with the wicked Tories. It was not inherent in the Education Act, 1944. It was created by the Labour Government and Miss Ellen Wilkinson in 1947. She created the secondary modern, the secondary technical and the secondary grammar schools. She decreed: It is for the majority that the secondary modern school will cater. and that: There will be a proportion whose ability and aptitude require the kind of course with the emphasis on books and ideas that is provided at a secondary grammar school. Then all this was fudged by "parity of esteem", but that this could not conceal it was a fundamental and disastrous mistake.

How did it come about? This is why I deal with the administration. It came about in this way. We decreed a considerable expansion of secondary education. Let us not forget that in the immediate post-war years we assumed that the school-leaving age would shortly be raised not to 15 but to 16. The administration felt that this was an enormous demand upon resources—that is why I warn people talking about public expenditure—and that therefore, we would get secondary education for the working class on the cheap. As Miss Wilkinson said: It is for the majority that the secondary modern school will cater. Fortunately, and that is why I appeal to hon. Members on these benches and the Labour Party outside the House, there was a great upswell of progressive opinion against this division of secondary school children. We had enormous pressure for comprehensive secondary education, largely from Labour local authorities, led in the main by the Labour London County Council, though not entirely. As the right hon. Lady has said, Tory Leicestershire looked at education and came to the same conclusion, that the only right and proper way to educate children, if we were to provide expanded secondary education, was to provide that education on comprehensive lines.

For a few years I led the Opposition on education. I found that it was unnecessary to campaign for comprehensive secondary education because this was broadly accepted by every progressive education authority and education spokesman. I found a massive national movement, which was not contained within party delimitations. It had a momentum of its own. I mention party delimitations because this point has not been referred to. I had more difficulty with my own party than with educationists. It is not forgotten that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition when we addressed the Campaign for Education conference on education preceding the 1964 election intervened to say that we would deal with the grammar schools only over his dead body. But that was not the view of educationists. They were fully and wholeheartedly in support of the full comprehensive reorganisation of secondary education.

I will recall to the House something I said at that conference, because it is not unimportant. I said: We cannot in fact deal with the problem of secondary education unless we deal with the private sector. That remains as true today as it did in 1963, immediately before the 1964 election.

I say to right hon. and hon. Members on these benches, "What have you done about it? You have done nothing, and when you appointed Sir John Newsom chairman of the committee of inquiry you were settling for doing nothing."

Mr. Fred Peart (Workington)

I shall be winding up for the Opposition. I hope that my right hon. Friend excuses me from his strictures.

Mr. Willey

I certainly excuse my right hon. Friend from them. I am delighted that he is to wind up, because he was one of those who fought very powerfully for the argument that if we believe in comprehensive secondary education we must be logical about it.

The other important thing that is very relevant to comprehensive secondary education is the school-leaving age. Secondary education cannot be made fully comprehensive until the school-leaving age has been raised to 16. The right hon. Lady referred to the Leicestershire scheme. The difficulties are revealed there when children are leaving secondary schools at 15. One of the completely indefensible actions of the last Government was to postpone the date of raising the school-leaving age. It is important to face these things and put them on the record. My opinion is that if we had resolutely set about abolishing the 11-plus it would be abolished by now. We had 5½ years to do it. Apart from that, if we genuinely believe in a comprehensive secondary education what have we done or tried to do about the private sector? What have we done about the school-leaving age? When children are leaving at 15 we cannot have full comprehensive secondary education. Any secondary school teacher will confirm that.

I do not want the right hon. Lady to be complacent because these strictures are falling elsewhere. They make her action all the more intolerable and indefensible. We know, and she confessed, that there is throughout the country overwhelming support for comprehensive secondary education. That overwhelming support has been strengthened by the disappointment that we did not achieve greater progress under the Labour Government. That disappointment has only been strengthened by the fact that Sir Edward Boyle felt that he had no political future on the Conservative Benches.

But what the right hon. Lady ought to recognise is that there is virtual unanimity among educationists whose reputation is worth anything that the first priority is to have a genuine system of comprehensive secondary education. I have spoken as I have because I do not think that this can be an alibi for those on the Labour benches for what we have failed to achieve. We cannot isolate comprehensive secondary education from the other issues affecting education.

I have explained what the first Labour Government did about secondary education and the arduous exertions which we have had to make to rectify that mistake. The last Labour Government made an equally important and disastrous mistake. The last Labour Government, just as the first were faced with an expansion of secondary education, were faced with an expansion of higher education. What happened? They followed exactly the same course. Just as the first Labour Government said that the secondary modern was the secondary education for the working-class child, so the Labour Government which have just left office said that in higher education the polytechnic was the higher education for the working-class child.

In other words, having fought his way through the secondary school education, the working-class child will be rewarded by having a polytechnic and not a university education. We have this binary division now running through the institutions of higher education, those of the university and those of non-university status. In other words, with the polytechnics we have now first-class and second-class higher education, just as we devised the same division in 1947 for secondary education.

This, too, has been done in the face of all progressive education opinion. I am delighted to see the Under-Secretary of State here, and I hope that he is to reply to the debate. He shared with me the experience of serving on the Select Committee on Education and Science. This demonstrated how much more progressive the House of Commons is than the Front Benches. I hope that he will retain at any rate an element of the progressive character which he showed when a member of that Select Committee.

When the Select Committee looked at this subject, members of both parties had no hesitation in thoroughly condemning the binary system and saying that it was wrong to keep a demarcation line which produce a feeling of first and second-class citizenship in higher education. Once again, this demonstrates the cleavage and division between the Front Benches and progressive opinion both in the House and outside. It demonstrates that the back-benchers, just as those responsible for education in the field, are more progressive than those who administer it.

May I give another illustration? The Select Committee, without much difficulty, prepared a report on student relations. I do not think that anyone would accuse the Committee of being weak about the subject of disruption. Everyone will recognise that the Committee appreciated the dangers and difficulties of disruptive elements within the universities. But this did not prevent it from producing a report which was acclaimed everywhere as progressive. Nevertheless, we have had no reply from the Government. The Government, which gave votes to people at 18, gave no hopeful response to the most articulate spokesmen of that generation.

I must confess that I have now a gleam of hope, because we had the same experience with teacher training. Everyone in education wanted an inquiry into teacher training—except the Department of Education and Science. We got no response. We have a response now, and I am flattered to think that the Under-Secretary has had an influence in the Department which he has just joined.

It is against this background that I am very concerned about the right hon. Lady's action. It is a tragedy that at the beginning of the life of this Government she should so blatently and patently have set out to appease the reactionaries. This is political disaster, if I may advise her. My own constituency experience is that the local Conservative Party would not deny that it suffered a serious rebuff at the municipal elections because it showed the same sort of reactionary approach which the right hon. Lady showed this afternoon.

I have mentioned Ellen Wilkinson, and Florence Horsbrugh has been mentioned. It is a great pity that the right hon. Lady has joined Florence Horsbrugh, who enjoyed the unfortunate nickname of "Hambone Florrie". It was a great rebuff to the first Conservative Administration after the war when Dame Florence, as she then was, could not give a more progressive approach and lead to education. The Conservatives improved as the years went by, but they will not have the same time to improve this time.

Nevertheless, I hope that the right hon. Lady will be sensitive to this debate. I hope that she will recognise that her action is a great mistake. I hope that she will recognise that she owes an obligation to the House. It is extremely important that the House should retain its progressive influence over the next few years. I say to my hon. Friends, "Do not seek an alibi; do not think that by lambasting the right hon. Lady you can escape your own responsibilities." The main touchstone of progressive politics in this country depends on education. It is a great tribute to movements such as the Campaign for Education that they were able so to move public opinion, but I plead with both parties to remain progressive about education and when talking about public expenditure to appreciate what other countries are doing and the danger that over the next few years other countries' expenditure on education may seriously outstrip ours.

If I do not have too much hope for the right hon. Lady, I have greater hope for those who occupy the Labour Benches. I hope that they will give first priority over the next few years to battling for a more progressive policy on education, because this more than anything else will shape the future of the country.

5.20 p.m.

Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)

We have listened to an extremely entertaining speech from the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). I enjoyed most of it very much. By the same token, could I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to move too far away because I have been trying to find him for the last three days. I was somewhat shattered to hear the Report of the Select Committee to which I, too, was a co-signatory described as "progressive", because it is a word whose meaning I have never grasped. In fiction one of the most progressive stories we read is that of the Gadarene swine but where did they end up? I do not really think that we can say with any degree of certainty that the comprehensive experiment is "progressive", because we simply do not yet know. It is an experiment that has yet to prove itself.

I am not dogmatically against it and never have been but we cannot say that it is what I know the right hon. Gentleman means by the word "progressive". And when he says that every educationist whose views are worth anything at all agrees with him on these matters, I hope that he will not tell that to Lord James or Lord Snow or dozens of other people whom I could mention. He is gravely underrating their talents. As for grammar schools, I have said in the House before that they mostly had disappeared under the Labour Administration but where is the dead body?

Contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition said in his speech on the Address, the policy outlined by my right hon. Friend this afternoon is neither dogmatic nor instant. We have proclaimed our objection, as she has reminded the House, to the proposed abolition of selection in secondary education on innumerable occasions since 1965. To quote one paragraph from "Make Life Better" which appeared over a year ago dealing with this question: If the threatened legislation to compel all secondary schools to become comprehensive has been passed we shall repeal it.… Academic standards (of the grammar schools) must be maintained so that bright children can stretch their abilities to the full. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the 1968 Conservative Party conference Where parents and local education authorities want it, of course we shall support grammar schools, support them to the hilt. The party's policy has been made abundantly clear to the country for a long time and all my right hon. Friend did at her Press conference was to repeat it.

Socialist philosophy is typified best by that famous phrase, "The gentleman in Whitehall knows best." My right hon. Friend does not claim that the lady in Westminster knows better than the elected representatives of the people on the spot which system suits their children best. She has, therefore, "withdrawn" Circular 10/65 and I warmly congratulate her for having done so. That circular told the local education authorities that they should reorganise secondary education in certain ways and informed them that the Labour Party intended to abolish selection in secondary education. That was the nub of our opposition, not the comprehensive experiment which, after all, had started in many schools under Conservative Ministers.

It was only suggested that such schools should be built for the purpose—that is essential: I have had experiences similar to those of the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) in my constituency—and that they should not destroy, by replacing, a school which had proved its worth; and that selection should be continued within them. I warned the House in 1965 shortly after the famous circular that the ultimate objective of the Socialist egalitarian is to abolish selection within, as well as between, schools.

But of course selection is only another name for diagnosis of a child's ability; and diagnosis of a child's ability is essential if we are to give every child the opportunity to make the best of his aptitude and ability. It was the expressed aim of Mr. R. A. Butler, as he then was, in the maintained sector: to make all types of schools available to all types of children rather than to make all types of children go to one type of school. With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I must say that I was surprised to hear him say that it was Ellen Wilkinson—I thought it was the 1944 Education Act—who established the tripartite system, but it is a long time since I have read it and I bow to his superior knowledge.

At any rate, the result was that the tripartite system came about and it was accepted at once by all parties, in the happy days when education was not a party political issue. I believe that objective, as stated by Lord Butler, to be the right one and very much in accord with Tory philosophy. To be wise after the event, it might have been better, when all the new building was going on, and it might still be better when future building begins, to have all three types of school, the academic, the technical and the vocational, under one name and surrounding one campus. That would save a lot of heartache.

Because the tripartite system presupposes different kinds of schools, some attempt had to be made to decide which kind is best suited to a particular child and that necessitates a process of selection. I have always thought it somewhat disingenuous to claim that the 11-plus examination has been abolished by this or that authority. The truth is that where there are grammar schools, and there are vast areas of the country where there are not grammar schools, some such selection at the proper age, not necessarily 11, is necessary and must be made. Moreover, if it is wrong at 11 and right at 18, when does it become respectable? After many months of prolonged discussion Donnison included among: the vital questions which we must learn more about the question: At what age selection for different purposes is justified. The point is that there must be selection after a certain stage and throughout a pupil's career; but at no stage should it be considered a final assessment. The 11-plus examination of the 1944 Act was never intended to be a final diagnosis.

Of all the iconoclastic objectives of the Socialists the decision to abolish the direct grant schools was one of the worst. Thank heaven that wanton destruction has been prevented by the common sense of the British people. Those schools which opted for independence would simply have increased what the egalitarians call "social divisiveness" and the whole of the independent system would have been the next to come under the chopper.

Yet these independent schools enjoy a worldwide reputation for giving as good an education as is anywhere obtainable. They somewhat reduce the burden upon the tax and ratepayer, and upon the overcrowded classrooms of the State. They provide teachers with a choice of employer; and they enable parents, while not relieving them of the duty of contributing towards the education of other people's children, to choose to pay for their own. That is a fundamental human right.

These schools are assets which the country cannot afford to lose. Everyone who loathes the prospect of the uniform mediocrity of a Socialist State must fight to preserve their variety and excellence. Alas, only two members of the Donnison Committee agreed that those parents who can contribute something towards the cost of educating their children, should do so and that such money from private pockets could enable the State to improve the maintained sector.

I end on a constituency matter. In Hertfordshire 20 years ago, I used to receive many letters from parents disappointed that their child had not got into the grammar school. As time went on, the secondary modern schools in Hertfordshire became so good that these letters ceased. Now the whole issue has been thrown into the melting pot again because the local education authority under duress has not left well alone but has reorganised the system so that, for example, in one part of my constituency three schools miles apart have been merged into one comprehensive, without thereby effecting "parity of esteem". Now the parents of brighter children are bitterly angry if their child does not go to the one-time grammar school and so they write to me, who has of course no locus standi at all.

I certainly would not ask my right hon. Friend to intervene in such matters because that would be contravening the whole of our policy. But I hope that she will encourage local education authorities to give the fullest possible effect to parental choice as one of the many relevant factors in deciding where a child shall receive his or her secondary education. These factors, in addition to parental choice, are: the primary school record; the assessment made by the primary head in consultation with secondary heads; accessibility; and accommodation. Where the record and assessment agree in considering that an academic education would best suit a child, then I hope that parental choice should be paramount.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. J. D. Dormand (Easington)

In addressing the House for the first time, I ask it to extend to me its usual tolerance and indulgence. In accordance with the traditions of the House, I shall be very brief and as non-controversial as possible. Because of my three famous predecessors in the House, perhaps I shall be excused for asking for more than the usual degree of tolerance.

It is a frightening experience to be following in the footsteps of Sidney Webb, one of the great academics of my party, Ramsay Macdonald, the first Labour Prime Minister, and Mr. Emanuel Shinwell, a household name. It is fortunate that the wise counsels of Emanuel Shinwell will not be lost to the nation. The contributions which he will make in another place will be most valuable and, knowing him as I do, I know that they will be no less controversial than they have been in this House.

Had a newcomer to Easington contested the recent election, it would have been a traumatic experience for him. Thousands of constituents said to me during the campaign, "If you are half as good as Emanuel Shinwell, you will be all right". Contesting the constituency was no shock to me because I am an Easington man and I have had the very great privilege of working with Emanuel Shinwell in the constituency on political matters for 30 years. He has in truth become a legend in his own time, and if I am half as good I shall be satisfied. Certainly I cannot hope to emulate his achievements.

Easington is an interesting and exciting constituency. We have in recent years suffered the hardships of four pit closures, but we still have six pits working, some of them, I hope, long-life pits. The coal mines have left a scar on our constituency, but I wish to place on record that we have some of the most delightful villages in the country. We also have a splendid coastline, which has been developed very tastefully by my council, the Easington Rural District Council, whose resort at Crimdon is a veritable lung for the area. In the midst of this rural setting we have the developing new town of Peterlee, which is visited by people from all over the world. Its design and layout is first-rate. It is also the main hope of attracting sorely needed new jobs to the constituency. I hope that at a later date I shall be given the opportunity to speak on that very important matter.

We are today discussing the proposals for education contained in the Gracious Speech. I am proud to say that my constituency has a unique status in educational administration. We are the only rural district in the country which has excepted district status. I think that we rather crept in by the back door. The Local Government Act, 1958, envisaged that boroughs and the larger urban districts would have excepted district status, but because of our size, population and interest in and enthusiasm for education Easington is an excepted district and has been so since 1963. I am proud to say that we have a record second to none, but I had better declare an interest: until becoming a Member, I was the district education officer. I believe that the exercise of delegated educational functions which excepted districts enjoy is a most valuable part of education administration, and that they should be retained in any review of local Government which is undertaken.

The Secretary of State has withdrawn Circular 10/65. I regret that very much, but it will not affect my constituency at all. Our development plan proposes the construction of six comprehensive schools for the 11 to 18 years age range. The Conservative Party has said on many occasions—and I was glad that the right hon. Lady stressed it today—that in areas where comprehensive education was decided upon the schools should be purpose-built; they should be right for the job. We are doing just that, but it raises a great problem. It causes considerable delay in the implementation of the plan and the building of schools.

I wish to make an appeal to the Secretary of State: in such circumstances, will she increase the building allocation to authorities which propose purpose-built schemes? My education committee in Easington is very concerned about the delay. It gives rise to great concern when parents and teachers are enthusiastic about comprehensive education, as they are in my constituency. I hope that close attention will be given to this problem.

The Gracious Speech makes no reference to an aspect of education which is exercising the mind of teachers and educationists generally—and I regret to say that the withdrawal of Circular 10/65 gives rise to further concern. I refer to the needs of slow-learning children, including those who are not in schools for the educationally sub-normal. Most local education authorities tackle this problem by providing schools for the educationally sub-normal and by the employment of peripatetic remedial teachers. I should like to place on record my great appreciation of the dedicated work which is done by those men and women. However, the problem is largely untouched, and a great deal remains to be done. I urge the expansion of the training programme for such teachers, both long and short courses, for this specialised and exacting work. Furthermore, local education authorities should be encouraged by the Department of Education and Science to increase both the number of teachers employed on it and the financial incentives usually associated with these posts.

There is one very heartening aspect of this matter. Young teachers leaving colleges today are increasingly interested in the needs of the slow-learning child. I have never known the interest to be as great as it has been in the last two or three years. This attitude should be fostered and encouraged by the local education authorities and the Department of Education and Science. The Gracious Speech states: An inquiry will be instituted into teacher training". That will present an ideal opportunity to stress the importance of the inclusion in college curricula of training to meet the needs of the slow-learning child.

Finally, I turn to what may be described as fringe education. I refer to pre-school playgroups. As perhaps right hon. and hon. Members know, this matter does not strictly come within the education system, but we are discussing comprehensive education, and my philosophy on comprehensive education accords simply with what the word means—to include everything. There are hundreds of enthusiastic mothers who take part, without pay, in the running of playgroups. These playgroups have a valuable rôle, particularly in the social education of very young children. However, they are handicapped by the lack of facilities and equipment. I do not know if I should admit, as an education officer, that I have hived off quite a bit of official education equipment to playgroups, and they have been most appreciative of it.

I am pleased to recall that the Labour Government made a direct grant to the National Association of Playgroups. In addition, they encouraged local authorities—not only L.E.A.s but local authorities of all kinds—to give financial aid to these groups. However, the sums are quite inadequate and I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to increasing this financial aid.

I also hope that they will encourage more L.E.A.s to encourage more training courses. Some are already doing it, but only a few. I also hope that the Department of Education and Science, through its inspectorate, will run similar courses. This is a largely unexploited field and, having regard to the great restrictions which now exist on nursery education, I am sure that we would get more than our money's worth in this sector. It may be true, as is often said, that the early years are the most important in the education of a child. Thus, money spent at this stage of a child's development could prove to be a valuable long-term investment.

I am grateful to the House for the forbearance and patience it has exercised in observing the first faltering steps of a maiden speaker.

5.42 p.m.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

Most newcomers to this House are struck by the overwhelming sense of continuity and custom which they find here. In making my maiden speech, I certainly do not wish to deviate from this sense.

I gather that there are three conventions which a maiden speaker should follow; he should refer favourably to his predecessor, he should speak briefly about his constituency and he should try to be uncontroversial. The first two are, in my case, extremely easy. I will try as far as I can to be uncontroversial, though it is difficult to speak on the topic of comprehensive education without occasionally overstepping the mark.

Sir Spencer Summers, my predecessor, is a man whom it is impossible not to like and respect. His rectitude was and is matched by his kindliness, as I have had considerable occasion in the last year to find out. I gather that in the House of Commons he was a very assiduous and penetrating member of the Estimates Committee, and I am sure that he was a wise friend and adviser to many people. He is well known for his work for the Outward Bound movement, and in my constituency, as hon. Members will know, he has always been a deeply respected figure. In short, he is a man who has done the State considerable service.

As to my constituency, Aylesbury, the best comment I can make is that I would change it for no other. It has extraordinary variety. It is a most attractive place, encompassed by beautiful countryside, which, alas, is threatened by reason of a possible third London airport there. It covers industry and farming, and has what is commonly called a commuter belt, though it is one of exceptional charm. All in all, I am extremely lucky to be able to represent it.

One of the virtues of electioneering is that it brings one into a degree of contact with the people, which may take a long time to do in any other way. Something that was certainly borne in on me as I tried to meet the people in the last few weeks was the rugged independence of mind and the genuine character of my constituents.

Time and again I was struck by the rather idiosyncratic frame of mind of some of them. I remember canvassing one old gentlemen who said that he would vote Labour because he wanted to see 2 million unemployed. He was sure that Labour was the party to achieve that. It was a curious point of view. I spoke to an old lady who said that while she would very much like to vote for me, she had promised her hubsand before he died that she would always vote Labour. I did not try to dissuade her.

Another character of my constituency which stands out is its quite exceptional political tradition. In the Market Square of Aylesbury there are two prominent statues, one of John Hampden and one of Benjamin Disraeli. I can imagine no two politicians I would rather see adorning this place.

Hampden stands for freedom. I have always admired him, perhaps because of Macaulay's remark about a man who spent all summer in the field and all winter in the study. Disraeli is respected by all Conservatives for his shrewdness and unique understanding of England.

May I quote from an election address which Disraeli gave to the electors of Buckinghamshire about 120 years ago. He said: The County of Buckingham has always taken a lead in the political fortunes of this country. The Parliamentary Constitution of England was born in the bosom of the Chiltern Hills; as to this day our Parliamentary career is terminated among its Hundreds. The Parliamentary Constitution of England was established when Mr. Hampden rode up to Westminster surrounded by his neighbours. Buckinghamshire did that for England. It has done more. It gave us the British Constitution in the 17th century, and it created the British Empire in the 18th. All the great statesmen of that century were born, or bred, or lived in this county". He went on to speak of achievements in the 19th century and concluded: Now let the men of the North, who thought they were to govern England"— I assume he had in mind the present Leader of the Opposition— bring a political degree equal to that of the County of Buckingham. Clearly, I have something to live up to.

I come to the topic of the debate, education, and I welcome the emphasis in the Gracious Speech on primary schools. I had the good fortune to be a member of the Plowden Committee, which devoted three years to looking at them. It would have been impossible to have gone through this experience without being struck both by how good they are in many ways and by how much they need in the way of help, particularly in terms of accommodation and in tackling the size of their classes.

It is right, therefore, to give this emphasis to primary schools, and I hope, with the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand), that this will be extended to include the pre-school section for I believe that here the case for getting nursery schools under way to a far greater extent is strong, as is the case for supporting the pre-school play group movement.

On the Plowden Committee I was one of those who signed a minority note saying that we should have nursery schools but that we should be prepared to charge fees to those able to afford them. If we do not do that, we will not see the expansion we need. At the same time the immediate area for expansion must be the deprived or priority areas.

The evidence is that a good start in mastering language and something of the atmosphere of school is invaluable to children who are brought up in these areas. I hope that in the next year or so headway will be made in this connection.

Although I believe that the primary sector is vitally important, some of our biggest problems remain in the secondary sector, where we have some very great difficulties to face. They are, perhaps, not so much difficulties in terms of facilities, buildings and so on as difficulties of philosophy, discipline and organisation.

I acknowledged earlier that I had a duty to be uncontroversial in my maiden speech. I will not, therefore, talk of the essential topic today, though I want to talk briefly about comprehensive schools generally. In many areas they are the right thing, and I am sending one of my children to a comprehensive school, which indicates that I approve of them.

At the same time, I believe that comprehensive schools produce certain difficulties which we do not always face. However, it seems that they are not, on the whole, insuperable difficulties, though it does no good to ignore them, as sometimes happens. The first is that to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred; namely, the problem of size. It is not only that there is a problem of finding the right buildings, though this is a major difficulty. There is the problem which has to do with the atmosphere—the discipline and internal communications.

On the whole we have become rather more chary in the last few years of saying that bigness equals efficiency, that big equals good. This applies in all sorts of fields of life and not only education, but I believe that when we get to schools of 2,000 or so the chances of having a difficult social situation inside them are greatly increased. I think also that there is a problem which is perhaps not fully appreciated of finding head teachers who are able to run such schools. It is a very different thing to run a school of 2,000 or so pupils from running a school of 300 or 400 pupils. It calls for skills which are different. So I believe that schools of 2,000 on the whole tend to be too big, and yet, of course, our problem is that we do need big schools if we are going to have adequate sized sixth forms.

As many hon. Members know, the Inner London Education Committee, on which I served, recently carried out a survey of the extent to which London secondary schools are able to provide what they consider to be adequate sixth forms. The report argued that the minimum size for a sixth form should be 40 per year; in other words, in the first year of A level work they needed 40 pupils taking A level and in the second year another 40. The report said that in 1968 58 per cent. of the London schools had fewer than 40 pupils in their first year on A level work and 77 per cent. fewer than 40 in their second year of A level work. This exposes a very big problem. The question is: what do we do about it? How do we provide adequate sixth forms and yet keen the size of schools down?

Again, I am quite sure that the essential long-term answer is to get away from the 11 to 18 schools. It seems to me, for one thing, that 11 to 18 is too big a span. I was talking recently to the head of one of the well known comprehensives and she made exactly the same point. She said that in her belief we are really dealing with quite small children at one end of the scale and with adults at the other, and it is a very difficult thing to deal with both in one single community. So do let us try to get away from the 11 to 18 system. But let us see what other systems make better sense. I do not myself think that a break at 14 makes very good sense. The Leicestershire plan had a good deal to be said for it in its own context, but I do not think it is a very good long-term solution. It seems to me that a break at 14 produces difficulties both for the 11 to 14 section and for the 14 to 16 section—that is, for those who are to leave school at the earliest opportunity. I do not think that 14 is the right place to look for a break.

The systems I favour are first perhaps what one would expect from a member of the Plowden Committee—the three-tier system and alternatively the sixth form college system. I think we must acknowledge that neither of these would normally be easy to achieve, anyway in administrative terms. It can be done, but it is not easy.

It was very sad that when the Labour Party regained control of the Inner London Education Authority it scrapped the attempt we had made at Thamesmead to introduce the three-tier system. The ground on which it said it scrapped it was that it was administratively a difficult system to operate in an area which also had the ordinary 11 to 18 pattern. Well, no doubt there were considerable administrative difficulties, but we had made an attempt to experiment in London, and London, for all its great virtues in education, seems to me to be unduly rigid. I think that this was a case where one should have tried the experiment to find a better system, and attempted a bit of a gamble.

I do not believe that either the three-tier system or the sixth form college system will be easy to achieve in terms of their educational philosophy. A three-tier system certainly takes a bit of time to evolve. I have seen middle schools, and I recognise that they have growing pains; yet ultimately the notion of introducing in primary schools subjects like science and a language from the secondary school makes what is potentially a very good system and one which we should try to back.

The sixth form college system also has great merits. It allows for the different nature of children, as they grow into the upper teens. Again, there are administrative and practical difficulties. In particular teachers may tend, if they are highly academic, to turn to the sixth form college with the result that we denude the second-tier of such teachers. I believe that this has, in fact, happened in some of these experiments.

However, my point is simply that, although there are difficulties of this kind, I do not think they are basically insuperable difficulties. We simply need to try to get away from the 11 to 18 pattern to one or other of these two better alternatives and it would be worth while to exercise a bit of patience.

I want to say another word about headships. It is difficult to get heads for these very big schools, but there is another problem that we have to face, and that is security of tenure of heads. It is a fact at the moment that once a head is appointed he is there for life. Anybody who knows schools will realise that occasionally this can be very harmful. We know that there are lots of heads who are absolutely first-rate, but there are a few who are not. This is quite inevitable. If we get a school of 2,000 or so the problem of the poor head inevitably escalates, but we must find a way to get rid of heads who have passed their usefulness. This will be harsh and difficult to do, but I am sure that it is something which has to happen.

Another point I want to refer to is the neighbourhood school. I really believe that neighbourhood schools are going to prove to be more or less inevitable. I do not myself see a way round this, but it is in the tougher areas, so to say, that the case for keeping the selective system, for the time being anyway, seems the strongest. Only a very small number of children are likely to be dedicated to education, and they can easily be swamped by the less enthusiastic majority. If we look at education in the East End of London we see that the grammar schools there have done a tremendously important and worth-while job, and it is in that sort of area that the case for separation still remains the strongest, anyway for the time being.

As I say, there are snags about going comprehensive and we should not ignore them or make the mistake of allowing egalitarianism to turn into anti-intellectualism. Nevertheless, as a means of providing good secondary education there is a very great deal to be said for the comprehensive. Through it we can get away from selection and provide a full measure of opportunities and a full course. I believe there will be a continuing trend in that direction.

My last point is simply this. I have a feeling that education in economic terms is going to have a rough ride over the next few years. This has nothing to do with the change of Government. I have tried not to be controversial, but I think that the achievements of the Conservative Government in education were quite outstanding. We are going to see demands for very high priorities indeed from other social services. Health will be one. In education, as we all know, there is a continuing problem of trying to cope with ever-increasing numbers: we have to run in order to stand still. So it is not going to be easy for education. It is because of this that I believe that it is extremely important that we really should know what we are doing, and must have the highest possible standards of attainment, and a continuing understanding of the organisation and processes of education, over the next 10 years.

5.59 p.m.

Mrs. Shirley Williams (Hitchin)

May I begin my remarks from the back benches, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by congratulating you on your presiding over this debate and saying what great pleasure it gives to some of my feminine colleagues to see you there.

May I also congratulate two outstanding maiden speakers, both of whom revealed a great grasp of the subject we are discussing. The hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand), in what I might describe as a series of constructive confessions, may have given a little too much away to the representatives of the Department opposite; I only trust that they closed their ears at the proper moments. It is never easy to follow the trail blazed by a great man, but, having heard his speech, I am sure that most of us are confident that he will succeed better than most in doing so.

I compliment the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) on his speech. Many of us know him already as a distinguished contributor to debates on the social sciences, not least on education. He is perhaps setting himself almost too great a task in representing a constituency which was single-handedly responsible for the creation of the British Empire, but we are sure that if anybody can do it, he can. His was an extremely knowledgeable and well-informed speech on education, and we shall look forward to hearing him again on this subject.

I remind the House of what the Prime Minister said in speaking to the Motion in reply to the gracious Speech: Both in housing and in education we are restoring freedom of choice to the individual. I emphasise the words "to the individual". … the Secretary of State for Education has already taken action to give local authorities in England and Wales more freedom to take their own decisions and we shall introduce legislation to deal with this matter in Scotland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd July, 1970; Vol. 803, c. 92.] At least for some of us on this side of the House the freedom of the individual and the freedom of the local authority are not necessarily synonymous concepts. A local authority is normally representative of that one-third to one-quarter of the people who actually elect it. It consists largely of people who no longer have the intense concern for the education and future of children that parents have. Although no one who has served in the Department of Education and Science can do other than recognise the legitimate interests of local authorities in education, many of my right hon. and hon. Friends feel that there are two other groups with at least as great, a stake, if not a greater stake, in the education of children. One of these groups is the teachers, whom the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Education and Science did not see fit to consult on a major change in education. The other group is the parents, not to speak of the children themselves. It is these other groups that we wish to put forward in talking about the freedom of individual choice. One can make a choice first by an imposed system, which is basically what selection is all about, whether or not it embodies the 11-plus examination. It is an imposed system because in allowing freedom of choice to a minority it rules out freedom of choice to the majority, and this is our main objection to it. Secondly, there is the freedom of choice which can be satisfied by the options offered by the schools.

I protest strongly about the assertions that have been made that the aim of my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Education and Science was for a dogmatic uniformity of education. As he said, there are many choices in terms of types of comprehensive education, and, at least as important, a comprehensive school should offer a wide range of options to the children within it in terms of the courses they follow and, above all, in terms of the delaying of any narrowing of specialisation or narrowing of selection of the kind that the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) claimed he wanted to see.

In addition to this, and quite apart from the fact that the so-called freedom of choice that has been spoken about extensively on the opposite benches is essentially a phrase which stands for nothing of the kind, it is also fair and right to say that a grammar school must necessarily and logically imply the existence of a non-grammar school, and a non-grammar school is not, and cannot be, the same thing as a comprehensive school. It is really a form of semantic "doublethink" that the late George Orwell so rightly condemned to talk about a comprehensive school existing side by side with a grammar school. A "creamed" comprehensive school is no longer a comprehensive school. The hon. Member for Aylesbury referred to the situation faced by the I.L.E.A. in terms of very small sixth forms. He will know even better than I that most of the comprehensive schools he was talking about were existing side by side with grammar schools and other types of selective schools.

I do not doubt the genuine concern of the right hon. Lady to try to do her best by education, but I should like to ask two questions to which I hope her hon. Friend will feel able to reply in winding-up. Does she believe it right that the per capita expenditure on each child in what she calls a comprehensive school should be the same as in a grammar school? One of the deep divisions of privilege within our society is that those children who most need education have always had the least spent on them. One of the aims of the comprehensive school was to escape from this strange division between what as a society we saw fit to spend respectively on the grammar school child and the secondary modern child. If she means what she says, it follows by implication that the expenditure on the child in the comprehensive school, the grammar school and the secondary modern school must be identical at least up to compulsory school leaving age.

The right hon. Lady referred to the possibility of running together comprehensive and grammar schools not just within different authorities in the same county but within the same authority. I want to refer briefly to the difficulties of doing so within different authorities in the same county. My right hon. Friend has already referred to the problems arising from mobility which the right hon. Lady, as an ex-shadow spokesman for the Treasury, will know very well is something which almost all economists are anxious to encourage. I think that serious mobility problems will arise from totally different systems in different authority areas.

I very much regret the decision of the right hon. Lady not to consult the teachers, although I respect her honesty in saying that they would not have changed her mind on the main point, but she might at least have consulted them on the detail of the circular.

The problem of the mobility of teachers also arises. The teacher, be he right or wrong, who is wedded—and the bulk of them are—to the comprehensive concept will be reluctant to serve in a system which he or she believes to be doomed. The right hon. Lady will face considerable difficulties in areas such as the Midlands, which are already seriously under quota, in attracting teachers away from authorities which have already embarked on a comprehensive system.

A great complication which the right hon. Lady and her hon. Friend will have to settle is the problem of the system of examinations at secondary level. We have already seen the complications that have arisen from the attempt to reform the system of secondary examinations. I suspect that if we try to run side by side forms of examination which suit the comprehensive system, the non-academic sixth, the academic sixth and the selective system we shall be in the gravest possible difficulties at the age of 16 and above.

In dealing with the problem of running comprehensive and grammar schools side by side in the same authority areas I wish to put two points. First, the hon. Member for Aylesbury and several other speakers have referred to the problem of having an adequate size of fifth and sixth forms in a small comprehensive school, although it is fair to point out to the hon. Member for Aylesbury that the trend has been towards small schools and away from very large schools of the kind he described. If anything above 5 or 6 per cent. of the age group are creamed off into a grammar school, in order to have an adequate fifth or sixth form one needs a very much larger comprehensive school. The Minister will face an inescapable dilemma; namely, of either severely reducing the opportunities and range of choice for children in the so-called comprehensive schools which will be creamed, or having schools so large that they will run directly against the philosophy which she has described as the ideal size for the school. I do not see how the right hon. Lady can find any easy way out of this dilemma.

There is a further point which touches the confidence of teachers in a system of comprehensive schools and grammar schools side by side. One of the real problems faced by the Labour Government, which is a problem the right hon. Lady and her colleagues will also have to face, is the serious shortage of specialist teachers in certain disciplines, of which science and mathematics are the two most serious shortage areas. I fear that her policy will mean that those scarce specialist teachers in the authorities which try to run comprehensive schools and grammar schools side by side are bound to be captured wholly for the grammar schools, with the resultant effect of serious damage to the opportunities available to those in the comprehensive schools.

Since the right hon. Lady looks confused, I will try to clarify what I want to say. The problem is that one either has to use specialist teachers very expensively and uneconomically with small sixth forms in small, creamed comprehensives, or else the range will have to be so narrow that the choice of the word "comprehensive" becomes even more of a mockery than it is already in the right hon. Lady's mind.

Mrs. Thatcher

If I looked puzzled, it was only because I felt that what the hon. Lady said about that matter was the reverse of what she said a little earlier. Previously she said that it would be difficult to attract teachers from a comprehensive to a grammar school system. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is what I understood her to say. Then she said that it would be difficult to get good teachers from the grammar schools to the comprehensives.

Mrs. Williams

Perhaps I could clear up the paradox. I believe that it will be difficult to get teachers from the comprehensive to the grammar school system. In those authorities which run grammar and comprehensives side by side, it will be even more difficult to move those teachers from the selective system to comprehensives. I do not think there is any contradiction in this argument.

I should like to say a word about primary education and then turn to higher education, which is a subject not mentioned in the Gracious Speech. The Gracious Speech said, as we expected it to say, that there should be a greater priority for primary education. But the most massive expansion in the provision of primary education by any Government in this country's history took place during the period of office of the last Government when there was an expansion of no less than 160 per cent. in the places supplied. We cannot talk about improving primary schools unless we accept that the consequences of doing so will be felt throughout secondary and also higher education.

On the matter of higher education, I believe that one of the greatest difficulties the right hon. Lady will face—and she rightly talked about the need for more resources in education—will be the extreme problem of getting adequate resources to meet the expectations that now exist as a result of the democratisation of educational opportunities at the highest educational level. I would make the plea that I hope that she and the Government will not abandon the attempt to try to expand those opportunities even if it means radical suggestions having to be made to those who may find them uncomfortable. I trust she will not take the easy way of seeking a rapid increase in the standard of entry required. This will lead us into a direct conflict between the legitimate expectation of parents and students in the sort of society we want to see created regardless of party.

I conclude by referring to remarks made by the Prime Minister in a recent speech. He then expressed his philosophy, which he described as "an impossible dream", in the following way: I have always had in my mind's eye a vision about the people of this country. I have wanted to see them look up instead of always looking down. One nation in which the young know they may have their fair share of the opportunities and the elderly know that they may have their fair share of the rewards. One nation knowing its own mind, governing by degrees and not by decrees. I do not doubt the Prime Minister's sincerity, but the Guardian commented "It may be that Mr. Heath wanted one nation whereas Mrs. Thatcher is prepared to accept two". It seems clear that the Prime Minister may be seeking one nation, but that because education by its nature reflects the society of which it is a part, the decision that the right hon. Lady has now taken is a decision to allow that society to reflect a division in education which is neither necessary nor desired by the bulk of the people.

6.16 p.m.

Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)

This is the first opportunity I have had in the House to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on their well-deserved appointments. I should also like to congratulate the two hon. Members who today have delivered two model maiden speeches. The first came from the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) who, in terms of decibels, will obviously be slightly quieter than his predecessor, and the second from my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), whom we all know as an extremely well-informed contributor to debates on the social sciences. We can be sure that he will be a worthy successor in Aylesbury to the man who on his death-bed insisted on correcting the proofs of his final speech in the House of Lords, saying, "I will not go down to posterity talking bad grammar".

I turn to the subject of debate today and would like to mention the speech by the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams). I thought that there were some inconsistencies in that speech and, despite its sincerity, she was pointing up some of the difficulties of her own case. First of all, she began by saying that it was all very well to talk about local choice and local democracy, but that we must remember that local elections were decided by the one-quarter or one-third of the local inhabitants who bothered to go along and vote, and who are often not the young parents who are most concerned with the choices involved. Well, why not? If there is not much passionate concern about the way in which the education policy of a county or county borough is run, surely there will be some kind of agitation during a local election? But the most remarkable thing about the county and city elections in the last year or two has been the fact that, wherever this has been an issue, the Conservatives have always won. In the south of my own county of Warwickshire there is no comprehensive school and a wholly selective system. There was much shouting and huffing and puffing from the Socialists about the monstrosity of this system which they said should be fought, but in all the 10 county council seats in my constituency the Conservatives were returned unopposed.

Mr. Ernest Armstrong (Durham, North-West)

Has the hon. Gentleman never heard about the I.L.E.A.?

Mr. Maude

Of course I have. The I.L.E.A., which was the old L.C.C., returned—as everybody expected—to precisely the political complexion it has had at all times, except in the one freak period when the Labour Government were so unpopular that even they could not hold it. This was a flash-in-the-pan of such memorable freakishness that for I.L.E.A. to return as it did to the control of the Labour Party was in no sense a surprise to anybody. But if this is to be taken as carte blanche for the destruction of all the grammar schools in Central London, hon. Members opposite will be making a mistake.

I recognise the difficulties that the kind of calculation which the hon. Lady herself introduced presents to us as politicans who are concerned with central government. What do we do? Do we say to any local authority, "You can organise your secondary education in every respect exactly as you please", or do we say, "You must organise it as the Secretary of State says"?

The former Secretary of State has said that it is not true that his party tried to impose a single, dogmatic, homogeneous policy on the whole secondary school system of the country. That is true, since there is an almost infinite diversity and variety of different systems and experiments going on together. But clearly there comes a point at which one has to distinguish between experiments, especially experiments with different kinds of selective and non-selective education proceeding side by side, and a decision which involves the literal destruction of old-established educational institutions.

That is the point at which it becomes so difficult to argue with right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not want to waste time on the speech of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short), first because he is not here, which makes it rather a waste of ammunition, and secondly because, even if he were here, he never listens to arguments and never attempts to reply to them. Anyone who sat with him on the Committee which considered the Education Bill in the last Parliament knows that he never listened to an argument or tried to reply to it. He simply told us what he intended to do. What comes out from every speech that he makes, just as it did today, and what tends to come out of the speeches of even the most moderate hon. Members opposite, like the hon. Member for Hitchin, is that it is not really comprehensive schools that they want. They want to destroy selection. They have never been able to understand that the two are not the same. Until they understand that, they will never understand what justifies the fears not only of us on this side of the House and so many of our constituents, but of so many of their constituents as well.

For the moment, I will leave the question of creaming, though I will return to it. It is not the same to believe that there are certain places, certain sets of circumstances, where a comprehensive school is right and to believe that, wherever a selective grammar school is found, it must be destroyed. That is not the same argument. Until right hon. and hon. Members opposite recognise that, we cannot discuss the matter with them on any sensible or logical basis.

Then they go further, and say that they can justify their destructiveness because, if one tries to run the two systems together, the grammar school will always cream the comprehensive school, and so it is not a fair test because the so-called comprehensive school is not properly comprehensive and it is impossible to carry out the experiment.

That is really to say that one is prepared to destroy institutions which may have existed for 400 or 500 years and which have built up by subtle and complex processes over the centuries their academic and other traditions. It is really to say that, overnight, at one council meeting, one is prepared to destroy them because it is believed that an alternative system will work better.

That stirs up just as many resentments as the absence of comprehensive education and the existence of selection are alleged to stir up in other quarters. If the experiment fails, something irreversible has been done. It is no good saying that it can be put back. The school will never be the same again. In addition, one creates problems and resentments about selection of a different kind the moment that one begins to try and re-organise an area where there has been a 100 per cent. selective system.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

The burden of the hon. Gentleman's argument appears to be that, if I get married, I am destroyed. I cannot see his argument.

Mr. Maude

It depends on the person to whom the hon. Lady gets married. I am sure that this would not be within her experience, but marriage can be a very destructive process, especially if it is of the shot-gun type. It is possible for it to be a wholly destructive process. If the hon. Lady's intervention means anything, she is saying that, if one takes a grammar school and calls it part of a comprehensive school, it is the same. However, it is not the same, unless it is a confidence trick from the start. There have been plenty of cases where, under pressure from the party opposite, local authorities have tried precisely this confidence trick and said that a school is a comprehensive school when it has neither the virtues of a comprehensive school nor the virtues of a selective system. In that way, we get the worst of both worlds.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) pointed out that he was again getting complaints about education, after the extremely enlightened reorganisation undertaken by his county council after the war. He mentioned a case in which there are now three schools in different places but called a comprehensive school, and it has been necessary to introduce a system of selection again, causing just as many resentments as existed before, though of different kinds. The same has happened in other places.

It will not be easy to find the answer, but a solution has to be found in the long run which does not involve saying to the inhabitants of cities, boroughs and country towns that their grammar schools will be destroyed or called something else, and that all that they have respected in them, admired in them and wanted in them for their children will disappear. Certainly that must not be said before they can be assured that the alternative being provided is at least as good.

When the former Secretary of State expresses the philosophy behind the arguments of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, it seems merely deplorable. When the hon. Member for Hitchin expresses it, it seems—shall we say— debatable. I thought that the most interesting and revealing sentence in the hon. Lady's speech came when she said that those children who need education most are the ones on whom least money is spent.

That seems to me to be a very revealing philosophy, indeed, because it simply is not true—[Interruption.] There again, an hon. Member says "Black Paper"—the parrot cry which the former Secretary of State invariably uses. But I was about to say precisely the opposite of what I suspect the hon. Gentleman thinks I am about to say, because hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite never bother to listen, or to read, or to try to understand an argument. What I was about to do was not to make a passionate plea for what I am sure the hon. Gentleman would call "reactionary élitism" but to say that the suggestion that there are some kinds of children who need education more than others is an élitist theory of an inverted kind.

Every child needs a good education—an education to the best and to the limit of his or her talents and abilities. It does not matter whether the child is educationally subnormal or has an I.Q. of 160: is not the local education committee, is not the Secretary of State for Education charged with the duty of seeing that those talents, such as they be, are developed to the very limit that is possible? I thought an hon. Member opposite made a sedentary interjection which I did not quite catch.

Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)

My interjection was: "If their parents want them to be".

Mr. Maude

But I thought that the whole burden of the argument from the benches opposite was that the country was full of frustrated parents who were not getting a fair crack of the whip for their children. Is it now suggested that the reason why children are in some cases under-privileged is just that they have bad parents? We know that there are sometimes bad parents, and something has to be done about that. But is it not the job, for goodness sake, of the education authority, of the welfare officers and a whole range of people to try to see that children with bad homes and bad parents are taken in hand at the earliest possible stage, and brought up to the level of their more fortunate fellows? That is not, if I may say so, a very original or helpful observation.

But what we clearly will have to do is to try to get into the heads of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite the fact that all children need properly educating according to their particular and individual needs and abilities, and in order to do this properly we have to identify those talents and abilities. This is selection. I do not mind particularly whether it is selection outside a school for a school, or inside a school, but they have to be selected.

I am not making a passionate plea for an academic élite. I believe that the merest common sense will tell us that a country which does not develop its brightest and most able children will, in the end, be a poor country devoid of any kind of social and economic process; but I also feel that a country which fails to give proper remedial training to its handicapped or less intelligent, and which does not give the best possible education it can find to the middle group—the second and third quartiles of intelligence—will also be in serious difficulties, because it is they who will always tend to be the majority of the people whose work makes up the economy of the country.

That is fine, but it is no good pretending that there is no room for the grammar school in this system, and it is no good pretending that anybody yet has an answer which would justify in some areas the destruction of old-established schools with the highest academic records at this stage. We know that there is so far no alternative which will provide an adequate education, or which would not cause, in addition, considerable local resentment.

I apologise for detaining the House for so long, but I have been diverted a little. I want now to address one or two pleas to my right hon. Friend and to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State who will wind up the debate. Where we have an area where the inhabitants want a selective system but recognise that it is not flexible enough at the moment, we are liable to find—and we are finding this in South Warwickshire—that one of the things that is causing the most trouble is an actual shortage of grammar school places. There is just not enough flexibility or room to let the system work. When one finds in a primary school, as I did recently in my constituency, 100 children sitting a selection test and only four of them passing into the grammar school, I have no hesitation in saying that something is very wrong indeed. And I know what it was: the former Secretary of State refused to allow any more secondary school places to be built in my constituency until the county went comprehensive. But I say to my right hon. Friend that there are places where the local inhabitants are determined to preserve their grammar schools, and where more grammar school places are needed, as well as better facilities for O and A-level courses in the high schools.

I turn, briefly, to the subject of the direct-grant school. We are told in The Times this morning by Mr. Brian MacArthur, following his usual métier of being his master's voice to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short), that one of the casualties of the General Election was the great Education Bill which was to be substituted for the Act of 1944 had the right hon. Gentleman, as he expected, remained Secretary of State; and that one provision in that Bill was that the direct grant system would be abolished in 1972–73. As we all know, the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman tried to put through in the last Session provided that local authorities should no longer be free to take up places in any direct grant grammar schools of a selective kind.

We are now free from that threat, but something a little more positive will have to be done, because there will be problems for the direct grant schools. There will be problems of uncertainty. Any institution such as the direct grant school must have a reasonable assurance of continuity over the years. If we are to have a situation in which local authorities, urged on by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, will, at every change of control, remove 25 to 50 per cent. of free places from the direct grant schools, and then things go on in the hope that perhaps at the next change of control the local authorities will take up those places again, I think that the direct grant schools will simply be doomed. Some of them will find it impossible to carry on, and others will be forced to go independent when, in fact, this is not necessary.

I believe that direct grant schools not only number amongst them some of the finest schools in England, but that they provide a bridge between the independent and the maintained sector which is unique; and they also provide a social mix which is wider than that provided by any other kind of school at all. But the direct grant schools need some kind of reassurance now, and they may also need a consideration of a system of grants which would insulate them against the kind of fluctuation I have mentioned.

In my view, there has never been a time at which to be Secretary of State for Education will be more difficult than it is now, because the pressure on resources, as the hon. Lady has said, will be enormous. There will be pressures from the teachers and from everyone else to provide extra resources in every sector of the educational spectrum, and this will simply not be possible. With the best will in the world, there is always a limit to the amount the taxpayers and ratepayers are prepared to spend on education. This will be a desperately difficult matter of apportioning priorities. Thank goodness, we have said—rightly—that primary schools should be the first priority.

I believe that the real difficulty will come in higher education. Some very awkward decisions about the degree of expansion and the degree of selectivity in universities and other institutions of higher education will have to be taken. I wish my right hon. and hon. Friends well, and I have the utmost confidence in their ability to surmount these problems.

Several Hon. Membersrose

Mr. Speaker

May I remind the House that many hon. Members wish to speak.

Mr. Edward Short

On a point of order. Earlier, I interjected during the speech of the right hon. Lady and said that I had met representatives of the direct grant schools. I have now refreshed my memory and find that it was the representatives of the Association of Voluntary Aided Schools that I met. I made a mistake, and I apologise to the right hon. Lady and the House.

6.40 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)

In rising to make a maiden speech I request the indulgence of the House. I understand that although maiden speeches should not be controversial, they should nevertheless inform. If I stray into what is considered to be controversial, it is from a desire to inform rather than to be controversial.

I should have been delighted to follow the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), but I think that I had better leave arguments of that sort to another occasion.

I represent the constituency of Acton, ably represented in the last Parliament by Mr. Kenneth Baker. He was an extremely active Member on behalf of his constituents, and there are many people in Acton who have good cause to be grateful to him for the efforts he made on their behalf. I can only hope that I can do at least as well in that respect. Mr. Baker was also a very active Member in the House. I hasten to assure the House that I do not intend to introduce a Private Member's Bill to cut income tax, or indeed to increase it. I have no doubt that a person of such distinctive talent as Mr. Baker will not be long absent from the House, and I should not be too surprised if he joined the ranks of hon. Members opposite in the not too distant future.

Acton, whilst certainly part of Greater London, is still very much a town on its own. Although now part of the London Borough of Ealing, it is a town which has many of the characteristics of one surrounded by open country. A high proportion of the present population were born in the old borough and work locally. Today the constituency possesses a high degree of social cohesion uncommon in the London area. This civic sense certainly adds to the quality of life, particularly through the many social and cultural institutions which thrive within the borough and produce a strong sense of self-sufficiency. At a time when local government reform is very much in the air, it is very necessary for us to remember that the reality of people's living is more important than the statutory boundaries. Thus, whilst effective and efficient administration is important, we should ensure that this adds to rather than detracts from the local loyalties and associations which already exist. Once these are eroded, they can be difficult, if not impossible, to reintroduce.

There are many aspects of the Gracious Speech which will affect my constituency. It is my intention to refer very briefly to some of them and then to make some major points on the organisation of secondary education, which is still unresolved in Acton and Ealing and which is a subject on which I speak from some personal experience.

Acton is an industrial town which historically has serviced the needs of a growing London. However, the increasing speed of industrial change has meant many upheavals and the disappearance of firms of long local standing. Although there is little local unemployment, there is a declining number of jobs and there are some vacant factories.

The Gracious Speech refers to the stimulation of competition. This should mean even more takeovers and even more mergers and the elimination of some moderate or small-sized firms which have built up skilled teams of employees over many years. This is not necessarily to the advantage either of Acton as a constituency or of the country as a whole. If many of these units are absorbed too soon in their lives, we may cut off some promising industrial buds before they have a chance to flower. I believe that this lack of certainty is a major factor in the strain of modern life and that we must take account of it.

Until quite recently the local authority has been bold and imaginative in its housing policy. I regret to say that over the last few years there has been a change. Acton's share in new municipal building started last year was nine dwellings, a fact that I shall be bringing to the attention of the Minister of Housing and Local Government. Thus, the proposals in the Gracious Speech for the refashioning of housing subsidies will be looked at with particular interest and, indeed, concern, as will the proposals for the sale of council houses.

In Acton we have a large estate of well-built council houses in what might be called a "garden city" environment. They are particularly beneficial to families with children. Through the building nearby of housing suited to older people, they can be relet for younger families earlier than otherwise might be the case and can be used time and time again. It would be a great pity if they were lost to the community, and it would mean that the flexible position to which I have referred would no longer apply.

I turn now to the question of education and, in particular, secondary education. The London Borough of Ealing, of which Acton is now part, inherited three patterns of secondary organisation from the three former boroughs. By wise long-term planning the old borough of Acton had provided three 11–18 comprehensive schools which served the needs of the entire borough. The Borough of Southall was similarly engaged. However, the Borough of Ealing, which lies between them, had not been moving in that direction. Indeed, it had persisted to the very last in providing school building based on a separatist system. Moreover, the buildings were of such size and distribution that it would be very difficult to organise secondary organisation in any other way.

I think that it is to the credit of the present Conservative administration that it intends to go ahead with reorganisation on a comprehensive pattern throughout the new borough and intends to submit a scheme to the Secretary of State before the end of the year. However, this task will be an extremely difficult one, mainly because of the pattern inherited from the former Borough of Ealing, which lies between the two others. Indeed, the current draft scheme—there have been several schemes—is being opposed by the local teachers on the ground that the three-tier system which is proposed would not be educationally viable.

It is into this already uncertain situation that the right hon. Lady has, without consultation, dropped her circular. Despite the intentions of the Ealing Council as at present expressed, this will make an uncertain situation even more uncertain. Indeed, it can only do something to increase staff uncertainty. This will have inevitable effects on the quality of education in the schools. If it can do only that in Acton, the circular can certainly do more in other areas where this situation does not at present exist. Because the circular, as I understand it, permits new building on a distinctly separatist pattern and does not require it to be capable of later change, a local council of the future will, irrespective of political complexion, be denied freedom to change its system.

This circular has been described as putting back the clock. I do not think that this is an accurate description, because if a clock is put back it will go on as long as it is wound up. This circular removes the spring of intent; it puts the clock back, and then gums up the works. If in the future a Conservative-controlled authority wishes to go comprehensive, as does mine in Ealing, it may not be free to do so because of a building pattern insisted on by its predecessor. If local authorities are to be free to choose a separatist system—I am not debating that point at the moment—should they at the same time be permitted to restrict the freedom of their successors? As we know that the age of a school building is a great number of years, the answer to that should surely be clear.

There is another aspect of education policy expressed in the Gracious Speech that will bring anxiety to Acton. The Gracious Speech places priority, in some cases perhaps justifiably, on primary schools. In the Borough of Ealing the primary school population in 1970 is 27,300. It will rise to 30,200 by 1975, an increase of 11 per cent. The secondary school population now stands at 15,650 and will rise to 20,850 by 1975, an increase of 34 per cent. I understand that the national figures show a similar trend. The primary school population will increase by about 4 per cent., but the secondary school population will increase by about 24 per cent. Perhaps the context in which the word "priority" is used in the Gracious Speech will be clarified later.

I mention these figures not only out of concern for my constituency but in view of my professional experience. For the last 14 years I have spent much of my time attempting to meet the education and social needs of older children, adolescents and young adults, as a teacher and tutor in secondary schools. I confess that this has been a difficult task, even when provided with a full range of secondary courses available in comprehensive school.

The main reason for this being a difficult task has been the fact that the administrative response has not always been geared to the basic educational needs of the pupils, and, thus their learning priorities have not been met. One of my main concerns has been to try to meet the needs of those pupils who have not been proceeding to public examinations. On a national scale, I do not believe that these needs are being met.

While I support the raising of the school-leaving age, I very much understand the reasons why many teachers have misgivings about this move. Indeed, I do not believe that even the most enlightened education authorities, let alone the Department, have a realistic appreciation of the real needs and difficulties involved. Nor am I convinced that the activities of the School Council are as realistic in this sense as they should be. I will not pursue this subject on this occasion, but I warn that I shall, as an hon. Member, not let it rest.

I come to the problems facing secondary schools in urban areas, and particularly those which do not have the first choice of pupils or staff. There are indications that the difficulties which are caused by socially deprived, unhappy and maladjusted pupils are on the increase. One of the most frustrating and tragic aspects of the job which I am in the process of relinquishing is represented by the difficulties experienced by teachers through being faced by unhappy, sullen and inarticulate young people and the fact that, in the present structure, many teachers are not able to produce an educational response suited to their deepest needs.

The result is that a significant number of adolescents are leaving school today inadequately prepared for learning for themselves, which is one of the objects of the exercise. Indeed, it is the main purpose of it. They are leaving with bitterness and with a grudge against adult society.

In some schools the emotional drain on teachers is considerable. Even the most sympathetic and experienced of them are liable to be abused, sworn at or even physically attacked. It is not surprising, therefore, that even some of those who are educationally committed are leaving the profession.

I hope that the Department and local authorities will take a closer look at some of the problems facing secondary school teachers in particularly the large cities, for we have not got our educational priorities right. If any educational administrator doubts what I say, I suggest he tries teaching in some of these schools for a term.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope. The organisation of secondary education on comprehensive lines minimises the risk of the creation of educational ghettos. But we take a long time to learn. I will, therefore, conclude by quoting from the Guardian, not today's national newspaper but a widely-read weekly journal of the 19th century. A leading article read: A town of a few thousand inhabitants requires its grammar school, its commercial academy, and its National School, and seems to separate these three institutions from one another with as much jealousy as could be displayed by guarding the barriers of an ancient aristocracy from democratic assault. The division is perhaps neither liberal nor economic: much more might be effected by a combination of resources, at least in the higher departments of educational work. But the people will not have it so …". The date was 11th November, 1863. I believe that, by and large, the people of today do wish it so.

I thank hon. Members for extending to me their traditional courtesies.

6.55 p.m.

Mr. John Stokes (Oldbury and Halesowen)

I ask for the indulgence of this honourable House in making my maiden speech. I find my task even more difficult than I thought it would be by having to speak following the brilliant speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude).

I am proud to represent Oldbury and Halesowen, a constituency in the West Midlands, in the heart of England. I am succeeding a gentleman who represented the constituency for six years and who was greatly concerned with the well-being of his constituents. He set standards in this respect which I will do my utmost to follow.

Part of my constituency has been very well developed indeed, but part of it is in dire need of reconstruction. I sincerely hope that the necessary finance will be made available so that a start can soon be made on this work.

A new anxiety which my constituents have is the recent opening of the motorway link through a built-up part of the area. This poses serious problems to those living close by, and I hope that the Minister of Transport will consider their case sympathetically.

I inquired into the history of my constituency with some interest. I note that it was the birthplace of the poet William Shenstone, who was a contemporary at Oxford of Dr. Johnson, about whom my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Major-General Jack d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) spoke the other day. I have searched the poet's voluminous verse for a suitable quotation for this occasion, but, alas, all I could find was a piece of prose, though it is rather apposite: Laws are generally found to be nets of such a texture as the little creep through, the great break through, and the medium-sized are alone entangled in". I sincerely hope that the new Government will pass no such laws.

My constituents have a reputation for forthright speaking, a down-to-earth approach and for working hard. They also have a strong feeling of love for their country. Before dealing with the main topic of the debate, I wish to discuss their and my love of this country.

Nobody can be elected an hon. Member without a feeling of humility and pride. The feeling is all the sweeter when one is of riper years and when one has been a prospective Parliamentary candidate for more than seven years. One feels humility in one's inadequacy, but pride in representing one's country.

I am not ashamed to call myself a patriot, not a jingoist or flag-waver but one who believes in our nation and in the incomparable contribution which it can still make in world affairs and in the example it can set to other nations in how to live together in peace.

I am proud to represent a constituency in the heart of England. We hear so much today of the other nations in the United Kingdom that I sometimes feel that England itself almost goes by default. We are so anxious not to offend the susceptibilities and proper national pride of our neighbours that we sometimes seem to forget our own nation. Even the English flag is now only seen on churches or on Her Majesty's ships. But if the flag of St. Andrew or the Welsh dragon can fly beside the Union flag, why not the cross of St. George, too?

I notice that the Prime Minister, in his speech on the Address last week, spoke of the fundamental inner strength of the nation".—OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd July, 1970; Vol. 803, c. 95.] I echo those words. But cannot we emphasise this point a little more? May I appeal to all those in the vast and powerful communications industry and to teachers throughout the land not to be afraid to talk with more conviction and more forthrightness about our heritage and about those many things which bind us together.

Perhaps patriotism, as a subject of conversation, is now taboo as the subject of sex used to be. But, if so, what a pity. We have inherited in this country a civilisation and a standard of conduct which can still stand us in good stead amid all the bewildering changes in modern thought and fashion. The young in particular still need something to hold on to. I am often appalled, as I am sure all hon. Members are, when meeting supposedly well-educated young men and women who have no knowledge of our recent history and no conception, for instance, of our great deliverance in the last war. To some of them, the Battle of Britain is as remote and as meaningless as the Battle of Agincourt. This cannot be right, and we do not find this sort of thing in the strong nationalistically-minded nations across the Channel.

We live in an age of experts, of impersonal forces and of technology. Critics of Parliament tell us that we should all be technocrats or professional managers. But surely we must be men of flesh and blood first of all, with real feelings. I hope that those of us who have already, in this new Parliament, been termed by the Press "men of the Right"—men, I suppose, who are traditionalists—will not be denied our own views on modern society and will express our own moral indignation at some of the things which are going wrong.

There is today an emphasis on administration and good government. But, important as these things are, there must be leadership and human compassion, too. Leadership is not a very fashionable word today. The Leader of the Opposition made a comment earlier in this Parliament on the number of those on this side of the House who went to State schools. I hope it will not be considered controversial if I say that those who decided, often at great personal sacrifice, to send their children to public schools did so for a good variety of reasons. These schools have strong Christian traditions. The spirit of service is encouraged, and qualities of character and leadership are developed. Speaking as someone who has been in personnel work for 24 years in this country, I believe that there is one characteristic above all which is most noticeable about a public school boy and that is that he is invariably a good mixer. Surely that is wanted in society today.

This debate is on education. I sometimes feel that education is becoming almost of such overwhelming importance that we are in danger of getting it out of proportion. We do not and cannot all benefit from the same type of education. I welcome in the Gracious Speech the statement that facilities for management training will be improved. But I hope we shall never overlook the fact that humble experience, perhaps as a barrow boy, may sometimes produce the spirit of an entrepreneur, more than will a university education followed by a course at a business school.

I am sure that we shall have to take a hard look at the work of the industrial training boards. The idea behind these boards was widely supported on both sides of the House but the time has now surely come for a reappraisal of their rôle.

I wish to conclude by referring to the growth of the technical colleges and of the universities. The technical colleges have devoted staffs and, in many cases, magnificent facilities and buildings. What is now required is to give them a social uplift, to raise their status to that of the great polytechniques in France or the equivalent in Germany and Switzerland. Certainly as regard the universities I feel there may be dangers in the present expansion, and particularly dangers in the growth of the study of the social sciences. The gap here—and I suppose that, as a practising personnel man, I can say that I have been doing social science for 24 years—between theory and practice is often prodigious.

Many a personnel manager will say that he would have preferred a straightforward vocationally-trained engineer or chemist or a properly trained arts man in history or the classics with a recognised discipline, to those who come from the vast new rapidly-expanding general social science faculties. I know that in some universities very valuable work is being done in these faculties but we must watch the development with care and, if necessary, with criticism. It is worth remembering the old adage—"An ounce of practice is worth a pound of theory."

7.6 p.m.

Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)

It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Stokes) in a notable maiden speech. I am sure that the electors in his constituency will be well represented. Perhaps I may issue a word of warning, that it is dangerous to mention Dr. Johnson and patriotism in the same speech because it brings to mind Dr. Johnson's remark about patriotism: Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. I am sure that latter word cannot be applied to the hon. Gentleman.

I was delighted at the very close knowledge on educational matters that was brought into the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing), whose constituency had hitherto, I must admit, been known to me primarily for the fact that a by-election in which his predecessor got here was the first occasion on which any candidate had to change his name by deed poll in order to register his party on the ballot paper. The Liberal candidate fought the election as Frank Liberal Davies. However, the last Parliament changed the law and there was no need for the hon. Gentleman to change his name in order to sound his party allegiance. Our educational debates will be enlivened by the hon. Gentleman's obvious knowledge of the subject.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) has departed from the Chamber because I am one of those who always listen to his speeches. He complained on several occasions that no one ever listens. I frequently listen to his speeches. I am always entertained by them. I find that they act as a kind of springboard against which one can bounce one's more sensible ideas. I should have liked to put the hon. Gentleman right on one point when he said that it was a terrible thing to destroy something which had grown up over the centuries. He seemed to be under a misapprehension that the selective schools had been with us for centuries. I would have referred him to my last speech on this subject, which I have no intention of repeating, in which I took that argument apart. This whole idea of selection is very recent. The grammar schools were not brought into existence to educate an élite at all.

Although this debate has tended to be about secondary education and its reorganisation—I will come to my own views on that in a minute—there are other matters in education to which I should like the right hon. Lady to give her attention, the first of which is the primary sector. I welcome the reference to this matter in the Gracious Speech because I have been arguing in education debates in the last four years that much greater priority ought to be given to the primary schools, the Plowden proposals, nursery schools and pre-school playgroups.

I hope that the right hon. Lady will do more than her predecessors did, especially for the pre-school playgroups, which are starved of cash and need encouragement. Will she make clear at an early stage that local authorities are already empowered by the various Acts under which they promote education to help pre-school playgroups with cash? Some of them, notably Cornwall, unfortunately, are under the impression that they are not so empowered, and I want her to put that plainly on record.

The words in the Gracious Speech about priority for the improvement of primary schools are splendid as they stand, but I hope that the right hon. Lady knows what that means. Giving something priority means that it has priority over something else. This is the difficulty. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon raised this point today when he said, as I have often said, that we cannot continue to advance consistently over a broad front in education. We shall have to pick out certain sectors of the system and advance in those, which must inevitably mean that we do not advance as fast in other sectors. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the possibility of not advancing as fast in further education, which, I fear, may well have to come about, terrible though it may be.

I have in the past seriously questioned the policy of raising the school-leaving age as a fundamental priority. I should very much like to raise the school-leaving age, and I should be delighted if it were raised to 17, as, I gather, the right hon. Gentleman had been minded to write into his White Paper had he been allowed to do so, but I wonder whether we are right even now in saying that we should add an extra year to secondary education when the primary schools are so desperately starved of cash. If the right hon. Lady can guarantee that the primary schools shall have the cash they need—I know how starved they are in the rural areas of Cornwall, just as they are in the big urban conglomerations—and at the same time raise the school-leaving age, that will be fine, but I do not believe she can. I am sure she will run up against this snag. There is no need to be radical about raising the school-leaving age. This is not a flag which every progressive educationist must necessarily wave. I consider myself a progressive educationist, and I do not wave it very forcibly.

If we have to cut back on advances in further education—it may be inevitable that we do, though without actual contraction—perhaps we could link the two together, leaving the school-leaving age where it is at present but bringing in compulsory part-time education up to at least 18. We have made a start with the industrial training boards. Already, about 30 per cent. of people in that age group now go on to part-time education of one sort or another. There is no reason why we should not make it compulsory as an alternative, and it would save cash to do so.

I take issue with one of the right hon. Lady's observations about secondary education. She said that if one has something good to sell one does not normally have to force people to buy it. The same argument can be used about compulsory education itself, and it was so used in the past. In 1847 there was a tremendous debate in this place, when John Bright and Thomas Macaulay had a real ding-dong on this very question. I think that the right hon. Lady makes the same mistake in using that analogy as Macaulay said the Government of the day were making in mixing up arguments proper to commercial considerations with arguments not at all proper to educational considerations. He said: There has arisen in the minds of persons who are led by words, and who are little in the habit of making distinctions, a disposition to apply to political questions and moral questions principles which are sound only when applied to commercial questions. 'If', they say, 'free competition is a good thing in trade, it must surely be a good thing in education'…Never was there a more false analogy. Whether a man is supplied with sugar is a matter which concerns himself alone. But whether he is supplied with instruction is a matter which concerns his neighbours and the State. I have behind me a long history of Liberal tradition to back my view that it is wrong to consider the reorganisation of secondary education in 1970 in the same way as the right hon. Lady's colleagues may well be rightly considering the reorganisation of the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation.

The fundamental question of this debate is this: is non-selection accepted on all sides, or is it not? The Conservative manifesto was somewhat equivocal on the point, saying—this is page 20—that … in most cases the age of eleven is too early to make final decisions which might affect a child's whole future. When the right hon. Lady quoted that in her speech today, she left out the words "in most cases". I thought that rather interesting, and I tried to interrupt her at the time to ask in which cases the age of 11 is not too early to make final decisions which might affect a child's whole future. As I see it, there can be absolutely no such cases, except, perhaps, the Yehudi Menuhins of this world, the child prodigy at the piano, violin or whatever it might be.

Does the right hon. Lady want selection at 11-plus abolished, does she want it part abolished, or does she want it retained? She cannot have it all ways. It is clear that the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon wants it retained in entirety. He would hate to see it abolished. I am sorry that he is not here to answer these comments, but I have listened to his speeches today and in other debates, I have read his pamphlet on the subject and many of his other utterances, and I am sure that he wants it retained. He believes that selection is good per se.

I do not believe that that is the right hon. Lady's position, but if she wants it abolished, she must act as though she accepts the responsibilities clearly laid upon her by the 1944 Act. The word "promote", to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) pointed in his speech today, is there for all to read. The right hon. Lady has to promote education.

I should not relish the thought of even the promoter of a bingo game who did not care about the system under which it was played. I hope that the right hon. Lady realises that she has to care about the system and that she must promote a certain system, not being vague about it.

Mrs. Thatcher

Is not the hon. Gentleman making just the mistake against which he warned me, importing commercial analogies into arguments about education?

Mr. Pardoe

What a blow was there given—a hit, a palpable hit.

I come now to the question of local option. It seems to me that the right hon. Lady is in this context using arguments about States' rights which may be appropriate to California but are hardly appropriate to this country. I am all in favour of giving power to the people—it is a banner under which the Liberal Party has campaigned for years—but power to the right people. Parents should participate in decisions which affect their children's education and their future. No one wants this more than I do. But why should non-parents participate in the decisions? Are local councillors elected for their knowledge of education?—good heavens, no. Often, absolutely the opposite. Those councillors who do have a real interest in education and who gravitate to the education committees will now be overruled, as they have been in many areas, by their wilder brethren who will wave sentences from the right hon. Lady's speeches and reverse the decisions of reasonable and moderate men.

Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)

I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument closely. Does he say that decisions about education should be taken by parents only, and that non-parents have no right to express opinions or reach decisions?

Mr. Pardoe

I was coming to that point. I should myself like to see a tremendous extension of parental democracy in the government of education in this country. I do not believe that parents can properly be consulted under the present system. I go further and say that I should like parents to play a much greater rôle, even to the point of being responsible for appointing headmasters for a limited term, even to the point of appointing staff, and taking over all the duties of the local education committees, which give us really no kind of democracy at all.

If it was left to parents to decide, there is no doubt about how they would decide. Many of us may be sceptical about the value of surveys, but the right hon. Lady quoted hers and I see no reason why I should not quote the one which was carried out for the Liberal Party two months ago by National Opinion Polls. It showed clearly that, whereas a majority of people preferred comprehensive schools as opposed to those who preferred separate schools, the proportion of parents who preferred comprehensive schools rose to 56 per cent. compared with 36 per cent. who preferred separate schools. The figure was even higher among parents with children who would have to make the decision—in other words, children under 11 or even under 16 years of age. I see no reason why we should allow this fundamental decision about the future of our children to be made by people who are no longer in the child-bearing age group.

We shall have the banner of freedom of choice thrown at us. But what choice? The Amendment tabled by myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel), which you, Mr. Speaker, in your wisdom have not called, indicates that all this business about freedom of choice comes down to the fact that the Government are placing the choice of the few before the freedom of the many. That is what it boils down to. What choice? Who will be able to choose for their children between different types of schools? Only those who are well-off and well-cushioned will be able to do so. The average parent will not be able to exercise any choice. For me, equality of opportunity is an essential freedom; I hope that it is for the right hon. Lady, too. It is the freedom to develop human personality, and that is what government and education are about.

The Government claim that they have a mandate for withdrawing Circular 10/65. I disclaim that view. They have no mandate for it because they fought two parties, both of whom were resolutely opposed, and have been opposed for a great many years, to selection in secondary education. The candidates of those two parties amassed 2 million more votes than the right hon. Lady's party. If we take Birmingham, where we understand the more reactionary elements of the Conservative Party are wont to lay their heads—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."]—the total Labour-Liberal vote was 227,000 and the total Conservative vote was 213,000. I would not dream of quoting the figures for Bournemouth because they would go against me. But no civilised man ever expected a mandate for sanity from Bournemouth.

So we come down to the phrase "the comprehensive experiment" which has been used by several hon. Members opposite. I do not believe that it is an experiment. It has been proved. If we look in a fair-minded way at the evidence which has been amassed—the U.N.E.S.C.O. report of 1964 and more recent evidence produced by Professor Pedley—we see that the results in comprehensive schools are every bit as good as they are in selective schools and that it does not do the high flyer any damage to go to a comprehensive school. How one judges the success is anybody's guess. We can do what Dr. Rhodes Boyson has done and add up three figures, like A-levels and O-levels and the proportion going on to university education. But even if we do this we still get a very creditable result from comprehensive schools, and the trend is going the right way.

The right hon. Lady has made a grave error in withdrawing Circular 10/65—not because by withdrawing it she has made any great fundamental change in policy. Let me hasten to say that we should not be having this debate if the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central and his party had done their job several years ago. There is a fatal flaw in the character of members of the Labour Party and that is the irresolution of their radicalism. That fatal flaw has meant that when they issued the circular they did not take powers to implement it. They did not set a target date. If they had done so and had gone on with their policy resolutely we should not have needed to have this debate.

I hope that the right hon. Lady will have second thoughts about this matter. Although she has withdrawn the circular, she has not changed anything fundamental. What she says and does in the next few weeks will far more set the tone and organisation of secondary education than the mere act of withdrawing the circular. Unlike her predecessors as spokesmen for her party on education, she does not have to prove to her backwoodsmen that she is a real Tory. They know that she is a real Tory. I hope that she will use her position of strength within her party to ensure that the heads of the backwoodsmen are knocked together and policies of sanity are adopted.

7.26 p.m.

Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)

I am glad to join the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) in congratulating two maiden speakers, both of whom won seats against respected members of the previous Parliament. I enjoyed particularly the generous tribute which the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) paid to his predecessor and what he said about raising the school-leaving age. I also enjoyed the very robust speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Stokes), whom I am delighted to see here, having met him several years ago when we were both "green" prospective parliamentary candidates. I was glad that he mentioned patriotism, which is heard too little in the House.

Before talking about education, I should like to touch on one question of overseas policy, and that is the possible sale of arms to South Africa—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are debating an Amendment, which limits the debate.

Mr. Lane

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. I shall have to deal with that subject, if I am lucky, on another occasion.

I echo what has been said in welcoming my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, and wish them success and enjoyment and a long tenure of office.

We are having troubled times in my constituency. It would be wrong of me to make any comment today on the sentences passed on certain students or on the views expressed in the case by the judge. I should, however, like to remind the House of the deplorable effect which incidents like the violence at the Garden House Hotel have on town-gown relations in university cities and on public opinion concerning students. Members of the public tend not to discriminate about students, and so the folly of the few is visited on the many students who are hard-working and admirable citizens. Regrettably, the public view of students has seldom been more contemptuous than it is today. The Government will soon be taking vital decisions about higher education in the 1970s. We must improve the climate of opinion if there is to be enthusiastic support for further advances in higher education, including the universities, which all of us want to see.

Nobody wishes to curb the right to peaceful protest, but before the next academic year begins it is essential that the university authorities should consider how best they can bring home to all students the need for moderate, responsible and civilised behaviour—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hesitate to intervene again, but the hon. Gentleman must look at the Amendment which we are discussing.

Mr. Lane

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will leave it at that in the hope that incidents of the kind to which I have referred will not happen again in any British university in the next few years.

I welcome very much the pledge in the Gracious Speech to institute an inquiry into teacher training. The quality of teaching matters as much as, or even more than, either organisation or buildings. We all know that there is considerable public unease and unease in the profession about this subject, and we know likewise the tremendous potential in the colleges of education if they develop in the right direction in the years ahead.

I welcome, too, the fact that the centre of gravity in decision-making about reorganisation has now been shifted away from Whitehall and towards the local authorities. Labour Members are in no position to criticise my right hon. Friend's decision. It was they who introduced controversy into secondary education in the first instance. It was they who imposed doctrinaire pressure on what ought to be a gradual evolution.

The right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) based his whole case today on a mountain of distortion and exaggeration. He did his own reputation and that of his party no good recently by his irresponsible remarks in which, as I read them, he was almost inciting teachers to boycott the 11-plus. I hope, as other speakers have hoped, that we will not have a polarisation of opinion about education. The issues are far too important for that, But if there is any polarisation, the Opposition will bear a heavy responsibility.

I have been rereading Circular 10/70. There has been great exaggeration in the criticism from Labour Members. My right hon. Friend did much to put the matter into perspective in her excellent opening speech. A lot of rubbish has been talked about putting the clock back 25 years or even 50 years. What my right hon. Friend has done is simply to restore the situation to what it was about five years ago before Circular 10/65.

What is the situation which we are facing today? We know that a large and growing number of children are already being educated in comprehensive schools. Local authorities will understand perfectly well that while my right hon. Friend has taken her foot off the accelerator, she has not put it on the brake instead. [HON. MEMBERS: "She has gone into reverse."] Quite the contrary. I expect that the country will continue to move in the direction of comprehensive education, but at a natural and not at a forced pace. I would not wish to stop or reverse the movement. I am sure that the Government will continue, and my right hon. Friend gave an example, to support schemes, as did the previous Conservative Government, for going comprehensive whenever the schemes are seen to be soundly based and are in accordance with local opinion.

My own impression of public opinion about this matter was largely confirmed by the many contacts which I had during the General Election campaign. My impression is that the majority of parents favour comprehensive schools, but are against making changes until they can be sure that they are changes for the better. There is a minority still which is very sceptical about, if not hostile towards, the whole comprehensive principle. I would put my assessment of educational opinion in much the same way, with a majority in favour of going comprehensive but well aware of the risks and problems. This was crystallised for me at a meeting with a deputation from the N.U.T. in the midst of the General Election campaign. Those teachers were very critical of the 11-plus, but just as apprehensive of changing too quickly. This is the dilemma which we face today.

I see the years ahead as years of continuing evolution in the organisation of the schools, but not of revolution. We have to be careful to maintain and if possible improve the standards in all schools, as my right hon. Friend said. There is still much to be done—here I take issue with the hon. Member for Cornwall, North—in evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of comprehensive schools. I do not believe that the case is yet proven. Let us use the years ahead to widen our knowledge and be more certain of our judgments. Whatever we name our system in any area at any time, we want to have a more flexible system, to have greater room for transfers and wider opportunities for late developers.

Circular 10/70 says that Those local authorities with plans currently lodged with the Department are invited to say whether they wish to have them further considered or to withdraw them. One authority in this category is my own authority the Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely County Council, which includes the City of Cambridge. I hope that that council will not regard Circular 10/70 as a signal to sit back and rest on the status quo and put the plan away in a pigeonhole. I hope that it will set as its first objective the ending of selection at 11. The council may well consider it impracticable or undesirable, at least for several years, to abolish selection entirely, but it will win wide public approval in the area if it so arranges things that no selection takes place until an age later than 11.

I am glad that the Government now have the priorities in education much more nearly right than did the last Government. They are taking the pressure off secondary reorganisation, and this will leave everybody concerned freer to concentrate on more urgent questions—the improvement of primary schools, the further improvement of teacher training, and what may be one of the biggest education problems in this new Parliament, preparation for the raising of the school-leaving age. I am glad this was a clear pledge in my party's election manifesto, but I hope nobody minimises the difficulties which lie ahead in implementing it.

At the same time as we concentrate on these more urgent matters, I hope that we shall not see stagnation of any sort in secondary education. I hope we shall have continuing movement and a continuing reduction of the area and age-range at which selection takes place. I hope that in all our decisions we shall put the interests of the children first, all our children, not only the bright children but those less academically gifted who will still benefit greatly from widening educational opportunities, and who will have much to contribute to the community as the citizens of tomorrow.

7.38 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Armstrong (Durham, North-West)

In many ways this has been a rather sad occasion for me, perhaps the saddest since I came to the House. Even during my enforced silence as a Government Whip I attended most debates on education, and before becoming a Government Whip I took part in most of them. The first speech I made about education was in November, 1964, when in what was then the new Parliament we discussed the principles and controversies surrounding comprehensive education. Through the years, most of the debates have been about differences of emphasis, about the speed of implementing principles in which we believed and about various local differences, rather than about a polarisation of views, as we seem to have had today. Much of the responsibility for that polarisation lies at the door of the right hon. Lady.

I was at the Northern England Education Conference at the beginning of 1966. My right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), then the Secretary of State for Education and Science, made a remarkable speech about going comprehensive. Sir Edward Boyle was one of the main speakers. Most of us here today have missed his counsel, his liberal approach and his great understanding of the State sector of education.

At that conference at Harrogate I well remember Sir Edward was asked a question by a teacher after his main speech. I do not want to misrepresent anyone so I will quote what was said at the beginning of 1966. Sir Edward was asked: Will there be a reversal of policy on comprehensives if the Conservatives are elected to government? Would Sir Edward withdraw the circular about which this debate is concerned? Sir Edward's reply was: I do not think I should be well advised to withdraw the circular. I think it would be silly to withdraw it. Coming from such a distinguished educationist, I do not think that much further comment is required about the action of the right hon. Lady as soon as she got into office.

The truth is that the balance of social and educational argument in the nation now favours the comprehensive principle. There is no longer any place in the education system for the dogmatic separatist. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) has gone from the Chamber, although I understand his reasons. I was dismayed to hear him talking about those of us on this side of the House wishing to destroy the grammar schools.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) and I went to the same grammar school. It was founded in 1614 so that it is one of the long-founded grammar schools about which the hon. Member was talking. It is in my constituency and I am glad to say that today in the beautiful valley of Weardale all the children, without any examination or selection procedure, those who live in the dale, attend that school. My right hon. Friend honoured the school by presenting the prizes three years ago. No one with any knowledge of what is going on at that school could claim that the grammar school has been abolished.

When we spread privilege we enhance it, we do not destroy it. I take great exception to this constant repetition of the myth that we on this side of the House want to destroy what is good in education. Nothing could be further from the truth. I thought that the right hon. Lady's speech today lacked a sensitivity of understanding about what is going on in the schools. I speak as a primary school headmaster. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite talk as though decisions taken in the town hall or at the Department of Education and Science will in some way prevent teachers from doing their duty by either the bright children or those who are not so bright. I do not doubt their sincerity but they do not really know what is going on in the schools.

For the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon to say that if we abolish selection in comprehensive schools all the bright children are passed by and denied opportunity is merely an indication that he has no idea of what is taking place in the schools. This is a debate about privilege. This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passing of the great Education Act of 1870. No one can deny that great advances have been made under all Governments since then. The second great truth about which we ought to remind ourselves today is that during those years we have organised the education system so that the able children, the privileged children, have been favoured and at times pampered, while the less privileged, those described as "average", "below average", "non-grammar type", "non-academic type", have been denied equality of opportunity.

We have lavished resources, playing fields, buildings, all sorts of specialist equipment on those whom we identified as being the "grammar type". We have neglected the sector which had to cater for those described as "non-grammar type", that is those who did not overcome the selection procedure whether at the age of 11, 12 or 13. I approach the debate on this basis. In the first place the minority were those whose parents could afford to buy a privileged education. We have to remember it was only in 1945 that some authorities abolished fee-paying altogether at some of our grammar schools.

Recently the privileged have been those labelled as "intelligent", "above average", and "the grammar type" The majority have been those who have had labels stuck on them saying that they are not able to profit from a grammar school-type education. By the withdrawal of the circular the Secretary of State has reversed the movement which, over the years, has been accepted by the vast majority of the education service. There is no doubt about that.

We have argued about how quickly we ought to go; we have argued sometimes about the local arrangements for the establishment of comprehensive schools and the abolition of selection. Among the trade unions, parent groups and certainly among the teachers—the Secretary of State has not got a friend among the teaching profession at present—there is no doubt that the reversal of this movement has been condemned by them all.

I want to deal with some of the statements made today. The arguments made from the other side have very largely been based on a false premise. There is the argument about having grammar schools and comprehensive schools running alongside one another. I have heard many Conservative candidates argue that way, and in the ill-fated Committee upstairs morning after morning I listened to speakers, now in the Government, who talked about believing in grammar schools but at the same time believing in the comprehensive principle or not being opposed to it.

When people talk like that they are either ill-informed or they are deceiving themselves and those to whom they are talking. In a comprehensive school, organising education on comprehensive lines means taking in the whole range of ability. Once we start to cream off 2 per cent., 5 per cent. or even 20 per cent.—and apparently the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon talked about the need for grammar school places to be even higher—we select children. Selection involves rejection.

I was once chairman of the Sunderland Education Authority. A plan has recently been produced by a working party appointed by the Tory-controlled council there to restore the Bede Grammar School and destroy the comprehensive principle there on the premise that we have had advanced so often today from the other side of the House, that grammar schools and comprehensive schools can run side by side. Presumably now that the circular has gone the Secretary of State would approve a scheme for 4 per cent., 5 per cent., or even 2 per cent. of the children being selected to go to the Bede School as restored. What of those who are not selected? They go to other schools, and whatever the schools are called they are provided for those who are not considered to be academic enough, clever enough or grammar-type—whatever label is put on them—to get into the Bede School.

Suppose a parent says, "I wanted my child to go to the Bede School, but the selection procedure now says that he goes to another school." Suppose the parent still wants the child to go to the grammar school. What happens then? Is the Secretary of State prepared to approve a system which enables transfers to take place? What does the House think will be the effect of a system which says to a school, "The prizes in your school mean that your brightest children will transfer to the grammar school"? What kind of morale-booster is that kind of approach? The Secretary of State must face this question.

In the Tory manifesto we were reminded of the need to allocate resources to the primary school. I know from experience in that type of schooling that the freedom, the creative activity, the sense of purpose in the primary school can be understood only by those whose children have passed through them or who, like me, have been privileged to serve in them. British primary schools today, despite the lack of resources, are the envy of the world. The Secretary of State keeps saying that her policy is what local people want. I challenge her to convene a meeting anywhere in the country of a group of parents of all the 11-year-olds in a particular school.

We were told by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon of a school in his constituency where there were 100 children taking the 11-plus, four of whom would be enabled to go on to the selective school. He did not seem very concerned about the other 96. Suppose that under the Secretary of State's new approach grammar school places were provided and 20 children could go. What about the other 80? I ask the right hon. Lady to imagine a meeting of 100 parents, whose children are to be subject to the selection procedure, at which she asks them to decide whether they are in favour of the freedom so glibly talked about today.

I have met no primary school teachers who are demanding a restoration of selection procedure where it has been abolished. The freedom of the primary school will be severely jeopardised if the effects of the circular are allowed to percolate through our education system. The primary school teachers are dealing with children every day, and they know that any kind of selection procedure is wrong, unjust, wasteful and very often cruel.

I sat upstairs in Committee for many mornings listening to right hon. and hon. Members opposite talking about selection. Almost all of them, with the exception of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon, said that they were against selection at 11, and certainly the Tory manifesto suggests that 11 is too early. When I was head of my primary school we abolished streaming, because I found that if one labels a child "B", "C" or "D" he makes the appropriate response; once he has been labelled as a "B" child, he responds as a "B" child. If we select at 11 and say that it is not the end because there will be another chance at 12, and may be other chances at 13, and 14, many children—not all—will be prejudiced for the rest of their educational career by being labelled at 11.

If children are to be selected at 12 or 13, this means in nearly every case that someone selected at 11 must come out of the school at 12 or 13. There could be nothing more damaging to any child than to select him at 11 for grammar-type education and then decide at 12 or 13 not only that he is unsuitable but that he must leave the school he is in and return to a school for the non-grammar type of child. I know from experience that imperfect selection at any age has a permanent effect in denying opportunity to our children.

The division between the two sides of the House is in our understanding of what education is really about. I have listened to the whole debate, and I have sensed that there are still many folk, many of them on the benches opposite, who regard education as a rat race with a limited number of prizes going to the strong, the go-getters, the ruthless, those who are prepared to get their heads down and get on. That has never been my impression of education. I regard it much more as a broad highway. I do not think that competition enters very much into real education provision in our schools—it should not, at any rate—and into our educational philosophy. My experience has been that intelligence is not sparsely distributed throughout our society. Most children are much more intelligent than ever we have given them credit for, and if we give them the opportunity their potential is much greater than is realised by those who would rely on intelligence quotients and the rest.

When our education system at the secondary stage follows the practice that we now have at the primary stage, where we do not divide, segregate or separate children, but they go to one common school; when we have comprehensive schools as we understand them, which means that one cannot select, cream off, and allow people who are privileged to enjoy a different kind of education; when we have comprehensive schools based on our primary schools, the impetus and inspiration that will come to those schools will profit all our children. In no sense is there anyone on these benches who wants to prevent high-flyers, gifted children, being developed to the full. They always have been, and some Labour authorities were the pioneers in giving the high-flyers from working-class homes the opportunity to be developed to the full.

What we say is that it is just as important for the average and those whom we label the below-average to have equal opportunity. They cannot do so under the philosophy indicated by the Secretary of State's action in withdrawing Circular 10/65. That is why I am wholeheartedly in favour of the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend.

7.59 p.m.

Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)

I know that there are still a number of hon. Members who wish to speak and therefore, I shall try to limit my remarks. I know, in particular, that my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) has some important comments to make and I know that he has already received one shock this afternoon when he heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) that Hampden spent all summer in the field and all winter in the study. My hon. Friend is convinced that Hampden would have been much wiser to spend all summer in the study and all winter in the field. I do not want to give my hon. Friend another shock.

The hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) said at the opening of his remarks that it seemed that we were today arriving at a polarisation of view. The hon. Member could not have listened to the speech which had just been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), because certainly no polarisation of view was expressed by my hon. Friend. What is more, I do not think that the hon. Member will get much polarisation from me.

In my view, Opposition Members are getting worked up about nothing. The difference between the future and the past will simply be that under a Conservative Government we shall go forward, but we shall go forward with rather more care and greater commonsense than has been the case over the past few years.

We have been told on many occasions that Socialism is the language of priorities and yet, with their peculiar ability to get their priorities wrong, an ability which has landed hon. Members opposite on that side of the House, they have today once more selected for debate an aspect of education which, in my view, is not the most important one facing this House or the education service.

In my opinion, far and away the most pressing problem in education is that of resources, and it is against the question of resources that the reorganisation of secondary education has to be considered. We know that only to maintain existing standards will require an increase in expenditure in real terms of about 6 per cent. per annum. That is not surprising when, apart from anything else, the number of children of school age has increased from 7.7 million in 1964 to 8.4 million in 1969 and will rise to 9.5 million in 1974. The resources problem has been enlarged by cost increases. For example, since 1964 building costs have gone up by about 25 per cent. Apart from shortage of financial resources, however, there is a continuing shortage of teachers, particularly of graduates in science and mathematics, and there is virtually no part of the education service where more resources of one kind or another are not required.

It is for that reason that I believe that resources are the major problem facing education. I suspect, however, that the Labour Party do not wish to discuss resources because of their own inadequate proposals. Compared with an increase in education expenditure in each of the years between 1959–60 and 1964–65 of about 8 per cent. and an increase in each of the following five years under the Labour Government of about 4.9 per cent., in their White Paper on public expenditure between 1968–69 and 1973–74 the Labour Government proposed an average increase of only 3.8 per cent. per annum and during the last two years of that period of only 2 per cent. In only one of the years was it forecast that education expenditure would grow faster than public expenditure as a whole. How education standards could have been maintained, let alone improved, within those proposals, heaven only knows.

The bright spot in the debate on that White Paper was the comment by my right hon. Friend who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer—and I am sure that everyone is sorry that he has today had to undergo an operation—that he had always regarded education as a programme which could, and must, rise more than the average. Nevertheless, it is important to make savings wherever possible. I should like to make three suggestions to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. They would not make large savings, but they would help.

First, I believe that procedures concerning major school building programmes should be streamlined. The amount of detail which is required by the Department is totally unnecessary, bearing in mind in any event the existence of building cost limits. This detail is very demanding of local education authority man hours.

Secondly, and more important and more fundamental, excepted districts should be abolished. This is something which may have to await the reorganisation of local government. At worst, however, I believe that power should be taken to ensure that no more excepted districts are established. They have outlived their usefulness and they have become a hang-over from the past. They are wasteful in money and in manpower. In my county, the abolition of the one existing excepted district would, it is estimated, save about £40,000 a year and, at the same time, release scarce and highly-qualified officers for bigger jobs.

My third suggestion is in the form of a question to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. Is he convinced that it is right that responsibility for severely subnormal children should be transferred from the Social Services Department to the Education Department? It seems to me that these children are more of a social-cum-medical problem than an education problem. Can my hon. Friend say whether there has been any preparation for the transfer of responsibility and what consultations have taken place with local education authorities? It seems to me that quite apart from other considerations, the pressure on resources for education is even greater than the pressure on resources for social services. Therefore, the children might be coped with better under social services than under education.

It is against the background of the problem of resources that I find the Opposition's attitude towards secondary reorganisation so extraordinary. It should not be forgotten that in his book "Towards a new Education Act", Sir William Alexander wrote: To create a network of comprehensive schools requires heavy expenditure on buildings which could amount to the order of between £600 million and £1,000 million. What do the Opposition propose? Do they intend that the money for this reorganisation should be made available by starving primary education, further education, higher education or what? We have not been told.

Mr. Alec Jones (Rhondda, West)

East of Suez.

Mr. Morrison

Before saying anything else about secondary education, I should like to establish my credentials for speaking on the subject. Back in 1963 and 1964, I was chairman of a Conservative-controlled education authority which decided to reorganise along comprehensive lines. To that extent, I suppose, I am a rare bird in this House. The decision to reorganise was taken after lengthy and careful discussion, after visits to numerous comprehensive schools, after a visit to look at the Leicestershire scheme and after careful consideration of the existing scheme in our own country. Of course, this happened long before the advent of the Labour Government, and before the Circular 10/65.

In the conditions in my own county of Wiltshire I became, and remain, a strong protagonist of comprehensive education, and I take pride in the fact that last September, 1969, 46 per cent. of the children in Wiltshire transferring to secondary schools were admitted to comprehensive schools, and I believe that this puts Wiltshire high in the reorganisation league table. Of course, reorganisation has only come about, as I said, after the most careful consideration, and after the satisfaction of certain criteria, a main one of which was that in any new system conditions would not be less good for the more academically gifted children than they were in the grammar schools, and nor should they prejudice the very considerable developments which have taken place in secondary modern schools. So I want to emphasise that there was nothing hurried about the change which we made. It was made after very careful consideration.

Mr. J. C. Jennings (Burton)

Could my hon. Friend tell me—in this wonderful process of a Tory chairman and his Tory colleagues converting to the comprehensive system—were the grammar schools all destroyed?

Mr. Morrison

I do not quite know what my hon. Friend means by "destroyed", but certainly some grammar schools were joined or merged with other schools to form the comprehensive system—

Mr. Jennings

A hodge-podge.

Mr. Morrison

—and there are plans for this to continue to take place.

Mr. Peart

Very good.

Mr. Morrison

But I am also convinced that the conditions which exist in Wiltshire are not unique. Indeed, they are similar to those in a number of other areas, and the fact is that many education authorities pre-1964 thought the same, because about 90 of the 163 local education authorities before the 1964 General Election had completed or were working on reorganisation plans. But I would not claim for a moment that what is right for one area or a number of areas is necessarily right for every area, and because of this belief I think that the Opposition are taking an extremely arrogant line in wishing to insist on the introduction of comprehensive education everywhere and forthwith. Because of the cost problem described by Sir William Alexander it is in any case a meaningless insistence, but why on earth should the Government in Whitehall know best for every area? My right hon. Friend touched on this in her opening speech. The Opposition, again, might reflect that we are debating comprehensive education not because of the genius of some mandarin in Whitehall but simply because of the farsightedness and initiative of local education authorities and chief education officers who in the past used their freedom to organise and evolve differing systems of secondary education throughout the country in the best interests of the children in each individual area.

So for two reasons I was pleased about the demise of the Education Bill in the last Parliament and the withdrawal of Circular 10/65. Firstly, recognising that the resources for reorganisation are bound to be limited, and selfishly perhaps, I am pleased to know that my county will not now, as would have been the case if the Bill of the last Government had been passed, have to share with an additional number of authorities the resources available for reorganisation; it will not have to share the resources with other authorities. Secondly, and more important, I am glad that evolution is not now to be frozen by edict of Whitehall. Whatever today we may consider the perfect system of education, secondary education in particular—

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman claimed that he was very proud that in his area they had developed comprehensive education. May we have an assurance that there will be no reversal in that area?

Mr. Morrison

As a matter of fact, I am able to give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance, because I have received a copy of a statement made by the current chairman of the Wiltshire Education Committee last week stating that there would be no change in policy.

I was talking about evolution, and whatever today we may consider is the perfect system of secondary education, tomorrow we can be certain that advancing thought and social progress will demand newer solutions. In the past the freedom enjoyed by local authorities allowed them to cope with changing conditions, and I am glad that, once more, under a Conservative Government, this will continue to be the case in the future.

8.16 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)

I was interested to hear the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison) say that under this Government we would be going forward, going forward with more care. I presume he means by going forward getting rid of the selective system and going comprehensive. If he does mean that, and I think he does, then he is quite wrong, because in some parts of the country they will be going backward. Bolton, Bournemouth, Birmingham—and in the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) who, I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will catch your eye afterwards, I will mention her town as well—are now given the opportunity to go backwards, as they will do.

Mr. Charles Morrison

When I said "going forward" I meant going forward in the best interests of the children in the schools, and the people who are locally elected are the best fitted to know what is in the best interests of the children in the schools.

Mr. Marks

After the hon. Gentleman's comments which followed that, and the, from my point of view, welcome interruption by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings), who did not want, I gather, 11-plus selection—

Mr. Jennings

I would not want the hon. Member to misunderstand me. I was taking my hon. Friend to task because a Tory council, a Tory administration, departed from Tory principles and literally destroyed grammar schools in the sacred name of comprehensivisation—horrible word. When I asked him if the grammar schools were destroyed what I meant by destroyed was the destruction of the identity of a single unit and the substitution for that single unit of a grammar school a hodge-podge of three different schools combined together as a comprehensive school. That would be utter nonsense.

Mr. Marks

The hon. Gentleman's second intervention is more welcome than his first, because the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) and others who have contributed to Black Papers 1 and 2 must be feeling particularly smug this week because if Circular 10/70 had not been so named it could have been named Black Paper No. 3. We know now who has won the battle within the Conservative Party. We know that Sir Edward Boyle ceased to be prospective Secretary of State for Education and Science in a Conservative Government and we know he has gone to another place—to two other places—and he would not have brought in this Circular and he would not have withdrawn Circular 10/65. We know who has won that battle in the Conservative Party.

I have had the probably unique privilege today of listening to six maiden speeches in one day. They were of a tremendously high standard. I was particularly interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) and his reference to the fact that he had sent or was sending his child to a comprehensive school. I wonder how many children and grandchildren of hon. Members opposite will be going to secondary modern schools as a result of this circular. Let there be no mistake about it, there will be more secondary modern schools, not more comprehensive schools, as a result of the circular. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon gave the game away when he said that there were not enough grammar schools in his area. What are "enough" grammar schools—grammar schools for 2 per cent., 10 per cent., 20 per cent. of the children or, as in parts of Wales before the schools went comprehensive, 55 per cent? Reference has been made to the comprehensive experiment which has not proved itself. The experiment which we have had over the past decades has been the tripartite experiment of separating children at the age of 11 into various types of school. This is the experiment which has failed and which we have to replace.

Selection has had a bad effiect on children not only in secondary schools but in primary schools. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) refer to his experience of this. Even in those areas in which county schools and church schools have gone comprehensive, the direct grant schools still pose a problem for the primary school because of the drive for a scholarship to the direct grant school. If a local authority, because of its awareness of the danger to the primary school of this scholarship battle, decides not to pay for places in a direct grant grammar school, will the Secretary of State set that local authority free, or will she overturn that freedom by paying direct the fees of children from the primary school? We want an answer on this.

Transfer in the secondary school tripartite system has been mentioned. A child who does well in a secondary modern school may transfer to a grammar school. I have seen many examples of this, and we tend to brag when we hear of children being transferred from a secondary modern school to a grammar school and then going on to university. There are, however, some children who make this transfer only to find themselves in an almost alien atmosphere in which they have great difficulty in settling down.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) said that under the Act the Secretary of State must secure the effective execution by local authorities, under her control and direction, of the national policy. She has failed in that duty. She is giving no guidance to local education authorities of the direction in which she thinks secondary education should go. How does she see education 10 or 15 years from now? It is the job of the Secretary of State for Education to give guidance on national policy, and there is no national policy. Is she for or against the selection of children for different kinds of secondary school at the age of 11? Is she for or against the permanent continuation of independent schools by which parents with means buy better opportunities and smaller classes? If she is, she should consult the Prime Minister, because here and in the country he is talking about "one nation". It may be that she did not consult the Prime Minister before she issued Circular 10/70. She certainly failed to consult many people she should have consulted.

The Prime Minister in his last major policy statement to the Conservative Advisory Council on Education said: I want to make it clear that we accept the trend of educational opinion against selection at 11-plus. What we will do is to set out the guidelines—to establish the criteria on which a sensible reorganisation of secondary education may be based. This is precisely what Circular 10/65 did. It set out guidelines and asked local education authorities how they would plan for a sensible reorganisation. The right hon. Lady has no guidelines for local authorities. What is her advice to those who are not sure? She washes her hands of the problem.

In Cromer recently the Prime Minister made a speech which was quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), but she missed out part of what he said: Some people have called this 'the impossible dream'". This is a reference to getting people to look up instead of looking down. Don't you believe it. Why should we settle for the second-rate Why should we settle for less and not more? What's so clever about accepting our limitations all the time? What's so good about being beaten before we start? I assure him, and the Secretary of State, that a great many parents will adopt his words with great force. They will not be satisfied with the secondary modern and grammar school set-up. They will not be beaten from the start but will do something about it.

I am reminded by the Prime Minister's remarks about one nation of a verse of a hymn which many clergymen and teachers at morning assemblies now leave out: The rich man in his castle, The poor man at his gate, God made them, high or lowly, And ordered their estate. Such a verse may make all things bright and beautiful to the Prime Minister and his colleagues, but the present system of education will not give us one nation. The present system, with its public sector and private sector, is against the concept of one nation. The system of public secondary education in many areas is also against the concept of one nation. In the private sector it gives greater educational advantages to those with the most money, and in the public sector it gives greater educational advantages to those who already have the greater social advantage. There is no argument about this in educational circles. It is a system that creates failures at almost every stage of its operation.

In conclusion, I should like to make two other points which are not directly connected with comprehensive reorganisation. First, I am glad that the Queen's Speech says that the Government will carry out an inquiry into teacher training. But I would remind the Secretary of State that at the moment a number of such inquiries are proceeding in regard to area training organisations and so on. Indeed, at the time of the General Election a Select Committee of this House was conducting inquiries into teacher training. I hope that the right hon. Lady will consult the Leader of the House to see that the Select Committee, or what is left of it after the election, can meet again to complete its report and to present to the House and to the country the tremendous amount of evidence which it has taken. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State in his reply will make some reference to public expenditure, although it was not in the Conservative manifesto. It has been suggested in the House by hon. Members opposite that during the Labour Government the amount of public expenditure to be devoted to education for the next few years was far too low, and I hope that the Minister will say how it can be increased.

I was glad that the school-leaving age was mentioned. Whatever some of my hon. Friends, and indeed hon. Members opposite, may say about the matter, I believe that the Secretary of State will be right to raise the school-leaving age for all children, but I hope that she will not set local authorities free to please themselves about it.

8.38 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)

The hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) directed a few of his comments to private education. He seemed to think that private education was a great concession to people. One thing that worries me today is that a large number of people are prepared to pay out money which they can ill afford for private education which falls a great deal short of the education now offered by the State. This is a disturbing factor, and I do not know what we can do about it. At least it is their free choice, and if they choose to accept this rather moderate education there is nothing the Government can do about it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison) is a rare bird on these benches and we admire the high degree of administrative experience of education which he possesses. But I as a representative of Lincolnshire would not follow Wiltshire in all the things they desire to do because we, unlike the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), believe that in Parts of Lindsey and in Lincolnshire there will be room for both systems. In an area like Scunthorpe, which is in a large developing area and is a one-industry steel town in Humberside, comprehensive education is the only suitable system. It works well and there would be no attempt to change it. But in the scattered rural areas we do not believe that the comprehensive experiment will work. In fact, Lindsey County Council is carrying out an experiment on trying to run a comprehensive school made up of two secondary modern schools of about 300 children, and it does not look as though it will be satisfactory. But we are watching the situation. We believe there is room for both grammar and comprehensive schools within one county.

In withdrawing Circular 10/65 I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will halt the wasteful expenditure on the doctrinaire change-over of the school-building programme to comprehensive education. I hope that she will go on firmly to say, as we said in our election address, that the problem of primary education, particularly that in rural areas, is now the most important problem facing us today. The reorganisation of primary schools in the rural areas is inevitable in most places. There is certainly need for much improved area primary schools, but the reorganisation of the primary schools by grouping the schools and spending the money on selected villages will create a great deal of hardship, and indeed a considerable amount of hard feeling in the villages, which are bound to lose their out-of-date primary schools. They feel their children are being taken out of those villages and that this will hasten the depopulation of the countryside. They also feel that small primary school children will have a tiring time travelling to their new schools. It is a sad situation when there is in existence a village school complete with a schoolmistress who is willing to continue to serve there. However, one must accept this reorganisation and grouping must happen.

How is this process to be brought into operation with the minimum of unhappiness in these villages? The great thing is that the Conservative Party, having won the election and having made it clear that resources would be made available for primary schools, must keep the confidence of parents on the results that will flow from a grouping and show that it is genuinely needed as an improvement. If that is done, a good deal of hostility will fall away, especially if they know that new facilities and new building will be coming along.

We must take great care to convince parents in the villages which are not selected for group primary schools that the right village has been chosen for the expansion and for the new school. Local education committees must consider more carefully the feelings of the people involved in this decision. In my constituency at the moment there are two appeals on my right hon. Friend's desk against a decision to close primary schools. I hope that when she looks at those appeals she will realise that the local people are not satisfied that the right village has been chosen for expansion. Before my right hon. Friend comes to a conclusion, I hope that she will ask the county council or the local education committees whether they can have yet another try to review the alternative sites so that local people may know that careful consideration has been given to all possibilities.

In these new primary school groupings, it is also important to see that such a grouping is not centred on a school with a high percentage of Service children. In Lincolnshire, where there are a large number of R.A.F. bases, some primary schools selected for expansion will have a high content of Service children. The general feeling is that, unfortunately, because Service people move about so much, Service children are a disadvantage in education. It is a mistake to centre a primary school grouping on a village school close to the perimeter of an R.A.F. base. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider this sort of objection.

Happily, as a result of the Conservative victory, there is a feeling in the countryside that the reorganisation of primary schools is an exciting reality. Those of us who represent country constituencies know our village primary schools better than any member of the education department, having gone round them at several General Elections. Where a decision has been taken on a grouping and new primary schools are to be developed, it is important that existing schools, even if they are to be closed in two or three years, should be kept up to standard for the remainder of their lives.

It will take a long time for the money to work down for the building of primary schools if the way in which the money gets to county councils is simply by means of an allocation on the minor works programme. In any expanding county, the minor works programme is based entirely on keeping roofs over children's heads. In an expanding area like Humberside or Lincoln, all available resources have to be used to maintain the required number of school places. If the Government's election pledge on primary education is to be a reality—and I am confident that my right hon. Friend will see that it is—and if progress is not to be ludicrously slow, there must be an increased allocation on minor works so that the reorganisation of primary schools may proceed. After all, the success of my right hon. Friend will be judged by the proportion of the nation's resources that she gets out of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said already that he has a soft spot not for my right hon. Friend but for education. I am confident that she will receive generous treatment from the Chancellor. As taxpayers, we are delighted to know that that generous treatment will not be dissipated on merely changing the system of secondary education.

Today, my right hon. Friend has set forth her policy, and she has made it clear that she intends seeing that the vital money is used on the primary school end of education. In that objective, I am sure that every hon. Member on this side of the House will support her wholeheartedly.

8.39 p.m.

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

I am sure that hon. Members on this side of the House will agree with the emphasis in the Conservative Party manifesto on the need for more resources for primary education. Certainly I go along with it, and I appreciate that when my right hon. and hon. Friends came to office in 1964 we inherited a very serious legacy of under-spending on primary education which had been brought about during 13 years of Conservative Government. In five years we were not able to obliterate that legacy, and some of it will remain to be dealt with by the right hon. Lady.

It is all very well for the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) to remind us of what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said when in opposition. But again in the Conservative Party manifesto there is a paragraph about the control of Government spending, and we are promised that there will be cost-reduction plans for every single Ministry in Whitehall. That includes the right hon. Lady's own Department. She had therefore better beware, because she will have a tough battle ahead of her to get the increased money for education as a whole, and for primary education in particular, out of a Chancellor of the Exchequer who, at the same time, will have to carry out his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's pledge to reduce taxation. So we really are hoist on a petard of our own creation, are we not? It will be interesting to see what the right hon. Lady gets out of it in the end.

Before turning to the right hon. Lady's circular, I should like to ask her about her intentions in regard to nursery education, something that has not been mentioned in this debate at all. It is the part of education in which I am particularly interested, as President of the Nursery School Association. I know that this subject is also mentioned in the manifesto, but I wonder how serious are the right hon. Lady's intentions, how much she really understands that if she talks about primary education she needs to start it before the age of five in order to lay foundations of the best possible kind of education on which to build for the future, and how much she hopes to be able to devote to the expansion of nursery education, which my right hon. Friends the former Secretary of State for Education and the Home Secretary were able to introduce, particularly under the urban aid programme. Does the Secretary of State intend to find resources for the expansion of nursery education apart from the development of the urban aid programme? I am sure that the House will be interested to hear her intentions.

During this debate we have had rehearsed quite a lot of the old arguments against comprehensive education, which I find rather disturbing. We have had the argument about experimentation and the too rapid change to a comprehensive education. One cannot talk about a rapid change when one realises that before the 1944 Act the old L.C.C. was preparing plans for comprehensive education. One cannot talk about rapid change when one remembers that one authority—that in Anglesey—has had 100 per cent. comprehensive education for 16 years or more. One cannot talk of experimentation or of too quick change in the light of things like that.

Those who argue that the change has been too quickly done have not understood what changes have been made and what advantages have been brought about through the reorganisation of education on comprehensive lines. They display their ignorance of the system as it is, and the possibilities and potentialities of real comprehensive education existing solely in an area and not having to consider also a system of selective grammar schools.

The hon. Member for Cambridge accused my right hon. Friend of inciting teachers to boycott the 11-plus. It would be a very good thing if the teachers were to do just that. I will add my own incitement. If the right hon. Lady had consulted the teaching profession and the teaching organisations, they would have told her in very plain terms that they are opposed to the kind of circular which she has issued, and that they are opposed to selection. It was, presumably, for that reason that she did not consult them.

I believe that the Secretary of State has started off on the wrong foot. I am sorry about that, because it means that her job will be made more difficult, and, as one who passionately cares about the development of education, I understand that it is not to the advantage of education as a whole if the Minister concerned is at loggerheads with the profession, and with the parents, too, who care about education. One therefore has the curious situation of the Minister acting without consultation with those really most concerned with the subject, and inciting local education authorities to withdraw the plans which they have already submitted, change their ideas, and introduce again an element of selection where the whole system was one of a change-over to comprehensive education.

Many authorities, including Conservative-controlled ones, will, I believe, go ahead with their comprehensive schemes. This will show the right hon. Lady that despite what has been said about election results, the Government do not carry the whole of their party with them in this matter.

We are concerned about the future of comprehensive schools in areas where grammar schools now exist and in areas where they will be reintroduced. This is of particular concern in my constituency. My authority, unfortunately a Conservative-controlled one, made it necessary for my right hon. Friend to introduce a Bill at the end of the last Parliament to require local education authorities to produce plans. I regret that he did not put more teeth in the Measure because it contained no sanctions, with the result that we were not much further advanced than when the circular requiring L.E.A.s to reorganise on comprehensive lines was issued.

In this area comprehensive schools are being built up by the authority. We still have two single-sex grammar schools, and that is why my right hon. Friend was not able to approve the plans which were submitted to him. In part of the authority's area, which was in the area of another authority prior to the reorganisation of local government in 1966, there was a fine purpose-built new comprehensive school of which, presumably, the right hon. Lady has knowledge. I refer to the Tettenhall Regis School which, since the local authority took it over in 1966, has been suffering because of the ability of parents in the area to opt for one or other of the existing grammar schools.

There is no doubt that among members of the teaching profession, some of whom have been in touch with me, there is great concern—this goes for both teachers and parents—at the lowering of standards and the gradual effect that the creaming off process, even on its present small scale, is having on the future of this school and on the development of its advanced work.

By the same token, those schools which the authority is attempting to build up allegedly as comprehensives in the area are at a disadvantage because parents can opt for grammar schools. As long as struggling comprehensives are trying to build up their fifth and sixth forms in competition with existing grammar schools, they will not be able to get their share of the academic stream and they will find it difficult to get and hold staff, with the result that the so-called comprehensives that exist in areas where grammar schools exist side by side will become the sort of schools that we were hoping to remove altogether; namely, secondary modern schools. This is a great disappointment to teachers who care about the development of comprehensive education and to parents who support it.

This makes me concerned about what the right hon. Lady's attitude will be towards the whole situation of secondary education in Wolverhampton. I know that she is concerned about consultation with parents, even though she is not concerned about consultation with teachers. By her action she has shown this to be the case.

However, teachers are worried about not having been consulted by the authority over the sort of scheme that it submitted to the right hon. Lady's predecessor. Parents have not been consulted, either. This has represented a grave lack of courtesy and consideration of the principles of democratic local government, with which all hon. Members should be concerned.

The right hon. Lady quoted part of the Conservative Party's election manifesto. I want to quote this part of it to her: … the proper rôle of the central government is to satisfy itself that every local education authority provides education which will enable a child's talents and ability to be developed to the full, at whatever age these may appear. I believe that that sentence crystallises the argument in favour of comprehensive education.

Mrs. Thatcherindicated dissent.

Mrs. Short

I know that the right hon. Lady does not agree, otherwise she would not have been encouraging local education authorities to reintroduce grammar school education. Surely a local education authority can provide the kind of education that a child's skill and talent need only if it is able to offer within the one school to which the child goes the whole range of subjects and opportunities of which the child can take advantage to develop his skill, ability and talent to the full. The statement All children must have the opportunity of getting to O-level and beyond if they are capable of doing so is a complete negation of what the Secretary of State is trying to do now. She must know that it is not possible for all children to do this in secondary modern schools. It is nonsense to pretend that secondary modern schools can compete with the kind of talent to which the Tory Party itself refers in its election manifesto. This has never been possible. It never will be possible as long as we have the separatist tripartite system of education. The thing does not hang together.

The right hon. Lady has not told us how she proposes to select children for grammar schools that are to continue. The Tory Party says that it is opposed to 11-plus selection, whether by examination or any other means. How, then, is selection to be made? Will the Under-Secretary tell us? Let him not tell us about parental choice, because under the tripartite system which we tried to get rid of it was not possible to extend the advantages of the best kind of education to all children in the age group. It cannot be done by any kind of selection. If it is done by examination, we shall be flying in the face of all educational research which has been done since the war. If it is left to headmasters' recommendations, this, too, is open to serious doubts and objections.

Perhaps the Under-Secretary would tell us how he expects comprehensive schools to survive alongside the grammar schools and find the staff that they will need if the grammar schools are to attract the better qualified teachers, particularly vis-à-vis comprehensive schools that go up only to school-leaving age. If the hon. Gentleman can tell us how he expects comprehensive schools to develop in the face of the right hon. Lady's circular so as to give real opportunities to all children whatever kind of school they go to, the House will be interested to hear this.

What the right hon. Lady has done makes nonsense of the Prime Minister's claim about one nation. This is a Minister and a Government who are determined to return to the evils of the separatist system of education. How does this unite the nation? How does this give equal opportunity to all children to develop their skill, ability and talent? It cannot. It will not. It is sheer hypocrisy for the right hon. Lady and the Prime Minister to claim otherwise.

This is a divisive system of education that the right hon. Lady wants to cement and make firm again. This is something that all of us on this side intend to oppose. We shall do everything that we can, in the House and in the country, to let people understand clearly what the consequences of the right hon. Lady's policies are. We shall do this with members of the teaching profession and parents. I believe that we shall win their co-operation and support.

8.55 p.m.

Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)

I listened attentively to the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) and, while I cannot say that I agree with her arguments, I congratulate her warmly upon one feature of her speech. She is, I think, the only speaker from the other side of the House who in the last three hours has not found it necessary to invoke my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude). Whether he is in the House or not, he floats over the Opposition benches. He is like an invisible vulture. His astral body appears to be in front of the eyes of every Member of the Opposition who speaks in the debate, except the hon. Lady, and I congratulate her. She was able to make a speech which, from her point of view, was very persuasive, without once invoking my hon. Friend as the bogyman who wants to create an élite who will grind the rest of the population under their feet.

The arguments which have been addressed to us by the Opposition are based upon a fallacy, a non sequitur. The Opposition tell us that all children are equally important, and we agree. I can speak for my colleagues as heartily as I do for myself when I say that the Tory Party recognises that this nation has a duty to all our children: it is not in dispute that they are all equally important. But the conclusion which the Opposition seek to draw from that statement is that because all our children are equally important, we must compel all of them to go to the same kind of school, and that unless we do so and give neither them nor their parents any choice about the kind of school they go to, we are in some way or other subtracting from the equality and importance that our children enjoy.

It does not follow. We can perfectly well uphold the principle that all our children are of equal importance while at the same time providing different sorts of education for them. We have been doing that for a good many years, not simply in respect of those children of higher-than-average ability but in respect of children of lower-than-average ability. We have been providing schools for the educationally subnormal children in our society for a long time. We select children to go to the E.S.N. schools, and quite rightly. But since we all agree that children of below average ability need special schools, is it necessarily monstrous and outrageous to argue that possibly children of above average ability also need special schools?

What arguments are there against the grammar school that are not equally good arguments against the E.S.N. school as such? Since we agree that it is necessary for us to provide a certain kind of school for a certain sort of child, I cannot see that there is anything manifestly and obviously wrong in the fact that we have provided certain sorts of schools for children of above average ability.

I do not wish to become doctrinaire about the comprehensives. I am not for a moment asserting that comprehensives are intrinsically and necessarily wrong—not a bit. What I am saying is something much less emphatic and dogmatic than that. I recognise that in many areas comprehensive schools are highly desirable. There are many areas in which, if someone argues, as one of my hon. Friends did, that this is the best pattern of schooling for the neighbourhood, I for one would agree without further words.

All we assert is that there is room for more than one type of school for children after they leave the primary stage. No more than that. We argue that there is a place for the grammar school, for the direct grant school, for various kinds of independent school. I cannot for the life of me see why, in arguing this as we do, we should be accused of wanting an élite or of seeking to erect privilege in Britain. I see no basis for any of the epithets which have been thrown at us during the debate.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will not be intimidated by those epithets, and I hope, in particular, that she will not be cowed by the assertions coming from the Shadow Minister who opened the attack upon her. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was a singular effort, and it was the least persuasive of all the speeches I have heard from the benches opposite. He approached the matter with a rancour markedly absent from practically every other speech delivered in criticism of the Government this afternoon. He waved experts over my right hon. Friend's head like a club, telling her that all the experts have agreed that the comprehensive school is the only kind we should have.

I urge my right hon. Friend to beware of those who say that all the experts agree. There are several words which sound like alarm bells in one's ears. Whenever we hear the words, "Science proves", we know that we are about to hear a piece of nonsense. Whenever we hear the words, "History teaches", we know that a piece of nonsense is about to come. When anyone says, "All the experts agree", it is time for rational people to take shelter. All the experts may agree. In fact, they do not, but, if they did all agree, that would be no reason for believing them or for following them.

One hon. Member opposite rightly pointed out—I was glad he did—that 25 years ago most of the experts were agreed about the surpassing merits of the tripartite system, including the people who were then making education policy for the Labour Party. All the experts then, we were told, were in favour. All the experts, said the Labour Party, believed that this was the only way to organise education. Those experts have gone, and silence has broken out. Now, a new crop of experts has turned up peddling a new collection of theories. We should be just as sceptical of the new crop as we were of the old.

As I say, I urge my right hon. Friend not to let herself be bullyragged by epithets. What she is doing is endorsed by parents and has been endorsed by the electorate. She is standing firm on two principles, principles which, I am certain, are accepted not in the Tory Party alone but far outside the Tory Party, the principle that parental choice ought to be considered when a child's education is being decided, and the principle of local democracy.

It is no answer to say that, in upholding the principle of parental choice, my right hon. Friend cannot, in the present state of society, give choice to all parents. I recognise that she cannot. But I want to see a society in which we can make choice a reality for all parents. We do not have that kind of society yet, but the Tory Party wants to create it and is in the business of creating it. Although we cannot, as things are, offer freedom of choice to all parents, we do offer it now to a good many. We must maintain this freedom and extend it. Let us not go backwards and seek to destroy it.

I urge my right hon. Friend, therefore, to stand firm on her circular. Let her insist that she is doing something that makes sense in terms of education and democracy, and let her leave the adjectives and the assertions to people who have nothing better to contribute.

9.5 p.m.

Mr. Fred Peart (Workington)

First, I congratulate the Secretary of State on her appointment to her high office and also congratulate her Under-Secretary of State. I wish them both well personally. As one who was a science graduate in another Cabinet, I am delighted that a science graduate is in the Cabinet. It is a recognition, I hope, that one day we shall have more people attached to science in positions of responsibility. I should like to argue and debate that on the subject of education.

I pay tribute to all Members who have made their maiden speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mr. Barry Jones) has a great knowledge of education and speaks as a former National Union of Teachers organiser. I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Kenneth Clarke), who spoke eloquently about his Nottingham. I am sure that he, too, will make contributions to the House which will be admired not only by his constituents but by his colleagues.

I also pay special tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand). I have a special affection for Easington, and not only because of my hon. Friend's predecessor. My father was a headmaster there. He was an honorary agent when my hon. Friend's predecessor turned out a former Prime Minister. I am glad that my hon. Friend is here. He also has made his name in education.

I also congratulate the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), who made a very distinctive contribution. I met him many years ago, and I always thought that one day he would make his appearance in the House. I believe that he will be an independent Conservative in the best sense.

I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing). I am sorry that I did not hear all his speech. I have a personal link with him, though probably he is not aware of it. I sent my boy, who was an 11-plus success, to the Elliot comprehensive school, where he was a master.

I pay tribute, too, to the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Stokes). I am sorry that I did not hear his speech, but I am sure that it was a good one.

I should like immediately to debate with the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran). I always found him refreshing when he was in the House previously. I thought that he was occasionally very reactionary, but he was always forthright and I knew where he stood. I shall return to some of his arguments when I come to the great argument about the future of our secondary education. I assure him that I shall answer him without any rancour, but I hope that I shall answer him forcibly, because I disagree completely with his argument.

I feel as though I, too, am making a maiden speech. Fourteen years ago I made my first speech from this Dispatch Box. It seems a long time ago. It was during a Supply debate on education. The arguments we had then have been mirrored today. We talked then about science and technology, more schools, the building programme, nursery education and reorganisation of comprehensive education. The same arguments have been deployed today, but with different emphasis. No doubt they will be deployed again until there is another change of Administration. The Amendment highlights the different emphasis and attitude that we on the Opposition side have on major matters affecting State education.

I am sorry that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has had to go to hospital. We all wish him well, even though we disagree politically. We wish him a speedy recovery. He returned to the hustings yesterday by reading extracts from the Tory manifesto. I will not do that too much. I know where the Tories stand on this, and I agree that the Minister is quite right to say that she is going to fulfil what the Tories said they would do. I make no complaint. The country accepted this, although I believe that if education had been the only issue, there might have been a different story to tell. I cannot believe that the vast majority of the people believe that we should turn back the clock and go back, as the right hon. Lady is doing. On the other hand, I accept that democracy has made its decision and that we must seek to reverse it by persuasion and by trying to convince people in local authority areas in many parts of the country to return Labour representation next May. This is important, and I am sure that they will.

But I am not ashamed of our policies when we have been the Administration. The Chancellor of the Exchequer criticised them yesterday, but Labour Governments have a good record in education. This year is the centenary of State education, and for the first time the country is spending more on education than on defence. I am not against defence, but the test of a civilised society is the priority it gives to education. Public expenditure on education has risen from less than £1,400 million in 1963–64 to nearly £2,300 million in 1968–69, and last year, as I have said, it exceeded defence spending for the first time.

We now devote about 6 per cent. of our national output G.N.P. to education compared with less than 4 per cent. of a much smaller G.N.P. a decade ago. I take pride in this. A whole series of measures have been introduced in the period of a Labour Government. We have built more schools and extended higher education. I could continue easily to compare our record with that of our opponents.

Mr. Maude


Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman represents the élitist concept in education, and he has always done so. I do not complain about it. I admire him for his elegance and influence. I have always thought that one day he might be the Minister of Education in a Tory Administration. I am not sure that he would be as Right-wing as his right hon. Friend. I admire him for his clarity of thought, but I disagree with him. I look back at the record of past Conservative Administrations and all the advice that they were given by a series of Committees—the Crowther Committee, the Albemarle Committee, even the Wolfenden Committee on sport—all of which were ignored by the Tories. Time and time again when they were in power they cut expenditure on education. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] It is no good hon. Members saying "Nonsense". I can remember Circular 245 which was issued by the late Florence Horsbrugh before some hon. Members opposite were in the House, which cut back education expenditure. I can remember a whole series of such circulars—244, 245, 331 and 334. When hon. Members opposite were in power in that period they allowed the momentum of educational advance to slow down. There was no challenge. That was why we had to have the change which was brought about in the first five years of a Labour Administration.

I turn to the issue which has been pinpointed by our Amendment—our approach to comprehensive education. In the past six years 129 plans have been submitted by a similar number of local authorities in England and Wales out of a total of 163. Even Conservative authorities have fitted into this pattern. I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison) mention the work which he has done personally in Wiltshire. He defended comprehensive education even though we provoked one of his colleagues, the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings). He does not believe in comprehensive education. He believes in the tripartite system. He believes that children should be divided into three types: secondary modern, grammar and technical. He believes that this sort of segregation should still exist and that we should even now return to the 11 plus. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Devizes for being progressive in this.

The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) deployed the argument, reinforced by his hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge, that comprehensive education is all right for certain areas, and he gave an example from his own constituency, arguing that for Lindsey comprehensive education would not be suitable. He would have the support of the hon. Member for Uxbridge. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) answered him completely when he quoted the area of Weardale in his constituency, a large rural area where a grammar school I know well, because I went there—an old traditional grammar school—is now the centre of a comprehensive school for the whole of the dale.

I could point out many parts of the country—Anglesey is another classic example—where for a whole area which is partly rural, comprehensive education is the ideal solution. The aim inevitably must be to have throughout England and Wales comprehensive education in every local education authority. I know that hon. Members disagree. I believe that it is inevitable, that even a Conservative Administration, despite the circular, cannot go back.

The momentum in education is towards a comprehensive solution. I accept that in different areas there may be various forms of comprehensive education, and one hon. Member in a maiden speech referred to the existence of sixth form colleges. We all know of the Leicester experiment. Inevitably the main principle of comprehensive education will be accepted by every local authority in England and Wales.

I argue that it is right and that it is the duty of the central Government to take the lead in this direction. This is why we take issue with the Minister and the circular she has introduced. I believe that the previous circular 10/65 adopted the right approach. No wonder that teachers are up in arms against the right hon. Lady. She has been condemned strongly by the National Union of Teachers, by the Council for Educational Advance, which represents a large section of opinion in the educational world, and I believe that she has been condemned by responsible opinion.

The editor of the Times Educational Supplement, who has attacked her—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may criticise the editor of the Times Educational Supplement but many other writers throughout the country in educational journals have criticised the right hon. Lady. She has reversed a policy which was working. She has also failed to adopt the conventional approach of consultation. [Interruption.] Hon. Members may interrupt and shout but I am surprised that the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) should do this. He should know that it is a convention, before a major change is made in the Department, that the people concerned should be consulted.

Mr. Maude

I was not interrupting the right hon. Gentleman on any question of consultation. I merely said that if the right hon. Lady had been attacked by all the people by whom he said she had been attacked then she must be right.

Mr. Peart

When the National Union of Teachers officially comes out against the right hon. Lady, she must beware and take note. No Minister should act arrogantly. I speak as a former departmental Minister. Before I made any major decision, I always consulted carefully—[Interruption.] I made a lot of good decisions in agriculture. I always consulted carefully—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Interruptions must be selective, not comprehensive.

Mr. Peart

Right hon. and hon. Members opposite may decry opposition from the teachers, but they are important in our system. Any Administration and any Ministry must work with them.

I warn the Government that we are prepared to take this matter to debate and argument outside. It will inevitably spill over into local government elections when they come, because the decisions will be left to the local authorities. I advise my teacher colleagues who protest against the attitude of the Conservative Administration to work much harder than they have done to bring about a change of representation in areas where Conservatives are in power. I believe that that will happen. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite should not treat this matter lightly when they insult the teaching profession.

I detect arrogance among certain hon. Members, and I understand it. In the right hon. Lady's constituency only yesterday there was a meeting of headmasters arranged by the local education authority to hear their views about the comprehensive scheme which has been put forward. I understand that the vast majority accepted it. I hope that there will be no turning back on that scheme even though it is in the area which the right hon. Lady represents.

Mrs. Thatcher

I make no comment about the scheme, because I might have to adjudicate upon it, but I have a petition, signed by 150 teachers, against it.

Mr. Peart

I am informed that only about four or five out of nearly 80 head teachers were against it. If we knew the number of those who support it in relation to teachers outside, I am pretty sure that we should have a different result from what the right hon. Lady has indicated. I believe that the overwhelming mass of opinion in the teaching profession in her constituency will support the comprehensive scheme.

Hon. Members opposite disagree with our approach on comprehensive education, but the argument that we are trying to impose one pattern is simply not true. The old tripartite system forced many of our young children into a single pattern of education which is completely out of date—and I refer to our secondary modern schools. I have always argued against these schools. Many of our children were condemned to have an inferior education at the age of eleven. Many of our children had their futures decided in an arbitrary way. We believe that this system is wrong. Therefore, many of us have campaigned against it over and over again.

I believe that in a comprehensive school a child's abilities will develop to a far better extent than in a narrow, specialised grammar school or secondary modern school. A comprehensive school can give more opportunities to the child population. If anyone is objective about this, he will accept that comprehensive schools have already improved education standards. Many of our grammar schools were too narrow, too specialised. Fifty to 60 per cent. of boys in the grammar school system did not have the education suited to their abilities because many of those schools were geared only to the sixth form to enable that sixth form, or several sixth forms, to prepare students for the universities and higher education. I believe, therefore, that a comprehensive school approach is far better.

Hon. Members opposite have not been too sympathetic to the State education system. Every advance that we have known has had to be fought for. One can look back through the history of State education over the last 100 years. There are still in our society those who believe in a two-nation system for education. It is all very well for right hon. and hon. Members opposite, in their flowery speeches at the hustings, to say that they believe in one nation. There is a two-nation system and it is reflected still in our education system. Many hon. Members opposite are concerned about this.

I remember the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), who is now Minister of Agriculture, moving a Motion as a back-bencher on private public schools. He said that it was wrong to have segregation and that the public schools should not segregate themselves in the way they did. In that same debate the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. G. Johnson Smith), who played an important part in the Tory campaign, strongly attacked public school education and said that he would like to see the existing system changed radically. The hon. Member said: I have no doubt that we are the most class-ridden of any highly developed society."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th June, 1961; Vol. 642, c. 868.] That was said by a Conservative Member and it has been said by other Conservatives from time to time in debate. We still have a class society.

I believe that hon. Members opposite, who in the main still come from that section who are trained still to think in terms of an élite concept of education, have no sympathy with the State system which I am proud to defend and to develop. I know that hon. Members opposite do not like this—

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Prior)

Would it not be fair of the right hon. Gentleman to admit that in that debate what we tried to do was to widen the entry to the public schools and not destroy them, as the party opposite would?

Mr. Peart

It is true that in moving his Motion the right hon. Gentleman said that he wanted a system whereby a percentage of boys from the State system would be put into the public private sector. He quoted, I think, a figure of 10 per cent. His hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead, however, went even further and said that the public schools should be integrated into the State system. They have both agreed, moreover, that public schools were a divisive force in our society. All I am saying is that right hon. and hon. Members opposite, and members of the Administration, have no sympathy with the ideals of our State education system in which hon. Members on this side believe. Every reform has had to be fought for against hon. Members opposite and their predecessors.

Tonight, therefore, we are not ashamed of our achievements in education. We believe that Labour authorities, like the old London authority when it had a Labour majority, which started to develop comprehensive schools, paved the way in England. We are proud that many Socialist education pioneers did that also in the sphere of the universities and colleges, trying to convince people that there was need for a momentous change.

We believe that that is right for other reasons, but inevitably Britain in a changed society, a Britain which needs to develop its technology and which needs to expand because of new circumstances and the different rôle from the old imperial past, must have an education system that will match the needs of this dynamic social democracy.

The only way that we can do that is to provide the sort of education system which only a comprehensive system can give. It is for these reasons that we are pleased to support the Amendment, and we oppose strongly the policy of the Government.

9.30 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. William van Straubenzee)

I am glad indeed to follow the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) in one particular regard at any rate, however much, as time goes on, we may find ourselves in disagreement, and that is to echo, though in words not as adequate as his, the very cordial welcome which, traditionally on these occasions, the House likes to give to those who address it for the first time.

I, like him, shared the great pleasure which the House got from the fluent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Kenneth Clarke). It is often said that one is an old man when the policemen start to look young, and I am not quite sure what effect it has upon one when one reflects that the first time I had the pleasure of meeting my hon. Friend he was still a student at university and clearly marked for great things later in life. It is a particular happiness to me that it falls to me on this side of the House to welcome him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) made a remarkable maiden speech. We welcome him as a member of the Plowden Committee, and we note the penetrating analysis he gave in his maiden speech of the competing needs of education against other Departments also demanding resources. I am quite sure that all of us on both sides of the House who have known him know that he has much to contribute to the House.

Then my hon. Friend the Member for Oldsbury and Halesowen (Mr. Stokes) made a vigorous contribution to our debate and one which clearly showed that he will be of an independent turn of mind. Perhaps one should say, in the absence of the Patronage Secretary, one hopes not too independent a turn of mind, but one which has, clearly, great things to contribute to our corporate discussions.

As the right hon. Gentleman said he was, so I also am faced with welcoming no fewer than six maiden speakers. There was the charming fluency of the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Barry Jones), who brought a very human side to our discussions, which interested us greatly. The hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) had some fascinating revelations to make about, if I may so put it, how he fiddled the books as an education officer—entirely in the interests of those he was administering. He will be glad to know that I have taken careful and professional note of what he had to say.

Finally, the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) is clearly destined to make major contributions to our debates, and he made a very gracious and kindly reference, I felt, to his predecessor, who was particularly liked and respected on the benches, as we were then, on that side of the House.

If I may, without straying out of order, I should like, as this is the first of our education debates, simply to say that they will never quite have the same timbre about them without the affectionate presence of Miss Alice Bacon, whose future we shall watch with great pleasure; nor, certainly, will they have the authority which they used to have without the presence of my noble Friend, Lord Boyle: two notable absentees from our debates in the new House.

I should like to go into one detailed point for the benefit of the hon. Member for Easington who raised it specifically with me. It was a very fair point, and I seek to deal with all matters raised with me. That was the needs of those who teach the slow learners. It is quite clear that my right hon. Friend and I will want to satisfy ourselves that enough emphasis is being put on the initial and in-service training of teachers of slow learners, and I should like to keep in touch with the hon. Member and benefit from his expertise in that matter.

The right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), who made an interesting intervention earlier, with all the authority of which he is master, asked me about higher education, and I must in courtesy to him say a brief word on this in the light of all that we have been talking about. Obviously, as he is the first to recognise, major decisions lie ahead of my right hon. Friend and, equally obviously, they are not decisions which can be announced casually in a winding-up speech at the end of a debate like this which has largely concentrated on other issues. They have to be thought about with the greatest care and many interests need to be consulted.

The hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) has my assurance that the many diverse suggestions which are being made on this subject are being most closely looked at. She may be assured that no one of them will automatically be rejected. If the difficult decisions are to be tackled effectively they must cover not just one sector but the whole.

It will not be sufficient, for example, to take decisions affecting the number of students in the university sector, although that is a vitally important sector, without considering, for example, the contribution of the polytechnics. It will not be acceptable to look in vacuum just at the expansion of the technical colleges. In short, the whole sector of further and higher education must be looked at as a whole, and that is precisely what my right hon. Friend is now engaged in.

I want to make one point of emphasis to which I attach importance. There is sometimes a danger that the universities with all their much-admired and deserved prestige will capture an undue proportion of public interest at the expense of other great institutions of learning and training. My object, therefore, at this early stage, speaking for the first time with my present modest responsibilities, is to make clear the Government's concern for and deep interest not only in the universities but equally in the polytechnics, the other colleges of further education and colleges generally.

This concern was shown by the announcement in the Gracious Speech of an inquiry into the training of teachers, a point raised by the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North. My only quarrel with what he said is that he must not assign, kind though he was, too much to me. There is no more enthusiastic supporter of this than my right hon. Friend. I have no doubt that the inquiry will include a careful study of the place of these colleges in the higher education family. Without the contribution of these non-university institutions we cannot hope to make adequate provision in the future. Any plans that leave them out of account will be totally unrealistic. If I leave further and higher education at that point it is for no other reason than that there are so many other matters that the House will expect me to deal with.

I want first, in relation to the Amendment we are debating, to take the question of selection. I start, as did my right hon. Friend at the appropriate point in her speech, by accepting that where at the age of 11 there is a system of rigid selection which subsequently permits of no opportunity for moving across or for the late developer, then that age is undoubtedly too early for the permanent decision which is so often implied for a child. There is no difficulty about this. This is no longer a debating matter. After all, the hon. Member for Hitchin, one of the ablest of my predecessors, in the Bulmerse lecture said that this was indeed so and that the matter was no longer a party political issue. Those who today have sought to put it into that context are wildly out of date. [Interruption.] I am referring to the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin, and I think that in fairness I should continue.

The hon. Lady rightly said that there were a number of Labour authorities which did not appear to be wildly enthusiastic about comprehensive reorganisation. I cannot know which ones she had in mind, but I can imagine that it might be some of the northern boroughs with their keen attachment to the grammar schools locally which are often associated with the Labour Party. I am simply making the point that to try to turn this into a piece of political dogma is unrelated to the facts.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Since the hon. Gentleman has referred to my lecture, may I make two points. The first is that at the time I said—and this is what surprised me about the right hon. Lady's action—that I believed this to be no longer a matter of political quarrel between us. I am sorry that it has turned out to be so. Secondly, in regard to the point I made about one or two local authorities, I would condemn them for what seems to me to be a reactionary attitude as much as I would condemn right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Mr. van Straubenzee

It would be in agreement with all we know of the hon. Lady to know that she would so condemn. But on the first point we are here discussing the method of reorganisation and the freedom given to local authorities. I am seeking to establish—and I think I have the hon. Lady with me—that there is no valid argument to be based on this selection at the age of 11.

Mr. Hefferrose

Mr. Speaker

If the Minister does not give way, will the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) resume his seat?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I will allow the hon. Gentleman to make his point.

Mr. Heffer

The position in Liverpool is that the Conservative local authority there apparently accepts the hon. Gentleman's point that the selection at 11 should cease. But it now has adopted the magic figure of 12. Could the hon. Gentleman explain to the House why there is any difference between selecting at 12 rather than at 11?

Mr. van Straubenzee

This is the kind of intervention which makes me sorry I gave way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I am simply directing myself to the argument that there is in the age of 11 something essential in Tory philosophy which we have heard endlessly throughout this debate during the majority of which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has not been present. I am saying that there is nothing essential in a matter—

Mr. Hefferrose

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman was listened to last night. He must listen to somebody else.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am saying that there is a very different consideration when the argument widens, as it has so often today, into selection as such. The fact is that, no matter how secondary schooling is organised, there will always be a substantial element of selection as such and that such selection is not against the child's interest but is in favour of it.

There is selection at a comprehensive school organised on lines of streaming. There is selection at a comprehensive school where the method is that of setting. And there is selection in these cases because children differ in mental gifts, in their aptitudes, in their industry and in their ability to concentrate. It is in their interests, whatever the method used, that they should be grouped into courses suitable to their particular capacities by whatever method is used.

Mr. Eddie Griffiths (Sheffield, Brightside) rose

Mr. van Straubenzee

I have been generous in giving way. To widen the argument, as we have heard it widened today, from the narrow point of rigid selection at the age of 11 into separate schools into something much wider, namely, an argument against selection as such, is not in accord with the realities of the educational system.

When we are talking about the comprehensive system or about comprehensive schools, I also ask that we should retain something of the critical faculties which we would normally retain in our ordinary lives. This is a point which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury. It must be right that before my right hon. Friend sanctions any scheme, we should be assured that it is as correct a scheme as we jointly can devise.

Let me give one or two examples of the way in which our critical faculties are necessary. A few years ago it was said that a comprehensive school had to be of immense size in order to be effective. That is no longer held to be necessary. I can point to certain schools in London. There was a time when sincere people believed that a comprehensive school had to be of really great size in order to be effective. There is no issue between us here. I see that the former Secretary of State is indicating his agreement. As we know, the very large comprehensive schools are now seen to be quite unnecessarily large and, worse, to have certain characteristics which make them extremely difficult to operate as effective places of education. There is no doubt that the social strains of some types of organisation have worried even those who, like me, are extremely interested in the subject and the experiment.

Taking another example, how unwise it must be to exclude for ever, as the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) sought to do in the last Parliament, the earlier selection for any subject other than, in his case, at sixth form or below for music and dancing. I do not know what the future holds in this respect, but I notice that in various other parts of the world early selection for mathematicians is considered wise and proper. An attitude of mind which rigidly excludes that possibility does not seem to be a wise way of approaching our educational future.

Taking another example, there are many devoted proponents of the comprehensive school who believe genuinely that for it to be viable, there must be a system of banding. Rightly or wrongly, they believe it profoundly. Again, to have a system which actively prohibits the possibility seems to be very unwise. That is why the wording in the circular makes it clear that my right hon. Friend is prepared to consider any new schemes. However, it has been overlooked that the sentence which refers specifically to her views where a pattern of organisation is working well and commands support refers just as much to someone who, for purely dogmatic reasons, seeks to unscramble the comprehensive which is working well as it does the other way round. Here again, in approving the scheme for Leeds, my right hon. Friend shows that she is not motivated by dogma in this respect.

I must say a word, because I have been asked about them by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), about the direct grant schools. I prefer to speak not of direct grant schools but of the direct grant system for, as we all know, the direct grant schools vary immensely, not only in geography but in size and, frankly, in quality. So I simply say that on this side of the House we like to feel that there are schools where we retain the principle of having a number which are neither fully maintained on the one hand nor totally independent on the other.

The historical fact is that many of the best direct grants schools in, for example, the North of England play something of the part in regional esteem that the great schools in the independent sector play in the South, and I suspect that hon. Members who represent northern constituencies would be surprised by the shock which the closure of those schools, or their going independent, would cause in that part of the world. Therefore, I say quite clearly and directly that the pressure has been removed from the direct grant schools by this present Government. There is no hostility to this system, and my right hon. Friend—to answer the specific question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratfordon-Avon—is indeed in touch with these schools on points of the type raised.

I must, clearly, seek to deal as adequately as I may with the argument raised from time to time that it is absolutely essential to a comprehensive school that it be in a position of monopoly. To think otherwise, said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-Maude), about the direct grant schools. I upon-Tyne, Central was to think in terms of "Alice in Wonderland". I do not change my view just because I have the honour to hold this present appointment, and on 30th April, in the presence, I think, of the right hon. Gentleman—and certainly in the Committee to which he will not now like to look back and remember—I said that I believed that where a comprehensive school is purpose built, or where it is in buildings so adjacent, as on educational grounds to be viable, and provides a meaningful sixth form, that school will be chosen in preference to a selective school over the years by parents with the freedom to make their choice. But it is a very long move from there to say that one would seek to impose that by legislation or by circular. Nor, frankly, does it require total monopoly.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe—and I wish that the House had been fuller to hear him say it—gave a fascinating example in this field. I believe that there are signs that where a comprehensive school is providing a genuine course it is in a competitive situation with a selective school on a narrower field, and there are good signs that in places the two systems are living alongside one another without disadvantage to the comprehensive school. But it is true that if one makes a mistake with a grammar school such a decision is irreversible, and I for my part will not be party, in the name of equality, to the destruction of good existing schools, of whatever type, without replacing them with something better.

I must also refer to what in our jargon tends to be called the "mixed economy", for the fact is that whether the last Bill had or had not been passed we would have lived in a mixed economy for as long as any of us can foresee. There will be selective schools selecting at 11 years for as long as we can foresee. My authority for saying that is based on words used by the right hon. Gentleman when he was Secretary of State. We all remember that he was asked the very reasonable question: would he impose the change-over by 1975? He replied, fairly, that the cost of doing so would be "astronomical", and he thereby got at the root of the problem. For the same reason he refused to set a time limit.

It is perfectly true that some secondary modern schools are little more than prewar elementary schools, but a magnificent job is being done in dingy surroundings by a devoted staff. But the fact of the matter is that in large numbers of other areas, one of them cited by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden), the work is going forward in splendid buildings with self-confident children and a determined staff.

On the authority of the former Secretary of State, on the grounds of resources, we shall, under any Government, have to live with the two systems side by side for as long as we can foresee. [Interruption.] I say "for as long as we can foresee" because of resources.

I appeal to the House to accept that to talk of the young people who are the products of these schools as failures is to do less than justice to a fine generation of young people. [Interruption.] It is the very success of the teaching in many of these schools which itself has caused the impetus towards the comprehensive system and, in particular, has blazed the trail in the education of the less well able child.

As one who has expressed his view clearly about rigid selection at 11, I want to get right across to the House the fact that there must be a stop to the knocking of the secondary school child. [Interruption.]

Since the system must be with us for as long as we can reasonably foresee, when I put under the microscope the action of the former Secretary of State in advising teachers not to work the system, I find that a very highly reprehensible action for anyone to have taken.

We have welcomed this debate because the guns have been turned on the wrong target and because it allows us once

again to expose the double talk and double standards that have gone on. There never has been a time when these matters have been so fully debated, right up to just before the General Election, when the whole electorate could see the position, just as when we debated the Bill in question and when, with supreme inefficiency, the former Secretary of State lost the first Clause—[Interruption.]

That is why we are able to start our work tonight without having to repeal any Act. That is why we were able to appeal to the nation and why the nation gave its vote. That is why we are able now to switch attention from dogmatic assertion on centralisation over to primary improvement. [Interruption.] That is why we welcome the test of the House of Commons.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 272, Noes 318.

Division No. 1.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Albu, Austen Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.) Gourlay, Harry
Alldritt, Walter Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Grant, G. (Morpeth)
Allen, Scholefield Dalyell, Tam Grant, J. D. (Islington, E.)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Darling, Rt. Hn. George Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Ashley, Jack Davidson, Arthur Griffiths, Will (Exchange)
Ashton, Joe Davies, D. (Llanelly) Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.
Atkinson, Norman Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil) Hamling, William
Barnes, Michael Davis, S. C. (Hackney, C.) Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)
Barnett, Joel Deakins, E. P. Hardy, P.
Baxter, William Delargy, H. J. Harper, Joseph
Beaney, Alan Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Bidwell, Sydney Dempsey, James Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith
Bishop, E. S. Doig, Peter Hattersley, Roy
Blenkinsop, Arthur Dormand, J. D. Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Douglas, R. G. Heffer, Eric S.
Booth, Albert Douglas Mann, B. L. H. Hilton, W. S.
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Driberg, Tom Horam, J.
Bradley, Tom Duffy, A. E. P. Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Broughton, Sir Alfred Dunn, James A. Howell, Denis (Small Heath)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Dunnett, Jack Huckfield, Leslie
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Edelman, Maurice Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & Finsbury) Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Hughes, M. (Durham)
Buchan, Norman Edwards, William (Merioneth) Hughes, R. (Aberdeen, North)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Ellis, R. T. Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) English, Michael Hunter, Adam
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Evans, Fred Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Faulds, Andrew Janner, G. E.
Cant, R. B. Fernyhough, E. Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Carmichael, Neil Fisher, Mrs. D. M. (B'ham, L'wood) Jeger, George (Goole)
Carter, R. J. (B'mingham, N'field) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) John, B. T.
Clark, D. G. (Colne Valley) Foley, Maurice Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Cocks, M. F. L. (Bristol, S.) Foot, Michael Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Cohen, S. Ford, Ben Johnson, W. H. (Derby, South)
Coleman, Donald Forrester, John Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Concannon, J. D. Fraser, John (Norwood) Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Conlan, Bernard Freeson, Reginald Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Galpern, Sir Myer Jones, G. (Carmarthen)
Cox, T. M. (Wandsworth, C.) Garrett, W. E. Jones, S. B. (Flint, East)
Crawshaw, Richard Gilbert, J. W. Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)
Cronin, John Ginsburg, David Judd, Frank
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Golding, John Kaufman, G. B.
Kerr, Russell Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Silverman, Julius
Kinnock, N. G. Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Skinner, D.
Lambie, D. Moyle, Roland Small, William
Latham, Arthur Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Smith, J. (Lanarkshire, N.)
Lawson, George Murray, R. K. Spearing, N. J.
Leadbitter, Ted Ogden, Eric Spriggs, Leslie
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick O'Halloran, Michael Stallard, A. W.
Leonard, Dick O'Malley, Brian Steel, David
Lestor, Miss Joan Oram, Bert Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold Orbach, Maurice Stoddart, D. L. (Swindon)
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham N.) Orme, Stanley Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Oswald, Thomas Strang, G. S.
Lipton, Marcus Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Loughlin, Charles Paget, R. T. Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Palmer, Arthur Swain, Thomas
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, East) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Taverne, Dick
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Pardoe, John Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
McCann, John Parker, John (Dagenham) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
McCartney, H. Parry, R. (Liverpool, Exchange) Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
MacColl, James Pavitt, Laurence Tinn, James
McElhone, Frank Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Tomney, Frank
McGuire, Michael Pendry, T. Torney, T.
Mackenzie, Gregor Pentland, Norman Tuck, Raphael
Mackie, John Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Urwin, T. W.
Mackintosh, John P. Prescott, J. L. Varley, Eric G.
Maclennan, Robert Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Wainwright, Edwin
McManus, F. Price, William (Rugby) Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Probert, Arthur Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
McNamara, J. Kevin Rankin, John Wallace, George
Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Reed, D. (Sedgefield) Watkins, David
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.) Weitzman, David
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Rhodes, Geoffrey Wellbeloved, James
Marks, Kenneth Richard, Ivor Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Marquand, David Roberts, Rt. Hn, Goronwy (Caernarvon) White, J. (Glasgow, Pollok)
Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Robertson, John (Paisley) Whitehead, P.
Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Roderick, C. E. Whitlock, William
Mayhew, Christopher Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Meacher, M. H. Roper, J. Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Rose, Paul B. Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Mendelson, John Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock) Wilson, A. (Hamilton)
Mikardo, Ian Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Millan, Bruce Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Miller, Dr. M. S. Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Woof, Robert
Milne, Edward (Blyth) Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Molloy, William Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Mr. James Hamilton and
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Sillars, James Mr. Ernest Armstrong.
Adley, R. J. Buck, Antony Digby, Simon Wingfield
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Bullus, Sir Eric Dixon, P.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Burden, F. A. Dodds-Parker, Douglas
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn) Drayson, G. B.
Astor, John Carlisle, Mark du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward
Atkins, Humphrey Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Dykes, H. J. M.
Awdry, Daniel Cary, Sir Robert Eden, Sir John
Baker, W. H. K. Channon, Paul Edwards, R. N. (Pembroke)
Balniel, Lord Chapman, S. B. Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Emery, Peter
Batsford, Brian Chichester-Clark, R. Eyre, Reginald
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Churchill, W. S. Farr, John
Bell, Ronald Clark, William (East Surrey) Fell, Anthony
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Clarke, K. (Rushcliffe) Fenner, Mrs. P. E.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Clegg, Walter Fidler, M. G. C.
Benyon, W. R. Cockeram, E. P. Finsberg, G.
Berry, Hon. Anthony Cooke, Robert Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)
Biffen, John Coombs, D. M. Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Biggs-Davison, John Cooper, A. E. Fookes, Miss J. E.
Blaker, Peter Cordle, John Fortescue, Tim
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Corfield, F. V. Foster, Sir John
Body, Richard Cormack, P. Fowler, P. N.
Boscawen, R. T. Costain, A P. Fox, J. M.
Bowden, A. (Brighton, K'ptown) Critchley, Julian Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Crouch, David Fry, Peter
Braine, Bernard Crowder, F. P. Calbraith, Hn. T. G.
Bray, R. W. T. Curran, Charles Gardner, Edward
Brewis, John Dalkeith, Earl of Gibson-Watt, David
Brinton, Sir Tatton Dance, James Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Davies, J. E. H. (Knutsford) Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Glyn, Dr. Alan
Bruce-Gardyne, J. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. J. A. Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.
Bryan, Paul Dean, Paul Goodhart, Philip
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Goodhew, Victor
Gorst, J. M. Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Gower, Raymond Longden, Gilbert Roberts, M. (Cardiff, N.)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Loveridge, J. Roberts, W. (Conway)
Gray, J. H. N. McAdden, Sir Stephen Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Green, Alan MacArthur, Ian Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Grieve, Percy McCrindle, R. A. Rost, P. (Derbyshire, S. E.)
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) McLaren, Martin Royle, Anthony
Grylls, W. M. J. Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Russell, Sir Ronald
Gummer, J. S. McMaster, Stanley Scott, Nicholas
Gurden, Harold Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Scott-Hopkins, James
Hall, Miss J. V. (Keighley) McNair-Wilson, Michael Sharples, Richard
Hall, John (Wycombe) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Madel, D. Shelton, W. J. (Clapham)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Maginnis, John E. Simeons, Charles
Hannam, J. (Exeter) Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Sinclair, Sir George
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Marten, Neil Skeet, T. H. H.
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Mather, D. C. M. Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Maude, Angus Soref, H.
Haselhurst, A. G. B. Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Speed, Keith
Hastings, Stephen Mawby, Ray Spence, J. D.
Havers, R. Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Sproat, I. M.
Hawkins, Paul Meyer, Sir Anthony Stainton, Keith
Hay, John Mills, Peter (Torrington) Stanbrook, I. R.
Hayhoe, B. Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Stewart-Smith, G.
Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Miscampbell, Norman Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
Heseltine, Michael Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Stokes, J. H. R.
Hicks, R. Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C.(Aberd'nshire, W.) Stuttaford, Dr. I. T.
Higgins, Terence L. Moate, R. Sutcliffe, J. H.
Hiley, Joseph Molyneaux, J. Tapsell, Peter
Money, E. D. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Hill, J. E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Monks, Mrs. C. M. Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Hill, S. J. (Southampton, Test) Monro, Hector Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Holland, Philip Montgomery, Fergus Taylor, R. (Croydon, N. W.)
Holt, Miss M. Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Tebbit, N.
Hordern, Peter Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Temple, John M.
Hornby, Richard Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P. Mudd, David Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Howe, Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Murton, Oscar Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Howell, David (Guildford) Nabarro, Sir Gerald Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Howell, R. (Norfolk, North) Neave, Airey Tilney, John
Hunt, John Nicholls, Sir Harmar Trafford, Dr. J.
Hutchison, Michael Clark Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Trew, P.
Iremonger, T. L. Normanton, T. Tugendhat, C.
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Onslow, Cranley Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
James David Oppenheim, Mrs. S. van Straubenzee, W. R.
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Vaughan, Dr. G. F.
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Osborn, John Vickers, Dame Joan
Jessel, T. Owen, I. W. (Stockport, N.) Waddington, David
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Page, Graham (Crosby) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Jones, Arthur (Northants, South) Page, John (Harrow, W.) Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Jopling, Michael Peel, John Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Percival, Ian Wall, Patrick
Kaberry, Sir Donald Peyton, Rt. Hn. John Walters, Dennis
Kellett, Mrs. Elaine Pike, Miss Mervyn Ward, Dame Irene
Kerby, Capt. Henry Pink, R. Bonner Warren, K.
Kershaw, Anthony Pounder, Rafton Weatherill, Bernard
Kilfedder, James A. Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Wells, John (Maidstone)
Kimball, Marcus Price, David (Eastleigh) White, R. (Gravesend)
King, Evelyn (Dorset, South) Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Proudfoot, Wilfred Wiggin, Jerry
Kinsey, J. R. Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Wilkinson, J.
Kirk, Peter Quennell, Miss J. M. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Kitson, Timothy Raison, T. H. Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Knight, Mrs. Jill Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Knox, D. Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Woodnutt, Mark
Lambton, Antony Redmond, R. S. Worsley, Marcus
Lane, David Reed, L. D. (Bolton, E.) Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Langford-Holt, Sir John Rees, P. (Dover) Younger, Hon. George
Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Rees-Davies, W. R.
Le Marchant, Spencer Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Mr. R. W. Elliott and
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut' nC'd field) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Mr. Jasper More.
Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Ridsdale, Julian
Main Question again proposed.
It being after Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.