HC Deb 21 July 1976 vol 915 cc1889-970

"On request from a local education authority, the Secretary of State shall authorise the establishment of a schools voucher scheme devised and run by the local education authority in question, on an experimental basis, for a period of time agreed to by the Secretary of State and the authority. During this period of time the Secretary of State shall monitor the results of such an experimental voucher scheme".— [Dr. Boyson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

8.15 p.m.

Dr. Boyson

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

It may help our debate if I explain what the clause says before anybody pre- tends that it says something else. The clause makes it clear that a voucher experiment would be introduced only at the request of a local education authority. Authorisation for an experiment would be given by the Secretary of State for a limited period and there would be a continuing assessment of what was being achieved by the experiment.

All this is the opposite to the way in which the Bill works. Despite all the frothy talk of participation and local democracy from hon. Members opposite, the Bill gives no local options. Direction comes from the centre, and there is no monitoring or assessment of the question whether a switch to a totally comprehensive scheme is successful; it is a case of driving on regardless.

The clause encourages elected local democracy, and some authorities have more recent mandates than that held by the Government.

The continuance of the voucher experiment would depend upon the success or failure of the monitoring. Under the Bill, there may be a decline in academic standards after comprehensive reorganisation, which will be ignored without the evidence that can be provided by monitoring.

There is considerable disquiet in many areas, particularly in our inner cities, about standards of academic education and discipline. There is concern about literacy and numeracy. The Bullock Committee reported that where tests could be applied, they indicated academic decline.

A report of the May conference of the National Association of Head Teachers —which represents about 60 per cent. of head teachers—indicates that teachers are becoming increasingly disturbed by the growing rate of hooliganism and truancy. This concern was recognised by the Secretary of State on 21st June, when he told a conference of 15 organisations representing teachers, local authorities and welfare workers that disruption was now on such a national scale that there would have to be an investigation.

This is not a case of exaggeration by hon. Members on the Opposite Benches. It is recognised by the classroom teachers' organisations, local authorities, and even the Secretary of State.

There is also concern in many areas that, far from resulting in the new Jerusalem, the introduction of comprehensive education has replaced one form of selection for another. It used to be the 11-plus; now it is the ability to buy a home or get a council house in the area of a good school. This selection on the basis of ability to get a home in a certain neighbourhood causes despair and alarm among those who find themselves on the wrong side of a neighbourhood line.

In my constituency people who wish to sell their houses advertise the names of schools if they feed into three particularly good comprehensive schools. But if they feed into three other comprehensive schools, there is no mention of the names. This situation affects the prices of houses in the area.

The name William Tyndale may come across accidentally or intentionally in this debate. Many parents feel that large local government organisations—indeed, large schools at times—are not responsive to their concern about their children's schools. They feel that when dealing with large local education authorities, nobody cares for them and that they have no means, apart from massive political organisation, of influencing the decisions made at county halls.

In county halls we have officials—often, elected councillors—working for their OBEs and CBEs and peace in retirement. They are not bleeding every night, as they should be, about the standards in our schools. Their main concern is that nobody should rock the boat, so that they can go along quite happily. The degree of ulcers from which they suffer is not high compared with what it would be if they saw what was happening in schools on the fringes of their empires.

There is also the feeling—in many cases justified—that the heads of large schools—they are not necessarily all bad; I say that before the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) suggests that I am making them out to be cowboys and Indians—find that they have little time to timetable and run their schools as they would wish, with the interests of the individual child and what he needs in mind.

Despite the claim that there will be vast curriculum opportunities, there are often fewer opportunities than in the small schools that the large schools have replaced. I have referred to this matter before. The timetables and curricula in many big comprehensive schools in London give less choice than was given in the secondary modern and grammar schools that they have replaced. I do not accuse the people involved; it is a question of the difficulty of working in those large organisations.

The Labour Party, like all parties, is made up of good and bad men and women. I hope that we are all mostly good men and women. But when hon. Members on the Government Benches revolt against certain establishments, they little realise that new bureaucratic establishments will replace them. Unlike Don Quixote, who was wont to tilt at windmills, hon. Gentlemen opposite knock them down and find bigger windmills behind. Instead of moving to a freer society, they find more repression of the individuals within it.

I instance the William Tyndale School. The people who are most concerned about standards are ordinary people outside this place. This is a test to discover who believes in people. [Interruption.] It is obvious that blood is being drawn. There is no épée wired to the electricity in this matter; this is a genuine point on which I have touched.

Ordinary people outside are more concerned about their children than anybody else. I find it surprising that I should have to say that. Parents are more concerned than the bureaucrats who merely want to balance the numbers in schools. I have lived with this problem for years. They just want to balance the numbers. They do not want some schools to be too good, because they show up other schools that are not so good. One is rebuked if one's school is the opposite of the William Tyndale school and heavily oversubscribed, because that situation embarrasses other schools and upsets the system.

Mr. Arnold Shaw (Ilford, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understood that the hon. Gentleman was speaking to New Clause 58, but what he has said so far—he has said a lot—has no conceivable connection with that clause. I wonder when he will be getting to it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I take it that this is the preamble and that the hon. Gentleman will be getting rapidly to the new clause.

Dr. Boyson

You are quite right, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It may help the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Shaw) to understand that this is the preamble explaining why the voucher is necessary. Obviously hon. Gentlemen opposite are worried when facts are put before them which they want hidden from the Press and public. There is no doubt that blood is being drawn.

Mr. Spearing rose

Dr. Boyson

I must get on, or I shall be accused of filibustering. If the bureaucrats, the school administrators en masse, could be relied upon to do the best for each child, we should not need parental choice. The view of human nature held by hon. Members opposite is astonishing. We are offered a new promised land. Apparently we are in a pre-Garden of Eden situation. [Interruption.] I am sorry if I have not yet made myself understood. Administrators want the schools to be balanced. Anyone who does not know that does not know schools. The schools also want well-run timetables. They will make exceptions for very few individuals. The only people who see children as children are parents.

Mr. Spearing


Dr. Boyson

I see that on one side we are speaking of bureaucracy and on the other side of people. At least we have defined our terms. I realise now why we have the two red lines. They define the width of the crevice between us.

Mr. Spearing

Will the hon. Gentleman tell me how many choices were available as distinct courses in the third year at the school where he was headmaster? The comprehensive school at which I had the privilege of teaching had 13 separate courses in the third year. If that was possible then, why is it not possible now?

Dr. Boyson

I should not like to delay matters. I can recommend a book called "Oversubscribed", which tells the story of Highbury Grove. The hon. Gentleman will find it a fascinating book and may wish to give copies to his hon. Friends as Christmas presents.

I am delighted that there are schools with the wide choice suggested by the hon. Gentleman, but we must legislate for the average school which is not giving that choice. I have no doubt that, with the hon. Gentleman's influence, that choice would exist, and I am sure that wherever I had responsibility that choice would exist. But in certain areas we can name schools on results, as we probably shall, where there is not that choice.

The William Tyndale story came to light not because the Labour governors did what they could to bring it to light—all credit to them for doing what they did—but because parents took their children away, as they did not like that school.

In two terms the number of pupils tell from 213 to 96. The situation was known two years before ILEA, the administrators and the bureaucrats dealt with the situation. The parents took their children away from the William Tyndale School. Fortunately, at that time, by chance, there were vacancies in other schools in Islington. Vacancies may not exist in other areas. I know of cases which are similar to the William Tyndale School. However, as a result of pressures on schools parents cannot move their children to other schools.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

Will the hon. Gentleman explain how the voucher system would have helped the William Tyndale School and how an over-subscribed school would cope with the many voucher applications that were made to it?

Dr. Boyson

I shall come to vouchers. [Interruption.] Government supporters must not get excited as we approach the kernel of the argument.

The voucher system would have helped the situation created in Islington as a result of the incidents at the William Tyndale School. Under the voucher system parents will be able to say where they will place their children. For instance, a good school may be heavily over-subscribed, and a bad school may be heavily under-subscribed. I may mention the names of other secondary schools in Islington, if required. At present, a bad school is guaranteed a conscript audience. If only 120 parents out of 240 refused to place their children in one school until the headship was changed, the deficiences of the school would be obvious under the voucher system.

I do not suggest that there should be a vast expansion of the first school's buildings. When the deficiences of a school come to light, parents may say: "We shall not send our children to that school; we shall set up our own school". That happened in Islington. For two years in succession, 50 parents took their children away from school, and each put £2 in the kitty and employed a retired teacher to teach their children until the ILEA was shamed to put those children into another school. Under the voucher system, another school might be set up. The old school would be empty. [HON. MEMBERS: "That would be chaos."] I prefer chaos to dictatorship.

As a result of the process to which I have referred, the poor school would be empty. The deputy head from the over-subscribed school might be put in by the local authority to run the other school. For the past 10 years many parents did not want to send their children to the school that I named. If those parents had set up their own school under the voucher system they might have shamed the authority into doing something

Sir G. Sinclair

The question is not what the hon. Gentleman's proposed voucher system would have done in the William Tyndale School situation; the question is, what good would it have done to the children? That is the point. If, in the end, the parents withdrew their children, that would have done some good, in that the school would either have been closed or improved rapidly.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is unfair to the Chair that an intervention should be made in reply to an intervention from another hon. Member.

Dr. Boyson

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

The voucher is a means of increasing the choice and control of schools by parents. That is the way in which the education system should go.

In the war, bread was rationed because flour was limited. The Government did not set up State bakeries and require everyone to buy their flour or loaves from that bakery. They gave coupons to people with which they might buy bread from a bakery that provided the kind of loaf that they wanted. The same principle applies to the voucher system. The quality of the bread provided by the bakeries was controlled by inspectors. The same kind of control applies to the voucher system.

The Opposition say that every child should have his chance at school. We also say that he should have his chance at a good school. We propose giving coupons or vouchers to the parents so that their children may be educated in the schools of their choice. The inspectorate will guarantee that the schools maintain minimum standards. That represents a gain.

Eighteen months ago, the voucher for a primary school pupil would have amounted to £155 and for a secondary school pupil £265. The sixth-form voucher would have been £360. Presumably, inflation must be taken into account.

The introduction of the voucher scheme would achieve four objects. It would get rid of the worst schools because parents would take their children out of those schools. It is the children who matter. Under the voucher scheme, the pupils could leave the poor school, and the parents could set up their own voluntary schools and run them as cooperatives, or in other ways. I do not mind which system is adopted as long as the schools give the education required by the children.

The William Tyndale School would have disappeared two years ago. There would have been no need for the expenditure of large sums of money by the ILEA if there had been the means of immediate response provided by the voucher scheme.

Secondly, I sometimes wonder whether the fear of Government supporters is that such a system would strengthen the individual and the family against the State. I wonder whether it is that political aspect that frightens them. They like to increase the powers of the State against the individual. They are not worried about the family and the child. They want a tidier system, run by bureaucrats in Whitehall, whereas to adopt our proposal would mean power passing back from the State to the individual.

Thirdly, it is likely that the adoption of our proposal would mean increased variety. There could be a greater variety of schools than we have at the moment. I do not mind free schools, disciplined schools, or whatever parents want, so long as they want their children to go to them and so long as Her Majesty's inspectors guarantee minimum standards. The adoption of our proposal could mean a greater variety in the system than exists at present and would exist under a comprehensive system.

Fourthly, all the evidence from the Plowden Report onwards is that pupils do well in a school when they know that they have the backing of the home, and they will get that backing only if parents agree with the philosophy and the running of the school. That is the advantage of the public schools—and in saying that I do not want it thought that I am being at all elitist, because I attended a State school, as did my children, and I got my teaching experience in State schools. But there is a great advantage in having pupils in a school that has been chosen by their parents because it has the same values as those that exist in the homes of its pupils, with the result that the parents and the school work together.

Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)

It is interesting to listen to these crackpot ideas for the second time. The hon. Gentleman is speaking from the Opposition Front Bench. Do these ideas represent the official policy of the Conservative Party, or are they his own?

Dr. Boyson

I am speaking to the new clause and airing my own views. We shall see a little later what are the views of my hon. Friends on this issue.

Mr. Michael Brotherton (Louth)

The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) will be interested to know that my hon. Friend speaks not only for the whole Conservative Party but for everyone who values the education of his children.

Mr. Spearing

He does not speak for me.

Dr. Boyson

I am grateful for the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton).

I am not claiming that the idea of an education voucher will solve all our education problems. It has nothing to do with the Second Coming or with the New Jerusalem. It is purely a means of improving parental control of schools and standards of discipline in them. Bearing in mind the present state of many of our schools, it is about time that we had some improvement along these lines.

It is obvious that Government supporters prefer a monolithic system, because they do not believe that parents have the ability to choose. They can choose Labour Party members in elections, but they cannot choose the schools to which they wish to send their children. I am glad to say that that kind of arrogance does not exist on this side of the House. We say that parents are well able to choose for themselves, whereas Government supporters feel that the man in Whitehall knows best—unless, of course, they are worried about what parents would choose if they had the choice and found well-disciplined and properly controlled schools for their children. We believe that that is the desire of most parents.

The arrogance of Government supporters leads them to make accusations that often replace the need for thought. They are very fond of using such words as "elitist". Let me remind them where the idea of a voucher system originated. I remember that we used to hear a great deal of criticism of Milton Friedman, though many now accept his monetarist beliefs. The idea of a voucher system came from such people as Christopher Jenks, Sugarman and Coons. On the one occasion the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) described the State system as being like the Truck Acts. In an article in The Guardian about three years ago, his approach to the idea of a voucher system was very different from what it is today. I was hoping that the hon. Member for Lewisham, West would be consistent in his views and that he would rise to agree with me. I have a copy of The Guardian article, and I am prepared to send him a copy of it. I have thought about it before. The hon. Member said that the present system resembles the Truck Acts, where money was taken away and given back in kind. It was that aspect that led me to support the voucher system.

8.45 pm.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

The voucher system is a type of educational Green Shield stamp. Can my hon. Friend say—since the voucher can be used for any schools, even those outside the system such as public or direct grant schools—how much a voucher is likely to be worth?

Dr. Boyson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I would not say that vouchers are like Green Shield stamps, but they are life stamps that will better fulfil the educational lives of children. Whether they should be available only for State schools or to independent schools must be worked out locally. The question whether vouchers should be taxed is another aspect to be examined. There are hundreds of ways of operating such a system. I suggest that hon. Members on the Government Benches set up a study group to examine the matter. I should be delighted to help.

Hon. Members opposite say that the system would be elitist, but when the system was first introduced in America a certain amount of money was given to deprived areas. The idea of pouring money into schools to which people do not want to go has not worked in this country, except in one area. In America, $250 worth of vouchers was added for each child from families whose incomes were half the national average. The actual voucher was worth about $1,000, but for those children whose families earned half the national income the voucher was worth $1,250. For the first time, schools clamoured for those children to attend, because they brought with them more money for the teachers to spend on equipment. That shows how the system can be used to the advantage of the deprived and ghetto areas.

I take my final illustration from the American elections. Hispanics and blacks in New York want the education voucher to be used in their areas because they believe that the system is not working. I quote from a statement by the Democratic Party platform on 20th May. It said: We propose that every parent whose child attends a failing school should be granted a voucher which represents the total amount of money expended for a child's education in New York. … The voucher is the only way open for black and Hispanic parents whose children have been consistently failed by the State system. We shall see later whether that becomes part of the platform of the Democratic Party. The system is not élitist, despite what hon. Members on the Government Benches say. The demand is coming from the deprived groups.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

I came in out of interest to learn about the voucher system as the hon. Gentleman saw it. I have learnt nothing so far. The hon. Gentleman says that the system is being asked for by the deprived groups in America. He has proved no such thing. It has been suggested by the Democratic Party's education group. Can the hon. Gentleman give any proof that the deprived groups are seeking such a system?

Dr. Boyson

The statement I read was not from the Democratic Party but from a black leader asking for the system. I shall put a copy in the Library, so that the knowledge may go further. Those who deny what I have said can read the facts. If Labour Members refuse to read facts, we are in a worse state than I thought.

To improve schools we must increase choice. I do not mind people having the choice and sending their children to public schools, as long as other people have the same choice. I do not like choice being cut down. I want a system that gives increasing choice to all people, from top to bottom in our society. In the secondary modern-grammar school system there was only 20 per cent. choice. In the neighbourhood comprehensive system there is no choice. The voucher system would expand choice. It would not solve everything, but it would move in that direction.

Mr. Noble

We had an argument in Committee about choice and the cost of implementing it, particularly where parents have to arrange for the transport of their children to another school. The hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) said then that the parents would have to meet the cost if they chose to send their children to another school. Having to pay the fares would deprive many working-class families of the opportunity to take advantage of such a system. Have the hon. Gentleman and his party reconsidered that? Have they changed their minds on the cost of transport?

Dr. Boyson

I welcome the fact that the hon. Gentleman is moving to the de-details of the voucher system, having accepted the principle. That is a considerable advance. It could be said that the voucher had to include the cost of transport and that the school should then meet that cost. That is done by many independent schools in London, and it happens in America. If one accepts the principle one then makes everything else fit. People can always find detailed objections when they do not like an idea.

The Labour Party is in favour of a monolithic system over the length and breadth of the country, irrespective of the wishes of areas such as Tameside, where councillors were elected on an issue and their policies were swept overboard.

We are merely suggesting a limited number of experiments where local authorities wish to try them. Five or six experiments would be ample. They would be monitored, and if they were found to be failures after, say, five years, nothing more would be done. If the system seemed a worthwhile advance, we should go further. The Bill says that a certain system is to go on whether or not it is a failure, as it is in many areas.

Last night, two Bills were linked in one guillotine motion. One related to tied cottages and the other to the tied neighbourhood school. I do not understand agricultural matters, but I am assured by some of my hon. Friends that tied cottages are necessary for the continuance of agriculture.

Hon. Members on the Government Benches want a comprehensive system to be applied in all areas. They say that they believe in freedom, yet they do not believe in people being able to contract out of the comprehensive system. The way in which they speak this evening will show which side of the House genuinely believes in freedom.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has already sat down.

Miss Margaret Jackson

It would be wise for me to remind the House that this new clause requires the Secretary of State to establish an experimental voucher scheme and to monitor its results. Although the hon. Member for Brent North (Dr. Boyson), as usual, made an interesting speech, one could not claim that he had been able to defend the new clause.

The hon. Gentleman concentrated all of his argument on the claim that this scheme, or any voucher scheme, increases freedom of choice. When questioned, to a small extent, on the details of the scheme, he responded by saying that anyone who was opposed to this kind of scheme was not interested in freedom of choice and that anyone interested in freedom of choice must be in favour of the scheme. That is a fairly sweeping claim which deserves a little examination.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite always defend their educational ideas, whatever they may happen to be, on the ground that they give greater freedom of choice. Almost invariably that claim fails to stand up to closer examination, and that is certainly the case with this scheme. All of us on both sides of the House recognise that in the educational world there are popular and unpopular schools. Equally I think we all recognise—I am sure that not even the hon. Member for Brent, North would seek to deny this—that this judgment is often somewhat unsound and even where it is sound, an unpopular school can become popular overnight with a particular change of headship or with the introduction of a new course.

But the basic idea that everyone will have freedom of choice if he can opt for the most popular school does not stand up even to a momentary examination. As the hon. Member for Brent, North made plain, not every child would be able to be accommodated in the most popular schools. Some children therefore, would have to go to the less popular schools. Precisely what happens then? The hon. Gentleman suggested that this would not be the case because, ultimately, popular schools would thrive and unpopular schools would die out. The logic of that approach is that if we had a very popular school we could simply build a new wing to accommodate the extra children. That argument is difficult to defend economically in times such as we are now facing.

We also have to consider what happens if the decline which the hon. Gentleman is suggesting, indeed advocating, should take place. What happens if an unpopular school has a change of head, or a change of course, and suddenly becomes popular again? What happens in the popular school if a lot of the popularity is due to the headship and leadership of one particular person who leaves the school and the school then becomes unpopular? We would have a sort of yo-yo situation. We might end up with schools, on to which one had built extensions, which become successively full and empty, or we could have schools on to which extensions had been built at various times to accommodate various fluctuations in demand.

Even if the hon. Gentleman's argument really works and the popular schools thrive and the unpopular schools decline in the fullness of time and then something happens in the popular school which made it less popular, what happens then? We could get a situation where an area was gradually denuded of schools as one after another closed because everyone wished to go to only one school. If that one school lost its popularity, what choice would parents have then?

Mr. Patrick Mayhew (Royal Tunbridge Wells)

Surely the dilemma that the hon. Lady poses is resolved by considering whether one is concerned with securing maximum use of educational plant or the best interests of the children whom that plant is intended to serve.

Miss Jackson

No, that is not the point at all. The hon. Member's scheme specifically provides that only if a school becomes popular will it thrive. I noticed that the hon. Gentleman did not agree with me that sometimes judgments about popularity are unsound, but I think that he will find that in the educational world as a whole it is recognised that it can be very much a matter of bad information and even of fashion which school becomes popular and which is less so—

Dr. Boyson


Miss Jackson

Then we shall have to agree to disagree about that.

Mr. Bryan Davies

Is not the basic fallacy which underlies this argument the fact that an Opposition who continually clamour for cuts in public expenditure know that this scheme can work only if there is an excess of school provision and accommodation? Is not this whole debate phoney when the Opposition are seeking to limit educational expenditure?

Miss Jackson

My hon. Friend is quite correct. I suggest—

Dr. Boyson

We are faced at present with a falling birth rate and vacancies in schools. Without vouchers, will the administrative mind, which does not believe in parents' choice, close old schools which are over-subscribed and keep open their glass and concrete monstrosities because there is a loan debt?

Miss Jackson

The point which comes out of everything that the hon. Gentleman says is that we would not have the kind of chaos which would ensue if his system were taken to its logical conclusion because that chaos would ensue only if there were the real freedom of choice which he suggests will emerge from this scheme. I think that he will find on examining the details of the scheme more closely that this so-called full freedom of parental choice is largely illusory.

Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (East Grinstead) rose

Miss Jackson

May I go on a little longer? It is difficult to sustain the thread of an argument when one is interrupted after every sentence.

The hon. Member for Brent, North claims that there will be a decline in population and that we may have surplus schools. It depends how one makes one's judgment, but it seems to me that we would do better, instead of telling people that they may shuffle about from one place to another, to use the opportunity, if we were ever to have a considerable surplus of places in our schools, to close down some of the many unsatisfactory old buildings which exist in many areas.

Dr. Boyson

The parents may want them.

Miss Jackson

The hon. Gentleman must be as aware as I am that if children are in very old and unsatisfactory buildings, very few of their parents wish them to continue there.

There are not only problems with the provision of buildings in this scheme; there are also practical problems such as fluctuations of staff—the kind of problems beside which our present difficulties in allocation of school places would fade into insignificance.

I know that the hon. Gentleman is asking only for an experimental scheme rather than for a full one, but unless he can justify his experiment in much more depth, it would be a disaster for the children involved.

Dr. Boyson

William Tyndale was a disaster.

Miss Jackson

It is all very well the hon. Member referring to William Tyndale. The only two things he has been able to say to any questions by my hon. Friends have been "Freedom of choice!" and "William Tyndale!" That is not an adequate justification of a detailed experimental scheme of vouchers.

The hon. Gentleman argued that in the United States a voucher scheme may have value in providing positive discrimination in areas of great difficulty. Our education system is not the same as the education system in the United States. Here not only do we encourage local authorities to provide a school system which caters for the generality of pupils but we already encourage them within our existing system to make special provision for minorities with special needs or special disadvantages. We do not need a voucher scheme to encourage local authorities to do that. We do it already.

9.0 p.m.

Our main case against the proposal is that whatever advantages may be thought to be gained from an experimental voucher scheme are already available in this country without such a scheme. The hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) fairly suggested to the hon. Member for Brent, North that a voucher scheme would have made no difference to what happened at the William Tyndale School.

We oppose the hon. Gentleman's proposal because it is unnecessary under the system we have and it is bogus because it will not offer parents the freedom of choice which he suggests.

The whole basis of the hon. Gentleman's scheme is that parents will apply to the schools which are oversubscribed. At present, where schools are oversubscribed, the places are allocated on known, published criteria which try to deal fairly with the individual children concerned. In addition, where local authorities see a need which they cannot meet within their existing schools, they have power to allocate places outside the maintained sector. Increasingly, as we get genuine comprehensive schools, we are convinced that the full range of educational opportunities will be available within those schools.

One of the biggest differences between our system and that which the hon. Gentleman proposes is that, instead of the allocation being on rational or practical grounds, it would inevitably be on an irrational basis. It would depend on the speed and ruthlessness of the parents, or it would depend, as in one American case which has been quoted, on the luck of the draw.

Dr. Hampson

There are a great many variations of the voucher scheme. The hon. Lady has been putting forward arguments which could be marshalled against a certain number of voucher scheme experiments, but she has not told the House why the Government object to supporting an experiment which might lay at rest either her ideas or those of my hon. Friend.

Miss Jackson

That is not true. I have told the House that the idea the hon. Gentleman put forward for a voucher scheme is completely bogus. I have also argued that it is not justified. If hon. Gentlemen feel that I am not adequately meeting the arguments on the details of the scheme, that may be because the hon. Member for Brent, North did not put any.

To return to what happens when vouchers are issued, to be fair, they should all be issued simultaneously, otherwise parents with telephones and parents with cars who can more quickly get in contact with the local education authority will be the parents who get their children into the oversubscribed schools. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has in mind that it will be like the replies which are sent in to radio and television programmes, when everyone writes in simultaneously and on a given day the envelopes are opened and the first hundred are successful. That is not a satisfactory method of allocating school places.

I suggest that the voucher scheme would not give the majority of parents any greater real choice than they already have. In addition, it would lead to inefficiency and waste and to the general disruption of what we all say we are trying to achieve, which is the raising of the standard of education of every school in the country to that of the best. That, to me, is the strongest argument against the proposal.

We should not be trying to find yet another way to sort out the sheep from the goats, with the sheep going to a good school and the other condemned, as inevitably some would be under the hon. Gentleman's system, to a school with a bad reputation, which would inevitably get worse. Under his proposal for good and bad schools, the bad schools are supposed to get worse. They are supposed to get so bad that, in the end, either parental demand or the education authority closes them down altogether.

What happens to the children who are at those schools during that year? Anyone can say that no child should be in a bad school, but the system that is proposed would involve badly served schools in ever worsening conditions.

The worst thing about the logic of this proposal is that it does not try to raise the standards of the worst schools but suggests that they will simply fade away. Presumably the fading away will include the education of the children who are unlucky to be in them at that time.

The hon. Member for Brent, North said that every child should have his chance at a good school. I agree with that, but that should happen because every school is a good school, not because some children have a good chance to be in a decent school and the rest have to put up with wherever else they can be placed.

I quote the words of the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who on 13th December 1975 said: to those who cry caution"— he was talking about the voucher system— I would add my own voice. The initial, most likely, prospect is that far too many children's parents will opt for the most popular school. The only way, then, to decide who goes where will be, in effect, by pulling names out of a hat, hardly the most scientific method of selection for schools. Disappointed parents who have been led to believe that they would have a real choice which would be implemented will then turn on those who have so blatantly misled them. Meanwhile, what happens to the schools where the good teachers are leaving in droves? Standards there will be spiralling downwards with fewer teachers and less money. In theory, new gleaming, popular schools to take their places should be opening up under new management. This is of course quite impracticable. Moreover, fashion in schools and head teachers in any particular area changes rapidly. … it can change overnight. In contrast, the supply of schools is highly inelastic: it takes a long time to establish a new school in response to parents' wishes. And in the meantime, numerous children will be condemned to a school and an education of a far lower standard than they would otherwise have received. The right hon. Gentleman concluded: The voucher system needs to be examined with a healthy degree of scepticism. The Conservative Party has moved on from the leadership of the right hon. Gentleman, and it seems that since he stepped down from the high office that he once enjoyed in our councils he has frequently said much that contains a great deal more sense. The passages that I have quoted seem to be among those that contain more sense.

I am aware that the hon. Gentleman is a devotee of what he considers to be a better approximation of freedom of choice. I am aware that he is a devotee of parental influence. There is nothing intrinsically harmful in either of those concepts, but I suggest in all sincerity that he should consider carefully whether the scheme that he is advocating, which perhaps many of his hon. Friends will be advocating tonight, will genuinely increase parental choice, will genuinely increase freedom for parents and provide a better education for the majority of children.

I believe that the hon. Gentleman is making a great mistake. His party will be making a great mistake if it advocates and takes up the system he has proposed. It would end up with a system perhaps even worse than the 11-plus, when children were sent to "sink" schools with the purpose that those schools should decline. If that is the way that the right hon. Gentleman wants to educate the sort of electorate that we need, and if that is a proposal to which the great party of which he is a member is to be attached, I advise him in all sincerity to think again. I believe that he and his hon. Friends are making a great mistake.

Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, HallGreen)

I have listened carefully to what the hon. Lady has said and it seems that she has been too powerful in her condemnation of this idea. I think she should concede that the use of the voucher would produce early evidence of the need for correction and improvement in a school as a result of the choice of the parents. That would signal the need for improvement in standards, resulting in an earlier improvement in the standard of the school.

Miss Jackson

I do not know where the hon. Gentleman got the idea that the only thing that makes people realise that not everything is going well in a given school is the fact that parents no longer wish to send their children there.

What I said earlier was that I accept fully that there are popular and unpopular schools. I do not accept that is always justified as a judgment; it may be so in some cases. However, the main point between us is whether the hon. Gentleman's proposals would raise the general standard of the education service in those less popular schools or, alternatively, offer the majority of parents a chance to get their child into a more popular school. Even on those grounds the scheme would not be likely to succeed. Therefore, I ask the House to reject the new clause.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton)

I am grateful for this opportunity to air some of my own reservations about the voucher scheme and to demonstrate that there is a catholicity of view among Opposition Members. I believe that empirical evidence about the voucher scheme in any form will show that the ideas of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), which were admirably conceived, would not achieve the results for which he hopes.

I should like briefly to offer a few reasons why I think that we are right to cast doubts on this idea. The way to proceed, with medium cost to public funds, would be to limit it to one experiment in a rural area that is appropriately chosen and one in an urban area, rather than to go to the lengths of five or six experiments, for reasons of cost, if for no other reason. I believe that if we were to do this it would import too much of the market mechanism into education. I am a great believer in the market mechanism, but I do not believe that education is the right sphere of life in which to try to enforce such theories. I do not believe that parental choice should be taken to the length of being compared, say, to the rights of people to Diners' Club cards or abonnement rights on ski lifts. That is an analogy that comes to mind.

In schools in urban and suburban areas it would create vicious circles of standards and conditions of education. What is more, it would set up a vicious circle of reputation in those schools. A number of embattled teachers in schools with a difficult or bad reputation would find the situation difficult to cope with. They would have to fight against the tide of popular opinion—an opinion probably fanned by the local newspaper.

I am prepared to concede to my hon. Friends that the voucher experiment might make good schools slightly better. There would be an even greater parental involvement and commitment to the schools that were very much in demand, but it would make bad schools, or schools in need of improvement, unnecessarily worse. That consideration is my prime concern.

In these education debates we should be more concerned to raise the standards of those schools in need of improvement than to take our arguments further into structural considerations, to the detriment of content. However, I believe that it would make sense to introduce a voucher—and here I offer a shaded view—with regard to further education rights. I believe that one could introduce an experiment of this kind with vouchers that were cashable by anybody from the school leaving age of 16 up to the age of 66. That would be an interesting and imaginative extension of freedom.

9.15 p.m.

I believe also that it would bring us closer to the rather good idea that they have in France. It is called education permanente, and it gives greater and more frequent access to education and provides opportunities for developing personalities and skills in mid-career.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Can my hon. Friend tell us how these vouchers would be repaid?

Mr. Forman

I think it is possible that if vouchers were made available to people later in life or in mid-career they would be in a better position gradually to pay back the money to the State. The cost of the scheme could be provided on the basis of an extended easy-term loan. This would be a sound idea for adult education without excessive cost to public expenditure.

In short, having lived in the United States, I believe that what is good for California or New York is not necessarily good for Britain. That applies to this matter as much as to a number of others. I can see that this idea might increase parental choice in ways that would serve only to frustrate it in the end. When the good schools in accessible neighbourhoods were all full up, greater frustration would be caused to those who could not obtain places because they had the illusion of freedom without being able to satisfy it.

Mr. Nick Badgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Will my hon. Friend explain his argument that the least good schools would only get worse under the scheme?

Mr. Forman

The reason for making that assumption is that I think my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North was very honest in expressing his view when he said the logic of his position was that really bad schools would close down as a result of parents moving their children away from them and into better schools. It seems to me that this is an example of a drastic approach to education.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

That is exactly what it wants.

Mr. Forman

It might help the standards of good schools, but only at a high price to those schools that are in need of improvement. There are better ways of involving parents more fully in education, and in choice of education, whether it be by a prospectus, by annual reports or by some of the other ideas that we put forward in Committee and which I strongly support. If we want to increase parental choice, there are many ways of doing so, but as far as this experiment is concerned, the empirical evidence will show that it is a rather bad idea.

Mr. Christopher Price

I am thankful that some Opposition Members have their feet firmly on the ground, like the hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman), who has kept his sanity in educational policy, along with the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath). Hitherto this debate has been conducted by the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) on a wholly theoretical plane, which really does not have any connection whatever with the reality of providing buildings, teachers and equipment in schools.

What the country wants to know about the new clause is whether, as a matter of policy, the Conservative Party is in favour of introducing vouchers. If they are, I think that the teaching profession would like to know so that it could decide whether it wanted to support the idea and discuss it. Many parents would want to discuss it. I believe that the Conservatives are trying to have their cake and eat it. Throughout the Committee stage they made long speeches about vouchers, but we never heard from the official Conservative spokesman anything like a pledge that it was Conservative policy. It appears not to be. I see that the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) is conveniently absent at the moment.

Mr. Budgen

The proposal is for an experiment—not for a total commitment for all schools—to see whether our assertions prove right or whether the Government are right.

Mr. Price

I am aware that this proposal is for an experiment, but experimenting with inanimate objects like machines is one thing and experimenting with children's lives is something completely different. In order to start an experiment of this kind one would have to find a local education authority willing to undertake it and teachers who were willing to join in. I should be most surprised if the Conservatives could satisfy those requirements.

Mr. Mayhew

My local authority in Kent has already commissioned a feasibility study. The new clause is designed simply to put such a scheme into effect.

Mr. Price

I am aware of the Ashford experiment and have read a great deal about it. It involves only a feasibility study. I believe that when it reached the point of discussing the details with the teachers and the parents involved it would run on the rocks.

We have to take this opportunity of putting down the canard about the English secondary school system being in some way monolithic. If anything, the system can be criticised for being not nearly monolithic enough. There is transfer under different authorities at every age between nine and 16. Our schools are more teacher-controlled—that was one of the problems at the William Tyndale School—than in any other country and our schools are therefore less monolithic than in any other country. If there are to be changes in our education system, we have reached a point at which we agreed ages of transfer rather than letting should be thinking about nationally-every education authority go its own way.

When the Conservatives talk about choice they are thinking of parents battling against one another to see who can secure the most privileged education system. When my right hon. and hon. Friends and I think about choice we think about the clearly enhanced choice that is available for the pupils. The choice within comprehensive schools today should be compared with the choice in those schools when they were secondary modern schools. There is a tremendous contrast between the present system and what existed 10 or 20 years ago. The choice in many comprehensive schools is enormously wider now than existed in grammar schools 10 or 15 years ago. Very often that choice was between three courses—a sort of science course, a sort of arts course, and something in between.

I agree with the hon. Member for Carshalton that there is a strong case for thinking again about the way we run our further and higher education systems. Everybody pays taxes, but only a small minority get an enriched higher education. Apart from any grants, we spend up to £4,500 on each student in some subjects while others get nothing at all. That is the standing inequality in our system. It is that feature which we need to be rid of and that was what I was talking about in The Guardian article to which the hon. Member for Brent, North referred.

The voucher system in the compulsory stages of education for children between the ages of five and 16 can do nothing but compound, inequity, especially in such a class-ridden system as that in Great Britain, where we have a small minority of independent schools which, for various historic and other reasons, spend their time entrenching their privileges at the expense of other schools in the community. If the suggestion of the hon. Member for Brent, North were a viable proposition, one would expect to be able to point to some area in the world where it had been not only experimented with—experiments have taken place in small areas of parts of districts of states in the United States—but taken up and proved successful.

I have seen a voucher system in operation in California, and I do not think that it would work anywhere else in the world. We are not even sure whether it is Conservative Party policy. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) says one thing and the hon. Member for Chelmsford, by his eloquent absence, says another.

We cannot chop and change in education. There is a period of about eight years between the planning of a new school and its establishment. The picture painted by the hon. Member for Brent, North of schools disappearing and coming into existence again, and going up and down like so much popcorn, bears no relation to reality. If hon. Members opposite had political sense as well as common educational sense, they would get off this band wagon as soon as possible.

Certain people who have written certain books in the United States are being deliberately misrepresented by Opposition Members. The United States is not easily comparable with Great Brtain in its financial, rating, property tax or educational systems. In particular, there is nothing like the broad principles of rate equalisation that we have in this country. Therefore, the disparity in the United States between the best and the worst schools is immensely greater than in Britain.

9.30 p.m.

Christopher Jenks, who has been quoted, has many times complained how he has been misrepresented. The only substantial point that he was trying to make was that the effect of schooling on life chances has been vastly overestimated. Some people might conider him to be comparatively Left wing. He was really saying "If you want to make people equal, you should pay them all the same and stop messing about with schools, thinking that will be some way of making people equal". Broadly speaking I think that he is right about the effect of schooling on life chances having been vastly overestimated during the past 20 to 30 years, and that we are again beginning to come to a balance.

The Conservative Party, in its desperate search for something to fill the yawning chasm or vacuum in its educational policy, has to jump on the latest gimmick or band wagon and try to put it forward as a coherent policy for a sensible political party. In a way, I am sorry that such sensible people as the right hon. Member for Sidcup and the hon. Member for Carshalton should belong to the Conservative Party, because I like to see that party going off the rails. But, for the good of Britain, just in case the Opposition are ever returned to power, I am relieved that they have at least got one or two people with cornmon sense and educational sense.

Mr. Mayhew

It is a pity that this debate on what we can all agree is an interesting idea should have been spoiled by the introduction of blatantly party and partisan points by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price). They do not add to the substance of the debate.

It is helpful to start by going back to the wording of the new clause. The key word is "experimental". We are not asking, as the Under-Secretary of State appeared to suggest, that the Secretary of State should set up a voucher scheme. We are merely asking that he should authorise the establishment of a voucher scheme to be devised and run by a local education authority on an experimental basis for an agreed period at the request of that authority.

It is a pity that we should have spent so much time listening to the point being made that we do not know whether a voucher scheme is Conservative Party policy or not. Of course we do not know whether it is Conservative Party policy to have a voucher scheme—[Laughter.]—because we have not yet had the experiment. Before hon. Gentlemen opposite burst into cackles of amusement because a political party does not commit itself to a major change in educational policy before first having had an experiment, they should listen to the end of the sentence. We are asking for no more than an experiment. That is not a remarkable thing, for which to ask.

What is sad about the opposition that we have heard to the new clause is that inherent in it is a degree of arrogance that has characterised so much of the educational policy of the Labour Government. Who are these local education authorities? Ought they to be assumed to be partisan idiots who are incapable of coming to a proper conclusion whether there ought to be an experimental scheme? If that is the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, they should explain to the electorate in Kent that their own education authority, which has gladly reorganised its secondary schools on a comprehensive basis in all save one district—happily my own—is not to be trusted if it comes to the conclusion at the end of the feasibility study that it has commissioned, which will take one year to carry out, that it is proper to go for an experimental scheme. If Government supporters believe that an education authority is not to be trusted to recommend an experimental scheme after it has carried out a feasibility study, let them say so. Let them say why.

Mr. John Ovenden (Gravesend)

The hon. and learned Gentleman misleads the House when he says that Kent gladly agreed to a reorganisation of secondary education. If he looks round Kent he might find many areas, including Gravesend, where the Kent County Council dug its feet in and refused to move. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Kent education authority could be trusted to carry out the education voucher scheme as the electorate had authorised it to do so. In what manner was the electorate consulted? Was the electorate told about this scheme in the last county council elections? What were the reactions of the Kent teachers to the idea of the voucher scheme?

I am sure that the Opposition are glad that the Kent County Council is using public money for Conservative Party research. But that is different from having the confidence of the electorate.

Mr. Mayhew

It was a mistake to give way to the hon. Gentleman. The Kent education authority was not elected by the teachers. It was elected by the Kent electorate, which returned the Conservative Party with a greatly increased majority after considerable publicity had been given in the local newspapers to the undertaking of the voucher feasibility study. Government supporters cannot abide the electorate giving its approval to experimental schemes of this kind, or to alternatives to a monolithic Socialist solution to any political problem.

It is a mistake to claim either too much for the voucher scheme—I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) was skilful and moderate in his speech—or to condemn it out of hand as capable of serving no useful purpose. I was sorry that the Under-Secretary was less clever. I do not believe that a voucher scheme can succeed in every circumstance. It cannot succeed if there is no spare capacity in the schools to be taken up by parents who wish to move their children from one school to another. Happily that is not always the case. We live at a time of falling birth rate. The inner cities are now losing their populations. There is therefore spare capacity.

Even today, in the absence of a voucher scheme, some parents are prepared to go against local education authority influence and to move their children to other schools. This is a good moment to say "If an education authority, having properly considered the matter by means of a feasibility study, wishes to set up a voucher scheme, it should be authorised to do so for a short time. The results must be monitored by the Secretary of State." I always thought that people were labelled conservatives if they said "No, we shall not experiment; we shall not depart from that which is proven". I always thought that that attitude of mind was condemned by Government supporters.

We do not ask the Secretary of State to say that there shall be a scheme. We ask him only to authorise a scheme devised and run by a local education authority. If Government supporters say that those authorities cannot be trusted they display a degree of arrogance that has long been characterised by the famous Socialist adage that the gentleman in Whitehall knows best.

Mr. Bryan Davies

If we are charitable, we must accept that the presence of this new clause on the Notice Paper and the occasion of this debate are part of the general proposition of the Opposition, prior to the introduction of the motion last evening, that a good run round the educational houses serves the purpose of clogging up the Government's legislative programme. If we are less than charitable—and, after the result of last night's vote, we must interpret the situation as being that the Conservative Party is seeking to debate serious education issues—we must recognise that what is being put forward by the Opposition for serious consideration is the suggestion that education vouchers should be introduced as an experiment into the British education system.

I maintain that this clause represents a most fraudulent proposition, and its fraudulent nature was amply demonstrated by the hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman). In fact, it is not a fair proposition to put before parents that the introduction of a voucher system will increase choice, unless we are first committed to a situation in which we intend to devote additional materials and resources to education. There is no choice in a situation in which parents and their children are merely shifted around between existing schools. There can be no hon. Member on either side of the House who supports the proposition that parents will not be able to identify which are the better schools and will seek to place their children in such schools.

This proposition depends upon an abundance of resources. It means that there will be a contribution of material resources to increase the opportunity of the good schools to provide for the increased number of choices of parents sending their children to them.

Dr. Hampson

Surely it is more than just a question of the resources involved. Is there not already a gap between teachers and what they think they are doing, and the expectancy of parents? If we give some means to parents whereby they may have some say, the schools themselves should be healthy.

Mr. Davies

I am grateful for that intervention. Certainly I am all for seeking to increase the ways in which we can help to make the teaching profession more accountable to parents and to local electorates. Indeed, I am sure that teachers would like to be more accountable to them. There are many ways in which propositions of this kind can be put forward, and Government supporters have never thought that the teaching profession ought to arrogate to itself the right to determine the development of the education system. But I maintain that a voucher system will not do this, and that the Opposition are guilty of a fraud unless additional resources are to be made available sufficiently in advance, in the goods schools, for parents to avail themselves of such a choice. If that is not done, the choice is denied them.

I move on to a rather more substantial point about choice. The Conservative Party makes a great mistake in defining educational choice purely in terms of choice of school. We recognise why Opposition Members do this. Products and patronisers of the private system that they are, they are used to the cash nexus being operated by the more privileged and wealthy groups in our society to purchase an advantaged form of education. But the danger of producing that same concept within the framework of the education system that provides for the vast majority, where the opportunity to exercise privileged resources does not exist, is that choice does not exist as a "good" for people. Instead, it brings disappointment.

The great tragedy of a situation in which a few schools reap for themselves advantages, become advantaged and become more successful schools than others, is that for every parent who succeeds in getting his child into such a school another parent and another child are victims of loss of choice and, in fact, of loss of freedom, which the Conservative Party seeks to identify as being the support for this concept of its policy.

Mr. Tony Durant (Reading, North)

The hon. Gentleman said that for one parent satisfied by getting his child into a particular school another parent is made unhappy and dissatisfied. Is he not saying that he wants rigid catchment areas, which are absolutely inflexible?

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Davies

I am seeking to shift the emphasis of choice between schools towards the achievement of equality of provision and equality of regard between schools, so that the real possibilities of choice are made available within schools. It is a mean concept of choice to identify solely in terms of a choice that results in one person gaining and another becoming inevitably disadvantaged. A more noble concept of choice is that every child in a school should have the opportunity fully to develop his talents. In that situation we should not concentrate on the competition that takes place when we continually put the emphasis on the difference between good and bad schools. We should seek to achieve a range of choices within schools, so that children can develop according to their several abilities and wishes.

The voucher system is just another issue in the many years of debate on the subject. The long debate still represents a major divide between the parties. A voucher system will not provide an extra dimension of choice when resources are limited. If hon. Members opposite are so keen and eager for the voucher system to be introduced into the State education system, why are greater efforts not made in the private sector to develop the themes behind that system?

Tonight we have heard that, far from being an advantage to the privileged, the voucher system could be used sympathetically for the development of those who are less advantaged by way of a discretionary rate of support for children from disadvantaged homes. Are the Opposition suggesting that they wish to advocate in the private sector—over which they have a degree of influence because of their strong links with it—that more disadvantaged children should attend private schools and that those private schools should provide a large proportion of places for such children? At present, the proportion of children who go to such schools through scholarships is small. But the philosophy behind the concept of fairness that the Opposition suggest might lie within the voucher system would require subsidies for a substantial proportion of pupils, because most of them come from disadvantaged homes.

Let us not have preaching from those who advocate the advantages of the private sector, when clearly a voucher system would merely lead to an increase in disadvantage and less satisfaction for both pupils and parents.

Mr. Speaker

I am deeply grateful for the short speeches so far. Perhaps they could be even shorter from now on. The winding-up speech is to start at 10 minutes past 10 o'clock.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Davies). I have listened to many of his speeches in education debates. He accuses us, and perhaps the private sector, of preaching. My understanding of his oratory in these debates is that he always has a particular line and preaches it very strongly, seldom appreciating that there is often another point of view.

The whole point of the voucher is the benefit it gives to all pupils, particularly the children who now, because of geographical misfortune or accident of birth, are confined to a less than desirable school in one of our deprived urban areas. In answer to the hon. Member for Enfield, North, I can say with some experience of the private sector that over many years it has offered many places to children from deprived backgrounds. Such schools offered this facility long before the State became as involved in education as it is now, long before the comprehensive issue reared its head.

Immediately real choice is given to parents with deprived backgrounds and on low income—some people would describe them as coming from working-class backgrounds—they have an effective weapon to encourage schools to provide what they and their children want. The William Tyndale situation in London is a clear indication that parents want a say in what is going on, and under the present system they do not have it.

The faint hearts might ask, "Will not the parents from poor areas be incapable of choosing?" That was implied in one or two speeches by Labour Members.

Mr. Mayhew

It was positively expressed.

Mr. Winterton

I do not believe that those who ask that question have a valid point. If the owner of an old banger is given the resources to buy a Rolls-Royce or equivalent car, people will be amazed how great are his powers of discerning the good and the bad. That is what the voucher experiment is all about.

The faint hearts may then say "Suppose all parents want to send their children to a school run by those who have received apostolic succession from the hon. Member for Brent, North. What about the empty schools run by the sociologists, perhaps those who took control of the Tyndale school in Islington, the long-haired Leftist disrupters who unfortunately we see within education today?" I describe those people as the dregs of the teaching profession.

As they receive no income as a result of receiving no vouchers, such school will close, and I shall say with emphasis "Jolly good riddance". Where will the pupils go? If we open up the education system to more private enteprise, the enterprising teachers and disciplinarians—I would put myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) in that category—may purchase the buildings and appoint headmasters and teachers trained in the true Boysonesque principle, and children will flock to those schools to take up the places.

We are asking that power be given to local authorities to run experiments if they wish. Why are the Government not prepared to allow that freedom? Are they afraid of success? I believe that they are. Do they fear that the results of the experiments will disprove the theory behind the comprehensive schools, which the Labour Party is forcing on the people as a total monopoly in the secondary sector?

In the long term the nation must have the courage to support a move towards the introduction of an educational voucher. That is very much part of what I can only describe as a trust-the-people philosophy. For each child, every parent would be given a voucher which would have to be spent on education. These vouchers could be supplemented by the parents, and then the voucher could be spent on a State school education or on an independent school education. It would give parents a real choice of education for their children. Schools which have been unresponsive to parental demand would decline and ultimately close. What is wrong with a new school being founded and a bad school going out of existence? This would be exciting for education and education is all about experiment.

I wonder what hon. Gentlemen opposite would have said about comprehensive education. That new system had to start somewhere. There was not, all of a sudden, comprehensive schools everywhere. They were started by an experiment. Some of them have not worked. Even hon. Members opposite realise that the large comprehensive school, which was the panacea for success a few years ago, is not now quite the success that they made it out to be.

Where a voucher is concerned we could discuss and modify the finer points in the proposal. But it is a clear constructive alternative to a State monopoly in the secondary sector of education. Whatever the difficulties it is vital for some means to be found of increasing real parental choice. I believe that the contribution made by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North whose experience in education is widely respected not only in this country but abroad, has brought a light upon the debates that we have been having on education. I believe that the Government would be wrong to extend their octopus-like tentacles of Socialism, around virtually every activity in this country.

What is wrong in allowing a local authority to undertake an experiment? We are not asking the Secretary of State to say that this shall be implemented throughout the country. It is merely an experiment. If the Government are not prepared to allow the experiment to take place they must have something to hide. I hope that the House will warmly and strongly support the proposals put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North.

Mr. Noble

I propose to be brief in my intervention. We have heard some interesting comments from the Opposition. One of the things that became apparent in Committee was that there were two clear strands of educational thinking within the Conservative Party. Tonight we have heard some further strands.

I suppose that now the hon. Member for Rippon (Dr. Hampson) will be a little hurt because his platform as the radical progressive Tory educational thinker has been stolen from him by the hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman). I must congratulate the hon. Member for Carshalton on a very sensible speech. I would have thought that on the Government side of the House we could all agree with everything that the hon. Member had to say.

The hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) will be delighted about this situation. At least he has seen the Left Wing of the Tory Party split, and there is a further threat from the hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Morrison), who I see is waiting anxiously to reply to the debate. This indicates that within the Conservative Party there is no clear thinking whatever on educational matters and that the whole of the Education Bill, both in Committee and in this House, has been used by them to fly as many kites as possible to see which one will be snatched up by the public so that they can possibly formulate some kind of populist approach, particularly that kind of approach recommended by the hon. Member for Brent, North.

What is the basis of this so-called voucher system? What is it that the Opposition are trying to push? I recall reading that the hon. Member for Brent, North said that this type of approach was essential in a "consumer choice society." He will agree that he has used that type of phrase about the voucher system. It seeems to me that in those circumstances he is, in fact, reducing the education profession to something akin to the sale of soap flakes or Kelloggs cornflakes. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would put education vouchers in a box of Kelloggs, to be opened by youngsters at the breakfast table in the mornings.

It was the hon. Gentleman's party in the nineteenth century which sought to bring this within the State system. Even then they recognised that the provision of education, as a private system, could not possibly work. In fact, the approach of the hon. Gentleman is based entirely on the elitist ideology of his party. It may lead to some parents applying pressure to secure the entry of their children into what are recognised or thought to be good schools, whatever that may mean.

10.0 p.m.

I do not know how one defines a good school. Is it a school that gets a certain number of Oxbridge passes or is it a school that, in a socially difficult situa- tion, manages to create the atmosphere to overcome tension? Even the Opposition do not seem to know how to define a good school.

Parents have every right to define a good school in their own minds. People can decide for themselves what is good and bad, but they will then congregate around the so-called good schools. As the Minister said, this can only mean that the so-called poorer schools will gradually get worse. This will lead to an under-utilisation of essentially short capacity.

When we discuss the use of educational capacity we are not talking about variable costs; we are talking about massive fixed costs. The average secondary school must cost about £1 million-plus. Of course, good buildings do not necessarily make a good school, but when such a school is built and gets less than a good reputation, that kind of capacity will be under-used and other schools will be overcrowded.

I do not know whether the Department still defines capacity as that which a school is built for plus 10 per cent. but these circumstances are not comfortable for the children in the schools. Therefore in areas where we should be pumping, resources into schools, the chances are that they will gradually become more and more deprived.

My views on public expenditure cuts are, I hope, well known. The only answer to the problem of the poor school is material resources and a reduction of the pupil-teacher ratio, perhaps to the level that Conservative Members have enjoyed in public schools.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Will the hon. Gentleman also comment on the quality of teacher? Does he agree that if the situation that he described begins to develop, the governors of the school concerned may start getting off their backsides and looking at the situation to see why this is happening? Then, perhaps, if the headmaster or certain members of the senior staff were inadequate they might be removed and better staff appointed to restore the situation to the level that parents would wish and expect.

Mr. Noble

I am glad that the hon. Member has reminded me of that point. One of the things that have become apparent in our education debates, even tonight, is the way in which the Conservative Party has become increasingly anti-teacher—

Mr. Arnold Shaw

And anti-local authority.

Mr. Noble

—and anti-local authority. Local authority involvement in education and every other influence are to be sacrificed on the altar of the parents. Parents do have an important role to play—

Mr. Arnold Shaw

Does my hon. Friend agree that the argument of the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), if taken to its logical conclusion, means that the local authority and the State itself would no longer count? Parents took their children away from the William Tyndale School and set up their own school, and employed an ex-teacher. Thus, if the voucher idea were taken to its logical conclusion, it would mean that we did not need the State schools at all.

Mr. Noble

I have followed the career of the hon. Member for Brent, North for many years. In Rossendale he is recognised as a Marxist seeking the withering away of the State. That has perhaps not yet come across to the Conservative Party.

In its thinking the Conservative Party has no place for the teacher. It has found a kite to fly about parents—

Mr. Ovenden

Does my hon. Friend recall the statement made by the hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunoridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew) that he could not care less about the opinion of teachers in Kent on voucher schemes? My hon. Friend could use that as a further demonstration of the attitude of Conservative Members to the teaching profession.

Mr. Noble

We come back to the consumer choice society of the hon. Member for Brent, North, and those who provide the means—the teachers—do not count for one jot.

In view of the statements that have been made from the Opposition Benches today, we should have a clear policy statement from whoever is to make the winding-up speech for the Opposition on whether the voucher system will be official Tory Party policy at the next election. We need to have that statement to set at rest the fears of parents. The teaching profession should also be told whether that is official Tory Party policy.

The hon. Member for Brent, North referred to the undemocratic nature of the Schools Council. He said it was undemocratic, because the unions on the Schools Council exercised the block vote. His father was a prominent trade unionist in my constituency, and the hon. Gentleman should know better. He did not tell us that the internal procedures of teachers' unions, as of other unions, are essentially democratic. There is full democratic discussion within the organisation before teachers go to the Schools Council, where they have a further democratic discussion. The hon. Gentleman—who has written an article in the Daily Telegraph today on the trade union movement—should have made that clear.

I am asking for a clear statement of policy. The trade unions—particularly those that are affiliated to the TUC—are aware of what consultation means to the Conservative Party. They recall that in 1970 they had four weeks in which to consult on the Industrial Relations Bill. I invite the Opposition to give the teachers' unions plenty of time to consider the educational voucher system. Will it be official party policy at the next election? If they do not make that clear, the Conservatives will be continuing into their period of Opposition the disservice to education that they perpetrated between 1970 and 1974.

Mr. Brotherton

I am delighted, in the two minutes left to me, to reply to the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble). He epitomises all that is wrong in the Socialist approach to education. He believes that all should be vested in the teacher and the system, and that nothing should be left to the parent.

The clause seeks to introduce a voucher experiment in small areas of the country. I declare a personal interest. I have three young children, aged seven, five and three. It is my intention that they shall be educated in the private sector. It is right that I—and others like me—should be allowed to educate my children in the way I believe they should be educated, in the same way as I should be allowed to provide for their health in the private sector, so that no one on the Government Benches dictates to me what happens to my children and my family.

I pay, as we all do, vast sums in taxes. Is it not right that I and people like me should be given vouchers so that we can decide where the money we have paid towards the education of our children shall be spent? Should it be spent in a primary school? Should it be spent in a public school? Should it be spent in a prep school? Where should it be spent?

I believe that it is up to me to decide where the money should be spent. It is because of the arrogant Marxist approach of Labour Members to education that we should approve this experiment and make our country more free.

Mr. Peter Morrison (City of Chester)

It seems that my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) and other of my hon. Friends have successfully stirred the pot. We have talked about standards and about William Tyndale. We have talked about those matters because we are concerned about them. It is not only my hon. Friends and I who have that concern. It is felt by parents throughout the land. They are all concerned but Labour Members seem quite happy. I suspect that the outside world will note that they are so happy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North talked about what the voucher system would achieve. He said that it would get rid of the worst schools, strengthen the individual and the family against the State, and bring a greater variety of schools. He said that pupils do well at schools when their parents are backing the schools. However, the Under-Secretary of State did not take up any of my hon. Friend's contentions. She did not even try to prove that he was talking nonsense. She went in a totally different direction when she argued her case.

When we consider the American experiment it is interesting to note that it began at the request and behest of minority groups such as the blacks and the Spaniards. It is they who required and pushed forward for the voucher experiment. That was not done, as some Labour Members would suggest, by the elitists.

The hon. Lady painted a picture of schools being empty. She said that one day they would be empty and that they would be full the next, and that that would be as a direct result of the voucher system. Has she considered what has happened in the private sector? This has not been the case there. Has it occurred to the hon. Lady that if a school looked as if it were not getting the right number of applicants the headmaster and the governors would immediately do their homework and introduce a new curriculum and a new prospectus? That would quickly set the balance right.

The hon. Lady derided my hon. Friend for saying that parents would get their choice. She said that the choice that children now have is substantially greater than the choice that they would get under the voucher system. But in the Alum Rock experiment 97 per cent. of the parents got their choice. Therefore, in that respect too the hon. Lady was not arguing the case as cogently as she might have done.

I am disappointed that the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) has departed. He quoted at length, and with interest on my part, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath). He said that my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman) are the only two Opposition Members who have any common sense about the voucher system. If we examine what my right hon. Friend said, he suggested that we should have a healthy degree of scepticism about this system. I agree with him. Of course it must be treated with a healthy degree of scepticism. It is only right that any new idea should be so treated. But that is not to say that in the end, after the experiment, it might prove to be exactly what is required by the parents of schoolchildren.

10.15 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton was at pains to point out that there were definite disadvantages in the voucher scheme. He said that the less good schools would get worse. He may be right, but he said that he hoped that experiments would be carried out because without experiments one could not tell what would happen.

From what has been said on the Labour Benches one would think that the Conservative Opposition were suggesting that the whole system of education should be utterly overthrown. That is not of course the case. We are not suggesting that in this clause. The clause refers to an experiment. The hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Ovenden) is particularly interested because I gather that his constituency may conduct an experiment, but it is only an experiment and will not be foisted upon everybody. That experiment will happen only in a local education authority when a given area requires it to happen.

Mr. Ovenden

Is the hon. Gentleman talking about an experiment throughout a local education authority or an experiment within an educational division? If so, does he believe that the local education authority should seek the view of the educational advisory committee within a district before it goes ahead with an experiment?

Mr. Morrison

It is up to the authority to decide how the experiment is conducted. Perhaps it will decide to conduct the experiment in a defined area, or in a whole area. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Gravesend has read the Committee proceedings on the Bill. In Committee we constantly pointed out that local education authorities are much better at making up their minds on behalf of the children in an area than ever Whitehall was or will be.

The clause refers to the monitoring of results. Having heard the speeches delivered by many Labour Members in these discussions, one could be forgiven for thinking that they were happy at the rate of numeracy and literacy. At the same time one would think that they were totally unconcerned that there were children who leave school without being able to read or write.

We believe that there is a need for a radical approach because, whatever Labour Members say, standards are dropping and in many cases parents are not satisfied with the situation. We also believe that there is no freedom of choice—or at least not sufficient choice. If this Bill goes on the statute book, we believe that there will be no freedom of choice left at all.

Mr. Gerry Fowler

Will the hon. Gentleman address himself to two points? First, he spoke about an experiment. This is an experiment on live animals—namely, children. Why does he believe that children in a particular local education authority, namely one in Kent, should be selected to be guinea pigs in such an experiment? Secondly, will he say how he squares his argument about the right of a local education authority to impose experiments on people with the Opposition's views about parental choice?

Mr. Morrison

I am interested that the Minister of State should have decided to intervene in this discussion, particularly as he has not been in the House for the whole of the debate. The local education authority will have been elected by parents and others in the area, presumably on a programme that includes the promotion of a voucher experiment. I see nothing wrong in allowing such an experiment to take place. I shall go on to deal with this matter, and I am glad that the Minister is here to hear what I say.

I accept that there are problems. There are the problems of bussing, and I do not think these have been mentioned much today. If parents decide to send their children to a school on the opposite side of town, they must make that decision for themselves.

There is also the problem of false expectations. At least one knows, however, that if the parent does not get his child into the school of his first choice, he will get that child into the second or even the third choice. At the moment, it is possible that parents do not get any choice at all.

Then there is the problem of the closure of schools. There is no particular reason to think that new schools will be built instead. What will happen is that there will be a change in headmaster and a change of syllabus, and parents will start sending their children to the same bricks and mortar with a different make-up inside.

Having said that these are the problems, I would point out that there are definitely some advantages. There would be a widening of the scope of choice for a start. I listened in Committee to the Socialists saying that we Conservatives are totally and utterly against comprehensive schools. We are not. In fact, if we have vouchers, there are many parents who would want to send their children to comprehensives, and there is no reason why they should not do so. Equally, there are some parents who might want to send their children to schools specialising in mathematics, science, or music.

Another advantage would be that teachers would be much more conscious of success or failure. Hon. Members opposite claim that teachers are very sceptical about vouchers. Teachers were just as sceptical about the Alum Rock experiment in America, but two years after it began, the majority were in favour of the scheme because they felt more in touch with the parents of the children they were teaching.

Yet another advantage would be that the head teachers would be required to issue comprehensive prospectuses. Nothing concentrates the mind more than the head teacher having to decide what sort of prospectus he is offering to children in his school.

I am sorry that we have not had a spokesman from the Liberal Party in these debates today and throughout the Committee stage. We had an intervention earlier from the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) who asked what would have happened if a voucher scheme had existed at the William Tyndale School. The answer is that the school would have closed down two years earlier, and that would have been much better than what did happen.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, West said in his closing remarks that education cannot be chopped and changed at will. That is exactly what the Government are doing in this Bill. They are chopping and changing education. What we are suggesting in our new clause is that there should be merely an experiment.

The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) wanted to know our policy. I can tell him that our policy is to wait and see. If a local education authority wishes to come forward with an experiment, then it will have my blessing. We shall moni- tor the results, and if the scheme is as successful as we hope, it will be something which will catch alight like a forest fire across the country. It has been rather depressing to listen to speeches from the other side of the House. There is general alarm in the country among parents about the falling standards in education. Hon. Members opposite are not even prepared to open their minds and look at this new and exciting idea.

Miss Margaret Jackson

The most depressing aspect of the debate for me has been the failure of the Conservatives to meet or even seriously to consider the detailed points of difficulty that we have raised about how their scheme might be operated. They have been silent about how it will be decided which parents get the first choice. They have not said whether there is to be a lottery, whether it will be those whose envelopes are opened first on the day of decision, or what system is to be used to choose the successful parents as opposed to the majority who will be unsuccessful in getting a choice of school.

The hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Morrison) chided me for not meeting the arguments put by his hon. Friend about why the scheme would be so helpful to parents and children, and I must acknowledge the justice of the hon. Gentleman's criticism. But it is very difficult to deal with arguments which are not arguments at all, simply vague woolly-minded statements of good intent. If we had had arguments in favour of the scheme explaining why it would be such a good thing, it would have been easier to deal with them. Instead, all we have been offered has been a vague assertion and not an argument. That has been a depressing feature of the conduct of the debate by the Conservatives.

They appear to nurture the illusion that as long as they say "freedom of choice" three times in a sentence and "experiment" twice in a paragraph that is sufficient justification for any scheme they choose to put before us and is sufficient to convince the parents whose children will be subjected to the experiment that it has been adequately considered and that it will benefit them.

The Opposition have a duty, when in the fullness of time they decide whether this is their policy, to examine very carefully the problems which such a scheme, experimental or otherwise, will raise. There would be problems with buildings, with staff and, most of all, with the children. Although the hon. Member for City of Chester suggested that there was no reason why bad schools should simply decline and disappear, in his concluding remarks he suggested that under a voucher scheme the William Tyndale School would have declined and disappeared.

I would put to the hon. Member the point I put earlier to the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson). It is part of the logic of this scheme—it is the only way in which the proposal will work—that good schools thrive and bad schools decline and are closed. With them will decline the education of the children who are unfortunate enough to be in them at the time.

There is still a tremendous gulf between the two sides of the House. We are concerned with the education of all children. This debate has shown clearly that the Opposition are concerned to see how children are allocated between good schools and bad schools, are concerned to see how one set of parents can be given an advantage, whether by lottery or any other system, over another set of parents. We on this side are concerned to see that every bad school, every school of below average standards, has its standards raised. We do not want a system in which the good schools thrive and

every other school declines, in which the children in the schools which have less than satisfactory standards, less than satisfactory teachers, have an education which continues to suffer down the years. We believe that there should be a system where every school is good and where every child has an adequate choice within the school that it attends. We do not want a system which is concerned simply with allocating children among schools of differing standards.

The Conservatives claim that since they are merely asking for an experiment, however badly worked out and inadequately defended it may be, we should accept the new clause because the responsibility lies with the local authority. But the new clause as worded does not merely leave responsibility with the local authority to prepare the scheme. It advocates and states that the Secretary of State must abrogate completely his responsibility for exercising some judgment and control over what local authorities do within their very wide discretion. By the wording of the clause the Conservatives are completely abolishing the Secretary of State's rights in that respect—

It being half-past Ten o'clock, Mr. Speaker proceeded, pursuant to Order [20th July], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 266, Noes 303.

Division No. 266.] AYES [10.30 p.m.
Adley, Robert Buchanan-Smith, Alick Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Aitken, Jonathan Buck, Antony Drayson, Burnaby
Alison, Michael Budgen, Nick du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Bulmer, Esmond Dunlop, John
Arnold, Tom Burden, F. A. Durant, Tony
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Dykes, Hugh
Awdry, Daniel Carlisle, Mark Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Baker, Kenneth Carson, John Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Banks, Robert Chalker, Mrs Lynda Elliott, Sir William
Bell, Ronald Channon, Paul Emery, Peter
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Churchill, W. S. Eyre, Reginald
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Fairbairn, Nicholas
Benyon, W. Clark, William (Croydon S) Fairgrieve, Russell
Berry, Hon Anthony Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Farr, John
Biffen, John Clegg, Walter Fell, Anthony
Biggs-Davison, John Cockcroft, John Finsberg, Geoffrey
Blaker, Peter Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)
Body, Richard Cope, John Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Boscawen, Hon Robert Cordle, John H. Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)
Bottomley, Peter Cormack, Patrick Fox, Marcus
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Costain, A. P. Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Critchley, Julian Fry, Peter
Bradford, Rev Robert Crouch, David Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.
Brittan, Leon Crowder, F. P. Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Brotherton, Michael Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutstord) Gardner, Edward (S Fyide)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)
Bryan, Sir Paul Dodsworth, Geoffrey Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)
Glyn, Dr Alan Lloyd, Ian Rifkind, Malcolm
Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Loveridge, John Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Goodhart, Philip Luce, Richard Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Goodhew, Victor McAdden, Sir Stephen Ross, William (Londonderry)
Goodlad, Alastair McCrindle, Robert Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Gorst, John Macfarlane, Nell Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) MacGregor, John Royle, Sir Anthony
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Sainsbury, Tim
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) St. John-Stevas, Norman
Gray, Hamish Madel, David Scott, Nicholas
Griffiths, Eldon Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Scott-Hopkins, James
Grist, Ian Marten, Neil Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Grylls, Michael Mates, Michael Shelton, William (Streatham)
Hall, Sir John Mather, Carol Shepherd, Colin
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Maude, Angus Shersby, Michael
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Silvester, Fred
Hampson, Dr Keith Mawby, Ray Sims, Roger
Hannam, John Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Sinclair, Sir George
Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Mayhew, Patrick Skeet, T. H. H.
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Meyer, Sir Anthony Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Hastings, Stephen Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Speed, Keith
Havers, Sir Michael Mills, Peter Spence, John
Hawkins, Paul Miscampbell, Norman Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Hayhoe, Barney Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Spicer, Michael (S Worcester]
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Moate, Roger Sproat, Iain
Heseltine, Michael Monro, Hector Stainton, Keith
Hicks, Robert Montgomery, Fergus Stanbrook, Ivor
Higgins, Terence L. Moore, John (Croydon C) Stanley, John
Holland, Philip More, Jasper (Ludlow) Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Hordern, Peter Morgan, Geraint Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Stokes, John
Howell, David (Guildford) Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Stradling, Thomas J.
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Tapsell, Peter
Hunt, David (Wirral) Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Hunt, John (Bromley) Mudd, David Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Hurd, Douglas Neave, Airey Tebbit, Norman
Hutchison, Michael Clark Nelson, Anthony Temple-Morris, Peter
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Neubert, Michael Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
James, David Newton, Tony Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S
Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Normanton, Tom Townsend, Cyril D.
Jessel, Toby Nott, John Trotter, Neville
Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Onslow, Cranley Tugendhat, Christopher
Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Oppenhelm, Mrs Sally van Straubenzee, W, R.
Jopling, Michael Osborn, John Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Page, John (Harrow, West) Viggers, Peter
Kaberry, Sir Donald Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Wakeham, John
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Paisley, Rev Ian Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Kershaw, Anthony Parkinson, Cecil Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester
Kilfedder, James Percival, Ian Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Kimball, Marcus Peyton, Rt Hon John Wall, Patrick
King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Price, David (Eastleigh) Walters, Dennis
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Prior, Rt Hon James Warren, Kenneth
Kirk, Sir Peter Pym, Rt Hon Francis Weatherill, Bernard
Kitson, Sir Timothy Raison, Timothy Wells, John
Knight, Mrs Jill Rathbone, Tim Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Knox, David Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter Wiggin, Jerry
Lamont, Norman Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Winterton, Nicholas
Lane, David Rees-Davies, W. R. Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Latham, Michael (Melton) Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) Younger, Hon George
Lawrence, Ivan Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Lawson, Nigel Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Le Merchant, Spencer Ridley, Hon Nicholas Mr. Jim Lester and
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Ridsdale, Julian Mr. Michael Roberts.
Abse, Leo Boothroyd, Miss Betty Cohen, Stanley
Allaun, Frank Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Coleman, Donald
Anderson, Donald Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Colquhoun, Ms Maureen
Archer, Peter Bradley, Tom Concannon, J. D.
Armstrong, Ernest Bray, Dr Jeremy Conlan, Bernard
Ashton, Joe Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Corbett, Robin
Atkinson, Norman Brown, Ronald (Hackney S) Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Buchan, Norman Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Buchanan, Richard Crawford, Douglas
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Cronin, John
Bates, Alf Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony
Bean, R. E. Campbell, Ian Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)
Beith, A. J. Canavan, Dennis Cryer, Bob
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Cant, R. B. Cunningham, G. (Islington S)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Carmichael, Neil Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)
Bidwell, Sydney Carter, Ray Davidson, Arthur
Bishop, E. S. Cartwright, John Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)
Boardman, H. Clemitson, Ivor Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)
Deakins, Eric Jones, Dan (Burnley) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Judd, Frank Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Kaufman, Gerald Robinson, Geoffrey
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Kelley, Richard Roderick, Caerwyn
Dempsey, James Kerr, Russell Kodgers, George (Chorley)
Doig, Peter Kilroy-Silk, Robert Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Dormand, J. D. Kinnock, Nell Rooker, J. W.
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lambie, David Roper, John
Duffy, A. E. P. Lamborn, Harry Rose, Paul B.
Dunn, James A. Lamond, James Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Dunnett, Jack Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Leadbitter, Ted Rowlands, Ted
Eadie, Alex Lee, John Sandelson, Neville
Edge, Geoff Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Sedgemore, Brian
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Lever, Rt Hon Harold Selby, Harry
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Lewis, Arthur (Newham N) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
English, Michael Lipton, Marcus Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Ennals, David Litterick, Tom Short, Rt. Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Lomas, Kenneth Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Loyden, Eddie Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Evans, John (Newton) Luard, Evan Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Silverman, Julius
Faulds, Andrew Mabon, Dr J. Dickson Skinner, Dennis
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. McCartney, Hugh Small, William
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) McDonald, Dr Oonagh Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W) MacFarquhar, Roderick Smiih, John (N Lanarkshire)
Flannery, Martin McGuire, Michael (ince) Spearing, Nigel
Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston) MacKenzie, Gregor Stallard, A. W.
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mackintosh, John P. Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Maclennan, Robert Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Ford, Ben McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Stott, Roger
Forrester, John Madden, Max Strang, Gavin
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Magee, Bryan Strauss, Rt. Hon G. R.
Freeson, Reginald Mahon, Simon Summerskiil, Hon Dr Shirley
Freud, Clement Mallalieu, J. P. W. Swain, Thomas
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Marks, Kenneth Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Marquand, David Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
George, Bruce Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Gilbert, Dr John Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Ginsburg, David Mason, Rt Hon Roy Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Golding, John Maynard, Miss Joan Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Gould, Bryan Meacher, Michael Tierney, Sydney
Gourlay, Harry Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Tinn, James
Graham, Ted Mendelson, John Tomlinson, John
Grant, George (Morpeth) Mikardo, Ian Tomney, Frank
Grant, John (Islington C) Millan, Bruce Torney, Tom
Grocott, Bruce Miller, Dr M. S. (E Klibride) Tuck, Raphael
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Urwin, T. W.
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Mitchell, R. c. (Soton, Itchen) Varley, Rt. Hon Eric G.
Hardy, Peter Moonman, Eric Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Harper, Joseph Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hart, Rt Hon Judith Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Ward, Michael
Hatton, Frank Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Watkins, David
Hayman, Mrs Helene Newens, Stanley Watkinson, John
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Noble, Mike Weetch, Ken
Heffer, Eric S. Oakes, Gordon Weitzman, David
Hooley, Frank Ogden, Eric Wellbeloved, James
Hooson, Emlyn O'Halloran, Michael White, Frank R. (Bury)
Horam, John Orbach, Maurice White, James (Pollok)
Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Whitehead, Phillip
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Ovenden, John Whitlock, William
Huckfield, Les Owen, Dr David Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Padley, Walter Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Palmer, Arthur Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Park, George Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Parker, John Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Hunter, Adam Parry, Robert Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Pavitt, Laurie Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Peart, Rt Hon Fred Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Pendry, Tom Wise, Mrs Audrey
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Perry, Ernest Woodall, Alec
Janner, Greville Phipps, Dr Colin Woof, Robert
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Wrigglesworth, Ian
Jeger, Mrs Lena Prescott, John Young, David (Bolton E)
John, Brynmor Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Price, William (Rugby) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Radice, Giles Mr. David Stoddart and
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Richardson, Miss Jo Mr. Peter Snape.

Question accordingly negivated.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Mulley

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Although the time is limited for this debate, no one can doubt that the Bill has been very thoroughly discussed. We have in fact had two full days for Second Reading, 86 hours in Committee and more than 30 hours on the consideration.

I begin by more than a formal word of appreciation to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, and her predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), who together have borne the burden of putting the Government's case through a great deal of these proceedings—a burden which they have discharged, I am satisfied, with wit, charm, learning and dedication.

I should like to put the record straight, since the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) made an uncharacteristically unfair comment about my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough, about the circumstances which, to my regret, caused her to leave the Government. In fact no one will be more delighted than she when, as I confidently predict, this motion is overwhelmingly carried at midnight.

We had a long Committee stage. I am particularly indebted to my hon. Friends who served on the Committee and ensured that the Bill came through in such a satisfactory way. If it is in no way embarrassing to the Opposition, I should like to pay a tribute particularly to the star performer in this affair, the hon. Member for Chelmsford, and to his able supporting cast, especially the hon. Members for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) and Ripon (Dr. Hampson).

It would take a long time to go through all those who took part in the Committee stage. I think that they went beyond the demands of duty, because they have all probably suffered permanent injury as a result of their opposition to this Bill. Most of them will never in their lives be able to make a short speech again. We have seen some signs of this complaint during the Report stage. But although some of their speeches were long, I understand that generally they were illuminating and entertaining.

All the proceedings on the Bill have been conducted on a very proper well-tempered parliamentary basis and it is only right to pay a special tribute to the hon. Member for Chelmsford who, I understand, never lost his wit, although perhaps some people may say that from time to time his wits were not so evident, and who enlivened our proceedings though he may not have always enlightened us.

The clauses which set out the Government's policy on secondary reorganisation are Clauses 1, 2, 3 and 5. We set out in Clause 1 the general principle that secondary education should be organised on a fully comprehensive basis and, in my belief, that is completely within the framework of Section 1 of the 1944 Act. Indeed, we followed the same lines on implementing the requirements for plans and the rest as were followed in the 1944 Act—the noble Lord, Lord Butler's Act—to get rid of all-age schools and to introduce proper secondary education.

I accept that, to some extent, this impinges on the balance between central and local government. But what we are doing in this Bill is a very minor matter compared with the change in the balance which would have resulted if we had accepted the new clauses tabled by the Opposition on a wide variety of matters which would have meant that in many respects local authorities would have had no responsibilities at all.

I should make it clear that Clauses 2 and 3 still leave with local authorities and voluntary school governors, properly in my view, the right to decide the pattern of reorganisation in their schools and to take into account local circumstances.

Clause 5, in effect, restores to the Secretary of State his powers of veto over local education authorities' take-up of places at or similar arrangements relating to non-maintained schools. This closes a possible loophole in the provisions to secure a fully comprehensive system of secondary education and puts the position back where it was in 1944. I may say that I attach great importance to this provision.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch and Lymington)

It is putting the clock back.

Mr. Mulley

It is putting it back to where, I understand, the Conservative Party likes it to be—within the framework of the 1944 Act.

The remainder of the Bill deals largely with technical matters tidying up amendments to earlier legislation on a number of issues. The only exception is Clause 8, and I regard even this as merely an enabling provision which, as I explained on Second Reading, removes an absurd restriction in the Education (Milk) Act 1971.

This is an important Bill. It creates in a proper and full sense the possibility of secondary education and equal educational opportunity for all. I believe that it will be welcomed by the great majority of our people, as it will be endorsed by a majority of the House tonight.

10.52 p.m.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I must thank the Secretary of State for his kind words at the beginning of his speech. A compliment is always acceptable, and I am happy to reciprocate with regard to the Ministers who served on the Standing Committee.

Let me add one word of explanation. I never intended to suggest that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) resigned because of her opposition to the Bill. She resigned her office because of her general opposition to the education policies of the Government. Everyone knows that that is her position, and I had no intention of suggesting otherwise.

I also pay tribute to Opposition Front and Back Benchers, who have worked extremely hard without any back-up such as that which the Civil Service provides, but with support from voluntary helpers.

On this occasion of the Third Reading, my first duty must be to restate once again the Conservative position on comprehensive schools. We are not against comprehensive schools. We have never been against them. We are for the improvement of comprehensive schools and for seeing that they can preserve in the new setting the academic traditions which are such a valuable part of our education system.

We are for variety in schools, because we believe that it is good for children, good for parents and good for education in general, and because the only hope of innovation within an education system is to have different types of school. Comprehensive schools could never have made headway had there not been flexibility.

We are strongly against the mindless imposition of comprehensive schools regardless of parental wishes, local conditions and financial resources—and that is what the Bill is about. It is not about comprehensive schools at all. It is about compulsion and the imposition of comprehensive schools without resources. The only certain consequence of the Bill will be that it will bring the idea of the comprehensive school into discredit because it will force local authorities, against their judgment and without the money, to create a totally comprehensive system.

We believe that the Bill is wrong in principle because it destroys that balance under the 1944 Act which created the partnership—which has lasted 30 years—between central Government, local education authorities and voluntary schools. It takes a giant to build and a pigmy to destroy, and it is the work of a giant of education, Lord Butler, that is being put at risk by a Minister of much less stature than he.

We are against the Bill in principle because it introduces a new concept into our education law—that the local education authorities are the agents of central Government and that their only purpose is to carry out its will. That is entirely opposed to the idea which has lain at the base of every education Act since 1870—that there shall be a partnership between local education authorities, the Secretary of State and the voluntary schools.

The Bill will be disastrous in practice—first, because there is no money to carry out the schemes. There has been an accounting of £25 million but that will not be sufficient to finance the provisions in the Bill. We shall have more botched-up schemes than ever, more split-site schools—which means more truancy—and we shall embark on the policy of a Secretary of State who has slashed the education budget more than any of his predecessors.

The second reason that the Bill will be disastrous is that it is badly drafted. It will lead to endless legal disputes and confrontations in the courts. There is a strong body of legal opinion which says that the Bill will not be enforceable in the courts because it lays down a general principle which is in conflict with the principle that children should be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents. The Bill does not lay down a third principle to mediate between those principles when they come into conflict, as they do in Southend where 76 per cent. of the parents have come out in favour of a selective system, according to a poll conducted by the local education authority.

Our third charge against the Bill is that it is dangerously destructive at a time when anxiety about educational standards has never been greater. We have already referred to the Bennett Report, with its strictures on the mode of so-called progressive teaching. We have discussed the situation in the William Tyndale School, a scandal which has shocked the entire country. But that is merely the tip of an iceberg.

We are in danger of a collapse of standards, not in all our schools but in many of the schools in our great cities, particularly those in deprived areas which are suffering from unprecedented social and other strains. We are seeing threats to discipline and an erosion of religious and moral values in the schools. This is the moment when the Secretary of State chooses to indulge his obsession with organisation, disregarding issues which are of so much greater concern to parents.

We have opposed the Bill by every parliamentary means in our power. It is right that we should, because it is not wanted in the country, and it is not even wanted by the Government's own supporters. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] It is not nonsense. There are thousands of Labour supporters who do not like the Government's education policy. The tight for the retention of the grammar schools was strongest in traditional working-class areas, because the people there were being deprived of an educational opportunity. The bright child in a disadvantaged area always had the chance of a reasonable start in life as long as there was a grammar school there. Now he will be confined to a local neighbourhood comprehensive.

We have tried to oppose the Bill constructively. We have had debates on the educational issues which the Secretary of State and his Department should have put at the top of their list, debates on examinations, standards, further education and the voucher. We should have had many more debates if the guillotine had not descended.

A beneficial side effect of this bad Bill is that this year we have had more discussion of education and the basic issues, thanks to the efforts of my hon. Friends, than we have had for a long time. We have won time. Time has always been the principal weapon of an Opposition, and time is certainly of the essence here.

Even if the Bill is given a Third Reading tonight, let us remember that we are still a bi-cameral legislature and that the argument is not finished in this House. That is the constitution. It is an accepted constitutional convention that when the will of the people is not clear, when they have not made up their minds permanently on an issue, the role of the House of Lords is to give them a second opportunity. I do not say, I cannot say, it is not for me to say, what the House of Lords will do, but if the Secretary of State thinks that he can go away now, take a holiday and forget about the Bill, he is wrong. The battle is by no means over. It will not be over until another General Election has given the people the opportunity to decide on the Bill and the other measures which have been foisted on them by a Government which a tenuous majority in the House and a minority of support in the country.

If—despite all we can do, have done and shall do, because we have the support of the people on this issue—this unwanted and destructive measure reaches the statute book, it will not be there for very long. As soon as we have the opportunity we shall repeal it, and, having repealed it, we shall seek to re-establish once again, on an agreed basis—I do not say that it will be easy, but we must always be ready to do so—a policy for our schools which is based not upon politics, or social engineering, or doctrinaire attitudes but upon educational values. That is what the vast majority of the parents of this country want.

11.6 p.m.

Mr. Arnold Shaw

Unlike the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) I take great delight in witnessing the Third Reading of this measure. For many years I have looked to the House of Commons and to Parliament to pass a measure such as this which would produce a complete comprehensive system of secondary re-organisation.

We have spent a great deal of time on this measure. In spite of the 35 sittings of the Committee, I have rather enjoyed the experience. I certainly enjoyed the experience of listening to some of the inanities of the Opposition who have used the time not for any constructive purpose at all but simply in order to hold back the Bill. It is unfortunate that Parliament has had to say "enough is enough" and that we have got to the position where we are saying that this is the day when we shall decide on the principle of the Bill. What gives me tremendous pleasure is the fact that, as a result of the Bill and the introduction of the universal system of comprehensive secondary schools, the children of this country will have equal opportunities to match their aptitudes and abilities. That was the basic idea behind the 1944 Education Act. For that reason alone I hope that the House will give the Bill a Third Reading.

Much has been said during the course of debate about the question of parental choice. It is difficult to imagine greater humbug expressed than that which has been expressed both in Committee and on the Floor of the House.

My own constituency is part of the London borough of Redbridge which has been dominated by the Tory Party since its inception. There we have a system, which Conservative members seem to think satisfactory, where comprehensive schools and grammar schools exist side by side. That is an impossible combination if one is to have a system of comprehensive education.

What has been the result? At the present time, parents, who are supposed to be given a freedom of choice by the Tory local authority, are besieging the offices of the local authority in order to get that choice which is being denied them by the very system which has been introduced by that council.

Mr. Adley

Presumably the logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument is that there should be no alternative choice and he would prefer to see the total abolition of all schools other than State comprehensives.

Mr. Shaw

Of course I would. I have said it before in the House and I will say it again. I am an unrepentant believer in neighbourhood comprehensive schools which I believe will give freedom of choice and sufficient spread of opportunity to cater for all children in that area.

To come back to my borough of Red-bridge. We have a system of selection which is obviously necessary if one is to keep maintained grammar schools. As a result of the selection test, the children are divided into academics and nonacademics—in other words, into those who can benefit from an academic education and those who cannot or are said to be unable to benefit. Those passing the test, if I may I would put "test" in parentheses—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] I am talking as quickly as did the hon. Member for Chelmsford whose words we have heard separated by at least three seconds.

Mr. Adley

What he said was worth listening to.

Mr. Shaw

We have, as a result, academics and non-academics, with the academics divided into three categories, A, B and C. [Interruption.] I have all the time in the world.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)

Order. Only one hon. Member can be speaking at a time.

Mr. Shaw

I would remind the House that when I was a teacher, or was learning to be a teacher, I was told that when one has very slow learners, one should speak very slowly to them and, if necessary, repeat oneself, so that they understand.

To go back to my borough of Red-bridge, the children are divided into sheep and goats, or into academics and non-academics. The academics are divided into three, A, B and C—

Hon. Members

A, B and C.

Mr. Bryan Davies

They have got it now.

Mr. Shaw

In the allocation of places, obviously those at the top of the scale, in category A, will get into the grammar schools, or their choice of comprehensive school. Those in category B will, in the main, also get the chance of getting into the remainder of the comprehensive school places, the grammar schools having been filled. Those in category C, who are supposed to have passed the test, have to wait until those in categories A and B have been satisfied. [Laughter.] I appreciate that this is rather funny, but it is not funny for the parents of children in my constituency. Those in category C have to wait their turn.

In the meantime, the non-academics have already been placed, in that they go to the neighbourhood schools, secondary modern, of which we still have some, or the comprehensive schools in the catchment areas where they live. Now comes the turn of category C.

Mr. Durant rose

Mr. Shaw

No. You wait.

The "Cs" now ask at the education office for their choice of school but are told that those schools are already closed. They are given other possibilities.

I know of one case in which a child has passed the 11-plus in this third category. He is happy, he is buoyed up because he has passed and waits his turn for the schools of his choice. Eventually he finds that he cannot go to that school and is given other alternatives which would necessitate his travelling many miles from his home. Those are refused on other grounds and eventually he ends going to his neighbourhood secondary modern school, a very good one. Even there, he is not sure until the last moment that he will get in.

A child in that situation is completely deflated. From looking forward to a secondary school career in which he might have expressed himself according to his ability, at the age of 11, he sees his future completely dashed.

With vouchers or any other such system, choice just does not exist. The only possibility of satisfying children's aptitudes is within the comprehensive system. Comprehensive secondary reorganisation has been advocated by the Labour Party over the years. Tonight, whether the Opposition like it or not, it has come to fruition. Despite the threats of the hon. Member for Chelmsford we shall support it. House of Lords or no House of Lords, this will eventually be the system which obtains in this country.

11.18 p.m.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

What a desperately depressing evening this has been. I admire my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and my other hon. Friends who sat on the Committee for their good will and maturity in keeping a sense of proportion and a sense of humour despite the turgid propaganda to which they have had to listen for many months.

From the Government Front Bench, even the Under-Secretary could only be totally destructive. She was not even prepared, like my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman), to take a slightly different view from that of members of her own party. Every Labour Member today has been merely destructive. They have taken a totally uniform approach—that only one form of education will be presented to the people of this country by the statesmen in the Department of Education and Science, and that is their lot.

The children who will suffer most from the Bill—which I fear may get through tonight—are not those of Harrow. The imposition of the uniform comprehensive school in Harrow will not be so damaging because of the quality of parental interest which is shown in my constituency. Those who will suffer are the children in the less privileged, inner city areas, where there will be no escape for the bright child who wants the opportunity to improve himself and pull himself out of the mire of mediocrity.

Mr. Max Madden (Sowerby)


Mr. Page

Maybe it is called money, but what is so sad is that Labour Members are denying the opportunity to their constituents for their children to be able to join scholastically with the children of more academically-minded parents.

The other damaging aspect of the Bill is Clause 5. The Bill will impose the neighbourhood comprehensive school on the country as a whole and, in addition, the Secretary of State will take to himself power to deny local authorities the opportunity of arranging places at independent schools—particularly at the old grammar schools which have become newly independent. It is extremely dangerous for the Government to take these powers. I see them in a rather vicious way getting their own back on the grammar schools which refused to go into the State sector. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite would like to see the disappearance of all schools except the neighbourhood comprehensive. Those are the pressures which will be applied to the Secretary of State.

I see no way out for this country apart from a General Election. If before an election the people of the country heard the speeches made by Labour Members tonight, they would throw the Government out, because they know that the opportunities they want for their children will not be provided by the Bill. I hope that we shall soon have a General Election, so that this ridiculous and damaging Bill can be destroyed.

11.24 p.m.

Mr. Bryan Davies

I rise with a degree of diffidence on the Third Reading of the Bill because I carry no campaign medals for having served on the Committee. That is not from want of trying on my part, but such is the profusion of talent on the Government side on educational matters, and such is the limited quality of the Opposition, that it is not always possible for those desirous of getting on Committees to do so.

I greatly regret having been unable to participate in the deliberations of the Committee and in the proceedings on Report. Having heard the limited argument presented by the Opposition in the past three or four hours, I do not believe that I have been greatly deprived.

The Opposition Front Bench spokesman on education, the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), has argued in defence of a selective system of education that is not supported by any but a minority of voters or by any but a minority of Conservative local authorities. He argued for a position that was scarcely defensible 10 years ago when Circular 10/65 was issued and that now looks like a relic of a last-ditch battle of a decade ago. If Opposition Members are to produce arguments that relate only to issues that should have been settled a decade back, we can look not only to continuous Labour Administrations but a continuous low level of opposition from the Conservative Benches.

Mr. Nicholas Scott (Chelsea)

I respect the hon. Gentleman's judgment between the wickets as I do on every issue that he discusses, but will he apply his argument—I do not question his judgment—to the issue that a minority of the electorate does not have the right to sway an argument one way or the other? We have discussed under guillotine motions the nationalisation of the aircraft and shipbuilding industries and the Dock Work Regulation Bill. Those matters would not have achieved one-in-ten support from the electorate but they have been steamrollered through the House. How can the hon. Gentleman suddenly grasp such an argument out of the air on this Bill? I do not accept his mathematics, but to use that argument does not seem to equate with his judgment in running between the wickets.

Mr. Davies

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but I understand that I shall remain in order only if I direct my remarks to the consideration of education.

The hon. Gentleman will realise that when we supported the motion to limit the debate this evening we did so in the knowledge of what was likely to happen tonight, and what we anticipated would happen has happened. At one stage the Opposition were arguing for massive extra resources to be devoted to education to implement a voucher programme, but at a later stage their Front Bench spokesmen were arguing that comprehensive education cannot be introduced because there are insufficient available resources. Are their insufficient resources for those authorities that under Conservative control have resisted the introduction of comprehensive education? They are often among the wealthiest authorities in the country.

The second arugment put forward by the Opposition is that comprehensive education has been introduced against the wishes of parents. Has there been no realisation on the Opposition Benches of the extent to which the wishes of parents are inevitably frustrated under a selective system? In circumstances where they ensure for their own children the best of education, often being prepared to make sacrifices in terms of purchasing that education privately, how do they think other parents feel when their children, at the age of 11, are arbitrarily identified as being incapable of certain courses of education and development? That is not freedom or a range of choice.

We should recognise that an extension of choice is possible only in terms of the possibilities within the framework of any one school. That is where the Opposition should be concentrating their case. They should be ensuring that resources, standards and courses are developed within the comprehensive system.

It is right to comment on the most disgraceful argument of all that is deployed by the Opposition. They support a case which manifestly is not supported in the country, but we have had an old blunderbuss dragged out against us, one that appears whenever a Labour Administration proposes to introduce an element of advanced legislation—namely that the Conservative majority in the House of Lords will cause us to halt and stay. Despite the disavowal of the hon. Member for Chelmsford that he does not know the way in which the Lords will respond to this Bill, we should take his proposition more seriously. History will indicate to us that the other place often takes its marching orders from the line adopted by the Conservative Front Bench in arguments in this Chamber.

This Bill should have the full-hearted support of all hon. Members on this side of the House, and, indeed, all hon. Members on the Liberal Benches. We shall proceed successfully to Third Reading, and if the Conservatives succeed in manipulating the House of Lords, they will rue the day.

11.32 p.m.

Mr. Freud

Since the start of this debate we have heard from the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) that time is the principal weapon of the Opposition, and that would still be the position had the guillotine not descended. We had today just over six hours before the 10.30 p.m. vote. In this six hours and 12 minutes, to be precise, we had three hours and 11 minutes on a motion which sought to discontinue the Schools Council. After those three hours and 11 minutes we did not even have a vote. This was a scandalous waste of a very limited amount of time. After that we had two and a half hours of debate on the voucher system. We have had arguments in this House on the voucher system over and over again, and the point which was made from the Labour Benches about the expense of the system is very valid.

Education is, to a very great extent, about planning and looking ahead. The voucher system depends on the trendy school—the popular school of the day having been enlarged to cope with those children whose parents want them to go there and the pulling down of buildings when the size of the school becomes unsuitable.

The voucher scheme is always an interesting experiment. I went to California and saw what happened in practice. It was an absolute disaster, and it did not work. Far more money was spent on petrol and paying drivers than on teachers and books, which, after all, is what education is about.

This is not a particularly good Bill. It is not basically about education. It is about compulsion, and we Liberals deplore compulsion. I want to look at the better of two not particularly appetising choices. I, and my colleagues, with one or two notable exceptions who believe that they should vote with the Opposition because they feel quite rightly that local authorities should have greater rights and not lesser rights, will support the Bill because we feel that it is impossible to have comprehensive education running alongside selective education.

In my constituency, which has the worst of all evils, we have selection at the age of 13-plus. We have a creaming off at the age of 13 which causes misery to those who are left behind and brings no great happiness to those who are selected. In my surgeries last week I had over more than 20 parents. It is a good thing that parents complain that their children are not creamed off, because it means that at least the school which retains these children has an element of kids who have academic ambitions.

I shall conclude shortly because I know that many hon. Members who served on the Committee for all those hours, and who occasionally went out to make long telephone calls, also want to speak. Many of us have split loyalties. We have a passionate feeling about which sort of education is right. We also have schools in our constituencies which we feel, regardless of our politics, to be good schools which should be encouraged. My point simply is that a majority of my hon. Friends and I will support the Government because we believe in comprehensive education. We also believe that the seven recalcitrant local authorities should make some gesture towards implementing it.

11.37 p.m.

Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)

I was unsuccessful in trying to speak in the debate yesterday and I missed the opening remarks by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education. I must take up one point yesterday by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) who said that I had resigned from the Government because of the Bill.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The hon. Lady knows that I have great admiration for her courage in resigning from the Government over the education cuts. I would be the last person to suggest that she resigned over the Bill, which I know she wholeheartedly supports. I explained to the Secretary of State while she was absent earlier that that was what I had intended to say. If in any way I did not make that clear, I am happy to do so now.

Miss Lestor

I am grateful to the hon. Member for what he has said. I know that he would not wish to misrepresent me any more than I would him.

My support for the Bill is almost 100 per cent. I regret that banding was included in the Bill. I do not believe that in the long term that will take us towards an end of selection, but that is an argument that we shall have within the family and I do not have to air it now.

Tremendous emphasis has been placed throughout the debate on comprehensive education on the question of choice. Last week, in the two weeks before that and again today in a telephone call from my agent I was asked to take up the case of parents in my constituency who are deeply upset because their children did not get a place in the grammar school of their choice. Part of my constituency is in that area of Berkshire which has not gone comprehensive. The parents are complaining that they have not got what they chose.

When the Conservatives defend the selection process on the ground that it gives the majority of parents a choice they are talking utter rubbish. That is not the case, and it never has been. The minority of parents get the schools they choose, but large numbers of parents put down on the form not the school of their choice but the school that they are persuaded by the teachers their children are most likely to get into. The question of choice has always been a red herring.

Throughout discussion on the Bill, and in many other discussions about education, people have talked of what some regard as falling standards in education and what others see as changing attitudes. We all express concern about education. It has been one of my main interests in the House. We have been concerned about values in education, the way in which it affects young people and whether the children are getting the best possible opportunities.

As a mother and ex-teacher, I believe that the State system will come into its own only when the people who legislate for it use it. Those who legislate for other people's children but are not prepared to use the establishments and institutions for which they make laws are guilty of gross misrepresentation. People who care about education and are involved in it should be prepared to put their children where their care is. They should use the State system. When those who legislate for the State system begin to use it, we shall see the changes in the interests of the consumer that many of us wish to see.

In this argument about comprehensive education, it is a bit of a nerve for those who do not use the system to make decisions and regulations for other people's children while keeping as far away from the State system as they can.

11.42 p.m.

Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

I shall try to be brief and not to follow the example of the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Shaw), though I give him full marks for honesty. He said that he was an unrepentant supporter of neighbourhood comprehensive schools. The hon. Member has a great deal of missionary work to do among his hon. and right hon. Friends.

When the Prime Minister took office, he spoke on television about preserving our existing freedoms. If this Bill is an example of that, God help us all. The aim of the Bill is to take away the freedom of local education authorities to decide on the type of education they want in their areas. Local democracy and the wishes of local people are conveniently ignored.

The Bill aims to destroy our grammar schools. I cannot understand why any government should want to destroy schools of proven excellence, especially when there is no concrete evidence in this country, in Sweden or in the United States that the new system is an improvement on the old system.

There is no need for the urgency with which the Government are seeking to enforce this change. Hon. Members opposite are biting the hands that fed them. Many of them had the benefit of grammar school education and are now seeking to deny it to other people's children.

It would also make interesting reading to know where hon. Members opposite send their children and grandchildren to school. We have the ex-Prime Minister sending his son to University College School, Hampstead. The Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection sent her child to a voluntary-aided school, the Prime Minister's daughter went to a direct-grant school and his granddaughter is going to St. Paul's Girls School. In addition, the Secretary of State for Education sent his daughter to the City of London School for Girls, which is an independent school. If my information is correct, she left in 1971 when there were plenty of comprehensive schools available in the London areas.

Mr. Mulley

I should like to put the record straight. In neither case did I spend a penny on the education of my daughters. They were educated through the ILEA system. They went through the 11-plus. [HON. MEMBERS: "So what?"] I took one away from the direct-grant school to which she had gone on a scholarship at the age of 11 because she failed her O-levels and she got an "A" in her A-levels at a comprehensive school.

Hon. Members


Mr. Montgomery

I shall not withdraw. The right hon. Gentleman said that his daughters were educated in the Inner London Education Authority area. The fact remains that he sent his daughter to the City of London School for Girls—an independent school. If my information is correct, she left in 1971 when there were plenty of comprehensive schools in the London area. What I question is this: if it is right for other people's children to go to comprehensive schools, why is it that so many children of right hon. and hon. Members on the Government side are not sent to comprehensive schools?

This Government speak with two tongues. On the one hand, they destroy good schools and replace them with schools which are not yet proven and, on the other, with 37 other countries, they sign a United Nations International Convention, which becomes effective on 23rd September, which assures the safety of public schools and independent education.

This is a squalid Bill. The Government have got their priorities wrong. Instead of dealing with this unwanted legislation, the Secretary of State and the Government should be more concerned about unemployment among teachers, which is the worst since the 1930s, and the terrible problem of school-leavers who have no jobs to which to go. If we had been seen to be spending our time discussing and trying to find a solution to these vexed questions, it would have been more beneficial than giving a Third Reading to this piece of political humbug.

11.47 p.m.

Dr. Hampson

Perhaps we may get away from so much of the rhetoric that has flown around in the debate and get back to what the Bill is about. The Bill is not, as so many Labour Members seem to believe, about the arguments of 30 or even 10 years ago—namely, whether there should be comprehensive schools in this country. Clearly—the record is plain for all to see—comprehensive schools have grown throughout the country. They have been backed by Tory authorities, which were some of the first to launch them, and by Tory Secretaries of State. In answer to two or three hon. Gentlemen, it is already the form of State education that the majority of children undergo.

Mr. Christopher Price

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Hampson


Mr. Christopher Price rose

Dr. Hampson

I must in all fairness say that, because of the shortness of time and largely because the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Shaw) spoke for so long, I have not time to give way to the hon. Gentleman. I am sorry.

Mr. Christopher Price rose

Dr. Hampson

I want to try to make a few reasoned points before the Minister of State replies. The Bill is not about comprehensive education, and the Opposition are not seeking to bash the idea of comprehensive education in terms of selection or non-selection at the age of 11.

Mr. Christopher Price rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker


Dr. Hampson

We oppose the Bill because it is badly drafted, irrelevant and does not deal with any of the key issues that concern parents: standards, discipline or teaching methods. Above all, it is taking a bulldozer to smash what the Government believe is the nut of the problem—namely, what they believe to be seven recalcitrant local education authorities.

In the process of using this type of legislation, this travesty of an interpretation of the 1944 Act, the Government are causing untold damage to the principles on which our education system has gradually evolved. The 1944 balance of power between the rights and obligations of parents and of local education authorities and the position of the Secretary of State has been overthrown by the Bill.

In Committee, when they were more honest at times, hon. Gentlemen opposite and spokesmen for the Government admitted that, far from being a trivial or minor Bill, though short, it did in fact—

Mr. Christopher Price


Dr. Hampson

It is miscellaneous. That is why we had the opportunity of tabling so many new clauses.

Mr. Christopher Price rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) must not intervene if the hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) does not wish to give way.

Dr. Hampson

It was a miscellaneous measure and, therefore, we put down new clauses to deal with all these important matters which the Government dismiss so cavalierly.

The balance of power has been destroyed. The Government admitted that the fundamental balance has changed. The local education authorities used to be obliged to carry out certain functions under Sections 11 and 12 of the 1944 Act. Those sections were never used. Local education authorities are now required to submit plans within six months. Local education authorities, although committed to comprehensive reorganisation, have found it difficult, if not impossible, to carry out a complete reorganisation in years, and cannot produce proposals in that short space of time.

The Government will oblige local education authorities to produce an outline—they call it a sketch map—of how they foresee their entire reorganisation taking place, from the first stage to the conclusion. If the Government do not like those plans, they will require local education authorities to submit further proposals to cover those aspects which the Secretary of State does not like.

The Government speak benignly. They say that it is the spirit that matters and that it is not what is written down that matters. What matters is how they intend to use their power. Once the power is given, however, any other Secretary of State may use it as he will. In many respects this Secretary of State may be well intentioned. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But let us take the case of the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) or the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer). Their approach to this matter, as to so many others, would involve a quite different emphasis, and an intolerance which so far we have not seen in the present ministerial team.

There are anomalies in this measure. Some parts of the sketch map will go straight through under Section 13 of the 1944 Act; other parts will not. If a local authority does not have the means—largely as a result of the financial difficulties caused by the harsh climate that the Government have introduced into public spending—to implement the sketch map or grand design, the Secretary of State may nevertheless say that it has been dilatory and that it must get cracking and submit more detailed proposals to the Government. There is power under the Bill for the Secretary of State to say that a local authority is required by a certain time to produce more detailed proposals which will go through under Section 13 procedures.

That is a fundamental change in the education law of this country. Until this point, local education authorities have had discretion. They have decided whether schools should change their character. They have decided when the initiatives should be introduced and in what form. That power now passes to the Secretary of State and central Government, at a time when the people are fed to the teeth with more central Government and the "Big Brother" attitude demonstrated by this Government.

I say that the local education authorities should put the matter to the test. By all means they should give general sketch maps to the Secretary of State and proceed to meet the requirements of the law. They should let the matter go for as long as they wish. If the parties locally in power change, or if the education situation changes, they should change their plans, submit different Section 13 plans and see what the Secretary of State has to say.

This Bill is unlike the 1970 proposals in that it denies any say to parents, teachers or governors in the drafting of the basic sketch maps of their authorities' reorganisation plans. Parents, teachers, and governors only have the right to make objections when the Section 13 stage is reached. Under the Bill, they do not have the right to comment upon the sketch maps proposed by the local education authorities at the formative stage.

In many ways education reflects the attitude of the regime pursuing the educational policies. The Bill reflects entirely the ideology of members of the Labour Party. It is based on the myth of the "genuine" comprehensive school, to which the Minister referred earlier. There can be no such thing as a genuine comprehensive school: it must reflect the area, the neighbourhood and the abilities to be found in that area. However, it will not contain the whole range of abilities or courses. Therefore, it is unreal to demand it.

Government supporters believe that such an instrument can be used to attain the goal of a Socialist millennium, but we do not believe it. The difference between us is that whereas they want to impose that goal on society, regardless of resources, we want to go back to the gradualist approach which has marked our history and our education history since 1944 and let institutions evolve, just as the comprehensive system itself has sprung from many different roots and, therefore, today has such a variegated pattern. It is diversity, flexibility and parental choice which we believe to be the essence of our education system and which we shall seek to restore when we form the next Government.

11.54 p.m.

Mr. Gerry Fowler

On one matter and one matter only the Opposition have been absolutely right throughout the protracted proceedings on the Bill. It is in their belief that the Bill is a major piece of legislation and that it marks a dramatic change in direction for the British education system. They are right. I share that view. It is a major piece of legislation—perhaps in educational terms one of the few pieces of legislation in this century that will rank with the 1944 Education Act.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Shaw) was speaking earlier, he said that the proposition that we should have throughout the country a totally comprehensive system was one which had been advanced for many years by the Labour Party. Of course, he was right. [Interruption.] I heard what was said in an interjection from the Opposition Benches—"Therefore, it must be wrong." That is exactly what has conditioned the attitude of the Conservative Party throughout our debates on the Bill. They have said "We are not concerned with educational principle. We are not concerned with the opportunities available to children in this country. The Labour Party has advanced it and, therefore, it must be wrong."

Throughout the Committee stage, we tolerated day after day the argument that selection was desirable, and the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) said that selection was desirable but, of course, in a non-selective system. Essentially, that was his argument for 35 sittings of the Committee, and at the end of the day the hon. Gentleman is still saying "No, the Bill is wrong. We do not want it because it imposes non-selectivity, whereas we believe in a nonselective system with selection operating within it."

Throughout 35 sittings we had the hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) saying that he believed, as a good, new, liberal young Conservative, that we should have a non-selective system nationally, at the same time telling the Committee that his differences with the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) were minimal.

We had the hon. Member for Brent, North telling us that he believed in selection for not only English, mathematics or whatever discipline it might be, but for truants, thieves and arsonists. That was what we put up with for 35 sittings.

We have an Opposition who have manifested themselves in their attitude to the Bill as an Opposition with no policy, as we have seen tonight. But they have succeeded in uniting liberal Members of the House, and it is no accident that the Liberal Party will be going into the Division Lobby with the Government. It is not because we agree on every detail. Certainly it is not because we have desired to introduce compulsion. It is, as the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) said so carefully, because there are recalcitrant authorities throughout the country which have manifested the attitude which has been shown throughout our debates by the hon. Member for Chelmsford—

It being Twelve o'clock Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order yesterday, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 303, Noes, 269.

Division No. 267.] AYES [12 midnight
Abse, Leo Canavan, Dennis Doig, Peter
Allaun, Frank Cant, R. B. Dormand, J. D.
Anderson, Donald Carmichael, Neil Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Archer, Peter Carter, Ray Duffy, A. E. P.
Armstrong, Ernest Cartwright, John Dunn, James A.
Ashton, Joe Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Dunnett, Jack
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Clemitson, Ivor Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Atkinson, Norman Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Eadie, Alex
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cohen, Stanley Edge, Geoff
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Coleman, Donald Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Colquhoun, Ms Maureen Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)
Bates, Alf Concannon, J. D. Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)
Bean, R. E. Conlan, Bernard English, Michael
Beith, A. J. Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Ennals, David
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Corbett, Robin Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)
Bidwell, Sydney Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Evans, John (Newton)
Bishop, E. S. Crawshaw, Richard Ewing, Harry (Stirling)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Cronin, John Faulds, Andrew
Boardman, H. Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Fitch, Alan (Wigan)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Cryer, Bob Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Flannery, Martin
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiten) Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston)
Bradley, Tom Davidson, Arthur Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Ford, Ben
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Davies, Ifor (Gower) Forrester, John
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S) Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)
Buchan, Norman Deakins, Eric Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)
Buchanan, Richard Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Freeson, Reginald
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Freud, Clement
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Campbell, Ian Dempsey, James Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
George, Bruce McGuire, Michael (Ince) Sedgemore, Brian
Gilbert, Dr John MacKenzie, Gregor Selby, Harry
Ginsburg, David Mackintosh, John P. Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Golding, John Maclennan, Robert Sheldon, Robert (Ashton u-Lyne)
Gould, Bryan McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Gourlay, Harry Madden, Max Short, Rt. Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Graham, Ted Magee, Bryan Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Mahon, Simon Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Grant, John (Islington C) Mallalieu, J. P. W. Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)'
Grocott, Bruce Marks, Kenneth Silverman, Julius
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Marquand, David Skinner, Dennis
Hamilton, W. W. (Central File) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Small, William
Hardy, Peter Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Harper, Joseph Mason, Rt Hon Roy Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Maynard, Miss Joan Snape, Peter
Hart, Rt Hon Judith Meacher, Michael Spearing, Nigel
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Stallard, A. W.
Hatton, Frank Mendelson, John Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Hayman, Mrs Helene Mikardo, Ian Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Millan, Bruce Stoddart, David
Heffer, Eric S. Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Stott, Roger
Hooley, Frank Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Strang, Gavin
Horam, John Mitchell, R. C. (Solon, Itchen) Strauss, Rt. Hon G. R.
Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Moonman, Eric Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Swain, Thomas
Huckfield, Les Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Newens, Stanley Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Hunter, Adam Noble, Mike Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Oakes, Gordon Tierney, Sydney
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Ogden, Eric Tomlinson, John
Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) O'Halloran, Michael Tomney, Frank
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Orbach, Maurice Torney, Tom
Janner, Greville Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Tuck, Raphael
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Ovenden, John Urwin, T. W.
Jeger, Mrs Lena Owen, Dr David Varley, Rt. Hon Eric G.
John, Brynmor Padley, Walter Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Palmer, Arthur Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Pardoe, John Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Park, George Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Parker, John Ward, Michael
Judd, Frank Parry, Robert Watkins, David
Kaufman, Gerald Pavitt, Laurie Watkinson, John
Kelley, Richard Peart, Rt Hon Fred Weetch, Ken
Kerr, Russell Pendry, Tom Weitzman, David
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Perry, Ernest Wellbeloved, James
Kinnock, Nell Phipps, Dr Colin White, James (Pollok)
Lambie, David Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Whitehead, Phillip
Lamborn, Harry Prescott, John Whirlock, William
Lamond, James Price, C. (Lewisham W) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Price, William (Rugby) Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Leadbitter, Ted Radice, Giles Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Lee, John Richardson, Miss Jo Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Lever, Rt Hon Harold Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Lewis, Arthur (Newham N) Robinson, Geoffrey Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Roderick, Caerwyn Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Lipton, Marcus Rodgers, George (Chorley) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Litterick, Tom Rodgers, William (Stockton) Woodall, Alec
Lomas, Kenneth Rooker, J. W. Woof, Robert
Loyden, Eddie Roper, John Wrigglesworth, Ian
Luard, Evan Rose, Paul B. Young, David (Bolton E)
Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Mabon, Dr J. Dickson Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
McCartney, Hugh Rowlands, Ted Mr. James Tinn and
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Sandelson, Neville Mr. Frank R. White.
MacFarquhar, Roderick
Adley, Robert Biffen, John Buck, Antony
Aitken, Jonathan Biggs-Davison, John Budgen, Nick
Alison, Michael Blaker, Peter Bulmer, Esmond
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Body, Richard Burden, F. A.
Arnold, Tom Boscawen, Hon Robert Butler, Adam (Bosworth)
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Bottomley, Peter Carlisle, Mark
Awdry, Daniel Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Carson, John
Baker, Kenneth Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Banks, Robert Bradford, Rev Robert Channon, Paul
Bell, Ronald Brittan, Leon Churchill, W. S.
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Brotherton, Michael Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Clark, William (Croydon S)
Benyon, W. Bryan, Sir Paul Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Berry, Hon Anthony Buchanan-Smith, Alick Clegg, Walter
Cockcroft, John Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Peyton, Rt Hon Jonn
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) James, David Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Cope, John Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'dt'd) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Cordle, John H. Jessel, Toby Prior, Rt Hon James
Cormack, Patrick Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Costain, A. P. Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Raison, Timothy
Critchley, Julian Jopling, Michael Rathbone, Tim
Crouch, David Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Crowder, F. P. Kaberry, Sir Donald Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Rees-Davies, W. R.
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Kershaw, Anthony Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Kilfedder, James Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Kimball, Marcus Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Drayson, Burnaby King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Ridley, Hon Nicholas
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward King, Tom (Bridgwater) Ridsdale, Julian
Dunlop, John Kirk, Sir Peter Rifkind, Malcolm
Durant, Tony Kitson, Sir Timothy Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Dykes, Hugh Knight, Mrs Jill Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Knox, David Ross, William (Londonderry)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Lamont, Norman Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Elliott, Sir William Lane, David Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Emery, Peter Latham, Michael (Melton) Royle, Sir Anthony
Eyre, Reginald Lawrence, Ivan Sainsbury, Tim
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lawson, Nigel St. John-Stevas, Norman
Fairgrieve, Russell Le Marchant, Spencer Scott, Nicholas
Farr, John Lester, Jim (Beeston) Scott-Hopkins, James
Fell, Anthony Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Finsberg, Geoffrey Lloyd, Ian Shelton, William (Streatham)
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Loveridge, John Shepherd, Colin
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Luce, Richard Shersby, Michael
Forman, Nigel McAdden, Sir Stephen Sims, Roger
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C't'd) McCrindle, Robert Sinclair, Sir George
Fox, Marcus Macfarlane, Neil Skeet, T. H. H.
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) MacGregor, John Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Fry, Peter McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Speed, Keith
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Spence, John
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Madel, David Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham) Marten, Neil Sproat, Iain
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Mates, Michael Stainton, Keith
Glyn, Dr Alan Mather, Carol Stanbrook, Ivor
Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Maude, Angus Stanley, John
Goodhart, Philip Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Goodhew, Victor Mawby, Ray Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Goodlad, Alastair Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stokes, John
Gorst, John Mayhew, Patrick Stradling, Thomas J.
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Meyer, Sir Anthony Tapsell, Peter
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Mills, Peter Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Gray, Hamish Miscampbell, Norman Tebbit, Norman
Griffiths, Eldon Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Temple-Morris, Peter
Grist, Ian Moate, Roger Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Grylls, Michael Molyneaux, James Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Hall, Sir John Monro, Hector Townsend, Cyril D.
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Montgomery, Fergus Trotter, Neville
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Moore, John (Croydon C) Tugendhat, Christopher
Hampson, Dr Keith More, Jasper (Ludlow) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hannam, John Morgan, Geraint Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Viggers, Peter
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Hastings, Stephen Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Wakeham, John
Havers, Sir Michael Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Hawkins, Paul Mudd, David Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Hayhoe, Barney Neave, Airey Walker_Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Nelson, Anthony Wall, Patrick
Heseltine, Michael Neubert, Michael Walters, Dennis
Hicks, Robert Newton, Tony Warren, Kenneth
Higgins, Terence L. Normanton, Tom Weatherill, Bernard
Holland, Philip Nott, John Wells, John
Hordern, Peter Onslow, Cranley Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Oppenheim, Mrs Sally Wiggin, Jerry
Howell, David (Guildford) Osborn, John Winterton, Nicholas
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Page, John (Harrow, West) Younger, Hon George
Hunt, David (Wirral) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Hunt, John (Bromley) Paisley, Rev Ian TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hurd, Douglas Parkinson, Cecil Mr. Mike Roberts and
Hutchison, Michael Clark Percival, Ian Mr. Fred Silvester.
Question accordingly agreed to.
Bill read the Third time and passed.