HC Deb 01 February 1973 vol 849 cc1639-760
Mr. Speaker

I apologise for the delay in reaching the debate, but the remedy is in the hands of those who catch my eye, for if they shorten their speeches by just two or three minutes each they will make up the lost time.

Before I call on the hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) to move the motion, I should inform hon. Members that I have selected the amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister and other right hon. and hon. Members. That is, in line 1, leave out from 'House' to end and add: welcomes the Government's policies for Secondary Education, the importance attached by the Secretary of State to educational considerations, local needs and wishes, and the wise use of resources, in the exercise of her powers to decide individual proposals under section 13 of the Education Act 1944 (as amended), and the Government's determination to have regard to the wishes of parents about the education of their children.

4.40 p.m.

Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

I beg to move, That this House regrets that the Secretary of State for Education and Science has, by the arbitrary and capricious use of her powers under sections 13 and 68 of the Education Act 1944, postponed and prevented the implementation of plans for the comprehensive reorganisation of secondary education and has, by the practice of rejecting parts of schemes submitted to her, jeopardised plans prepared by local education authorities to provide for the needs of all the children within their responsibility. A debate about comprehensive education needs to begin with a definition. Calling a school comprehensive does not make it so. The concept of comprehensive education has a precise meaning. It must involve children of all levels of intellectual attainment and ability from a variety of backgrounds coming together within a single educational community. A true comprehensive system and the complete abolition of selection are indivisible. For a Government to approve plans for new comprehensive schools but at the same time to refuse permission for the amalgamation of grammar schools with them is simply to ensure that the old divisions at 11-plus are perpetuated and that the increasingly accepted advantages of true comprehensive schools are denied.

That is not simply my view. The second Black Paper which represents, in general, educational views which are anathema to me of course overstates the case, but in its typically crude way it is basically right. It says: A balanced intake is essential. Each local authority has the choice of a bipartite system of grammar and secondary modern schools or of full comprehensive schools in its area. One cannot have grammar schools alongside comprehensive schools. I agree with almost all of that, although the passage about local authority choice is obviously wrong. Our charge today is that in spite of the promise of circular 10/70 that authorities will now be freer to determine the shape of secondary provision in their area their choice is often limited in a way which is palpably neither reasonable nor consistent. That is our charge. But let me save the House subsequent time by making very clear what our charge is not. We do not accuse the Secretary of State of acting outside her legal powers. With one or two possible exceptions—one of which I will deal with in a moment—she has remained rigidly within the law, but that is hardly surprising. Sections 13 of the 1944 Act allows the Secretary of State sole judgment over any reorganisation proposal. Her judgment is made by comparing new schemes with criteria which are largely of her own construction. She is in the fortunate position of a referee who is able to make up three-quarters of the rules as the game goes on, and frankly there is no wonder that she is able to secure victory for the side of her choice without actually infringing the few rules which are determined before the game begins.

And let me make two other points equally clear. We do not believe that any Secretary of State has the automatic duty to approve every scheme submitted to her Department. To complain that Section 13 has ever been used would be obviously unreasonable. No doubt some of her refusals were justified, but that is not the point. Nor is it relevant to argue, as I am sure we shall hear today, that a large number of reorganisation proposals have been approved. We do not accuse the Secretary of State of rejecting every submission. We know that reorganisation plans for many schools have been accepted. About that we are neither surprised nor grateful, particularly when we remember that many of the approvals are for schools within schemes that have been changed out of local authority recognition by the insistence that grammar schools should be excluded. The Government have two distinct personas with regard to the discussion of secondary education reorganisation. At education gatherings the emphasis is on the number of schools reorganised. At party conferences the argument switches to the type of schools which have been preserved. The Secretary of State said at Blackpool last year, I think with some pride: I have upheld 92 objections, mostly in favour of famous or well known grammar schools. She said—[Interruption.] What a pity the hon. Members below the gangway who are cheering now were not cheering at the Manchester education conference when Government policy was advanced in quite different terms.

Of course, many complete schemes have been approved but the approval of some is no excuse for the rejection of others which are equally good. I go on to give one example of the sort of conduct about which I complain. It is not the most extreme example I could find. The sorry story begins with the Secretary of State's approval for the closing of a grammar school—although the Secretary of State made sure it did not end that way. It demonstrates the impossibility of sensible planning under the shadow of arbitrary and capricious use of Section 13. The example concerns three London schools.

Strand is a small maintained boys' grammar school in an elderly building. Tulse Hill is a boys' comprehensive school, purpose-built during the 1950s actually in the Strand grounds. Dick Shepherd is a girls' comprehensive school in the same area. The Inner London Education Authority made proposals for the three schools, proposals which many hon. Members will regard as reasonable to the point of being obvious. The Strand and Tulse Hill buildings, standing side by side, were to be used to form a single new comprehensive school. Pupils from Strand were to be transfererd to the nearby Dick Shepherd school where building extensions, a legacy of earlier and happier days, were planned and approved. No reasonable person could regard those proposals as anything other than a carefully conceived, closely integrated plan which stood or fell by its overall merits. But that was not the view taken by the Secretary of State.

The closure of Strand was approved. The alteration of Tulse Hill, the school which was to use the newly-closed Strand buildings, was forbidden. So was the alteration to Dick Shepherd, the school into which the pupils from the closed Strand school were to have gone. All that nonsense was justified by reliance on the letter of the law, on the Secretary of State's undoubted right to consider proposals school by school, even when it was probably nonsense so to do. That of course presented the ILEA with a substantial dilemma and after a degree of anxiety the authority decided to proceed according to the Secretary of State's formula. But before that was done the parents of pupils at Strand chose to contest the closure in the courts. As a result of that an injunction forbidding the closure was made in May 1972 and the education officer of the ILEA reported the judgment in the case to the Authority in these terms: The proposals made by the Authority were a package deal—an inter-related scheme affecting all three schools. The Secretary of State had approved a proposal that was not submitted and what she did was not within the power which she had under the Act to modify proposals submitted to her That was the judgment on her conduct.

The ILEA was therefore faced with a second dilemma. It resolved it by abandoning the immediate closure of Strand and making a second application to the Minister which it believed to be simplicity itself because it was legal in that it was a proposal for one school complete unto itself, simplicity itself because the Minister had already approved the principle of closing the Strand school. Therefore, to give legal force to her wishes, though not to the legal way in which they had been imposed upon the ILEA, a second application was made in July 1972. Six months later, on 5th January this year. the Secretary of State replied.

The proposal was approved in the summer of 1972 and was turned down in January 1973 in a letter which explained that the change of heart had come about because the volume and strength of local feeling in favour of retention had considerably increased". HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."

Mr. Hattersley

Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen cheer, but I will tell them what was wrong with that.

A number of questions immediately arise. The first concerns good local authority planning. There had been weeks of consultation with teachers and governors, and months of consultation with parents. At the end of it all, after two years in which the Department of Education and Science had steadfastly refused to give any advice to officers of the authority about the sort of scheme they might approve and the sort of scheme they might not approve, the scheme was subject to a ministerial roulette. On one day it was right to close Strand, on another day it was right to keep Strand open.

Any hon. Member with experience of local authority planning will know what capricious behaviour of that sort does to local authority morale. Having served for 10 years on a local council, I can think of no greater deterrent to careful, conscientious local authority planning.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Cannock)

Does the hon. Gentleman think that local authority morale is more important than local feeling?

Mr. Hattersley

I am coming to that point, in the hope that there is one hon. Member who actually believes that majority local opinion matters to the right hon. Lady. I will deal with that question at once.

The second question involved in the Strand issue concerns the reason for the refusal—the volume and strength of local feeling, something that has been wheeled out as justification in the amendment that we are later to debate. That has become the most common reason for the rejection of comprehensive proposals. To employ a second footballing metaphor, it has become the "sweeper-up", the tactic that is used when other more sophisticated forms of defence have allowed the opposition to take over the field.

We know that the Act requires the Secretary of State to take account of objections by any 10 or more local government electors". That is an absurdly low minimum figure. Its interpretation is a matter for the Minister, and we need to know, and I intend to pursue, how her discretion in this area is used.

I am sure that it is accepted on both sides of the House that a substantial body of opinion can be whipped up in support of virtually any existing school. We need to know how the significance of that support is measured. Already we know something about the right hon. Lady's criteria. We know that the objectors need not be connected with the school or have any particular experience of education. We know, for instance, that the educational objectors in my town of Birmingham who claimed that they had sent several tens of thousands of objections to the Minister began their appeal for objections on the high note of academic excellence of a letter which began: Try writing your name and address more than 90 times—yes, 90 times—then go back and add your signature and you will have sent 90 objections to the Minister. We should know how seriously and how significantly the Secretary of State judges opposition of that sort.

We also know that there is no question of measuring support for ending selective secondary education against the support for continuing it. I will give an example. In Kidderminster, where the Secretary of State had, as she said in a letter, … regard to the views expressed by local government electors in perpetuating a number of grammar schools, the petition against comprehensive reorganisation was signed by 4,500 people—about 7 per cent. of the total electorate of 70,000.

In her own constituency of Barnet, where the right hon. Lady saw fit to retain certain grammar schools, the poll on reorganisation produced 24,000 people in favour of reorganisation and 4,000 against. I hope that when hon. Gentlemen opposite scream their support for the participation of parents and local government objectors in the area they will explain why some objections are more important than some support.

Indeed, by the operation of Section 13 the reorganisation of secondary education is almost the only element of Government policy that is determined by referendum. The distinction and novelty of this referendum is that victory goes not to the side with the biggest vote but to whatever group can be cobbled together to represent the prejudices of the Secretary of State. The only conclusion we can draw—[Interruption.]—Does the hon. Gentleman wish to intervene? He seems to be saying something.

Mr. Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)

I was only commenting that the remark seemed unworthy, bearing in mind what the Secretary of State has done.

Mr. Hattersley

If it is unworthy, bearing in mind what the Secretary of State has done, will the hon. Gentleman tell me whether it is arithmetically inaccurate, considering the figures I have quoted? That is the important point.

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

The two figures quoted by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) are not comparable. One has to do with the specific Section 13 notice and the other has nothing to do with that.

Mr. Hattersley

The right hon. Lady is demonstrating the rigid legalism about which we complain. She is doing all these things to which the motion calls attention. She is certainly not taking account of the wishes of the electorate in the borough which is under discussion.

The only conclusion we can draw is that the Government do not even consider the wishes or the needs of the electors as a whole. If a substantial vested interest wants to preserve the local grammar school then, again working by the letter of the Act—and I do not deny that the right hon. Lady does that—that vested interest will be allowed to do so. The judgment of the local education authority made on behalf of all the children within its responsibility is arbitrarily overriden because it is that particular minority that matters.

Mr. Fidler

The hon. Gentleman is pleading a cause on the basis of 10 years' local government experience. I speak with 21 years' local government experience. Does he think that it is advisable for local authorities to submit plans now, when they will be going out of existence in a few months' time, and for plans to be considered not for the new districts but for the old districts which soon will no longer exist?

Mr. Hattersley

That is a totally new point which is an abuse of interjection. I will deal with it with pleasure and my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) in winding up the debate will deal exactly with this problem, the problem of Worcester for which, with the creation of new authorities, the right hon. Lady has made life virtually impossible in 1975 by approving in two areas schemes in direct conflict with what would have happened in those areas had she refused permission. The argument is on my side.

I will return to the stream of thought which the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Fidler) tried, unsuccessfully, to interrupt.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to intervene?

Mr. Hattersley

If the hon. Gentleman's intervention is like the previous one, with pleasure.

Mr. Raison

I am anxious to disturb the hon. Gentleman's stream of thought because I regard it as a rather mouldy stream. Will he comment on one other example which appears to put the lie to his argument, the example of Richmond on Thames, where the Secretary of State approved a comprehensive reorganisation scheme in spite of there being strong defenders of the retention of the existing grammar school? That seems to make the point very clearly.

Mr. Hattersley

I have three points to make about Richmond. Richmond had to wait until the spring to be told by the right hon. Lady what would happen to the Richmond children in the autumn. That is not good departmental behaviour. Secondly, to excuse the right hon. Lady from doing anything wrong because she has done something right is not pure logic. Thirdly, the hon. Gentleman asks how we can object to the right hon. Lady's behaviour when she has disapproved of comprehensive schools in some areas but has agreed to a comprehensive school in Richmond. That is behaviour which I would describe as capricious, and that is what the motion is about.

I now return to the speech which I was going to make before that welter of interruptions. I wanted to offer to the House further evidence of which parents matter to the Government. Further evidence can be gleaned from an examination of the Kidderminster case where three grammar schools were preserved despite the comprehensive scheme. They were preserved for the enthusiasts of grammar schools, including a one-stream entry grammar school about which some grammar school authorities will want to make their own judgment.

The Secretary of State said in her letter to the local authority that she wanted to preserve the opportunity for parents to send their children to selective schools and to a single-sex school. Of course, a grammar school place was available to only one Kidderminster parent in seven. For the rest there was no choice. Equally, the prospect of single-sex education remains only to those in Kidderminster who had passed what is described there as "the 11-plus". In fact, the vocal protests of a minority were allowed to preserve the choice for the minority. The system adjudged best for the community was, therefore, arbitrarily rejected.

I hope that as the debate continues we shall not hear very much nonsense about the existence of parental choice, desirable as that may be in itself. I know perfectly well what Section 76 says. I also know that the judgment in the Watts v. Kesteven case virtually qualified Section 76 out of existence. More important, I know that "choice" is a privilege which only very few people enjoy. In the selective system, a majority of the children have been and always will be directed to the nearest secondary modern school. I hope that we shall have no nonsense that might suggest that the parents in most depressed parts of my constituency, for instance, have any educational choice which is meaningful to them.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that because choice is limited, which it is, it should therefore be extinguished altogether?

Mr. Hattersley

I am suggesting that choice under a selective scheme is deeply limited. I am suggesting that choice under a pure comprehensive scheme is a great deal more to be preferred.

I must ask the right hon. Lady another important question. According to the law she sits in judgment on reorganisation schemes. According to her own criteria, local opposition to change is an adequate reason for retaining selection. In the light of that, does she regard it as right to use her influence and authority to stimulate the petitions, the round-robins and save-our-schools campaigns?

The right hon. Lady has never been anything but frank about her rôle. If I might say so, without offence, it has been one of the more attractive aspects of her participation in this business. At her party conference last year, according to The Times Educational Supplement, she pleaded for those who believed intensely in the future of grammar schools to be vocal in their interests. [Interruption.] Hon. Members are right to cheer, for their right hon. Friend has practised what she has preached.

For example, a meeting recently took place between the right hon. Lady and a group of dissident Surrey Conservatives who wanted to oppose their party's plans for secondary education in the county. The Conservative chairman of the county's education committee has not disguised his feeling about the meeting. I shall give the right hon. Lady all the details and all the correspondence if she likes. He said at the last council meeting, I regret I have no first-hand information on the matter. But I may say that I was rather surprised to learn in a roundabout way that the meeting was going to take place. I dare say that as the day wears on and information is obtained we shall be told that the meeting between the right hon. Lady and various members of the Working Council was official and legal. Let me tell the right hon. Lady and the House that it became official only because it was legalised with embarrassing haste.

In mid-December rumours appeared in local newspapers in Woking that a number of dissident Conservatives, who were disenchanted with the Conservative education plans for Surrey, would meet the right hon. Lady to make sure that they could vocalise opposition to the plans. The Woking Town Clerk wrote to the council, as a result of these reports, to the effect that by the time the council agenda had been prepared—that was 15th December—the Woking Council had heard nothing about the proposed meeting between a few of its members and the right hon. Lady.

On 18th December the Woking Council received what I can only describe as a cryptic letter from the Department of Education and Science. It said, Mrs. Thatcher has at the request of Mr. Cranley Onslow, MP agreed to receive a deputation of councillors. That letter, which reached the council on 18th December, invited the council to meet the Secretary of State two days later. I do not know how often the right hon. Lady invites councillors to go to see her within 48 hours, but on that occasion she did. If hon. Gentlemen are amazed by the speed of the Department of Education and Science, they will be more amazed by the speedy response of the council. The invitation arrived on the 18th December for a meeting on the 20th. On the 19th the Woking Council met and overnight a group of Woking dissidents were transformed into an official deputation from the Woking County Council.

Mrs. Thatcher

May I clear up this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) asked me to receive a deputation. Naturally I try to accede to all hon. Members' requests. I received a deputation in the same way as I received the hon. Gentleman's deputation, in his capacity as an hon. Member from Birmingham.

Mr. Hattersley

I was grateful for that, although I had to wait six weeks for a date. The House will draw its own conclusions from the 48 hours which elapsed in the Woking case.

I shall give another example which took place at Grantham where the autho- rity of the Secretary of State has been employed with even less restraint. A programmar school lobby from Grantham wrote to the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), who naturally passed on his letter to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. Her reply to the right hon. Gentleman was passed back to the grammar school lobby who saw fit to publish it. The letter included two perfectly legal but remarkably disingenuous sentences. It said: My decision whether or not to oppose such proposals is taken in the light of any objection which may be received … I note that some parents are already preparing a petition on the matter to me. As a nod is not quite as good as a wink to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the right hon. Gentleman thought it right to add his comment which was published in the Grantham Journal on the same day. It urged those who had objections to make their views known before the Secretary of State came to a decision—[HON. MEMBERS: "What is wrong with that?"] I will explain by asking the right hon. Lady a question. Having played a public part in the promotion of objectives, does she agree that it would be intolerable for her to use the objectives as a reason for turning down local reorganisation schemes?

Mr. Cormack

A third-rate debating point.

Mr. Hattersley

The hon. Gentleman says that that is a third-rate debating point. Let me give him another one which comes not from me but from the right hon. Lady's predecessor. The right hon. Lady will be aware of Lord Boyle's reproof to her, which was published in the Journal of Educational Administration in June of last year, which reminded her that she has a judicial as well as a political function. She will also be aware that her predecessor, the present Lord Chancellor, talked about the use of powers under the Act and said that he did not regard it as appropriate—he was speaking about an Aylesbury grammar school in 1957—to override a local education authority unless he was convinced that it had not merely been wrong but prejudiced. I throw in these two cheap debating points alongside mine.

Another argument that the right hon. Lady has employed in the past to justify the rejection of reorganisation proposals is the necessity to avoid split sites. Let me give another example relating to one reason advanced for the refusal to sanction the amalgamation of two schools for London, namely Rutherford and St. Marylebone Schools.

One block of St. Marylebone Grammar School is nearer to Rutherford than it is to St. Marylebone and is divided from its parent school by a main road. Plans were going ahead to buy the intervening land and to reorganise the way the school was to be divided in such a way that the new scheme would probably have minimised the amount of travelling.

I offer this as an occasion when the Secretary of State has turned down the scheme on grounds which, irrespective of doctrine, are inadequate. I admit that there are times when split sites are disadvantageous. I do not refer to the case at Barnet where a split site was to be divided into junior and senior high schools, with a clean break at 14. That was clearly strategy to avoid the siting of a grammar school. We are referring to cases where split sites divide schools which means that hundreds of children have to move from one area to another.

During the last two years there have been a number of occasions when reorganisation proposals have been turned down because split sites have been thought to be a bad thing. Equally, during last year there were a number of occasions when local authorities have wanted to end the problem caused by split sites. This happened in Sheffield, West Bromwich and Scunthorpe where education committees sought permission to provide new secondary buildings which would concentrate comprehensive schools on a single site. On each occasion permission for the new building has been refused.

We are therefore left with an intolerable pincer movement. The creation of a split site school is judged to be undesirable and will almost invariably be opposed. The abolition of the split site is expensive and will certainly be forbidden.

Much of the work which would have been carried out under Sections 13 and 68 of the Act has been rendered unnecessary by the Government's constant refusal to approve new secondary buildings for reorganisation and many other things. There was the case in York where building plans for the city's upper school were rejected. This was also the case in Sunderland where expenditure of £1½ million for Farringdon, Broadway and Corby Hill Schools was refused. The relationship between the building programmes and reorganisation plans raises most important issues of principle.

The White Paper on Public Expenditure forecast the most extraordinary reduction in expenditure on school buildings—not failure to expand but literal reduction. In the financial year that is about to begin, capital expenditure on schools will amount to £375 million. In 1976–77 it will have fallen to £281 million—a cut in the school building programme of 30 per cent. Nobody can doubt the need for new school building. Most county boroughs could swallow up the £10 million proposed in the White Paper and still barely meet their own needs. Why is the right hon. Lady so savagely cutting the capital budget? Is it simply Treasury stringency, is it because the Government remain unsure of the sort of secondary schools they want to build, or is it simply another way of preventing the absolute end of selection?

When the Secretary of State answers that question, I hope that she will turn her mind to another. It concerns the time taken for her Department to pass judgment on reorganisation proposals. The St. Marylebone—Rutherford proposals took 16 months for a proposal affecting two schools. In a number of other cases, notably Richmond and Farnham, local education authorities had to wait until a few weeks before the end of the summer term to learn the fate of their children in the autumn. In Birmingham the Secretary of State has even refused to disclose the date on which she will give advice on the merits of the programme.

By taking this attitude the right hon. Lady is not simply inconveniencing local authorities but is leaving thousands of parents and children in a state of uncertainty about what will happen to them in September. For her to tell education committees, as I have heard her do, that when in doubt they must read the Act and apply the law, is to substitute rigid legalism for compassion and common sense. Every local education authority to which I have spoken on this topic—both officials and elected members—has given the same explanation for this procrastination. They say that the Secretary of State decides virtually every case personally. There are no rules, no guiding principles; each judgment is ad hoc. A few minor schemes go to the noble Lord who is a junior Minister in the right hon. Lady's Department.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

There is nothing wrong with being a junior Minister.

Mr. Hattersley

Some Ministers are more junior than others. The other junior Minister in the right hon. Lady's Department makes the occasional decision. He was sent off to Sheffield to make them an offer—not an offer they could not refuse, but an offer which it was known they would not accept. But all the rest of the important decisions had had to await the Secretary of State's personal pleasure. If I am wrong, I am sure the right hon. Lady will tell me. This is why there is so much ministerial roulette, so much planning in the dark. What is needed, and what the next Labour Government will provide, is a clear statement of secondary school policy and a new education Act to enable it to be put into practice.

The 1944 Act, with all its epoch-making virtues, was meant as the instrument of a single revolution. The change it made possible was so great that its authors did not provide the machinery for further change. Section 13, debated largely in reference to the rights of denominational schools, is intended to inhibit alteration. It was designed as an obstacle to local authorities changing the character of their schools, and it is an obstacle which in some way must be removed.

A quarter of a century beyond that Act, we now see education in different terms. In his note on the 1870 Act to Mr. Gladstone, John Morley wrote At bottom, the battle of the schools was not educational; it was social. I believe it always is, and I believe that is as true today as it was in 1870.

Our view and the Government's view of society differ. We do not believe that competition is the only, or even the best, educational stimulus. We believe that such a theory is neither socially nor scientifically justified. We believe that the best interests of all people in the country are served, not by the unremitting use of whatever advice is at hand to preserve selective secondary education but by the open adoption of a truly comprehensive system. Such a policy will improve education without regard to outdated ideas of class and standing in society.

5.19 p.m.

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

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: welcomes the Government's policies for secondary education, the importance attached by the Secretary of State to educational considerations, local needs and wishes, and the wise use of resources, in the exercise of her powers to decide individual proposals under section 13 of the Education Act 1944 (as amended), and the Government's determination to have regard to the wishes of parents about the education of their children. I wondered what kind of speech the hon. Member for Birmingham, Spark-brook (Mr. Roy Hattersley) would make in support of the Opposition's narrow motion. It boils down to three things. The first is that precision is capricious. The second is that if one has strong views one should not make them known, particularly on grammar schools. The third is that in future it would be better if I did not accede to requests from hon. Members to bring their constituents to see me. That is about all his speech amounted to.

He wanted to have the argument all ways. He said that I was wrong to approach the matter legally, yet when I dealt with the matter of human feelings, as happened over the Strand Grammar School, the Dick Shepherd School and the size of the Tulse Hill School, he dismissed those matters completely.

May I first deal with the nature of the powers under Section 13. I note that the hon. Member says that he will do away with that section if ever his party returns to power. In that case, he would be doing away with all rights of local electors or those affected by the proposals to make their feelings known directly to the Secretary of State who would then be acting on any proposal as an automatic rubber stamp. The Section 13 procedure which I have to operate and which his predecessor kept in existence and did not propose to abolish, even towards the end of his Government, requires that formal proposals be submitted to me in each case in which it is intended either to establish a new school or to close, enlarge or significantly change the character of an existing, school. At the same time, public notice must be given of the proposal and a period of two months is prescribed during which local government electors may submit objections to me.

The very procedure, therefore, which the hon. Gentleman would abolish, includes means whereby local views on proposals for individual schools may be fully taken into account before final decisions are made. And it is that to which the hon. Gentleman objects. Just as I have a duty to examine and to assess carefully a proposal in all its details, so I have a duty to exercise the same care in consideration of all the objections which are made to the proposal. Clearly, where the volume of objection is large and the substance well reasoned a full examination of the material will have considerable relevance to a proper assessment of what local needs and wishes really are.

For the convenience of authorities, Circular 10/70 summarised the main criteria—they are in the amendment—for formulating and judging the proposals. These are educational considerations in general—I often think that the Opposition do not look at these schemes on educational considerations at all—local needs and wishes in particular, and the wise use of resources. Educational considerations in general clearly include not only questions of pattern of provision, to which the hon. Gentleman partly referred—two-tier schools, all-through schools, sixth form colleges, age of transfer, and so on—but they also include reasonable choice of school. When the examination of proposals and the objections made to them reveal a strong conflict of view in the particular circumstances, this, too, requires full and patient consideration.

No proposal has ever been held up by me. Since I came to office I have approved about 2,650 statutory proposals relating to secondary schools and rejected 115, roughly 4 per cent. These figures reduce to proper proportions the very limited scale of those contentious cases which receive a great deal of publicity. Some of the criticism of the decisions taken in this minority of cases has been directed to the fact that I have actually used my powers for the purpose for which they were intended; that I have actually listened to objectors and have rejected some proposals under Section 13, as, if it were a reversal of the laws of nature that any proposal under Section 13 should fail to receive approval.

This seems wholly to misconceive the nature of the jurisdiction which it is the duty of any Secretary of State to exercise. A proposal is not a decision, and the precise machinery for objection is not mere decoration, although the hon. Member would have it that way. The duty is to make decisions on proposals on their merits and in the light of any objections which may be made. If the Secretary of State, in the exercise of this discretionary jurisdiction, concludes that a proposal is not well-founded, would not be in the best interests of the children concerned or does not accord with local wishes, it is his clear duty to reject it.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)

On the matter of procedure, the right hon. Lady has said that she places very great stress upon local and parental wishes. Where objections to any scheme for one school are overridden, will she say whether it is her practice to reply in detail to the objections she has received?

Mrs. Thatcher

Very rarely do we reply directly to the objectors in detail. The objections are analysed at the end of the period, and sent to the local authorities for their comments, together with requests for full details of the re-organisation scheme. The details required are very extensive. We evaluate the local education authority's reply to the objections. I have had requests from those who have made objections to see whether they could have the comments from the local education authority further to rebut the arguments. But there must be an end to this process, and so far we have never let the comments on the objections go to the objectors. That is the procedure which we operate.

If rejections were happening to every other proposal which was submitted or even to a substantial proportion of all proposals, one might well conclude that things were not as they should be—that authorities were failing to put forward sound proposals or that a Secretary of State was basically hostile to a wide range of types of proposal. But, granted that authorities have to submit proposals for any significant change of schools, a rate of rejection of the small size indicated is not in itself either surprising or disturbing. A vast majority of proposals I get are well thought out. They are the subject of wide consultation and cooperation between local authorities, teachers and parents. We do not receive large volumes of objections to each and every proposal. We receive them only where there is a genuine conflict of view. Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman said, it would not, therefore, seem easy to whip up support just because a few people wish to preserve a particular school.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)

When the right hon. Lady is considering whether a particular school shall be changed in character, for example, from a grammar school to a comprehensive school, does she consider under the Act the effect it has on children in other schools adjacent to the particular school before she reaches a decision? If so, I suspect that her figure of 4 per cent. is fictitious because she will know that if she retains a grammar school in a particular area it has a very adverse effect on other schools which surround it.

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, we consider that. I shall deal with that specific point shortly.

Anyone who believes that a proposal submitted under Section 13 can ever be regarded as "open and shut" is simply failing to recognise the nature of the law and the duty it imposes upon the Secretary of State.

I come now to the hon. Gentleman's point about the practice of rejecting parts of schemes. The motion speaks of it, too. This is no doubt a reference to the fact that an authority sometimes submits a large number of individual proposals which together are intended to achieve the reorganisation of a particular area. We managed to do Twickenham first, and then there were tricky parts about Richmond. The local educational authority could not have been more co-operative in the way in which it dealt with objections and met the points. In the Richmond case there were only about 600 objections—I am speaking from memory—which were very small in number; most of them were met by the authority and the scheme went through.

It is perfectly true that when proposals come in in groups, the rejection of one or two proposals may have implications for the implementation of the remainder of the proposals which have been approved. But in educational terms, in terms of resources and of contentiousness, not all proposals are equally well founded. Great care is taken to work out the relationship between individual proposals and to recognise the authority's broad intentions and strategy. But even then, it remains necessary to examine each separate proposal individually, and on its merits. In doing that, I should be failing in my duty if, having concluded that a particular proposal was not well founded, I nevertheless approved it because not to do so would have reprecussions elsewhere. Where, on merit, such decisions have been necessary I am always ready to consider, as a matter of urgency, any revised proposals which the authority may wish to formulate as a result of reviewing the situation.

A number of the 115 proposals which have not been granted have been the subject of revised proposals, some of which have been granted. So the 115 are not all cases of final rejection. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook referred to the 4 per cent. I think that 4 per cent. is slightly on the high side, because not all the 115 proposals have been to comprehensive schemes. They are figures for secondary schools as a whole.

Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)

What part does the right hon. Lady's Department play in any discussions before local authority proposals come forward? Are there no discussions before these schemes actually come to her in the form of proposals?

Mrs. Thatcher

We have given up the practice of approving plans for a whole area because it caused confusion. There have been one or two cases where we approved and took note of plans, but we do not now have preliminary considerations about plans for a whole area.

Mr. Hattersley

Since I asked the right hon. Lady almost the same question as that put to her by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks), may I clarify what I think he means? My hon. Friend's question was clear to me but not apparently to the right hon. Lady, according to her answer. Assuming he were the chief education officer for a borough in contact with the Department and the borough decided that it wanted a complete comprehensive scheme, would the chief education officer be able to talk to civil servants in the DES and be guided about the kind of scheme that the Minister would be likely to accept?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman will find there are certain matters on record as guidelines that we do not like. I made a long speech to the NUT at its last conference pointing out some of the drawbacks of large schools, split sites, two-tier schemes and 14 as the age of transfer. These matters are on record and are available for anyone to see. We are very careful indeed not to give any decision or guarantee on any preliminary inquiries which come to us because that of itself would prejudice the final decision.

The motion speaks of our postponing and preventing schemes. Far from postponing and preventing plans for comprehensive development, the vast number of approvals in the last two and a half years is leading to major development of a wide range of patterns of reorganisation. Since April 1971 the establishment of all-through comprehensive schools has been approved in the areas of almost 60 authorities; middle-school proposals have been approved for more than 30 authorities and sixth form college proposals for a further 12 areas. Against this background, concentration upon the small minority of rejected proposals, which I believe I have been justified in upholding, shows a lack of understanding of the broad situation.

I have identified and spoken publicly of a number of general issues and problems in secondary reorganisation. I have drawn attention to the organisational problems of very large schools and the advantages of smaller comprehensive schools. I understand, from the reception of that speech, that it found many echoes in the minds of listeners to it.

Some children develop and prosper better within the atmosphere of a smaller community. One reason why I turned down the Tulse Hill proposal, to which the hon. Member for Sparkbrook referred, was that it was for enlargement of an 11-form entry comprehensive to a 13-form entry comprehensive. I thought that was already large enough without going much larger.

Another proposal that I rejected on the ground of size related to the Trowbridge, Wiltshire, scheme. The local education authority wanted to put four schools together and call them one comprehensive school consisting of 2,700 pupils. That scheme was turned down because it was much too big. The local education authority resubmitted proposals for two smaller comprehensive schools, each composed of two schools, and they were approved. So local education authorities are used to looking at the guidelines and making their submissions regarding comprehensive schemes in the light of them.

Again, proposals for two-tier arrangements require close scrutiny. I should like to quote from the Assistant Masters' Association which has great experience of these matters. [Interruption.] Of course, hon. Gentlemen on the Opposite side are prepared to listen only to some teachers and not to others. This was about a scheme in Bexley. The Assistant Masters' Association said: Transfer of pupils to another school at the age of 14 makes for considerable difficulty in guiding them into correct choices of GCE and CSE subjects, and makes other curriculum decisions much harder. We are sceptical about whether the necessary degree of syllabus cooperation between the schools involved would ever be achieved in practice. These were practising teachers making submissions under the procedure for objections about a scheme which would affect them. I can understand that hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to get of Section 13. They are prepared to listen only to a limited number of people—not to those who are affected by the arrangements.

Very careful attention is also given to any proposal for a school to be established on two or more sets of premises.

Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)

Referring to the point that the right hon. Lady was making about the age of 14-plus for transfer, may I ask whether she is aware that many other teacher trade unions, in addition to the Joint Four and the Assistant Masters' Association, are of the opinion that 14-plus is a bad age at which to transfer children?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I have always thought that the arguments against it spoke for themselves, but from time to time it is necessary to make it clear. We are still getting schemes for two-tier arrangements for transfer at 11 to 14 and 14 to 18. A number of authorities which started on that kind of two-tier arrangement are now moving away from it because of the inherent difficulties that it causes. It is probably better that we should make our views clear on that matter so that such schemes are not submitted. One of the worst features from the teachers' point of view is to go through one lot of changes and a few years later to go through another lot. They hate it. It is bad for them and for their pupils.

I turn from Section 13 to the question of parental choice. I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite will not like that because the terms of their motion suggest that I have used my powers under Section 68 of the Education Act to impede or delay schemes of reorganisation on comprehensive lines.

I have not used my powers under Section 68 to this end. Like all Ministers of Education before me, including my noble Friend Lord Boyle, I regard the use of the power of direction under Section 68, which Parliament gave, as a weapon of last resort. I have used it in only eight cases where I have concluded that authorities were acting unreasonably. All these cases concerned the admission of pupils to schools—either a small number or a large group. These decisions have all been on the side of the parents, and I am not ashamed of that.

In only one case was my direction closely related to the establishment by an authority of a comprehensive school. I approved a proposal by Surrey to establish a comprehensive school at Rydens for pupils of 13 to 18. However, at the same time I directed the authority not to deprive parents in the catchment area which had been drawn for the 13-to-18 school of the right to let their children try for places at grammar schools at the age of 11 if they wished. That authority, although there are many other schools in the area, sought to put a rigid ring fence round one school which would have meant that people in that area who had children of high academic ability were robbed of all chance of going elsewhere. It seemed totally unreasonable and I directed the authority to act as I have indicated.

There are many parts of the country where geography or other factors lead to parents having little, if any, choice of schools. Where there can be a choice—this was so in the case I have just mentioned—because schools in sufficient number and variety are available, I am determined to do what I properly can to ensure that parents' right of choice is not eroded and is, wherever possible, extended.

Mr. J. D. Dormand (Easington)

I am genuinely seeking information on the use of Section 68. The right hon. Lady properly said that it is used as a last resort. She then stated that she has used it eight times since she came into office. Does she not agree that that is a much greater use of Section 68 than there has been in the period, say, since the war?

Mrs. Thatcher

Not as far as I am aware. It may be used to secure the admission of pupils to a particular school, sometimes against the authority's wishes. I have refused to use it on a number of occasions. In some of them admissions policy has been involved and in some there have been other factors. I do not think it is a large or frequent use of Section 68. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that I have been in my job for two and a half years. On the whole, Labour Secretaries of State for Education and Science have had a shorter period in office.

The overwhelming majority of parents send their children to schools maintained by local education authorities. Many parents want to have a real say in what school their child should go to. I should like to see many more taking what is, after all, a natural and basic interest in the choice of school.

I am the first to recognise that it would be idle to suggest that within a publicly provided and maintained service every parent can have an unfettered choice of school. There are limits imposed by cost, organisation and geography, but my aim is to see that choice is extended and not reduced wherever possible.

Mr. Ernest Armstrong (Durham, North-West)

When the right hon. Lady gives choice to a limited number of parents to choose a grammar school by retaining a grammar school, she compels 75 per cent. of the children to go to a school that nobody chooses.

Mrs. Thatcher

It depends how many children one considers have a greater ability than we are now managing to bring out in the schools. I know the hon. Gentleman's creaming-off argument, but what he objects to is where in certain areas, I have retained one or two grammar schools, mainly in areas in which I have given decisions for a wider choice of schools.

I absolutely agree with my noble Friend Lord Boyle, who has said: There are some other local authorities which have reorganisation plans that make educational sense either for the whole or a part of their area. But we do not believe that the time has come for the rapid and universal imposition of the comprehensive principle. This applies especially to our big cities, for several reasons. First, our big cities contain a particularly large number of established grammar schools of real excellence and, secondly, Socialist plans for the big cities so often involve botched-up schemes—taking a group of existing schools, often separated by wide distances, and giving them one head, which is absolutely no good at all.

Hon. Members

What is the date of that speech?

Mrs. Thatcher

It was after circular 10/65 of the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland). My noble Friend went on to say: There is one other point about big cities. I agree with those who say that the imposition of nothing but comprehensive schools in big cities is bound to handicap the able child from a poor area. The hon. Member for Sparkbrook quoted one of my speeches to the Conservative Party conference. That was a speech of my noble friend when he was Shadow Secretary of State.

The hon. Gentleman says that he knows all about Sections 76 and 37. But the interesting point to me is that his actions are against parental choice. He is trying to restrict it, at the very moment when his leader is making speeches saying that the Labour Party stands for increasing individual choice. On 20th January the Leader of the Opposition said: Labour's task in identifying the road to democratic choice is directed … to showing how we can give the lead to the nations in exalting the role of the individual in society, making clear to him or her the choice which lies open and encouraging the deliberate use of that choice.… A people drilled, dragooned and distracted into believing that there is no choice, that they are denied any real power to choose, can find themselves drifting into a target for extremists. This is the moment when the hon. Gentleman announces that he will abolish the rights of objectors by abolishing Section 13.

Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that on present form the Leader of the Opposition does not hold any view for very long, and that it may be for only a very short time that we have the benefit of his holding views such as those he recently expressed?

Mrs. Thatcher

It looks as though his views do not extend to education.

The hon. Gentleman made great reference to Strand School. I was not quite sure what he was accusing me of. I seem to be accused of being too legalistic, of actually using my powers, of not listening to human voices or of not listening to the local education authorities. I listened to the parents, I listened to some of the objectors and I watched the fight which the parents had. They had it for one reason: that they believed in Strand School as it was. It happened to be a grammar school, but one of the reasons why they fought so hard was that it was a small school.

The case for the school was perhaps best put by a former pupil in a letter he wrote to the ILEA magazine Contact shortly before the decision: So the battle for Strand School is reaching its final sordid stages. Another living institution will die the death, in pursuance of policies laid down by a party which proclaims that people matter more than plans. Not, apparently, if those people attend a grammar school. I write as a former pupil of the school, one who came from a 'culturally impoverished' background, from a Brixton home in which books were not to be found, the child of parents of little education and no notion of intellect. Strand, then as now, was not the best of London grammar schools: its most illustrious alumnus seems to be David Jacobs. But it opened up for me, an uncouth 11-year-old, a totally unexplored, unknown world. I tasted the fruits of hard work and application in a sternly but humanely disciplined community a small community where one knew was known by, the headmaster. I learnt the delights of intellectual study; and after eight years I left for university having passed four A-levels and narrowly failed a fifth, and those in subjects reputedly difficult for children of a poor cultural background—English, French, Latin, German, History… A small community, with a narrowly defined purpose, played its part in shielding me from the many pressures on a working class boy to be an early leaver Thank God, I say, for that bastion of elitism and privilege. And, finally, let the ILEA not delude itself. Selection will not end. Selection by ability will go. But my child can still be 'selected'. If he has an IQ of 30. If he can dance. If I, his father, have money and can send him to an independent school, or move to a 'good' area. If we prefer selection on these terms, so be it. But I did not have an IQ of 30; I could not dance, and my father had no money. Thank God there was Strand School. That letter, not in legalistic language, was based on experience. It was written by a former pupil who wished that opportunity to continue, who wished that small school to continue, and wished it for anyone who got there on a basis of merit whatever his background.

The parents fought. They took the case to court, where they were upheld. Then they fought again in increasing numbers. The hon. Gentleman accuses me of having listened to them. I am glad that I listened to them and upheld their objection.

There is one more point connected with the scheme about the Dick Sheppard School. The hon. Gentleman said that I turned it down on a technicality. There were enormous numbers of objections to the scheme, but the main ground for objection—not only the weight of objection—came from those who particularly wanted to retain a girls' comprehensive school. To change it from a girls' comprehensive to a co-educational school, to give in to the request to change the size, would have been to go against the wishes of many parents of children at the school. There is quite a number of immigrant Indian parents in the area who like their daughters to go to girls' schools. That was not a technicality. It was not legalistic. It was listening to the real human objections and feelings of the persons concerned.

I do not believe that the hon. Member for Sparkbrook has ever really faced up to the problem of the neighbourhood school which is in a less than good neighbourhood. What happens in those circumstances is that one gets a school which is comprehensive by name in a bad neighbourhood. The school reflects the character of the neighbourhood. In order to try to overcome this, local authorities draw artificial boundaries to get what they call a good social mix. The parents object. The Secretary of State then has to make one of two choices—either to uphold their objections or to direct them. The policies of the hon. Member for Sparkbrook would lead to ignoring the parents' objections and wishes and to the direction of children to schools. It would lead to the end of the parents' real interest in going round schools, trying to choose schools for their children which they think suitable—and they are just as interested in choosing between comprehensive schools as between schools of a different kind.

Mr. Marks

Did not the right hon. Lady, Lord Boyle and the remainder of Conservative hon. Members on the Committee at the time vote for exactly that idea when we discussed the 1970 Education Bill?

Mrs. Thatcher

No. We pointed out steadily and consistently that if every school was comprehensive and the Government insisted on getting a full ability range, what would happen was exactly what is happening in the ILEA. Children are divided into above average ability, average ability and, at the bottom, below average ability. We stood out against that concept. It has caused great trouble in the ILEA. In the end it means the direction of children to schools.

The hon. Member for Sparkbrook also referred to the capital provision that we have made for secondary schools. I turn now to the terms of the amendment and refer to the capital provision. When the Government took office, their immediate task in secondary education was to provide resources for raising the school leaving age. We provided capital resources on a generous scale which had been dictated by what the hon. Gentleman's predecessor said was necessary. However, the Labour Government postponed their promises. We were left to carry them out.

The capital was forthcoming. The ROSLA programme was for three years and provided £36 million in 1970–71, £50 million in 1971–72 and £61 million in 1972–73. But that is by no means all that we did for the secondary building programme. Over the five years 1970–71 to 1974–75, in addition to those amounts, we have authorised secondary building projects for basic needs of no less than £386 million at 1972 prices. It is a very substantial secondary school building programme. The basic needs and the ROSLA programme taken together enable local authorities to draw up plans in their areas for reorganisation schemes. In the new White Paper we are now providing £10 million each in 1975–76 for secondary school improvements in addition to the money that we are providing for primary school improvements.

There is one factor which I might mention. It is a small one but it provides a degree of freelom which was not open to local education authorities when the Labour Party was in power. Since 1970 I have approved some 50 proposals for off-programme building worth £3 million. These include about a dozen cases in which, under the new arrangements that we announced after the last election, local education authorities are selling surplus land for housing purposes and using the proceeds to undertake additional school building. Only this week I have approved appropriations of some 15 acres of land in Birmingham from the education committee to the housing committee, and the proceeds of more than £500,000 will be used for improvements and extensions to primary and secondary schools and for the provision of some nursery classes. That is another point of freedom which was not allowed to local education authorities under the rigid financial controls operated by the Labour Government.

The sense of the motion and the implications of the speech of the hon. Member for Sparkbrook are threefold. He says that I have misused my powers, that I have done so on a serious scale and that the result has been to impede or frustrate the development of secondary reorganisation. But the curious way in which his arguments were advanced demonstrates something quite different. First, the hon. Gentleman is the victim of a threefold delusion. I should have misused my powers if I had made the uncritical affir- mative judgment of every proposal which the Opposition clearly would not do. This I have not done and I shall never do. As it is, I have exercised my discretionary powers as the law provides. Secondly, the small percentage of rejected proposals has assumed obsessive proportions in the mind of the hon. Gentleman. Thirdly, the effect of my decisions under Section 13 has been positive and constructive.

Where I have approved proposals, reorganisation in many forms has proceeded on sound lines. Where I have rejected proposals a far more liberal choice for parents than would otherwise have been possible has been preserved. Any Secretary of State concerned solely with patterns of organisation and not at all with specific choice in specific places would be betraying his office.

I welcome this opportunity to affirm that the Government's policy rejects any such crabbed and mechanical approach. I ask the House to support the amendment.

5.57 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Wiley (Sunderland, North)

As it is already nearly six o'clock, I shall try to help by being brief, and I shall confine my remarks to my constituency. I want to help the Secretary of State. She is extremely unpopular. Indeed, she is probably more unpopular than anyone else in my constituency—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I shall explain why in a moment. I hope to give her an opportunity to redeem her reputation.

From every quarter in Sunderland there is an insistent and articulate demand for comprehensive secondary education. All Catholic children have and take the opportunity of comprehensive secondary education. This year, of the other children, eight out of 10 go directly into comprehensive schools. Until we finish the job—which in my constituency means the building of the Carley Hill School—naturally enough there is intense disappointment and a feeling of real deprivation about the minority who do not attend comprehensive schools.

We met Lord Belstead. He was very sympathetic. He was patient. I would concede that the noble Lord was charming. But a few weeks after we had met him we were told that we could not have approval for the Carley Hill school.

The right hon. Lady is obviously misinformed, judging by her reaction to what I said when I begun. The right hon. Lady has spoken about parents' choice and local wishes. The Sunderland Council of Churches has written to her and told her that we had a census in Sunderland and this revealed an overwhelming demand for comprehensive secondary education. We have repeatedly had parents' meetings—I have been to some—at which there is an articulate demand for comprehensive secondary education. All the teachers' unions are emphatic in support, and so is the Head Teachers Association.

It was because of this continuing pressure, as the right hon. Lady knows, that the local education authority felt itself driven to put forward proposals for a 12-plus non-selective system of secondary education. They know well enough that this is very much second best and they were shocked—and I assure the right hon. Lady of this—when they heard of her refusal to meet us and consider again the question of the Carley Hill school. I assure her that this is not political. She surely knows that the leader of the Conservative group has now written to her and said that the Conservatives share the concern of the parents and urge her to approve the building of the Carley Hill school.

I just want to make two points very briefly, and the first is this. Lord Belstead, of course, based his refusal on basic needs, but the Carley Hill school will replace four schools: one of them is 100 years old—obviously this has got to go; two are between 60 and 70 years old—surely near enough to the Department's criterion; and the fourth is scheduled for use as a primary school. I do not quarrel with the right hon. Lady about her priority for primary school building, but even if we look at this without emphasising that if we concentrate on primary school building we still have to provide for cases such as this in Sunderland in the secondary school building field, even if we look only at the primary school building, what do we find? One of the schools to be replaced will in fact be used as a primary school. In the case of the other three, we desperately need the sites; these will be sites for new primary schools, and in a constituency such as mine—tight, compact and densely built—there are no alternative sites.

The second point is one I have made repeatedly in the House. I acknowledge—and with about the worst record of unemployment of any town in the country it is not surprising—what has been done and what the Government are doing to aid and support us in Sunderland. I realise that the Government are aware that we have an exceptionally large number of construction workers unemployed in Sunderland. What I beg the right hon. Lady to do is make her voice heard, see that her influence is felt, because when we consider Government aid and support we also have to consider the priorities, and I assure her that as far as the people of Sunderland are concerned the top priority is the building of the Carley Hill school.

6.5 p.m.

Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for this opportunity to address the House for the first time. I listened with interest to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). However, I hope he will forgive me if on this occasion I do not comment on his speech, and I ask for the customary indulgence of the House for a maiden speaker.

I am very glad that the first opportunity I have of speaking in this House is on the subject of secondary education. It is a subject which is of great interest to me and to many thousands of my constituents. First, however, I want to pay a tribute to my predecessor, the late Charles Curran, who I know was a Member of this House much respected for his independent and forthright views. He was also greatly loved and respected by his constituents, irrespective of their political views, and was generally reckoned to be a first-class constituency Member. He left behind him a legacy of good will which it has been my good fortune to inherit, and I know I have to set a high standard to be considered a worthy successor.

I want now to tell the House a little about Uxbridge, which is situated on the western edge of greater London. It is a long, thin constituency, 10 miles long and three miles wide, stretching from Hare-field in the north to London Airport in the south. It can be said to contain a very important and representative cross-section of the community. There is, for example, a good deal of light industry, there is agriculture, there is the important commercial centre of Uxbridge itself and there is the large sector of the residential population which earns its living in central London and commutes there and back daily. There is then London Airport itself, the very hub of international communications, which is also one of the largest employers in the area. Above all, there are many fine schools with a tradition of excellence in education of which my constituents are justly proud.

Uxbridge is and has been for many years a politically marginal constituency. Consequently the electors take particular care how they cast their votes, because they know that each and every one counts in determining the result of a parliamentary election. In the recent by-election the future of secondary education in my constituency was one of the important issues, and it is for that reason that I have chosen it as the subject for my maiden speech. Having been elected from among no fewer than seven candidates, I believe that I can properly represent the views of a majority of my constituents on this subject. I also speak as the governor of a grammar school, a comprehensive school and an independent school, and—perhaps even more important—as the father of two children.

In considering the terms of the motion which is before the House this afternoon, I can think of no better place to start than Section 1 of the Education Act 1944. Section 1(1) of the Act lays upon the Secretary of State for Education and Science the duty to provide a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area. Moreover, it lays upon the Secretary of State the duty to secure effective execution by local authorities under her control in providing this varied educational service. This, then, is the foundation of the Secretary of State's powers conferred by the 1944 Act.

It is, however, Section 13 of the Act which provides that where local education authorities wish to make any significant change in the character of a school they shall submit such proposals to the Secretary of State. Such changes are known in modern parlance as reorganisation. It is for carrying out her duties under this section of the Act that my right hon. Friend is being criticised this afternoon.

My own view of the provisions of Section 13 is that they very wisely give to all those likely to be affected by reorganisation an understanding of what is afoot and a chance to object. These are not my words; they come from administrative circular 6 of 1970, issued under the authority of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) when he was Secretary of State for Education and Science in the previous administration. I have no doubt that at that time he thought it was a good idea for parents and electors to have an opportunity to object to the proposals for reorganisation. Indeed at that time he must have thought it fitting that parents and electors should be reminded that they were given this right in the 1944 Act—the right to carry their objections to the Secretary of State so that he could make a final decision.

There is no doubt about the great intensity of feeling among many parents about the fate of certain schools which have given outstanding service to the community. This intensity of feeling is shown by the number of signatures of objection which have increased fivefold during the past year. In other words, the public welcome the opportunities to object which Section 13 provides. I feel certain that as time goes by the actual number of parents and electors exercising their rights is increasing and will increase further.

What we are beginning to see is a realisation on the part of parents that good schools, whether they be modern bilateral, comprehensive or grammar, must be defended at all costs against the arbitrary local power exercised by local education authorities. The arbitrary nature of this power is amply demonstrated where the local education authority attempts to rush through ill-conceived reorganisation proposals, in the hope that it can change the character of the local schools before the next election.

Parent power is now beginning to be felt. A good example of this is the concern felt by a number of parents in my constituency about the fate of Isleworth Grammar School for Boys, situated in the neighbouring constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isle-worth (Mr. Hayhoe). In this case no fewer than 17,659 signatures of objections to the Section 13 notice were collected. The parents of children in that school number no more than 1,000. The House will realise that there was massive support for this school from other electors.

If such a volume of opposition is to be disregarded, this is surely a prime example of the arbitrary exercise of power by a local education authority. A great deal of public concern was expressed at my by-election about the proposals of the local education authority, Hillingdon, to introduce a comprehensive system of education for its schools. Those proposals, had they been accepted in their entirety, would have meant that two famous grammar schools, Bishopshalt and Vyners, would have changed completely in character and my constituents would have lost the varied educational service they have enjoyed ever since the passing of the 1944 Act, to which I believe they are still entitled.

This is particularly important because the local education authority has also ceased to take up places at direct grant schools as from next September. This will result in a further reduction in parental choice. Happily, however, I can tell the House that my right hon. Friend has recently decided not to approve that part of the local education authority's proposals which would have resulted in the loss of those two fine schools. In making that decision my right hon. Friend has clearly given careful consideration to the views expressed by local government electors and to the local education authority. She has paid attention to the breadth of educational opportunity offered by these two well-known schools.

This is what I mean when I talk about the importance of local opinion, local needs and wishes being understood by the Secretary of State. My right hon. Friend is not using her powers in an arbitrary or capricious manner. On the contrary she is doing what the local education authority should have done. She is taking account of local needs and wishes, the views of parents and electors. In so doing she is carrying out the duties laid on her by Section 1 of the 1944 Act. In other words, she is ensuring that the local education authority provides a varied and comprehensive education service. I assure the House that to many of my constituents in Uxbridge she is regarded as the champion of parents.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. J. D. Dormand (Easington)

This is the first occasion on which I have followed a maiden speaker and it gives me genuine pleasure to say that the House has listened to a model maiden speech. The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) is obviously extremely knowledgeable about this topic. He has delivered his speech with great clarity, so much so that one might imagine he had been a Member of this House for some years. I am sure that I reflect the views of the whole House when I say that we look forward to his further contributions with great interest.

I will obey your injunction, Mr. Speaker, and be brief. I should like to take up briefly a point raised with the Secretary of State by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks). It is an important point; the Secretary of State realised this at the time and I do not think she attempted to mislead the House. I refer to the query about pre-submission of plans. It is a well-known fact that officers, and often chairmen of education committees, meet officers of the Department and that there is a valuable link between the Department and the local education authorities. My hon. Friend pointed out that the plans are, if not finally decided, decided to a large extent before the submission is made.

Mrs. Thatcher

May I make one thing clear? The plans come in. The procedure is to take note of them. Even when the procedure was to approve or disapprove them, if approval was given there was always a sentence at the bottom saying "This is without prejudice to the rights under Section 13." There is no difference about this.

Mr. Dormand

I do not wish to labour the point. It seems that this is a very good thing, particularly as it concerns secondary education reorganisation.

This debate is concerned with the principle of comprehensive education at the secondary stage. I find it extremely difficult—a continuing source of amazement—to realise that in this year of grace 1973 the Secretary of State and apparently the Government—and, judging from some of the comments today, many hon. Members on the Government side—are still unable to accept this principle. Hon. Members of all parties have said frequently that there is nothing magical about the age of 11. Yet in our primary schools there is no segregation. We have fully comprehensive education up to the age of 11.

If the Plowden Report is to be believed, and most people accept it, we have some of the best junior comprehensive schools in the world. I challenge the right hon. Lady to produce any serious and reputable educational research advocating segregation at 11-plus. One is inevitably drawn to the conclusion that the views of the Government on this are doctrinaire and not based on any educational considerations.

Circular 10/70 relating to this matter was issued in the autumn of 1970. It was supposed to be a green light to Tory authorities to reverse their plans. In fact, it had no such effect. I believe that the Secretary of State totally misjudged the feeling of education committees, education offices and parents in thinking that the tide of comprehensive feeling was to be reversed at that stage. The Government ought therefore to be encouraging this great movement and not, as they are doing, inhibiting it. In my view they ought above all to be encouraging in every possible way the building of purpose-built comprehensive schools.

I recognise the practical day-to-day difficulties with which the Secretary of State has to deal. I refer to the overriding need to build purpose-built comprehensive schools. In January 1972, the latest date for which the Minister was able to give me information on this matter, of 1,591 schools recognised as designated comprehensive schools only 287 were purpose-built. Even allowing for all the practical difficulties which any Department has to face, that shows a lack of determination to provide for comprehensive education. Many hon. Members on this side believe that this is absolutely fundamental to this form of education. In 1961 there were 81 comprehensive purpose-built schools. Ten years later we can only say there are 287. That seems tome to show a complete lack of determination to provide this fundamental part of secondary education.

The Secretary of State referred to financial provision. I believe that the lack of financial provision for secondary school buildings in the last year has exacerbated this very serious position out of all proportion. As has been said many times, we on this side are very suspicious about the financial arrangements concerning secondary education. We regard it as yet another factor inhibiting comprehensive education. But there is another aspect of the money situation—and this is my real purpose in intervening in the debate—which is not only causing a great deal of concern to my own local education authority but is also a general problem. I refer to the impossibility of local education authorities to meet the cost limits imposed by the Department's regulations. I am aware that this affects all school building but this debate is related to secondary schools and therefore it is legitimate to consider it in this context.

My own local education authority, which has written to me about this matter, finds it impossible to meet those cost limits. It is asked, as are other local education authorities, to make savings on various aspects of plans produced by the architects. But my authority—and I fully support it—takes the view that such savings would cause a lowering of standards. I relate this to my previous remarks about the need for purpose-built comprehensive schools. I am sure that anybody who has studied the history of education, even over the last 30 or 40 years, could very easily point to examples—I regret to say from both Governments—where a reduction of standards has caused difficulties with which in many areas we have not yet caught up. That is what the Government are compelling local education authorities to do. Is that what the Government want? Is this yet another aspect of inhibitions placed on the reorganisation of secondary education?

I ask the Secretary of State to give further consideration to three things: first, to increasing the cost limits; secondly, to consider implementing a regional cost limit—and I can speak with feeling on this because of the sky-high costs which at present operate in the North-East at the moment; and thirdly, to abandon the present policy of insisting on fixed-price tenders where the project which is submitted takes at least two years to complete. Embodied in these three suggestions are the kind of things which are placing secondary education reorganisation in a straitjacket from which local authorities are finding difficulty in extricating themselves. It is a nationwide problem.

The County Architects' Society, described by the industrial reporter of The Times as normally a quiet, non-militant group", was reported in that newspaper on 3rd January as expressing: its great concern at the continued inability of Government Departments to make adjustments to the present cost limits". The report went on to say: There is a real danger that many new schools … programmed to start before the end of the present financial year in March, 1973, will not get off the ground. That will affect secondary education reorganisation probably more than any other factor at the present time. When we add that problem to all the other problems being placed before comprehensive education at this time, one can only think there is a bleak future for it.

The financial restrictions to which I have referred which are being imposed on local education authorities by the Government were the main reason which led me to take part in this debate. But I would like to speak on a matter on which I was glad the Secretary of State spent some time in her speech, the question of parental choice. Much nonsense is talked about parental choice. Indeed, I go further. There is no such thing in education as complete freedom of parental choice. One of the best publications which the Department of Education and Science has produced—I am not sure in which year—is the manual of guidance to local education authorities on this question. It is a realistic and sensible document but it is largely based on the fact that a local education authority cannot at any time provide all the facilities that parents would like. In other words, it could not meet the wishes of all parents at all times in dealing with staff, accommodation, single-sex schools, which were dealt with by the Secretary of State, and so on.

It may be of some interest that for the sake of accuracy I telephoned the Depart- ment this morning to get the number and name of that circular. The Department, which I telephone frequently, cannot be more helpful on anything I ask. I was interested, and now I am curious in view of the Secretary of State's remarks today, to learn that the circular has been or is being withdrawn. I can see a puzzled look on the Secretary of State's face. Perhaps therefore, when the Under-Secretary of State replies, he will have some information for me. I was curious before I telephoned. The point of my curiosity, now underlined, which I put to the Secretary of State is whether that circular is to be revised in the light of comprehensive education. In other words, is that manual of guidance intended specifically to refer to a parent's choice either for grammar school education or for comprehensive education as a specific reason? In view particularly of the information that I received accidentally this morning, I believe that the House is entitled to some comment on that. It may be that the Secretary of State is to argue—and there is the usual support for them from the Government side today—that grammar schools ought to be built alongside comprehensives to permit what in fact would be a phoney choice.

Those are questions on which we should have answers today. Comprehensive education is now in floodtide and is almost universally accepted. It ill behoves the Government to continue their feeble attempts to reverse that tide in the way shown by the speeches we have heard today.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Brierley Hill)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) on his maiden speech and I am delighted to be the first hon. Member on this side of the House to be able to do so. My hon. Friend was right to say that we had great respect for his predecessor, the late Charles Curran. Indeed there was enormous respect for him in the House. I am certain that Uxbridge made the right choice of successor to Mr. Curran when they elected my hon. Friend last year in what was a notable victory on his part. Having heard his maiden speech, I think it is obvious why he achieved such an excellent result and I hope that we shall hear him speak about education on many future occasions.

I am sorry that I cannot say the same about the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). I am not particularly interested in defence matters so I never heard him speak in defence debates when he was Opposition spokesman for defence, but I am sure he must have performed much better on defence subjects than on education.

Far from censuring my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the Opposition should be congratulating her on the massive expansion in education. Criticism has been made of primary schools getting preference. I cannot see how the Opposition can object to this. For far too long most people who care about education have felt that primary education was the Cinderella of the system, that there were far too many old primary schools and that something had to be done about it. The Conservative Party at the last election pledged that something would be done to improve primary education. But it is unfair to say that secondary education has consequently been neglected. My right hon. Friend gave the figures of the improvements in secondary education.

In the main, however, the debate centres on what form of secondary education we are to have. The Labour Government wanted to impose a completely comprehensive system, and those of us who were in the last Parliament and served on the Standing Committee considering the Education Bill remember the long battles which went on. However, one day certain hon. Members opposite were absent unpaired and the Government lost Clause 1 of the Bill, which meant that the whole Bill had to be dragged through the whole mess again. Luckily, the General Election intervened and the Bill never came to fruition.

The hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) tried to say that in the discussions on that Bill we were in favour of certain things. It is completely untrue. We opposed the whole concept. We felt that local education authorities should have the right to decide what was best for their area in consultation with parents and teachers. In any case, as the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) has said, the cost of introducing a totally comprehensive system would be astronomical.

Today the Opposition are attacking my right hon. Friend for holding back on comprehensive schemes. She has proved that it is not true. It would be interesting to hear how many examples the Opposition can produce of good educational schemes which she has turned down. I want to quote part of what my right hon. Friend said to the National Union of Teachers' conference in April last year. She said: Where well thought-out proposals for reorganisation have been put forward, and where plans are matched by the ability to implement them in reasonable conditions, they have invariably been considered sympathetically. I have always laid emphasis on the need for close and early consultation with teachers before the formulation of proposals, and I have been strongly impressed by their contributions both in the preparation of schemes and in their implementation. That is particularly relevant to what is happening in the county borough of Dudley.

I am not surprised that the hon. Member for Sparkbrook, when complaining about certain comprehensive schemes being rejected, did not include that scheme in Dudley. In Dudley, the chairman of the education committee is Councillor Wilson, who apparently believes that he is God's gift to education in Dudley. He has put forward a scheme for 16 all-through comprehensive schools. There are grave educational doubts about whether Dudley could maintain 16 viable sixth forms. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State when he replies will give us an idea of the number of children voluntarily staying on at school over the age of 16 in Dudley at the present time.

If that scheme had been educationally sound I would have given it my unstinted support, but my right hon. Friend has stated that there are certain aspects which she cannot approve and she has asked the local education authority whether it will perhaps look again at these aspects before discussing the rest of the scheme. I see nothing wrong with that.

We have constant emphasis on consultation but I am afraid that the consultation in Dudley was a mockery. I have talked to many parents who have told me that they were asked to attend a meeting with the chairman of the education committee for consultation and discussion but that all they got was a monologue from the chairman. I am glad that the hon. Member for Dudley (Dr. Gilbert) is present because I have something to say to him later.

What about the teachers in Dudley? The Dudley Head Teachers Association had a meeting to discuss the future of secondary education in the borough and with only one dissentient came out solidly in favour of a plan for 12-plus to 16-plus middle schools to be followed by sixth-form colleges—a very different plan from the one which Councillor Wilson has submitted to the Secretary of State. At the conclusion of the document which the association sent to every councillor in Dudley, it said: An 11–18 scheme would lead inevitably to the use of many school annexes in central Dudley where many of the schools are small and on restricted sites. It also is difficult to see how substantial building could be avoided in other areas within the County Borough. The prospect at Brierley Hill Grammar School, Dudley Grammar School, and High Arcal Grammar School of having to organise—in one building—a very large sixth form, a diminishing grammar school and an emergent comprehensive school—each with its separate ethos—is a frightening process, Tension would be immense. That view was expressed by prominent teachers in the borough and cannot be fobbed off as the view of Tory activists.

If we are to have nothing but comprehensive schools, perhaps the Opposition can explain how they would decide the intake of the schools. Would they advocate that all children in a given area would go to the same school? Or would they instead go for the new "in" word in the Socialist vocabulary, "The social mix"? That is a stormy issue in Leeds at the moment.

How does the "social mix" work? There is an example in the Inner London Education Authority where children at primary schools are banded as "A" if they are above average, as "B" if they are average and as "C" if they are below average. While my right hon. Friend was speaking, the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) kept repeating like a parrot "Selectivitis, selectivitis, selectivitis". What is banding in the Inner London Education Authority if it is not selectivitis? Each secondary school would then have to take a quota of "A", "B" and "C" children. This would mean that children would be involved in a great deal of travelling, often to schools a long way from home. This, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, has aroused a great deal of ill feeling.

Unfortunately in London there are certain schools which have been called "sink" schools because conditions are so bad. Many parents were unhappy when they found that their children were allocated to a "sink" school. We remember that not so long ago parents were deliberately keeping their children away from school as a protest against their being sent to schools where the conditions were so deplorable. However, it would seem that in the ILEA there is one rule for one and another rule for another.

I want to quote from the Daily Mail of 27th September 1972. The report says: A Governor of a London 'sink' school admitted yesterday that she had succeeded in having her own son transferred away from it. Last night she was accused of 'fantastic hypocrisy' over her action. The 11-year-old boy was originally allocated a place as one of the bright 'guinea pigs' to go to Islington comprehensive school in the hotly contested transfer scheme which is aimed at spreading good and bad pupils evenly through London's schools. But now he has been allowed to go to the much better Woodberry Down Comprehensive School in another district. His mother is Mrs. Jean Donnison, a Labour Party member and wife of Professor David Donnison, a leading Labour educationist. Both are involved in Islington Labour Party and are supporters of the Labour-controlled Inner London Education Authority. Angry parents protesting against the transfer scheme accused the Donnison's of having double standards over the education of their son, Harry. 'This is fantastic hypocrisy', said Mrs. Ruby Clarke, of the Hackney and Islington Action Group. 'To think she is a governor of the school. 'Of all people you would expect them to support the new scheme, since it is a Labour idea. They expect our kids to go there but it is not good enough for them.' That just about sums up the attitude of the Labour Party. I would have far more confidence in what its Members said if I found more of them practising what they preach. Mrs. Clarke was completely right when she talked about hypocrisy.

The other way in which a social mix could be achieved would be by redrawing the catchment areas. This is what is causing so much uproar in the city of Leeds today because under this scheme a catchment area would be withdrawn to include children from various social backgrounds. This again would mean the bussing of children. I have tried to ascertain from the chairman of Dudley Education Committee what would be the position in Dudley. I want to know how the intake, if we have a comprehensive system in Dudley, would be organised and whether we would have neighbourhood schools or a social mix which would involve busing. This is of vital interest and concern to many of my constituents, but so far the issue has been dodged.

The hon. Member for Dudley jumped to the defence and was quoted in the Wolverhampton Express and Star as saying: that there was more likely to be bussing under Mrs. Thatcher's plan because it retained selectivity in some areas of the borough. That is a ridiculous argument. I should have thought the hon. Member would be much wiser to shut up than to show his ignorance on this issue because my right hon. Friend has not produced a plan for Dudley. She has asked Dudley to look at certain aspects of the plan which Dudley submitted. There is a great deal of difference between children going by bus to a grammar school which their parents want them to attend and which the children want to attend and in having children sent deliberately to a school which their parents do not want them to attend and which perhaps the children do not want to attend. That is the difference when I argue against a scheme of deliberate busing.

Dr. John Gilbert (Dudley)

The hon. Member was kind enough to let me know that he would be referring to me, but he did not indicate the language in which he would refer to me or to the chairman of the education committee, who is one of the most loyal and conscientious public servants Dudley has ever had. At the moment the education authority is spending £7,000 a year on busing. The chairman made it clear that under the scheme he proposed he hoped that this expense would be eliminated. It is also perfectly clear that if there are grammar schools in two areas the rest of the district must serve as a catchment area and it is perfectly obvious that there then has to be bussing.

Mr. Montgomery

The hon. Member does not appear to have grasped the situation. The point I was making was that if parents want their children to go to a school and the children want to go there, the bussing is voluntary. There is a difference between going voluntarily and being deliberately bussed to a school to which the parents do not want their children to go and which the children do not wish to attend.

I remind my right hon. Friend that next year there is to be local government reorganisation and Halesowen and Stour-bridge are to be joined to Dudley. It would be sensible for the three authorities to have talks now and to try to produce a sensible plan for adoption when the new council comes into existence next year.

I have no hesitation tonight in supporting the amendment moved by my right hon. Friend. I hope that she will continue to approve schemes which are well-thought-out and thoroughly sound, but she also has the responsibility of turning down hotch-potch schemes which are ill-conceived and educationally unsound. Despite what the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) said, I believe that my right hon. Friend has gained the respect of the vast majority of people who care deeply about education. I think she has proved that she has far more concern for good educational schemes than for party dogma, and that is surely a prime requisite of a good Secretary of State for Education.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)

For some time I have been trying to winkle out of the Secretary of State her reasons for turning down plans for comprehensive schools under Section 13. Tonight she has raised the veil slightly, but in the majority of cases we do not know her reasons. I believe that she has turned down about 70 plans without any reason whatever. Is she afraid of showing prejudice or inconsistency, or both? I do not know.

I believe, however, that the reason for the right hon. Lady's action and her bias is her emotional commitment to maintaining selection—for whatever reason. Tonight she said, more than twice, that there would be entry "based on merit". Of course she has been quite consistent in this. In the debate on the Address in reply to the Queen's Speech on 8th July 1970 the right hon. Lady said: I believe that there is still a place for certain selective schools of excellence…. I believe that it is wrong to exclude this from our future plans. The then Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), said in the same debate: The fact is that, no matter how the 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. I cannot agree with that. He went on: 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 "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th July 1970; Vol. 803, cc. 685–6, 793.] On 11th May last year the Secretary of State admitted in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) that from June 1970 to May 1972—the two years since the General Election—she rejected about 30 proposals to convert selective schools into non-selective schools.

So far as I am aware there is a consensus by most authorities that if one selected the top 20 one would be mistaken in at least five cases at O-level and the equivalent number in secondary modern schools will do better than those five. Therefore I put it to the House that selection is inefficient and is not, as the Under-Secretary said, in favour of the child's interest, but against it.

I will give the Secretary of State a prime example, a recent one. One of my constituents, Christine King, was branded as a failure at 11 years old. She was not bright enough for a grammar school and could not make the top stream even in a secondary modern school. She went to Victoria Girls' School, Watford, a secondary modern school. Since then—in 1971—it has become an all-ability school. In her first year Christine was not considered good enough even for the top 30, but when the time came for her to take her O-levels she had improved considerably. Then, two years ago, she started doing A-levels and made up her mind to go to university. She was given an unconditional acceptance at Leeds University but the A-level results were so good that she decided to fly even higher. And, where do you think she landed? At none other than the best university in England—Cambridge. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oxford."] I have heard of Oxford. We call it the "other place". She is going to Cambridge.

The House may be interested to know that 20 girls were called for an interview for six places. Christine had to compete with girls from some of the leading girls' schools in the country. Not only did she get a place at Cambridge, but she got it at the college of her first choice—Newnham College. She is a brilliant example of a late developer. She is the first pupil in the 77 years of Victoria School's history to win a place at Cambridge. Of course, I must pay tribute not only to her for the hard work she did but to the excellent teaching at Victoria Girls' School.

However, that is just one example of the futility and the injustice of selection. Nevertheless the Secretary of State seems wedded to the idea of selection. Let me tell her, therefore, that the sooner she obtains a divorce—I mean from the idea of selection—the better it will be for all children.

6.51 p.m.

Mr. J. Selwyn Gummer (Lewisham, West)

I believe that the whole question of comprehensivisation has been done to death in the discussions that we have had, and therefore I take the point that was made and lay behind the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Spark-brook (Mr. Hattersley) who, I think rightly, put his emphasis upon the nature of the community and the way in which children go to school and there find their education whether we have a system which divides children one from another, and whether we have a choice for some and not for others. It was that part of his speech which I felt was concerned with education. I am sorry that there was not more in his speech concerned with the subject. It is an important point and has to be answered by those who do not believe that the headlong rush into a totally comprehensive system is satisfactory.

I have been the chairman of the governors of a large comprehensive school in London. I am very much in favour of comprehensive education and, with others, I have fought the arguments that have been used by people who are against comprehensive schools. I want to ask the House whether we should not start much earlier when we consider a matter such as that before us today and ask whether we have not jumped a stage in the argument.

We have automatically assumed that comprehensive education is necessary because it is the only way to ensure equality of opportunity and to get rid of the divisiveness which has been graphically portrayed by various hon. Members in this and previous debates. I wonder whether it is not true that until we face the educational fact that a child's future is very often determined before the age of eight—if not before that age, then certainly before the age of 11—we shall not get our priorities right.

I believe that my right hon. Friend deserves commendation on her secondary school provision because of the priorities that she has chosen. She has said that if children come from a deprived home background the first step must be to give them the linguistic help which they need so that they can get equality of opportunity at primary school, and her proposals for nursery schools have been widely welcomed on both sides of the House.

One cannot talk about secondary education without mentioning that part of education which precedes it. It is essential to put the emphasis on primary schools if we are not to have a situation in which children coming from a socially deprived background go to socially deprived primary schools and therefore what they have lacked in their homes is not made up for during their earlier years. It is now recognised that it is early in a child's life that the disadvantages of an impoverished background intellectually are either got over or fortified for the whole of his educational future.

When that child comes to the age at which he moves from primary to secondary school one is faced with a genuine difficulity. One cannot make the simplistic comparison that was made by the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) between primary schools and comprehensive and secondary schools, because the nature of the primary school is that the small child must be able to get to it from the immediate catchment area. The problem of the comprehensive primary school is precisely the problem of the catchment area. The poor primary schools are precisely those in areas where, because it is a comprehensive school serving all the children of that area, it takes on the quality—and sometimes, unfortunately, the lack of quality—of that area.

We have done a great deal, and we want to do more to overcome that problem, but do not let us assume that when we get to secondary education we can ignore the difficulties which come from a comprehensive system which is put into a socially divisive system outside. It is my belief that one of the great sadnesses of our society is that over the years we have built socially divided ghettoes in housing. There are many areas which, by their nature, are divided because they are totally built by the local council, or totally built by private development.

To impose upon a society like that a comprehensive system in the belief that automatically it will provide the kind of social mix which many of us think is necessary is an illusion. Indeed, in some areas we have increased the degree of social divisiveness because of the nature of our comprehensive reorganisation. In Bristol, for example, where many children went from the edge to the centre of the city for secondary education before the new scheme came into operation, there was a great deal more social mixing than there is now when the comprehensive schools serve the areas around them and those areas are divided because of the local authority's housing policy.

Mr. Dormand

The hon. Gentleman has made an interesting point about primary education but, following what he said, would he not agree that the Conservative philosophy ought to be applied even earlier and that there ought to be selection at the age of eight? That would be utter nonsense.

Mr. Gummer

The hon. Gentleman has missed the point entirely but I shall not go back over it because many of us have seen the difference between a comprehensive system which is forced upon a school with the result that some children have to walk some distance to the school and going to schools of their parents' choice.

We are talking about secondary education, and it must be true that the general pattern of education today is a comprehensive one. I support, and have supported, that very proposition in difficult circumstances in my constituency. The House should not arrogate to itself, nor should the Labour Party arrogate to itself, the belief that the present view on education was held 30 years ago. To use almost the words of the hon. Member for Sparkbrook, the view then was, "Everybody knows that division at 11 is the sensible way to organise secondary education. Everybody accepts that it is best to provide decent grammar schools in every area for every part of the country, and it is outrageous that some reactionary should hold out for some alternative system".

The reply to that is that at no time in educational history have educationalists always been completely and utterly right. Therefore, I do not accept that we cannot argue for this proposition merely because many people support it. It seems reasonable to believe that the comprehensive system, despite its many advantages, might not always be right for every area and for every child.

When the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) raised the question of his constituent going to Cambridge from a school which was not as academic as many other schools to which he might have gone, I was interested to hear him conclude that she was a prime example of a late developer. I believe that to have been the prime example of selectivity. He said with pride how the girl had been able to go to a particular university better than any other university. I am sad that he said that with pride because the whole of his argument was that selectivity was unacceptable.

A constituent of mine who has gone to a polytechnic was a comprehensive school drop-out because the comprehensive school in his area did not provide and could not provide the kind of academic teaching necessary for someone of his kind of ability. The whole basis of the comprehensivisation falls down on the mathematics. In London we do not have enough children of what used to be called grammar school stream to provide a grammar school section for all our comprehensive schools. We know that from a figure produced and accepted by both sides of the Inner London Education Authority and relating to several of the divisions of north and east London.

One of the reasons, therefore, that the Chief Education Officer in London has been quoted as admitting that there were schools in London to which he would not like to send his children was that not all the schools could have a grammar stream, even if we had the most complicated system of bussing and even if there were no grammar schools in London. Even if there were a totally comprehensive system throughout all our cities there would be comprehensive schools with academic reputations and others without, and therefore there will be an element of choice, and that choice is bound to be divisive in some sense unless the comprehensive system is based upon the principle in which the schools merely reflect the area in which they are located, a principle which I hope the Opposition will reject.

Mr. Harry Lamborn (Southwark)

Will the hon. Member concede that the problem of providing what he described as a grammar school intake in some of our comprehensive schools in the inner London area stems directly from the fact that it is impossible to run a comprehensive system and a grammar school system side by side with the deliberate creaming off of many children, which prevents the comprehensive schools being fully comprehensive?

Mr. Gummer

I am glad that the hon. Member made that intervention because the two divisions that I purposely chose were the two which are almost completely comprehensivised in the whole of London. That is why it is a particularly serious problem to be faced in parts of east and north London.

But if it is accepted that there will also be some kind of divisiveness and choice, it is necessary to consider where the parent fits in. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) obviously thought these children were not the parents' children but the children of the divisional officer or possibly even his own. He seemed to think that he had the right to say to all parents that he was correct and that what he said was perfect for their children. He would say how they would fit into the school and how the mix would be proportioned and the children would become as units—and one unit, being above average, would fit into one place and another unit, below average, would fit in somewhere else. In my constituency parents are upset when they find that their child cannot go to the local comprehensive school when a child living further away is able to do so. I have to explain that the other child is in a different band from theirs, but I cannot tell them which band because I do not know. All I can say is that they have been marked down so that their child shall not go to the comprehensive school.

The Inner London Education Authority has just produced a plan for my constituency concerning the last remaining county grammar school in it, the Brockley County Grammar School. I have examined the scheme carefully because I am concerned about the future of Manwood Secondary School which is in two poor buildings divided by the South Circular Road. I had fought a previous scheme by the ILEA which had overlooked this school. When I discovered that this was to be a comprehensive school on four sites divided by the South Circular, one of the buildings of which had been a primary school restored to that status after the war at a cost of £60,000, and when I discovered that this four-site school was supposed to be a comprehensive school, I began to think that possibly the parents had some right on their side.

I went to the consultative committee where the parents were to be asked their views. They were told that there was to be no consultation whether their school should be part of the comprehensive system. Nor was there to be any discussion whether they wanted the school to continue as it was. The only consultation was whether the school should be joined with the Manwood School, the nearest building of which was only a mile away, or with another school, the nearest building of which was three miles away.

I dare say that when that report goes in to the Secretary of State it will state that consultation was conducted on the scheme. However, no spokesman in favour of the scheme could be found from among the 500 people in the hall. Nobody clapped anyone on the platform who sup- ported the scheme. The parents did not seem to matter. I know that is one of the objections to which the Secretary of State has been asked not to listen, but how do we solve the problems in my area of the children who go to school in my area? Surely parents should have some sort of choice. If choice is removed it means that there will be a State system in education under which the State will provide education for all, make it compulsory and refuse parents any right to influence that education.

That seems to me to cut right across the concept of participation which most of us believe in. I believe that we are back in the rigidly State-controlled Marxist ideology. [Laughter.] The hon. Members who laugh at that are those who are still stuck in the 19th century concept that the State knows best and that the alternative to individuals choosing for themselves is that someone should choose for them. If that is done it means that people cannot make their own choice in important matters for themselves and their children because it is believed someone else knows best.

I ask the Secretary of State to see that as far as possible the choices which are available are extended to as many people as possible—including the docker in my constituency who has no education but who has two sons at university today because they were given the kind of academic education that a small school can give, whether it is a small comprehensive or a small grammar school. The small school has an important place in our educational system.

I ask the Secretary of State to be determined to say that the last word on education has not been said in the pages of The Times Educational Supplement over the last few weeks; that educational attitudes and concepts will change and that it is wrong for us to believe that we have an arrogant right to say that now and for all time we know the answers and therefore that the whole system shall be changed irrespective of the buildings, the resources, and the needs and demands of the people locally. If that means that we have a system which does not fit into a neat pattern—whether it is one where a few children go to particular schools because they happen to be academically bright or academically stupid—it means that we are in the tradition of education in this country for 1,300 years, which is a tradition of variety. If the complaint is that people do not have a choice, surely the answer is to spend more money on and devote more resources to nursery schools and primary schools so that when children go to school they are given the necessary help to make up for any poverty of background. In that way every child will have a fair choice. If we wish to achieve that we must stop talking about comprehensivisation and start asking about providing equality of opportunity from the age of three to the age of eight.

7.10 p.m.

Mr. Brynmor John (Pontypridd)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Easing-ton (Mr. Dormand), prior to the debate I thought that the principle of comprehensive education was now accepted by most people, but it seems that the ancients among the Tory back benchers, have shown that they have not taken on board the research, development and information which has been disseminated about comprehensive education during the last few years.

It is not good enough to speak, as the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) spoke, with his customary vigour if not relevance, of the hypocrisy of having more confidence if more of our children used the comprehensive system. The Opposition could ripost, equally, that we would have more confidence in hon. Members on the Conservative benches in speaking of the State education system if they or their children had ever used it, much less the grammar school system.

Then we had the extraordinary tutorial speech of the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer), whose lectures are so much more welcome to this House than they are to sixth forms. His mixing with younger people does not seem to have improved him, for a more garbled speech I have rarely heard. He condemned the inequities of our society and went on to say that it was a rigidly Marxist one.

We do not say that the comprehensive system is an automatic rectifier of the social injustice and social inequities in Britain today. Rectification of those inequities would need not only rectification of the education system but greater financial and social equality. If that is what he is suggesting, I am with him. We should work for social equality and for taxation systems which do not give an advantage to private education as opposed to State education. But the hon. Gentleman's speeches during this Parliament have not suggested that that is what he wants.

We say that, granted an inequitable society, the comprehensive system is at least one step towards reversing the general trend towards inequality and disadvantage. Let us not be mealymouthed about this. We do not object to educational variety. What we object to is the maintenance of the educational privilege inherent in the grammar school system. The hon. Gentleman said that he agreed that comprehensive education was right, although in the remaining 99 per cent. of his speech he seemed intent on proving it wrong—it is right in principle, but it is not right for all children in all places. What I and my party object to is that the children for whom it is not right always happen to be middle-class children in middle-class areas, not working-class children. It is the perpetuation of privilege to which we object.

We cannot make exaggerated claims for the comprehensive system. It may not be the ultimate answer, but the argument of the hon. Member for Lewisham, West taken to its logical conclusion is that because the future may produce further refinements we should do nothing.

When the hon. Gentleman calls the local authorities Marxist, is he referring to Breconshire, Radnorshire, Leicestershire and Anglesey? I doubt whether those counties have erected barricades for weeks. Does he realise that they are the forerunners of comprehensive education? Does he realise the educational results which have been achieved in those counties? It is a farrago of nonsense. The risk run by our sixth formers from the Conservative Party is not because the Conservative Party tries to inculcate into them party propaganda, but because those who address the sixth formers are likely to speak nonsense.

I want briefly to speak about a campaign currently being run in my constituency against the comprehensive system. It illustrates the danger of the whipping-up of so-called public concern and the effect that this might have on the whole educational scheme for the area. I want to try to correct in advance any mistaken idea which the Secretary of State for Wales may have for dealing with the present proposals. It was proposed that the Vale of Glamorgan should be reorganised on comprehensive lines with one school at Llantwit Major. Parents in Cowbridge were rightly concerned that no provision was made for the retention of a school there and that their children would have to travel to Llantwit Major. After proper consultation the scheme was changed so as to preserve one comprehensive school at Llantwit Major with seventh form entry and one at Cowbridge with seventh form entry. I regard that as proper consultation. This was a legitimate matter for parental concern and the representations were met flexibly.

That has not satisfied a wealthy and vocal minority of people living within the area, who are trying, by various factions to retain the Cowbridge Boys' Grammar School as a grammar school. They have made lavish use of publicity, which they can well afford, and Press reports. The best comment on the quaintness of their views is that they organised a parade of vintage cars. Vintage cars are about as antiquated as the educational system which these people seek to perpetuate. Because of all these activities many parents have been persuaded to support these factions and their claims, and to support them by distortions of the truth.

The first thing that they play upon is the undoubted past excellence of the school and the fact that it has existed for many hundreds of years. It is not good enough in education to talk about the past. We are trying to plan for the future of these children, and to concentrate on history is as dangerous in education, as it is in Northern Ireland.

Secondly, they lay great emphasis on the boarding facility which they say will be removed from the Vale of Glamorgan if Cowbridge Grammar School is removed. They cite particularly the children of RAF personnel at St. Athan, of whom there are only about six at any one time, and in any event the school holds only six. I concede the need in some cases for boarding education but what is symptomatic of the "privilege" approach is that it is assumed that there is a need for boarding accommodation only for children who are at grammar school. Children who are at secondary modern schools can go hang.

The third point on which they try to mislead the public is the selective use of local authority support, support which has been universally denied to them.

When the hon. Member for Lewisham, West speaks about the State knowing best, I wonder how much of the educational system he understands. It is the local education committees in the locality which make the selection of the type of system they want.

Mr. Selwyn Gummer

They are making the distinction between the policy put forward by the Labour Party which is that the Government would dictate from the centre the policies of local authorities—which is the policy of the State knowing best—and the present situation in which policies are put forward by local education authorities.

Mr. John

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should use so feeble an argument. Of course the Government dictate overall policy; they must do so. The hon. Gentleman's Government do that in the same way as any other Government. His Government are the originators of the removal of school milk from the jurisdiction of local authorities. That was within the decision of local authorities until this freedom-loving, choice-loving Government removed it from them.

Was the hon. Gentleman awake at the time or was he away at a conference? However, I shall return to the point, as the hon. Gentleman seems to have failed to appreciate it entirely, that the campaign for the retention of grammar school education in Cowbridge is being pursued by the affluent for the retention of the privileged within their area. It is repugnant to most parents in that area. What they have done by their opposition is to put in doubt the replacement of five primary schools during 1973–74.

The right hon. Lady spoke glowingly about the programme of replacing antiquated primary schools. But because of the campaign, and because of the allocation within this financial year of the sum necessary to reorganise all comprehensive education, the replacement of five primary schools will be put in doubt if there is much more delay. The campaigners have ignored the fact that by the retention of the Cowbridge grammar school, at least four out of five children will be denied the benefits of the best system of secondary education that we have yet devised—namely, the comprehensive system.

The hon. Gentleman made great play about bussing. However, if the campaign for the retention of Cowbridge grammar school is to succeed, four out of five children will be condemned to compulsory bussing to another area. There is no possible argument for the erection of a comprehensive school in Cowbridge side by side with a grammar school.

Finally—and this is a result which I think will surprise the hon. Gentleman, who thinks that it is only in the retention of grammar schools that parental concern can be aroused—because of the doubt which the education authority has about the continuance of the secondary education system, it has had, as a precaution, to reintroduce certain selection procedures which are necessary under the present system. That has upset the majority of parents who thought that that barbaric nonsense had been dealt a death blow once and for all. The hon. Gentleman also referred to selection by merit. Which of us believes that we can choose merit at the age of 11? That is thoroughly discredited and it does no honour to the right hon. Lady to cling to that outworn approach.

I hope that the right hon. Lady will not be taken in by the foolish and mischievous campaign which is now being waged by a small section of the inhabitants of the Cowbridge area. Parental choice is a fine phrase, but in practice it means little to most people in the country. I am less concerned with parental choice, although I am a parent who has a child in a comprehensive school, than I am with pupil choice—for example, the choice of the pupil as to the career he should follow, the subjects he should study, and whether he is able to develop his talents to the fullness of his ability. That seems to be the real choice. What is happening today, and what the fine words of the right hon. Lady do not entirely disguise, is that a vocal middle-class minority is applying a tourniquet to the educational health of this country.

Mr. Michael Roberts (Cardiff, North)

Absolute rubbish.

Mr. John

I wonder how much the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Michael Roberts) knows about the area of which I am speaking. I doubt if he knows very much. He probably knows as much about it as any other area or any other subject upon which he assays the House. In fact, that is a great condemnation. He has already, by his decision on local government reorganisation in Glamorgan, shown that he is amenable to the decisions dictated by party politics rather than by good sense. However, I do not expect him to jeopardise the educational future of the majority of children in my area, and the educational excellence which could come about, if we plan properly for the future on the lines suggested by the Galmorgan County Council. I hope, if the hon. Gentleman is asked to adjudicate upon the scheme, that he will use his decision rationally in the interests of the pupils and will not subjugate them to the vociferous minority whose only concern is that they perpetuate for their children the privilege that they enjoy.

7.26 p.m.

Miss Janet Fookes (Merton and Morden)

The Opposition's motion is very narrow. I suspect that they have found it hard to find fault with Conservative educational policy. They are compelled to look at the comparatively few cases which my right hon. Friend has seen fit, after looking carefully at the proposals, to turn down. We should have a sense of proportion. She has refused only a very small number. One would gain the impression from the Opposition that she turned down the lot. That is not true and is very unfair to her. As I understand it, she has accepted no fewer than 2,600 proposals and has turned down roughly 111.

I agree with the principle of comprehensive education. I do not propose to give my reasons tonight. The debate should be turning far more than it has on the form that comprehensive education is to take. That would be a far more attractive and fruitful source of debate than the one that we have had or, at any rate, the one that the Opposition have put forward. It will be recalled that the famous—or infamous—Circular 1065 listed no fewer than six types of comprehensive organisation. We should be discussing it in the light of experience rather than carping about whether we have it at all.

I am much concerned by the size of some comprehensive schools. I believe that that apprehension is shared by many of my hon. Friends on the back benches. I know that it is of great concern to my right hon. Friend. I have known the real bewilderment that a child faces when it is moved from a comparatively small school—for example, a primary school—to a very large school at the secondary stage. We are expecting children to make the transition from primary schools to secondary schools which accommodate a thousand or more pupils. Experience does not justify a school of that size and I hope that no more will be brought into existence.

The head of a comprehensive school, who believes thoroughly in that principle, has told me that he considers that the problems of organisation are beyond the powers of any head to deal with satisfactorily. It is true that in a large school a pupil has an enormous number of subject choices. However, it gets to the point where the choice in itself is bewildering, when the child cannot benefit from the choice and when a smaller range in a smaller and more personal school would serve the purpose just as well. It is rather like the firms which become so large that there are dis-economies of scale instead of the old and traditional economies.

I deplore for other reasons some aspects of the two-tier system which means that children scarcely get into a school before they are pushed out at the other end, perhaps spending two years at the first stage and then going to another school. I deplore that movement at the critical age of 14 years when children are preparing possibly for examinations. That seems to be an unsatisfactory form of comperhensive education. Far better are the middle schools which do away with the traditional primary and secondary organisation with the break at 11 years, when the children go in at five, go to the next stage at seven or eight and then, at 12 or 13, go to the upper school. The system has all the benefits of a smaller upper school and the process is not broken off at an artificial stage at the age 11. I must declare an interest because the scheme is operating in Merton and Morden. I have had the advantage of seeing it work in practice, and it works very well.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

I agree with the hon. Lady, but will she go a step further and recommend the secondary college system, with a break at sixteen after O-levels?

Miss Fookes

The sixth form college principle is a new concept. The Secretary of State has approved certain proposals to allow sixth form colleges to develop and it is an interesting experiment, but because they are so new I approach the idea with caution. There may be areas to which they would be well suited, but we should watch the situation carefully.

Sixth form colleges have certain advantages from the children's point of view. Having taught girls, I know that they get tired of the same hackneyed school experience and probably would welcome a break at an age when they feel grown up and adult. A sixth form college presents them with a challenge, and would probably have a different and freer atmosphere, without the necessity for the wearing of school uniforms.

These colleges may present staffing difficulties because many staff may not wish to remain in a secondary school if they could teach "the cream" in a sixth form college. This is a real problem which must be examined.

The solution may lie in having greater flexibility in the use of staff. Too often in the past we have thought on the lines that staff belong to one school only, and that is that. In future there may be merit in looking at proposals to allow teachers to work in a secondary school and also undertake some work in a sixth form college. This might be a useful way of overcoming difficulties.

We also must consider the advantage of having single-sex as against coeducational schools. Many parents are coming to the view that a single sex-school is old-fashioned and would welcome the opportunity for their children to mix. But we must recognise that many parents still prefer single-sex education for their children. The Secretary of State might well look to parental choice in guiding her decisions on this topic or at least might make provision for one or two single-sex schools in an entire scheme.

The most difficult problem to which nobody has yet found the answer is how to deal with bad schools in bad areas. We have not begun to solve this problem and the various solutions which have been advanced—a social mix, bussing and all the rest—are no real solutions to the problem. This may be a long-term matter which will involve the building of better schools and the provision of better staff to go into what undoubtedly are difficult situations. We shall have to build on those ideas rather than to go in for an artificial mixing.

I hope that the Secretary of State will continue to look with an eagle eye at the various schemes that come before her, but I welcome the way in which she has passed so many schemes which seem to her to be educationally sound.

7.38 p.m.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)

The hon. Member for Merton and Morden (Miss Fookes) made an extremely thoughtful speech, with very much of which I agreed. The Secretary of State made much play of the fact that she has statutory duties to fulfil under Section 13 of the Act. Nobody criticises her on that score, because we appreciate that she has a statutory duty to look at schemes. It must be said that bad schemes have been produced by local authorities under Labour and Conservative Governments. I remember that when I was PPS to my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), who was then Secretary of State for Education, he had occasionally to decide that certain schemes were educationally unsound and needed revision. There is no objection to the Secretary of State's power in that respect, but I am critical about delays under the present regime which occur before a scheme is approved.

The right hon. Lady unfairly accused my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) of wanting to ignore parents' wishes. The Secretary of State, seems to forget that before a comprehensive scheme ever reaches her there is widespread consul- tation by local authorities with parents, teachers and local residents. It is the right hon. Lady who is being unfair because she must acknowledge the fact that parents are consulted at an early stage on nearly all schemes.

My main criticism of the right hon. Lady is not that she does not listen to objections, but that she appears to listen to certain objectors rather more closely than she listens to others. She is too susceptible to the highly organised groups which seek to put pressure on her for the retention of a particular school. The right hon. Lady, like many of her Conservative colleagues, probably believes that comprehensive schools and grammar schools can co-exist in the same locality without much harm coming to anybody. That attitude is quite wrong. The word "comprehensive" means "all-embracing", and if one section of pupils is being creamed off to a grammar school then the other school can no longer be called comprehensive.

Many people who have wide experience of education matters believe in comprehensive secondary education. If pupils up to the age of 11 go to primary schools which are comprehensive, why on earth does that process have to stop just because a child is over the age of 11? Furthermore, selective examinations are grossly inaccurate, particularly at the age of 11.

I taught for 13 years in a secondary modern school. We were getting children through examinations with up to eight or nine 0-levels and they were children who had failed the 11-plus. I believed that we had a duty to give every opportunity to those children—the opportunities which they would have had had they gone to a grammar school.

Looking back on it, although I am sure that we were right, I think that we did it at the expense of some of the others in that school who were less able. By concentrating, as we had to do, on a number of children who were academically bright and, because of the stupidity of the selective system, had not gone where they should have gone, the rest of the school tended to suffer.

My argument for comprehensive education has very little to do with class or social mix. I believe that many of the traditional grammar schools had a fairly good social mix, and their pupils came from all classes. My argument for comprehensive education is that we should have, in the same buildings and surroundings, an educational mix, in which people of all abilities are taught on the same site and come together for various things. I am not in favour of a complete abolition of streaming. That does not make sense as yet, but perhaps it would if we got better and better teachers. But at least pupils could all be on the same site.

I believe that not only can the less able learn from the able, but also that the able can often learn from the less able. I should like to give an example of that. In 1953 I came to a secondary modern school straight from university, as a graduate teacher. I can remember walking into the school and meeting the headmaster, who told me, "I want you to go along to room 4"—I remember it because it was my home for the next two years—"where you will find the class waiting for you". When I saw the class I was horrified, because 25 of the 30 children were gipsies. This was a school in the New Forest which catered for a big gipsy encampment. I wondered how I would cope with them. In talking to these childen I eventually learned an awful lot from them including how to catch trout with an electric battery and two wires. I learned to understand them, and they, I hope, learned something from me.

I believe that the real argument for comprehensive education is that one should not separate abilities into two or more separate establishments.

Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)

Apparently the hon. Member disagrees violently with any form of selection at the age of 11, or 12 or, perhaps, 13, yet he accepts it at the age of 18. At what age is selection acceptable?

Mr. Mitchell

I do not wish to get diverted on to the subject of higher education at this stage, as there will be another debate later on the White Paper.

I was educated in a traditional small grammar school and I remember an experience I had when I left school and joined the Army. We had the old two-tier bunks in our barrack room. I was on the top bunk and the chap on the bottom bunk said that he had had a letter from his girl friend. He asked me whether I would read it to him. I was embarrassed. I said, "Why should I read your girl friend's letter?" He was also embarrassed, and said, "I cannot read." That was a very illuminating experience for me. I had mixed throughout my life with people of roughly my own ability and I did not realise that at the age of 18 there were people who could not read or write. I got used to writing his letters for him. It was a great experience, which taught me a lot.

This is not a class matter; it is an educational matter. The main argument for comprehensive education is to teach all abilities in the same surroundings—because that is what we shall get in society afterwards.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

The "one nation".

Mr. Mitchell

Indeed. Let me now deal with the parental choice aspect. I believe in the maximum of parental choice. In the area in which I taught before coming to Parliament, about 17 per cent. of children passed the 11-plus and went to grammar school, and 83 per cent. went to a secondary modern school. I taught in a secondary modern school, and not one parent of the 83 per cent. of pupils in that area had any choice as to where their child should receive its schooling. The only people with the choice were the parents of the 17 per cent. who passed the selection examination.

I have, perhaps, told a lie here, as there was one child who had the choice. He came to me one day from the bottom stream in the school and said, "Please, Sir, I have passed my scholarship". This was right. He had passed an examination to get into the local ESN school, the school for the educationally subnormal. That school would take only children with whom it thought that it could do something and, therefore, the children had to have some form of educational requirement in order to attend. Those classified as ineducable came to us.

This boy said, "I do not think I shall take up the option, sir. I will stay here because I like it." He was the only child who had any choice as to a school. So parental choice is a matter which is greatly exaggerated.

In my constituency we were fortunate that secondary reorganisation in Southampton took place in 1966–67. It was interesting that, although the local Conservative Party opposed this bitterly at the time, when the Conservatives took control of the council soon after that, they made virtually no changes.

It is working well, but there remains in the middle of the scheme one selective grammar school. This school is not fully maintained and, therefore, there is little we can do about that. We had to leave the scheme with that particular school outside. The trouble is that this selective school is creaming off pupils, particularly in the area concerned, and this has a very adverse effect on the children in the comprehensive schools nearby. This can be seen in all sorts of ways.

One other way in which the Secretary of State—either deliberately or, perhaps, subtly; I do not know—has been trying to delay in certain cases the implementation of comprehensive education is in the control of secondary school building. I do not dispute that the Secretary of State was absolutely correct in putting the emphasis on primary schools. That was right in the context of 1970. But the policy has been put forward and processed too rigidly, and it has been almost impossible for any secondary school to obtain any money to do anything. This has seriously held up reorganisation schemes in many parts of the country.

In my constituency we have a secondary college, Richard Taunton College, which urgently needs remodelling. It is the college which I happened to attend when I went to grammar school as a boy, and at which the former Mr. Speaker was a teacher. The toilets, the craft room and the art room are just the same as I knew them when I was a pupil there. Although we cannot get any money for it at present, I hope that we shall get some under the new allocation.

I hope that the next Labour Government will introduce legislation at an early stage to abolish selection altogether. We tried to do that last time by persuasion. We achieved much, but we always knew that there would be that small group of reactionary local authorities, the Bournemouths of this world, which would refuse to have anything to do with comprehensive education. Had we won the last General Election, a Bill would have been on the Statute Book to abolish selection altogether. I hope that the next Labour Government will also scrap entirely the direct grant system, because that system grew up by accident and serves no useful purpose in our society.

I hope that the next Labour Government will also turn their attention to another section of schools which we call the non-denominational voluntarily-aided schools. Let us hear nothing from the Government benches about restricting the rights of local education authorities—not after the Housing Finance Act. One thing that we have learned from the present Government, of which I hope that the next Labour Government will take note, is how to deal with local authorities which are, perhaps, awkward in some ways.

Finally, there can still be a great deal of freedom for local authorities to choose, inside a non-selective system, the type of comprehensive system that they want. They can go for the all-through comprehensive, the 11–18 years school. I advocate strongly the secondary college with the middle school. In other words, a first school from five to eight, a middle school from eight to 12, a secondary comprehensive from 12 to 16 and a secondary college from 16-plus. I call it a secondary college rather than a sixth form college because the latter implies that it is a purely academic institution going for only A-level courses. I believe that a secondary college should cater for all who want to stay on post-16 whether they are going for A-level or other courses. An increasing number of youngsters who may not be at the top level academically want to stay on post-16.

I have been critical of the Secretary of State. I end with a word of praise. I am pleased that the right hon. Lady, despite pressures she may have had at one stage from Tory backbenchers, the Treasury, or elsewhere to delay the raising of the school leaving age to 16, pursued and achieved that policy. I am sure that was right.

7.52 p.m.

Mr. Michael Roberts (Cardiff, North)

It is indeed a pleasure to follow a fellow member of the National Union of Teachers, the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell), particularly as he said that he was concerned with educational matters rather than what could be described as matters of class. I went some way with what he said. He then said that when he taught in a secondary modern school he found that teachers had possibly—he was not sure—concentrated on the brighter pupils at the top of the school to the detriment of those further down. He did not say at the bottom or in the middle of the school, but somewhere further down. I am sure that he and his colleagues were too educationally sincere and conscientious to have done that.

The same risk is involved in a comprehensive school as in a grammar or any other type of school. In a comprehensive school, as the hon. Member knows, people refer to "bands of ability". In many comprehensive schools organised and run by the hon. Gentleman's colleagues there are bands of ability: the first four streams, then the next four, and so on all the way down. It may be that, a comprehensive school having been organised on that basis, one band is neglected. Clearly that is the responsibility of the school concerned. It is one of the risks in any kind of organisation.

I should have had far more respect for the hon. Gentleman's argument on grounds of education if he had not slung in at some stage the point that he would scrap the direct grant system. Why scrap the direct grant system? Surely, not on educational grounds.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell


Mr. Roberts

Surely not. It might be argued that in a large city to take the grammar school creaming-off might put the comprehensive schools at a disadvantage.

Cardiff contributes 12 girls to the Howells direct grant school. Does anyone believe that if each year those 12 did not attend the Howells direct grant school but were distributed two here, three there and none somewhere else, it would make the slightest difference? The significance is "none somewhere else", because this concerns the right social mix about which the hon. Member for Birmingham, Spark-brook (Mr. Hattersley) spoke. I should be grateful if he or anyone else could tell me how we can get the right social mix. Even if I accepted the question and said "Yes, you can bus people all over the city", what does one do? Do the proponents of the accurate mix which is essential for each school—so that each school in a city has the right balance of ability and social background—go to find out the pupils' social backgrounds? Are we to take what is called a series of "good addresses" and say that we will bus some here and bus others there? Anyone considering that argument knows that it is nonsense.

I am a proponent of the comprehensive system. I left the grammar school system to work in the comprehensive system and did so for six or seven years. The great problem is that some parts of the city of Cardiff have totally different social mixes from other parts. That gives the lie to the argument that the grammar schools engage in creaming-off. Clearly certain places will not be affected in any way where there is one grammar school structure within a great area which is generally served by the comprehensive system.

I do not think that educationists looking back over the last 10 years will say that the cause of comprehensive education has necessarily been advanced best by the purists and the theorists who talk about the social mix. I am quite certain, however, that they will accord to my right hon. Friend a very important place among those who have looked after the true interests of education and of comprehensive education.

My right hon. Friend, with great courage and conviction, has said that there is a place for the small school and a place for the small comprehensive school. This is important for several reasons. A headmaster does not know all his pupils even in a small comprehensive school of 1,200. He cannot know them all. What is more, the pupils do not know him. It may be argued that that does not matter very much because he knows somebody who knows the pupils well. Sometimes it is an advantage that the pupils do not know the headmaster but at least know and trust really well somebody to whom they can talk.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there are many schools of perhaps 400, 500 or 600 pupils within the selective system where the headmasters do not know all the pupils and yet the schools seem to survive reasonably well?

Mr. Roberts

The headmaster of a 400-pupil school is as conscientious as the headmaster of a 1,200-pupil school. Headmasters try to get to know their pupils as best they can. The fact is that in a school of 1,200 pupils it is three times more difficult, and there comes a point of escalation at which it is utterly impossible. Even in a comprehensive school which would be described as small it is very difficult for a headmaster to know all the pupils.

Part of a headmaster's job is to create the administrative machine, and he does it. Therefore, although he does not know all the students, he can appoint a responsible member of the staff to liaise with them. If he wants to know what a student is doing at a particular time or how he is fitting into the school, he can ask the person who is responsible.

The larger the school, the longer the chain of command. I have taught for many years. I believe that the front line of education is in the classroom, on the playing field, in the laboratory, and in the workshops. The further the chain of command stretches from the front line to the headmaster's study, the less effective is the headmaster, however he wants to work. I have seen how headmasters can be surrounded by their immediate advisers—year teachers, the heads of lower schools, the careers masters—so that the immediate advisers too are not in direct touch with the pupils in the classroom. Therefore, the person who has to make the ultimate decision is unfortunately cocooned, not of his own volition, from the very people doing the major job of education.

Mr. Spearing

I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Gentleman has said. Does he not agree that the very remoteness of which he talks is also true in the national system of education, where those from the separatist grammar schools, direct grant schools and big public schools, those who are regarded as the experts because they go to the best schools and teach in them, are unaware of the real education needs of most of the nation?

Mr. Roberts

That is totally irrelevant to my argument. I am talking seriously about the problems of comprehensive schools, not trying to make odd social or party political points.

Another thing that worries me about the system is that in order to create the machine, the headmaster has to take out of the classroom more and more of the teachers who are best qualified and most experienced to carry out the administrative jobs, merely to combat size.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has spotted one of the grave weaknesses in the organisation of comprehensive schools. This is not to say anything against the system but points out where comprehensive education in large schools has gone wrong. It is better that we should have and move towards smaller schools.

Many other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, so I shall be brief. I recognise, as we all do, the disadvantage of the small school; its sixth form cannot offer as many opportunities as the sixth form in the large school. But I do not think that the right way to arrange the size of the school is to say that the ideal size is that which will throw up the number of pupils who will make a viable sixth form. If that were done in the better residential parts of Cardiff, where the parents are most concerned, there would be a comparatively small school, and perhaps in the area where we want most personal attention there would be a vast school.

I think that we are on the right lines with smaller schools, but we need much greater co-operation at sixth form level between schools—not a sixth form college. In that way I am certain that comprehensive education, with the guidance of my right hon. Friend will make a great contribution to the country's education service.

8.3 p.m.

Dr. John Gilbert (Dudley)

I shall not detain the House for long as I wish to confine myself to a constituency matter with which the Secretary of State is well acquainted.

I do not propose to rehearse any of the arguments for or against Dudley's plan for secondary comprehensive reorganisation. They are all very familiar to the right hon. Lady and to the parents of Dudley, who are becoming heartily sick of the controversy over their children's future. I am asking tonight for a decision as soon as possible.

The Secretary of State has rejected certain parts of Dudley's plan. In her rejection she asked Dudley Council whether, in the light of her decision, it wished to start again from the beginning, considering the whole scheme again in the light of the changes she made, or whether it wanted to return to her to ask her to approve the remainder of the plan in the light of the changes she requires.

The amputation of significant parts of any local authority's scheme will create problems, and that has happened in Dudley. Clearly the relationship of the original scheme to the changes that the Secretary of State requires will cause the local authority to give urgent and penetrating scrutiny to the implications of her decision. That scrutiny has been given. The director of education of Dudley wrote to the Secretary of State on 12th January referring to the letter from the Department of 28th December, in which the authority was informed that the Secretary of State was unable to approve the proposals for five schools in the authority's plan to reorganise secondary education on comprehensive lines.

The director of education's letter continued: The plan envisaged 16 comprehensive schools to cover the age range 16–18 including sixth form provision in each. The Secretary of State's decision affects two of these schools only, the remaining 14 being situated in Coseley, Sedgley and Brierley Hill and in three areas of Dudley. That means the old county borough area of Dudley. The letter went on to say: The Education Committee has now had an opportunity of considering your letter in detail and has decided to urge he Secretary of State to approve the 14 remaining proposals. There then followed a list of the schools involved.

The letter continued: Each of these schools will have its own catchment area and therefore will not be affected by the decision … The committee is also satisfied that by 1978–79 it will be possible to establish sixth form work in comprehensive schools without any deterioration in standards or quality of work and that both facilities and staff will be available at the appropriate time. The committee also wishes me to point out that so far as the changes in local government in 1974 are concerned, Halesowen is already reorganised on a 13–18 basis of comprehensive schools, whereas no reorganisation has taken place in Stourbridge. If we have to wait until 1974 we are starting all over again with three entirely different types of secondary education. It means that the whole plan will be set back several more years. The education committee in Dudley, for quite understandable reasons, thinks that would be an entirely unsatisfactory state of affairs, and I endorse its arguments on that.

The Council is emphatic that it wishes the Secretary of State to consent to the rest of its proposals without delay. As a result of the Secretary of State's decision, the merits of which I will not argue tonight, the situation in Dudley grows more critical every day. The director of education was in touch with the Department recently by telephone and I understand that papers have reached the Secretary of State personally. We have no knowledge when a decision can be expected. I am told that serious consequences can follow very shortly as a result of the need to make arrangements for admission to secondary schools in September. The director of education's memorandum stating that says: A 12-plus examination must be held in part of the town area of Dudley. If the rest of the plan is not approved the 12-plus must be spread over the whole County Borough. Schools break up for Easter on Wednesday April 11 and return on May 1. During this current term, tests should have been completed and the papers marked so that orders of marks can be prepared. The Secretary of State will be aware of the problems involved but I wish to emphasise them.

The memorandum continues: The schools will be required to be informed by letter of the selection procedure. This would consist of two tests either a week or fortnight apart. Papers for the tests are available. One serious factor concerning the local authority, however, is that In the last two years, border line cases have been interviewed by panels, but this part of the procedure may have to be dispensed with in view of the need for notifying parents as soon as possible, and well before the end of the summer term. I hope that in the light of the letter sent to the Department and the extracts I have just read from a memorandum sent by the director of education to the chairman of the education committee, whom I consider to be one of Dudley's most loyal and public servants, the Secretary of State will accept at any rate the need for a decision as quickly as possible.

In my view the original plan of Dudley Council was probably better than what the Secretary of State is proposing. I do not think that the original plan was a doctrinaire one. I am confident that it would not have resulted in any bussing and that it would have resulted in a satisfactory social mix. A compromise was accepted. Secondary school would start a year later than the Labour group planned originally. But we accepted that.

Even if Dudley's current plan does not turn out to be the best one, it is not irrevocable. It is possible after a few years' experience for Dudley's proposals to be adjusted, to incorporate the idea of sixth form colleges which is the matter of controversy at the moment in the county borough. These proposals do not close the door and they are not irrevocable in that respect. With the passage of time we shall see who is right.

What we need now is a decision. We need it badly. There are worried parents all over the county borough who demand it. It is the duty of the Secretary of State to give it. I hope that we shall have it from her without delay.

8.11 p.m.

Mr. Ian Lloyd (Portsmouth, Langstone)

This education debate happens to be the first in which I have had the privilege to participate. I hope that that will not be interpreted as a sign that I am a late developer, even if I cannot press the analogy to the point that one hon. Member opposite described in giving us the experience of his constituent.

I begin by drawing the attention of the House to two conversations which I had the privilege of enjoying recently. The first was at the Parliamentary and Scientific Conference at Lausanne where I asked a Fellow of the Royal Society who must be nameless what he thought was probably the most significant factor deciding the relative scientific excellence and achievement of the West versus the Soviet Union. He said that without doubt by far the most important factor was the way in which we developed, aggregated and advanced our highest mathematical ability in the West. I asked how they did it in Russia. His reply was extremely interesting. He said that the Russians creamed the whole of Russian society and they picked out the boys and girls of the highest mathematical ability. They took them to three academies outside Moscow and gave them the very best mathematical education that the Soviet Union knew how to provide. He said that in his view that was probably one of the reasons why the Soviet Union was making conspicuous advances in areas where mathematics was the foundation of this type of success. I shall not forget that conversation.

The other conversation took place on the far side of the United States. One of the most barbaric habits in the United States is the working breakfast. However, sometimes when one is staying in an hotel in America one meets some very interesting people, and they do not skulk behind The Times but engage one in conversation. I was spoken to by a gentleman who asked me what I was doing there. I told him, and I reciprocated. He told me that he was attending the parent-teacher conference of his children's school. I asked what sort of conference it was. He replied that it was a conference held twice a year attended by a large number of parents and most teachers in the school to discuss the curriculum and how children were progressing. Apparently the conference took two full days and was held in the hotel.

Then we began talking about education. It was at the time that the comprehensive controversy was just beginning in this country. He said to me "It is extraordinary to us that here we are in the United States trying every conceivable way we know to achieve once again the excellent academic standards which you still seem to have in the United Kingdom and, to our astonishment, there you are in the United Kingdom apparently trying to turn the whole system upside down and do what we did 20 years ago when we had our vast education explosion in the United States and, in a sense, went comprehensive only to find that we suffered severe and serious educational problems."

Those are two comments on comprehensive education. However, I want to quote two more because it seems to me that they express the essential problem of the controversy between those who favour comprehensive education and those who feel that it is not the perfect solution to our problems. It was first expressed in the Conant Report which President Conant of Harvard produced on "General Education in a Free Society". He said: The purpose of vocational education is, by recognising the influence of circumstances to mitigate it, not to eliminate it. There must be a place for both special and general education for those subjects which divide man from man according to their particular functions and for those which unite man and man in their common humanity and citizenship. This has always seemed to me to express the essential fundamental problem of education, that we are on the horns of a dilemma which, until we have reached the millennium with unlimited resources, we shall never eliminate. He concluded: General and special education must not be placed in competition with each other. As I see the problems that we are considering, this is what seems to be happening. We are creating situations in which general and special forms of education are placed in competition with each other.

I shall now be intensely parochial and refer entirely to the local context in which I am considering this problem at the moment. In Havant and Waterloo within my constituency, there is a depressing situation. We have six county secondary moderns, two mixed grammar and two partly selective mixed schools. In addition, I might say, not because they are within the boundaries of my constituency but because many parents send their children to them, we have two other schools, Horndean and Churchers College, Petersfield. Many of my constituents send their children to Peters-field from as far away as Hayling Island because there they receive the quality of education that they require.

I intend to talk about only three of those schools because they are important and because they illustrate the central core of the debate. Havant grammar school, founded at the beginning of the decade, has 920 pupils and 58 staff. Purbrook grammar school, a much older school founded just before the First World War, has 934 pupils and 54 staff. The third is a very interesting school, Wakeford comprehensive school, which was in the process of establishing its sixth form. The staff had been recruited and the facilities had largely been obtained. All that has not happened is that it has not started sixth form teaching yet.

Until recently the main scheme for reorganisation involved a reconstruction on an 11-to-18 basis. Wakeford was to become an 11-to-18 comprehensive with a substantial and significant sixth form element. The other schools were to be reorganised on an 1l-to-18 comprehensive basis when the facilities and resources became available for them. For a variety of reasons this was considered not to be possible, essentially on the ground of lack of resources. As a result, a completely new scheme was developed with a different basis altogether.

What was to happen was that Havant grammar school and Purbrook grammar school, two of the most distinguished schools in the Portsmouth area, were virtually to disappear. Havant was to become a sixth form college drawing from all over the area and Purbrook was to lose its sixth form and become an 11-to-16 comprehensive. None of the original six county secondary moderns was to develop into 11-to-18 schools. They were to remain as 11-to-16s feeding these two schools. In addition, a college of further education was to be established in Havant to assist the process.

What will happen if this scheme is enforced? As far as Purbrook grammar school is concerned, the pupils in the first to fourth forms already there and having accepted to enter the sixth form will not be able to do so. Many of the staff will leave. They have indicated quite clearly that they dislike the prospect which now faces them and, as it has been put to me—not by the headmaster of the Purbrook grammar school but by another distinguished educationist in the area—"Purbrook grammar school will disintegrate". That was the phrase that was used.

In the case of Wakeford comprehensive, here again the sixth form preparations and all the expenditure on them will be entirely wasted. Many of the staff already recruited on the basis that they would be in an 11-to-18 comprehensive, ending with sixth form instruction, will be disaffected and inclined to leave. Parents who sent their children to the school on the basis of an 11-to-18 prospect are very disenchanted and feel let down. It is interesting that Wakeford school serves mainly Leigh Park, which is a very difficult and problematical area in my constituency and is known to be one in which there is a considerable amount of emotional, social and educational deprivation for the children concerned. Many children from this area will not make the change to a sixth form college and, as it has been put to me, will be totally lost to the educational process.

As far as Havant grammar school is concerned, the school tradition will be severely curtailed and, as we all know, the sixth form college is a very different animal.

What has happened concerning the parents? We have heard a good deal in the House this evening about processes of consultation. Apparently in this area the processes of consultation have been intensive. There have been meetings for the head teachers, meetings for all teachers, meetings for governors and, finally, very well-attended meetings for the parents—by which I mean drawing up to and over 1,000 people. The outcome of this is perfectly clear and, as far as I can judge it, decisive. At the Purbrook grammar school, where 700 parents attended, there was overwhelming disagreement with the proposed scheme. The petition which is to be presented to this House will have over 1,000 signatures. At Wakeford, which is a comprehensive, 72 out of the staff of 76 disagreed with the proposed reorganisation. According to the response to the questionnaire sent to 1,000 parents, 90 per cent. are opposed to the scheme, and 100 per cent. of the fifth form parents are opposed to the scheme. These are not—and this is important—what, to use an unpleasant designation, might be described as middle-class parents fighting for their own special interests, but I think they know where the interests of their children lie.

It seems to me that the philosophy which has been applied in suggesting and bringing forward this system is the philosophy not of the Green Paper but of the White Paper. The scheme is put forward as a complete, final, organised scheme. The processes of consultation are gone through, and then very little indeed is done about the results of that consultation. I do not regard this as a significant, successful or indeed honest way of consulting public opinion. So if one asks the question of parents and teachers whether they think that proper weight has been given to their views, one gets an almost unanimous "No".

I would be the first to argue that those who have put forward these schemes have done so with great sincerity and conviction. They have been operating under severe constraints, probably the most important being that of lack of resources. The second most important constraint is probably the pressure, which has been described on both sides of the House this evening, for the abolition of the 11-plus evamination. This has been recognised by those in the education committee and in the authorities—the Hampshire authority, the Havant and Waterloo authority—whose responsibility it is to attempt to meet the demands for an improved educational system. But what I think they have perhaps neglected or paid insufficient attention to is the sheer weight of the upper and nether millstones which are operating in this educational sphere. They are both exceptionally heavy, but the corn being ground is the seed corn of the future. That is why there are such very strong, passionate and convinced reactions from the parents involved.

It seems to me that what we must do here is quite clear. We must consider how this can be re-done. We must ask those concerned to look at it again. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will look at this again. She has told us that her discretion under Section 13 has been exercised with the greatest care. I would submit that this is an occasion on which that discretion must be exercised. I hope that those who are very much concerned by the scheme which has been put forward, which has caused the greatest concern throughout the district, will realise that everything my right hon. Friend said earlier about the Government wishing to achieve the best possible outcome in all circumstances is absolutely true.

8.27 p.m.

Mr. Harry Lamborn (Southwark)

As a member of the Inner London Education Authority for the past 15 years I intend to direct my remarks to the special problems arising for secondary education in the Inner London area. The advance to comprehensive education in London was started in the early years after the war by the former London County Council and considerable progress has been made, but I think we have reached the position in London now where the whole situation is frustrated by the fact that so many of the buildings used by secondary schools in the Inner London area are very aged, many of them having been built by the old School Board for London. We have the position that finance is not available for new buildings and proposals submitted to the Secretary of State are rejected because it is not considered desirable to approve certain comprehensive proposals involving separate buildings. So we go round in a vicious circle.

One thing which arises from this is that I can think of four or five grammar schools which were part of comprehensive proposals—grammar schools with good traditions to provide the basis for very good comprehensive schools within the Inner London area—but because of the failure to get finance for building in the Inner London area they have transferred outside that area and have become comprehensive schools in the area of other education authorities.

This has been a loss to London because these grammar schools within a comprehensive system had a contribution to make. As the chairman of a large comprehensive school as well as the governor of a grammar school I believe that a combination of the two is useful. These grammar schools, with their traditions, can play an important part in forming the new comprehensive schools. Because of the failure to provide finance we in London are in difficulties in advancing a fully comprehensive system.

It may be asked why, having proceeded so far in London, is there a hurry to move towards the comprehensive system? I would like to deal with some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Brierley Hill, (Mr. Montgomery) who referred to what he called "sink" schools, a disgraceful reference for which the Press has to be thanked. It is a disservice to education to use this description. The hon. Member referred to the "sink" schools and the criteria which the Inner London Education Authority laid down as guidance to headmasters involved in forming a comprehensive school side by side with an existing grammar school, with the "upper crust" being creamed off.

It is unfortunately true that, unless we make special efforts we shall have creamed grammar schools at one end of the scale and creamed secondary schools at the other. Then under a system of parents' choice some poor little chap will be hawked around to four or five different schools and will end up in a school which is a creamed secondary modern. To obtain a balance the Inner London Education Authority last year issued criteria for dealing with intakes. The first criterion was that an endeavour should be made to provide a balanced intake so that we did not perpetuate a system which has the creamed secondary modern at one end and the creamed grammar school at the other. The second criterion was the location of the school in relation to the home and the third was whether the would-be pupil had a brother or sister at the school.

The hon. Member for Brierley Hill took exception to these criteria. I would have thought that any educationist would be anxious to prevent a grouping which leads to 90 per cent. of the children in a class being of less than average ability. Proximity to the school is obviously an important factor which a headmaster should consider. The same applies to the point about a brother or sister being at the school.

There is a crying need in London, and many other older urban areas too, where schools are frequently 100 or more years old, for new school buildings. We cannot continue to say that there will be no money for new schools. We cannot refuse to approve comprehensive proposals on this score. I am not prepared to advocate schools as large as those we had in the early days of moving towards comprehensive education in London. The school of which I am chairman is a coeducational school with 1,700 pupils. I am inclined to think that is too large. Some of the old school buildings are quite unsuitable for any kind of modern education. There is a great need in the older urban areas for new school buildings. If we could get these then we in London could get ahead with the job of making the system fully comprehensive.

8.34 p.m.

Mr. Robert Redmond (Bolton, West)

I hope that the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Lamborn) will forgive me if I do not follow him in what he said. My knowledge of London is limited and mine is really the voice of Lancashire. This debate is most timely because of the developments in Bolton yesterday. It is unfortunate that in tabling this motion the Opposition should have stretched our credulity beyond measure by using the words "arbitrary" and "capricious". After all, the policy of the Labour Government was to say to the local education authority, "You have to go comprehensive or you cannot have a new school"—and nowhere is the result of that policy more evident than in Bolton, where a blunt refusal was given to the building of a new secondary school, and we are suffering from that in a shortage of school places today. Who was arbitrary? The Government amendment put things in proper perspective because it confirms the need to decide individual proposals with regard to the wishes of parents and local needs. I rather wish that the amendment had also added "and the views of teachers".

I am no great education expert, unlike some of those who have spoken, but I know how parents feel because I am a parent, and I know that all parents worth their salt have a burning desire for the best they can get for their children. Therefore, on that basis, if one were to start from scratch with what industrialists, particularly the British Steel Corporation, like to call a "green field site", it is obvious sense that one would build a comprehensive school. But seldom are we starting from scratch. And because we have some other system than the comprehensive—and there is no need to start worrying about the 11-plus, which can be got rid of anyway—the situation of not starting with a "green field site" is exactly the position we are facing today. In the county borough of Bolton, whose Labour education authority set up a working party about seven months ago, that working party has produced a document for comprehensive education. I do not call it a proposal, for it is a document. It was produced only yesterday. I got it by post this morning.

I want to be fair. I have not read it as thoroughly as I might because I have been attending and listening to this debate. The document asks parents to comment, but as far as I can see from a first quick reading it does not give much on which to comment after seven months' work. But not being a dogmatic educationist, Socialist or anything else, I for one want to know what parents and teachers want, because I believe they are going to ask some pertinent questions—questions which all parents, all teachers and all ratepayers should be asking when they see a document like this. They will ask, how are children to be chosen for comprehensive schools or any new type schools? Are they to be drawn out of a hat, or are we to have neighbourhood schools?

What is to happen to the five direct-grant schools we have in the borough—certainly an almost peculiar situation? What about the church schools, Catholic and Church of England, that we have? The mixture of schools, five direct-grant schools and a large number of church schools, in a town the size of Bolton emphasises the importance of what I am saying and produces an almost unique situation, and it underlines what I have said, that we are never starting from scratch. Whatever we are doing in education we have to build on the foundations that exist. In that sense it is important that Bolton people should realise that we now have a Secretary of State who, in the terms of the amendment, is to have regard to the wishes of parents … I suggest—and I hope my right hon. Friend will agree—that now is the time for parents to start making their views known loud and clear. I am speaking also for my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Reed) when I say that if people in our respective constituencies will start writing letters saying what they think for or against the proposals, either way, we are a channel of communication that is open if they want to use it.

I want to be fair. At first sight it seemed that the Bolton working party had gone a bit easy on dogma. I was glad to see this, but then I got a copy of last night's' Bolton Evening News and found that the working party had originally put in an opening paragraph to the document which is not there any more. But the paragraph was published in the Bolton Evening News. It said: Bolton has achieved excellent standards in secondary education as witnessed by the high proportion of pupils staying at school beyond the compulsory leaving age and by very good results in external examinations at 16 and 18. It is worth pointing out that Bolton had the original concept of comprehensive schools on what were called "bases"—three schools on a base. It was developed over the last 25 years. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) may laugh but the proposal for these base schools said that we would be producing a system of comprehensive education. It was only when "comprehensive" became a party political word that Bolton ceased to have a "comprehensive" education.

Alderman Mrs. Ryley, who was Chairman of Bolton Education Authority for so long and knows a great deal about education, has commented about the missing paragraph: We must not say how good things are at the moment We must bring in what Transport House says is Labour Party policy. I think it was very mean to take out that paragraph. I think she was right. That paragraph praising the quality of Bolton education was taken out because the Labour group simply would not—I will not say "could not"—see that there was quality in the existing system of Bolton education. A party that is so blinded by dogma as to do a thing like that has no right to put down a motion such as the one we are debating.

Having got across the message that my hon. Friend and I want to hear from the parents, I can say that this is not a matter of party dogma. It is vital that there be no sacrifice of the future of our children on the altar of political dogma, whether it be from the Left or from the Right.

Mr. Spearing

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned that he would have a comprehensive school on a green field site. Has it occurred to him that it might be useful if some of the direct-grant schools were to go comprehensive?

Mr. Redmond

One of the direct-grant schools in Bolton, the Canon Slade Church of England School, has already put out proposals for a comprehensive wing. This shows that there is nothing dogmatic about the system of education in Bolton which was originally called "comprehensive". I am trying not to be dogmatic but what we have to do is to try to devise the correct and best system to suit a particular area. Given a green field site I would build comprehensives, but given five schools doing a good job, and five bases also doing a good job, and the church schools in the area, I believe that we must build on that system.

I have not said that the system is perfect. I think that it is very good. Nothing is ever perfect. But we should try to build on what is good in order to make it even better. The Labour-controlled education authority has produced this scheme for the County Borough of Bolton which is to disappear. It would be better to say here and now that the scheme which should be put to my right hon. Friend should come from the new metropolitan district council which will cover a larger area, have more schools and will perhaps produce a different set of foundations on which we should be building.

8.44 p.m.

Mr. Neville Sandelson (Hayes and Harlington)

My sole reason for intervening arises out of the speech of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby). I tried to find him and to warn him that I should be making a brief reference to what he said. Whatever regrets I have about the outcome of his by-election, I have no reservations about joining in the welcome which the House has given to him today and in the congratulations on his maiden speech.

The hon. Gentleman and I are colleagues in so far as we represent the same London borough, and while it would have been churlish for me to interrupt him today in the course of his speech, I cannot allow his assertions to pass quite unchallenged in regard to the local education position. I must utterly repudiate his suggestion that the Secretary of State's refusal to give Section 13 consents to the applications made by the local education authority in regard to Bishopshalt and Vyners grammar schools has been welcomed by the people of the borough of Hillingdon. In fact I believe the complete opposite to be true.

The borough council has established and is now extending an excellent comprehensive school structure. The vast majority of parents and teachers in the area have been clamant in their demands for comprehensive schools. In my experience there is great disappointment among most of these parents when their children are not found places in these comprehensive schools. At the beginning of each school year I receive shoals of irate letters from these parents.

I recognise that the Minister has given some consents to provide for reorganisation along comprehensive lines in the borough but her refusal in regard to these two schools is disruptive and deliberately undermines the successful operation of comprehensive schools in the same locality. For reasons of time I cannot now develop this theme, but I deplore the doctrinaire attitudes of the right hon. Lady and the Tory Party. The right hon. Lady is pandering to a small number of politically motivated people and by her actions she is threatening the full educational validity and effectiveness of the choice made by the vast majority of parents and teachers in the area. Her action flies in the face of the proposals carefully thought out by the authority and she should be in no doubt of the resentment her decision has caused.

8.46 p.m.

Mr. Robert Hicks (Bodmin)

I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate at this particular time. As a person who was employed in the educational service before becoming a Member of this House, I have been somewhat reluctant to take part in a full educational debate for the reason that I formed the impression, rightly or wrongly, that debates of this kind are too often dominated by the professionals and thus objective thoughts tend to take second place to subjective comments. There is, of course, a real need for contributions in depth which professionals can offer, but I feel that in education at present the greatest single requirement is for more objectivity and, if I may say so, less theory and more common sense.

I shall deal briefly with three specific aspects, but I preface my remarks by saying that I believe the nation is tired of the arguments regarding the battle whether the private sector should be encouraged or abolished just as more and more people are beginning to realise that the debate whether selection should continue in the context of the public sector is becoming equally sterile in the public mind.

I maintain that politicians are doing a positive disservice to education at present when they deliberately and continually provoke feelings throughout the country whether the comprehensive system should become universal. The Labour Party, I regret, must take a major share of the blame here, but it would be equally wrong for the Conservative Party to allow itself to be pushed into the position of the party that automatically supports the status quo. That in my judgment would be as doctrinaire as the attitude adopted by our political opponents.

I think we must all recognise that education is essentially an evolutionary process and that if we as a nation are to derive maximum benefit from the resources spent on education, both in the State and in the private sectors, we must have a minimum of dogma and allow common sense and sound judgment to prevail.

I have stated that in my opinion the public are getting tired of the debate on the type of secondary school organisation which is most desirable. I think that most people have come to the conclusion that variety and flexibility should characterise our schooling system.

What is more important still—and judging by some of the comments in the debate today the House does not seem to have grasped the fact—is that more and more people are becoming far more concerned about and interested in what goes on within our schools than with how our schools are organised. I fully appreciate the sensitivity surrounding this aspect. Nothing would be worse than continual external interference, but I seriously question whether our existing techniques and attitudes in our secondary schools, especially with respect to the kind of curriculum that is followed, prepare our pupils for the kind of world in which they will live and assist them in making their own contribution in later years to improving the standard and quality of community life as a whole. Linked to that facet is the question of career guidance within our secondary schools. I know that this is a difficult area. Changes have been and are being introduced which I trust, will help our secondary school pupils.

There is, however, just one specific observation that I wish to make in this context this evening. Whatever the scale and the quality of expertise evolved from outside sources—be it through the good offices of the Department of Employment, the local authority career advisory services, private industry and commerce, or whatever it is—the choice of a career by any pupil will in part reflect the general school environmental influences at work in that educational establishment, and in this context this implies the attitude and outlook of the teaching staff with whom the pupils spend five, six or seven years of their secondary school life.

My own personal experiences lead me to form the opinion that it would be a mistake if we were to ignore this intangible aspect of the influence and informal guidance of our teachers, and my one major regret is that in all too many of our secondary schools these environmental influences are too restrictive and traditional.

That leads me to my third and final point. I believe that we have to introduce a more outward-looking dimension into our secondary school system. Far too often schools are not only too insular in their relations with the local community but, unfortunately, they present themselves as separate entities into which the visitor steps almost with fear and trepidation. It is all too often almost as if the teachers are afraid of outside pressures because of some misguided concept of the loss of stature or fear of criticism which parents and other interested outside persons are likely to make. I believe that it is in the interests not only of the education of our children but of society as a whole that there should be a positive movement to break into this restrictive cycle and tear down these barriers, and the new system of teacher training, which will be much more broadly based, may help.

The secondary school could and should become one of the principal foci of local community life, both in respect of involving parents in the more formal education of their children and in the use of physical facilities which most modern secondary schools have to offer.

In conclusion, I ask the House, and in particular my right hon. Friend to put to one side as much as she possibly can the organisational aspects and thus the political considerations of secondary education and concentrate her attention on the kind of activity that goes on within the school. After all, the primary purpose of our educational system is surely the training and preparation of our young persons for later life. I believe that if my right hon. Friend adopts that course the great majority of the parents of this country will support her efforts.

8.55 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)

The criticisms made by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) of some schools of being isolated from the neighbourhoods of their pupils apply far more to the grammar schools than to the comprehensive schools. I was interested to hear the comment by the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Redmond) who said that if a fresh start were to be made from green fields obviously all schools would be made comprehensive. I do not know to what extent his hon. Friends or the Secretary of State would agree with that. I believe that British education went the wrong way when the tripartite system was introduced and it is now something of a struggle to get out of it.

A few weeks ago I asked the Secretary of State for her views about 11-plus selection examinations and she said that she had no views. In fairness to her I must say that I believe that she was thinking during that Question Time of her legal position in relation to Birmingham, about which the questions were being asked. I believe, however, that she should have views and she should let the country know what they are. I had hoped that today she would have taken the opportunity in the debate to outline those views. Does she believe in the continuation of the tripartite system or would she go for comprehensive schools now? I have been trying to discover what vintage of Conservative she is and I looked up the 1952 Conservative Party Conference resolution. It says: That this Conference believes in the educational value of separate Grammar, Technical and Modern Secondary Schools and deplores any attempts to replace this tripartite system by Comprehensive Schools. Perhaps that is her vintage. If not, what about this one from 1953: That this Conference welcomes the progress made by the Minister of Education"— a Conservative one— in carrying out the reforms of the Butler Act and expresses its conviction that Socialist proposals for destroying the Grammar Schools and undermining the position of the Independent Schools would result in a reduction of educational opportunities for all children. Or is she the 1967 vintage: That this Conference condemns the hasty and ill-considered imposition of a compehensive system of education, against the wishes of parents and local authorities, when finance is required urgently for the expansion of teacher supply, the improvement of primary education and the growth of higher education. Again, in fairness to the Secretary of State, perhaps the last is nearer to her view than the 1952 resolution. The significant fact is that while the 1952 and 1953 resolutions were carried unanimously—there was one dissentient to the 1952 resolution—it was necessary to have a ballot on the 1967 resolution and it was carried by only a narrow majority. I wonder what side the right hon. Lady was on in 1967 and whether that resolution had anything to do with the replacement of Lord Boyle as chief Conservative spokesman on education.

The Conservative Party has fought a bitter rearguard action against the introduction of comprehensive education throughout the country. In my city there was bitter opposition to even one comprehensive school even though having one school in a city could not be described as going comprehensive. When the suggestion was made from the Labour side that an area of the city should be used for a pilot scheme the Conservatives refused and suggested instead that one school should be used as an experiment. When the Labour Party suggested the introduction of a full system of comprehensive education the Tories made counter-proposals suggesting pilot schemes. The argument now is about the denominational schools going comprehensive in the city and I suppose that the Conservatives will fight that too.

One reason for the motion is a suspicion—not confined to the Opposition—of the right hon. Lady's views about education. The White Paper has added to that suspicion. How does the right hon. Lady see secondary education in 1981? There is no word about it in the White Paper. Does she see a gradual elimination of the grammar schools, as the Prime Minister saw before 1970 and as her predecessor saw long before that? We need more information about her views and the Conservative Party's views on the future of secondary education in the next 10 years.

There is no longer an educational argument about comprehensive schools. That argument is hardly debated now in educational circles. It is accepted that the comprehensive system is the best one. The argument now is whether comprehensive schools are truly comprehensive or whether some have the tripartite system built into them. People who believe in the tripartite system do so only so long as their own children pass the examination to go to a grammar school. In my experience a great many people who believed in the tripartite system contracted out when their children failed to get to a grammar school.

The hon. Member for Bodmin talked about politics and education, and that is perhaps a topical subject. Politicians have done a great deal for education, and the fact that education is discussed as a political argument is of importance. The great events of education have been the Education Acts from 1870 onwards. They have had a tremendous influence, often for great good, on the education of our children and on further education. As politicians, hon. Members on both sides of the House can be proud that we have provided a great deal of initiative, which has not come from educational circles, in making progress in education. Where does the Conservative Party stand now on comprehensive schools?

9.2 p.m.

Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) for allowing me sufficient time to make a brief contribution to the debate. I shall not follow his argument, except to say that I am surprised that any hon. Gentleman on the Opposition benches should talk about party conference decisions. In view of recent history, hon. Gentlemen opposite should be silent about them.

The hon. Member for Manchester Gorton asked what kind of education system we saw for 1981. What I do not want is a slavish system of comprehensive schools. I hope that we shall have plenty of good comprehensive schools and that we shall still have an independent sector, and that the direct grant schools and some excellent grammar schools will survive. It would be disastrous if educational theory, as it has in previous years, favours a single system which may be very expensive and out of which it is difficult to contract. The Opposition motion perpetuates the myth that there is only one system of education worth considering—the comprehensive system. This confidence trick that has been perpetrated on the British public will, before long, be pierced.

In my constituency there is a debate about the future of the secondary schools. Recently, the county council wisely decided to wait until the new authority was elected before making any reforms. The usual campaign has developed on the grounds that the development of the children will be retarded, the parents are up in arms and the teachers' organisations are disgusted that there is to be no change. They are the usual arguments put forward by the Labour Party and those who support it.

Let us examine what it would mean to the parents in my constituency if the secondary school, which has hardly any O-level courses, were turned into a comprehensive school. What kind of fairness of opportunity is that? A schoolmaster in my home town brought his daughter to me saying, "Can you possibly get my child into another school in the area, because I do not like the standard of the secondary modern school to which she is zoned?" Obviously, I shall not name it. Yet the present system better serves the more able children in that community than the scheme before them. Would hon. Members opposite like their children to go to a school where there are not proper O level courses, let alone A level courses?

Another school in my constituency, which has recently turned comprehensive, is supposed to offer ideal opportunities. The headmaster admits to me that he cannot provide A-level courses. The children will have to go elsewhere because he has not the staff or the facilities. That is the danger of too rapid a change to a comprehensive system.

There has already been an interesting move towards more and more young students leaving school at 16 and going into colleges of further education to take A-level courses. That is a trend which will continue, but it raises a further problem. What about the people who will teach in the comprehensive schools? Shall we get the top quality teachers to go to what will be an 11-to-16 school? Will they not want to go to schools where their abilities are stretched by the brighter pupils? Will these teachers opt out of the school system and teach in further education colleges?

One question has not been answered by the Opposition. If we adopt a comprehensive system too rapidly, is there not a danger that those who can afford it will go and live within the catchment area of the neighbouring school? Is there not the danger that that school, which has been previously a selective school, will retain its existing staff and will therefore be considered the best school in the area? There is the further danger that the staff will be dissipated and spread thinly throughout the area.

I also believe that the argument is tending to be sterile and that the motion perpetuates sterile argument. It seems that the Labour Party will continue arguing until it has its own way. That diverts attention from the real needs of education. What we want is a system that will attract and obtain first-rate teachers so that they can teach in decent classrooms with classes of a reasonable size. That situation should exist throughout the country so that we can extend schooling for all our children.

My right hon. Friend has done more since June 1970 than many Secretaries of State for Education and Science, who could create nothing more than confusion in the years between 1964 and 1970. I shall have the greatest pleasure in supporting the Government Amendment.

9.8 p.m.

Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)

Section 68 has been criticised by hon. Members on the Opposition side and I should like to explain briefly the situation which arose in my constituency when my right hon. Friend made use of the section. I refer to Rydens school, which was a bilateral school and was to become comprehensive.

There was no question of stopping the school becoming a comprehensive school. The only thing that was stopped and the only thing that was the subject of disagreement under Section 68 was the fact that a ring fence catchment area with clear demarcation lines was put round the school in an otherwise completely open area where free choice had existed. The school was established in this catchment before the rest of the area became comprehensive. That was the plan of the Surrey County Council. Parents were put in an invidious position. Those who were one side of the boundary had to go to Rydens comprehensive school—they were prevented from having the right of free choice whereas those who were on the other side of the boundary—that could be the other side of the road—had that choice. Many parents objected to this arrangement. I received letters from parents who were most upset about the position in which they had been placed.

May I give two examples of what happened. One example involved a Roman Catholic who had two children. The brightest of them was not able to seek a place outside the catchment area on the ground of ability, whereas the less able child was able to do so on the ground of attendance at a religious school of denominational choice. The second example involved a family with two girls The abler was not able to seek a place outside the catchment area, but the less able child was able to go to a single sex school outside. Having made these few brief points, I wish to conclude.

9.10 p.m.

Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)

The Secretary of State quoted a speech made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition a few days ago, a speech with which I entirely agree. Therefore, I feel it only right to quote a speech made by the Prime Minister in June 1967 when addressing the Conservative National Advisory Committee on Education. He said: I want to make it clear that we accept the trend of educational opinion against selection at 11-plus. By 'selection', I mean, the process of classifying children according to their IQ and separating them into different types of schools at too early an age. The right hon. Gentleman went on: There has to be selection by grouping or ability at some stage if we are to do justice to children's differing needs and abilities. It has never been a Conservative principle in order to achieve this that children have to be segregated into different institutions. The Prime Minister in that speech did not go far enough for me, but I am sure that he went a little too far for the right hon. Lady. I hope that in his reply the Under-Secretary of State will tell the House how he reconciles those words with the policies carried out by the Government on secondary education.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) on his maiden speech. Any hon. Member who joins the educational lobby is indeed welcome in this House, and the hon. Gentleman's speech was moderate, clear and brief. I look forward to hearing him again in education debates.

The right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Education and Science got a little angry about some of the accusations made by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). I think that she misunderstood some of his comments. Our charge against her is not that she has refused to approve some schemes for schools to go comprehensive, but that her lack of any cohesive policy has frustrated and inhibited a full system of comprehensive education. She appears to have no rules or criteria by which to judge the schemes and no view on 11-plus examinations. At no time in her speech did she defend comprehensive education. I know that she is in favour of some comprehensive schools, but there is a difference between somebody being in favour of certain comprehensive schools and somebody who is dedicated to a system of comprehensive education. One is not the same as the other. I should be very interested to know whether the Under-Secretary will make it perfectly clear whether his party intends to go ahead with the development of comprehensive education in this country, or whether it intends to go ahead with approving some comprehensive schools but not approving some other types of comprehensive education. That is the kernel of the matter.

As I understand it, at present about 32 per cent. of all maintained secondary schools in this country are designated as comprehensive. Some of these will be comprehensive schools and some will be included in comprehensive systems of education. Those of us who believe in a complete comprehensive system feel that we have a very long way to go before we get there. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) said, the crux of the matter is whether the Government intend to go ahead with the development of a comprehensive system of education.

This debate, which has been very interesting, is not an esoteric debate about which scheme in comprehensive education is best. To suppose that it is is to miss the main point of the motion. That is why I was sorry that the hon. Member for Merton and Morden (Miss Fookes), with whom I have often agreed on certain aspects of education, did not, in fact, defend the comprehensive principle. She says—and I believe her—that she supports it. Had she done so, she might have educated some of her hon. Friends to a general belief in a comprehensive system.

The issue has been admirably demonstrated by my hon. Friends when they have given examples of the frustration of the various schemes put up by certain local education authorities. This is quite right. This is a suspicion on the Opposition side of the House. It is more than a suspicion, perhaps.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Opposition are a suspicious lot.

Miss Lestor

Of course we are a suspicious lot. We have sat here for two and a half years. I am a much more suspicious Member of Parliament than I was before the Conservative Party came to power. Let us have nothing more of that from the Government side of the House.

The suspicion is that the right hon. Lady and her supporters are not in favour of adequate secondary education for all children in that they want to retain certain of the grammar schools and certain of the direct-grant schools. Once they are retained—I see that hon. Members are nodding—one is not in favour of a fully comprehensive system of education.

I find it hard to believe that the right hon. Lady does not have strong views on the 11-plus examination. I find it hard to believe, too, some of the things she has said to various audiencies up and down the country.

The Government cannot have it all ways. On the one hand, they cannot, through the right hon. Lady and others at party political gatherings, take credit for the preservation of grammar schools and then, when confronted with critical and progressive audiences, switch the emphasis of the argument to show how many comprehensive schools and comprehensive schemes have been approved. The two do not go together. Moreover, the Government cannot exalt local authority autonomy when it happens to coincide with their own views and abandon it for the view that the Minister and others know best when they find that their views—and particularly the views of the right hon. Lady—are not acceptable to people at large.

Mr. Redmond

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Miss Lestor

The Under-Secretary and I have already knocked off about six minutes of our time in order to allow other hon. Members to speak here. However, I will give way.

Mr. Redmond

If the hon. Lady says that the present Secretary of State has given no local authority autonomy, how does she explain the fact that Bolton education authority was not allowed even to start a school under the previous Government because it was not comprehensive?

Miss Lestor

I shall deal with that point. But what I am saying is that the present Government, when it suits them, have argued for local authority autonomy and have exalted that, saying that it is a great thing; but that is until it happens to conflict with a particular view they hold about a particular scheme at a certain time, whether that happens to be the Housing Finance Act or something else. It depends on the issue. That is what I am saying about local authority autonomy. It is the Government who defend it and say that they are in favour of it and use it if and when it happens to support their views.

I believe that the right hon. Lady and the Government in general recognise that the argument against comprehensive education has been lost. I sometimes wish that in these debates we could stop arguing about comprehensive education as such and the reasons for it and discuss more the content of education and what we want in an education system. However, we are constantly driven back to discussing the principle of comprehensive education, as many hon. Members have done this evening, because they are aware that although the argument may have been lost, there is still a long way to go before the whole principle of comprehensive education reaches fruition and that much can be frustrated on the way.

I believe that the country and, oddly enough, the Government recognise that the argument about the preservation of privilege and elitism in education has also been lost. [Interruption.] I believe that that argument has been lost. I hope that the noises I hear from the Government benches mean that hon. Members opposite are agreeing with me. Let us hope that the argument about elitism in education has been lost. If hon. Gentlemen agree with that statement, let us examine what they have said and ensure that nothing in our education system enhances elitism in education.

Unlike the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer), who talked about nineteenth century education, I believe that the preservation and the upholding of elitism in education is typical of nineteenth century education. It is part and parcel of it. We must look into this very carefully indeed.

We on the Opposition side of the House suspect that certain schemes are not approved because they are not good schemes. That is all right. However, we believe that certain schemes are not allowed and that money is withheld for the development of secondary reorganisation and secondary school building to preserve privilege and to frustrate the development of a comprehensive system of education. The right hon. Lady and her supporters know very well that if they gave money for secondary reorganisation or for secondary school building, many staunch supporters of the Conservative Party would want to use that money for the enhancement of comprehensive education.

The right hon. Lady and many of her hon. Friends, when speaking to critical educationist audiences, boast about the number of comprehensive schools approved and say that only 90 or so grammar schools have been retained.

Mrs. Thatcher

Less than 90.

Miss Lestor

I do not mind. Less than 90. This is not comparing like with like. The retention of the grammar school has meant the retention of selection in the areas concerned and the total disruption of local education authority plans for the development of non-selection secondary education. The Government cannot say "We have approved so many hundreds or thousands of comprehensive schools and retained only a certain number of grammar schools", because the retention of the grammar school and the direct grant school is a contradiction of the whole comprehensive principle. It means retaining selection because there may be a grammar school in the area.

Mr. Laurance Reed (Bolton, East) Rose——

Miss Lestor

I will not give way. I have already been over-generous in allowing hon. Members opposite to have 5¾ minutes of my time. I do not intend to give them any more.

I believe that this whole process of retaining grammar and direct grant schools is part of the exercise to frustrate the full development of comprehensive education. Several hon. Members on the Government side who have spoken this evening have not denied that. If they want comprehensive schools and grammar schools and direct grant schools as well, they do not want the fully comprehensive system of education which my hon. Friends and I want.

I come to what was said by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West. I have a great affection for West Lewisham, as I once failed only narrowly to win it from someone who was a Conservative Member for a little while. The hon. Gentleman said that there had been a lack of consultation in Lewisham over the schemes. The Labour Party in Lewisham has always fought its elections on the basis of comprehensive education. Three out of four of the MPs for the area are Labour and support comprehensive education. Even the Conservative Member for the area, the hon. Gentleman, supports comprehensive education. He has said so. All the GLC councillors for Lewisham are Labour, and 56 of the 60 local councillors are Labour. Therefore, the issue on comprehensive education is not whether the area should go comprehensive but what scheme is best. That is exactly what the consultation has been about.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the early years of a child's life have a great influence on what happens to it later in the education system. That is why I have always been such a strong advocate of nursery education, and I am delighted that we are to have a little more of it.

I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is very important that we should try to iron out inequalities as early as possible. But that does not mean that we enhance a secondary system of education that perpetuates inequalities. The hon. Gentleman's very language frightens me to death. He talks about grammar school types, certain levels of creaming off, intelligence, and not being able to get a certain type of intake into comprehensive schools because a number of children with high IQs have moved out of the area—[Interruption.]—If I have misrepresented the hon. Gentleman, I am happy to give way, but I took down what he said.

Mr. Selwyn Gummer

I was quoting words used by officers of the Inner London Education Authority, who used the expression, "Those who have been called in the past the grammar school intake." I used the phrase in order not to make any of the mistakes of which the hon. Lady has accused me. I said that the parents of children at the schools concerned are not in favour of the policies of the ILEA, nor are the teachers in most of the schools concerned. In those circumstances, consultation which does not take into account their views is not consultation.

Miss Lestor

We shall see. I return to what the hon. Gentleman said about a grammar school intake. He has now said that he was quoting the words of an officer, but he was not quoting them with disapproval. We were all under the impression that he agreed with them. Did not he agree? Did not he say that there were not enough to go round?

The essence of the argument against selection at 11 is that it is not possible to talk about grammar school and secondary modern types, to have a system of measuring intelligence at 11, because the results will not be accurate. That is why we are opposed to measuring IQs and deciding which children are grammar school types and so designating them to a certain type of school.

That is why when we on this side say that we are suspicious about the future development of comprehensives we listen carefully to what supporters of the Secretary of State say. They say that they want to retain selection and different types of secondary schools. The only way in which to decide which type of secondary school a child goes to is to give it a test or apply an assessment, which in our view bears little relation to what would be the child's performance if it were given a free and open chance in a school not hidebound by rigid ideas.

We have heard several references to the need for good schools to be preserved. A number of hon. Members opposite have used the phrase from time to time. They say that it is right that good schools should be preserved. Usually they mean grammar schools or direct-grant schools. However, we need a definition of a "good" school. We want to know whether schemes have been approved only when schools are being abolished or amalgamated which are less than good. I very much hope not. But no one has ever defined a "good" school.

The right hon. Lady says that she has an open mind about 11-plus examinations, that she is in favour of comprehensive schools but that she is not in favour of a complete comprehensive system of education. She asks those who believe in the retention of grammar schools to be vocal in their interests. However she does not ask people who believe in a comprehensive system of education to be equally vocal. If this is a matter which must be left to individuals to decide, why does not the right hon. Lady ask them to be just as vocal?

It is high time that the Government told us the sort of education system in which they believe so that we know exactly where we are. At present they do not set any educational end goal, and they have no long-term strategy. This attitude cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely because it is unfair to thousands of children. No one can ignore the educational chaos which is resulting from this lack of policy.

We who oppose selection argue that one of the worst elements of the tripartite system was that grammar school availability differed between 12 per cent. and 45 per cent. throughout the country and that a child's chance of getting to a grammar school and his chance of success was linked to where his parents lived as well as to the middle-class bias in selection. The development of comprehensive education was introduced to end this and other features of the selective system—but not if the Government can help it.

A child may be part of a good comprehensive scheme with no selection, he may go to a comprehensive in an area with selection, he may go to a secondary modern school with much the same situation as before, or he may go to a grammar school. It will depend on the luck of the education draw, and this is defended on the ground of educational freedom for parents. But that freedom has always been limited to a minority of people. The vast majority of working-class children in an area where there is still selection are discriminated against as a result and thousands lose out in the education draw.

We recognise the educational waste and lack of opportunity which results from such a policy. We believe in freedom in education. But the freedom in which we believe in relation to choice is delaying having to make decisions about children for as long as possible and not sending them to schools which set out simply to fulfil the prophecies that we have made about them by our biased judgments.

This debate has demonstrated a number of matters. One is that the country recognises the failure of a system of education which perpetuates selection and yet talks about a comprehensive system. We need to go on to talk about the content and philosophy of education and some of its values.

The debate has also shown what most educationists of any worth have demonstrated for a long time. It is that the educational tide is moving relentlessly forward in favour of the comprehensive system. The right hon. Lady may see herself as stemming that tide if she can. However she will find that Queen Canute is no more effective than was the male of the species of that name. She persists in saying that she has no strong views on the subject. If she continues to do that she is abdicating her responsibility to thousands of children who deserve a fair chance in education and who have not received it under the old tripartite system of education. Anyone who abdicates responsibility to thousands of children ought to abdicate her office as well.

9.35 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

My first and most pleasant task this evening is to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) on his most notable and elegant maiden speech. I hope we shall hear very many more speeches on education from him. He has, as he has told us, the qualifications and the expertise which fit him to speak on this subject. He is the governor of a school and he is the father, he has told us, of two children—in other words, he is putting my principles into practice.

I was also glad that the hon. Member paid a tribute to his predecessor, whose friendship I was privileged to enjoy. I remember that the last melancholy service I performed on his behalf, the day after my appointment to office, was to attend his funeral. None of us will ever forget that craggy face, that entrancing wit and that wonderfully sardonic sense of humour, which was always funny and diverting and never wounding or malicious. He was, in fact, a great House of Commons man. I do not think we can pay any higher tribute than that, and certainly Charles Curran would not have wanted any other.

Despite the narrowness of the Opposition's motion, which has sought to confine the debate within very narrow limits, we have had a wide-ranging, interesting, informative and valuable debate. I have certainly learned a number of things. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery), who in a splendid, knockabout speech let us into the secrets of the environs and infighting of Dudley. Certainly I never expected to have that particular knowledge. We also had the hon. Member for Dudley (Dr. Gilbert), who raised the question whether there would be an early decision on the proposals for reorganisaton in Dudley. I can tell him tonight that the Department will press on as rapidly as possible in considering the proposals.

We are grateful for this debate because it has given my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the best chance she has had for years to explain her policies on comprehension and to demolish the calumnies and the canards which hon. Members on the Opposition side have tried to direct at her in the past. She has been able to expose how little there is that is constructive in current Opposition thinking on education. The speech which my right hon. Friend made presented in full her policy on comprehension, which is reasonable, pragmatic and based on common sense.

This is an opportunity which we are grateful to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) for supplying, particularly in Opposition time. We are grateful to him for this ecumenical opening to his period "in office". His speech hardly came up to expectations. So much of it was devoted to attempting to throw missiles and brickbats at my right hon. Friend. Although he scraped the bottom of his barrel he could find no mud to throw. His speech represented a crude effort to drive a wedge between the views of Lord Boyle, the former Minister of Education, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Lord Boyle was a most distinguished Minister of Education—

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

Bring back Boyle.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

However, even Lord Boyle is not infallible. Who is nowadays? For the purpose of making mischief, and by carefully selected quotations, the hon. Gentleman sought to show that there was a difference of policy between the two. I took the opportunity to read through the last debate when Lord Boyle spoke on comprehension and his policy and basic principles were exactly the same as those enunciated by my right hon. Friend today.

Mr. Marks

As regards the disagreement between Lord Boyle and the Secretary of State, is the hon. Gentleman aware that Lord Boyle was asked whether he would withdraw circular 10/65 if he came to office and he said "No"? The first thing the Secretary of State did, on 30th June 1970, was to withdraw that circular.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not wish to enter into an exegesis of that nature. I am referring to the speech which Lord Boyle made from this Dispatch Box which in all basic principles was in accord with that made by my right hon. Friend.

This debate has centred on the single issue of comprehension. As the Government's amendment makes plain, this is an issue which can be considered only in the light of secondary education as a whole. It is true of education, as of all social policies, that it is a matter of priorities, because despite the vast expenditure on education—we are now spending considerably more on education than on defence—the needs cannot wholly be met. We could spend the entire Budget on education and still not meet those needs. It is a question of priorities. I think it has been the view of the country as a whole that primary schools should come first. Now that we have improved the position in the primary schools we can move to improve the position in the secondary schools.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

What a confession the hon. Gentleman will have to make.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

When we look at the capital investment programme we can see that the comments of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) were totally misplaced. The substantial progress which has been achieved in secondary school development is due to the rate at which we have been able to make resources available for building. Both parties can take credit for this it is not a partisan point. In the four years from 1966–67 to 1969–70 a total of £293 million was programmed for secondary school building. In the next four years the total resources, including the allocation for the raising of the school leaving age, will amount to £473 million.

Those programmes have been high because of the continuing and rapid growth in the secondary school population. The population will soon begin to fall sharply, however, and programmes to provide additional secondary school places will not need to be as large. That is the explanation of the falling curve; it is not the sinister plot which the hon. Member for Sparkbrook has adumbrated. We are now able to start a replacement programme of the worst secondary school buildings and the school building programme for 1975–76 and 1976–77 will be increased by £10 million and will form the first stages in a rising and systematic secondary school improvement programme.

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

Chicken feed.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The lion. Lady says "chicken feed". It may be chicken feed, but it is four times as much chicken feed as the Labour Government were proposing to spend in 1970–71.

I wish to deal with two points that were raised by the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormond). One relates to cost limits. We are faced, as any Department is faced and as local authorities are faced, with the problems arising from inflation of costs. But I can say to the hon. Gentleman that we are prepared to help or try to help an individual local education authority in any special problem it may have.

If I may conveniently deal at this stage with the other point raised by the hon. Member, he was concerned at the withdrawal of the manual of guidance on choice of schools and asked whether it was still in circulation. In fact, it is not. It was first issued in 1950 and was revised in 1960. It is really an elaborate circular intended to explain the situation to local authorities and it is now more a matter of historical than current interest. If, however, the hon. Gentleman wishes, we can arrange for a copy to be lent to him from the Department's library.

Mr. Dormand

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman but I already have a copy. He is not dealing with the point I raised; he is avoiding it, perhaps deliberately. The point I raised in connection with the manual of guidance was whether its withdrawal was in any way connected with comprehensive education. The hon. Gentleman has failed to answer that question. Could we have it clearly stated now that that is at least one of the reasons why it was withdrawn?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

No, it has nothing to do with that at all. It was merely that it had become out of date and after the first revision in 1960 it was not thought worthwhile to go to the expense of revising it again. That was purely an administrative decision and had nothing to do with policy on comprehensive education.

There are two other factors against the background of which we have to consider in a general context the problem of comprehension. One is the raising of the school leaving age, the achievement of one of the primary aims of the Education Act, 1944 which the party opposite postponed and failed to do when they panicked in 1968 and which it has fallen to the present Government to implement; and secondly the supply of teachers which has so greatly improved. That is the background against which we have to consider comprehension.

Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North) rose——

Mr. St. John-Stevas

What are the issues and the facts on comprehension? The hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough challenged me to make known my own views on comprehension and asked me to speak on behalf of my right hon. Friend, my party and the Government and on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. All those things I am pleased to do. Our policy on comprehension is perfectly clear. We accept comprehension. We believe that comprehension will become eventually the dominant part of the secondary system. But what we reject and what we will not have is universal compulsory comprehension imposed without any consideration of the educational needs, local wishes or the wishes of parents. That we absolutely reject.

Mr. Stallard rose——

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I cannot give way. I am sorry, I have not the time.

The difference between the parties is between those who make a fetish of comprehension and those who believe that it should be a principal component in a balanced use of resources. Hon. Members on this side of the House are as concerned as hon. Members opposite about waste of talent and the need to avoid that oppressive sense of failure which is so bad for young children. But we believe that there are other means of avoiding that rather than the insensitive and dictatorial imposition of compulsory comprehension.

Hon. Members opposite claim too much for comprehension. We on this side prefer to look at the facts. There are tremendous problems arising out of the comprehensive system. There is the question of size of school, to which my right. hon. Friend referred. There are the problems of the neighbourhood school, for one can be trapped even more in a poor area in a comprehensive school than in a mixed ability secondary modern or direct grant school.

One can have just as much a sense of failure if one is caught in the lower stream of a 12-form comprehensive school as if one is in a secondary modern school in a poor area.

If one looks at the facts of the situation, they are that my right hon. Friend has approved 96 per cent. of the projects which have come up to her for reorganisation, so if there is a case for censuring her it should not come from hon. Members opposite. If anyone is entitled to criticise her it is my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) because she has approved too much comprehension rather than too little.

My right hon. Friend has been accused of delay. There is no evidence at all of an undue delay in deciding these proposals. Complicated proposals need careful consideration and when they are issues as important as this it would he monstrous to take decisions hastily when what is important is not to get a quick decision but to get the right decision. It is up to local education authorities to provide contingency plans and to put in their proposals in good time, which some local authorities, alas, have failed to do.

In the curious speech of the hon. Member for Sparkbrook perhaps the most bizarre accusation he made was against my right hon. Friend for not having given a date in relation to the proposals for Birmingham when it was only a fortnight ago—on 14th January—that the closing date was reached for objections to be put in. The proposals concern 92 schools in the city with five sets of notices, and 80,000 local government electors have protested. No proposals have yet come for the Church of England schools and only eight out of the 18 Roman Catholic schools have put in their views. So it is quite right that my right hon. Friend cannot give and should not give a date. What this proves is that in this case, as in all the other cases she has considered, she is giving conscientious and thorough consideration to every fact.

What, therefore, is there left of the spurious case which the Opposition have put up? The truth came out in the declaration by the hon. Member for Sparkbrook when he said that a Labour Government would abolish the procedures of Section 13 if they ever returned to office. There we see the real intention of the Opposition, because Section 13 was put in as a safeguarding of parental rights. This safeguard has been used in only a minority of cases, it is true but, like every other constitutional protection of rights, one must judge it not by the number of times it is brought into operation but by the existence of that section, so that all the time it is operating in advance to make sure that local authorities respect the rights of minorities, and sometimes even majorities, which are involved.

As for Section 68, which has been mentioned in this debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather), in the Rydens School case, where a ghetto was being established which would deny children their rights, my right hon. Friend would have deserved censure if she had not exercised her right to intervene, not because she did intervene. If those rights were swept away the Opposition would be opening the way for a complete educational dictatorship when the checks and balances which preserve the rights of parents would be swept away. My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge, in a felicitous phrase, hailed my right hon. Friend as a champion of parents. The parents of this country are grateful to her because she has defended their rights of choice.

Summing up this wide-ranging debate, what is it basically about? It is a debate between those who regard education as a means of social engineering, a means of transforming society into an egalitarian model—[Interruption.]—yes, because that is exactly what hon. Members opposite believe in—and those on this side of the House who believe that education should be directed towards individual children to release their talents to do the best for themselves and to respect the rights of parents, who have not divested themselves of their rights but have merely delegated them to teachers to exercise for them. It is between those who want to impose a universal compulsory system of education irrespective of the situation and who make an idol out of comprehension, and those on this side who welcome comprehension certainly, but say that it must be allowed a natural growth, that it must not be forced, that it has to be grafted on to the stem of a living system of education which has been built up over a great many years.

We on this side of the House will never countenance the destruction of well-established schools which command the esteem and respect of their locality in favour of what Sir Alec Clegg has called—a horrible word for a horrible idea—"agglomeration". What we want is not merely comprehensive schools, but a comprehensive system of education. What it comes down to ultimately is a question of choice and we on this side of the House believe in retaining and creating diversity

and difference, which is the prerequisite of exercising any choice.

We are glad that the Leader of the Labour Party has announced his recent conversion to choice but he was carried away by rhetoric, which was perhaps more suitable to the Aims of Industry than to a leader of Socialism in this country, when he talked about our being "drilled, dragooned and distracted". I am the last person to despise a conversion, even if it be on a political deathbed, but one should have some sense of balance and some sense of proportion. If choice is to be the watchword of the Labour Party, why should we not have it in education too?

If hon. Members opposite say there is not enough choice, that is no reason for extinguishing such choice as there already is. Our educational system is one of our most precious assets. We are at the top of the educational league in Europe and the world. That place will be kept by our White Paper on education, and when this petty motion and its progenitors have long been forgotten that White Paper will have its place in educational history and the name always associated with that White Paper and held in honour will be the name of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 289, Noes 263.

Division No. 46.] AYES [10.0p.m.
Adley, Robert Brfnton, Sir Tatton Crowder, F. P.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Dalkeith, Earl of
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Bruce-Gardyne, J. Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Bryan, Sir Paul d' Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M) d' Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack
Astor, John Buck, Antony Dean, Paul
Atkins, Humphrey Bullus, Sir Eric Digby, Simon Wingfield
Awdry, Daniel Burden, F. A. Dixon, Piers
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Dodds-Parker, Sir Douglas
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Campbell, Rt.Hn.G.(Moray & Nairn) Drayson, G. B.
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Carlisle, Mark du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Dykes, Hugh
Batsford, Brian Cary Sir Robert Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Bell, Ronald Channon, Paul Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Elliott, R. W. (N'c' tle-upon-Tyne, N.)
Benyon, W. Chichester-Clark, R. Emery, Peter Eyre Reginald
Berry, Hn. Anthony Churchill, W. S. Farr, John
Biffen, John Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Fell, Anthony
Biggs-Davison, John Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Fenner, Mrs. Peggy
Blaker, Peter Cooke, Robert Fidler, Michael
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Coombs, Derek Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)
Body, Richard Cooper, A. E. Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Cordle, John Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Bossom, Sir Clive Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Fookes, Miss Janet
Bowden, Andrew Cormack, Patrick Fortescue, Tim
Braine, Sir Bernard Costain, A. P. Fox, Marcus
Brewis, John Crouch, David Foster, Sir John
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Langford-Holt, Sir John Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Fry, Peter Le Marchant, Spencer Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D. Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Ridsdale, Julian
Gardner, Edward Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Gibson-Watt, David Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Longden, Sir Gilbert Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Gilmour, Sir John (File, E.) Loveridge, John Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Glyn, Dr. Alan Luce, R. N. Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. McAdden, Sir Stephen Rost, Peter
Goodhart, Philip MacArthur, Ian Royle, Anthony
Goodhew, Victor McCrindle, R. A. Russell, Sir Ronald
Gorst, John McLaren, Martin St. John-Stevas, Norman
Gower, Raymond Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Scott, Nicholas
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) McMaster, Stanley Scott-Hopkins, James
Gray, Hamish Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Green, Alan McNair-Wilson, Michael Shelton, William (Clapham)
Grieve, Percy McNair-Wilsor, Patrick (New Forest) Shersby, Michael
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Maddan, Martin Skeet, T. H. H.
Grylls, Michael Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Gummer, J. Selwyn Marten, Neil Soref, Harold
Gurden, Harold Mather, Carol Speed, Keith
Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Maude, Angus Spence, John
Hall, John (Wycombe) Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Sproat, Iain
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Mawby, Ray Stainton, Keith
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Stanbrook, Ivor
Hannam, John (Exeter) Meyer, Sir Anthony Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Mills, Peter (Torrington) Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
Haselhurst, Alan Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
Hastings, Stephen Miscampbell, Norman Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Havers, Sir Michael Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W) Stokes John
Hawkins, Paul Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Hay, John Moate, Roger Sutcliffe, John
Haynoe, Barney Molyneaux, James Tapsell, Peter
Heseltine, Michael Money, Ernie
Hicks, Robert Monks, Mrs. Connie Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Higgins, Terence L, Monro, Hector Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Hiley, Joseph Montgomery, Fergus Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)
Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Tebbit, Norman
Holland, Philip Morrison, Charles Temple, John M.
Holt, Miss Mary Mudd, David Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Hordern, Peter Murton, Oscar Thomas, John (Stradling (Monmouth)
Hornby, Richard Neave, Airey Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Nicholls, Sir Harmar Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Howe, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Tilney, John
Howell, David (Guildford) Normanton, Tom Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Nott, John Trew, Peter
Hunt, John Onslow, Cranley Tugendhat, Christopher
Hutchison, Michael Clark Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Iremonger, T. L. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Osborn, John Vickers, Dame Joan
James, David Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Waddington, David
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Page, John (Harrow, W.) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Jessel, Toby Parkinson, Cecil Walters, Dennis
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Peel, Sir John Ward, Dame Irene
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Percival, Ian Warren, Kenneth
Jopling, Michael Peyton, Rt. Hn. John Wells, John (Maidstone)
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Pike, Miss Mervyn White, Roger (Gravesend)
Kaberry, Sir Donald Pink, R. Bonner Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Wiggin, Jerry
Kershaw, Anthony Price, David (Eastleigh) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Kimball, Marcus Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Woodnutt, Mark
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Quennell, Miss J. M. Worsley, Marcus
Kinsey, J. R. Raison, Timothy Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Kirk, Peter Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Younger, Hn. George
Knight, Mrs. Jill Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Knox, David Redmond, Robert TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Lambton, Lord Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Mr. Bernard Weatherill and
Lamont, Norman Rees-Davies, W. R. Mr. Walter Clegg.
Lane, David Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Abse, Leo Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Bradley, Tom
Albu, Austen Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Broughton, Sir Alfred
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Baxter, William Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne, W.)
Allen, Scholefield Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Bidwell, Sydney Brown, Ronald(Shoreditch & F' bury)
Ashley, Jack Bishop, E. S. Buchan, Norman
Ashton, Joe Blenkinsop, Arthur Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)
Atkinson, Norman Boardman, H. (Leigh) Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Booth, Albert Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James
Barnes, Michael Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Cant, R. B. Huckfield, Leslie Oswald, Thomas
Carmichael, Nell Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfleld) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Padley, Walter
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Paget, R. T.
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Hughes, Roy (Newport) Palmer, Arthur
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Hunter, Adam Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Cohen, Stanley Janner, Greville Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Coleman, Donald Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pavitt, Laurie
Concannon, J. D. Jeger, Mrs. Lena Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Conlan, Bernard Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Pendry, Tom
Corbet, Mrs. Freda John, Brynmor Perry, Ernest G.
Crawshaw, Richard Johnson, Carol (Lewishem, S.) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Prescott, John
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Price, William (Rugby)
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Probert, Arthur
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Davidson, Arthur Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Kaufman, Gerald Richard, Ivor
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kelley, Richard Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Kerr, Russell Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Kinnock, Neil Robertson, John (Paisley)
Deakins, Eric Lambie, David Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor)
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Lamborn, Harry Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Delargy, Hugh Lamond, James Roper, John
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Latham, Arthur Rose, Paul B.
Dempsey, James Lawson, George Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Doig, Peter Leadbitter, Ted Rowlands, Ted
Dormand, J. D. Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Sandelson, Neville
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Leonard, Dick Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Lestor, Miss Joan Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Duffy, A. E. P. Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton,N.E.)
Dunn, James A. Lipton, Marcus Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Dunnett, Jack Lomas, Kenneth Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Eadie, Alex Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Sillars, James
Edelman, Maurice Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Silverman, Julius
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Skinner, Dennis
Ellis Tom McBride, Neil Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
McCartney, Hugh Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
English, Michael McElhone, Frank Spearing, Nigel
Evans, Fred McGuire, Michael Spriggs, Leslie
Ewing, Harry Mackenzie, Gregor Stallard, A. W.
Faulds, Andrew Mackie, John Steel, David
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Mackintosh, John P. Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B' ham, Lady wood) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Fitch. Alan (Wigan) McNamara, J. Kevin Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Foley, Maurice Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Foot, Michael Marks, Kenneth Swain, Thomas
Ford, Ben Marquand, David Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Forrester, John Marsden, F. Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Fraser, John (Norwood) Marshall, Dr. Edmund Tinn, James
Freeson, Reginald Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Tomney, Frank
Galpern, Sir Myer Mayhew, Christopher Tuck, Raphael
Garrett, W. E. Meacher, Michael Urwin, T. W.
Gilbert, Dr. John Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Varley, Eric G.
Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) Mendelson, John Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Golding, John Mikardo, Ian Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Gourlay, Harry Millan, Bruce Wallace, George
Grant, George (Morpeth) Miller, Dr. M. S. Watkins, David
Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Milne, Edward Weltzman, David
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Wellbeloved, James
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Molloy, William Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Whitehead, Phillip
Hamling, William Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Whitlock, William
Hardy, Peter Morris, Rt. Hn John (Aberavon) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Harper, Joseph Moyle, Roland Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Murray, Ronald King Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Hattersley, Roy Oakes, Gordon Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Ogden, Eric Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Heffer, Eric S. O'Halloran, Michael Woof, Robert
Hilton, W. S. O'Malley, Brian
Horam, John Oram, Bert TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Orbach, Maurice Mr. Ernest Armstrong and
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Orme, Stanley Mr. James Hamilton.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, Put:

The House divided: Ayes 290, Noes 263.

Division No. 47.] AYES [10.15 p.m.
Adley, Robert Fookes, Miss Janet Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Fortescue, Tim Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Foster, Sir John Longden, Sir Gilbert
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Fox, Marcus Loveridge, John
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Fraser. Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'ftord & Stone) Luce, R. N.
Astor, John Fry, Peter McAdden, Sir Stephen
Atkins, Humphrey Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D. MacArthur, Ian
Awdry, Daniel Gardner, Edward McCrindle, R. A.
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Gibson-Watt, David McLaren, Martin
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Gllmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Gilmour, Sir John (File. E.) McMaster, Stanley
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Glyn, Dr. Alan Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham)
Batsford, Brian Godber, Rt. Hn. J B. McNair-Wilson, Michael
Bell, Ronald Goodhart, Philip McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Goodhew, Victor Maddan, Martin
Benyon, W. Gorst, John Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Berry, Hn. Anthony Gower, Raymond Marten, Neil
Biffen, John Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Mather, Carol
Biggs-Davison, John Gray, Hamish Maude, Angus
Blaker, Peter Green, Alan Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Grieve, Percy Mawby, Ray
Body, Richard Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Maxwell-Myslop R. J.
Boscawen, Hon. Robert Grylls, Michael Meyer, Sir Anthony
Bossom, Sir Clive Gummer, J. Selwyn
Bowden, Andrew Gurden, Harold Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Braine, Sir Bernard Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Brewis, John Hall, John (Wycombe) Miscampbell, Norman
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hall-Davies, A. G. F. Mitchell, Lt.-Col.C. (Aberdeenshire, W)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hannam, John (Exeter) Moate, Roger
Bryan, sir Paul Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Molyneaux, James
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M) Haselhurst, Alan Money, Ernie
Buck, Antony Hastings, Stephen Monks, Mrs. Connie
Bullus, Sir Eric Havers, Sir Michael Monro, Hector
Burden, F. A. Hawkins, Paul Montgomery, Fergus
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hay, John Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nalrn) Hayhoe, Barney Morrison, Charles
Carlisle, Mark Heseltine, Michael Mudd, David
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hicks, Robert Murton, Oscar
Cary, Sir Robert Higgins, Terence L. Neave, Airey
Channon, Paul Hiley, Joseph Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Chichester-Clark, R. Holland, Philip Normanton, Tom
Churchill, W. S. Holt, Miss Mary Nott, John
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Hordern, Peter Onslow, Cranley
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hornby, Richard Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Cooke, Robert Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Coombs, Derek Howe, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Osborn, John
Cooper, A E. Howell, David (Guildford)
Cordle John Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Hunt, John Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)
Cormack, Patrick Hutchison, Michael Clark Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Costain, A.P. Iremonger, T. L. Parkinson, Cecil
Crouch, David Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Peel, Sir John
Crowder, F. P. James, David Percival, Ian
Dalkeith, Earl of Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Pike, Miss Mervyn
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Jessel, Toby Pink, R. Bonner
d'Avigdor-Goidsmid, Maj. -Gen. Jack Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Dean, Paul Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Jopling, Michael Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Dixon, Piers Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Dodds-Parker, Sir Douglas Kaberry, Sir Donald Quennell, Miss J. M.
Drayson, G. B. Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Raison, Timothy
du Cann, Rt. Hon. Edward Kershaw, Anthony Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Dykes, Hugh Kimball, Marcus Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Redmond, Robert
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) King, Tom (Bridgwater) Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne, N.) Kinsey, J. R. Rees-Davies, W. R.
Emery, Peter Kirk, Peter Ronton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Eyre, Reginald Knight, Mrs. Jill Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Farr, John Knox, David Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Fell, Anthony Lambton, Lord Ridsdale, Julian
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Lamont, Norman Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Fidler, Michael Lane, David Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Langford-Holt, Sir John Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Le Marchant, Spencer Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Rost, Peter Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Waddington, David
Royle, Anthony Stokes, John Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Russell, Sir Ronald Stuttaford, Dr. Tom Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
St. John-Stevas, Norman Sutcliffe, John Walters, Dennis
Scott, Nicholas Tapsell, Peter Ward, Dame Irene
Scott-Hopkins, James Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Warren, Kenneth
Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Shelton, William (Clapham) Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.) White, Roger (Gravesend)
Shersby, Michael Tebbit, Norman Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Sinclair, Sir George Temple, John M. Wiggin, Jerry
Skeet, T. H. H. Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth) Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Soref, Harold Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.) Woodnutt, Mark
Speed, Keith Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.) Worsley, Marcus
Spence, John Tilney, John Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Sproat, Iain Tralford, Dr. Anthony Younger, Hn. George
Stainton, Keith Trew, Peter
Stanbrook, Ivor Tugendhat, Christopher TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Stewart, Donald (Western Isles) Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin Mr. Bernard Weatherill and
Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper) Vaughan, Dr. Gerard Mr. Walter Clegg.
Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.) Vickers, Dame Joan
Abse, Leo Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) John, Brynmor
Albu, Austen Douglas-Mann, Bruce Johnson. Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Duffy, A. E. P. Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Allen, Scholefield Dunn, James A. Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Dunnett, Jack Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)
Ashley, Jack Eadie, Alex Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)
Ashton, Joe Edelman, Maurica Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)
Atkinson, Norman Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Edwards, William (Merioneth) Kaufman, Gerald
Barnes, Michael Ellis, Tom Kelley, Richard
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) English, Michael Kerr, Russell
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Evans, Fred Kinnock, Neil
Baxter, William Ewing, Harry Lambie, David
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Faulds, Andrew Lamborn, Harry
Bidwell, Sydney Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Lamond, James
Bishop, E. S. Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Latham, Arthur
Blenkinsop, Arthur Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Lawson, George
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Leadbitter, Ted
Booth, Albert Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Foley, Maurice Leonard, Dick
Bradley, Tom Foot, Michael Lestor, Miss Joan
Broughton, Sir Alfred Ford, Ben Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Forrester, John Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Fraser, John (Norwood) Lipton, Marcus
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Freeson, Reginald Lomas, Kenneth
Buchan, Norman Galpern, Sir Myer Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Garrett, W. E. Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Gilbert, Dr. John Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) McBride, Neil
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Guiding, John McCartney, Hugh
Cant, R. B. Gourlay, Harry McElhone, Frank
Carmichael, Neil Grant, George (Morpeth) McGuire, Michael
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Mackenzie, Gregor
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Mackie, John
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mackintosh, John P.
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. McMillan. Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Cohen, Stanley Hamling, William McNamara, J. Kevin
Coleman Donald Hardy, Peter Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Concannon, J. D. Harper, Joseph Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Conlan, Bernard Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Marks, Kenneth
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Marquand, David
Crawshaw, Richard Hattersley, Roy Marsden, F.
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Marshall, Dr. Edmund
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Heffer, Eric S Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Hilton, W. S. Mayhew, Christopher
Dalyell, Tarn Horam, John Meacher, Michael
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Davidson, Arthur Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Mendelson, John
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Huckfield, Leslie Mikardo, Ian
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Millan, Bruce
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Miller, Dr. M. S.
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Milne, Edward
Deakins, Eric Hughes, Roy (Newport) Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Hunter, Adam Money, William
Delargy, Hugh Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Janner, Greville Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Dempsey, James Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Doig, Peter Jeger, Mrs. Lena Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)
Dormand, J. D. Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Moyle, Roland
Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Swain, Thomas
Murray, Ronald King Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Oakes, Gordon Robertson, John (Paisley) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Ogden, Eric Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n&R'dnor) Tinn, James
O'Hatloran, Michael Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees) Tomney, Frank
O'Malley, Brian Roper, John Tuck, Raphael
Oram, Bert Rose, Paul B. Urwin, T. W.
Orbach, Maurice Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock) Varley, Eric G.
Orme, Stanley Rowlands, Ted Walden, Brian (B'mham, All Saints)
Sandelson, Neville Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Oswald, Thomas Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne) Wallace, George
Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Watkins, David
Padley, Walter Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Weitzman, David
Paget, R. T. Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.) Wellbeloved, James
Palmer, Arthur Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Sllkin, Hn. S. C (Dulwich) White, James (Glasgow. Pollok)
Parker, John (Dagenham) Sillars, James Whitehead, Phillip
Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange) Silverman, Julius Whitlock, William
Pavitt, Laurie Skinner, Dennis Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) Williams, Alan (Swansea W.)
Pendry, Tom Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Perry, Ernest G. Spearing, Nigel Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Spriggs, Leslie Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Prescott, John Stallard, A. W. Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Price, William (Rugby) Steel, David Woof, Robert
Probert, Arthur Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Reed, D. (Sedgefield) Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.) Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Rhodes, Geoffrey Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. Mr. Ernest Armstrong and
Richard, Ivor Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley Mr James Hamilton

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House welcomes the Government's policies for Secondary Education, the importance attached by the Secretary of State to educational considerations, local needs and wishes, and the wise use of resources, in the exercise of her powers to decide individual proposals under section 13 of the Education Act 1944 (as amended), and the Government's determintion to have regard to the wishes of parents about the education of their children.

Back to