HC Deb 30 June 1976 vol 914 cc461-509

'(1) An appeals board shall be established by each local education authority; and the board shall comprise one member of another local education authority, one teacher not employed by the local authority establishing the board, and one other person of local standing not being a member of any local authority.

(2) A parent may, if dissatisfied with the maintained school place, whether primary or secondary, allocated to his child by the local education authority, appeal to the Appeals Board established for his area for reconsideration, and where considered appropriate by the board, reallocate for a school place.

(3) If the parent is still dissatisfied with the allocation of school place as recommended by the Appeals Board, he may then appeal to the Secretary of State'.—[Mr. St. John-Stevas.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

With this we can also discuss New Clause 66—(Appeals committee).

7.0 p.m.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

New Clause 15 and New Clause 66 deal with the question of appeals by parents who are dissatisfied with the allocation of schools. They are, in fact, two different means of achieving the same end.

Throughout the web of Conservative education policy there is one golden thread which can always be seen, and that is that the right to educate children belongs to the parents, and not to the State. It is true, of course, in the highly complex conditions of modern society, that this is a right which has to be delegated to others, but the fact that a right has been delegated does not destroy it: the right remains. There is a distinction, both philosophically and legally, between the existence of a right and its exercise.

On this question of the parental role in education we believe that parents not only have a right but also a duty. Parents are willing to discharge this duty, by and large, if only they have the opportunity to do so. It is essential to parents' self-respect that they should be regarded as responsible for the education of their children. Perhaps the most important thing which most people do during the course of their lives is to undertake responsibility for bringing up another person, and transmitting values to the next generation of society.

It is a sad reflection on the Government's priorities that here we have a major Education Bill in which parents are not mentioned at all. I would not go so far as to apply to hon. Members opposite the phrase used by Bagehot of Macaulay, that he seemed to regard the existence of people as a painful prerequisite for great-grandchildren. However, I sometimes think that there is an element of that kind in the approach of the Secretary of State, who regards children as necessary prerequisites for comprehensive schools, rather than the other way round. I do not claim an exclusive interest in parental rights, or say that concern about parents is confined to this side of the House. I think that there are other hon. Members in different parts of the House who are concerned about this matter.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Lambeth, Central)

They are not here now.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Well, they have to eat. I admit I have seen this Chamber more crowded, even when I am speaking.

I do not make this as an exclusive claim, but I do claim on behalf of the Opposition that we have taken the initiative and given a lead in this respect. We have tried our best to get the education debate away from this dreary groove in which it has been placed by the present Secretary of State—a groove of only comprehensive and grammar schools. There are other areas of much greater importance for the majority of people who are concerned with education.

New Clause 15 is just one of a number in which we are attempting to widen this Bill in order to give it a constructive content, and to move away from the narrow obsession of imposing comprehensive schools everywhere without regard to parental wishes, local conditions or financial constraints.

On 12th August 1974 on behalf of the Opposition I launched the parents' charter at Stockport. It has since been the subject of debate in this House and also the subject of a Private Member's Bill. We have endeavoured consistently to persuade the Government to accept the charter over the past two years. There will be other new clauses which we will discuss and which embody various parts of that charter, but New Clause 15 and New Clause 66 are attempts to embody the first principle of the charter which says: First, we will amend Section 76 of the Education Act 1944, in order to create clearer obligations on the State and local authorities to take account of parental wishes. We will provide that education authorities will follow the wishes of parents unless the cost or the educational needs of the pupils make it unreasonable so to do. We will provide a system of appeals so that parents who are dissatisfied, either with allocation of schools or with other educational matters concerning their children have an opportunity to make their voice heard.

Mr. Mulley

I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. I cannot see in either of the new clauses any attempt to amend or change Section 76 of the 1944 Act. In fact, there is no reference to any amendment of Section 76.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Secretary of State is his usual precipitant and vigilant self. I was referring to the second part of the paragraph from the charter. The second part I quoted to the House deals directly with the appeals procedure which stems from Section 76. The general principle of Section 76 says that regard should be paid to parents' wishes in the choice of schools etcetera. The new clauses are a particularisation of that principle. I hope that will clear up the confusion in the right hon. Gentleman's mind.

Mr. Lipton

I am still confused.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I would like to help the hon. Gentleman if I could. He is very charming and very winning and I will do anything—

Mr. Mulley

Give him a pair.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I will do anything except give him a pair. Anyway, he is very interested in educational matters so I am sure he will not want a pair. I am sure he has nothing better to do than to listen to me.

Mr. Mulley

The point of my observation was that perhaps my hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman would pair.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I reserve my favours such as they are for the right hon. Gentleman.

One of the reasons why this appeals procedure is necessary and urgent is the zoning system which has grown and has become so rigid. In case the Secretary of State gets confused, he will be pleased to know that it is the sixth principle of the charter that zoning arrangements should be flexible and that Governments should scrutinise them to avoid rigid zoning. It is precisely because this zoning system, which has no clear legal basis, has become so rigid that there are so many parents dissatisfied with choice of schools. The legal basis of zoning is rather obscure, but, by a strange paradox, it seems to have grown up on a reading of Section 76 of the 1944 Act.

Section 76 was intended, of course, to extend and confirm the rights of parents, but, unfortunately, it said not only that the Secretary of State and local authorities should have regard to the general principles that children were to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents; it added the words so far as is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure". That has been subject to very narrow interpretation, which has resulted in a restrictive zoning system growing up. Yet it was a former Secretary of State for Education, the right hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Short), who told a House of Commons Standing Committee on 23rd April 1970 that school catchment areas were not a concept known to law. In spite of that, almost all local authorities tend to draw up these catchment areas.

Here, we are invoking the law to right what I think has become a distortion of the system, and it is interesting to observe that paragraph 10 of the Manual of Guidance for Schools, which was first issued by the Department of Education in 1950, says: Nor would it be compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training if the school of the parent's choice or the class which the child would enter were full. It is in fact sometimes necessary to restrict the choice of schools available to the children of a neighbourhood by zoning or de-limiting the areas to be served by particular schools. It may indeed be necessary under the zoning scheme for some children to attend a school other than that nearest to their homes. The manual goes on in the very next paragraph to make it quite clear that this is a power that should be used in a limited way. It says: Assuming, as the Minister, does, that local education authorities will confine such restricttions to districts in which they are clearly necessary to avoid overcrowding at schools or particular classes in them or to avoid places being taken up which can reasonably be said to be needed for pupils living within the zone, that such factors as traffic dangers will be taken fully into account and that care will be taken to meet reasonable denominational preferences and exceptional cases, the existence of a zoning arrangement would be a factor—no more—which the Minister would take into account in deciding any case which might be referred to him. On the other hand, he considers that when a zoning scheme is first introduced children who live outside the zone but already attend the school concerned should normally be allowed to stay there. Lastly, and most important of all, it says: These schemes should be reviewed periodically to ensure that they are discontinued when the occasion for them has passed. We can see there that the view of the Department of Education was, and, I hope, still is—perhaps we shall be enlightened about this when we hear from the Minister—that zoning is a creature of necessity, and that as soon as that necessity is over it should be done away with but that, meanwhile, it will be narrowly confined within stated parameters.

7.15 p.m.

The same principle is found in Circular 268, which was sent out by the Minister in 1953. That says: The Minister recognises that in present circumstances the introduction of a zoning scheme for primary schools and sometimes also for secondary schools in an authority's area may be necessary at times when there is temporary pressure on school accommodation. He is satisfied that in general local education authorities introduce such restrictions only when the need justifies them and that they are anxious to remove them at the earliest opportunity. There can be no doubt however, that the establishment of zone boundaries is a matter of deep public concern in those areas where they are introduced. By looking at the situation both legally and historically we can see that this zoning was in origin a temporary expedient to meet an emergency situation, but, as so often with temporary expedients, what was thought of as an emergency measure has now become part and parcel of the system. One of the reasons for the introduction of this new clause, though not the only one, is to modify the rigidities of the zoning system.

What happens at present? When a parent has expressed a preference for a secondary school—for example, during the child's last year at primary school—the parent, unless he is of exceptional character, simply waits to hear from the education officer concerned. If when the parent hears of the allocation he does not like it, he can object to the local education officer. The vast majority of local education officers do their jobs conscientiously and well, but I am afraid that there is a minority who think in terms of the convenience of administration rather than in terms of the needs of the child. That is why a further check is necessary.

At present, it is possible, of course, to write to a local councillor, to approach the chairman of the education committee or to write to a Member of Parliament. We all have many instances of people approaching us who are dissatisfied with the choice of school. In my own case, about 30 per cent. of my surgery cases in Chelmsford are on this issue—

Mr. Noble


Mr. St. John-Stevas

The area is not a selective one. It is a model area which shows that comprehensive and selective schools can exist side by side quite happily.

Mr. Noble


Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is not nonsense. It is a fact. The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) is so blinded by prejudice that not even the most obvious facts can make any impression on him. The fact is that in Chelmsford we have excellent grammar schools and excellent comprehensive schools. Some of the strongest supporters of the grammar schools are heads of comprehensive schools. So the system works. It works also in Colchester, in Bristol and in other parts of the country. The hon. Member should pay some attention to the facts, and seek to escape from the obfuscations of prejudice which are preventing him from seeing the issue clearly.

Mr. Noble

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will explain to us the difference between selective schools, which select children, and non-selective schools—which take the children who have not been selected because they have not passed the examination—and which are called comprehensive schools. How can we have a comprehensive system if the children have already been selected?

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East) rose

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I was intending to give the hon. Lady a separate withdrawal, if I may say so, in a moment.

Mrs. Short

Oh, I say!

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Order. The hon. Gentleman has the Floor if he wishes to answer the question.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am flattered by the eagerness of Members to interrupt me, but I must deal with them in strictly chronological order.

The hon. Member for Rossendale is posing a false dilemma. It is true that if we have a system by which 30 per cent. or so of the children in a defined area go to selective schools and 70 per cent., say, go to non-selective schools, we could argue with some degree of reason that we cannot have comprehensive schools. But when we have a system by which the number of children going to selective schools is less than 10 per cent.—as, for example, in Chelmsford and Bristol—it is quite possible to have different types of school and to have a sufficient measure or spread of ability. These are the facts of the situation.

Mr. Noble rose

Mrs. Renée Short rose

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The hon. Gentleman must ask for a further explanation, but not during my speech. I give way to the hon. Lady.

Mrs. Renée Short

The hon. Gentleman was telling us how excellently everything works in his area, but he has just told us that he has a large number of cases at his surgery concerning the problem of allocation to schools. If the system is so marvellous in his area, why are so many of the parents dissatisfied?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The hon. Lady's interruption certainly has a point, as do all her interruptions. I have not said that I thought the system was perfect. Of course there are flaws in the system. But, generally speaking, the complaints I have had concerning allocation of schools are not from parents dissatisfied because their child has or has not gone to a grammar school. They are complaints because it is not the school nearest their home, or because they want a single-sex school, or perhaps prefer one type of comprehensive school to another. It may be, again, that one school has a good reputation and another has not.

I do not blame the hon. Lady. It is the Secretary of State who polarises this whole discussion as thought it were just a question of comprehensive and grammar schools. What parents want is a choice of different schools, whether they be comprehensive, selective, or otherwise.

Mr. Noble rose

Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East) rose

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I will give way to the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson).

Mr. Clemitson

I refer to parental choice and the interpretation of Section 76 of the Education Act 1944. Let us suppose that there is a system which is comprehensive and a parent has been offered the choice of several different schools within that comprehensive system Let us suppose, further, that the parent refuses all of them and refuses to send the child to any school within the total system. In those circumstances, would the hon. Gentleman think it right, bearing in mind Section 76, that the local authority should make sufficient funds available to enable that parent to send the child to a private school?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Naturally, one would have to look at the facts of any particular case. But certainly—it is guaranteed by a number of sections of the various Education Acts—if a local authority thinks it in the best interests of a child to take up a place in the private sector for educational reasons, the local authority is entitled to make such a decision. In fact, there was a recent case—it may be the one the hon. Gentleman has in mind—which went to court. The decision was in favour of the child going to an independent school. But the adjudication there was clear.

Mr. Clemitson

With respect, the decision—

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not think that it would be profitable to discuss particular cases, but the general principle is clear—local authorities have every right to decide in a particular case, if they think it in the interests of the child, that the child should go to an independent school rather than to a maintained school. They have the right to do so, and that is a very reasonable position.

The child may need boarding care. Very little of that is available in the maintained sector. Most of it is provided in the private sector. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will endeavour to make his case in due course.

The parent who is dissatisfied with the allocation of school for any reason will in fact go back to the education committee. But what does he find? He finds that advising the education committee is the same education officer, who would be confirming his previous decision. I am not saying that this is not done conscientiously: I am sure that it is. But it is deeply unsatisfactory to parents to find that there is not an independent adjudication on their case.

Of course, there is an appeal to the Secretary of State. We know that this exists under the present law. It is referred to in the manual of guidance. But the Secretary of State knows as well as I do that if I write to him about a case in my constituency, the first thing he will do will be to get in touch with the local education authority. The advice he will get will then come from the same education officer who has already been involved in all stages of the proceedings. This is not very satisfactory to a dissatisfied parent.

What is needed is some separate impartial appeal procedure, by which the education officers are witnesses along with the parents and others, but no more than that. They must not be judges in their own cause. That is the essence of the principle behind these two clauses.

We have set down these clauses in a definite form because one must set down proposals in a definite form in order to be within the rules of order.

Mr. Arnold Shaw

I am rather puzzled about the second part of New Clause 15. At the end it says: reallocate for a school place". Who does the reallocation? Is it the parents, the local authority, or the appeals board? Frankly, this part of the clause just does not make sense. I do not know how we can consider a matter of this kind when the wording is virtually a complete nonsense.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not say that the wording is perfect.

Mr. Noble

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order to move a clause of this kind which is grammatically incorrect and rubbish? We are all aware of the ability of the hon. Gentleman, but I recall that in Committee his grammar had to be corrected by the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud). Surely it is so incorrect that at this stage—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. These matters are selected in accordance with Mr. Speaker's discretion.

Mr. Noble

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I cannot see how there can be a further point of order when there was no point of order to start with.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. I hope that we may consider this not as a partisan matter but as a matter of principle about which hon. Members on both sides are concerned.

Mr. Flannery

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I, too, was a member of the Standing Committee and I know that the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) is by way of being a grammarian and, therefore, does not like bad grammar. We are utterly confused, and therefore this is a sincere point of order. The fundamental effect of the sentence is to say that A parent may … reallocate for a school place. Will the hon. Gentleman explain what that means?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Mr. Speaker is not concerned with drafting. He is concerned only with selection.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I hope that I can help the hon. Member in so far as he has a genuine difficulty on this matter. I have made clear that we are not wedded to a particular form of words, but we are wedded to the principle of having an independent tribunal on this matter.

Mr. Noble

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker—

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Really, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is an abuse of the rules of order.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

As I have not yet heard what the point of order is I am unable to decide on that.

Mr. Noble

Surely it is in order for hon. Members fully to understand what is being debated—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Happily that is not a matter over which the Chair has any control.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I hope that we may resume this discussion and that the Chair will take note, should an attempt be made to move the closure on this debate, of the amount of time that has been wasted by futile and frivolous interruptions.

If the Secretary of State will give some undertaking that he will seriously look at the question of an appeals board and that he will come forward at an appropriate stage with wording of his own we shall be delighted.

The clause suggests that each local education authority would set up and service an appeals board. One reason for adopting this procedure is to avoid creating a large bureaucracy. We have quite enough bureaucracy as it is without adding to it. We want the board to be as simple and as informal as possible. It is suggested that the members of the board would include a councillor from a neighbouring education authority; it is important that he should not be from the authority which is the subject of a dispute. We suggest, too, that there should be a teacher. Here, too, it is important that the teacher should not be employed by the local education authority in question. In addition, there should be another person of some standing in the community locally. It could be a magistrate, or a well-known voluntary worker, someone who has shown an interest in community service. It could be someone in the St. John Ambulance Brigade, or one of the other voluntary organisations. These voluntary organisations preserve the whole sense of community locally. The people in them have shown their concern with the community and are prepared to give up their time voluntarily and freely.

We envisage that under this clause appeals could be made against the allocation of primary or secondary school places. The appeals board would reconsider and, where appropriate, reallocate. It is quite clear that the reallocation should be done by the appeals board. That is one possibility—

Mrs. Renée Short

We do not like that, Norman.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

If the hon. Lady does not like it, I shall leave it and turn at once to New Clause 66 and hope that this commands greater favour in the Wolverhampton area—in the better part of Wolverhampton as well as the worse part, and I shall not be so undiplomatic as to suggest which part is which.

Under New Clause 66 the Secretary of State has the duty to set up an appeals committee. That is in contrast to the previous clause by which the burden would be put upon the local education authority. There are arguments in favour of both courses of action. I suppose that in most cases the Secretary of State would delegate the task to the local education authority. Under New Clause 66 the committee would be composed of three members appointed by the Secretary of State after consultations with the local authority, but here again it would be essential that this should be an independent committee and that it should not contain members involved in the dispute. The procedure would be laid down by the Secretary of State. There is a subsection which would oblige the local education authority to observe the views of the appeals committee. These would be enforceable in the courts, but we would hope that in the vast majority of cases it would be unnecessary to resort to that.

I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State will give serious consideration to this point. Our proposals seek to meet a real need among parents. The parents may feel dissatisfaction with a particular school, or because there has been no impartial review of the case; that could cause resentment. We are making a constructive attempt to meet that objection and to supply that need while giving effect to the principle to which I referred.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

Does my hon. Friend envisage that the appeals board would be full-time or part-time? As I see it there is so much dissatisfaction with many of these schools that great queues of people will want to get on to the merry-go-round, moving from one school to another in the vain hope that they will find a better school somewhere else. If that happens the appeals board will be working very long hours.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not take that rather depressing view of our educational system. The majority of schools are good, and the majority of parents are satisfied with them. There are a minority who are not.

I hope that this would be a part-time board. I would not use the words "merry-go-round", but an appeals committee would be valuable not only on the first application, but for subsequent dissatisfaction. What may have been satisfactory one year could become unsatisfactory later because of changes in the home or the school.

I hope that we shall have a constructive response from the Secretary of State. We did not have the pleasure of his company, wisdom or advice in Committee, and we hope that he will make up for that now. I hope that he will give us a definitive statement on the vital subject of appeals which concerns a large majority of parents in all parts of the country.

Mr. Mulley

My hon. Friends and I agree that the parental role in education is of very great importance. Perhaps I can say that with even more force than can the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), because I am a parent, though that is not a unique claim. Parental support of children at home and for their schools is very important and we accept the provision for parental choice set out in Section 76 of the 1944 Act.

There is no provision for parental choice in the Bill because the wording of Section 76 and the general drafting of the 1944 Act are extremely good and elegant, as Lord Butler once said. I have also heard the lion. Member for Chelmsford pay tribute to the drafting of that Act and I am modest enough to believe that I could not improve upon it.

The draftsmen of the new clauses could learn something from the wording of the 1944 Act. However, my objections to the new clauses are not based on their drafting. I understand that they were drafted in haste and I appreciate that mistakes can occur in such circumstances.

It would be inappropriate to rehearse on every new clause the main purpose of the Bill—the question of comprehensive and selective education. I am anxious to give the House the benefit of my views on this matter, and the sooner we get to Clause 1, the better I shall be pleased. We can engage in that discussion then.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford sounded a little extravagant when he said that 30 per cent. of parents in his constituency were dissatisfied.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Secretary of State should not make such wild assertions. They ill befit the high office he holds. I said that 30 per cent. of the cases which came to me at my surgery were concerned with schools. That is a very different statistic from the one quoted by the Secretary of State.

Mr. Mulley

If that happened in my constituency, I should be a bit worried about the kind of educational system in operation there. I wonder whether the complaints made to the hon. Member might be because of the 11-plus and the selective system, which still exists in the Chelmsford constituency.

7.45 p.m.

What worries me more than anything about these new clauses, which are posed as alternatives, is the undemocratic nature of what they propose. It is suggested that the vital decision concerning which school children should attend should be left to a totally unrepresentative body of three people who would not be responsible to the local electors, the governors or managers of schools, the teachers, or anybody else.

Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

What about Tameside?

Mr. Mulley

It would be quite improper for me to refer to the Tameside issue while it is sub judice. We shall be able to discuss it at a later date. If the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) wishes to say something, that is up to him, but it would be wrong for me to say anything relating to an issue now before the courts.

Mr. Montgomery

I merely wanted to say that it comes ill from the Secretary of State to talk about this panel having little local support because it would be non-elected in view of his cavalier treatment of the wishes of the electorate of Tameside.

Mr. Mulley

If that were the only issue in Tameside, the hon. Gentleman would be right and the question of Section 68 would not have arisen, but there are many factors involved besides the wishes of the electorate. These wishes count, too, but the hon. Gentleman knows about the other issues. If he has not seen a copy of my letter to the education authority, I shall ensure that he receives a copy, but I cannot pursue this matter any further.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

The Secretary of State is complaining about the undemocratic nature of the proposed board, yet throughout the Government service there are undemocratic appeal boards, set up by Governments of both parties. The very nature of an appeal board means that it stands above the political battle.

Mr. Mulley

That may be the view of the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Lewis), but it is wrong for elected local authorities and governors and managers, who do an excellent job, to have their decisions on the allocation of pupils overridden by people who are not representative of electors or governors.

Most local authorities already have effective machinery for allocating school places and for hearing appeals. It is right that a local authority should work out its own arrangements for these purposes. We have recently introduced into a whole range of local government work the Local Commissioner for Administration to deal with complaints of maladministration and some questions involved in the allocation of school places may be taken before him.

New Clause 15 would take away that right. The choice of school would be taken out of his ambit. I am sure that that is not the wish of the Opposition, but that is my understanding of the consequence of the new clause.

Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)

Is the right hon. Gentleman proposing to take these matters away from the Local Commissioner for Administration, bearing in mind that he says that the commissioner is totally undemocratic? According to what the right hon. Gentleman has said previously, it would seem completely inappropriate and out of accord with the right hon. Gentleman's philosophy to allow the commissioner to play the role that he now plays.

Mr. Mulley

The hon. Gentleman does not do himself credit by the quality of his argument. He knows perfectly well that one of the difficulties about the proposed appeals courts is that no criteria are set out for them in the clauses before us. They are proposed on an entirely unspecified basis whereas the circumstances in which a local commissioner may involve himself are specifically spelt out by statute. Indeed, in matters of maladministration there are precedents. I make these points because I do not think that we shall get any further in assisting parents by having the cumbersome machinery that is proposed.

We know that there are problems in many areas. They arise largely because more parents want their children to go to one school rather than another, for a variety of reasons, sound or less sound. They have a feeling that one school has better teachers, better facilities, or enjoys a better reputation. If the school can hold X number of children, clearly some parents are bound to be dissatisfied. A school cannot be overcrowded, because if that takes place the esteem will fall and parents will want their children to go to another school. If there is greater demand for school A than school B, someone has to decide that not all of those who want their children to go to school A will be able to send them there and that some other arrangements have to be made.

Very often those arrangements have nothing to do with comprehensive schools, grammar schools or anything else. Many choices are made on a less than rational basis. After all, why do people select one public school rather than another, or one grammar school rather than another? There has always been an element of choice, and it has always been impossible to satisfy everyone when there are not enough places in a certain school.

We must consider this matter as it is put to us in the new clauses, and New Clause 66 contradicts New Clause 15. In New Clause 15 the board has to be appointed by the local education committee whereas in New Clause 66 it has to be appointed by the Secretary of State. A right of appeal to the Secretary of State is given in New Clause 15 but not in New Clause 66. If there were to be an appeal board, one would hope that we could be better at deciding how it should operate than are the draftsmen of the new clauses. I note that three of the names to one new clause are identical to three of the names to the other. With the possibility of a large number of dis- satisfied parents—one understands that in any circumstances there may be those who are dissatisfied—I do not think that the Opposition's proposals would add to the harmony and smooth working of education. I believe that they would lead to great and substantial difficulties.

I yield to no one in stressing the importance of parental involvement in the education of children. However, I am not convinced that the clauses, even if they were re-drafted, would do any more than complicate and possibly even add friction to what in some areas one understands is often a difficult problem.

I cannot recommend the House to accept either of the alternative clauses. Indeed, I was not sure whether the first was moved. At one moment the hon. Member for Chelmsford said that if my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) did not like it, he would withdraw it. In that event, we shall have to wait a long time—namely, until we reach New Clause 66—until the matter can be determined.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Secretary of State must try to treat this as a serious argument. He must not make these silly, facetious remarks. I had made it clear from the beginning that we are not wedded to a particular form of words. I accept that there is a fault in the wording of the first clause. The Secretary of State knows exactly why that is so—namely, because there was a change of business at the last minute and the Government sprang the Bill on us at short notice. The new clauses had to be drafted quickly. That is the fact of the situation. In this debate we are concerned with principle. I said that if the right hon. Gentleman would give some indication that he was prepared to consider seriously the setting up of an appeal body, we should be glad to withdraw our new clauses and await his deliberations.

Mr. Mulley

I was not resting my argument on drafting technicalities—indeed, I have raised an issue of great substance. If appeal boards were to be appointed by the local authority or the Secretary of State, surely it is a matter of substance whether there should be an appeal from the decision of the boards or whether, as in New Clause 66, there should be no such appeal, the decision of the boards being final. These are matters that we should need to decide before proceeding.

I do not think that we shall resolve any of these difficulties by new boards of the sort proposed. I believe that the involvement of the Local Commissioner for Administration adds to the remedies that parents pursue. The process of approaching local councillors and Members of Parliament supplements the existing arrangements. Appeal boards would be an additional complication and, in some senses, an administrative nightmare. They would not help to get round what I readily concede is a matter of great difficulty for many parents.

Mr. David Hunt (Wirral)

I welcome the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) in introducing the two new clauses. The lead he gives in seeking to establish a charter for parents stands out as a shining example of positive thought as against the negative educational philosophy of the Government. With many of my colleagues, I should like to see more power given to parents. That is surely what the debate should be about.

The Secretary of State has admitted that he knows that in many areas there are cases of dissatisfaction on the part of parents. I have held 11 surgeries since I was elected in March, and I have had many parents coming forward who are highly indignant and who hold deep feelings about the way in which their children have been allocated school places.

It is not a case of maladministration. I take the Secretary of State's point that there is a local government ombudsman, but the parents who come to see me do not say that there has been maladministration. I do not believe that the local government ombudsman would take very kindly to having to deal with a deluge or avalanche of such cases as suggested by the Secretary of State. I do not believe that they would be within his province.

The parents who come to see me—I am sure this is borne out by my colleagues—feel that decisions have been made behind closed doors. They feel that their cases have not had a sufficient airing. I am certain that many parents would be satisfied by the opportunity to go before an appeals board to plead their case, an opportunity to talk passionately about the way in which their child has been treated. It would be adding to the participation of parents in the decision-making process.

The new clauses do three things. First, they recognise parental choice. That should be recognised much more than it appears to be by the Government. Secondly, they would provide an open hearing and an opportunity for the parent to air his or her case about a particular child. Thirdly, there would be an impartial hearing. I heard what the right hon. Gentleman said about the boards being undemocratic. If that were the accusation to be levelled at all public bodies, we should have none. It has to be a body set up in this way that is above the political process, that is able to reach the value judgments which will so certainly be necessary in a case in which passions and feelings run so high.

8.0 p.m.

At present, the local education authority—and who can be satisfied with the present system?—is witness, judge and jury all in one. But can anyone be satisfied with the system under which that happens? I am not casting any doubt on the ability of the officials in the local education authorities to make the right decision. I am sure that many of the parents who have been protesting to me have been the subject of correct and right decisions. However, what I seek for those parents is an opportunity for them to air their very strong views before a board such as this—which probably would reach the same conclusion, but that is up to the board as the local education authority. But those parents would be very much more satisfied than they are at present.

Of the two new clauses I very much prefer New Clause 15.

Mrs. Renée Short

Time-wasting nonsense. [Interruption.]

Mr. Hunt

I do not know whether it is of assistance to the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble), but I find it easy to follow subsection (2) of New Clause 15. It says quite clearly: A parent may, if dissatisfied with the maintained school place, whether primary or secondary, allocated to his child by the local education authority, appeal to the Appeals Board". I should have thought that that was very sensible.

Mr. Noble

Finish the quotation.

Mr. Hunt

The hon. Member for Rossendale must not burst a blood vessel. The subsection continues: may … appeal to the Appeals Board established for his area for reconsideration, and where considered appropriate by the board, reallocate for a school place". I find that very easy to follow.

At present the Bill takes no account of parental choice. It negates parental choice. All that we now seek by these new clauses is an opportunity to offset that new policy.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

In addressing my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) has used some very strong language on very little ground and without any provocation. Whatever might be said about some of my hon. Friends, certainly the Secretary of State has spoken very quietly and very politely to the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman is now so accustomed to listening to himself that he is provoked by even the most polite approach and immediately engages in the kind of arrogance we heard in his approach to the Secretary of State. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it."] I shall get on when I want to, and hon. Members will learn to listen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] They will know that the nonsense to which they are treating the House is that they are pretending to talk about education, which very few of them understand. They will not waste the time of the House and of everyone sitting here listening to the nonsense, and biased nonsense at that.

I am talking to the hon. Member for Chelmsford, who is the official spokesman for the Opposition and aspires one day, perhaps, to be Secretary of State for Education and Science. He has a responsibility to conduct himself seriously and to conduct the debate seriously if he wants to be taken seriously. I am not talking to other Opposition Members.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford has failed in one important duty. Although he was arrogant and talked a lot about the Secretary of State, he has failed to give us the basis for the new clauses. I do not care tuppence about the wording of the new clauses. It is perfectly reasonable for an Opposition to say that the Government ought to produce a better text if they do not like the precise form of words. There is nothing between us on that matter. However, the hon. Gentleman, instead of wasting over 20 minutes going all around the subject, ought to have provided some background, why he has produced these two alternative new clauses. As he has not done so, the debate ought to start by someone trying to provide some of the background for him. Other hon. Members will have to do it if the debate is to serve a useful purpose at all.

The hon. Member for Wirral (Mr. Hunt), whose speech I take seriously, has said that he wishes this to be a serious debate. What is the experience of so many right hon. and hon. Members in this matter? My experience is only one among the experiences of many, and not a particularly long one but, perhaps, longer than that of some Opposition Members. Like other hon. Members, I have received some letters from parents and had interviews with them in my part of South Yorkshire. These parents have had strong feelings about the particular choice of school for their boys or girls. I should like to mention one typical case.

There was a very famous grammar school which has been transformed into a comprehensive school. It is an excellent comprehensive school in the minds of many people who know a great deal about education—a great deal more than I shall ever know about it. Other schools have been put together and formed into new comprehensive schools. Quite naturally, and not to my surprise, a number of parents have said to me "We want our children to go to that school which was previously a very famous grammar school". Who can blame them or be surprised by that?

We have had, over a period, long discussions, investigations and considerations, and afternoons with the headmaster and with other headmasters, and we have gone into the matter. What have the education authorities done? They have done their job. They have treated these approaches seriously. They have built up the other schools. They have taken parents into their confidence. Everyone has co-operated. What would an appeals board—if that is the name to be used for such a committee as has been proposed—be doing in such a situation? It would be doing nothing at all.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford knows a good deal about education. He knows that what is proposed would have been no solution. Quite a number of people say to me "We want our child to go to that particular school. It has had a famous name. We want to be associated with it." Unless one had wanted to build that school into a body dealing with 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 or 7,000 children, nothing that one could have done would immediately have satisfied the request of those parents.

That is one typical case. I know that I shall carry with me all hon. Members who know the situation in what I have just described, be they on the Front Benches or the Back Benches.

I take another typical group of cases. There are a number of parents who have a special reason for their requests. This is another point which has not yet been made. We are talking as though no machinery is available, but it is. Right hon. and hon. Members play an honourable part in that machinery already. We have all played that part. I do not want to cite what I have done because it might appear, wrongly, as though I have been doing particularly effective work in this field—and that would be quite wrong, because what I am doing is probably no more than average and perhaps not even that. Certainly it is no better than average. Every hon. Member is doing this kind of work.

People are approaching me and we discuss the problem, and when the problem is urgent, parents sometimes say "Something must be done quickly but the committee has not moved yet". I therefore get on to the local education director or to someone else in a sub-division who is in charge, and the letters cross, as we all know. Somehow or other some parents even believe that I have had something to do with it. It is a difficult task sometimes, as we all know, to persuade parents that I have had nothing to do with it and that the decision was maturing and that the people in the education authority were doing their job. That is very often the case. In some cases they had to consult a doctor.

There are other sensitive cases where it is not easy for the people concerned to talk about all the details to the parents involved in the way that they might do to somebody else. There is nothing more sensitive than talking about one's own children. All that goes on all the time, and any tribunal or appeals body such as is proposed in these clauses would be wholly irrelevant to the class of case that I have described.

The appeals board would do positive harm, because what would it establish? It would establish the illusion that it is the ill will of people who deal with local education that puts a child into the wrong school, and here I am sure that I shall not carry so many hon. Members with me because what I propose to say will be very much more controversial than my comments so far.

There is, unfortunately, a good deal of snobbery in some of the criticisms from parents. In some cases, parents fear that the social atmosphere of the school to which their child has been allocated will not be as good as it is in some other school in the area. It is the school and local authorities who ought to make the decision and not a newly created board. The decision ought to be part of the educational policy for the whole area. It is the elected representatives who ought to make a decision, rather than having it made by an additional body, however constituted.

When the hon. Member for Chelmsford talked about somebody being a member of the St. John Ambulance Brigade, he knew very well that many hon. Members on this side of the House, as well as on his, have members of the family who belong to the brigade and have a background of service in this organisation. He knows that there is nothing between the two sides on that, and he need not have made those remarks.

The House did not take too kindly to what the hon. Gentleman said, because if we go out of our way to set up boards as suggested we shall find that the representative character of the body making the decision is not as good as the representative character of an elected body. These decisions ought to be made by specialists or by the elected local authority.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Does not the hon. Gentleman see that one of the effective results of an appeals body is that it makes sure that the decisions are taken at the first stage by the elected representatives instead of, as so often happens, by the local government officer? That happens if those concerned realise that there is an appeals body breathing down their necks. They are more responsible in the taking of decisions and less anxious to pass the responsibility off to the chief education officer.

Mr. Mendelson

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's intervention, because that leads me to my next point. The hon. Member for Chelmsford made the charge that, at present, no matter who does the investigating the decision is made by the education officer who took action in the first place. It is said that he is judge and jury. But then the hon. Member for Chelmsford went further and said that even if we give the Secretary of State the power to make the final decision he will refer the matter back to the local education authority, which in turn will put the matter to the local education officer. That is not true.

8.15 p.m.

At present, when an hon. Member takes up a case—and I know this and can prove it—the matter is not left to the decision of the education officer who dealt with it originally. Our system of local government is much more flexible than that, and it is slanderous to say that all that happens is that bureaucracy takes over. There are of course, tragic cases, as we have seen in the social services. There are tragic cases in the educational system just as there are in the social security system, but when they arise in the latter context we do not have the support of Conservative Members. There are bad cases of bureaucracy. One hears of people being watched to see whether they are cohabiting, but when we raise the question of women's rights we do not have the sympathy of Tory Members to get matters put right, and it is slanderous nonsense to say that bureaucracy stifles everything everywhere.

When complaints are made to us, or parents come to see us, and we meet the director of education or one of his assistancts, there is present a councillor or some other elected person and the matter is not left in the hands of the education officer who made the original decision. I have received many letters of examples of the director of education having to give chapter and verse to show why a decision was made. Very often a doctor is called, or other specialist opinion is sought, and then the decision is changed. In as many cases as not a child is taken out of one school and put into another, but on listening to the hon. Member for Chelmsford one would have thought that we had a system under which no changes ever occurred. It is complete nonsense to think that that is so.

As my right hon. Friend said, delicate issues are involved in dealing with these matters. Though only a minority of people are involved, because there is nothing more important than the concern of a parent for his or her child the matter must be taken seriously, and these proposals would result in nothing more than ineffectiveness and confusion. The present arrangements are much better and ought to be maintained.

That does not mean that there is not a need for parents to be associated to a greater extent with activities in the school. That leads one into all sorts of considerations, but not necessarily every right hon. and hon. Gentleman on the Conservative Benches would follow those who are educational reformers. Perhaps we may debate that on some other occasion. In the context of the issues under consideration today, it would be dangerous to follow the hon. Gentleman's proposal merely to be popular, merely to appear to provide the answer. It would be much better to reject this proposal and to retain the present situation.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

The Secretary of State for Education and Science and the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) seem to think that there is something undemocratic about appeals boards, but I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman earlier this month voted in favour of an appeals board to hear complaints against the police. The Government admitted that that appeals procedure would cost about £300,000, but some of my hon. Friends suggested that it would cost at least £1 million and possibly £2 million. We spent two days in this House discussing the appeals procedure for the police, yet in the course of the last 10 years I have received 20 times as many complaints from my constituents about secondary school placements as about the conduct of the police. I wonder whether we have our priorities right.

The volume of complaint that we receive from parents is not surprising, because they know that a wrong selection can damage the chances of their child for life. The hon. Member for Penistone gave some examples of his experience in his local education authority area. We in the local education area of Bromley also take great care about the placement of children in secondary schools. Last year 4,500 children moved from primary to secondary schools and 4,100 moved to schools where their parents had indicated a first, second or third preference. But 400 children did not go to schools for which their parents had expressed any preference at all. About 125 of those live in my constituency. More than 20 of them wrote to me about it and, after consultation with local councillors, about 10 of these cases were referred to the local ombudsman.

I refer to only one specific case. It involved a very bright girl, with an excellent school record, who lived almost in the grounds of a very good school where she wanted to go and where her parents wanted her to go. However, because she was so bright, and because we follow a banding system in my local education authority area, she was sent to a school a long way from her home. She would have to walk through the grounds of the school where her parents wanted her to go, and where she wanted to go, in order to catch the bus to take her to the school, which her parents thought inferior, in order to accommodate a system of unproved social engineering.

Is it any wonder that the parents complain? In my area, as in many others, there is machinery for dealing with complaints. Of course, it is not described in the handbook which is sent out to parents describing the selection procedure followed by the local education authority because if it were revealed that a complaints procedure was in being it is thought that more parents would use it and more parents would complain, and that should not be encouraged. At the same time, the members of the moderating committee are to a large extent head teachers and the officials who have made the allocations in the first place. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Hunt) said, this is a case of the same people being judge and jury.

Secondary school places is a matter which has aroused great emotion among parents. They know that it is the key to the whole future of their child. I believe it essential that there should be an open appeals committee in every area so that a parent may know that he has had a proper hearing in a case which is vital to the future of his family.

Mr. Clemitson

I intervene briefly to return to the particular case which I mentioned earlier and to relate it to the appeals board. I repeat the question, what happens when we have a local authority which runs a comprehensive system and which operates a zoning system? What happens when a particular parent is offered a choice of several different schools and turns them down, not on the basis of denominational choice, or because he or she prefers a single sex schools, or any of the reasons which the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) talked about earlier, but refuses to send his child to any of those schools within the comprehensive system because he does not like comprehensive education?

Is it a proper use of public funds to pay for that child to go to a school outside the maintained sector—to pay for that child to go to a private school? Is it right that other ratepayers within the authority should be expected to subsidise the sending of that child to a private school? The hon. Member for Chelmsford referred to Section 76 of the Education Act 1944 and talked of how, in that section, choice is apparently tempered by a number of factors.

One of those factors is the question of public expenditure. Here we have the Opposition, who are certainly opposed to any further increases in public expenditure, indeed wanting to cut public expenditure, apparently concerned with teacher unemployment and concerned that there should be a reallocation of funds within education, presumably so that more shall be spent on teacher salaries and less on other things. I raise this particular case because I wonder what would happen if there were an appeals board along the lines suggested in either of the new clauses and if a parent appealed to that board. As far as I can see it would be possible for the appeals board to say "Yes, your child should go to a private school and the ratepayers should pay hundreds of pounds, £1,000 a year, or whatever the fee is, for your child to go to a private school". From my reading of either of these new clauses it would be quite possible for the appeals board to do that. If they did so, we could end up with the comprehensive system, which had been democratically and properly introduced, being undermined by the operation of this appeals system. From my reading of the new clauses that would be possible. At least they should be drawn much more tightly and the range should be much more narrowly defined.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Paul Channon (Southend, West)

I want to speak for only a few moments because a great many of my hon. Friends wish to speak. I do so because I think that the kernel of this Bill, and what we shall be debating this evening, has been raised by many hon. Members during the course of the proceedings—how far should the wishes of parents be paramount? It will not always be possible for parents to get their way but surely one of the most important educational aims for the House to consider is how we can help parents to get the quality of schools they want for their children.

I speak with considerable feeling because, as some hon. Members know, in my constituency, and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden), we know what the parents want. They want the system of education that they have at the present time. They think that it is going well. They have even taken the trouble to hold a special poll of all the parents of children of school age in the town and an overwhelming majority decided that they wished to retain the present system.

I therefore take with a great pinch of salt what the Secretary of State said. I wrote down his words—that the parental role in education is of great importance, parental wishes were paramount, he yielded to no one in his concern for parental involvement. With the greatest respect, the people of Southend think that he yields to many more people than the parents in his assessment of what parents in that area want.

The strong view taken by Southend parents was confirmed in the local elections, in which education was an important factor. There was a convincing result because of the numbers of people who were determined to vote Conservative, some for the first time, in an attempt to retain the present character of education in the town. They were appalled by the stand of the Liberal Party. Even some of those who stood for office on the Liberal ticket have told me that they wished that they could get the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) to change his mind on this front. They find it extraordinary that a party which stands for freedom of choice, participation and allowing voters a greater say in local affairs should support a measure which ignores the wishes of local parents.

There is remarkably little complaint from parents in Southend at the moment about choice of schools. I get a number of letters on this subject, usually about this time of year. I see a number of parents and, like the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), I do my best for them. Sometimes I succeed, usually I fail, but that is the experience of most hon. Members. This suggestion will be wanted by people in my constituency even more in future than at present because, with the coming of the unknown, they want their rights as parents safeguarded—something which has not proved necessary up till now.

The hon. Member for Penistone made a powerful speech but I disagree with him on one matter in particular. Many parents have a burning sense of grievance about the schools to which their children have been allocated. Rightly or wrongly, they feel that the local authority is the judge and jury in its own cause and that, at the end of the day, no matter what they say, no matter what letters the hon. Member and I may write to the chairman of the education committee or the education director, the local authority will decide. If the authority decides, as it usually must, to confirm its earlier decision, that burning sense of injustice remains.

I readily concede that some parents will be unreasonable and will not be satisfied with anything, but that is true of life. It is vital that justice should not only be done but be seen to be done. The House should carefully consider what my hon. Friend has outlined. We should establish a local appeals board for cases of this kind.

This real sense of injustice will not be removed unless an impartial body, appointed but not controlled by the local authority, is available to them. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) said, much more in future than in the past we should be concerned about parental involvement in schools, in their quality and their organisation. The new clause is a modest step forward for which I hope my hon. Friends will vote in large numbers.

Mr. Freud

The two new clauses seek to establish an appeal board. I am sure that it will please the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) to know that I and my party are totally in favour of appeal boards. We think that the idea is absolutely right. We have never been against it. I tabled an amendment in Committee putting forward this sort of suggestion.

But I am opposed to the wording of the new clause. I know that the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. JohnStevas) said that the Opposition were not wedded to a particular form of words, but I do not understand the point of Parliament if one moves an amendment and begins by saying that one is not particularly concerned about the words. Surely that is why we are here.

The clause has been fashioned into a deliberate political instrument, whereas it is meant to achieve some good in the way of local democratic decisions. The grounds for appeal are so made as to encourage a chaotic rush of appeals for almost any reason, but I must oppose the clause because it is desperately unfair in a legal sense in that the appellant has much more right than does the local education authority. If his appeal fails, the appellant is allowed to take the matter to the Secretary of State, but if the appeal goes against the local education authority, it can do nothing.

In its present form the clause is unsatisfactory, but it cannot be so difficult to work out a satisfactory and apolitical method whereby appeals can be heard by appointed or democratically elected appeal boards. I shall advise my hon. and right hon. Friends to vote against the clause but to support appeals procedures which are more properly set out.

Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is too critical in his view of the wording of the clause. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) has had experience of Government. The Government have the advantage and are much better advised as to the correct wording of a proposal. I thought from the hon. Gentleman's speech that he favoured the principle. If he does, I urge him to think again and to support us on that basis.

Mr. Freud

I am grateful for the reasoned way in which that was put. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre) is the first Opposition speaker who has not gone out of his way to insult me and my party. I appreciate that a number of factors were instrumental in causing the clause to be worded less elegantly than it might have been. I accept that the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) spends most of his time explaining to his constituents that the good that has been done to them is not by his own instrument because the letters crossed before he was able to do anything. I sit here amazed and appreciative of all that goes on.

I am totally in favour of an appeals procedure, but as we are asked to vote on a particular wording, I shall have to wait until the wording is more acceptable.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) for his powerful speech. I disagree with virtually everything he said, which is not unusual, but he presented a logical case and did a great service to local government, which does a difficult job often in trying circumstances.

I have had some experience as an elected member of a local authority. For a time I was deputy chairman of an education authority and deputy chairman of the primary and secondary schools sub-committee of the education committee. Inevitably, the subject we are discussing was one of my responsibilities when I sat as a member of a county council. I am sure that the hon. Member for Penistone and all other Labour Members agree that there must be some form of selection in any system of education.

I say to the Minister and to the hon. Member for Penistone that if parents cannot send their children to the school of their choice, it follows that someone other than the parents—or a child by academic ability—selects a school for them. Why do a Socialist Government have more faith in the education official—or, to be more disrespectful, the education bureaucrat—than they have in an examination or in the right and choice of parents to select a school to which they feel their child is most suited? What extra special powers does an education committee official have to match a child to an appropriate school?

It has been said that the officials of the section of the education department that makes that difficult choice do so for administrative reasons rather than basing the choice on the needs of the child and his suitability to a particular school.

Mr. Michael Ward (Peterborough)

The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has criticised what he called the bureaucrats in local government. Does he accept that in many areas, particularly in inner London, the selection of schools is done by panels of teachers and professionals who have to arbitrate on the problems of schools which are over-subscribed?

Mr. Winterton

I shall not attempt to speak for inner London. As far as I know, there are some areas in inner London where there is a genuine choice of school because of depopulation. But I do not know whether there is a choice between non-academic and academic schools, or co-educational and single-sex schools. I shall not be directed along that path.

Mrs. Renée Short

What about the situation in Cheshire?

Mr. Winterton

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) is intervening in her customary delightful manner from a sedentary position. I should be happy to talk about the education system in Cheshire, but that would not be in order.

Mrs. Renée Short

The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) said that his so-called bureaucrats were not the people to make such decisions. He is really saying that he distrusts education officers and teachers in any area to decide the type of education suitable for certain children. I find it interesting that the debate has revealed the Opposition's distrust of the teaching profession.

Mr. Winterton

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East is utterly wrong. I did not say that I distrusted education officials or the education bureaucrat. I merely questioned whether they had a divine right, or any educational knowledge, which enabled them to allocate a child to a school better than the parent whose child is affected by the decision.

On some occasions I do not have much respect for the behaviour of teachers. I refer to the attitude of teachers in Tameside—and I do not think the matter is sub judice—who acted in an illegal way by withholding information from elected members of the council. That is an appalling attitude and will not endear many teachers to parents.

8.45 p.m.

If the parent believes that the local authority's decision is wrong, what can he or she do? To whom can the parent make representations. What sort of postbag will right hon. and hon. Members have from parents who want them to influence the local education authorities? My hon. Friends who have spoken already have told us that their postbags are often full of such letters from parents who are unhappy. Many of those letters come from areas which have gone comprehensive, not areas in which there is still selection or a mixed system, as in the area represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas).

I do not receive many letters of that sort, for the simple reason that in Macclesfield we fortunately still have a selective system, although I regret that the Catholic diocesan authorities, without full discussion with parents and local people, decided to go comprehensive. I had a massive postbag from Catholic parents who were livid that their opportunity of choice had been taken away. They have made their views known to the diocesan authorities, which acted very arbitrarily.

The present stystem of appeal are inadequate. There is no right of redress for a parent who feels that his or her child has been incorrectly allocated to a school.

Although there may be slight drafting inadequacies in one of the new clauses, the principle is right—that there should be an appeal board or committee. The Secretary of State's adverse remarks about such a body could perhaps be reflected on our magistrates, many of whom volunteered. Until recently they were not trained for the job, but they gave wonderful service and provided a system of law that has respect throughout the world. An appeal body would likewise be respected.

The Government tell us that the Bill is to abolish selection. That is a load of hogwash, rubbish and codswallop. Children will still be selected and allocated. Instead of there being an independent examination or assessment based on academic ability as the criterion of selection, a faceless bureaucrat will be the new selector. Thus, the Government's claim to abolish selection is bogus. They are merely changing the method of selection. Selection remains in a far more virulent and repugnant form than anything we saw under the 11-plus system.

There must be a method of appeal. It is right that the Conservative Party, the main Opposition party, should put forward the new clauses to provide parents with justice, so that if they are unhappy about the local education authority's decision, they can have their case fully heard by an independent body.

It is important that that principle is accepted. In that spirit I commend the clauses, even with their drafting inadequacies.

Sir G. Sinclair

We have had some powerful speeches directed to the principle behind these two clauses. It has been said that there should be an independent appeals body which will be seen by parents to be independent. It is no criticism of two provisions that seek to gain a response from the Government about the principle of an appeals board that they may be in different forms, and indeed may perhaps be in an indifferent form. Certainly the principle exists. If the principle were to be conceded, it is clear that the terms of reference for these boards could be argued out just as closely as are the terms of reference given to the ombudsman or any other board or body set up to arbitrate between a large organisation and an individual.

The two clauses seek to give the individual certain rights when dealing with a most sensitive family matter. Indeed, this is one of the most sensitive choices open to a family. It involves the attempt to choose the school that we believe will fit the family circumstances and the child.

We are concerned in these two clauses mainly with the maintained sector—namely, with the sector in which the great majority of children will receive their education. We are most concerned that there shall be the maximum sense of participation and also a degree of fairness in the allocation of school places.

The need for a body such as we suggest would not have been so urgent were there not real worries, and indeed a malaise, among parents as to the choices being forced upon them in certain areas. There is not always a great deal of choice, but it is right that they should feel that the maximum consideration had been given to family factors. If parents feel that local authorities have not taken full account of family needs, there should be an appeal. New Clause 66 provides an appeal, subject always to the overriding power of the Secretary of State to intervene if he thinks matters are going unreasonably, but that involves an appeal to an independent body that will be seen to be independent. If there is any argument about which is the better pattern, I know from personal preference that it is strongly in favour of that outlined in New Clause 66. However, that is not the important thing. The important thing is principle.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Gerry Fowler)

The hon. Gentleman refers to the system under New Clause 66, but will he note that the clause imposes a new duty on local education authorities to give effect to the decisions of the appeal board? Yet he appears to feel that the Secretary of State must intervene if he finds an education authority's action unreasonable. Section 68 of the 1944 Act deals with the actions and proposed actions of local education authorities.

I presume that he is saying that local education authorities will have a duty to comply with both the recommendations of the appeal board and the Secretary of State's views. Sometimes these may be incompatible. Is that what the hon. Gentleman is saying.

Sir G. Sinclair

I do not think that is a serious gambit by the Minister. There are Ministry inspectors in planning cases who take the greater part of the load. The Minister intervenes as little as possible. In these cases the local authority, if it is a good one and maintains good schools and has a sensitive system for weighing parental preferences, will not find great difficulty in supporting an appeals procedure of this sort.

It helps to ventilate in an open way a grievance that might otherwise be held for years. In those authorities that are perhaps less sensitive to parental preference, it will have a tonic effect on the local authorities to know that there is an appeals board to which parents can have recourse if they think they are being brushed off by a local authority. I am sure that people do not have this feeling about the majority of local councils because I know that many take great trouble in allocating places as best they can, given limited resources. Those are not the authorities of whom the appeals procedure would be aimed.

The appeals procedure would be established so that real grievances could be aired and rectified. The procedure would be used in a smaller but important number of cases. I know that the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) is as strongly in favour of the principle of an appeals board as I am. I am making an appeal for the principle to be accepted rather than the wording of our clause. I am sure that that will satisfy the hon. Member and I hope that it will enable him to persuade his party to support us.

Mr. Ward

The hon. Gentleman said that only a small number of cases would be involved. Would he not agree that the majority of cases arise when parents seek to get their children into a school which is already full? Will he explain how the appeals tribunal will deal with that difficult situation? Does he not think that the very establishment of an appeals tribunal, since it will inevitably be trying to put children into schools where there are not sufficient places, will cause undue expectation among parents?

Sir G. Sinclair

I do not believe that that will be the result and I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's premise. If there is a withdrawal of confidence in one or more schools in an area as a result of increasing recourse to the appeals board, that will surely be a sign to the local education authority that there is something wrong—in the opinion of the parents—with some of the schools for which it is responsible. This is a very important litmus test of preferential choice, and many local authorities will be sensitive to this, more so than they are at the moment. I spent much of the weekend talking the matter over with a senior education officer of a local education authority who has this responsibility, and he did not think that it would be a bad thing. In fact he thought that it would reinforce the local authority in reorganising the schools from which parents are withdrawing their confidence.

9.0 p.m.

I appeal to all those hon. Members who are concerned for parents to remove from them, as far as possible, the sense of pent-up grievance they have because they feel they are being brushed aside, in spite of all the arguments.

The Secretary of State said he thought that Section 76 of the 1944 Act was "elegant, and adequate for the purpose". The reason we have put this new clause down is that we believe that in present circumstances in the minds of parents Section 76 is no longer adequate because of two fairly widespread factors. The first is that there has been considerable difficulty, partly because of changes in society, with a number of very bad schools which people want to avoid at all costs. I do not believe that there is one hon. Member in this House who would not want to avoid sending his or her child to a disruptive school if there were a possibility of sending that child to another where good conduct prevails and there is a general determination to get on with learning. There is great unrest and unease among parents about a certain number of bad schools.

The second factor is that there is a great limitation on choice brought about by the Government's action. The Government will say that they have substituted it with another kind of choice. But there is limitation on the choice which is open to parents, particularly since certain local authorities have gone in for very strict zoning procedures. We have argued this case out before—it gives people a sense of educational claustrophobia, which is bad.

This sort of concern is natural. Parents are worried about the future of their children and about their duty to do their best for their children. This concern underlies the present unsatisfactory situation and for this reason we are determined to persuade the Government to concede, in principle, that there should be an appeal body of this kind.

Mr. Gerry Fowler

I have the feeling of having been here before. This debate reminds me of many that we had during the inordinately long Committee stage, not least because I find New Clause 15 exceedingly difficult to understand due to the sloppy way in which it is drafted, and that was a familiar situation to those hon. Members who served on the Committee. I am also reminded of the Committee stage by New Clause 66, because clearly the Opposition do not understand their clause.

I was serious when I made my intervention earlier, because clearly the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. JohnStevas) did not understand the import of his new clause. He said that the verdict of the appeal board would be subject only to the judgment of the Secretary of State about whether what it had decided was reasonable. However, that is not the meaning of New Clause 66. No one could override the decision of that appeal board. The powers of the Secretary of State under Section 99 would not bite on the local education authority, for the reason that the authority would have complied with the new duty imposed upon it by the clause when it accepted the decision of the appeal board.

Nor could the Secretary of State use Section 68, because he could not possibly be satisfied that the local education authority was acting unreasonably when it complied with a duty imposed upon it by law. In other words, the Secretary of State would have no sanction. But neither would the local education authority. The final decision would be taken by three people not elected by anyone but appointed by the Secretary of State. That is what the Opposition advance as an extension of democracy and parental freedom.

What the Opposition have argued in general terms sounds very plausible. In fact, if we study the wording of New Clause 66 we find that they are arguing not for a bureaucratic system but, rather, for a system of diktat by a non-elected appointed board.

Mr. Ronald Bell

I do not follow this argument, because this is an appeal tribunal. Does the Minister make the same criticism of the Court of Appeal, for example, which consists of three people who are non-elected and appointed?

Mr. Fowler

No, I do not. But we normally hold in this House—I believe that I have heard this argument from the Opposition from time to time—that there is merit in our system of the local government of education. Yet the import of these clauses is to destroy that system of local government education, as was the import of many of the amendments moved by the Opposition in Committee.

Furthermore, the Opposition have not addressed themselves in this debate to two crucial weaknesses—what I might describe as the negative aspects of their positive proposals. The hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) drew attention to one of them. As he rightly said, these clauses, in stressing the rights of parents, disregard the rights of local education authorities. Parents have the right of appeal under New Clause 15, even to the Secretary of State. The local education authority has no right in this matter.

Even more serious is the other negative weakness of the new clauses. We all know the most common cause of dissatisfaction with a school allocation. Within a selective system it is normally that one's child has not gained a place at a selective school. Within a non-selective system the most common cause of dissatisfaction is that one has not succeeded in obtaining the first choice of school because it is overcrowded.

What happens when the appeal board decides that a further pupil shall be admitted to an already over-subscribed school? I assume that the Opposition believe that the appeal board shall also decide that some other pupil allocated a place at that school shall have that allocation removed to make way for the pupil whom it wishes to be admitted. In short, it is clear yet again that the Opposition have not thought through their proposal.

I must ask the House to reject these clauses.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Walter Harrison (Treasurer to Her Majesty's Household)

rose in his place and claimed to move. That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 256, Noes 221.

Division No. 208.] AYES [9.09 p.m.
Abse, Leo Ennals, David Latham, Arthur (Paddington)
Allaun, Frank Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Leadbitter, Ted
Anderson, Donald Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Lee, John
Armstrong, Ernest Evans, loan (Aberdare) Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)
Ashley, Jack Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Atkinson, Norman Femyhough, Rt Hon E. Lipton, Marcus
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Litterick, Tom
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W) Lomas, Kenneth
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Flannery, Martin Loyden, Eddie
Bates, Alf Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Luard, Evan
Bean, R. E. Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Belth, A. J. Foot, Rt Hon Michael McCartney, Hugh
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Ford, Ben McElhone, Frank
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Forrester, John MacFarquhar, Roderick
Bidwell, Sydney Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Bishop, E. S. Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Mackenzie, Gregor
Blenklnsop, Arthur Freeson, Reginald Maclennan, Robert
Boardman, H. Freud, Clement McNamara, Kevin
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Garrett, John (Norwich S) Madden, Max
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur George, Bruce Magee, Bryan
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Ginsburg, David Mahon, Simon
Bradley, Tom Golding, John Mallalleu, J. P. W.
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Gould, Bryan Marks, Kenneth
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S) Gourlay, Harry Marquand, David
Buchan, Norman Graham, Ted Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Buchanan, Richard Grant, George (Morpeth) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Grant, John (Islington C) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Campbell, Ian Grimond, Rt Hon J. Maynard, Miss Joan
Canavan, Dennis Grocott, Bruce Meacher, Michael
Cant, R. B. Hardy, Peter Mendelson, John
Carmichael, Neil Harper, Joseph Mikardo, Ian
Carter, Ray Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Millan, Bruce
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hart, Rt Hon Judith Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Cartwright, John Hatton, Frank Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Hayman, Mrs Helena Morris, Alfred (Wythonshawe)
Clemitson, Ivor Heffer, Eric S. Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Hooley, Frank Morris, Rt Hon J.(Aberavon)
Cohen, Stanley Hooson, Emlyn Moyle, Roland
Coleman, Donald Horam, John Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Concannon, J. D. Howell, Rt Hon Denis Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Conlan, Bernard Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Newens, Stanley
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Noble, Mike
Corbett, Robin Huckfield, Les Oakes, Gordon
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) O'Halloran, Michael
Cralgen, J. M. (Maryhill) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Orbach, Maurice
Cronin, John Hughes, Roy (Newport) Ovenden, John
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Hunter, Adam Padley, Walter
Cryer, Bob Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Palmer, Arthur
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Jaskson, Colin (Brighouse) Parker, John
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Parry, Robert
Davidson, Arthur Jartner, Greville Pavitt, Laurie
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Peart, Rt Hon Fred
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Jeger, Mrs Lena Pendry, Tom
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Perry, Ernest
Deakins, Eric John, Brynmor Phipps, Dr Colin
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Johnson, James (Hull West) Price, William (Rugby)
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Radice, Giles
Dempsey, James Jones, Barry (East Flint) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Doig, Peter Jones, Dan (Burnley) Richardson, Miss Jo
Dormand, J. D. Judd, Frank Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Kaufman, Gerald Roderick, Caerwyn
Dunn, James A. Kerr, Russell Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Dunnett, Jack Kilroy-Silk, Robert Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Eadie, Alex Kinnock, Neil Rooker, J. W.
Edge, Geoff Lambie, David Roper, John
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Lamborn, Harry Rose, Paul B.
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Lamond, James
Ross, Rt. Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Wellbeloved, James
Sandelson, Neville Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Sedge more, Brian Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) White, James (Pollok)
Selby, Harry Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Whitlock, William
Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E) Wigley, Dafydd
Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Thorne, Stan (Preston South) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C) Tomilnson, John Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE) Torney, Tom Williams, Sir Thomas
Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Tuck, Raphael Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Silverman, Julius Urwin, T. W. Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Skinner, Dennis Varley, Rt Hon Eric G. Wise, Mrs Audrey
Small, William Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V) Woodall, Alec
Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Woof, Robert
Snape, Peter Walker, Terry (Kingswood) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Spearing, Nigel Ward, Michael Young, David (Bolton E)
Stallard, A. W. Watkins, David
Stoddart, David Watkinson, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Stott, Roger Weetch, Ken Mr. James Hamilton and
Strang, Gavin Weitzman, David Mr. James Tinn.
Adley, Robert Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Luce, Richard
Aitken, Jonathan Fookes, Miss Janet McCrindle, Robert
Alison, Michael Forman, Nigel Macfarlane, Neil
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) MacGregor, John
Arnold, Tom Fox, Marcus Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Fry, Peter McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Awdry, Daniel Gardiner, George (Reigate) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Baker, Kenneth Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Marten, Neil
Banks, Robert Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Mates, Michael
Bell, Ronald Glyn, Dr Alan Mather, Carol
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Goodhart, Philip Maude, Angus
Benyon, W. Goodhew, Victor Mawby, Ray
Berry, Hon Anthony Goodlad, Alastair Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Biffen, John Gorst, John Mayhew, Patrick
Biggs-Davison, John Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Blaker, Peter Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)
Body, Richard Gray, Hamish Mills, Peter
Boscawen, Hon Robert Griffiths, Eldon Miscampbell, Norman
Bottomley, Peter Grist, Ian Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Grylls, Michael Moate, Roger
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Hall, Sir John Monro, Hector
Bradford, Rev Robert Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Montgomery, Fergus
Braine, Sir Bernard Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Moore, John (Croydon C)
Brittan, Leon Hampson, Dr Keith More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Hannam, John Morgan, Geraint
Brotherton, Michael Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral
Bryan, Sir Paul Hastings, Stephen Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Havers, Sir Michael Mudd, David
Buck, Antony Hayhoe, Barney Neave, Alrey
Budgen, Nick Heseltine, Michael Nelson, Anthony
Bulmer, Esmond Hicks, Robert Neubert, Michael
Burden, F. A. Higgins, Terence L. Newton, Tony
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Holland, Philip
Carlisle Mark Hordern, Peter Onslow, Cranley
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Howell, David (Guildford) Oppenheim, Mrs Sally
Channon, Paul Hunt, David (Wirral) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Churchill, W. S. Hunt, John Paisley, Rev Ian
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Hurd, Douglas Parkinson, Cecil
Clark, William (Croydon S) Hutchison, Michael Clark Percival, Ian
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushclifle) Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Clegg, Walter James, David Prior, Rt Hon James
Cockcroft, John Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Raison, Timothy
Cordle, John H. Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Rathbone, Tim
Corrie, John Jopling, Michael Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Costain, A. P. Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rees-Davies, W. R.
Critchley, Julian Kaberry, Sir Donald Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Crouch, David Kershaw, Anthony Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Crowder, F. P. Kimball, Marcus Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Rifkind, Malcolm
Dodsworth, Geoffrey King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rippon, Rt. Hon Geoffrey
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Kitson, Sir Timothy Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Drayson, Burnaby Knight, Mrs Jill Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Knox, David Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Durant, Tony Lamont, Norman Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Langford-Holt, Sir John Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Latham, Michael (Melton) Royle, Sir Anthony
Elliott, Sir William Lawrence, Ivan Sainsbury, Tim
Eyre, Reginald Lawson, Nigel St. John-Stevas, Norman
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Scott, Nicholas
Fairgrieve, Russell Lloyd, Ian Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Fisher, Sir Nigel Loveridge, John Shelton, William (Streatham)
Shepherd, Colin Stokes, John Warren, Kenneth
Shersby, Michael Stradling Thomas, J. Weatherill, Bernard
Silvester, Fred Tapsall, Peter Wells, John
Sims, Roger Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart) Wiggin, Jerry
Sinclair, Sir George Tebbit, Norman Winterton, Nicholas
Skeet, T. H. H. Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S) Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Speed, Keith Townsend, Cyril D. Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Spence, John Trotter, Neville Younger, Hon George
Spicer, Michael (S Worcester) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Sproat, Iain Vaughan, Dr Gerard TFLLERS FOR THE NOES:
Stanbrook, Ivor Viggers, Peter Mr. Jim Lester and
Stanley, John Wakeham, John Mr. Spencer Le Marchant.
Steen, Anthony (Wavertree) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Wall, Patrick

Question accordingly agreed to.

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

The House divided: Ayes 224, Noes 258.

Question accordingly negatived.