HC Deb 12 July 1979 vol 970 cc702-823



' Those local education authorities to whom sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Education Act 1976 applied in whole or in part prior to their repeal by this Act shall publish and submit to the Secretary of State by 1 July each year a statement which shall set out the policy adopted and the arrangements made by that authority for the ensuing educational year in respect of:
  1. (a) the nature, basis and criteria used in any process of allocation of pupils to selective secondary schools, other than special schools, maintained by that authority;
  2. (b) the arrangements made for transfer of pupils from one category of selective school to another and the numbers of pupils so transferring in the preceding educational year;
  3. (c) the nature, range and extent of the courses and options offered in each of the selective secondary schools maintained by that authority, together with a schedule of capitation or other financial allocation and staffing quotas to each type of selective school maintained by that authority.'.—[Mr. Spearing.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

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

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bethnal Green and Bow)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise for interrupting my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). Would you be kind enough to indicate what other clauses you would suggest should be considered with new clause 1?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Richard Crawshaw)

I am oblige to the hon. Gentleman for raising this matter. It is proposed that all the new clauses that have been selected should be taken together for a general debate, and if necessary at the end separate Divisions can take place. That means that with new clause 1 we are to take the following:

  • New clause 3—Transfer.
  • New clause 5—Resources.
  • New clause 6—Pupil mobility.
  • New clause 8—Proportions allocated to different types of secondary schools.

Mr. Mikardo

I am much obliged, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Spearing

I do not know what additonal money obligations my new clause might imply. I suspect that it would have a marginal expenditure effect, but I shall not worry about that side of the matter. I hope that we have dealt with that matter for at least an hour.

What I commend to the Government and their supporters is that the clause stands on its own. It is not a wrecking clause. It would not change any of the legal disobligation that the Bill puts on authorities. It would place another obligation and duty on the local authorities involved—there are 59 of them—to report along the lines that the clause indicates.

The Government should adopt the clause on the basis of their own criteria. First, the Bill affects freedom of individuals and parents' rights. We on the Opposition Benches believe that it diminishes individual rights and the proper rights of parents as defined in the 1944 Education Act.

Secondly, the Bill should couple two very important words, of which I am sure the Government will often remind us—" rights " and " responsibilities ". It gives choice to local authorities additional to that which the law permits now. If the Bill is to be passed, reciprocal responsibilities should be placed on the authorities. If Conservative Members are so keen on the Bill, on its provisions and the additional choices that it provides, they should not shrink from accepting the responsibilities that the clause would impose. If they do, I suggest that they are not confident about their case.

I shall listen carefully to the reply of the Under-Secretary of State in what I expect will be an extended debate. I shall be interested to hear what he says on the matter of principle. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will disagree with much of what I say in support of the clause, on grounds of principle or experience, but I do not believe that he can disagree with the basic points that I am now making about rights and responsibilities and the importance of the individual.

My first point relates to the number of individuals who would be assisted by the insertion of this new clause. Details failed to emerge in Committee concerning the number of pupils in secondary schools who will be adversely affected if this Bill goes through. I put a question to the Under-Secretary on 11 June asking him if he would set out in the Official Report a table showing the number of pupils in each type of secondary school in the 59 local authorities concerned and the percentage of those pupils in each of the main type of secondary school. Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman declined to answer, saying that it would take an excessive amount of space. He also said that the information could not be provided without incurring disproportionate cost.

He was good enough to give me the raw figure in a computer print-out which the House of Commons Library did not take long to convert. He has now provided, in a written answer, almost all the figures that I requested. The figures provide a most important factual basis to the debate on which we are embarking. Hon. Members may not realise the extent to which pupils in these 59 authorities are still in secondary modern schools. The total at 1 January was 383,000. Even more important and more interesting is the distribution of those pupils. In many authorities, there are few modern schools left and the bulk of the secondary school population is in comprehensive schools. There are a few authorities where the opposite is the case. In some, there is virtually, no comprehensive provision.

In Bolton, which was the subject of the points of order, there are no fewer than 11,000 children in modern schools, 4,000 in grammar schools and 4,000 in comprehensive schools. In Liverpool, there are 11,000 in modern schools. In Tameside, there are 12,000; in Trafford, a district of Manchester, 11,000; in Kingston, 8,000; in Sutton, 7.000; in Cheshire, 18,000; in Cornwall, 31,000; in Gloucestershire, 11,000; in Devon, 17,000; and in Kent, 47,000. This shows a substantial number of pupils in modern schools. I will refer later in my remarks to what constitutes a modern school, and its implications.

More interesting than the bulk figures is the actual percentage of the secondary school population in any of these authorities. If the Bill goes through, local authorities will be given the opportunity to maintain these percentages. In Bury, the percentage is 66 per cent.; in Tame-side, 66 per cent.; in Trafford, 62 per cent.; in Kingston, 84 per cent.; in Sutton, 59 per cent.; in Buckinghamshire, 50 per cent.; in Lincolnshire, 46 per cent.; and in Norfolk, 44 per cent. I have given these figures because of what we on the Opposition Benches regard as the truncated provision available in secondary modern schools—not only the truncated provision but the divorce that the continuation of separatist education makes not only among pupils and families but, inevitably, among teachers. That is a divisive factor, which the Minister will have experienced. He knows that it is not a happy situation for the teaching profession.

The issues with which we are dealing go to the depths of the educational history of this country. People may think that the comprehensive versus separatist issue is relatively new. It is not. Nor is the basis of this Bill. The Minister is entitled to say that he is concerned with the age-old balance of British education between compulsion and the use of the law, and options and free choice. I see that the Minister nods his head. Much of British history and the history of this House in education has been concentrated on deciding where to strike the balance.

5.15 p.m.

Over a century ago there were long debates in this House concerning the principle of compulsory education. It may seem extraordinary that in those times there were people who opposed compulsory education in principle. They argued that the voluntary agencies, Churches and charities should continue to offer education for those who wanted it. They campaigned for freedom of choice. Why should parents, they asked, be bound over by a court to send their child to school? It was regarded as an incursion on British liberties. Those people had a right to express their view. A long time elapsed before the 1870 Act decide that, in the community interest, such freedom should be eroded and that community advantage would be heightened by imposing the law.

People may ask how this relates to the present position. We tend to forget that the 1870 Act was not an Act for education, as we understand it. It was an elementary Act. In other words, local authorities—the new boards—were required only to plug the gaps in the existing structure and were bound in law only to provide the elements of education—reading, writing and arithmetic. They were not required to provide anything else. When they were first set up in the early 1870s, a lot of debate took place in the education boards as to whether they should go further. That is the basis of our present debate. A modern school cannot go further than the definition and the role assigned to it by the education authority.

The nub of the matter was contained in a remarkable debate in the London School Board, which took place in July 1871. A remarkable and perceptive statement made by the then Professor Huxley, a great educationist and a wise and farseeing man, was reported in The Times on 6 July 1871. A motion had been placed before the London School Board to permit French and Latin to be taught in its schools. The board was debating whether these subjects should be allowed. A lot of the argument was opposed to the two subjects, on the basis that they provided too wide an education. Professor Huxley, according to The Times, warned the members of the Board of the dangers to society which were certain to arise if education were not thrown open to all without restriction. A boy, he said, was taught in his Catechism to do his duty in that station of life in which it had pleased God to call him, and how was any boy to know to what station he was called unless he tried? Professor Huxley would be astonished to know that in 1979 the Government were coming before the House saying that it would be made legally possible for local authorities to put the block on, in much the same way as people in 1871 were advocating a block on schools at that time. The parallel is almost exact. That has been the history of the development of secondary education in the last 150 years. This nasty little Bill is in direct line with the Gradgrinds of the London School Board who were opposing the teaching of Latin or French in schools. They did not succeed, and we know the results.

Indeed, the London School Board introduced towards the end of the century the higher grade schools, which began to broaden out into education as we all understand it—as the Under-Secretary and I understand it to be. They provided French, art classes and workshops and were beginning to produce a real secondary education—not the grammar schools or the voluntary private sector, but the London School Board, a very good education authority.

Then someone complained to the district auditor that all the fancy bits and pieces were costing too much in rates and the famous Cockerton judgment meant that in higher grade schools real education had to stop. In 1902, we had a Tory Act, the so-called " Balfour Act " which said that there should not be secondary education for all, which the TUC wanted as long ago as 1880 and which this Bill, in essence, is ending. Instead, there would be grammar schools or county secondary schools—newly founded under that Act—for those likely to benefit from secondary education. The seeds of selection that this Bill perpetuates in the 59 authorities, by law, were planted in 1902.

That Act was not really Mr. Balfour's Act at all. If anything, it was Mr. Chamberlain's Act, but even more it was the Act of a gentleman whose ghost must be haunting this Chamber, if not the Official Box—Sir Robert Morant. He laid the foundations of our secondary education for this century. It was his idea to have the elite form of education. At least, he put it into statutory form in the 1902 Act.

Sir Robert Morant had wonderful qualifications. He went to Winchester. He was the first Secretary of the Board of Education after 1902 and was really the civil servant behind that Act. So this all happened even 70 years ago. His other great educational qualification was that he was the tutor to the sons of the King of Siam. He was therefore excel- lently qualified to lay the foundations of our educational system.

Up to 1944, not only were French, workshop practice and other subjects not taught in the elementary schools; it was illegal for them to be taught. The elementary school headmaster, until 1944, could not teach French and could not do certain other things because it was beyond even the Fisher Act of 1922 or 1923.

Hon. Members may say, " So what? What happened after the 1944 Act? " After that, of course, we had the secondary modern schools, which were nothing more than jumped-up elementary schools. They may have been very good schools—some of the elementary schools were excellent educationally—but they were nevertheless constrained. There were also the assumptions of the Norwood report, which said that only certain people could benefit from the scholastic education in the grammar schools.

So the situation was nothing to do with the 1944 Act, which gives age, aptitude and ability as the criteria for choosing a proper course. In effect, in the context of giving someone a broad education, the Bill is against the spirit of the 1944 Act, even if not against its letter. Since then, we have seen the retreat of the tripartite principle, which was founded not on any proper educational experience but on now outdated notions of IQ and the rest.

All the time that changes were being made, in the education debates of the last 15 years, the case for separatist education was never made. That is not surprising, because there is no real case for it. I have never been able to find any decent case for separatist or selective education, other than the one before us—that of the freedom to choose of the authority, which I have conceded.

Miss Frances Stevens wrote an interesting book called "The Living Tradition ", in favour of grammar schools, from which it is clear that she favoured maintaining qualities of scholasticism. Those standards are vital in society, but whether one orients one's secondary provision towards them alone is another matter.

In correspondence with me, Miss Stevens said that it was possible to have great respect for people with difficult backgrounds. She said that in the school in which she taught there was a girl from a back-to-back house in Leeds who was highly respected, and a fine classical scholar. I asked what would have happened if she had not been a fine classical scholar, and of course I received no reply.

So I could find no proper academic or respectable argument for separatist education, until one day I came across an article by Mr. P. G. Mason, then the high master of Manchester grammar school—the high priest of elitism. Lancashire seems to be very much on the agenda today, both in origins and in terms of areas that maintain this system. Perhaps that is the influence of Manchester grammar school.

Coming upon this article, I thought, " This must be it. This is the man himself." The article was called " Different Schools for Different Children." Instead of appearing in some learned tome or perhaps a journal of psychology or a journal such as New Society, in fact it was published in Housewife, of March 1966. In that issue, we find Mr. Mason in front of a blazing coal fire in his study talking to three pupils—a pleasant vision of elitist and individualist education.

I read the article with great interest, because it was one with which I almost completely agreed, to my surprise. Among many other things, he said that education is not a technical business concerned with implanting particular skills or knowledge, but aims at bringing out the best each boy and girl is capable of, and at helping them to live fully as individuals belonging to the society of their fellow men and women. Excellent; wonderful. There were other quotations with which I agreed, including the nub of his argument, with which he ended: Above all, we must see that the system never becomes more important than the individuals for whom it exists; and that as far as possible there is variety as well as equality of opportunity. I emphasise that last phrase, " variety as well as equality of opportunity ". Mr. Mason concluded that this meant a variety of types of schools, and that was the basis of his defence of the old sort of selective education.

Of course, Mr. Mason has confused two fundamentally different things— variety and choice within any one institution which may be available to a pupil or to the tutor in charge of the pupil, and variety of institution to which entry is limited and which is clearly against equality of opportunity. I do not think that any hon. Members would argue that it is possible—indeed, the figures show that it is impossible—to determine the abilities and competencies that are likely to develop from a child aged 11 years. The greatest lack of logic on Mr. Mason's part is that he did not appreciate the distinction between separatist types of school and comprehensive schools.

5.30 p.m.

The tripartite or bipartite structures assume that a grammar school provides a certain course for a certain sort of pupil. The grammar school's operation is bound to that purpose. It achieves so many O-levels and takes so many pupils each year. It becomes a fairly rigid production line in which individuals have to fit—if they do not fit, hard luck. The centre of gravity is the process itself.

The same is true of the few technical schools that exist. What is true of the modern school I hardly dare think. It is a school for those who are not qualified for the others, and that provides a terrible basis for the beginnings of anybody's secondary career. It means that they are denied, perhaps, some of the educational stimulation that they, as individuals, may deserve and may need if they are to have their qualities and abilities drawn out, which is the basis of any proper education process.

In other words, secondary modern schools are, by definition, similar to those restricted by law—the elementary schools of Professor Huxley. They divide children from their relatives, parent from parent, teacher from teacher and school from school. They are a divisive factor in our society.

In June I asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science to state the criteria used by his Department in distinguishing schools described as modern in the compilation of official statistics. The answer that I received from the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science reads: Modern schools are secondary schools for pupils who, under a selective system, are considered to receive the education best suited to their needs in such schools rather than in grammar or technical schools."—[Official Report, 25 June 1979.]

Mr. Kinnock

We are here because we are here because we are here.

Mr. Spearing

That is it. That answer illustrates more than anything else can, other than the absence from the Chamber of Conservative Members, the non-existence of any argument for a separatist system. There is not a decent educational or psychological argument to support such a system. The arguments in support of such a system do not have an education basis. They produce the ridiculous tautology that the Under-Secretary of State was forced into.

I return to Mr. Mason's variety. The basis of a comprehensive school—I know that some of them should be better than they are—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have allowed the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) to proceed, but this is not a Second Reading debate. There are specific matters in the new clause and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will return to them.

Mr. Spearing

The deficiencies in the system that the Government want, which I am outlining, would in some measure—I do not claim in great measure—be met by the clause.

I was about to say that the philosophy of the comprehensive system is to examine the needs of each pupil—that is what the Minister is so concerned about—embrace the whole range of education provision and fit it, as far as possible, to the needs of the individual pupil within the constraints of general resources. In principle, that is what the system does. We should learn how to do that rather better than at present.

That brings me directly to the new clause. If local authorities choose to exercise their freedom, which they will have every right to do under the Bill if it is enacted and which is the freedom that the Government want them to have—one side of the line in education has always been freedom as opposed to compulsion—they will have a reciprocal obligation to state the basis and criteria used in any process of pupil allocation to secondary schools. I see no reason why that reciprocal responsibility should not apply.

For all we know, some marvellous prognostication may be discovered in Bolton. That is unlikely, but it may come about. On the other hand, it may be discovered in Rochdale. We have the right to know. Parents in Bolton, parents in Rochdale and parents in all the other 57 authorities have the right to know as well. The case is made by the Government and Conservative Members, who are constantly saying that parents have a right to know even if they are not going to give them the right to choose in this respect. If they are entitled to know, they must be given the information. Paragraph (a) of the new clause places on them that obligation.

Paragraph (b) refers to the arrangements made for transfer of pupils from one category of selective schools to another and the number of pupils so tranferring in the preceding educational year. We are told so often that " brighter pupils can go from modern schools to grammar schools." If that happens, let us know that it happens. Let us know what arrangements are made. In my experience it is extremely difficult, and understandably so, to get heads to cooperate in such moves. It is against human nature. We go against the grain if we try to get anything like that going. However, let us ascertain what can be done. The usual approach is for a school to try to provide what is required on its own. That is why paragraph (c) appears in the new clause. Let us know the range and extent of the courses offered and the qualifications of the staff at the modern schools that remain. By definition they are truncated. Let us know to what extent they are truncated.

If the Bill is enacted, I should like to see some of the modern schools become more comprehensive. I know of no definition that provides that modern schools cannot teach French, engineering, drawing and technical subjects. Why should they not teach those subjects? Let them do so. Let the authorities make the appropriate statement under paragraph (c). That would be in order. I am sure that the Government would not agree with keeping secret the range and extent of courses. They may as well make it obligatory for authorities to make the appropriate statement.

I know that the Under-Secretary of State will not agree with some of my intermediate remarks but he can hardly disagree with placing an obligation on authorities, if they choose to exercise their freedom, to provide what I regard as restrictive education for 385,000 pupils.

I conclude with a short quotation from a journal of 1863. As I have said, we have been in this position before. In 1863 there was much discussion about education and The Guardian—not the present newspaper but a weekly journal—pronounced: A town of a few thousand inhabitants requires its grammar school, its commercial academy, and its national school, and seems to separate these three institutions from one another with as much jealousy as could be displayed in guarding the barriers of an ancient aristocracy from democratic assault. The division is perhaps neither liberal nor economical: much more might be effected by a combination of resources at least in the higher departments of educational work. But the people will not have it so. Today most people will have it so in most places—and indeed councillors have it so as well. They will learn over the years to use the new flexibility to develop the character of each school to meet the unique and changing sets of needs which it has to meet. Schools are learning to adjust their internal procedures to meet the needs of each individual pupil so that they can benefit from the whole normal range of secondary provision. Anything less is a denial of the rights of individuals. This Bill seeks by statutory means to restrict that option and those rights. Local authorities may have the right to do so provided that their electorate wish it. But in doing so they cannot evade the responsibilities that attach to such freedom. That is why, with their oft-repeated emphasis on the principles that I have enunciated, the Government should accept this new clause.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

I support new clauses 1, 3, 5 and 6.

The question whether we should extend the comprehensive system or go back to the system of grammar, technical and secondary modern or secondary schools may be argued in two ways—in terms of the educational case or the economic case. I should not be unhappy if I believed that the Government were introducing the Bill because they could produce an edu- cational case to show that the system of grammar and secondary modern schools in the areas reverting to that system would develop fully the skills and potential of all the children in the area. The Government are going back to that system because of the economic argument. They say that they cannot afford to give every child in those areas a first-class education. They intend to give only 25 per cent. or 35 per cent. of the children a first-class opportunity. The others must make do with second best.

The new clauses test the good intentions of the Government. If they believe, on educational grounds, that they can return to the old system, they should accept the new clauses proposed by the Opposition. It would then be seen that they were concerned about the standards of education in all schools. On the other hand, if they reject the Opposition proposals, it is clear that the motivation for the Bill is an unwillingness to spend enough money on all the children in those areas and a wish to give preference to a selected group.

I refer to the question of selection. If we are arguing in favour of secondary modern and grammar schools on educational grounds, the first major problem to tackle is how many pupils should be selected for grammar and how many for secondary modern schools. There has always been a failure to give a clear answer to that question. Almost every local authority opts for a different number of pupils to be selected. Not only that—they vary the numbers from year to year. In the amendment we ask local authorities to set out the basic criterion—what proportion of children they expect to be allocated to the different types of schools.

5.45 p.m.

Let us suppose that a local authority in a catchment area must allocate 300 children between one grammar school and two secondary modern schools. What percentage does it choose to send to the grammar school? Does it choose it on educational grounds or the amount of space available in each school? If it chooses merely according to the amount of space, it may allocate 90 to the grammar school and the remainder to the secondary modern schools. However, in two or three years' time, in view of falling rolls, the same catchment area may produce 210 children who are ready to be transferred to secondary schools.

What happens then? Does the local authority retain the 30 per cent. figure for pupils going to the grammar school. If so, the grammar school's intake drops to 63 and the other schools share the remainder. Or does it continue to allow 90 children to go to the grammar school? In other words, will a much higher percentage of the children go to the grammar school? That is an important question. It illustrates the Minister's attitude to those schools. If he says that the grammar school will remain full at all times and that the proportion of children entering will be varied, apart from the inequity from year to year it means that the grammar school is cushioned from the problem of falling rolls.

In the debate on the previous Education Bill, the Minister spent a long time going through the problems of falling rolls. If the numbers of pupils fall, pupils' choice of subjects will be decreased and problems of staffing and allocation of resources to schools will become acute. Does the Minister say that, in choosing the selection system, the number to be selected will vary and that therefore all grammar and secondary modern schools must experience the problems of falling rolls, or that the grammar schools will be cushioned from the problem of falling rolls?

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

My hon. Friend may know that I taught in a secondary modern school for 13 years. Before the selection process took place we knew exactly how many places were available in the grammar school. Perhaps in one year there were many good pupils but in another there were not so many—but the selection was not on educational grounds but purely on the basis of how many places were available in the grammar school at the time. That had nothing to do with educational grounds. In many cases, bright children went to secondary modem schools because they were unfortunate enough to be born in a year when there was a shortage of space in the grammar school.

Mr. Bennett

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. That is the point. If the Government were doing this on educational grounds, they would welcome the new clauses and tell us on educational, grounds the percentages to be allocated to grammar and secondary modern schools. However, if the Government are to make the selection on grounds of economic expediency there is no need for them to say what is the proportion or what is the educational basis. They may merely say " When the schools are full, that is it." From our experience we know that that always happened in the past. The allocation was made according to the number of places available in the school. It was not based on an educational criterion.

We may test the good faith of the Conservative Party and whether it is putting forward its proposal on educational or economic grounds by assessing its attitude to the amendment.

This problem of allocation causes a great deal of parental concern. A great deal of work was done to show the deficiencies of the 11-plus selection process and the unfairness of the examination and its inability to predict the future. Many local authorities affected by the Bill decided to replace the examination with a method of assessment or an examination combined with a continuous assessment. Great hardship was caused. Parents felt that examination results and a continuous assessment system were unfair. The easiest way to relieve that unfairness is to make sure that the parents have an opportunity to see what is going on at all stages.

I was a little disappointed that new clause 2 was not selected, because it would have spelt out my view that the parents ought to have the opportunity to see the record of their child that is kept right through primary school. I press on the Minister that, if he is to retain selection, it is particularly important that there should be good consultation and a good flow of information between the primary school and the parents, so that the parents are not led to believe that the child will achieve something that it will not achieve.

The Minister has a duty, I suggest, to make it clear to local authorities that the record cards of pupils ought to be made available to parents. If there is a continuous assessment process, local authorities should make it possible for the parents to see that continual assessment and to ensure that it is correct. If the child is also graded by examination, the parents ought to be entitled to see the examination paper to ensure that there is fairness.

In any age group, it happens fairly frequently that there are two children with the same Christian name and surname. There is always a lingering doubt in parents' minds whether some inaccurate information has got on to the record card, or whether the examination papers were mixed up. Unless there is a willingness to be absolutely open and to show parents what is on the record card, and why the continuous assessment process or the examination process produced a particular result, parents will inevitably feel that the system is unfair. When selection seems to be important to the parents, the position becomes extremely difficult if they are unable to feel that the process is working fairly.

Mr. Mikardo

An additional reason why it would be highly desirable for parents to have access to the school records of their children is that very often those school records contain annotations concerning matters other than the child's educational attainments or behaviour in the school. They can contain derogatory references sometimes not only to the child but to the child's parents as well. Of course, there is a great reluctance to let the parents see the record. It is monstrous, but that sort of thing happens.

Mr. Bennett

I fully accept the point made in my hon. Friend's intervention. It is extremely important, where children are being judged on a system of continuous assessment, that parents are able to see that everything contained in the assessment is relevant to the child's educational attainment, and that the record does not contain comments upon the child's social background.

If we are to retain this system, a test of the Conservative Party's good faith, on educational rather than economical grounds, would be its willingness to make the process of selection an open one, with the records open to the parents' inspection.

I now turn to the question of transfers. Everyone accepts that both the 11-plus system and the continuous assessment system make mistakes. No one claims that these systems are perfect. It is most important, therefore, to make it possible for mistakes to be rectified easily. We need to see whether there is genuine good faith on the part of the Conservative Party on this issue, and whether it is prepared to look at the question of the continuous review of pupils in both the grammar school and the secondary modern, to see whether children have been misplaced and whether they ought to be moved from one school to the other, where they would be happier and able to achieve the fullest expression of their educational potential. If this is to be done, it is very important to have a system under which there is continuous assessment of pupils to determine whether a transfer is necessary. But it is also important to have cooperation between the schools, so that transfers can be encouraged and made possible.

There is also the need to ensure that courses are parallel. In many areas very often the most able group of children in the secondary modern schools do much better than the least able group in the grammar school. When the question of a transfer arises, it is often discovered that one of the schools is teaching a form of new maths or new science to a particular examination syllabus, whereas the other school is teaching to a different examination syllabus. When that is the case, transfers are extremely difficult to achieve.

Very often some of the children involved, and who would like to transfer, come from homes with very limited means, and the parents then run into the major problem of the school uniform. Often a uniform is not required in both schools but, if it is, it is often the case that one school will have a blue blazer and the other a black blazer, and immediately there are difficulties arising from this.

A test of the good faith of the Conservatives would be whether they are prepared to give instructions to make it as easy and as cheap as possible for children to transfer from one school to another. There ought to be proper coordination of subjects and syllabuses between the grammar school and the secondary modern school. There should be co-operation on matters such as school uniform. The grammar school should not set out to make itself so distinctive that there are unnecessary difficulties or expenditure for the child who wishes to transfer. Again, it is important not to increase the problems of the child who, having been allocated a grammar school place, finds that his educational attainments make him better suited to be in a secondary modern school.

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

Not having been a teacher, I do not have the benefit of that experience. The Maidstone education division still has the conventional grammar school and secondary school system, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there are many transfers in the course of the year, with no difficulty whatever. It is all a matter of good will and co-operation between the heads of the schools.

Mr. Bennett

I am very pleased to hear that. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will vote for the new clause, because we are saying that there should not be any problem at all over transfers and that it should be easy for them to take place. I assume that the children in his area do not run into difficulties with school uniforms when they transfer from one school to another.

I have a lot of evidence from parents about the hardship created in having to buy one school uniform. There is even greater difficulty when their child is offered a transfer from one school to the other and they have to embark on expenditure on a second uniform. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has bought a school uniform recently but I can assure him that he would find it extremely expensive to comply with the school uniform requirements laid down by many grammar schools in this country.

I turn now to the question of allocation of resources, which I feel is the most important aspect of the new clauses. If the Conservatives are showing good faith and are putting forward their case on educational grounds, they ought to say very clearly in the debate that they want to see equality of allocation of resources to the different types of schools. If, on the other hand, they are not prepared to see this written into the Bill, they are really saying that the entire motivation for the Bill is to go back to having a first-class and a second-class system because they are not prepared to spend enough money on providing a first-class system for everyone.

With regard to buildings, for example, are the Conservatives prepared to ensure that the secondary modern schools get an adequate allocation of resources to ensure that they have proper science laboratories, libraries, sports facilities, and so on? Again, as some of the traditional grammar schools are short of various practical facilities, I wonder whether the Government are prepared to make the money available to overcome this shortage.

I would particularly press the Minister concerning library facilities. He may say that for children of 12 the Government will make an equal allocation of money. Grammar schools with a sixth form have the benefit of a very extensive school library—that is, in those local authorities which have managed to keep up their capitation fees—and as a result the rest of the school benefits. Quite clearly, when an allocation is made to a secondary modern school, it is essential to allocate sufficient money to ensure that it also has good library facilities, so that the younger children especially can take advantage of them. I hope that the Minister will spell out quite clearly his belief that there should be equality of allocation of resources to the two different types of schools.

There is the question of pupil-teacher ratio. If we look at the statistics over the years, we see that there has always been a more favourable allocation of teachers to grammar schools than to secondary modern schools. If we are to judge the good faith of the Government, there should be a clear statement that there will be equality of allocation of teachers between the two types of schools. We could go further and consider the allocation of books and other teaching aids, which should also be equally allocated.

I hope that we shall get a clear undertaking from the Government that they accept new clause 1 or the three new clauses tabled in my name. These clauses test whether the Government genuinely believe in their case on educational grounds or whether they are simply relying on the economics of the argument and are not prepared to spend sufficient money on education to give all children the opportunity of developing their full potential, as opposed to a selected few.

6 pm

Mr. Christopher Price

I should like to talk on new clause 8. It relates to the proportion of children allocated from one school to another by local education authorities which may wish to use the Act to revoke, or reintroduce, some sort of selective system in the future. This is a particularly important new clause. I could dilate about it for a very long time—

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

I apologise to the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) for interrupting him. If you have considered the question that arose earlier, Mr. Speaker, perhaps it might be for the convenience of the House for you to give a ruling at this point.

Mr. Speaker

I am quite prepared to do so. However, before I do so, may I say to the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) that when I answered him rather sharply on his plain-as-a-pikestaff point I reacted rather quickly, too. Of course, any right hon. or hon. Member is entitled to raise the question at any point.

The position before the Bill was introduced was that local authorities were required to make proposals for the introduction of comprehensive schools in their areas in preference to the former system, whereby the authorities had a choice between comprehensive schools and selective schools. This Bill withdraws the requirement to make those proposals, but a money resolution, authorising financial expenditure for a selective system, has already been agreed to by the House in connection with an Act authorising that system, namely, the Education Act 1944. I have taken great pains to consider all the arguments raised by hon. Members, and it is clear to me that all I have to satisfy myself about is whether a money resolution is necessary or not, and clearly it is not.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the trouble that you have taken to give the ruling for which the House asked an hour or so ago. I suggested earlier to the Leader of the House that it might be helpful to the House in dealing with this situation— I may say that I think your ruling, Mr. Speaker, fortifies what I suggested—if the Leader of the House were to move the adjournment of the debate now so that we might be able to comment on the position that arises from your ruling, without in any way questioning it. It would enable us to deal with the situation and to have a statement from the Government, which we have not had in the whole of these proceedings. Moreover, it appears to me—again I am not in any way questioning it—that your ruling now has introduced a further question into the matter which was certainly not raised in the earlier discussions.

I repeat again my suggestion to the Leader of the House—particularly in view of what you, Mr. Speaker, said about the difficulties of dealing with these matters on a point of order—that it would be advantageous to the House if the Leader of the House could move the adjournment of the debate. We might then be able to comment on the situation and see how we should proceed. I do not believe that anyone listening to your ruling now can doubt that the House needs considerable clarification of the matter.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

On that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have, of course, considered the representations that were made to me by the right hon. Gentleman, but it did not seem to me suitable to move the adjournment of the debate until you, Mr. Speaker, had made your ruling. You have made your ruling, and I do not think that it would be right for me to move the adjournment of the debate in order to discuss that ruling.

Mr. Foot At this moment, we are at a disadvantage in that any question that has to be put to the House is on a point of order. We are at a disadvantage in that anything that we may say can or might be construed as criticising your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I am not seeking to criticise your ruling in any sense at all, but you yourself indicated to the House what difficulties were involved in having a ruling of this nature in the middle of the debate. What I have suggested would put any comment on these matters in order and would enable us to comment on the new situation which we believe arises from the ruling which you have made.

Once again, I ask the Leader of the House whether he will move that the debate should be adjourned. I hope that the Leader of the House will respond to that appeal. If he does not, some of my hon. Friends may have points of order that they wish to raise on the matter, or it may be that we should move the adjournment of the debate. I wonder whether you, Mr. Speaker, would accept such a motion from us. But surely the best way for the Government to organise these matters so that the House is able to deal with them in the proper way is for the Leader of the House to respond to the request that I made to him some time ago and which I now repeat to him.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Your ruling, Mr. Speaker, suggests that a money resolution is required and that the money resolution is one that was obtained in the 1944 Act—

Mr. Speaker

If I may interrupt the hon. Gentleman, I have gone into this with great care. A money resolution is not necessary. That is all that concerns me on a point of order. The House knows that I spent three-quarters of an hour with advisers, and considering the matter myself. It is quite clear to me that since a money resolution is not necessary, there is no reason why the debate should not continue.

Mr. Bennett

With the greatest respect, I was not referring to that particular point. I was simply stating that, as a result of your ruling, it seems now that the money resolution point has been covered. However, we raised an earlier point on the question of the explanatory memorandum. I accepted, from your earlier ruling, that it was not a question for the House whether the explanatory memorandum was or was not correct, but it seems to me that it is a point on which we should have a statement from the Government giving us their attitude to the explanatory memorandum. Although it may not he out of order, it seems to me very unfortunate that we now have an explanatory memorandum that is out of keeping with the information that has been given to the House. Therefore, I support the request that was just made from this side of the House for the Government to take some action so that this matter can be regularised.

Mr. Christopher Price

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I accept completely your ruling that any money resolution which applies to this Bill was passed by this House in the 1944 Act. As I understand it, the statement by the predecessor of the present Leader of the House was not a statement about what was in order in money resolutions, but a statement about what has formed, ever since 1949, the constitutional precedent about the way in which the Government put down Bills that, in the powers they gave or the duties they imposed, resulted in expenditure from the Consolidated Fund. The statement made by the previous Leader of the House was connected not with order but with the convenience of the House, so that hon. Members could put down amendments. That was the whole burden of Mr. Herbert Morrison's statement.

In all the circumstances, I ask the present Leader of the House to measure up to his responsibilities on this occasion in the way that his predecessors have done, and to give the House the sort of opportunity that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) suggested, so that we can proceed to see whether the Government have followed constitutional precedent. If we do not, we are creating a completely new constitutional precedent which will obtain for the future.

Mr. Speaker

I honestly believe that I cannot help the House any further. I ruled that a money resolution was not necessary. There can be no further points of order about that question. I have gone into it in depth. Therefore, there is only one course to pursue, which is to call the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) to continue his speech.

Mr. Kinnock

We are grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, and to your advisers, for the attention that you have been able to give to this matter. As a result of your ruling, our understanding is that until the repeal of the 1944 Act takes place, matters relating to money will be taken care of substantially by the provisions in the money resolution to that Act. If that is the case, I am forced to wonder why it was that a money resolution was necessary in respect of the 1976 Act.

The difficulty of discussing these matters or points of order is clearly illustrated by the fact that no one in this House even wants to suggest a contest or disagreement with your ruling. However, there are points of substance in regard to the Bill, and the House is interested in giving proper scrutiny to the Bill at its Report stage. In order to assist the House and, indeed, yourself, and for the sake of good government, perhaps the Leader of the House will undertake not to proceed to Third Reading until these matters, which have been matters of vexation to us for well over an hour, are properly looked at and answered.

Mr. Speaker

I must tell the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) that I am concerned only with whether this Bill requires a money resolution. It does not. I have given my ruling to the House. Therefore, all I can now do is to call the hon. Member for Lewisham, West to continue his speech.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that hon. Members will not try to pursue this matter. I have made it perfectly clear that a money resolution is not necessary. I have gone into this matter at the request of the House, and have given serious consideration to it. There can be no point in pursuing it.

Mr. Wellbeloved

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In no way do I wish to pursue your ruling. Indeed, that would be highly improper, and I shall not seek to do so. However, I should like to put this to you. The House is in some confusion. It would assist the good conduct of our business if the Leader of the House were able to respond to the sensible points that have been put to him. A short time ago, the right hon. Gentleman said that he thought that it was the job of the Patronage Secretary to deal with party political matters and that it was his responsibility, as Leader of the House, to look after the interests of the House of Commons and of Members of the House of Commons.

It is your job, Mr. Speaker, to uphold the interests, dignity and procedures of the House, and all that is associated with this great institution of parliamentary democracy. I believe that it would be of great help to you, in the discharge of your very difficult duties, if the Leader of the House himself were to come to the assistance of parliamentary democracy by now offering to move the motion for the adjournment, postponement or suspension of the debate in order that we might properly explore the many fundamental issues arising from your very proper ruling in the light of the established precedents. I therefore appeal to the Leader of the House, through you, Mr. Speaker, to assist you, the House and democracy by moving that motion so that we may make some progress on these important issues.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman knows that he cannot make an appeal through me on a point of order. Although I was patient and allowed him to make his statement, he cannot appeal to the Leader of the House through me.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I might describe this as a maiden point of order. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I seek your indulgence more than hon. Members normally do. I find myself at a loss following your ruling, because it is my understanding that one of our duties, both individually and collectively, is to consider the expenditure of moneys by the Government. As I understand your ruling, we are now in a position where there will be an expenditure of moneys as a consequence of the Bill, but there is no procedure whereby we can find out how much will be involved or express a view upon it. I am therefore at a loss to know how to discharge my duties both to the House and to my electorate.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has made his point of order very courteously. The fact is, as I have already outlined—

Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am answering a point of order. The fact is that the House has imposed on me the duty to see whether a money resolution is necessary. I have done that. Everything else is in order, because a money resolution is not necessary.

Mr. Marshall

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In no way do I wish to call into question the ruling that you have given. Rather, I wish to seek clarification of what your ruling means. You say that no money resolution is required for this Bill, because the money resolution in respect of the 1944 Act covers the present Bill. One of the reasons why we have been so circumspect in putting down amendments is that this Bill has no money resolution attached to it. Therefore, any amendments put down by the Opposition which incurred expenditure would be ruled out of order by the Chair. If we are to interpret your ruling in this way—that the 1944 money resolution is to be read with this Bill—we should be in order in putting down amendments which would incur expenditure.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has outlined the rules of the House, which he obviously knows well. He cannot table amendments that involve increasing money charges, and no money resolution is necessary for the Bill.

Mr. Kinnock

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for taking up the time of the House, and I regret most of all taking up your time, by putting these points again. I hope that we understand your ruling absolutely clearly, because we would be doing you a disservice if we did not. Your ruling is that because of the general provisions made by the 1944 Act, there is a lesser need to be specific—I shall put it as generally as that—about the money implications in respect of education Bills which add to, amend or in any way change the 1944 Act.

You have said that there is no need for a money resolution. We accept that, believe it and entirely agree because you have said so, but the reference in the memorandum on the front of this Bill is not to the existence of the 1944 Act or to matters being in keeping with Mr. Speaker's ruling. The words are " no implications "—a very positive and assertive phrase.

We believe you, Mr. Speaker, of course, but the Government have not said what you have said. They have said that there are no implications, not that because of the 1944 Act the rules are different in respect of this Bill.

The importance of the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) lies in the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) put down a new clause and it was ruled out because it had money implications. If it is the case that the 1944 Act covers for money purposes all subsequent Bills of this nature—I shall not even quarrel about section 11 of the 1976 Act and the money implications there—and it therefore covers the present proposed legislation, it surely must be the case that, inasmuch as the money resolution in respect of the 1944 Act applies, amendments or new clauses put down to Bills appearing subsequent to 1944 should be accepted, the money resolution question having been resolved by virtue of the 1944 Act, in pursuance of your ruling now.

Mr. Speaker

I am not dealing with other Bills. I am dealing with the present Bill, and I am not giving a ruling which applies to other Bills. My ruling in respect of this Bill is that no money resolution is necessary. I think that the time has now come—

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members must realise that I have been tolerant. These have been points of order on a Speaker's ruling. That course in itself is disorderly. It is not customary to challenge a ruling, especially when, as on this occasion, at the request of the House I have gone back to consider it further.

Mr. Foot

I made my suggestion, Mr. Speaker, precisely because I thought that it would have obviated the difficulties which you have indicated. It is a procedure often adopted in the House on other occasions. If Mr. Speaker makes a ruling, the House must acept it—certainly, we accept your ruling on this occasion—but there is also the consideration that the ruling given by Mr. Speaker may have implications for the rest of the debate.

That does not mean that the House is questioning Mr. Speaker's ruling in any sense, but it means that in the face of that ruling the House is entitled to review the situation and see how it affects the Bill. It was precisely for that reason that I put to the Government a suggestion which would have set all these matters in order and which could have obviated the difficulty.

So far, the Government have refused to accept that suggestion. I ask them again. In order to avoid these difficulties, will they at least agree to the proposition made by my hon. Friend in charge of the Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), that they should agree not to proceed with Third Reading at this day's sitting, so that we may have a chance to review in a proper manner the ruling which you, Mr. Speaker, have given and see what are the implications in respect of the Bill before it leaves this House?

It seems to me that that is a most moderate request to make to the Government, and I ask them again to respond to it. I believe that they should have responded to the request to move to adjourn the debate now so that this discussion could more easily have been accommodated. However, I ask them again, in order to ease the situation, to give an undertaking that they will not proceed with Third Reading at this day's sitting. They will then be able to bring back the Bill on some future occasion, and we shall in those circumstances have a chance to consult my hon. Friends' constituents and other constituents involved.

I believe that that would be for the assistance of the whole House, so I urge the Government to accept that course. If the Government refuse and say that they will take no notice of what has arisen in these discussions, they will, I believe, be asking for difficulties in the conduct of the Bill.

I urge the Government to agree to what I have suggested. I have, I hope, put my request in the most courteous manner, and I asked them privately previously. I urge them now to take the very limited course we are asking for, namely, that they undertake not to proceed with the Third Reading of the Bill at this sitting.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I believe that I can help the House if I suspend the sitting for a quarter of an hour, for the usual channels at least to talk, so that when we return it will be in order for me to call the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) to continue his speech.

6.25 p.m.

Sitting suspended.

6.40 p.m.

On resuming

Mr. Foot

I ask the Leader of the House if he will make a statement. We have had some conversations and I hope that he will respond to the request that the Government should not proceed with the Third Reading of the Bill during this sitting in the light of those discussions. It still leaves us with some other problems about the Bill because under the ruling that has been given—and we fully accept it—there is a question whether we have the right to table manuscript amendments. But that is a separate question. It would assist the House if the Government would at least agree not to proceed with the Third Reading during this sitting so that we shall have a chance to look at the situation that has arisen from the ruling and from its consequences.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

We did have some conversations during the suspension of the sitting. Certainly it would be my wish to continue as proposed. In view of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, which was quite clear in this regard, I cannot see that there is any reason for not proceeding with the Bill. On the point about manuscript amendments, that is for you, Mr. Speaker, not for me.

Mr. Foot

The matters we have put to you, Mr. Speaker, are not concerned with the acceptance of the ruling from the Chair. Of course we accept that. In some respects it fortifies the view that some of my hon. Friends have put on the matter. This a question of the convenience of the House in discussing these questions. Nobody who has heard the exchanges that have taken place today, and who has seen the position arise where Mr. Speaker suspends the sittings to enable us to have discussions, would believe that we should properly proceed with the Third Reading this evening.

I urge the Government afresh, in the interests of the House as a whole, to indicate that they will not proceed with the Third Reading in this sitting. This does not mean that they will lose something, it simply means that the House will have the chance to look at the ruling and its consequences, and to consult those people who are involved up and down the country. The Government would show their strength rather than their weakness by agreeing to what we ask. They would show that they are prepared to bow to the desires of the Opposition so that the discussion can proceed in an orderly manner.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Wellbeloved

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Following from your ruling—which we all accept—that the Bill does not need a money resolution because it is covered by the 1944 Education Act, it became clear that an amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) was ruled out of order by the Table because it involved money. Now that we find that it would be in order because this Bill is covered by a money resolution, it follows that amendments and new clauses affecting expenditure could be tabled. It seems to me that you, Mr. Speaker, have an absolute responsibility to protect Members of this House and their rights. Their rights depend, to a substantial degree, on their ability to table amendments and new clauses during the passage of a Bill and on Report. That has obviously been denied to hon. Members because of the difficulties that have arisen from the advice that has been tendered on this Bill.

Therefore, in the discharge of the responsibility that you have to all Members of the House, and in order that we might have proper time to exercise our constitutional rights and duties in tabling amendments and new clauses to legislation proposed by the Executive, I say that we should have a suspension of proceedings so that hon. Members may discharge this function.

In the discharge of your solemn and onerous responsibilities to this House and in your duty to assist us in the discharge of our responsibilities to those who sent us here, Mr. Speaker, there should be a pause in the proceedings on this Bill so that we can consider and table suitable amendments dealing with the expenditure side of the Bill—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member has repeated that point three times.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Before I conclude my point of order, in view of the conduct of Conservative Members who have indicated that I have taken a long time in putting this point of order, I should point out that there are serious issues involved. Some Tory Members—I do not include them all—may wish to subtract from the rights of this House to debate legislation but that would not be the overwhelming wish of the House. Nor would it be your duty, Mr. Speaker, to allow any attempt to deny hon. Members the right to put their points of order by comments made from a sedentary position.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Those who were in the House earlier will know that at the request of the House I gave further consideration to the ruling. It is quite clear after long consideration that the money resolution is not necessary, and therefore it is in order for us to proceed with the Bill.

Mr. Kinnock

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Without any hint of sycophancy or flannelling, I stress that we are particularly conscious of the fact that you took three-quarters of an hour to consider these matters with your advisers before making your ruling. We are also aware of your attempt to facilitate a reasonable understanding on this matter by suspending the House so that conversations could take place. On the Opposition side of the House we are very grateful to you.

Earlier we asked that this debate should be adjourned so that we could conduct it in a way that meant that we were not in contention of any description with the Chair. Unfortunately, that was refused by the laxity of the Government. Because of that, the substance of your ruling is that in education Bills there is a " catch 22 " to end all " catch 22s ". The Bill says there are no financial implications. The Clerk at the Table and yourself regard amendments and rule, as indeed you must, on the basis of the Bill. In the course of your ruling you then recognise that while there are financial implications these are covered by an earlier statute. The Government's view is that there are no implications. The implications are covered by earlier statutes and " Erskine May " provides for putting the matter in a different form. This matter was also covered by a special report of the Estimates Committee.

We are now facing an invidious situation. We wish to make our representations on a commonsense basis with an eye to justice in debating this Bill. We are not critical of your ruling, Mr. Speaker. There are two avenues open to the House. First, we can adjourn this debate in order to discuss any monetary implications. Second, we can conduct discussions on this subject before proceeding to Third Reading. These are ways in which the present difficulties can be resolved.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Naturally, I am anxious to help promote a reasonable resolution of these matters. Is it acceptable to the Opposition if the House now proceeds to discuss amendments at this stage and we hold a discussion on the financial implications? I suggest that we could have a full discussion to see what substance is contained in the supposed difficulties. That would be without prejudice to further progress on the Bill.

Mr. Foot

I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting. If I understand him aright, he is suggesting that while discussion proceeds on the Bill in the House, there should be some other parallel discussions outside the Chamber. That, surely, is not the normal way of proceeding. If there are to be other discussions outside this Chamber, they must have some bearing on the Bill. I have asked for an indication that we should not proceed with Third Reading until we have had an opportunity for such discussions to take place in the normal manner. However, it does not seem proper for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that, as well as public discussion in this Chamber, we should have private discussions.

The right hon. Gentleman is not being asked to surrender his virginity or something of that nature. He is being asked only that we should be given an interval between the end of Report stage and the beginning of Third Reading. That is a reasonable request for us to make.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman has not understood what I was saying. His request is that we should not proceed with Third Reading. In the discussions which have taken place, my right hon. Friends and I have not been convinced that there is a point of substance involved. [HON. MEMBERS: " Oh."] I am not saying that the Opposition are not convinced that they have a point of substance. I am saying that we have not been convinced. I am suggesting that we should proceed with these discussions and that the House should proceed with the Report stage of the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman can convince us that there is a point of substance, we can consider the position with regard to Third Reading. That is a reasonable offer.

Mr. Spearing

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. I wish to address you because it is my new clause 1 which is now being debated. The point arises immediately from your ruling and the substance of my clause. Paragraph (c) of the clause relates to The nature, range and extent of the courses and options offered in each of the selective secondary schools maintained by that local authority ". In tabling my clause, I deliberately avoided including anything that would incur additional expenditure. If I had been able to do so, I would have added another paragraph requiring local authorities to maintain secondary modern schools to a particular standard of staffing and courses, which would have incurred additional expenditure.

It appears that arising from the position as it now stands, it would have been in order for me to table such an amendment if I had known that extra expenditure was covered by the 1944 Act. Alternatively, such a proposal would have been ruled out of order by the Table because the Bill contains no money resolution. I am not asking you, Mr. Speaker, to resolve the difficulty, but I put this point to the Leader of the House. This involves a dilemma which he should take into account.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. Obviously points of order are not getting us any further on this subject. I have already given my ruling that a money resolution is not necessary, that the debate is entirely in order, and that it is in the best interests of the House to continue.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) made an interesting point, but it impeded the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) from responding to my suggestion. I regard that suggestion as a reasonable way forward.

Mr. Foot

I have already given my response to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am not very attracted by his proposal. He suggests that we should discuss in private some of the matters which would be naturally discussed as the Bill proceeded. Our proposal that we should not take the Third Reading in this sitting was not a radical one. It does not deal with the whole of our grievance. It still does not deal with the grievance as to how we should proceed on the rest of the Report stage.

We believe that our suggestion would ease the situation, and it would not mean the Government surrendering their position. We understand that they are still disputing what we regard as some of the difficulties which still arise. The right hon. Gentleman does not have to make a great concession. We are merely asking for an interval between Report stage and Third Reading so that we shall have an opportunity to consider the various views.

In the debate on Report, some of my hon. Friends will have to take up with the Chair the question of tabling manuscript amendments. That is their right. However, I still ask the right hon. Gentleman not to try to proceed with this Bill as proposed. It is not a matter of order, but relates to the convenience of the House. Let us consider what will be the convenience of the House if we try to get through the whole of this Bill in this sitting when there has been such contention on these matters.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, I am a little puzzled. Do I take it that your ruling means that if there is a money resolution on any Bill, at any time if a subsequent Bill comes along that is within that money resolution, one can move—

Mr. Speaker

I interrupt the hon. Gentleman to say that I have already outlined the position. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was present at the time. I have ruled that a money resolution is not necessary on this Bill. My ruling is confined to that topic and therefore it is in order for us to proceed.

7 p.m.

Mr. English

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. However, I understand that your ruling is based on the fact that there is a money resolution to the principal Bill. As you are aware, the procedure began in 1660 and if I am right any money resolution in the last 319 years can be looked up and, so long as our amendments on any Bill are within them, we can move them.

Mr. Mikardo

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is a fresh, sharp and specific point which arises out of your ruling. It has not been dealt with and, with respect, it should be dealt with, either by your giving a ruling or in the course of the across-the-floor discussions. Great unfairness has been clone to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett). He tabled an amendment which had a financial implication and he was told that the amendment was out of order because there were no financial implications in the Bill, as witnessed by the fact that there was no money resolution. After studying the matter with great care, you have informed us that there is a 30-year-old money resolution which becomes the money resolution for the Bill.

Therefore, it follows that the ground on which my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North was refused permission to table his amendment is invalid. Your ruling has made that ground invalid and it follows that he should have the opportunity to table that amendment again. One advantage of the adoption of the suggestion by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) that Third Reading is not taken today would be that the Report stage would not be completed and my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North could table his amendment again. Alternatively, if you were so minded, you could permit him to table it in manuscript. Unless facilities are provided by one means or another for the amendment to be tabled again my hon. Friend has been treated unfairly. Rules of order have been applied to him which you have told us are invalid.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

I was not present to hear your ruling, Mr. Speaker, because I was engaged in the parliamentary working party dealing with matters appertaining to the Bill, strangely enough. Subsequently, I heard of the ruling from some of my hon. Friends. However, I was present when other matters were raised. The House has several duties to perform, one of which is to be technically in order. Apparently, you are indicating that from your point of view the House is in order as far as the money resolution is concerned, because it is in the Education Act 1944. Nevertheless, another duty of the House is to convince the public that what it is doing is right. I have the impression that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is uncertain whether his course of action is right, and I am convinced about that because he has agreed to the parallel discussions taking place. If that is correct, the Front Bench channels are not operating correctly. It does not concern me whether the matter is ultra vires "Erskine May " or locus standi, or such other Latin phrases, but I am concerned that when the councillors who are involved in the Education Bill make decisions that will result in their being surcharged, they will say that on this day in the House of Commons, Members, particularly Conservative Members, caused that to take place. We, as a legislature, cannot carry the matter forward without being able to convince the judiciary or even the district auditor at the other end. I base my view on what the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has said. There is a great uncertainty, and because of that I believe that the business should be halted immediately.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

Unlike the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) I was present to hear your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and throughout the interesting discussions that took place earlier in the afternoon which led to that ruling being made. Of course, the House accepts your ruling, which was admirably clear and concise.

The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) is putting forward a reasonable request and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, is replying equally reasonably. My right hon. Friend would like to entertain that request if he could be convinced that there was a substantial and identifiable point. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) intervened with his customary clarity and he identified that point as being the difficulty in which Labour Members may have been placed because amendments that they sought to table were rejected or ruled out of order on the basis of a different situation from that which now applies in the context of the money resolution.

That is not a matter for the House or for the Government, but it is a matter for the Speaker and the Table. It has to be decided whether the amendments are in order or not. I should be open to being convinced of the matter but the examples that have been suggested may well be matters that would be out of order—apart from the point about the money resolution—because they impose a charge on the Crown which cannot be made by a private Member. These are relevant considerations and only you, Mr. Speaker, and the learned Clerks at the Table can decide upon them. I do not believe that the House or the Government can usefully assist in the matter.

I suggest that, if they wish, hon. Members table their manuscript amendments for consideration by the learned Clerks at the Table in the light both of the position as established in regard to the money resolution and the basic principles about how far, if at all, private Members can propose amendments that incur a charge. We should proceed without prejudice and if the amendments are in order they will be taken. If they are not in order it is a matter for you, Mr. Speaker, and the Table. That seems to be a reasonable way to approach the matter—on a basis of good will and understanding on all sides.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

The position is not as the right hon. and learned Memmer for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) has outlined, because it is not without prejudice. The position is prejudiced by your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I do not challenge that ruling in any way, but it has made the position regarding amendments completely different.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), whose new clause is being discussed, explained to the House that he had a different clause in mind but he was given certain instructions and parameters in the Table Office within which to put down the clause. He was prevented from putting down the clause that he had in mind originally. Therefore, we should not continue the debate, although the matter is in your hands and in the hands of the usual channels. The debate should be halted. Your selection of items to be debated, Mr. Speaker, is also made on the basis of the relative tabling of the amendments. It may well be that if new amendments were put down for a fresh debate we should not be debating the issue. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South may wish to withdraw the clause and substitute it with the original clause that he had in mind. That is a right of hon. Members.

It is with your ruling in mind and in order to strengthen and support it that I suggest that the best course would be to stop the debate now, because the matter has been in such confusion, and put the Bill down for debate next week or another convenient time, so that my hon. Friends the Members for Newham, South, for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) and for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett), who, I am sure, had in mind new clauses that were inhibited by the lack of a money resolution, could have the freedom that we have on any other Bill to put down clauses. The Clerks in the Table Office, who provide such a good service to the House, could advise on the shape and form of the proposed amendments.

That is the only way that the House can proceed if we are not to get into enormous confusion over manuscript amendments and the possibility that they may be challenged. I do not know whether you have in mind accepting such amendments, Mr. Speaker, but the difficulty with them, and the reason why the House rarely permits them, is that it is difficult to share them among hon. Members. We have a Vote Office from which hon. Members can obtain amendments, so that every hon. Member may be fully informed about amendments before the House. Without that facility we cannot enter properly and informatively into debates.

I strongly suggest that manuscript amendments are not particularly helpful and that strong preference should be given to ending the debate and allowing hon. Members to table amendments that can then be printed in the proper way, so that all hon. Members are fully informed and can participate in the debate in the normal way.

Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If I were in a council chamber I would have to declare an interest, because I am still a councillor, and that is relevant to my point of order.

The Bill states that it has no implications of a financial character or for public service manpower requirements and, according to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, it does not require a money resolution, though it will obviously cause expenditure to be incurred by local authorities.

I should like a categoric assurance from the Leader of the House or the Secretary of State for Education that it is proper for the Bill to proceed and that councillors will not be surcharged by district auditors if they implement the Bill and expenditure is incurred when there is no money resolution and the Bill is said to have no financial or public service manpower implications.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I should tell the House that in the selection of amendments I bore in mind the fact that no money resolution was necessary for the Bill. I did that in my original opinion, which I have not changed.

Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not the case that under no circumstances can an hon. Member who is not a member of the Government make a proposal or move an amendment that would involve increased Government expenditure?

Mr. Christopher Price

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the precedents are properly examined, it will be seen that the situation that we face is exactly similar to the situation that existed on 10 May 1949, as a result of which Herbert Morrison made his statement and the long passage on page 756 of " Erskine May " was written.

I have already read the passage to the House, so I shall read only a part of it. The Government gave a undertaking in 1949, and when " Erskine May " quotes Government undertakings the implication is that they are constitutional points that apply to future Governments. " Erskine May says: where a public bill put any substantial duty on local authorities, the financial resolution necessary to cover the resulting increase in equalisation grant under the Local Government Act 1948 would be drafted in wide terms in order not to prevent Members from moving amendments which might increase the charge on the rates. This undertaking may be presumed to hold good for the present system of rate support grants which has superseded the system of equalisation grants. 7.15 p.m.

In 1949, the Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Bill, which was introduced without a money resolution, was at first said by the Government to be ineligible for a money resolution and, therefore, for any amendments that attracted Government expenditure. The original ground for that view was that the Bill was covered—in exactly the same way as you, Mr. Speaker, say that the Bill before us is covered by the Education Act 1944—by the Local Government Act 1948, which had a money resolution.

Mr. Herbert Morrison said at that time that even when a Bill was covered by another Bill, a money resolution should be put down, not to put the matter in order but so that hon. Members who wanted to do their constitutional duty and table amendments should be able to do so.

The Leader of the House tells us that he is not convinced by our arguments. I accept that, and no doubt the aguments will continue. However, in printing the Bill the Government have said that they are not following constitutional precedent. The Leader of the House has suggested that there ought to be private discussions about the matter. That is all very well for the Front Benches, but not for Back Benchers, who have seen the Bill rushed at breakneck speed through Committee in a mere three sittings simply because all amendments that involved money were ruled out of order.

We now have your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that the Bill was, in the first place, covered by the money resolution to the 1944 Act. Had we known that on Second Reading, or before the Committee stage, there is no way that the Bill could have gone through so quickly.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman may have misinterpreted the ruling, which I thought was quite clear, that the 1944 Act authorised expenditure and required a financial resolution. Every money resolution begins with the words: for the purposes of any Act of the present Session ". Although the 1944 Act authorises the expenditure, which makes a money resolution unnecessary for the Bill before us, its money resolution cannot be extended to cover amendments to Bills in this Session.

Mr. James Callaghan

Further to the points of order, Mr. Speaker. If I may say something that I think is uncontentious, it is 7.18 pm. That will be agreed by both sides of the House. We are not making much progress. I am sure that the Leader of the House has that fact very much in mind when he looks at the long list of amendments—a total of 22 in five separate groups.

There is an important debate due to start at 11 o'clock in the morning and it is therefore important that there should be agreement between both sides of the House about the way in which we handle the matter. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) has suggested how we can ensure that the debate starts properly at 11 o'clock in the morning. If there is no agreement, we shall find ourselves in a difficult and awkward situation.

The Leader of the House has been here for a long time. He knows that when the Opposition get into a certain state of mind progress that would otherwise be made reasonably quickly can be rather more slow.

I want to make a suggestion to my hon. Friends. I always like to be reasonable on these matters. I suggest that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale and the Leader of the House leave the Chamber for a short time to have a discussion, and that in the meantime we allow the debate on the new clause to continue. When my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman return with the result of their discussion by, say, 7.30 pm or 7.35 pm, and we see whether the Leader of the House has been convinced, it will be possible for us to determine how we wish to proceed, in continuing to make the progress that we intend to make on the Bill during the remainder of the night.

I suggest that there should be a quiet discussion between the Leader of the House and my right hon. Friend and that we let the proceedings continue for the next 15 minutes.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am delighted to hear that, but I thought that it was what I had suggested. However, let us not quarrel about who suggested it first. Let us proceed accordingly.

Mr. Speaker

I call the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) to continue his speech on the new clause.

Mr. Christopher Price

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

May I say in preface to the continuation of my speech that the sort of discussions that are to go on through the usual channels in the next 10 minutes or so underline the point that I was trying to make about the rights of Back Benchers? Something—I do not know what—will be cobbled up in those discussions along the corridors[...] Those of us who have spent a long time trying to put down amendments, but who have not been allowed to do so, will be excluded from the magic circle that is to discuss these matters.

The only thing that gives me any pleasure is that the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), will also be excluded. If he feels like going down the corridor and joining my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale and the Leader of the House, let him feel free, as my remarks will take a little time. Indeed, it is not impossible that they will last until 7.35 p.m., when my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman are to return and we may resume our discussions on the principle of the matter.

I think that for the next few minutes I can make the sorts of points that I might have made on a point of order in speaking about new clause 8. It says: Those local authorities to whom sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Education Act applied in whole or in part "— that is, those that have gone completely comprehensive under the 1976 Act, those that are going comprehensive under that Act and those that might think of revoking under that Act— " shall submit to the Secretary of State by 1st January 1980 proposals for the proportions in which children shall be allocated to secondary schools of different types over the next 10 years. I suppose that the preparation of those submissions will cost a bit of money. I suppose that the learned Clerk allowed the new clause to be tabled on the ground that such expenditure was not very significant. But it is my view—certainly it was my view before the Committee stage and before Report—that I should like to table a stronger amendment. That would make it absolutely clear that local authorities intending to do something as substantial as stopping the engines and putting them in reverse, creating a whole sea change in the direction of public policy as it has been over the past 30 years since the Second World War, should not be able to do so, as the Bill permits, in a hole-in-the-corner fashion over a period of a few weeks, in the way that Tameside did. They should do so under proper local authority planning procedures. That necessarily would have involved spending a certain amount of money. I was not allowed to put down such an amendment, and that is the only reason why my clause is in its present form.

I do not know whether as a result of the magic circle discussion behind your Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it will transpire that, although I was allowed only to put down new clause 8, I could have tabled a much stronger amendment. This all goes to strengthen my point that, whatever the Government may say, and whatever may happen as a result of the magic circle talks, the whole Bill is now irretrievably vitiated. There is no way in which it can properly pass through the House.

The rushed Committee stage was designed to avoid doing any of the things that we are talking about in the new clauses. Every stage of the Bill's progress so far has been rushed for one reason only. It is that pledges were given during the election by the Chief Whip, who is now colluding behind your Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I withdraw the word " colluding ", and substitute the phrase " engaged in important discussions ", which we all hope will result in a sensible resolution of the difficulties in which we find ourselves. The usual channels have often brought that about in the past.

We are in the present difficulty partly because the Government wanted a Bill that they could rush through. They knew that they could not rush it through if they had a money resolution. We had to have our rushed Committee sittings because of the Chief Whip, whose grammar school at Brampton is involved; and of the Home Secretary, whose grammar schools at Brampton is involved; and because the Secretary of State made an abortive attempt to win the two seats in Bolton for the Conservative Party. The right hon. and learned Gentleman made some speeches there, but both his visit and that of the Prime Minister signally failed to have any effect on the electors of Bolton.

Having failed to have any effect on the electors of Bolton, the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have tried to rush through a Bill of this kind without a money resolution, in a few fag-end weeks before the summer holidays, simply to avoid political embarrassment, and because of promises that they made, which it would be a scandal for the country to allow them to fulfil.

I suspect that there is another reason why there was an attempt to rush the Bill through and why there is no money resolution—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Richard Crawshaw)

The hon. Gentleman is supposed to be speaking to new clause 8. I hope that he will get down to it. I understand that the arrangement is that there will be a report later on the discussions that are taking place. The hon. Gentleman is entering into arguments that tire not concerned with the clause.

Mr. Price

New clause 8, like the rest of the new clauses that we are discussing, lays down what we consider to be the proper local government procedures to be followed before there is a change in local authority policy as substantial as the Bill proposes.

7.30 p.m.

I am trying, simply in context, to set the scene for saying why these new clauses should be passed and to state the motives of Conservative Members who are trying to argue that they should not be passed. Conservative Members want to rush through these clauses for political reasons. There is no money resolution because the Treasury would not allow one to be put down. The Treasury is not allowing any money resolutions because it is attempting to cut public expenditure. I shall not pursue that point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because if I did so, I am sure that you would call me to order.

Long consultations, often over a period of seven to 10 years, took place before local education authorities decided to go comprehensive. Those discussions have involved parents' organisations, the Confederation for the Advancement of State Education, teachers' organisations and local authorities. Sometimes, the authorities have taken back their plans to be modified before continuing further consultations. All that consultation started with circular 10/65 at the time when I had the honour to be Mr. Anthony Crosland's Parliamentary Private Secretary. I remember the initiation, as does my then joint Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell), who was then the hon. Member for Southampton, Test.

When one considers these extensive consultations, the idea that the Government should say that 10 years' carefully prepared plans should be torn up during a few weeks of August, simply to save the political face of the Chief Whip, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Education and Science, because he made a few promises in Bolton—

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

In recent minutes, we have been joined by a few Conservative Members. But for most of the debate on the new clause, as opposed to the procedural points, there has been a singular lack of interest on the Conservative Benches. Yet this Bill is supposed to be demanded by Tory areas of the country.

Mr. Price

That is not only the phenomenon that we see now. We saw that phenomenon, as my hon. Friend will recall, throughout the Committee stage. We were graced by the presence on the Committee of the ex-chairman of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities education committee, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton), who probably knows more about local education authority mechanics than anyone in the House.

Mr. Vivian Bendall (Ilford, North)

I do not know where the hon. Gentleman was during the last general election. In my by-election in Ilford, North and in the general election, education was a burning issue with many electors.

Mr. Price

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making my point. I have been to Ilford town hall in the past to make speeches about education. I agree that among my audience in Redbridge education was a matter of burning interest. I hope that the Redbridge council comes to its senses one day and gets rid of the 11-plus examination. It does not appear, looking at the Conservative Benches, that education is a burning issue in the Conservative Party today. Nor did it look so during the Committee stage of this Bill.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Would my hon. Friend say how many amendments were put down in Committee by Government supporters? Would he also say how many amendments the Conservatives have put down on Report?

Mr. Price

The House does not need even my wisdown to acquaint itself of the answer to that question. In case some hon. Members would like the answer, it is nil plus nil. Some of the new Conservative Members made one or two interventions before they were carefully taken out of the room to receive a good talking-to from the Whip, the hon. Member for the City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke), who is on the Treasury Bench and smiles at the idea. They were told to shut up. After a while, we were even deprived of the sedentary interventions from Conservative Members during the Committee stage.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe)

Is my hon. Friend aware that Conservative Members in Cheshire are demanding that the moves to comprehensive education already in operation should be thrown out against the wishes of the Conservative controlled education committee?

Mr. Price

There were some discussions on this matter. I am afraid that I have done Conservative Members a severe injustice in my remarks. I will- ingly put the record straight. There was one Conservative Member whom the Whip was unable to restrain—the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who allowed himself three or four interventions. We learned after a time that the mere mention of the word " Cheshire ", or particularly mention of Mr. John Tomlinson, that dedicated educationist and chief education officer for Cheshire, drew the hon. Member for Macclesfield, as if by levitation, to his feet. The hon. Gentleman would give us a little lecture on how every county councillor in Cheshire except three or four who represent Macclesfield, was wrong.

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Scunthorpe)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You have already drawn attention to the fact that the hon. Gentleman was making slow progress in getting to the clause under discussion. It appears that we are still waiting to hear the arguments he intends to put forward.

Mr. Mikardo

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not outside the normal traditions, practices and good behaviour of the House for an hon. Member who has not been here all day to pop in and rebuke Members who have sat through every part of the debate?

Mr. Brown

I might point out that I have been here for the bulk of the debate [Hon. Members: " Absolute nonsense."]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Order. I am sure that the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) will address himself to new clause 8.

Mr. Price

I have no objection to the hon. Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Brown) interjecting in the way he did. He shows a touching loyalty to the hon. Member for Macclesfield, whose research assistant he was during the previous Parliament. If we could all rely on our research assistants to that extent, I am sure that we would all be well served.

If local education authorities take advantage of this Bill without the proper protection which we believe this selection of new clauses gives them, and if they rush ahead during the month of August, months, sometimes years, of careful preparation will be torn up. We will have absolute chaos of the kind we saw in Tameside a couple of years ago.

My name is attached to new clause 8, although I will be talking about the other new clauses that have been selected. New clause 8, if I may paraphrase, says that before local education authorities are allowed to revoke and go back to grammar schools and secondary modern schools, they must tell the parents and the teachers in their authority what a grammar school and what a secondary modern school are to be. They must give them some idea of the proportions that will be selected for each school.

In all our big cities, local authorities are inhibited in their powers to close schools. Even if they start in the first year selecting perhaps 15 per cent. for their grammar schools and 85 per cent. for secondary modern schools, the natural fall in population will produce a 5 per cent. shift per year—perhaps more in some inner city areas. It is impossible to close a grammar school and well-nigh impossible to close a secondary modern school. My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) will remember the attempts to close Bow school, which was not exactly the most popular school in the country. The present Prime Minister, when Secretary of State, faced with the desire of ILEA to rationalise secondary education in the East End, gave in, perhaps properly, to the parents and refused permission. So the numbers dropped further and further.

Unless LEAs fulfil the requirements of the new clause, it is not just that 15 per cent. will go to grammar schools and 85 per cent. to secondary modern schools—that may have some spurious psychological justification, although I do not agree with it—

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

My hon. Friend says that many people favour some selection. Has he found one person who would recommend the precise percentages? Despite all the pressure, the Tories have not given the percentages. It always seems to be simply a question of expediency.

Mr. Price

I agree. The only inkling that we have had was a speech on Second Reading by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), whom I am sorry not to see in his place, because he takes these matters seriously. I fear that it is because he took seriously his loyalty to proper continuity and common sense in education that he is on the Back Benches and has not been given the job he deserves of looking after education as he did from 1970 to 1974. It is a pity that the Tory Party has gone so reactionary and so far right as to penalise the decent folk in its ranks. Nothing illustrates that point better than what has happened to the hon. Member.

I asked the hon. Member on Second Reading what percentages of selection he thought were tolerable—not proper, but tolerable. He said that in a new town such as Wokingham it would be acceptable to those who sent their youngsters to secondary moderns or comprehensives if 10 per cent. were selected, but certainly no more. That was a social judgment, not an educational one.

Mr. Mikardo

A PR judgment.

Mr. Price

Exactly—that the parents would just about tolerate their school being called comprehensive, even if it was not, if the numbers taken away were limited to 10 per cent.

In our inner cities, even though to begin with 10 or 15 per cent. will be selected, the drop in population and the inability to close schools means that in the second year 20 per cent. will be taken for grammar schools, where everybody wants his child to go, and in the fifth or sixth year, 50 per cent. will be selected—[Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port (Mr. Porter) wish to intervene? He appears to be getting excited.

7.45 p.m

Mr. Barry Porter (Bebington and Ellesmere Port)

I was voicing my disagreement. The hon. Gentleman suggests that there is a fixed and determinable percentage. One of the reasons for the Bill is to leave it to local authorities to determine their own percentages. The percentage may be 10 in Wokingham, but my experience of running an LEA has taught me that, although I would think in terms of 10 to 15 per cent., there is nothing fixed about that proportion. He is also quite incorrect to say that everybody wants his child to go to a grammar school. In my experience, that is utter nonsense.

Mr. Price

I am interested in those remarks, since the hon. Member used to be chairman of the Wirral education committee, although his views did not always coincide with those of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston, I am told.

Although the Bill leaves it to LEAs to decide, the inability to close schools and falling rolls mean that demographic factors fix the percentages. Unless the LEA is armed with great new powers or frames its policy with great care, it will not be possible to prevent 50 per cent. from being selected for each type of education.

Mr. Cryer

The hon. Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port (Mr. Porter) described the aim of the Bill as the devolution of powers to local authorities. Would my hon. Friend care to contrast that statement with the subject of housing, where the Government intend to introduce swingeing powers of dictatorial central government, forcing local authorities to do things which their local knowledge would lead them to reject? That is a strange antithesis, is it not?

Mr. Price

Every time this Tory hypocrisy is raised, I find the answers unconvincing—although I was once convinced strongly on this matter. A number of houses in my constituency are owned by the City of London. Its housing manager begged me to use my influence with the Tory Party to allow the City to keep its powers to prevent council houses being sold, because the City believed that that would wreck its beautiful estates in my constituency.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman relate that matter to new clause 8?

Mr. Price

I was improperly tempted, but this is relevant, because the hon. Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port, the former chairman of the Wirral education committee, implied that my new clause was unnecessary because the Bill allowed local authorities freedom, and that this was a deep belief of members of the Conservative Party, which they had put forward at the election. They have no deep belief of that sort and it is hypocrisy for them to say that they have. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), astute as always to the nub of the legislation before the House, has observed that the Conservative Party is completely hypocritical on this ground.

No psychologist, no educationist and no expert on earth would even attempt to justify a situation in which 50 per cent. of pupils within a local education authority area attended selective schools and 50 per cent. secondary modern schools. No one has ever suggested that that creates anything other than dustbin schools for those who do not attend selective schools.

Mr. Spearing

My hon. Friend may be interested to know that in the table to which I referred earlier, Buckinghamshire has 19 per cent. of secondary pupils in comprehensive schools, 50 per cent. in moderns and 30 per cent. in grammar schools. However, there are no apologists from Buckinghamshire in the Chamber.

Mr. Raymond Whitney (Wycombe)

I am by no means an apologist from Buckinghamshire. I am proud of the results and standards that the Buckinghamshire authority has achieved in all its schools.

Mr. Price

I briefly respond to the intervention upon an intervention. If the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) seriously wants to—

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

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for interrupting my hon. Friend. I recall that at about 7.20 p.m. the Leader of the House and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), the shadow Leader of the House, left the Chamber with strict instructions to return at 7.35 p.m. to tell us the result of their deliberations. Am I in order in asking you, Mr. Speaker, to ask the Serjeant at Arms to go and find them?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is in order, but it is unlikely that I shall respond.

Mr. Price

I am not in favour of your sending for the Leader of the House and my right hon. Friend, Mr. Speaker, as I am in the early stages of my speech. I should like to complete the first paragraph before I am interrupted for the second time. These are weighty and important matters.

Are there local education authorities which want to act as crazily as Bolton, Cumbria and North Yorkshire? I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) is in the Chamber. The local education authority within his constituency is seriously intending to submit section 13 proposals and to turn an established comprehensive school—I think that the school is in the hon. Gentleman's constituency—

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)

No, it is not.

Mr. Price

If it is not, It is probably in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved).

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Is my hon. Friend aware that this very evening my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) has gone to attend a mass public meeting of parents to protest against the proposal to which he has referred?

Mr. Price

I am sure that our loss is the parents' gain. We are always sad to have to conduct our debates without the benefit of the presence of my hon. Friend. I do not know how he has managed to get away from this place with a three-line Whip running.

The education authority in my hon. Friend's constituency is seriously proposing that, on the issuing of a section 13 notice, it should allow an established comprehensive school to revert to a grammar school and a secondary modern school.

If the Government are serious and accept that the comprehensive system, which has been built up slowly within the structure of the 1944 Act over the past 20 or 30 years, is to be smashed In that way on the whim and caprice of Tory majorities on local education authorities, which may not last for more than a year or two—these Conservative-controlled authorities come and go—and if they are saying that the patient work, sometimes continuing over generations, to build up comprehensive systems is to be torn down, at least some safeguards should be written into the Bill.

My hon. Friends and I say that the new clauses provide some safeguards to prevent devastation and irresponsibility taking place. We say that there should be proper planning procedures. The 1944 Act provided that every local education authority should produce a development plan. During the 1950s and 1960s many authorities changed what were originally tripartite development plans into comprehensive development plans. That is how we have the present comprehensive system. There were extensive consultations.

The Government are saying that that planning background should be torn up and that no proper planning procedures should take its place. We accept that the Government won a majority. We accept that they have a right to introduce a Bill of this sort. However, given the tradition of education legislation, they should insist on providing planning procedures for decomprehensivisation as procedures were introduced for comprehensivisation. That is what new clause 8 attempts to provide. It attempts to make local education authorities provide the necessary procedures before they start tearing things up and reverting to square one.

In Committee we heard repeatedly from the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, the hon. Member for Brent, North that the Government wanted to put the clock back. I wish that the whole House had been able to hear the hon. Gentleman utter those words. The Government want to put the clock back to 1976. That is a call that should go loud and clear to the outside world. My hon. Friends and I say that the clock cannot be turned back as the Government wish because the mechanisms of school systems are so extremely delicate. They involve youngsters' futures, parental preference and many other areas of concern. To put the clock back as the Government wish would be a piece of vandalism that the House and the country should not tolerate.

Mr. Cryer

Does my hon. Friend agree that when the Government talk about having mandates they have no mandate to wreck people's lives?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) is addressing the House and not his hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price).

Mr. Cryer

I am trying to address both you, Mr. Speaker, and my hon. Friend. As I cannot pirouette very well, I am trying to do my best in all the circumstances.

Mr. Speaker

In that case I take precedence.

8 pm

Mr. Cryer

In that case I shall address my remarks entirely to yourself, Mr. Speaker. I am grateful to you for reminding me of this task.

On some occasions the Conservatives claim that they have a mandate. My hon. Friend said that the clauses dealt with planning. No political party has a mandate to wreck people's lives. I should like my hon. Friend to comment on that. If a change is to be made it must be done in such a way that people fully understand what is going on. These clauses will achieve that end. My hon. Friend and I claim that if people get to know what is going on they will oppose it.

Mr. Price

As always, my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley is helpful.

Having dealt with new clause 8, I was about to refer to new clause 1. I referred to the local education authority planning procedures that new clause 8 involves. What my hon. Friend said was relevant. The planning procedures of the local education authority are to a large extent above the heads of the ordinary people, who are interested in the material contained in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). Those paragraphs set out the proposed changes, what the allocation procedures will be and the pressure to be put upon their children if allocations are to be reintroduced by a local education authority. If a child does not obtain a grammar school place at the first attempt, what will the transfer procedures be? Will transfer be a reality, as the Government say, or a complete dead letter, as is so often the case with many local education authorities?

Thirdly, parents are keen to know The nature, range and extent of the courses and options offered. Parents are not too concerned about the label put on the school. They are interested in the reality inside the school, whether their youngsters will be able to learn three sciences or a general science course up to the age of 16, what foreign languages will be taught and whether foreign languages will have disappeared for pupils under the age of 16.

The burden of the Government's remarks—the reason why the Government resist the new clause—is that throughout the whole of the 1976 Act proceedings and the 1979 Education Bill, which never became an Act, they prated on and on daily about parental consultation. Under the Bill they will not allow parental consultation of any kind. In Committee we asked the Under-Secretary of State what would be his attitude towards parental consultation. He said: The answer is no—a straightforward two-letter word."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 3 July 1979; c. 73.]

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support of new clause 1, under which consultation is not required. Local authorities are required only to provide information. I hope that what he said about the Government was not correct. I trust that they will agree to the new clause. If they do not agree to it they will be withholding information. That will be contrary to Government policy.

Mr. Price: I completely agree. I was trying to make that point.

New clause 1 is fairly narrow. It is concerned with information, for reasons which I shall not rehearse. The point is that without information consultation is meaningless. Before they consult local education authorities parents must know what is the situation. The Government say that the Bill should go forward without the new clauses and without parents knowing anything about the basis of allocation. A new 11-plus examination will be introduced but there will be no information about transfers and courses available.

If the people of Bexley, Cumbria and Bolton read the report of the Committee proceedings they would have realised that a complete volte-face had taken place among Government supporters in their attitude towards parents and that they had become the new tyranny of the majority, about which Lord Hailsham speaks.

Mr. Cryer

Not any more.

Mr. Price

According to " Erskine May " I must be respectful in my references to Members of the other place. That is how Lord Hailsham spoke when he wished to become Lord Chancellor. Now that he is Lord Chancellor he does not speak of those matters.

The Conservatives have thrown overboard all attempts to provide ordinary information not only on educational matters but also on school uniforms and transfers. The electorate must know that if they are to form a correct view of the Government.

Government supporters say that local authorities should have their way. For instance, Bolton is now a Conservative-controlled local authority. The Bolton electorate wants to make a judgment of the Government before next year's elections so that it may make its opinion known in no uncertain terms. From the proceedings so far on the Bill, and the obvious, clear, naked intention of the Government to rush it through, the electorate of Bolton will have received a good idea of the motives behind it. It wants to know to what conditions its 11-year-olds will be subjected if Bolton is allowed to move away from comprehensive education under this Bill.

It is pleasant to see that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have returned. I am sorry if your presence augurs the arrival of unexpected guests elsewhere.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

It is likely to be some time before the guests return. I hope that my hon. Friend will take that into account.

Mr. Price

I shall certainly take that into account. I had thought that certain proceedings were imminent. I find, as a result of a note kindly passed to me, that they are less imminent than it seemed at one stage.

Mr. Cryer

We should not stray too far from the mainstream of the debate. Does my hon. Friend agree that failure to carry these clauses might rank as a deliberate cover-up by local Tory-controlled education authorities, aimed at preventing people knowing precisely what is to happen before the next local authority elections? In view of the Government's devious plan to wreck comprehen- sive education, which many Tory local education authorities have in mind, Labour will sweep the board next May. What we are seeking is an extension of information to enable the democratic processes to take place. Would my hon. Friend agree with that?

Mr. Price

As always, my hon. Friend has hit the nail on the head. Some of us spent much of the Session before the general election in fighting for freedom of information. The response from the Conservatives at that time was that they absolutely believed in freedom of information. Indeed, the National Association for Freedom used to write to us and say that it also believed in freedom of information. It was about the only thing that we had in common. Yet, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when we are discussing the very first Bill to be published by the Government, we find that they are resisting amendments which would allow parents and teachers—the people who have an absolute right to this sort of information—to find out what is going on. They are denying people the right to make a proper judgment at the next election on whether they want the Tories to be in charge of local education or whether they would rather switch to a more sensible governing body locally.

Mrs. Dunwoody

My hon. Friend might like to know that Cheshire county council has already given effect to an even worse refinement regarding lack of information. For a very considerable time, at very great cost to the taxpayer, it has been sending a tiny number of children to independent schools. It is now suggesting that it will cut back the amount of money given to ordinary State schools in order, presumably, to maintain this highly privileged class. He might also like to know that this is done on a basis which is not at all clear. The selection procedures are in no way open to any kind of consideration. What is more, they are viewed with something less than absolute happiness by the parents of the children who do not get into this magic circle.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Price

I am only sorry that the hon. Member for Macclesfield is not here. so that we might hear his version of the position in Cheshire. My advice to my hon. Friend is that she should get one of her constituents to complain about the procedure and to send the complaint to the local Ombudsman. In some cases, where no information is given, the council is acting quite contrary to public policy. The local Ombudsman, Baroness Serota, in her most recent report, has made quite clear that if local authorities are to operate systems, they must be open systems.

I have not been able to proceed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with the sort of dispatch with which I had hoped to proceed, because my hon. Friends, quite properly, have felt the need to make several interjections. In concluding my remarks, may I express the hope that my hon. Friends will press each of the new clauses to a Division, because these new clauses at least hold out a guarantee that parents would get some sort of information? We know that there are local education authorities which have decided to rat on comprehensive education, for purely political reasons, sometimes born of the encouragement they received during the election campaign from the present Secretary of State for Education. They have decided to rat on pledges which have been in existence for years.

Mr. Cryer

Would my hon. Friend agree that in these concluding moments of his speech he is endeavouring to sustain the argument which many of us mounted very bitterly, during the last moments of the previous Administration, concerning freedom of information? Would he further agree that if the new clauses were to be added to the Bill they would provide some momentum in relation to freedom of information in local authorities, and that in turn would help to influence local government?

Mr. Price

I quite agree with that excellent summary of my peroration. I am quite sure that several of my hon. Friends will be seeking to catch your eye later in the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether it be today or tomorrow. Obviously, the debate will continue for a little time. [Interruption.] If some of the sedentary interjectors on the Conservative Benches wish to make speeches, Mr. Deputy Speaker, no doubt they will also be seeking to catch your eye so that they can make their points.

I was seeking to make the point that the new clauses would provide some pro- tection for parents and teachers. What the Tories intend, by shoving the Bill through in a few weeks—by pretty dubious constitutional means, as we have seen earlier today—is not only to reverse the whole trend of education since the war and not only to tamper with our constitution but to deprive the very electors who put them in power of the sort of information that they need to counter the effects of the Bill.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

I wonder, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether my hon. Friend would care to explain in a little more detail his views on the question of transfer.

Mr. Price

I have never in my life, Mr. Deputy Speaker, found such great difficulty in concluding a speech. Whenever I get near to the end of it, I find that I am tempted to deal with certain aspects of the new clauses with which I have not yet dealt adequately, it would appear. I never could resist temptation. My hon. Friend asks me to say something about the question of transfer. What proposals do local education authorities such as Cumbria, Bolton and North Yorkshire have to ensure that there will he adequate transfer facilities where youngsters find that there are no suitable courses for them at secondary modern schools and they need to transfer to a grammar school?

No one who has read the literature of the history of the 11-plus since 1944 can escape the fact that, although in 1944 local education authorities set out with excellent motives for constant review—as mentioned in new clause 3—of switching youngsters from one school to another where a mistake had been made, the machinery never operated, or operated with only one or two youngsters a year in the whole city. That machinery never operated because there were queues of candidates for transfer from secondary modern to grammar school, but an absence of applicants for transfer from grammar school to secondary modern school.

In effect the transfer system never worked at all. Certainly in the city of Sheffield, where I spent a period as deputy chairman of the education committee in the 1960s, although we had all kinds of formal arrangements for transfer, before we went comprehensive, they never worked. Therefore, I believe that the clause about transfer, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) is an absolutely essential prerequisite, guaranteeing that before local education authorities are allowed to implement the provisions of the Bill they will tell parents what arrangements are being made.

Miss Sheila Wright (Birmingham, Handsworth)

Does my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) recollect the comments that were made in the constituency he once represented in Birmingham? I clearly recollect that when the 11-plus was fully in operation In Birmingham, without any consultation with parents, 4 per cent. of the child population from the ward of Kingstanding went to grammar schools whereas in the neighbouring area of Handsworth Wood the figure was about 66 per cent.

Is my hon. Friend also aware that in an area where we have been completely comprehensive since 1975, a proposal has apparently been put forward through the press by the present council—with any luck it will not be Tory-controlled next year—that, should this Bill go through, a comprehensive school in the far north of the city will once more become a girls' grammar school? The council does not intend. apparently, to consult anyone, either parents or teachers. If this takes place it will mean youngesters having to travel 14 miles or more.

Mr. Price

May I take this opportunity to welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Miss Wright) to our education debate? She follows a long line of hon. Members representing Birmingham, Handsworth who are distinguished educationists. We all remember, with warmth, her predecessor, Lord Boyle, who was so rudely pushed out of the education world by the Conservative Party which replaced him with the present Prime Minister. That was the beginning of the real problems we now have with the breaking up of the comprehensive system.

I certainly remember my brief tenure as the Member for Perry Barr. Birmingham in those days selected an average of 32 per cent., for grammar school education, if one averages out the whole city. But that concealed a figure in Hands- worth Wood of about 66 per cent. There were virtually no children from the Kingstanding estate in Birmingham which is now so ably represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), who was secretary of the constituency Labour Party when I was Member of Parliament for that constituency.

I have made three attempts to conclude my speech and I shall make one more. What we are saying in these new clauses is that parents need to be told of the proportions between grammar and secondary modern schools and the arrangements for transfer. They also need to be told the curricula being taught in grammar schools as compared with those in secondary modern schools, and the arrangements for transfer at later stages between grammar and secondary modern school so that mistakes that have been made can be rectified.

The Government are saying that not one such piece of information can be written into this legislation so that parents know of the situation. That completely exposes their pretensions to be on the side of parents, and completely exposes their pretensions to be in favour of a parents' charter. I do not know how they will have the face, as they say they will, later to bring in a parents' charter. It is because I feel that parents and teachers need this sort of protection that I urge the acceptance of new clause 8 and lend my support to every other new clause in this group. Indeed, I support all the amendments that we shall come to later. I very much hope that before the end of the debate the Government will see the light and make up their mind to accept these new clauses.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

We are discussing five new clauses, and I should like to deal with them in turn. For the benefit of some of the younger Conservative Members, perhaps I ought to put forward briefly my credentials for making this speech, although they will be well known to most of my colleagues. I taught in a secondary modern school, under the selective system, for 13 years. I was a member of an education committee for 10 years. I was a PPS to the Secretary of State for Education and have, therefore, seen education from the Ministry side. At one time I even had the advantage of being a member of the Education Committee of the European Parliament, and have seen education from that point of view as well.

I want to deal with this matter not as a politician but as someone who has had a reasonable amount of practical experience. I hope very much that the Government will accept new clause 1. It is a vital clause. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) said, it is a clause that asks for information. It asks that information be given to parents, teachers and everyone else inside the community. Paragraph (a) of the new clause begins with the words the nature, basis and criteria used in any process of allocation of pupils to selective secondary schools ". I am not absolutely certain what the mover of the new clause means by " nature " and " basis ". Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) will enlighten me as to what is meant by those words. I know what is meant by " criteria ". It is important that everyone should know the criteria that are used in the selective process.

I taught in a secondary modern school, and even as a teacher in that school I was never fully aware of the criteria used by Hampshire education authority in its selection procedure. We had many long discussions in the staff room, trying to ascertain what procedure was being adopted, because it seemed to vary from year to year. One year we would find that quite a number of the brightest children from the surrounding primary schools would be selected to go to the local grammar school, but in another year we would find that equally bright children were for some reason not selected to go. They came to us. In many ways we welcomed this, because as a teacher in secondary modern schools one likes to have a percentage of intelligent children.

One of the interesting factors about the whole selective system was its inaccuracy. On results, I would have backed my top stream in the secondary modern school any day—they all failed the 11-plus examination—against the bottom stream in the grammar school. Indeed, we used to compare tables, although the grammar schools did not like it very much.

For many of those 13 years I was responsible for the O-level stream in the secondary modern in which I taught. We had children who achieved eight or nine O-level passes and anything ranging down from that. If one of our children did not achieve at least three or four O-levels we thought that we had been doing rather badly.

8.30 p.m.

That shows how inaccurate the whole selection process was. If these children had gone to a secondary modern school in another county where there were no O-level courses they would never have achieved any results at all. I am proud to say that some of my children—those that I taught—went on to the grammar school and eventually went to university, and at least one had a first-class honours degree. I am proud of that, because I think that it was partly our work at the secondary modern school that started that progress.

We were fortunate in the sense that Hampshire had O-level courses in all its secondary modern schools. If the child who got a first-class degree had gone to a secondary modern school in Cornwall, where there were no O-level courses, he would never have gone to university, let alone achieve a first-class honours degree. His opportunity would have been finished. He would have been a goat in the division into sheep and goats at the age of 11 and he would have stayed in that category.

It is terribly important that parents and teachers should know the type of system being operated and, especially, that the teachers should know what criteria are used for the selection process.

I turn now to paragraph (b) the arrangements made for transfer of pupil[...] from one category of selective schools to another and the number of pupils so transferring". It should be public knowledge how easy or difficult it is, inside the selective system that is being adopted, for children to transfer from one school to another when it is obvious that mistakes have been made. It is not quite so difficult for a child attending a secondary modern school to be transferred to a grammar school, although that depends very often on the availability of places, but I can assure the House that it is very difficult to do the transfer the other way. When a child has been selected for grammar school education and it becomes obvious that he is not capable there, it is difficult to persuade his parents that he should be transferred from the grammar school to a secondary modern school. I knew a number of children who were in an environment in which they should not have been, in a selective high-powered grammar school, and were unable to keep up with the work. The children themselves suffered.

This is another trouble with the whole selective system. One tries to divide children into academic and non-academic streams. At one time we had three categories—academic, technical and nonacademic—and that was a bit of a farce. I remember talking to the woodwork master on my staff, who argued very strongly that it was obvious to him that, on the whole, there was a correlation between the academic child and those who were best in practical subjects. It was rare that a child who was not very good academically shone in a technical subject. It was a rarity rather than the normal rule.

It is difficult to transfer children from one school to another. Under the old selective system selection took place at the age of 11 and a child could be transferred at the age of 13. That provision was put in to iron out any mistakes that might have been made at the age of 11. However, as I said earlier, that did not work very well. The other transfer age was at 16, and that again produced a great many difficulties.

I was in charge of the fifth-year classes at my school—the O-level classes—and we had children who achieved four, five, six, seven or eight O-levels. Such children should transfer from the secondary modern to the sixth form in the local grammar school and continue their academic course, but it is difficult to persuade them to do that. They have been in the informal atmosphere of the secondary modern schools and at the top level as prefects or monitors. They are the top boys and girls in that school.

The local grammar school to which I refer was good but insisted on school uniforms, and that sort of thing, and it was difficult to get pupils to transfer. Many young people who should have gone from the secondary modern to the grammar school did not wish to move into that atmosphere. It was easier after their O-levels to get them to transfer to the local technical college to take their A-levels. There were difficulties, because the technical college was in Southampton and the schools were in Hampshire, and at that time the two districts were not united. I rather wish that we had that system now and that Southampton had retained its powers over education.

Mr. Flannery

I fully appreciate what my hon. Friend is saying, because I was a teacher—and a head teacher. I wonder. however, whether the truths that he is telling us are being appreciated by Conservative Members. The Benches opposite are almost empty. The Government have so-called elective dictatorship and are not bothered about the Bill. They want to rush it through.

Mr. Mitchell

That is absolutely true. One hon. Gentleman is sitting there because he has to. I used to be in that position, to pass messages down to my colleague on the Front Bench. I was disappointed that younger Members left as I was about to ask them how many of their children went to secondary modern schools. There are about 360 Conservative Members and I doubt whether there are half a dozen whose children go to secondary modern schools. That is my point. A wealthier person whose child fails the 11-plus and is not selected has a choice. There is private education. That choice, unfortunately, was not open to 85 per cent. of the people in my school's catchment area. We did not have many rich parents, and they had no choice. They were fortunate that devoted people like myself were teaching at the school and therefore they had an opportunity that might not have existed in other circumstances.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Does it occur to my hon. Friend that not only do Conservative Members not have their children educated in the State system, but neither were they? The result is plain to see. They think that the Bill is so unimportant that they do not bother even to listen to the debate on the new clause.

Mr. Mitchell

My attitude is not quite so sweeping as that of my hon. Friend. Although there are not many Conservative Members who went to State schools, I know of one for certain, because he went to a local secondary modern school in my town. I regret that he is not present.

It is difficult to get children to move, at the age of 16, from a secondary modern to a grammar school, because they are moving to a more formal atmosphere. In the end many children go to technical colleges to take their A-levels because there is a more informal atmosphere there—they are treated as adults.

All these problems are avoided with the comprehensive system. There are not the same stresses and strains in such a system. My argument for comprehensive education has never been based on class grounds. I was educated in an old-fashioned, small grammar school, which was fairly classless. My argument is based on purely educational grounds because I believe it is very important for children of varying educational abilities to be taught in the same environment, although not necessarily in the same classroom. In this respect I may disagree with some of my hon. Friends because I believe that a certain degree of streaming is necessary. Mixed ability classes cannot be the general rule, because it takes a very good teacher to cope with them, and we do not necessarily have enough good teachers. I shall probably upset my union by saying that, but I believe that it takes an exceptional teacher to handle a mixed ability class satisfactorily.

As I said, I went to a small grammar school and mixed only with children of my own ability. At the age of 18 I was called up for service in the Army. I shared a double bunk with a boy, and after a few weeks he asked me to read a letter from his girl friend. I told him that I did not want to read his letter, but he explained to me that he could not read properly. Thus I discovered to my horror, at the age of 18, that there were young people in my age group who were unable to read properly, and who were embarrassed by that fact. What worried me most was that at 18 I had not realised that such things happened. That was because I had mixed only with children of my own ability. That fact, more than anything else, made me a fervent advocate of the comprehensive system of education.

I am not necessarily an advocate of the all-through comprehensive system with very large schools. I am much more an advocate of comprehensive-type education with open access secondary colleges. However, if I get too involved with that I may be out of order.

Paragraph (c) of the new clause covers the nature, range and extent of courses offered in each of the selective secondary schools, and so on. Once again, this is fundamental. I wish that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South had been able to include his fourth paragraph. Unfortunately, he was debarred from doing so. For 13 years I taught in a secondary modern school and was one of only two graduate teachers on a staff of 22. Being a graduate gives one a slightly wider range, as witnessed by the fact that I have, at various times, taught nine different subjects to O-level—English language, English literature, history, geography, physics, chemistry, biology, rural science and economics. In the secondary modern school there was often only one specialist teacher. Mathematics was another of my subjects. I was head of the department. I had forgotten that one. I do not understand modern mathematics—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Before the hon. Gentleman continues, will he tell me to which of the clauses he is speaking? I have only just come into the Chair, I have been listening carefully, but I cannot relate his remarks to the clauses.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Mitchell

It is new clause 1, paragraph (c), which deals with the staffing allocation of schools, together with a schedule of capitation or other financial allocation and staffing quotas to each type of selective school maintained by that authority. I was seeking to underline the importance of having a proper staffing allocation in a secondary modern school under a selective system. I was drawing on my experience and emphasising that the reason why I taught a large number of subjects to O-level was that there were so few specialist teachers. If one specialist teacher is away, there is no other specialist to take his or her place.

That does not happen under a comprehensive system because more specialist teachers deal with a wider range of subjects. Therefore, one teacher can step into the shoes of another. I was often the person who had to substitute for a colleague.

It is important that parents should be aware—this is dealt with in paragraph (c) of the clause—of the schedule of capitation, the financial allocation and staffing quotas. Often there is a wide divergence. In the selective system there was a difference in the allocation of capitation fees for library facilities, games and staffing quotas between the grammar school and the secondary modern. The allocation for the secondary modern was about 1: 25, if we were lucky.

The new clause seeks to ensure that parents have the necessary information on which to make a judgment. The theory of parental choice is nonsense. The only people who had a choice under the selective system were those who had children selected for grammar school, having passed the 11-plus. Those parents could choose whether that child attended the grammar school. However, the parent of the child who was not selected for the grammar school had no choice whatever. It was no good the parent saying I do not want my son to go to school A. I want him to go instead to the grammar school." Nobody took any notice of such a request. There was no real parental choice.

However, the system in a comprehensive school is different because there is a wider range of courses. There is also a streaming system. A child can be in one stream in English and in a separate stream for maths.

I move on to new clause 3. I have dealt partly with the point about the ease of transfer from secondary modern to grammar schools. The point that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) is making is that if there is to be an effective transfer system there must be a regular review of education standards. If there is to be an 11-plus system with transfer at 12, there must be an assesssment of that child at 12. It should not only be the assessment of the secondary modern school teacher, saying that the child is misplaced; the head- master of the grammar school should be involved in the matter. Otherwise secondary modern schools may try to pull a fast one and transfer many children. Transfer is not as easy as it sounds. There was often divergence of opinion between the heads of the secondary modern and grammar schools about the merits or demerits of particular pupils.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Does my hon. Friend accept that traditionally many secondary modern school teachers felt that the grammar school wanted to transfer children to the secondary modern not on the ground of ability but on the ground of behaviour?

Mr. Mitchell

My hon. Friend is right. I can remember a number of occasions when I suspected but was not able to prove that the grammar schools were using the transfer system as a convenient way to get rid of awkward children. A classic case was of a parent who objected to his child's wearing school uniform. I do not support that point of view because I believe in school uniform, but the grammar school had a rigid system of school uniform. That child, irrespective of his academic ability, was transferred to my school because his parent refused to send him to school in uniform. Nevertheless, I was pleased to receive him because he was a bright lad.

It is important that the local education authorities can assure the Secretary of State that there is an adequate system of continual review of education standards to enable easy transfer. That is imperative if we are to return to the selective system.

To turn to new clause 5, I emphasise that it is important when education authorities allocate their resources, books, library facilities and so on, that they should not discriminate between grammar and secondary modern schools. Many education authorities believe that because secondary modern schools contain children of lesser academic abilities, fewer books are needed. The reverse may well be true. If the academic standard is to be improved, that may require more books.

The question of the late developer is always difficult. There was a study carried out that correlated the ability of children at the age of 11 and the number of books in their home background. I have visited many homes where there were no books. In the homes that had 'books the child had a distinct advantage because of his familiarity with books. In many cases the secondary modern school needed a larger allocation of books than did the grammar school. The same is true of library facilities and other materials and resources.

One can usually tell which used to be the old grammar schools because they have large playing fields attached to them. The secondary modern schools sometimes had an asphalt playground, but children often had to go to a common, perhaps several miles away, for their sports. If we are to have this ridiculous selective system, it is vital that there should be positive discrimination—to use an expression first coined by Edward Short when he was Secretary of State for Education—in favour of secondary modern schools in the provision of sporting and other equipment. All too often, the reverse was true.

I should like to see the selective system abolished. It is an anachronism and a horrible thing. I spent 13 years teaching in that system, and I was pleased when my town got rid of it. As a member of the Southampton education committee I played a small part in that.

If we are to return to that system, it is vital that there should be communication between grammar and secondary modern schools and, as new clause 6 suggests, regular consultation on the organisation of schools, curricula, examination courses and so on. If there is to be ease of transfer, there must be correlation of examination courses. It is difficult to transfer a child from a secondary modern school if the local grammar school is working towards examinations of a different board. There must be co-ordination and that is why I strongly support new clause 6, which calls for proposals to be put before the Secretary of State to ensure that there is consultation between grammar and secondary modern schools on a number of subjects so that transfer between schools is as easy as possible.

I have little to say about new clause 8, because the matter was dealt with adequately by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West, to whom I listened with great interest. Here again, it is vital that we have long-term planning and involvement.

The new clause asks for details of the proportions in which children will be allocated to secondary schools of different types in the next 10 years. It may not be possible to do that because the science of demography is so uncertain that projections are often hopelessly inaccurate. I am sure that all hon. Members have found that in their local schools. There must be consistency of percentage transfer if there is to be a selective system.

9 p.m.

Mr. Christopher Price

I agree that planning primary schools over a 10-year period is very difficult. We know for the first five years how many youngsters have been born, but we do not know for the next five. However, in planning a secondary system we are at least in possession of the basic facts about how many youngsters have been born in a local education authority area, and therefore how many will apply for secondary school places in 11 years' time. That is why l0 years was selected as the period given in the clause.

Mr. Mitchell

I understand that. My hon. Friend is right. There can be much more certainty in planning for secondary schools, though there cannot be absolute certainty because there can be a transient population. For example, there are areas in which old people lived 10 years ago but which have now been transformed into environments with large numbers of children. That is true of a number of London boroughs.

In my own area we have had a substantial increase in the immigrant population over the past few years. In one area there has been a considerable growth in the child population, which was perhaps not predictable 10 years ago. However, I accept that the 10-year period is reasonable when we are allocating for secondary schools.

When parents are deciding where to buy their homes, they should have an indication of the education prospects, not only immediately but in five or 10 years' time. People do not want to keep moving all the time. One normally expects to be resident in an area for a number of years whilst one's children grow up. If I buy a house in Southampton or move to another area, I should have some idea of what the education position will be in 10 years' time.

This is a very bad Bill. It represents a step backwards. I hope that the Minister will accept all the new clauses and that the whole House will support them. All that we can do in them is to make a bad Bill slightly better.

Mr. Ken Eastham (Manchester, Blackley)

I was one of the members of the Standing Committee that considered the Bill. It was the first time I had served on a Standing Committee, and I found it quite an educational experience. I had expected at least the Government's spokesmen would make their case and deal with the subject with respect, explaining themselves and justifying the changes that they were making. It became clear—it was even conceded by the Under-Secretary—that the Government were trying to turn back the clock. It is a case of two steps forward and one step back. That is what is called progress.

We spent seven-and-a-half hours in Committee on a short Bill. I was amazed by its lack of content and the Government's lack of conviction when my hon. Friends were presenting their case and justifiably challenging the provisions of the Bill. It may be that we must get used to this. Perhaps later tonight the Under-Secretary will expound the Government's theories and convince the House of the wisdom behind the Bill, the justification for it and the morality of the changes.

My own city of Manchester got rid of these old-fashioned, archaic, elitist ideas that still seem to prevail among some hon. Members. It gives me great comfort to know the benefits that children derived from the change. The change was not made recently. It was made in 1967.

Comprehensive education is not cheap. It is expensive. When one seeks to provide equal opportunity for all children, one should go into the matter with one's eyes open. It was denied in Committee that the issue was a matter of cost, but it is noticeable how different are the provisions provided in various authorities.

The new clause poses the question about the nature, basis and criteria used in any process of allocation of pupils to selective secondary schools. The crunch comes when we examine the tripartite system to which the Conservatives are trying to revert. Many 11-plus failures pride themselves in saying that they were failures but got through. Whether they should have been induced to suffer this indignity is another question. Even the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), took great delight in reminding me in Committee that he was an 11-plus failure. I do not know whether that is anything of which he should be proud.

We know that this system which the Conservatives desperately want to retain is divisive. We know that there is a complete loss of potential and loss of talent which causes great misery and frustration. I recall speaking to the father of a young girl in one of the backward authorities which still retained the 11-plus examination. His daughter had three friends. Of the four girls, three passed and one failed under the system. The father told me that he never wanted to experience again a situation where one heart-broken child was left out, feeling unwanted, frustrated and neglected. This is what happens under the system of the one-day 11-plus. What is the 11-plus? It is a diagnostic test of one day's performance whether the child is feeling ill or fit, bright or under the weather. On that day, the child's future will be decided. If a child from a wealthy family fails the 11-plus, the parents can often compensate and can even pay for private education. But that does not apply to working class children. That is the dishonesty of the 11-plus.

Before my election, I was chairman of the education committee in Manchester. Neither my party nor the Conservative Party there would dare to reintroduce the monstrosity of the 11-plus. However, Manchester is surrounded by some backward authorities, some of them real cavemen. Last Saturday, a lady who is a teacher came to my home very upset about a young relative of hers who lives in Trafford, where the 11-plus is used. She said that the child was a so-called borderline case and an 11-plus failure.

Trafford's educational provision is a dog's dinner—some get a good education and some do not. She showed me some correspondence and asked for advice, but there was little that I could do, since I have no influence outside Manchester. The mother of the boy had appealed to Trafford and the chief education officer wrote back in the usual verbiage in the following terms: Appeals Sub-Committee. Your appeal against the assessement for secondary education of Christopher has now been considered by the Appeals Sub-Committee of the Education Committee. The decision of the Appeals Sub-Committee is: ' That the original assessment remain unchanged.' I realise that this decision may he disappointing to you, but in reaching it the Appeals Sub-Committee gave full consideration to the case which you presented and to other information available. Should you feel that the decision of the Authority is not reasonable, you have the right to approach the Secretary of State for Education and Science, Department of Education and Science, Elizabeth House. York Road, London ". There are two other long paragraphs.

There is a sequel. The lady who approached me, who teaches in my area, took the boy who had failed the 11-plus for an intelligence test. The assessment by the professional educational psychologist shows why the parents are aggrieved and angry. It says: On the Wechsler Intelligence Scale, Christopher achieved a verbal scale score of 135, which is in the superior range of ability. This scale is a good predictor of school success, and Christopher achieved this result effortlessly. The report continues: On the Wechsler performance scale, Christopher achieved a score of 115. This is, of course, above average. 9.15 p.m.

I read another excerpt, which states: Christopher would benefit from a grammar school education. His reasoning ability, vocabulary, general knowledge, reading and mathematics are all comfortably within the grammar school range. That is the psychologist's assessment, yet the Trafford authority said that he was an 11-plus failure.

On the next page of the assessment there is a summary of the WIS test for children. It reads: Verbal Scale I.Q.: 135, superior. Performance Scale I.Q.: 115, above-average. Full Scale 1.Q.: 128, well above-average. Sub-tests: (mean = 10 s.d. = 2) Information (general knowledge): 15, well above average. Arithmetic: 16, well above average. Similarities (verbal reasoning): 17, superior. Vocabulary: 14, above average. Picture completion: 14, above average. Picture arrangement: 11, average. Block design: 11, average. Coding (eye-hand co-ordination): 13, above average. Reading: Fluent. On the Burt test, a recognition of 90 words gives the ceiling age of 12 years. Christopher read 106 (maximum 110) words easily.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham). I am listening carefully to what he is saying. will he pleae relate his remark to new clause 1 or on of the other new clauses that are bracketed with it?

Mr. Eastham

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was trying to address myself to new clause 1, especially to paragraph (a). My hon. Friends and I are seeking to have included in the Bill some clear definition of the nature, basis and criteria used in any process of allocation of pupils to selective secondary schools ". Christopher, the subject of the psychologist's report, has been refused admission to a grammar school and has been termed a failure under the 11-plus system. We know about that one case, but how many thousands of other children will suffer in the same way and will never receive any opportunities?

We are entitled to some answers. Never mind about putting us off, waffling through, watching the clock and thinking about Division results. Let us have some specific answers. Throughout the Bill's passage in Committee we received no answers.

I am proud to say that in Manchester we decided that parents should be entitled to read and to know what teachers were writing about their children. We decided that they should be able to ascertain the assessments that were made and that they were entitled to know whether anything improper was contained in the records—for example whether there was something relating to the family and not to the specific child. If parents want to contest a decision of the education authority, they are entitled to do so.

In Manchester, the education authority is the big spender. We have never said that education comes on the cheap. Some of the backwoodsmen and cavemen authorities want to continue the old systems. They can hardly swank about being big spenders for all the children. They may spend freely for 20 per cent. of the children whose parents push and ensure that their children receive a good education. However, they do not spend freely for the other 80 per cent. The financial estimates within the education reports from the backwoodsmen reveal that they are extremely poor spenders.

We are, justifiably, greatly suspicious of the Bill. It is not in the interests of sound education. The Government should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. I think of the time spent in Committee and on this evening's debate, which so far has lasted for nearly four hours. However, not one Government supporter has put the case for the Bill. We are entitled to answers. Perhaps we shall have to be satisfied with answers from the Under-Secretary of State. We might have expected, in view of their conviction, great fervour and enthusiasm for the Bill among Government supporters, to hear from many advocates of the Bill. However, to their everlasting shame, after nearly four hours of continuous debate, there has not been one speaker from the Government Benches. I hope that before the end of the debate we shall hear some sound educational justification for the Bill.

Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)

I am grateful for the chance to speak on this most important Bill, and especially on new clause 1(a), which refers to the nature, basis and criteria used in any process of allocation of pupils to selective secondary schools ". The Opposition are not surprised at the nature of the Bill. It is completely consistent with Government policies in other areas. In education they propose what amounts to a wholesale return to a two-class system, just as in other respects they advocate and endorse a two-class system.

One of the surprising aspects of the Government proposal in the Bill is the degree and scale of its backwardness. For example, in a previous debate on economic policy I criticised Government policy on the basis that in many respects it failed to equal even the social intervention in the economy that was achieved by Bismarck. In this case I wonder whether the Government are trying to reverse not only the principle of equality but the principle of equality of opportunity.

In practice, the principle of selection—division into two classes in schools—has been rejected by virtually every progressive education authority in the developed countries.

Implicitly the Government case relates to the assumption reflected by Sir Cyril Burt and others on the testing of intelligence, as if such testing were in a genuine sense scientific at a particular age. One of the Sunday newspapers recently published a devastating summary of something that for all of us—not only the Opposition—has already become part of conventional wisdom—that such testing has no scientific basis, in a genuine sense, at or around the age of 11.

It is exceptional that Burt's findings, which entered into the conventional wisdom of educational philosophy in this country for several decades, have been so explicitly repudiated. He invented research assistants who could corroborate his case. When he found that his theories did not fit the facts—similarly to Professor Milton Friedman, in terms of economics—he twisted the facts to fit his theories.

It is surprising that despite the devastating repudiation of Burt and all he stands for the Government Front Bench are prepared to reintroduce selectivity into education rather than admit that the comprehensive principle—difficult though it may well be in practice—is the only one on which to achieve equality of opportunity. That equality of opportunity is a hallmark not simply of Socialism or social democracy but even of those principles of a career open to talent which, in most of Western Europe, were established in 1789—the period of enlightenment, of the marshal's baton potentially being available in everybody's knapsack.

Mr. Flannery

I was most interested in my hon. Friend's anecdote about Sir Cyril Burt, who at one stage had the whole of education plunged into fantasies about intelligence. Does my hon. Friend remember the great indeavours to define intelligence? First, we all said that it was inborn all-round mental capacity. Then we discarded that definition. Then the world of education alighted on a definition of intelligence. It was decided that it was that quality which was tested by intelligence tests. That was the definition at which we finally arrived from Sir Cyril Burt. That was his tremendous contribution.

Mr. Holland

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his intelligent comment on intelligence tests. An interesting implicit point in these tests, however, and the way in which they have been challenged—not simply on the basis of Sir Cyril Burt's fraud. but on other grounds—is that much of the testing which can be easily quantified is what is technically known as the testing of convergent thinking. We can test people on the multiplication tables and arithmetic in such a way as to give an precise score. It can be said with some accuracy that a child has achieved 65, 85 or 95 marks out of 100. What cannot be tested is creative thinking or the development potential of children over the long term.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise to the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) for interrupting him in his peroration. I am pleased to tell the House that the talks that I have had with the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) have had an amiable outcome, which I believe will be in the best interests of the House. We shall not proceed to the Third Reading of the Education Bill tonight, but the Government will take that at an early stage. In view of that, and the representations that have been made to me by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition about the rearrangement of Monday's business, I shall be making a revised Business Statement, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, in the House tomorrow. I thank the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale for their courtesy and co-operation.

Mr. Foot

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I too apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) for interrupting his brief speech. I thank the Leader of the House for the arrangements that he has announced. I am sure that the decision that he has advised the House to take is the right one. I believe that it can assist our business generally. We shall look forward with interest to his statement tomorrow morning about future business, which can also assist the House. I am most grateful to him for the consideration that he has given to the representa- tions we made. I believe that it will assist our discussion on Report and on Third Reading, which will be taken later.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Mikardo

I am sure that the House is most grateful to my right hon. Friend and the Leader of the House, but did they discuss or make any agreement about what will happen to those amendments which were ruled out of order on grounds which you, Mr. Speaker, made clear from your ruling were invalid?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. When I selected the amendments I did so in the knowledge that a money resolution was not necessary. What was out of order is still out of order.

Mr. Christopher Price

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that the whole House is pleased that the Government and the Opposition Front Bench have come to what seems to be an arrangement that is convenient to the House. However, an important constitutional point has arisen this evening about amendments and money resolutions. Could I make a plea through you, Mr. Speaker, for the Procedure Committee to look at this whole area, so that we know what is the constitutional position and a proper statement can be made to the House in due course?

Mr. Holland

I am indebted to several right hon. and hon. Members for clarifying the situation.

I was laying emphasis on a distinction—which may well appear unclear to several hon. Members on the Government Benches—between convergent and divergent thinking. [Interruption.] I understand that for some of those who have not had the privilege of failing the 11-plus because, at a certain stage in their lives, they were fortunate enough to fall upon the lower rung of the topmost escalator in our society—in other words, going from prep school to public schools—may find such a distinction difficult to grasp. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House is not being fair to the hon. Gentleman. I cannot hear him from the Chair.

Mr. Holland

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) for distracting me from the point that was made.

The distinction is a very important one. I should like to give two examples, one trivial and one serious. They interrelate and are directly relevant to the question whether one should select children at a particular age for two different types of education. First, I give the serious example. It is perhaps not very well known that Einstein was a very late developer. It may well be known to some hon. Members, but not too well known to others. Einstein's performance in algebra and mathematics at an early age was rather poor. In a practical sense one can see the relevance of this to the question of selection.

From personal experience I know of a child at school who, when told that the multiplication of plus numbers made a plus asked why the multiplication of minus numbers did not make a minus. That child did not get an adequate answer from the master concerned, despite the fact that the school was allegedly of some quality, and he failed the arithmetic test.

If we look at that child's question closely and examine the fact that when one multiplies what amounts to one non-orange by another non-orange one does not get an orange, even though the arithmetic says that if one multiplies one minus number by another minus number one should get a plus—which is the kind of question raised by Russell, Whitehead and others in Principia Mathematica "—we find that it is the kind of creative question which many children are intimidated from asking, because the main preoccupation in an education system based on testing, with the guillotine of an examination of the character of the 11-plus over their heads, is not to extend learning but to pass examinations.

One of the most devastating aspects of the kind of retrogressive policy that would be introduced into education by the Bill is this intimidation of children which extends from school through the home. There will be a climate of pressure on children in the home by parents who must weigh on them the seriousness not of learning, creativity or standing back and thinking about one part of their education rather than another, but of passing these wretched examinations—these excessively high hurdles—at an excessively early age. If they do not do so, under this kind of Conservative reactionary education philosophy they will be branded for the rest of their lives as second-class citizens. That is why I strongly support the new clause.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Dr. Rhodes Boyson)

I want to speak briefly to the new clauses that we are now discussing, but first I should like to state the purpose of the Bill. It is against the purpose of the Bill that we Conservatives must decide upon the acceptance or non-acceptance of the new clauses.

The purpose of the Bill is perfectly simple. It is to return to local authorities the right to run their secondary schools in the way they want. One hon. Member referred to putting the clock back. This Bill returns the situation to what it was in 1976, when, if areas wanted to go comprehensive, they could do so, and it was up to them how that was achieved.

It is against that background that the decision must be made regarding these new clauses. I have sympathy with the intention behind many of the new clauses. I listened to the speeches of the hon. Members for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) with considerable interest. These new clauses control the way that selection can be carried out, where a bipartite system continues. They control how transfers can be made from one school to another. The authority must lay down how it is making transfers, and that must he reported to the Secretary of State. To an extent, again by reporting to the Secretary of State, they also control the curriculum in both the secondary modern school and the grammar school. The local authority must also lay down almost a rigid proportion of children going to grammar schools every year, irrespective of changed circumstances. They also control the capitation allowance—the amount that can be spent on the various schools.

Mr. Spearing

I interrupt now because I think that it may save time later. The hon. Gentleman is referring to " they ". Although it may well be that the other new clauses have the effects which he described, does he not agree that new clause 1 does not control anything but simply requires information to be made public?

Dr. Boyson

I was coming to that point last, because presumably that will be the key to this Bill and the next Education Bill. I have considerable sympathy in regard to the question of making information public. In many cases, I am in close agreement with the views of the hon. Gentleman, who understands the schools situation and has himself been a schoolmaster.

On capitation, Conservative Members agree that children of the same age should receive the same amount of help, whatever school they are in. The hon. Member for Stockport, North, who is not with us at the moment, talked of the advantage of having a sixth form because it incorporated a library. I accept that fact, but where there is a division between a secondary modern school and a grammar school, it will be a good thing to ensure, by guidance and indication, that the same facilities are given to the children, irrespective of whichever school they go to. I shall not use the word " progressive ", because it has dangerous connotations, but most enlightened authorities these days do follow that practice. However, I believe that it would be far too rigid to lay down in a letter to the Secretary of State the percentage of children to be selected over a 10-year period. It would not allow for changes in circumstances, and that is something which we could not accept.

I shall take the point made by the hon. Member for Newham, South as the link between our Education Bill No. 1 and our Education Bill No. 2, which will come out later this year. We believe in the maximum information being available. Hon. Members on both sides of the House who read the debates on the Education Bill which fell this year when the Government fell will see that we pressed time and again for maximum information to be provided, whatever schools children attended.

We do not disagree with the Opposition on that point, but it should apply to all schools, not just to those in areas which remain selective, where there are grammar and secondary modern schools. After all, the question of knowledge of the curriculum applies not just in respect of those transferring from secondary gram- mar school to a secondary modern school but in the other direction.

Vast numbers of people move with their children still at school, and they should know what the position is. There should be a core curriculum so that when they move from one area to another they may know that their children can take up the courses which they have been doing and continue without serious disadvantage.

Mr. Kinnock

Is there not a problem for the Minister, as one of the promoters of the Bill, in sustaining that argument in that, by the retention of the selective system in certain areas, which the hon. Gentleman is encouraging by the introduction of his Bill, the establishment and maintenance of a core curriculum or the guarantee to parents that they can move from one area to another and have a reasonable chance of their children going to a school of similar standard, structure and type, with a similar curriculum, is substantially reduced?

Dr. Boyson

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point because it allows me to clear the matter up both for his sake and for ours. A core curriculum will apply whether it be a secondary comprehensive, a secondary modern or a secondary grammar school. That is the basic minimum which is done by all children attending those schools. If they go to a grammar school, most children there will be taking one or two languages in addition and they will probably go further in physics and other subjects as well.

If they go to a comprehensive school which is doing its job, the brighter children there, who in other areas would have been in grammar school, should similarly be doing two extra languages, higher physics and so on. I see no difficulty if that comprehensive school is working to academic standards with academic children. If it is not doing that, it is betraying the opportunities of those children. I think here, for example, of a child transferring from a grammar school in Trafford to a comprehensive school in, say, Oxfordshire and fitting into the curriculum there.

There are many more children transferring in that way than there are transferring from secondary modern schools to grammar schools, which is really the only small point covered in these new clauses. The same applies where a transfer occurs within the same area. I believe that the question of the core curriculum is important so that parents may know and have a guarantee that a basic minimum is covered. It is not a problem just in respect of a few transfers. I accept from hon. Members who have spoken from the Opposition Benches today that in many cases there are only a few transfers between grammar and secondary modern schools, and that more should occur where a selective system exists. The biggest transfer occurs when parents move from one education authority area to another. They then find difficulty in knowing whether their children can carry on.

We have taken on board what has been said today. I have noted with interest that the House is now moving towards the core curriculum. It would not have happened five years ago. At least, one can see a movement towards some form of consensus there, if not on other matters.

Miss Wright

I wish to pursue the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). How will the Minister meet the situation of a child undertaking an academic course in an area where there is comprehensive education, where there is no 11-plus course and who then moves to another area which has grammar schools and secondary modern schools where the normal procedure is always that a child who has not taken an 11-plus examination elsewhere does not have the opportunity to go to a grammar school?

Dr. Boyson

If the hon. Lady has evidence of that, I hope that she will give it to me. Frequently when a child moves into a selective area, he is seen by the headmaster of the school in that area and put into the correct level. There may possibly be areas where academic children in comprehensive schools have not been sufficiently stretched to make that possible. It is worrying if that is happening in the Birmingham area. If there are bright children moving from comprehensive to selective areas and not being given an opportunity to enter a grammar school, I should like evidence of that.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

The Minister is developing the argument that it is not important to worry about transfer from secondary modern to grammar schools. The much greater problem is the transfer around the country. On the Labour Benches we should have liked to take up that problem in Committee but were told that it was not in order. Surely the Minister must agree that there must be action on the narrow point that we are entitled to deal with in the Bill.

Dr. Boyson

I welcome the hon. Gentleman back. I always appreciate his comments. We rejected the amendments in Committee because they had nothing to do with the Bill. The Bill simply gives back freedom to local authorities to run their secondary schools as they want. The other material will be covered later in the second Education Bill. We have moved the Bill speedily because many local authorities wanted a return to freedom.

Mr. Cryer

I wish that the Minister would not keep coming out with this nonsense about giving local authorities freedom. He is simply exposing Tory doctrinaire policies and giving opportunities to Tory local authorities to apply their policies. He knows full well that to be consistent the same freedom should apply across the board—and that includes council housing.

Dr. Boyson

It is not the first time and probably not the last that we shall hear that. The Bill passes power back from the Government to local authorities to decide how they run their schools. Under the doctrinaire policy of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), the Government would decide how all schools should be run. The Bill is the first step in passing authority back to parents. It will pass it first to the local authorities.

We have gone further on council housing and it obviously worries the hon. Gentleman. He keeps bringing the matter up like King Charles's head. With council housing we are moving freedom back to individuals, from local authorities. So that the hon. Member for Keighley may sleep well this evening, if we are able to sleep this evening—and it will not worry us if we do not—let me tell him that our next Bill will restore parental choice. It will return individual choice, as with council housing. I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman has again given me the opportunity to delineate our views on that matter.

We believe in bright lights in dark corners. Information should be freely available—and that includes academic results. That apparently horrifies Labour Members, unless they have changed their minds. We want maximum information for parents. They should be able to see from the prospectus how schools are run. They should know of the forms of discipline, the way that staff are recruited, the sports available and the academic results. We have no desire for secrecy. I hope that in the second Committee there will be considerable agreement. Earlier speeches by Labour Members possibly indicated that.

I recommend that my right hon. and hon. Friends reject the amendments. I hope that they will be withdrawn now that we have promised the great debates on the next Bill.

We should hurriedly move on and get the Bill on to the statute book. We are determined on that. It was our pledge in the election, it is expected of us and we shall do so as quickly as possible.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I am grateful to the Minister. It is rare to have such a classic example of a brass neck standing at the brass-bound Box. It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman has not put forward one educational argument. He has rather let the cat out of the bag. In effect he said that the Government were not interested in the educational argument. They are concerned with a doctrinaire policy that was put forward in the election and all that they are doing is making a gesture that may damage the educational opportunities of many children. They are not concerned because this move will protect their interests. I hope that the House will accept all the new clauses. They are a very sincere attempt to alleviate some of the damage done by this tatty little Bill.

In Cheshire we see a great deal of the damage clone by a Conservative education authority. New clause 1 deals with the nature, basis and criteria used in any process of selection in secondary schools. I trust that also would include the selection procedures being used in Cheshire to maintain a number of places at inde- pendent schools at considerable cost to the taxpayers. That money will be taken away from the existing State system.

The Secretary of State for Education should be ashamed to be part of a system that puts forward that kind of ploy. He should at least try to show us why he is turning down the new clause. In my constituency we are only now getting the movement towards comprehensive education which would do away with artificial barriers. The Cheshire county council has evolved a system of catchment areas and of allocation of funds to very old buildings which makes the comprehensive system virtually impossible to operate. In my constituency there is one so-called new " comprehensive " school which is working in a five-site building. This is unfair on both the children and the teaching staff. If Conservative Members had any interest at all in State education and if they sent their children to State schools, they would know that it is virtually impossible for a child to receive a decent education while he or she is moving between five different sites.

When Ministers talk about giving freedom back to local authorities they should tell us how they can justify paying taxpayers' money for supposedly transforming old, substandard buildings and claiming that this will lead to an effective comprehensive scheme. Indeed, there are so many doubts in Cheshire that even the Conservative-controlled education authority now refuses to listen to the blandishments of some Conservative Members who speak very loudly for the 12 per cent. of children who are educated in grammar schools, but never for the 58 per cent. who are educated in secondary modern schools.

The Secretary of State should give us some of the arguments for that kind of selective procedure. After all, new clause 1 does not ask for very much. If we are to have this arbitrary selection, this programming for the lower echelons of economic life, there should be some small outlet for those children who are thought to be inferior and suitable only for secondary modern education.

This Bill is not concerned with educational standards, improving the number of graduates or providing new buildings. It is concerned with dividing children. The Conservatives talk about freedom, but the kind of freedom they mean is the freedom to divide one child from another into preconceived categories like a number of factory-bred animals.

The majority of Conservatives went to that form of comprehensive school which is lightly called a public school and therefore they are not aware of the things that go on in the State system.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Perhaps the hon Lady will relate her arguments to one or other of the new clauses.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I shall be delighted to do so. Unlike some Government Members, I have been sitting here for many hours to do precisely that.

I was educated in the State system, as were my children. One of my children had the honour of being taught by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), in a large comprehensive school. I believe that the House should not turn down this tiny attempt to look after the interests of those children.

If we are to have some idea of the nature, range and extent of courses and options offered in each of the selective secondary modern schools, I trust that capitation costs and fees per head will be equalised. It is all very well for the Minister to say that he will use methods of persuasion. Unless sufficient Government money is provided it will be difficult for education authorities to keep up with existing costs. It is obvious that there will be a division of moneys between one kind of selective school and another. In a game of that kind it will inevitably be the secondary modern school that will suffer.

There are other important points in the clauses. We are asking for clearer access to school records. The Minister said that he had always wanted that facility. Many notes are taken that affect decisions about a child's future. It is important to know the person who provided the brief on the child. A parent faced with a decision about his child's future must know what the teachers concerned with that child decide to record in private. I am referring not to the views expressed when teachers call on parents but to the records kept of the child, his ability and his general future in the education system.

One returns to the point that as soon as one has a selective system some children will be put in a category that is regarded as non-academic. Conservative Members will then loudly denounce the modern educational system. They will not take the view that the child of 11 will know that he is a failure. In present circumstances are we to return to the argument about the child who passes or fails the 11-plus? That is the reality behind the Bill. No Government spokesman has said that the Government intend to make special funds available to enlarge the opportunities for the child in the secondary modern school. Too many education authorities are seeking to lay down artificial lines of demarcation. Those who talk so loudly about freedom of choice mean freedom of choice for one group rather than for the whole school population.

These new clauses are the minimum provisions required in seeking to change the Bill. Many parents will find the Bill's provisions totally unacceptable. We know that Cheshire uses the system to divide those children who are to go to independent schools from those who are to remain in the State system. The parents are most distressed, because they do not know the basis on which decisions are arrived at. When parents are given the chance to appeal, they are told very little. Frequently they put forward a case and have no idea whether their arguments are acceptable or whether they will make the slightest difference to the selection process. That is the reality of the present scheme. If children are creamed off in that way, what will happen when there are further divisions of the school population?

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.


That the Education Bill may be proceeded with at this day's sitting, though opposed, until any hour.—[Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]

Question again proposed, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I had hoped that the Secretary of State would intervene at this moment.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

The hon. Lady and I represent Cheshire constituencies. The Bill does no more than return to the local education authority the right to choose whether or not to opt for comprehensive or selective schools. Cheshire has decided, despite the freedom of the Bill, to have a comprehensive system. Therefore, I cannot understand what the hon. Lady's argument has to do with the Bill.

Mrs. Dunwoody

The Secretary of State knows well that there is tremendous pressure from some of his Back-Bench colleagues and that the education committee in Cheshire is in a difficult position. I am happy to pay tribute to the Conservative chairman of that committee, who at least has faced rather more responsibility than Conservative Front-Bench Members. He has been prepared to say that the county has gone a long way down the road towards comprehensive education, that large sums of money have been spent and therefore that the system should continue. He knows well that if there is a way to throw the matter into reverse Cheshire's Conservative-controlled education committee will do that. In the words of the Under-Secretary, the committee can " turn back the clock ". We have to make sure that if such a disaster strikes Cheshire there will be some form of protection for the children. There will be no protection for them from a Conservative-controlled education authority while there is pressure from Conservative Back Benchers.

It is always wearing when so many hon. Members who do not lake part in debates come in at the last moment just to listen but not to put forward political points to justify a Bill such as this. That attitude marked the whole matter in Committee and is the reasoning behind the proposed change. It is no use talking about a second Education Bill. If the Government were concerned about education they would have waited and brought forward a considered measure. The Bill is a gesture of the most politically empty sort and it may cause untold damage. The only way to improve it is to accept the new clauses.

Mr. Dobson

I have said before in the House that my knowledge of education does not border on the academic. It is based entirely on my experience as a child at school and subsequently as a parent of children at other schools. All those schools were State schools. Therefore, I have an advantage over the bulk of the Conservative Cabinet and Conservative Members. Perhaps they should keep quiet during the debate because their experience of the State system is peripheral in the extreme.

Mr. Rhodes James

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that some Conservative Members, including myself, educated their children at State schools? Therefore, we have an equal knowledge and understanding of the matter. Many of us are involved in the governorship of State schools and have been involved in the comprehensivisation scheme for many years. I hope that the hon. Member will allow us that.

Mr. Dobson

I willingly accept that there are a number of Conservative Members who send their children to State schools. As for some of those hon. Members serving as school governors, I can only say that some of their ancestors served as governors in the colonies—and the relationships involved are similar.

Before I was so elegantly interrupted, I said that I had to draw on my experiences and bring to bear one basic criterion, as do all my hon. Friends, namely, the need to ensure that resources are allocated to those most in need.

Although I represent a constituency which is as urban as any, I was born in the country in what is now called North Yorkshire and I went to a village school. The system there was so peculiar that, despite the passage of the Education Act 1944, only girls got through the 11-plus. That was because the benighted East Riding county council had a girls' grammar school but no grammar school for boys. It had to rent places in neighbouring authorities, including the city of York.

I remember that six years after the passage of the 1944 Act I got through the 11-plus, and what I remember most when the results were announced at my school was the disappointment on the faces of some of my friends whom I knew to be as intelligent and well educated as myself but who had not passed the 11-plus.

They and I knew that in those benighted days if they did not go on to a grammar school in York they had to stay at the village school until the end of their school careers and would not benefit very much from it. There was virtually no possibility of those children going to the grammar school because there was no provision for transfer between schools and certainly not to grammar schools.

My wife, my eldest child and I were disappointed that we did not get our daughter into the mixed comprehensive school of our choice, but we had the opportunity to choose to send her to another mixed comprehensive school in our area.

If the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) wishes to intervene, I shall be happy to give way. If he does not, I shall be grateful if he will keep quiet.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

May I help the hon. Gentleman by suggesting that he relates his argument to one of the new clauses?

Mr. Dobson

I hope that you will accept that my ramble is relevant, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I said at the beginning of my speech that I can draw only on my own experiences and relate them to the Bill and the proposed new clauses.

Under the system of grammar school and secondary modern school differentiation, there is virtually no provision for transfer between schools after the first determination at the age of 11. That is still true in most of the country, and certainly in Cheshire.

A full comprehensive system provides fairly easy transfer of children in later years if the family moves or if the children of parents become dissatisfied with a school. That is a vital part of the freedom that we hear so much about. It is important to try to maintain that freedom.

One other bit of my experience before I came here was working for the local government Ombudsman. Some of the worst cases that we ever had to deal with were those of parents whose children had failed to get into grammar schools. The parents complained that there was something wrong with what the county council had done—it nearly always was the county council. In many of those cases, strictly speaking there was nothing wrong with what the council had done, but children had had terrible experiences, particularly in Cheshire. Innumerable children failed, or looked as though they might fail, to pass the 11-plus, which continues in Cheshire. There were children who were faced with crammers from morning until night. They were crammed before they went to school, at school, in the lunch hour and after school at night, and they still did not get through. They suffered immense damage, and there was no need for it.

No one can expect me to agree with the principles behind this Tory measure. If the Opposition take their role seriously, faced with such a measure we must try to offer a degree of protection to help children, parents and teachers and maintain and improve educational standards and children's opportunities. This series of new clauses is designed to do that.

One thread that runs through the clauses is that parents and teachers should be entitled to know what sort of courses, banding, transfer and facilities will prevail in both the grammar schools and non-grammar schools in an area, for a 10-year period. That is vital if parents, children and teachers are to be able to compare what is available and try to exercise what limited amount of choice the Bill gives them. If that information is not provided, one form of protection for children and their parents will be taken away.

There must also be provision for children in grammar schools and in secondary modern schools to transfer. Therefore, there must be meshing of the curriculum uniforms and other aspects of school life, so that if children are transferred from secondary modern schools to grammar schools or vice versa the trauma of that movement is kept to a minimum.

A further important point is that there must be comparability in teacher-pupil ratios. [HON. MEMBERS: " Hear, hear."] I note that I even command the support of some Conservative Members. One of the Education Ministers supplied me by way of a written answer with tables giving the staff-student ratios in every local authority area in the country. They show that, generally speaking, the ratios are worse in the secondary modern schools, a little better in the comprehensive schools and a good deal better in the grammar schools. If there is any justice, those ratios should be the other way round.

10.15 p.m.

It will interest Conservative Members to know that I have asked two questions about staff-student ratios at Eton, Harrow and Winchester. Despite the fact that the information is collected by the Department of Education, Ministers refuse to disclose it on the ground that it is some sort of secret, although one can obtain it from those who are touting places in such schools.

There is a basic principal that should apply. Resources in this country, or any country, should be devoted predominantly to those most in need. This is a trivial and nasty Bill. For all sorts of procedural reasons, we have not had a proper chance to consider it. I am not criticising the Chair. I am criticising those on the Government Front Bench and the officials behind them.

It is our duty to try to protect the people who are most likely to suffer from the introduction of this measure. The poor and the ill informed in the county areas are those most likely to suffer. I know that this is the case because the Government Front Bench are not really concerned about people who are badly off and ill informed. They have introduced a measure which they believe will reward some of their friends. But it will reward only a minority of the country with the continuation of a divisive and irrelevant education system. I hope that the House will support this string of clauses. They are intended to provide a far better system, even within the basic framework of the Bill, than the one put forward. I commend the new clauses.

Mr. Flannery

How lovely it is to have an audience of the present size. For most of the day, we have been faced by the Minister and his Parliamentary Private Secretary. Practically no Tories have listened, shown any interest or bothered to attend. Now they have come. We will have to teach them a thing or two.

Earlier, before the amicable relationship between our two Front Benches became apparent to us, I went out for two minutes. I spoke to a Tory, who asked me " Are you going to go on all night to get rid of the Abortion (Amendment) Bill? " I was serious when I replied " No. We are going to discuss education, possibly all night." Conservative Members stopped smiling when I said that. I said that we intended to discuss education because it was extremely important in its own right. That is why we are discussing the new clauses. They are vitally important. They are so good that I would have thought Conservative Members would vote for them. I was fairly confident until the first speech made by a Tory today. The hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) shattered the silence of the Tory Benches when he spoke. There was also an intervention from the Secretary of State. I forgot what he said. I do not think it was very important.

I want to describe why we are so determined. I sat for about 90 hours during the passing of the 1976 Act. We spent about 80 of those hours on the first three clauses, which were comprehensive clauses. On the 1979 Bill, which did not go through because of the general election, we sat for a couple of months. On this Bill, undoing what we have done over a long period of discussion lasting about 90 hours, we spent three sessions of two and a half hours each. That is utterly disgraceful. I do not know how the deal was arrived at. Three sittings were thought to be sufficient to undo what we had done.

The reason why things have gone wrong tonight is dissatisfaction on these Benches. We are determined to fight on behalf of all our children, 85 per cent. of whom are in comprehensive schools, and to stop the Tories undoing the system. They know nothing about the State system. In saying that, I apologise to the three of them who do. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) is still sulking. He threw his papers down earlier and almost hit the Minister, so angry was he because he went to a State school. I compliment him.

I want to enable all our children to have a first-class education in comprehensive schools, which have had massively better results that the education system produced before.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must relate his remarks to the new clauses.

Mr. Flannery

My speech is aimed directly at new clause 1. I compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). It is difficult to get beyond new clause 1, there is so much meat in it. It is a beautiful clause, drafted perfectly. It relates very much to State schools, which the Tories may be forgiven for knowing nothing about since they have never been in them. But these are some of the harsh realities that they will have to face, because they will be here for a long time.

The Tories want to get their hands on the education system because they have never been happy about the removal of the 11-plus. [Interruption.] I suggest that the relationship between the two Front Benches should now be broken. The Minister can get off his knees.

The abolition of the 11-plus is supported by the vast majority of Tory parents. Tory councils will have to face that. In the old days, large numbers of people in one area of my city were so ashamed if their children had not passed the 11-plus that they were not seen in public on that Saturday. What a disgusting thing to blare in a child's ears at the age of 11 that he is a failure because he has not passed the 11-plus. How dare any of us do that?

The Tories, of course, need not worry about things like that. They have the money to send their children to the crammers and prep schools. They do not need this new clause. [Interruption.] I am talking only about the majority of the Tories.

Paragraph (a) of new clause 1 refers to The nature, basis and criteria used in any process of allocation of pupils". The process has been described adequately by some of my hon. Friends. At the ages of five, six or seven years, children are decided to be " grammar school material ". Great steps are taken on 3 March between 9 o'clock and 11 o'clock in the morning to ensure that they satisfy the narrow criteria put in front of them.

I invigilated for many years. I remember doing so over sick children. I remember going to a school where there used to be seven sick children. An important inspector and two teachers would invigilate over those poor children. That is the reality. That is what occurred. Often the children had to go to another school that they had never attended before to sit the examination. They had to take their own equipment. Conservative Members do not know anything about that. They never had to go through that. However, that is what our children had to go through.

After they had done all that, after they had taken a couple of two-hour or three-hour examinations, most of the children were told " You are a little failure and you cannot go to the grammar school. Only two or three from your school can go. The rest of you cannot go." That is something that Conservative Members have never had to face. However, our children did. The Conservative Party and Conservative Members would have our children face that all over again. We have brought forward the new clauses to try to set that right.

The clauses are designed to try to get the best that we can from the ruin that will be perpetrated against our children. These are rescue clauses. They have been carefully thought out to save our children from the full assault against comprehensive education that we see developing.

There has been talk about transfers. It proved virtually impossible to transfer a child from a secondary modern school to a grammar school. There were only so many places in the grammar schools. There are only so many places in grammar schools now, and that will continue to be the position. Although there may be a desire to transfer children from secondary modern schools to grammar schools, the reality is that to find places at grammar schools it will be necessary to transfer grammar school children to secondary modern schools.

There has been much talk about freedom. What degree of freedom do 85 to 90 per cent. of parents and children have? What choice did they have? Only 10 to 15 per cent. at the most had any choice. I see that one or two Conservative Members are nodding. They probably lived through what I have described and they know the reality.

The Government are trying to put back the clock and to restore the old system. We are opposing that. How could we do otherwise? Transfers will not be easy. However, Conservative Members continue to talk about freedom. When the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Brent, North, talks about freedom, he becomes almost lyrical.

The Government claim that freedom will be restored to the people. In one area freedom may mean that 5 or 10 per per cent. of Children will have grammar school places. In another area the figures might be 15 to 20 per cent. Therefore, the child who lives in one area suffers compared with children in other areas.

The Minister has already been asked what will happen when a transfer takes place from a comprehensive area to an area in which there are no comprehensive schools. The hon. Gentleman said that he will look into that carefully. He will have to look into it extremely carefully. We are facing severe problems.

Paragraph (c) of new clause 1 refers to The nature, range and extent of the courses and options offered ". The courses and options available in the comprehensive system are immensely better than they have ever been in history. The Conservative Party has run down the Labour Party and talked about the quality of education being poorer. At present the quality of education is falling due to the capitation allowance being reduced. We know that the education cuts will have massive effects and possibly undo a great deal of the education system. That was said only recently by 21,000 head teachers.

What range of options will be open to the children who will bear the brunt of the cuts? We are trying to give them a range of options. I recently spoke to some book publishers. They told me that their book sales were falling dreadfully because of the prices.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Huddersfield, West)

Is the hon. Member aware that I was educated at an elementary school and failed the 11-plus but went to night school for three nights a week over about five years to educate myself? That did me no harm at all. Is he further aware that my children are also in a State school, and that many Conservative Members have had no better advantages than Labour Members but could make a more intelligent contribution to the debate than the hon. Member?

Mr. Flannery

I have already complimented the hon. Gentleman and two of his hon. Friends. I do not know why Conservative Members keep referring to this. I have already made clear that those three hon. Members are more or less on our side and that I hope that they will vote with us.

The first great Act in education was the 1944 Act. The 1976 Act was the second. The 1944 Act is acclaimed by most people, but, good as it was, it enshrined selection. The 1976 Act, however, introduced a great qualitative change in education. It unshrined selection. It took our education system a monumental leap forward. It ensured that our children had access to the highest forms of education. The Conservatives do not understand that. They use such expressions as " social engineering " against us.

The wide range of options available to children has meant that the number of them going to university and to further and higher education is bigger than ever. One wonders whether the Conservatives are frightened of educating our children. On the one hand they talk of the quality of education dropping, although it is not. All the reports have proved the black papers to be so much trash and that standards have gone ever higher. On the other hand they introduce the Bill, which will positively lower the quality of education. I cannot understand how the Government can speak of a desire to educate our children and at the same time introduce this nasty, squalid little Bill. It is not even an education document. It is just a nasty little piece of legal jargon.

The Conservatives do not understand criteria that are based on the process of allocation. Our new clause seeks to establish those criteria. In new clause 8 we want to make clear how many children will be put in each school. We want to know what will be the process of selection.

We support these clauses and we invite the three hon. Members to whom I have referred to do the same. The clauses are a valiant attempt to try to retrieve what we can from the effects of this nasty little Bill. I hope that our people will know that we fought the battle as well as we could. I hope that some Conservatives will support our efforts tonight and show that they have a genuine interest in education.

Miss Wright

Several of my hon. Friends have made the point that we were to a large extent making the educational case on this so-called Education Bill to our own Benches, with a very notable absence of Conservative Members. I had begun to wonder whether a large proportion of the Conservative Members had perhaps remembered the words of a report which was issued under the aegis of an earlier hon. Member for Saffron Walden, now Lord Butler, as long ago as 1943. That report, which was adopted by the whole House, pointed out, 36 years ago, that The serious weaknesses of selection at 11 are now acknowledged. There is nothing to be said in favour of a system which submits children at the age of 11 to a competitive examination on which not only their future schooling but their future careers may depend. Whatever Conservative Members may think now, over the years a fair proportion of Conservative members of education committees have also been converted. In this country at the moment the point is that it is not the Labour Party only, it is not the teachers only, but a great deal of the whole range of educational opinion, the whole range of education authorities—with the exception of a very few backwoodsmen, led by the Under-Secretary of State—who are now determined to turn the clock back.

In 1971 or 1972, under the then Conservative Administration, the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who is now Prime Minister, invited all education authorities to think again on the principle of comprehensive education. I remember that it impressed us quite a lot in the West Midlands that the local education authority which immediately said that on educational grounds it was not prepared to go back on its commitment to comprehensive education was the one education authority which had never been under Labour control—Solihull.

There is a very good educational case for the continuance of comprehensive education. It is now generally accepted in educational circles—I do not expect Conservative Members to understand what we are talking about—that there is no point at all in trying, at the age of 10, 11 or 12, to assess the abilities of a child, because that involves assessing a child on its background and the sort of advantages it has had in its earlier years.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) was speaking, I referred to the different rates at which children in Birmingham used to pass the 11-plus. They did not vary a great deal from year to year. I can well remember the range when I first asked about it in 1958. It was from 4 per cent. in one of the most deprived areas of central Birmingham to 66 per cent. in one of the plushiest areas of Binning-ham. The next time I had the figures, in 1969, they ranged from 6.1 per cent. in the neighbouring area to the one which previously had the lowest pass level to 70 per cent. in one of the two plushiest areas in Birmingham.

What was being reflected every time was the assessment of the level which a child had reached at a particular time as a result of the help it had received from its background and parents. That was not denied or challenged by anyone in the education committee, not even by the then Tory chairman. It was not denied that we were not measuring the innate ability of the child or its capacity to take advantage of education.

Yet the Bill still considers that to be a reasonable system to offer our children. It is saying to them " If you fail at the age of 11, you are a certain type of person and you will get a certain type of education." My hon. Friends have spoken of the various methods of selection and examination, which vary from one part of the country to another. A point which should be more emphasised is that there is a set number of grammar school places, so that the level of ability—I do not accept that it is a level of achievement—at which a child is offered a place will vary from year to year according to the size of the age group.

In checking over a 10-year period in Birmingham, we found that in one year alone there was a five point difference. For example, children who in 1965 would have gone to grammar school would not have done so in 1970 and would have been sent to other schools, on the assumption that they were incapable of profiting by the type of education to which children of precisely the same level had gone five years before.

We spent a great deal of time in Birmingham in consultation with parents and teachers, and Birmingham now has a comprehensive system. But it is complicated by the freedom of voluntary aided schools either to come into the system or to say that they are not prepared to accept it as it is. Thus, a very small number of voluntary aided schools was able to hold up a system which the elected representatives of the people felt was the right system for the children of the area. Nevertheless, we have vastly better provision in the comprehensive schools.

Now, even before this Bill is passed, there is a proposal by the local education authority—naturally, it was mooted in the press first and not through consultations, even in the council—to issue section 13 notices as soon as the Bill is law in order to turn an existing comprehensive school into a grammar school. What the authority proposes to do with the children who are already in the school is not made clear, and what it will propose to do in the future with children who might have gone there, and where they will be sent, is also not clear. But one thing is clear. The authority does not intend to make any provision for general consultation with either parents or teachers over a proposal to go back on the system which we now have.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West)

The hon. Lady will recall that she was the architect of a plan which allowed two years flat from inception to implementation of a full comprehensive scheme involving split sites. I am sure that there are many people in Birmingham who rather regret that they were not allowed adequate consultation when that " reform "—I put the word in inverted commas—went through so rapidly.

Miss Wright

There is another Member of this House who is much given to talking about mandates. A clear mandate was given to the Birmingham Labour Party at the time, in two elections, when we had discussed the whole thing in great detail, and, having established the mandate that we would go to a comprehensive system, we then discussed the details massively, and without any preconceived ideas, before they were put into effect.

We have had a fair amount of discussion—or, rather, not discussion so much as interjection from Conservative Members, since there has been little discussion conducted by them—about standards. During the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) there was a reference to standards. My hon. Friend said that standards had been rising, and there were several loud comments to the opposite effect. I think it only reasonable to look at that aspect of the matter.

I have taken out some figures from the DES statistics for 1976–77. In 1964, when there were only 8 per cent. of—

Mr. Wellbeloved

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Could you advise those hon. Members on the Government Benches who wish to carry on conversations to do so outside the Chamber so that those of us who wish to hear my hon. Friend may do so?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

I shall not offer any advice on that, but I think that all hon. Members know the rule about private conversations. I am listening and I can hear the hon. Lady.

Miss Wright

I can, of course, start again if my hon. Friends are having difficulty.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Unfortunately, due to the noise, I did not hear part of what my hon. Friend said with reference to the consultative process in the Birmingham area, on which the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher) commented. I should be grateful if she would go over that again, because I had what I believe to be a similar experience in my constituency and I should like to compare my experience with hers.

Miss Wright

For your sake, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall not attempt to go over all that I said, but for my hon. Friend's sake I shall elaborate a little on it.

After it became clear to us in 1970 or so that we should be taking over control of the council by 1972, we put clearly to the electorate in every ward in the city, in both 1971 and 1972, that we had a firm commitment to make a change over to comprehensive secondary education in Birmingham should we regain control. We pointed out to the people—I think that most of them were aware of it because there had been a great deal of discussion about it in the press over the years—that during the previous six years there had been constant dispute and discussion about what type of reorganisation we might have, with consequent anxieties being caused to parents and teachers and to the schools generally.

Three plans were put forward by the Conservative-controlled council. One was withdrawn because the leadership sat on it, the second was withdrawn because the electorate would not have it at any price, and we were never clear what happened to the third, which was also withdrawn. I believe that the vice-chairman of the education committee decided that he did not like it.

When we came to power, we made it clear that we were going for a secondary comprehensive system. We did not believe that we should have a selective system but we had no clear idea what the alternative should be. We consulted all the teacher organisations, and there were two series of meetings throughout Birmingham, first to discuss what parents felt about the type of organisation and then to discuss with them again some three months later the details that had been evolved with the teacher organisations. It involved 66 meetings, of which I was involved with well over half, so no one can suggest that there was no parental consultation. We did not alter the basic concept but we altered some of the details, and some original proposals were altered in line with ideas that parents put forward. In the past few years in Birmingham, as in the rest of the country, the number of youngsters who have been doing better and passing O-levels and A-levels has increased.

Our proposals to alleviate the effects of this rather nasty little Bill will at least give the House the opportunity to receive information on what is happening in the few authorities that wish to go back on the system of comprehensive education. The one Tory local authority in the West Midlands is once more indicating that in no circumstances does it want to go back to a system of selective education. It was the first authority in the West Midlands that decided it would no longer fund pupils going to selective voluntary schools, direct grant or otherwise.

It is a question not of doctrinaire Labour policy but of educational policy. It is a policy backed by the major teachers' organisations, and, whether or not they agree on other issues, they agree on that. It has the support of the great majority of the educationists in the country.

Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)

I shall speak only for a short time, but I should like to support new clause 1, and in particular paragraph (c).

It was a pleasure to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). Anyone who can get my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) to do something resembling a clog dance with the Under-Secretary of State in front of the Mace must be complimented.

I represent the largest single constituency in Tameside, and, therefore, I shall direct my remarks to that metropolitan district. From time to time we have heard the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary say that local people know best the kind of education suitable for their locality. Most of us would not disagree with that.

How can people express that view? At present in my constituency there are a number of well-intentioned people knocking at doors asking people to sign a petition which will eventually land on the desk of the Secretary of State. This petition will urge that the grammar schools in my constituency be saved. I have been canvassed, and I have heard from a number of my constituents that some of the questions posed are very different from those expected. Thus, this will not be a particularly scientific judgment, and I suggest that the Secretary of State does not take too much notice of it.

More important is the expression of opinion to the candidates in the local election who stood fairly and squarely for comprehensive education. To be fair, the Conservatives in my constituency also made it an important plank in their platform. When Labour won 14 seats in the local election, we realised that the people were behind comprehensive education. Last year when the swing was against Labour, Tameside went against the tide and the former chairman of the education committee lost his seat fighting for the grammar schools. Tameside people are not too enamoured with the grammar shcools.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty saw these results, he said that the grammar schools in Tameside were as well prepared for the scientific and technological revolution as were the Polish cavalry for the Second World War. I hope that I have not misquoted him, but those were his words as far as I can remember.

Mr. Kinnock

That was smack on!

Mr. Pendry

I am glad about that. I am sure that the House recognises the extravagance of language and flair of my hon. Friend from time to time, but after I saw the figures I understood what he meant.

If one takes the O-level results at the five grammar schools in Tameside and compares them with the results of the five largest secondary modern schools, one sees that the secondary modern schools are well ahead. In French they beat the grammar schools, not only in total numbers but in percentage terms as well. There is only one grammar school in Tameside that takes O-level general studies; only one takes O-level geology, and only one takes O-level general science.

In the traditional O-level subjects in all five grammar schools, only 57 pupils passed in Latin out of the 96 taking it. Only 16 out of 40 passed in music and 96 out of 154 passed in art. In the A-level examinations, only 10 pupils took art. These figures destroy the myth of the Tameside education policy.

11 p.m.

On the applied and technical side, the position is even worse. The subjects offered in the grammar schools are as follows: craftwork, one out of five grammar schools; economic and political affairs, one out of five; commerce, one out of five, geology, one out of five; physical science, one out of five, sociology, one out of five; commercial mathematics, two out of five; metalwork, two out of five. It is no wonder that Tory Members are talking among themselves, because they probably cannot believe what they are hearing. Those happen to be facts.

The following subjects are not taken at all in the Tameside grammar schools: environmental science, government and politics—pupils certainly need education on that subject when Tories are elected to councils; statistics and social studies, engineering science, computer science and health science. Woodwork was taken in three out of the five grammar schools—a total of 30 pupils only. We are talking about Greater Manchester and not about Mid-Sussex. In contrast, 538 pupils take English literature and 219 take religious studies.

At A-level the position is worse, and I should like the House to ponder these figures. In the five grammar schools as to calculated percentage of subjects with a pass rate less than the examination board average, we find in Ashton grammar school that 53 per cent. of subjects taken are less than the board's average; in Astley the figure is 41 per cent.; in Audenshaw 37 per cent., and in Fairfield 47 per cent. Only in Hyde does one see a figure of 30 per cent. Hyde looks like a very good school when one considers it in the round.

This explodes the myths put about by the Under-Secretary of State, who has been advising the Tory education chiefs. He should be ashamed of what he has done educationally to the sons and daughters of my constituents. Their parents expected a good education for those children.

I could go on, but I shall not do so. We believe that the Tories who are now in charge of education have no right to dictate to people. Certainly my constituents recognise that the system of education they want is the one for which Labour councillors stood in Tameside at the last election. They do not want to be deprived of that system, and I hope that the House will not allow that to happen.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I am half inclined to apologise to the House for detaining hon. Members at this time of night, but I have come hot-footed from a public meeting in my constituency which is considering the proposal by the local education authority to change the nature of the Erith school.

It was not until I heard the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Miss Wright) that I felt compelled to appeal to the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who I am delighted to see in the Chamber, to come to the assistance of the parents of the Erith school in the London borough of Bexley.

My hon. Friend told the House that when Birmingham was considering changing the educational pattern in that city she, as chairman of the education committee, spoke to more than 66 public meetings in the area explaining her authority's proposals and also consulted the teachers. Over a period of well over three months, she carried out extensive educational and consultative activities with the people of that area before submitting proposals under section 13 of the Education Act.

In the London borough of Bexley, on 26 June the education committee met and for the first time it became public knowledge that it was to make a proposal under section 13 to close the Erith school—a very successful all-range ability school, approved by the present Prime Minister when she was Secretary of State for Education and Science. The proposal was to close that school and open two new schools, thus destroying what had been so painfully built up over recent years to the stage where educational standards surpassed those of the former grammar school.

The education committee considered the proposal on 26 June 1979 and it was followed up by a so-called consultative document that was sent to parents requiring them to submit their comments by 10 July, 14 days later. Many parents did not receive the document until a few days ago. Therefore, within that short time parents and teachers have to make their objections known—an impossible position. The proposal will be considered by the full council on 18 July, next week.

Mr. Christopher Price

There are precedents for that short period of notice. Our former colleague, Mr. Patrick Gordon-Walker gave Enfield one week only in which to consider its objections to his directions about a scheme. Mr. Justice Donaldson, as he then was, made some scathing comments in the High Court about the length of time that was allowed for educational consultation. Does my hon. Friend think that what is sauce for Mr. Gordon-Walker should be sauce for the Bexley council?

Mr. Wellbeloved

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. That case had not escaped my attention. There are many such cases that end up in the courts as a result of section 13 proposals.

I appealed at the public meeting in Bexley tonight on behalf of the parents—there were over 800 at the meeting—for the education committee to pause in its action. I do not want it to give explanations about the merits of its proposals. I ask only that a reasonable time is allowed before it makes its submissions to the Secretary of State.

I appeal to the Secretary of State to join me in asking the Bexley authority for adequate time for proper consultation before the proposal is submitted to him. When it is submitted to him, I know that he will be careful and fair about ensuring that the proper procedures are entered into. I hope that he can give us encouragement about the matter.

Mr. Kinnock

I hope that the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) will not fall on deaf ears. I understand that the local Tory chairman, Mr. Brian Sams, was reported in The Guardian about two weeks ago as saying that, in spite of the fact that the Secretary of State had said that he had no intention of making directions about revocations on established comprehensive systems, that was simply talk from a Tory Secretary of State. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will take the earliest opportunity to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford and destroy the confidence of Mr. Brian Sams, who seems to be deliberately bent upon misinterpreting and misrepresenting Conservative policy.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

I was at a loss to understand how the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) managed to make his speech on this Bill. Under the statute, if the Erith council puts in an application under section 13, it is required to give two months' notice. That is a statutory requirement and a statutory time provided for objectors.

Mr. Kinnock

Our debate has been wide-ranging and authoritative, especially since all the contributions except that of the Under-Secretary have come from Labour Members. It may be said to have been one of the most authoritative and expert debates ever to have taken place in the House.

The latest intelligence from the Secretary of State has made the whole business worth while because it demonstrates to the people of Erith that they have on their side the law and the understanding of the Department of Education and that the barbarians shall not have their way as easily as some of them may have presumed.

The debate has also been instructive in many other respects. I do not want to engage in the hyperbole of which my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) accused me. The Under-Secretary and I were not doing a clog dance. The Minister was deciding that it was better to live on his knees than to die on his feet. That demonstrated once again the wisdom of the hon. Gentleman, whom we all love and respect.

The Minister spoke of Education Bill one and Education Bill two. I am still waiting for Bill one because the measure before us has little to do with education, as I am sure the Minister would acknowledge in a more sober moment. To be fair to the hon. Gentleman, he has not sought to represent it as an Education Bill. He and the Secretary of State represent it as a liberating Bill, and it is on that basis that we have had to assess it on Second Reading, in Committee and, more exhaustively, tonight. That is the basis on which we have to judge its proposals and the new clauses.

With respect to my other hon. Friends, it seems that the new clause that most clearly embraces the case that we wish to present, as well as taking into account many of the proposals in other new clauses, is that moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). My hon. Friend was unfortunate in being overshadowed by the fact that the immediate aftermath of his speech was that the House was plunged into turmoil.

There may be some hon. Members in the Chamber who did not follow all that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South said. His speech was as comprehensive, in the truest sense, and challenging as is his new clause. He seeks to insert into the Bill criteria against which we can judge the efficacy, in education terms, of the Bill and the selective system of education that it attempts to enshrine by permitting the survival of such systems in areas where local authorities have managed to avoid the obligations of the 1976 Act.

11.15 p.m.

It is unfortunate that the Under-Secretary conveyed the impression that he does not intend to accept the new clause which might have given an educational garb to an otherwise naked Bill. What is even more unfortunate is that the hon. Gentleman chose to misrepresent my hon. Friend's intention. My hon. Friend says in his new clause that he wants the publication of certain details of educational provision at secondary level in the areas of authorities affected by the Bill. He is talking about the nature, basis and criteria used in any process of allocation … arrangements made for transfer of pupils … the nature, range and extent of the courses and options offered ". The Under-Secretary has participated in the birth of one or two of these matters of the publication of results and of criteria of secondary schools. Indeed, if we are to believe the newspapers, he has the accolade of the Prime Minister in that she, too, has embraced the idea of the publication of results.

I do not think that my hon. Friend was talking about the publication of results. I do not think that he was talking about the kind of league tables that would ensue from such a process. I am sure that my hon. Friend has thought about the matter, and I know that he will object as strongly as I do to the proposals of the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for the publication of such academic results, because we know that the reason is not the stimulation and elevation of standards in secondary schools but the creation of results league tables, which would have a disastrous effect on the morale of many teaching staffs, pupils and parents. We entirely reject the idea that that is an appropriate way in which to try to improve standards in schools or to energise and encourage teachers, pupils or parents. What it would induce is a self-perpetuating failure.

All schools go through brief difficult periods of having a reduction in the standard of results. If people were asked to judge by that standard, a school could find itself in considerable difficulty. That is not what my hon. Friend was saying; he was saying something entirely different.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will not seek to use anything said by my hon. Friend to try to legitimise the proposals that he says he will put to us in the Education Bill (No. 2), which for reasons of greater accuracy we shall call the Education Bill (No. 1), when it eventually appears.

I turn to the question of transfer. Here again, the hon. Gentleman had a slightly different interpretation, but I do not quarrel with that. Although it broadened the debate, it was also very illuminating. The hon. Gentleman put the proposition that a core curriculum would be desirable because of the way in which it facilitated the easier transfer geographically of pupils from school to school.

The unfortunate thing is that the only illustration that the hon. Gentleman gave us of the minimal difficulties encountered in that process of geographical movement involved the movement out of the selective system of Trafford into the nonselective system of Oxford. Then, when my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Miss Wright) put in the most direct fashion the problems of people trying to move in the other geographical and educational direction, her strictures were rather pooh-poohed by the hon. Gentleman.

However, the hon. Gentleman knows very well that if, for instance, someone from my constituency with a child of secondary school age were to move to, say, Trafford or, as it is today, benighted Tameside, or to Kingston upon Thames or other parts of the country that have a selective system or a mixed system of selective schools and comprehensive schools, it would be the devil's own job to try to move the child from a comprehensive school into the closest secondary school, which might be a grammar school. The criterion used by the receiving school would be the child's performance at 11 years of age, whether the child came from a selective school area or a non-selective school area.

Unless the hon. Gentleman produces another circular, another Bill or a fiat of some description ordering that local education authorities or headmasters of schools shall neglect the evidence of testing at 11 years of age in deciding whether to accept incoming children into their schools, that situation will remain. Indeed, it will be perpetuated by the Bill. We reject and criticise that situation most strongly.

The hon. Gentleman's hope for a core-curriculum is dynamited by the retention of the selective system in the areas that will take advantage of the Bill and the areas that have previously escaped the provisions of the 1976 Act. As the hon. Gentleman said himself in an undying phrase in the 1969 black paper, One cannot have grammar schools alongside comprehensive schools or the latter will be nothing but misnamed secondary modern schools. Some under-informed people consider that we are being a little strong in our objection. Because there are fewer than 300 grammar schools left in Britain, because they are scattered and because 83 per cent. of children, and probably 90 per cent. within a few years, will be able to go to non-selective schools, the argument runs that the Opposition in the House of Commons should not be criticising the Bill so strongly. The hon. Gentleman knows, or knew in 1969, although 10 years is a long time in politics, as it is in education, that the perpetuation of a selective school system not only affects the children in the school but affects the whole educational provision in the local authority area where the school is situated.

That is why we are bent upon the removal of the selective system and the removal of the grammar schools so that we can have choice in education, a real choice for parents, proper curricula and mobility between areas and so that parents can be assured of a high and rising common level of provision throughout the whole country which is not dotted with an archipelago of selective school systems perpetuated by this misbegotten Bill.

I turn now to the nature, range and extent of the courses and options. The most effective demolition of the idea of trying to keep grammar schools in this oxygen tent invented by the Tory Party for the sake of the election was delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde. I invite the Minister and the Secretary of State to look at the A-level results from Tameside. More important, in an area where people are making all sorts of claims for the grammar school system—where it is the most hotly fought and contentious issue of local politics—the Minister should look at the narrowness of the curriculum in the five grammar schools of Tameside and ask himself whether he can be content in 1979 to associate with, endorse or encourage the kind of people who will permit that type of system to continue to exist.

Dr. Boyson

I did not intervene when the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) referred to the Tameside results. It was not an argument that concerned these clauses. I hope that the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) has seen the comparison that has been published of the Tameside results and the Manchester results from the same socio-economic groups, which shows the Tameside results as about 50 per cent. better than those in Manchester.

Mr. Kinnock

We can have many lengthy arguments on that matter. There is the question of interpretation. I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman enters into these matters with an open mind. Given the way that the education provision in Tameside has been distorted by the perpetuation of these schools over the years, by the narrowness of the curriculum and by some of the pass rates seen in the results, it is perhaps not much wonder that there is this disparity in the results that the Minister has available. But we shall examine them in detail, and I hope that during the discussion on the Education Bill in November we shall have an exhaustive opportunity to go into these things thoroughly.

Whatever comparisons the Minister chooses to make at this stage, the objective evidence given by my hon. Friend and shown in these results—it applies to the O-level results as well—illustrates that the Tameside situation is nothing for supporters of the grammar schools to boast about. What concerns us most, however, is not the exchange of statistics or the political profit to be made—I am sure that the Minister will agree—but the effect on the pupils, the attitude of the parents and the question whether we are equipping young people to take their proper place and enjoy their full opportunities in society. With this sort of Bill, that is not as possible as it should be in 1979.

That is why I hope that my hon. Friend will press his new clause. That is why we shall continue to fight as we have started with this Bill. As the issues become even clearer, as the intentions of the Tory Party become more obtuse and even more corrupting on our education system, so we shall fight all the harder until we achieve the victory of throwing them and their outdated ideas out altogether.

Mr. Spearing

It is a privilege on Report for Back Benchers to be able to move new clauses and to have the right of reply to the debate. Perhaps " reply " is the wrong word, because, with the exception of the Minister, there have been no speeches against the new clauses. Although there are procedural reasons why some Conservative Members have not spoken, there are political and logical reasons as well. There is no case, and they cannot make one.

I thank my hon. Friends for their support for my new clause, and I commend the new clauses we have discussed with it. If hon. Members opposite doubt what I say about separatist education, they should, during the summer Recess, assuming that Hansard is printed, read the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell). Not only did he support the clause; he showed in detail, from experience inside a secondary modern school, why the Tories are wrong.

There were few hon. Members listening to my hon. Friend's speech, but it would be an education to those who may consider themselves well educated but who in some respects clearly are not. The laughter confirms my charge. There is abysmal ignorance among Government supporters, not just about the so-called State system in general but about the former and existing secondary modern schools in particular.

When I introduced the new clause, I said that it was merely following Conservative principles—or, at least, principles which Conservatives could with good conscience support. That was to extend the freedom of parents and individuals by providing them with information, and, secondly, to balance rights of choice for their local authorities with the responsibilities to provide reasons for the policies pursued. The Minister did not dissent from that. Indeed—I hope that my hon. Friends do not go for me—he agreed with much of what I said. That makes me slightly worried. Although I agree with the hon. Gentleman when he becomes Dr. Jekyll, I flatly disagree when he becomes his black papist Mr. Hyde. I think that he was in his Dr. Jekyll guise today.

11.30 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman accepted the principle of new clause 1. However, he said that he would not have it just yet. I suggest that he is doing a disservice to a good many parents, especially those in the constituency that includes Trafford. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham) contributed to the debate and read some correspondence sent by the education officers of Trafford. The constituent who wrote to my hon. Friend had no benchmark by which to trace or judge the replies that he received from the authority. The Minister says that he should have, but not yet. He is saying, in effect, let the bright lights come, but not yet. By making that admission he is, I suggest, afraid of putting the new clause in the Bill. If the clause were inserted, it would reveal at once the inherent drawbacks of selective education.

If and when a new Bill is presented to the House, we shall read it carefully to see how far the principles enshrined in the new clause are repeated in the same context. I refer to the Bill that the Minister says he will present to the House.

The Bill that we are trying to amend is of a different nature from the one that the hon. Gentleman has promised to the House, at least if we understand him correctly. The Bill before us, which we are trying to amend, is fully in the restrictive tradition of the 1870 and 1902 Acts. They may have been innovatory in their time but they were restrictive in their effect, as is the Bill.

Some Conservative Members have been having a good laugh this evening. They are in favour, or many of them are, of the selective system of secondary education. Many of the ills that we suffer in Britain today, especially difficulties of communication, of understanding, divisions in society due to different backgrounds and different forms of education, and the assumptions of superiority by some who have received certain types of education, may well spring from the deep divisions that separatist education has etched into British society over the past 50 years or more. Our national recovery,

which we all want to see, is prejudiced by the fissures in society that can be directly traced to the separatist system of education that many Conservative Members continue to advocate.

By tradition, Conservatives will buy their way out of the State education system if they can. If they cannot, they will create their own class system, paid for by public money, inside State schools. That is what the Bill is trying to do. The new clause would ameliorate that effect. The Government have rejected it. Their Bill will go into the dustbin of history, as have other restrictive Bills, and I hope that it will find itself there as soon as possible. I ask the House to vote for new clause 1.

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

The House divided: Ayes 200, Noes 277.

Division No. 55] AYES [11.35 p.m.
Abse, Leo Dobson, Frank Kinnock, Nell
Adams, Allen Dormand, Jack Lamborn, Harry
Allaun, Frank Douglas-Mann, Bruce Leadbitter, Ted
Anderson, Donald Dubs, Alfred Leighton, Ronald
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Duffy, A. E. P. Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Ashton, Joe Eadie, Alex Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Eastham, Ken Lyon, Alexander (York)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire) Lyons, Edward (Bradford West)
Beith, A. J. Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) McCartney, Hugh
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Ennals, Rt Hon David McElhone, Frank
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Faulds, Andrew McKay, Allen (penistone)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Field, Frank McKelvey, William
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough) Flannery, Martin Maclennan, Robert
Bradley, Tom Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McMahon, Andrew
Bray, Dr Jeremy Foot, Rt Hon Michael McNally, Thomas
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Foster, Derek McNamara, Kevin
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S) Foulkes, George McWilliam, John
Buchan, Norman Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood) Magee, Bryan
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Marshall, David (Gl's[...]w, Shettles'n)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Campbell, Ian George, Bruce Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)
Canavan, Dennis Ginsburg, David Meacher, Michael
Carmichael, Nell Graham, Ted Mikardo, Ian
Cartwright, John Grant, George (Morpeth) Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Grant, John (Islington C) Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)
Cohen, Stanley Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)
Coleman, Donald Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Conlan, Bernard Hardy, Peter Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
Cook, Robin F. Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Cowans, Harry Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Newens, Stanley
Crowther, J. S. Haynes, Frank Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Cryer, Bob Heffer, Eric S. Ogden, Eric
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire) O'Halloran, Michael
Cunningham, George (Islington S) Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) O'Neill, Martin
Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven) Home Robertson, John Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Dalyell, Tam Hooley, Frank Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Davidson, Arthur Horam, John Parry, Robert
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Howells, Geraint Pendry, Tom
Davies, E. Hudson (Caerphilly) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Penhaligon, David
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Prescott, John
Deakins, Eric Janner, Hon Greville Price, Christopher (Lewisham West)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Race, Reg
Dempsey, James Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)
Dewar, Donald Jones, Barry (East Flint) Richardson, Miss Jo
Dixon, Donald Kilroy-Silk, Robert Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North) Spriggs, Leslie Welsh, Michael
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Stallard, A. W. White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW) Stott, Roger White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Rodgers, Rt Hon William Strang, Gavin Whitehead, Phillip
Rooker, J. W. Straw, Jack Whitlock, William
Roper, John Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Wigley, Dafydd
Ross, Ernest (Dundee West) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Rowlands, Ted Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Ryman, John Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East) Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Sandelson, Neville Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen) Winnick, David
Sever, John Tilley, John Woodall, Alec
Sheerman, Barry Tinn, James Woolmer Kenneth
Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Torney, Tom Wrigglesworth, Ian
Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Urwin, Rt Hon Tom Wright, Sheila
Silverman, Julius Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley) Young, David (Bolton East)
Skinner, Dennis Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire) Watkins, David TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Snape, Peter Weetch, Ken Mr. John Evans and[...]
Soley, Clive Wellbeloved, James Mr. George Morter[...]
Spearing, Nigel
Adley, Robert Dean, Paul (North Somerset) Johnson Smith, Geoffrey
Aitken, Jonathan Dickens, Geoffrey Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Alexander, Richard Dodsworth, Geoffrey Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Dorrell, Stephen Kaberry, Sir Donald
Ancram, Michael Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Arnold, Tom Dover, Denshore Kimball, Marcus
Aspinwall, Jack du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Kitson, Sir Timothy
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Knight, Mrs Jill
Atkins, Robert (Preston North) Durant, Tony Knox, David
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Dykes, Hugh Lamont, Norman
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Eggar, Timothy Lang, Ian
Bell, Ronald Elliott, Sir William Langford-Holt, Sir John
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Eyre, Reginald Latham, Michael
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Faith, Mrs Sheila Lawrence, Ivan
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Farr, John Lawson, Nigel
Best, Keith Fenner, Mrs Peggy Lee, John
Bevan, David Gilroy Fisher, Sir Nigel Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Blackburn, John Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)
Body, Richard Fookes, Miss Janet Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Forman, Nigel Loveridge, John
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fowler. Rt Hon Norman Luce, Richard
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Fox, Marcus Lyell, Nicholas
Bowden, Andrew Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Macfarlane, Neil
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Fraser, Peter (South Angus) MacGregor, John
Braine, Sir Bernard Fry, Peter MacKay, John (Argyll)
Bright, Graham Gardiner, George (Relgate) Macmillan, Fit Hon M. (Farnham)
Brinton, Tim Garel-Jones, Tristan McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)
Brittan, Leon Glyn, Dr Alan Madel, David
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Gorst, John Major, John
Brooke, Hon Peter Gow, Ian Marland, Paul
Brotherton, Michael Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Marlow, Tony
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe) Grieve, Percy Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Browne, John (Winchester) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds) Mates, Michael
Bruce-Gardyne, John Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Mather, Carol
Bryan, Sir Paul Grist, Ian Maude, Rt Hon Angus
Buck, Antony Grylls, Michael Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Budgen, Nick Gummer, John Selwyn Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Bulmer, Esmond Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mayhew, Patrick
Butcher, John Hampson, Dr Keith Mellor, David
Butler, Hon Adam Hannam, John Meyer, Sir Anthony
Cadbury, Jocelyn Haselhurst, Alan Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hawkins, Paul Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn) Hawksley, Warren Miscampbell, Norman
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Hayhoe, Barney Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Channon, Paul Heddle, John Moate, Roger
Chapman, Sydney Henderson, Barry Monro, Hector
Churchill, W. S. Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Montgomery, Fergus
Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Hill, James Moore, John
Clark, Dr William (Croydon South) Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham) Morgan, Geraint
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Holland, Philip (Carlton) Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)
Clegg, Walter Hooson, Tom Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)
Cockeram, Eric Hordern, Peter Mudd, David
Colvin, Michael Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford) Murphy, Christopher
Cope, John Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Myles, David
Cormack, Patrick Hunt, David (Wirral) Neale, Gerrard
Corrie, John Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Nelson, Anthony
Costain, A. P. Hurd, Hon Douglas Neubert, Michael
Cranborne, Viscount Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Newton, Tony
Critchley, Julian Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Normanton, Tom
Crouch, David Jessel, Toby Nott, Rt Hon John
Onslow, Cranley St. John-Stevas, Rt Kon Norman Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Oppenheim, Rt Kon Mrs Sally Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Thornton, Malcolm
Osborn, John Shelton, William (Streatham) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Page, John (Harrow, West) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills) Trippler, David
Parkinson, Cecil Shersby, Michael Trotter, Neville
Parris, Matthew Silvester, Fred van Straubenzee, W. R,
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Sims, Roger Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Patten, John (Oxford) Skeet, T. H. H. Viggers, Peter
Pawsey, James Smith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton) Waddington, David
Percival, Sir Ian Speed, Keith Wakeham, John
Pink, R. Bonner Speller, Tony Waldegrave, Hon William
Pollock, Alexander Spence, John Walker, Rt Hon. Peter (Worcester)
Porter, George Spicer, Jim (West Dorset) Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down) Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire) Waller, Gary
Price, David (Eastleigh) Sproat, Iain Walters, Dennis
Prior, Rt Hon James Squire, Robin Ward, John
Proctor, K. Harvey Stainton, Keith Watson, John
Raison, Timothy Stanbrook, Ivor Wells, John (Maidstone)
Rathbone, Tim Stanley, John Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal) Stevens, Martin Wheeler, John
Rees-Davies, W. R. Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Whitney, Raymond
Renton, Tim Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire) Wickenden, Keith
Rhodes James, Robert Stokes, John Wiggin, Jerry
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Stradling Thomas, J. Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Ridley, Hon Nicholas Tapsell, Peter Winterton, Nicholas
Ridsdale, Julian Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW) Wolfson, Mark
Rifklnd, Malcolm Tebbit, Norman
Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Temple-Morris, Peter TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Rost, Peter Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S) Mr. Anthony Berry.
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Thompson, Donald

Question accordingly negatived.

Forward to