HC Deb 19 June 1979 vol 968 cc1155-250

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

5.23 p.m.

Mr. Donald Thompson (Sowerby)

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to contribute to the debate. I wish that I had made my maiden speech before that of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Green-way). He delivered his speech so ably that he has made me feel nervous. I thank my hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science for the clear way in which he opened the debate.

I am told that my accent makes it clear that I represent a Yorkshire seat. Sowerby is set in the mid-Pennines and stretches from the Lancashire border to the heart of Yorkshire. It has its regulation quota of historic landmarks—Saxon camps, Roman roads and civil war battlegrounds—but to the ever-increasing number of tourists who visit our beautiful valleys the area seems to epitomise the more rugged aspects of the Industrial Revolution. Here stone-built factories, canals, railways, chapels and schools are surrounded by well-farmed and beautiful hills, capped by wild moors.

Not all the mills now spin and weave, although many still do. Dozens of them house new industries and are supplemented with new factories and workshops. There are no huge firms in Sowerby. Even the internationally known ones employ no more than 400 or 500 people. However, the products that are manufactured are known worldwide. They include fire extinguishers, trousers, raincoats—and one may find a non-controversial abandoned Gannex raincoat in the Members' cloakroom—wire, machine tools, motor car components, manmade fibres and all possible types of cloth. A multitude of goods are produced from these small firms, not on huge industrial estates, but in the old mill towns.

Sowerby has always been politically aware, as one would expect in a place where the River Ludd still runs. Every election from parish to parliamentary, is keenly fought. My two predecessors did particularly well to hang on to the seat for more than 30 years. Many right hon. and hon. Members will remember Douglas Houghton who was the Member for over 25 years and is now rightly regarded by all with great affection He now sits in another place as Lord Houghton of Sowerby, the teachers' pet.

Douglas Houghton was followed by Mr. Madden, whose example of hard work and concern I shall do my best to follow. It was during Mr. Madden's time that the previous Parliament cajoled, pulled and pushed the local authority into reshaping the last two grammar schools in Sowerby and bringing them into the comprehensive system.

At that time I was chairman of the local education authority. I hope that Labour chairmen of Labour housing authorities will pay as much regard to the law when it becomes law as we had to only a few years ago. It is the responsibility of local government in Calderdale to make up its mind whether it wishes to remain within the comprehensive system. Either way it will have to find vast amounts of cash, whether to perfect the comprehensive system started 18 months ago or to revert to the old ways despite the many millions of pounds that have been spent.

Too often in the past the enterprise of comprehensive education has been set upon without cash or buildings and, most seriously, without hope of any improvement in the standard of education. The local authority now has or will have the right of self-determination. Local education authorities are more able to do things properly and rightly than are appointed health authorities, whose actions often seem to be nothing less than disgraceful.

As the right hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) said, having given local authorities those rights, perhaps there will be scope for a further Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman were here I would remind him that Kirklees became a Labour seat during the last election for the first time in 40 years. There may be scope for a further Bill that will give people the right to spend their money as they please and to spend that money on education if they wish. People spend a great deal of their money on education—pre-school play groups, correspondence courses, the Open university, non-vocational classes, and of course private schools.

People like the right to send their children to aided schools, and people in Sowerby are glad that this Government will actively support that right. They like the right to educate their handicapped and special children nearer at hand and not to have them transferred many miles away merely as a matter of regional convenience or budgetary consideration. Also, they like the right to look after their own immigrant children in the immigrant community. For years the people of the West Riding have been most tolerant, understanding and generous to immigrant groups, and as a result they rightly resent the inept experts of the race relations industry telling them how to do a job that they have done very well for many years.

The people of Sowerby seek two further rights. First, they would like the right to remove headmasters and teachers who do not teach their children properly or encourage their children to reach acceptable standards. Secondly, they would like the responsibilities of school meals, school transport and social work taken out of education budgets so that the proper amount of money can be spent on the real job of education. This Bill makes a start, but we all hope to see more.

5.33 p.m.

Mr. David Young (Bolton, East)

I think that it is appropriate that a Member from Lancashire should rise after a Member from Yorkshire. I extend my good wishes to the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Thompson) and thank him for the compliments that he paid to his predecessors. We look forward to hearing from him again in the House.

In 1976, when I voted for the Act to make education comprehensive I did so not from political dogma and not because I wanted conformity, but because, as a teacher, I believed that that was a way to provide the opportunity for children in our society.

One of the issues that led to my return to this House—against all the power of television and against all the prophecies of the present Government—was the fact that the people of Bolton had become heartily sick of their children being used as political pawns. Many people, including most of my constituents, accepted that when that Act was passed in 1976 the system of education in Bolton would become comprehensive. They believed, as I did, that, given the resources and given the political will of the local authority, we could have produced an educational system equal to anything that could be provided in England.

Unfortunately, now we find that Bolton is a divided area. The Churches have reorganised their schools on comprehensive lines, and much of the present district that was included in reorganisation is also reorganised on comprehensive lines. Therefore, I hope that when the Minister accepts my invitation to come to Bolton he will indicate why, if the children in my division are attending the local authority school, they will be deprived of parental choice if they wish to select a comprehensive school.

I could have understood that if, when the 1976 Act was passed, the local authority had opposed it. Far from opposing it, the authority indicated that that was the law and that it would obey it. It went even further than that. It appointed II heads to the prospective comprehensive schools. I am not a little confused because if my local authority, as it has indicated, reverts to a selective system for a small section of Bolton district, and if a head is then allocated to a school of smaller designation in financial terms than the one to which he was appointed originally, who will make up the difference in finance? I assume that the 11 heads have signed binding contracts. I assume also that no pressure will be brought upon them to revert from that position. I hope that the Minister will let me know the answer.

I admit that most of my information has come from the press and that one must check that. When I tried to check it I still found myself rather confused. I was told that the lawyers said one thing, but there would be a meeting in a week or two to sort the matter out. Either a contract is binding or it is not. If it is binding it means that the money agreed to be paid must be paid. I ask for a little clarification on that point as well as on the one of parental choice. What happens if the parents in by division opt for a comprehensive school rather than a school allocated under the 11-plus selection, which I am told the local authority is rushing through with undue haste?

The other point that I wish to raise is the question of two schools in my area. These are Castle Hill for boys and girls, and Tonge high school. When we proposed comprehensive education, and when the local authority accepted that plan these schools were offered £1.5 million. With a sudden change of mind the local authority not only decided to hold back on its own plan—and I emphasise its own plan—for changing Bolton to comprehensive education but at a stroke it got rid of the £1.5 million allocated to these schools. I should like the Minister to visit those two schools. I should like him to indicate how many of his councillors send their children to these schools. I should like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say whether he considers that there should be equality of treatment for all children and whether the facilities available in those schools match those of the other schools in Bolton.

Conservatives have been in control in Bolton since reorganisation. We should like to know what will be done about these schools with dedicated staff. What resources are offered to the children in Castle Hill and Tonge high schools? I am particularly concerned about Tonge high school because I am informed that woodwork benches have to be purchased secondhand from other schools. The physics laboratory at that school also gives me cause for concern. I should like to conduct the Minister around the school if he wishes to visit Bolton.

Leaving aside the arguments for or against the concept of comprehensive education, there must be equality in the distribution of resources to all children and all schools in Bolton. I hope that the Minister will direct his attention to these matters.

The only way to resolve the difficulties in Bolton is to pursue the Labour Government's policy and move towards comprehensive schools. I do not believe that comprehensive schooling can co-exist with selection. The two contradictions in terms that affect the disadvantaged child—not through lack of ability but because of lack of environmental advantages and opportunity—are the challenges of today.

I shall oppose the Bill in the Lobby because I believe that it will negate all the steps that were taken during the Labour Government's period of office to remedy the difficulties that are faced by hundreds of my constituents.

5.42 p.m.

Mr. William van Straubenzee (Wokingham)

I am sure that the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Young) will acquit me of any discourtesy if I do not follow him into the byways and bylanes of his constituency. However none of us can complain at his doing so. Nor can we complain at his understandable pleasure at finding himself in this place—apparently, somewhat unexpectedly. He must have felt like a man who has prepared himself for the next world and made all his confessions, only to find himself in the agreeable position of being dragged back to go on sinning. I hope that he will enjoy his stay in the House while it lasts.

I am the first Conservative Back Bencher to speak after two remarkable Conservative maiden speeches. Both speeches were referred to in typically courteous terms by the Labour Members who immediately followed them. However, I should like to say what an enormous pleasure and a great strength it is to have my hon. Friends the Members for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) and Sowerby (Mr. Thompson) taking part in debates. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North is well known in Conservative Party education circles. He played a leading part in its education reorganisation.

I have had the pleasure of knowing my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby for many years—we first met through an education link. I am told that he has an almost inexhaustible supply of good stories for after-dinner speeches. A large number of those stories are perfectly satisfactory for mixed company. In that respect he is similar to the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), although I suspect that the suitability of the latter's stories for mixed company is more in doubt. Nevertheless, they are always enjoyable.

I shall be voting for the Bill without any reservation or doubt. Where the comprehensive principle is concerned my views do not always receive 100 per cent. approval within the ranks of the Tory Party, but I have no doubts about the Bill. I wonder whether the Labour Party realises the damage that it has caused to the concept of the comprehensive principle by making it compulsory. I was interested to hear the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby, a former chairman of a local education authority, on the matter.

I believe that immense harm and damage was caused by the unnecessary compulsion. I am one of many who, given the proper background to the circumstances and correct preparation, believe that the wider opportunity and commitment and greater choice of subjects available in comprehensive schools are preferable to the selective system. It was made infinitely more difficult to argue that case once the matter became compulsory. I believe that the greater freedom will be beneficial and helpful to the concept.

The selective system in my constituency has broken down—at the insistence of young, largely Conservative parents. The idea that the comprehensive principle is exclusively a Labour Party concept is not borne out by the facts. I would not presume to talk about other areas, but in my constituency, which is new and which has grown unbelievably in a short time, public opinion would not accept that it was fair for 25 per cent. of children to attend one school and 75 per cent. to attend another. In my constituency there is one established grammar school only.

Once that percentage of selection is reached, the educational arguments do not prevail but the social arguments are more important—the sheep and goat policies. The young parent with abitions for his children in the kind of area that I represent—and areas in the new towns have gone very much Tory—responded to Conservative proposals, and it is that feeling that is being carried out in the present Government's policy. Those who seek to suggest that this is the way forward in the future will be helped and not hindered by the action taken by my right hon. and learned Friend in this Bill.

Mr. Christopher Price

We appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is expert in education matters and in new towns. He has told the House, quite properly, that a figure of 25 per cent. would be an unacceptable percentage to take away and put in a separate school. What percentage does he think would be acceptable in an area such as a new town, in which he is so expert?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Speaking of the area that I know well, de novo I would never seek to construct from scratch a selection of any kind at all. If I may answer the hon. Gentleman's question—I give this only as a timorous view, because it is a brave person who lays down the law on matters of this sort—believe that socially one can probably sustain such a figure up to about 10 per cent. That is a purely personal view. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) and I have taken part in education debates over many years and I know of his close study of these matters. However, if he asked me to produce some evidence of that "gut" feeling, I should be in difficulties. Speaking socially, I believe that figures would be about the limit that public opinion would stand. That is drawn from one type of experience only and I am not seeking to speak of any other area.

I wish to make on additional point. One casualty of the move towards compulsory comprehensive education, which is particularly sad and which has not so far been mentioned, is the direct grant grammar school. I believe deeply in the maintained sector, and I also believe that that is the Secretary of State's overwhelming priority, as he has made clear. Nevertheless, in a society such as ours there was great benefit in a form of organisation that brought together both the maintained and independent sectors. I hope that one day we shall have sufficient finance—I hope that this will happen under some Government some day—to enable us to go into partnership with the independent sectors and to harness to the service of a much wider social range of child the undoubted educational benefits that they have to offer.

I very much regret that one of the results of the compulsive comprehensive policy has been that so many excellent schools have been driven into the independent sector. I cannot believe that that is good for the sort of child for whom those schools were particularly developed. I await in hope and expectation that we shall see an advance on those lines.

I see the Bill as an extension of choice and freedom. In that sense it is exactly analogous with the compulsory requirement for the selling of local authority housing. The object behind both policies is the extension of choice, and that is precisely what the Bill is designed to do. The method will be different according to the service that one is dealing with, but the principle behind it is the same for both. I warmly welcome the choice provided in the Bill.

I am glad that my right hon. and learned Friend brought into his impressive Second Reading speech the subject of standards. The truth is that there are effective and good comprehensive schools, but one regrets that some are nothing like as good. The task before the House, and certainly before the Government, is the improvement of standards of all kinds, regardless of the organisation of the school. I am getting a little tired of hearing—too frequently in Conservative circles—the parrot talk to the effect that standards are automatically falling. I do not accept this. I think that some of that parrot talk, regardless of local circumstances and particularly social changes, is based on massive ignorance and is grossly unfair to the teaching profession.

I am sure that many hon. Members have visited schools in decaying inner city areas and have seen what teachers can do with what is, socially speaking, outwardly unpromising material. But if one expects teachers to be able to provide great results compared with that area in the days before it was socially deprived, one is asking the impossible of the teachers because one is isolating education from the social surroundings of the school.

I think that what is happening is that expectations are rising and that parents are demanding more. One of the most remarkable things about the teaching profession is that by and large—and one can identify one troublesome area—its members have succeeded so remarkably. The truth is that the bright young lad who would have gone into banking or industry at the age of 15 if he had left school in 1952, was staying on to take GCEO-levels and A-levels by 1962, and by 1972 he was going on to further or higher education. Such has been the change in expectations.

I have spoken to employers and have been lambasted about the general standards of education. However if one inquires into the IQ of the applicants for jobs, one finds that it is nothing less than a miracle that teachers have got those young persons to the standard of being able to apply for the quality of job. Of course there are deficiencies. One has only to mention the subject of mathematics to see a grave problem which, to do them justice, the Labour Government appreciated. We await with interest the results of the inquiry that they put in hand, It will be for Ministers, in so far as they can or indeed should control curriculum, to give a small lead. But it is right from time to time to stand up for the teaching profession.

In the general election campaign on a considerable number of occasions I was asked by some anxious Tory parents for an assurance that the passing of this Bill—a Bill of which I spoke with total frankness in my campaign—would not mean the unscrambling of the comprehensive schools to which their children went and a massive change of further reorganisation, and all the rest of it. There may be such grounds in certain instances—I would not seek to impose a judgment on every school in every part of the country—for putting the clock back, as some would say, if Tory local education authorities were to get it into their heads that the public want a massive reorganisation into separate schools. However, I believe that they would very much misjudge the character and feelings of parents.

The answer, in one sense, lies in resources, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby said so wisely. Resources would be very limited in terms of capital expenditure that would be necessary if one intended to unscramble comprehensive schools. We must not permit—I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend would not do so—what happened too often under the Labour Government. That was the approval of schemes which were not properly funded, not properly housed, and which made nonsense in terms of geography. On that occasion, the whole comprehensive system was brought into disrepute. On this occasion, such approval would bring the selective system into disrepute. On the Conservative side we must apply the high standards that we sometimes feel were not applied by the Labour side.

Those like myself, who say that this is the system of the present and the future, must be ready to look at the criticisms of comprehensive schools. Some have been shown. Size is one. We no longer press for massive comprehensive schools. It was at one time regarded as the Ark of the Covenant. As a result, in inner London, the Secretary of State and the Inner London Education Authority are faced with hideous social problems of mammoth schools which only a devoted headmaster or headmistress and the school staffs are able to keep going.

Far more parents than we realise feel strongly on the argument whether children should be educated in single-sex or mixed-sex schools. I shall not attempt to argue that matter now, but it is one of parental concern. I stand for a system that gives choice to parents, so far as resources allow. Too many of the re-organisation schemes have meant that this choice has been removed from parents.

In many comprehensive schools the process of selection is as emphatic and clear as it was under the old system. There are signs, in some places that selection is operated with such rigidity that it is more harmful when brought within the school than it was formerly when practised in two separate schools. These are criticisms to which we must be receptive.

We are far more likely to find the answers and to draw on the experience of those schools that have been successful if this is a voluntary move rather than a compulsory move. This is the way forward. This is what will give a fillip to our educational standards. Without any reservations but with the greatest enthusiasm, I shall go through the Lobbies in favour of the Bill.

6.3 p.m.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

The House has listened attentively to the contribution by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee). I sometimes wish that the Conservative leadership would listen as attentively to what he says and take account of his remarks. His speech contained a clear understanding of and commitment to, comprehensive education. He has a view where that decision should be made, which leads him to vote a certain way tonight. It was a commitment that seemed totally absent in the Secretary of State's contribution on the merits of the non-selective education system. It is disappointing that the Government have given no clue about what they want to see in forms of schools in the future. That is a point to which I shall return.

One would hardly think that hon. Members were dealing with the Government's highest legislative priority in education. That was the Secretary of State's own phrase. It is one of the Government's highest legislative priorities of all. Apart from the Budget, and independence for the Gilbert Islands, this is the first item in the shop window and the most important piece of legislation that the Government have to lay before us, yet it is of monumental irrelevance to what will happen in education, particularly secondary education, over the next couple of years.

The most dramatic event will be the impact of the cuts and financial restrictions, which have a direct bearing on the issues arising from the Bill. But they go far beyond that. They will have far more effect than this Bill on what happens in secondary education. I speak not only of the capital cuts set out in detail by the Secretary of State in a recent answer which, curiously and magically, add up to the same amount of money required to finance the assisted places scheme in the first year. Those cuts will have a severe impact, but I fear them slightly less than the effect on current expenditure of the rate support grant cuts.

I am worried about the effect of the capital cuts on special schools and nursery education. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman believes that great enthusiasm is generated in Tory authorities throughout the country by the prospect of being able to exchange the assisted places scheme for projects with which they would have liked to go ahead in their own schools, I have to disappoint him. The chairman of my Conservative education authority in Northumberland said that it would be better to concentrate on improving the general education service rather than a particular area, such as the independent and non-maintained schools. The chairman added Special cases could be provided for. But there aren't that many top private schools in the county, and our high schools have extremely high standards. We haven't got any money yet for an improvement in services. Any help for private schools would be bound to be limited, particularly with the Government's spending cuts. I know of no excitement for this change of direction, but there is great concern about the impact of the cuts. That concern was mainly about the capital cuts that were known. But there will also be the effect of the cut in rate support grant, the impact of which will be felt most keenly on the salary bill of education authorities. Where do we go then for higher standards, for lower class sizes or for giving individual attention to the brightest pupil or the pupil most in need of help? I hope that that is the objective of all hon. Members. Where do we look for nursery classes in the face of this major cutback? That will be the most dramatic development in education over the next couple of years.

Another reason why the Bill will not be relevant over the next two years is that it will make little difference whether the measure stays on the statute book or not. If anyone supposes that during the next five years right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench will use the powers in the Bill to ensure that the remaining non-comprehensive authorities go comprehensive, they are very much mistaken. I cannot understand why Ministers have brought forward the Bill at all. They can carry on playing the same game that some of the authorities have been playing for a long time—the delaying tactic of submitting comprehensive schemes that they hope will be disapproved, of submitting schemes at the latest possible stage and generally continuing a game of delay in order to avoid the ultimate decision, which will eventually come to them all, of trying to provide the full range of educational opportunities for all their children.

I do not have much love for the 1976 Act. When Mrs. Williams wielded it as an instrument for educational change it was hardly like Samson wielding the jawbone of an ass. It came badly unstuck in one or two instances of attempted use. It illustrated that the battle for comprehensive education has to proceed at two levels—the local level as well as the national level.

When the Government bring forward proposals not simply to remove powers of compulsion but to take the comprehensive principle out of legislation, we are bound to inquire what it is all about. I believe that the Government are looking for a way of striking an anti-comprehensive posture without doing or saying anything in particular. I was confirmed in that view by the opening remarks of the Secretary of State. Some of us, perhaps naively, entertained the hope that by his appointment he would occasion a shift in the apparent drift of his party leadership into an anti-comprehensive posture. The right hon. and learned Gentleman does not seem to have done so. All he does in slating the case for this legislation is to suggest that in some way it will enable more choice to be provided.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman was not talking about the choice to be given to education authorities to have one system or another; he was trying to strike the familiar chord in the minds of those of his hon. Friends who believe, against all the evidence, that a selective system means choice. A selective system does not mean choice; it means that those parents whose children pass the 11-plus examination can get those children into grammar schools. As the hon. Member for Wokingham pointed out, that leaves the great majority of other people seriously dissatisfied at the fact that their children have no choice at all.

I found totally lacking from the Secretary of State's speech any suggestion that he had began to recognise the value of a non-selective system. I believe that what he is looking for is the opportunity to strike a posture. I do not believe that he is engaged in some great devolutionary measure to change the whole relationship between central and local government in education. I do not believe that to be his motive, or that it would be the effect of the Bill.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman used the very phrase that I have in mind—a phrase that I do not like very much, but which is popular in his Department—that education is a national service locally provided. That phrase is often used in Elizabeth House. But elsewhere in his speech the Secretary of State seemed to suggest that, with the Bill, Elizabeth House would pack up and go home and a fundamental change would come about in the relationship between central and local government in education. I do not believe that it will, and I do not think that that is what lies behind it at all. Nor do I see any general drift in this Government towards that important and fundamental change in the way that we run our country.

In that context, I refer again to the example of housing, because I think that it proves what the Government are about. I should be very hard placed to find in my constituency many Conservative councillors who believed it right that they should have taken from them the right to judge housing needs and the need for a rented housing stock in their own area. They are not happy with the idea of having freedom taken from them, but the Government's attitude and action in that case shows clearly what is going on in these debates—that an argument is to be settled according to the views of people on that argument alone and not according to any grand conception of where the balance should lie.

One could have quite an argument about where the balance should lie in the issue now before us. I think that the strongest point in favour of allowing it to lie where it does now is that the general framework of education policy should include the right of children to have the full range of opportunity made available to them, particularly in the vital secondary years.

We make a number of things part of the general framework. We do not leave to local authorities power to decide whether they will provide primary education or they will end secondary education at 14 instead of 16. We set certain limits on what the service provided throughout the nation should be. As I say, there can be scope for argument where the limits be placed, but I do not detect in the Government's approach to this Bill any real rethinking about where the balance should be.

In my view, there are strong arguments against supporting the Government in this instance, because what they are trying to do is provide a sop to those among their own membership in this place and some of their party members—just some of them—in local authorities who want to be able to maintain an anti-comprehensive posture and who will be very happy to see the comprehensive principle removed from our national legislation. This has freed the Secretary of State from doing what he should have done today, that is, tell the House what he really thinks about the way in which secondary education in this country should develop.

If we strike the principle out of our national legislation, it will be seen, I believe, as an invitation to local authorities to begin to unscramble and to go back. That is what lies behind the fear expressed by the hon. Member for Wokingham. I believe that there are those in the Secretary of State's party who would love the opportunity to do just that.

There are others, I am glad to say, who have been loyal supporters of the comprehensive principle throughout. Many local education authorities have calmly gone comprehensive without any great legislative pressure. They must find the present Government's attitude a little puzzling, because of their total lack of any real commitment to a non-selective system.

Those hon. Members who believe, as I do, that education should not be selective in the secondary years will have to carry on the principal fight over the next five years to places other than this. I think that the fight will have to be locally fought, as it has been already to some extent in Tameside. There will be other occasions when we can win that fight locally.

At this stage, I advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to have nothing to do with the Bill, because I think that it is an attempt by the Conservative Party to get off the hook and please the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and others who want to see the comprehensive principle struck out—and not just out of national legislation but out of educational practice. We should have nothing to do with it. We owe it to our children to provide them with a secondary education system in which they are not denied opportunities because of a decision made at the age of 11. We shall be happy to win the battle outside the House, but let us get the principles right here.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton)

I do not recognise in this short and necessary Bill any of the aspects of caricature so vividly painted by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). I am a strong supporter of the Bill, for reasons which I shall set out in a moment. First, however, I wish to endorse the warm and well deserved tributes paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) to our two hon. Friends who have made their maiden speeches.

I was able to listen to the greater part of both those speeches, and I found that by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) to be quite fascinating, not least because I know from my previous contacts with him that he speaks from a wealth of personal experience in the education service. I remember serving with him on a number of interesting policy groups looking into aspects of education policy. It was a pleasure for me, and, I am sure, for the House, to have the benefit of his knowledge and advice in this debate.

Equally, I found it delightful to hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Thompson). It was an especial pleasure for me, as a mere southerner with a soft spot for people north of the Trent. I find it excellent that there is another Yorkshireman on these Government Benches. I have long supported Yorkshire in cricket and in many other things, and I thought it particularly welcome to hear my hon. Friend make such a powerful speech. I am sure that the whole House looks forward to hearing again from both my hon. Friends as frequently as they can catch the eye of the Chair.

I listened closely also to the right hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes), who opened for the Opposition Front Bench. I join my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State in congratulating him on his recent very well deserved honour. However, I thought that his comments on this short and necessary Bill, as I describe it, were well wide of the mark, and I shall now underline a few of the reasons why I say that.

If I noted his words correctly, the right hon. Gentleman began by describing the Bill as a short and mean measure. I think that those were his two adjectives. I agree with him on the first—I have used it myself—but I cannot agree on the second. It is a travesty of the truth. I regard it far more as a genorous Bill, generous in the sense that it seeks to do something which Governments have been all too bad at doing in recent years, that is, to get out of the way of people's decisions and choices in their own sphere, in matters which affect them personally.

In my view, the first responsibility of any Government, whether in education or anything else, is to ask themselves these questions: Is this an area in which we need or must intervene? Is it an area in which we must seek to compel people to do that which they might otherwise not want to do? Therefore, I think that the spirit which inspires this short Bill is one of generosity, not meanness.

The right hon. Gentleman then said that the Bill would bring back privileges for the few. That was his second charge, if I remember aright. In truth, there is a very different way of looking at the Bill. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman and the House that the Bill will in fact reopen opportunities for those who wish to take them.

We on the Conservative Benches—I am sure that my hon. Friends agree—are all in favour of reopening and extending personal and family opportunity in every sphere possible. That is why, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham said, the argument on this Bill hangs together with that on housing and about extending opportunities or reopening opportunities or reopening opportunities for people who want to take them.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether his interpretation is that the reopening of opportunities should apply only in those areas which have not yet complied with the current legislation, or that it should be applied more extensively even in areas which are now fully comprehensive?

Mr. Forman

The essence of reopening opportunities is to make available to people things which they are demanding. If there are areas of the country—indeed, I believe that this applies to the greater part of the country—where there is no visible demand either for delay or for the right to preserve selective education, I am not a believer in creating demand artificially where none exists. However, in my part of Greater London, the London borough of Sutton, there is very strong feeling on this issue, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane), now on the Front Bench, well knows, since he comes from the same borough. There is a strong feeling that good schools should not be destroyed needlessly in the name of a dogma—whether Socialist or any other.

Opportunities must be made available where there is a demand for them. In parts of the country, including my area, we are responding to local parental demand. The right hon. Member for Widnes said that the Bill undermines the existing comprehensive system. However, the Bill extends and underpins diversity. That is something in which Government Members believe. The Bill honours the principle of local choice.

The right hon. Gentleman also said that the Bill weakens the rights of parents and parental choice. In fact, the Bill strengthens parental rights where they are demanded. It does not extend those rights to those who have not demanded them. One cannot have immaculate choice and give 100 per cent. opportunity to everybody, but that does not mean that one should not make it available to those who seek it. To do that would be a denial of the basic principles in which I and my hon. Friends have believed for many years.

The Opposition's main arguments are weak at best. At worst they merely cover up their opinion that comprehensive education is a sacred cow which occupies a central position in Labour Party dogma. It is one of the few matters on which the various wings of the Labour movement can agree. They seize upon it with eagerness because they can rally round it. Members of the Labour Party can agree on the need for a wealth tax and on the need to abolish the House of Lords. Those issues will provide enough cement to keep them tenuously together for a while. Comprehensive education also falls into that category.

I welcome this short and necessary Bill, on behalf of parents, pupils, teachers and others involved in the London borough of Sutton. I am delighted that this is one of the first Bills to be introduced in this Session. It is particularly welcomed by the parents and all those connected with two of the best schools in my constituency, the two high schools in Wallington, which have laboured under a degree of educational blight because of the uncertainty caused by the previous legislation. It will be a relief to everybody connected with those schools that the Bill is to be enacted speedily.

The Bill represents the speedy fulfilment of one of our most important election pledges—to restore local authority freedom. We must remember that it does no more than restore the position, broadly speaking, to what it was under the 1944 Act. Let us not listen to the nonsense about tearing up consensus and education principles. This Bill is in the mainstream of education policy since 1944.

The Labour Party's record has, in contrast, been damaging and expensive. The Labour Party has clung to this aspect of its dogma not because of the merits of its policy, as set out in the 1976 Education Act, but because this was one of the few areas on which its warring factions could agree easily.

This is a "freedom from" Bill, as opposed to a "freedom to" Bill. It is urgently necessary. Essentially, it represents freedom from Socialist compulsion and freedom from the obsession with social engineering. My hon. Friends and I had many opportunities to discuss this during the proceedings on education legislation in the previous Parliament. We look forward to a "freedom to" measure to succeed this Bill which will incorporate the principles of the parents' charter—which was originally suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton)—local authority rights to take up places at independent schools and the much heralded and welcome assisted places scheme. All those are aspects of freedom.

It is not sufficient to concentrate on restoring negative freedom, important though that is. We must move on early in this Parliament to the positive freedoms which have been described by the Secretary of State. The education service is experiencing difficulties, not least because of the financial constraints within which it must operate. I have much sympathy with teachers, administrators and others in the uncomfortable choices that they must now make. This is one of the practical effects of five years of low growth—in some cases no growth—under the Labour Government. There is no doubt that the arguments in favour of our Budget policies and other broad policies is that they give the country the last hope of creating that amount of new economic growth that will enable us do all those things about which Opposition Members so often preach but which are so seldom achieved by them because of the frailty of their economic policies.

There is an urgent need to do more for nursery education at both local and national level. We must put greater emphasis on training teachers for the younger end of the statutory age range. What I call the Rolls-Royce sectors in education—the higher and further sectors—have taken too much of the share of available resources recently. If we want value for money at a time when the money available for education is bound to be limited we must concentrate our scarce resources on the young.

I hope that the £1.4 million which has been lopped off nursery provision by the Budget will be restored quickly when the Government are able to afford the level of spending on education that I should like to see. If it proves not to be possible to restore that particularly important area I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench will consider the possibility of switching some of the funds within the existing education budget, tight though the problem may be, from the older end of the statutory age range towards the younger end. Taking into account the fact that because so much of the necessary spending on nursery education is discretionary rather than statutory, the local authorities concerned—including my own in the London borough of Sutton—may need some kind of special help to give a long-overdue boost to nursery education. That is very much my hope.

There are many other important aspects of education which one might touch upon within the framework of this Bill but I shall confine myself to the need for more book provision. When we talk about the basics of education, nothing is more important than adequate spending on books. This issue, and that concerning the younger end of the age range, ought to be the two priorities for the new Government as they look at the positive side of their policies for education provision.

I join in the welcome given by my right hon. and learned Friend to the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). It is good to see his prematurely balding head on the Front Bench No doubt over the coming weeks and months he will lose a bit more hair over some of the problems in the education service. We on the Government side look forward to the pronouncements of someone whom the press has described as a leading Left-winger who is said to have lost his political virginity since he accepted Shadow office. That probably does not apply to the hon. Gentleman, who I think lost his virginity a long time ago, and who was certainly the bane of his Whips for many years before his recent elevation. I hope, in all seriousness, that the hon. Gentleman will spend the bulk of his time as Shadow spokesman defending the real interests of children, of parents and of the education service generally, and in supporting my right hon. and learned Friend when he seeks to do that. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will spend less of his time, as I understand he has done recently—when I presume he had more freedom—at TUC economic meetings or at political demos.

Bad examples were set in the past in this matter by the previous Secretary of State for Education and Science. The right hon. Lady came to regret those examples. She said so from this Dispatch Box on a number of occasions. I hope that we can carry forward the education service of this country with the benefit of this Bill, and its successor later in this Parliament, on a stable basis so that the whole House can give its full-hearted backing to what is one of the most vital services to which we contribute public money.

6.33 p.m.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

The hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman) complimented my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) on his new appointment and said that my hon. Friend had lost his political virginity. I presume that that implies that the rest of us have retained ours. We shall deal with that implication accordingly.

The hon. Gentleman used the usual clouded verbiage of the Tories about freedom—I think that was one of the words he used—of parental choice, and about a parents' charter. They were very interesting words but they have no impact whatsoever. The reality is that after all these long years more than 80 per cent. of our parents had no choice, and their children had no choice. They were put into the secondary modern schools. That is the stark reality and it ill becomes hon. Members to use such nice-sounding nouns and adjectives because we know precisely what those words mean. I ally myself, in general terms, with the speech made by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). He saw very clearly the essence of this Bill. When the Secretary of State says airily that, of course, the Bill is not about comprehensive education but about section 13 of the 1944 Education Act he really must weigh up to whom he is talking. The reality is that this is a very dangerous and important Bill.

It demonstrates the class posture of the Tory Party on education. This is the reality from which the Tory Party can never break away, try as it might. It can never get away from the fact that it wants pelf, place and privilege for Tories and their children no matter, at whose expense. Of course, it implies something a great deal more serious than appears on the surface.

I was interested in the views of the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) who has always been—and I choose my words carefully—perceptive about comprehensive education. I would hazard a guess that that is why he is on the Back Bench and not the Front Bench. Everybody knows that he believes in comprehensive education although he was eager to say that he supports this anti-comprehensive Bill. But he is a member of the Tory Party and these things must be said.

If one believes, or partially believes, in comprehensive education, one is held back from full belief by membership of the Tory Party which at this moment is in the hands of its ultra-Right wing. When I heard the hon. Member for Carshalton speaking about the difficulties which we shall experience in the Labour Party during the coming months I thought he must be joking. The fact is that on every aspect of its policy on education, the Conservative Party is on the horns of a terrible dilemma. It does not know where it is because its policies are so far to the Right that, already, the people who voted for the Tories have rumbled what is happening. If there were another vote now we would see a tremendous change.

I take up the point made by the hon. Member for Wokingham concerning the element of compulsion in the 1976 Act. All laws are compulsive and the word "compulsion" is an emotive one. We all use it yet most of us hate the idea of being compelled to do that which they do not wish to do. However, the implication that people do not want comprehensive education is absolute claptrap. Most Tory voters wanted comprehensive education and still do and the proof of that is the refusal of the Conservative Party to unscramble comprehensive education. It dare not do it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) made this fundamental point. The Tories dare not unscramble comprehensive education because their supporters believe in it. This Bill is for a very select elite grouping. It is not designed for the bulk of the voters. The bulk of the voters, whether Labour or Tory, profoundly believe in and accept comprehensive education. The Tory Party knows that as well as I do.

Shirley Williams talking about the 1976 Act on television today pointed out something which is profoundly true, namely that in addition to it being necessary to have comprehensive education we need continuity, nationally, in education. We need a situation where people who are moving about the country can enter their children in a new school where they can take up where they left off as reasonably as possible, and continue their education up to the higher levels with as little upset as possible.

The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) revealed in his maiden speech that he was a teacher. There was a great deal of sincerity in what he had to say although he does not agree with us. Fair enough. He said that we had oversold comprehensive education. It would be considerable achievement if we in the Labour Party could oversell anything. The propaganda machine is completely in the hands of the Tory Party. Every time we breathe the word "comprehensive" there are fulminations in the entire press from the Sun to the Daily Telegraph. The Daily Mirror comes out on our side but that is only because the Daily Mirror knows that there is a sale for our point of view.

Practically the whole of the media attack comprehensive education relentlessly, but they have failed. The people have seen that comprehensive education is for them. Therefore any talk, especially by a teacher, of our overselling it is unreal.

It has been said that we promised everybody a grammar school education. I would not dare to promise everybody a grammar school education—God forbid. Many of us went to grammar schools. We know that, no matter how it is praised by the Conservatives, grammar school education was a narrow, academic education with hardly any practicality. We have moved beyond that. The Conservative Party has not, although it likes small classes and large numbers of teachers for its children.

We have gone far beyond the academicism of grammar schools. We want a much longer period for our children. We hope wider, more general education for a that the lairds of the Conservative Party will occasionally move in a progressive direction and want that for all children. They do not want good education for all children. They want it exclusively for a small group.

The hon. Member for Ealing, North pleaded for more fire equipment in schools. I am surprised that the Tories do not rush through a Bill to withdraw all the fire equipment from comprehensive schools. They hate them.

The Secretary of State frequently used the phrase "the quality of education". Much has been said about the quality of education. Some time ago the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) and his colleagues introduced the first Black Paper, which was followed by others, in which they talked a pack of nonsense, de tracting from education and its achievements. All their newspapers blazoned that forth as though it were divine revelation. It was found necessary for us to have what was called a great debate in education. It was far from being a great debate, but it was welcomed by most teachers because it gave them the opportunity to give the lie to what was being said in the Black Papers about standards. It was a long debate, and it was conducted all over the country.

As a result of the debate we produced quite a big discussion paper in July 1977. In paragraph 4 of the background we said: It is simply untrue that there has been a general decline in educational standards. Critics who argue on these lines often make false comparisons, for instance,"— and this means the Tories— with some non-existent educational golden age of the past, or matching today's school leavers against those of a generation ago, without allowing for the fact that a far larger proportion of boys and girls now stay on into the sixth form. Recent studies have shown clearly that today's school children read better than those of 30 years ago. Far more children over a wider range of ability study a modern language or science than did a generation ago. Many more take and pass public examinations. Many more go on to full-time higher education. That was not only my opinion, although it vindicated the opinion I held at the time. It was based on wide-ranging discussions throughout the country's education movement. Yet Conservative Members still, in the face of massive research and all the evidence, try to convey the impression that education today is worse than it was in that pseudo-golden age for which they long, when we did not have comprehensive education and they had their way.

The 1976 Act is a danger to the Conservative Party. The Act seeks to educate wide groups of children to the highest level in the most compassionate way that we know. It is one of the most advanced and compassionate of all Education Acts.

The 1944 Act, good as it was, enshrined selection. The 1976 Act does not want selection. The hon. Gentleman intoned like an incantation the glories of the 1944 Act, without facing the reality that we had to go a stage further and abolish selection. The 1976 Act did that and opened up a whole new vista of educational opportunity to all our children. The Act is hated by the Conservative Party precisely because it is democratic and compassionate and abolishes selection.

What do the Conservatives know about selection? How can they know much about it? Their policies are formulated by a Cabinet literally all of whose members went to Oxbridge. It is the most Right-wing public school Cabinet there has been for a century—and that was said first not by me but by Peregrine Worsthorne.

What can the Cabinet know about the State education system? In my last speech on education I pointed out that when the present Prime Minister came to Sheffield she went to one school, a direct grant school. There are 250 other schools outside in the State system. Her adviser went to a little school called Westbourne preparatory school, and he advised her on the education and training of teachers. That is still the Conservative approach to education.

The Bill seeks not to improve our children's education but to improve the position of a small, select minority at the expense of the overwhelming majority of our children. It is only a beginning. That was why the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed was right when he said that it betrayed the posture of the Tory Party on education. The Bill is the beginning of an all-out assault on comprehensive education. If this happens, the whole front will be broadened and deepened.

When I hear the Bill being backed up by such unctuous hypocrisy and pseudodemocracy, it almost makes me puke, because I know what the Conservatives are after in this struggle. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who is known in our ranks as Von Macclesfield, laughs at what I have just said. We would expect that.

There is a pretence of goodness about the Bill when the real aim is to attack the children of working people. On 22 May I asked the Secretary of State if he has any plans to allow the reintroduction of the 11-plus examination in areas where it has been abolished". The hon. Member for Brent, North replied as follows: It will be for local education authorities to decide the most appropriate form of organisa tion of secondary education for their areas, and to submit proposals to my right hon. and learned Friend, wherever necessary, under section 13 of the Education Act 1944, as amended."—[Official Report, 22 May 1978; Vol. 967, c. 72–73.] If ever there was a blunt statement of an all-out attack on comprehensive education, that answer is it. It gives the game away. It means that in those places where there is a settled education for our children, where they are going higher than they have ever been in the whole history of education, the aim is to unsettle it and, with this Bill, to begin to unscramble the whole of it. It is no good the Conservatives denying that, because it is what everybody is steadily beginning to see, in the midst of all the problems that we face.

I am glad that the Government have introduced the Bill so quickly. I am glad that the claws have been seen, as they are being seen in economic directions and in every other direction. More and more people are seeing the Tories for what they are.

The class prejudice in the Bill is paramount. I have always said that in education, prejudice on a class basis is more naked than anywhere else, on whichever side it is to be found. But the nakedness of the class prejudice in favour of a small group of children, who are already privileged compared with the rest of our children, stands out. I think that the Bill is wicked, because it attempts to set back the bulk of our children at the expense of a few. Everybody knows that over four-fifths of our boys and girls are now attending comprehensive schools. There is massive evidence that both Tory and Labour voters wish to continue with these schools.

Why is it that the majority want comprehensive education? It is because every boy and girl is denied the full flowering of their education under the tripartite system. We realised that when we examined the secondary modern schools, despite the efforts of honourable people, such as teachers, to do something about it.

Comprehensive education brings together children from different backgrounds. The Labour Party knows that comprehensive education has problems. We are the last people on earth to say that the neighbourhood schools solve all the problems. The hon. Member for Wokingham said that comprehensive education is causing terrible things to happen because the schools are too large. He is totally wrong although I believe that he means well.

A school is not an organisation for rectifying the ills of society although it tries hard to fulfil that role. A school reflects the ills of society in its area. I am the first to admit that if a comprehensive school is in a difficult area it is likely to prove a difficult school. It will not help to take the top 5 per cent. of pupils and send them to another school at the far end of the city, leaving the other 85 per cent. to 90 per cent. where they were. What good will that do? The solutions advocated by the Government are merely pseudo solutions.

There have been tremendous achievements in comprehensive education, but side by side with these are real problems with which we are all grappling. The Labour Party invites members of the Conservative Party to help us grapple with the problems instead of using their press and propaganda machine to try to help an elite grouping and prevent the children whom the Labour Party are helping from receiving a decent education.

The Tory Party talks about freedom of choice, but what freedom of choice was there for 85 per cent. of the parents? I was an 11-plus invigilator and I had to mark papers for many years. When that examination disappeared from Sheffield it was as if a great cloud had been lifted from the primary schools. Everybody said so. Instead of having a narrow curriculum of English, arithmetic and mechanical tests—the "Friday morning is test morning" mentality—we were able to give children a broad, general education. The schools began to flower.

Any honourable teacher will say that there was an amazing change when the 11-plus disappeared. The primary schools became the pride and joy of the international educational world. Observers loved to come to our schools. One went into schools in the east end of cities that were like fairyland. The children exhibited their work on the classroom walls and modern teaching methods were used. Experiments were taking place. There were no experiments with the 11-plus. There was merely adherence to a narrow system of education.

When the Conservative Government seek to resurrect the 11-plus let them think what they are doing. I describe the Bill as a wicked measure because of its effect on children and parents. When results of the 11-plus were given to parents we often found that children in Conservative areas of Sheffield would not be allowed out to play because they had failed the examination. What a nauseating business to pour into a child's ears at the age of 11 years that he is a failure. That is what the 11-plus did. It consigned them to a lower form of education instead of allowing them to go to the higher echelons of education.

The Labour Party is proud of the 1976 Act. It is the greatest Act since the 1870 Act. It was the greatest stride in the democratisation of education that Britain had ever seen. The Tories will have the task of trying to take away the great advance that the Labour Party struggled towards. Let them try. They will be faced with the anger of all the people.

I hear the Tory Party say "It is in our manifesto". Does it honestly believe that its supporters voted for that issue? In The Observer on Sunday Alan Watkins wrote about the nonsense of always saying that every aspect of a manifesto is voted for independently by everybody. The reality is that voters were conned by money being put into their pockets at a time when money was short. They voted basically on that one measure. However, it is said that everybody is "agin" comprehensive education.

The Bill embodies Tory education philosophy. It contains that which is best for Tories. They apparently have a real fear of educating the majority of children to a higher level. I am at a loss to understand why. They somehow believe that by educating their own children to an elite level other children will be left behind and they will still be in a position of authority. That belief will come home to roost. The Conservative Party claim of carrying out its election programme is nonsense. Most of the electorate does not examine a manifesto in that way. I wish it did. In reality the electorate votes for the main planks in a political platform.

The hon. Member for Carshalton spoke about public expenditure cuts. They will be massive. A cut in education is a cut in compassion. It means that the children in the State system will not receive the education that would be available if there were more money, smaller classes, more teachers and better classrooms. Does anybody believe that the Conservative Party, having cut expenditure in education for our children, will cut expenditure for its own children? It will not. The Government will introduce education cuts that will hammer our children. They will use the money for the rich.

My hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes) said that 220 hon. Members attended Oxbridge. Most were from the Conservative Benches. The Cabinet is entirely public school. Will its children suffer? Will money be taken away from the education of its children? It will not and the Government know that it will not. When they make public expenditure cuts in education they are cutting the education of the majority of children in Britain, but certainly not that of their own.

Government decisions will be taken by those who attended preparatory schools, crammers, public schools and Oxbridge. Those are the people who will make decisions about the future of our children's education. We shall fight that. The Conservative Cabinet is drawn more than any Cabinet this century from the ruling echelons of the upper class.

Mr. Forman


Mr. Flannery

I am sorry that I have stung the hon. Gentleman, but I shall finish my remarks. What do the Government know about the State system? When did Ministers or Tory Back Benchers last go into an ordinary school? When did they talk to the children in the east end of the big cities? When did they examine how much equipment there is in such schools compared with that at Eton and Harrow?

Conservatives hate the State system with an undying hatred. They reject further advancement for our children. They distort the problems with which we are grappling. They use their propaganda machine to tell the most outrageous lies about what goes on in comprehensive schools. They do not face reality, and when they get a chance they introduce Bills to try to curb the education of ordinary children. They have a press that says exactly what they want it to say. That is what the present Bill is about.

This measure is an all-out attempt to put the clock back in the interests of those who have pelf, place and privilege. That is what the Bill is about, and the Labour Party recognises it. Let us not fool ourselves about its aims. It is only the beginning. It shows the Conservative Party's posture on education. Once a major inroad has been made it will be widened and deepened. There will follow a full-scale assault on comprehensive education. The Government dare not make that assault now because the public would not tolerate it.

This is the beginning of a major and sustained assault on the whole concept of comprehensive education. We must fight it here, in Committee and outside the House. We must warn our constituents from every platform. We should devote time to explaining what the Bill is about. We should let everybody know that their comprehensive schools are beginning, once again, to be endangered by the Conservative Party.

7 p.m.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

What an amazing speech we have just heard. If anybody wanted to know why the Conservative Party won the last election, that speech would be one of the finest demonstrations that we have heard for a long time. I have never heard such diabolical class-conscious claptrap in all my seven and a half years in the House. I hope that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), who is a member of the teaching profession, will be thoroughly ashamed, when he reads his speech in Hansard tomorrow, of what he has said—not only to the House, but beyond, through the press, to the people of this country.

The hon. Gentleman was critical of the present Government, stating that they all went to Oxbridge. [Hon. Members: "So did you".] I do not happen to be a member of the present Cabinet. The Prime Minister is the product of a Lincolnshire grammar school. Perhaps it shows the quality of the education at that school that my right hon. Friend passed very well to university—yes, to Oxbridge—and then got a good degree.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Hillsborough speaks for the people of Hillsborough, although there was a substantial swing from the Labour Party in his constituency—

Mr. Flannery


Mr. Winterton

Yes, there was. Statistics that I have obtained from the Library show that there was a 6.2 per cent. swing from Labour to Conservative in Hillsborough. So the hon. Gentleman does not speak for all those in his constituency. Perhaps some who voted for him previously decided this time that his example in the House did not encourage them to do so again.

During his rather long speech the hon. Member also said that all was well in education and that the comprehensive system would be a panacea and would lead to future success—[Hon. MEMBERS: "He did not say that."] Yes, he did.

Mr. Flannery

No, I did not.

Mr. Winterton

I am happy to let the hon. Gentleman intervene, if he wishes.

If, as the hon. Gentleman implies, all is well, why did the ex-Prime Minister, the current Leader of the Opposition, launch the "great debate" under the previous Government, clearly reacting to the views of a large number of people concerned about the system and the standards of education? The then Secretary of State, Mrs. Shirley Williams, took up the great debate and went storming around the country addressing many meetings, seeking to understand people's concern and promoting the Socialist approach to education.

Nevertheless, education was one of the reasons why the Socialists lost office. The hon. Member may say that people do not read election addresses or manifestos, but Governments are often criticised by people for not honouring their manifesto commitments. The people can read, they do read and they know what the parties are promoting at election time.

This Bill was a commitment in the Tory manifesto. I therefore welcome the Secretary of State's exposition because it honours what the Tory Party said to the electorate.

The hon. Member for Hillsborough may criticise those who go to public school and Oxbridge—or other leading universities, of which there are many excellent examples. However, he went on to imply that Conservative Members took little interest in and had little knowledge of the maintained sector. Perhaps he did not study the debates in the previous Parliament, when Conservative Members showed not only their concern but their deep involvement in that sector—if not now, as hon. Members, at the time when they were in local government.

I myself, for six years, served on an education committee and was active as a governor and manager of many secondary, and infant and junior schools.

Mr. Cryer

Where do the hon. Gentleman's children go?

Mr. Winterton

I have a child at a maintained school. That deals with the sedentary intervention of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) who just scraped back at the last election.

I was chairman of the governors of a non-selective co-educational high school in the division that I served on the county council. I took an active interest outside formal governors' meetings, social events and speech days. I attended at other times to see the type of education provided. I am concerned about the quality of the education that we provide for all children, not just those whose parents—some of them Labour Members—can send them to fee-paying schools.

I should like to welcome to his new responsibilities—I am sorry that he is not present at the moment—the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). He is a proponent of revolution, even if not of devolution, but I am sure that the House and the Committee will be entertained by his speeches in response to the Conservative case.

I should like to pay tribute also to the right hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) and join in the congratulations expressed on his elevation to the Privy Council. I have not always agreed with the right hon. Member—he and I often sparred in Committee on the Education Bill in the previous Parliament—but I always respected his sincerity in promoting a case and his knowledge of teaching and education. I wish him well in whatever post he is given hi future.

Where does comprehensive education stand in Tory education philosophy? The Secretary of State pointed out that the first comprehensive schools were established by Conservative education authorities.

Mr. Flannery

Tell us where.

Mr. Forman

In Surrey.

Mr. Winterton

As my hon. Friend says, in Surrey—and in other parts of the country. The first comprehensive schools were established by Conservative education authorities so the hon. Member's attempt to persuade the House that the Bill seeks to undermine and destroy the comprehensive system is a total distortion of the truth.

We believe in quality of education and equality of opportunity for all children according to their ability. There were faults in the Education Act 1944, which was condemned by the hon. Member for Hillsborough. However, that Act enjoyed the support of all parties. At that time education did not feature as a major campaign in party politics as it does today. Education became a major area of party conflict when the Labour Party issued the notorious circular 10/65, which sought to impose a system of secondary education on local education authorities.

If the selective system has not worked as well as we would have liked, I wonder whether the fault lies not within the selective system itself but in the way in which teachers are paid under Burnham. Head teachers are rewarded in accordance with the number of pupils, particularly in the fifth and sixth forms at the top of their schools. Therefore many secondary modern school head teachers may not have taken the advice and recommendation of the form master or mistress of a pupil and transferred him to the local grammar school. They retained such pupils in the school, realising that here was the basis of a sixth form, which could produce financial benefits for the school staff.

Mr. Flannery

That is typical.

Mr. Winterton

It is irrelevant whether hon. Gentlemen say that that is typical of the way in which Government supporters argue. In some areas the transfer of pupils from secondary modern to grammar schools worked very well. Indeed, there were some cases in the reverse direction, with children going from grammar to secondary modern schools. In the area in which I served as a county councillor children were sent down from the grammar school across the road for a more appropriate education.

Mr. Flannery

That was a Freudian slip.

Mr. Winterton

That may well have been described as a Freudian slip. However, the secondary modern school was down the road. I was correct in describing the situation as I did originally. The headmaster of the school was progressive. He has gone on to more important positions. He recommended that children should move up from the high school—we operated a "high school system" in Warwickshire—to the grammar school, where they would benefit from a more academic education.

Mr. Marks

Were those who were sent from grammar schools to secondary modern schools transferred on grounds of intelligence—thus proving that the 11-plus examination had been wrong—or were the transfers made on the ground of behaviour?

Mr. Winterton

The transfers were not made on the ground of behaviour. They occurred on the ground that the courses offered at the grammar school were too much for the young persons.

I accept that there are areas of doubt in any form of selection. When somebody selects a person for a job a mistake may be made. The electorate of various constituencies may feel having elected their Member of Parliament, that they made a mistake. No selection can be 100 per cent. sure. There will be areas of doubt and inaccuracy. For all its faults the 11-plus examination proved to be highly successful. There were few selection errors at the 11-plus examination, whether on the basis of the written examination, the assessment, or a combination of both.

Mr. Flannery

The hon. Gentleman, in his enthusiasm, has just given the game away. Is he advocating that we should now bring back the 11-plus because it was a success?

Mr. Winterton

On previous occasions the hon. Gentleman sought to put words in my mouth. The 11-plus examination was not the horror that it was so often painted by the hon. Gentleman. If grammar schools are retained in local education authority areas there must be some form of selection, whether by assessment or by other means. I am not opposed to selection. Life is about selection from birth until death. Therefore we cannot get away from it. To blur choice in education is to undermine what education is all about and to rob those who need them of the opportunities and facilities of that type of education.

I commend my right hon. and learned Friend for the way in which he presented this short, constructive and positive Bill. I look forward to the winding-up speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson). He visited my constituency last Friday and addressed a large meeting of the Macclesfield Conservative political centre. It was a far larger meeting than those addressed by any Euro-candidate in the North-West in the recent European Assembly elections. That may indicate the lack of interest in Europe, but it also indicates a definite interest in education in the Macclesfield area. It is relevant that my hon. Friend had a successful meeting in Macclesfield. He was accompanied by Professor Cox, whom I greatly admire, the author of one of the education Black Papers, which contained a great deal of sense.

We in Macclesfield are facing the decision whether or not to go comprehensive. That is a difficult decision. The hon. Member for Hillsborough implied that Tory Party policy was privilege for the few and disadvantage for the many. The majority of the representations made to me by parents and pupils about the proposals to go comprehensive in the Macclesfield district come from those who live in the more deprived areas of the Macclesfield constituency. These people feel strongly about the importance of the grammar school and the benefit that a grammar school education gives to children from deprived and difficult backgrounds.

I had the same experience when, for six years, I represented an area that had previously been a Socialist county council seat. I visited many residents, in the less desirable council estates, whose children were at grammar school. I met one such pupil who, starting from a humble begin ning, became a doctor. The grammar school gave him opportunities and he had gone on to university. He achieved a great deal through the grammar school system of education, which served this country so well for such a long time.

Under no circumstances could this Bill be described as mean. It merely reflects the democratic decisions made by the electorate on 3 May. It is very easy for the hon. Member for Hillsborough and others on the Opposition Benches to deny the democratic rights of the people and the opinions that were expressed by those who went to the polling stations and cast their vote for a party which promoted a certain policy on education.

Referring back to Macclesfield for a moment, the hon. Member for Hillsborough might be pleased to hear that it appears that the Cheshire education authority, without adequate consultation with the people of Macclesfield and the councillors representing them, has decided to proceed with the original proposals, which were on the drawing board and in the system before the change of Government on 4 May, to implement, as from September this year, a fully comprehensive system.

Mr. John Evans (Newton)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that some of us who are MPs for constituencies in Cheshire find his arguments somewhat startling? There are only nine Labour councillors on Cheshire county council and about 50 Conservative county councillors. The county council's plans for comprehensive education in the Warrington and Macclesfield areas have been well known for a long time, and the Conservative chairman of the education committee has made it perfectly clear that it is far too late to change the proposals.

Mr. Winterton

If the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Evans) had listened to my words he would have understood that I did not say only the elected representatives for the Macclesfield area, but also the people of the Macclesfield area. I understand that the chairman of the education committee in Cheshire, County Councillor Ken Maynard, has offered a referendum so that the people of that area can express their view on whether they wish to proceed with comprehensive education. He has not made the same offer to Macclesfield.

The Cheshire education authority is proceeding with its original plans, although when those plans were put forward it was because the county was legally obliged to submit an all-comprehensive plan in accordance with the Education Act 1976. I believe that it would have been rational, sensible and responsible for the chairman of the education committee, no doubt after consultation with his committee, to have carried out an urgent and immediate review of the proposals for those areas of the county where comprehensive education was not in operation to see whether it was possible and feasible to retain the present selective system, or whether the reorganisation plans had gone too far and the financial, social and educational costs would have been too great.

Bearing in mind that the plans were submitted by the Cheshire education authority under duress in order to concur with its legal obligations under the 1976 Act, the local education authority has a moral commitment to the electorate of the Macclesfield area to undertake an urgent review to see whether the current system of education could be retained.

I was interested in the contribution of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith).

Mr. Oakes

I must intervene at this point because the chairman of the education committee in Cheshire is, as I said to the House, my old opponent and my constituent. It simply is not true that Cheshire was constrained to submit plans to the Government for comprehensive education. In parts of Cheshire there may be no comprehensive education, but the county as a whole willingly submitted those plans, and Councillor Maynard has made it very clear indeed, on television and in the press, that he has no intention of being coerced by any Government into changing those plans for comprehensive education.

Mr. Winterton

Again I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he reads in Hansard what I said. I was referring specifically to my area. The comprehensive plans were submitted for Macclesfield only to comply with the legal obligations of the Education Act 1976. My area did not wish to go comprehensive. It wished to retain its present selective system, and I fully supported its decision to do so, but Cheshire, as any law abiding authority would, honoured the obligations of the 1976 Act, and after considerable discussion put in proposals for the town of Macclesfield and the area immediately surrounding it

I indicated before the intervention by the right hon. Gentleman that I was interested in the remarks of the Liberal spokesman, the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed. He has a connection with the area which I have the honour to serve in that he went to King's school in Macclesfield. He is an old boy of that school and recently visited the old boy society of that school. He indicated that he was fully in support of comprehensive education and against the selective system. I ask the hon. Gentleman—sadly in his absence—a straightforward question; Did he benefit from the education that he had at King's school? That school, although an independent school with an independent foundation, co-operated with the Cheshire education authority in providing selective places for boys from the Macclesfield area for many years. Many young people from difficult and deprived backgrounds have benefited immensely from the academic education provided at that school.

Sadly, because of the decisions of the previous Government, that co-operation of many years' standing has been broken. That school has now been compelled, against its will, to become totally independent and to take in fee-paying pupils only. As a result, of course, the local authority has to provide a big, new purpose-built secondary school at tremendous cost. At present it is planned as a comprehensive school, but it would take very little rearrangement for that school to become, as it was proposed many years ago, a co-educational grammar school to serve the Macclesfield area. We have in fact been short of selective places in Macclesfield for many years.

We have heard some Left-wing rantings, particularly from the hon. Member for Hillsborough. He has clearly shown why so many flocked to the polling stations to vote Conservative at the last election. They went there because of the very dangerous, almost alien, philosophy which the hon. Gentleman propounds.

We seek to provide privilege for the many, not just for the few. We want to give a good quality education to all the young people of this country. I believe, therefore, that this is a sound Bill. It is a Bill which honours a commitment given in our election manifesto. The Tory Party, perhaps unlike the Labour Party, has on all occasions carried out the vast majority of the commitments in its election manifestos.

I welcome the Bill. I hope that I shall be given the opportunity to sit on the Standing Committee so that I can debate with the hon. Member for Bedwellty and, yet again, against the hon. Member for Hillsborough. I repeat that I welcome the Bill, and I hope it gets an overwhelming majority later tonight.

7.29 p.m.

Mr. Harold McCusker (Armagh)

I intend to make a short contribution. After having listened to the last two speeches, I intend to be as brief as possible.

The hon. Members for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) and Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), who have both taken an interest in education in Northern Ireland, will at least have to agree with me that the arguments that we have just heard from both sides of the House have played no part in the debate in Northern Ireland as to whether we should have comprehensive education. The people of Northern Ireland are concerned solely with keeping what has been proved and what is good, and with avoiding the destruction of a system which has been to the benefit of the Province and replacing it with something which we know not and which, when one looks around, one finds to be something that does not offer us any real replacement of what we have.

I speak as someone whose children attend a comprehensive school, and as someone who is not concerned with preserving privilege and power.

We have 50 or 60 small grammar schools in Northern Ireland, ranging in size from 300 pupils to 600. They provide a signal service to the Province. They have been instruments of social change there. If they were destroyed, it would be a sad day for the Province.

As it happens, this Bill does not apply to Northern Ireland. The 1976 Act did not apply to Northern Ireland. I intervene in the debate for two reasons. The first reason is that I believe that the Secretary of State for Education and Science should be responsible for education in Northern Ireland as well as in Great Britain. I hope that the present Secretary of State will take a more active interest in the educaional affairs of the Province than his predecessors have done.

The second reason for my intervention is that although the Act and this Bill do not apply to Northern Ireland they both have tremendous significance for the Province because they are indicators of the Government's intentions.

The reason why the 1976 Act did not apply to Ulster was that it was unnecessary. The previous Administration did not have to deal with democratically elected local authorities which had responsibility for education. Education in Ulster is the responsibility of five education and library boards, whose members are all nominated by the responsible Minister in the Northern Ireland Office. Whilst he, of course, nominates a few elected representatives from the various district councils under the board's control, the bulk of them are the Minister's men. When the previous Administration wanted to impose a universal system of comprehensive education upon Northern Ireland, they simply invited the boards to bring forward proposals. The boards, with one or two notable exceptions, touched their forelocks and said "Yes, Sir; no Sir; three bags full, Sir", and they set about their task.

If it had not been for the opposition of a few Northern Ireland politicians—supported by some hon. Members, in this House—of the Northern Ireland Parents' Union and by the opposition of a large and influential group of people in education, the Province and the future of its education would already have been far too far down the comprehensive road. That would have been a disaster.

I cite the previous Secretary of State for Northern Ireland as my reason for saying that, because when he visited various parts of the world to try to attract industry to Northern Ireland at a very difficult time, what was one of his principal arguments? It was that we have one of the finest educational systems in the United Kingdom. He could show a record in A-level and O-level achievement which was better than that of anywhere else in the United Kingdom. He was citing that as one of his principal arguments for encouraging industry to come to Northern Ireland at the same time as he was setting about dismantling that system in the Province.

Our school system has been saved, but it is still not in the best of hands. I remind the hon. Member for Brent, North that the Secretary of State said today that local authorities are the best bodies to determine the most suitable form of education for an area. I hope that the Secretary of State will see to it that it will not be too long until the provision of education is back, once again, in the hands of democratically elected local authorities.

7.34 p.m.

Mr. J. F. Pawsey (Rugby)

I listened with interest to the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes). I am disappointed to see that he is not in his place. He seemed to be arguing the case for long Bills—almost saying that only a long Bill was a good Bill. He went on to cite the fact that the Bill that his party would have introduced contained about 20 clauses, and was criticising the fact that this Bill has only two clauses. But the right hon. Gentleman should remember that Moses—I am referring to the original Moses—had a Bill that contained only 10 clauses. The argument was rather more sweeping than the Bill before us.

I do not support the right hon. Gentleman's argument that grammar schools deprive other schools of scarce resources. That simply is not true. Since many of the grammar schools are voluntarily aided and have the benefit of foundations, they are able to use those foundations to help to provide finance for much-needed pieces of equipment, and so on, that would otherwise have to come out of the resources in the public sector. Grammar schools do not take a larger share of this cake.

The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned Labour's holding Bolton, East and Bolton, West, as a measurement of the feeling for comprehensive education. I am not in a position to comment on that. But the right hon. Gentleman might reflect that two Education Ministers in the previous Government both, alas, lost their seats, and that in Rugby education was the major local issue. The fact that I have the honour of representing Rugby in this place is an indication of the feeling that exists in my constituency. Rugby wants to keep its present local schools.

Mr. Christopher Price

Like Rugby school?

Mr. Pawsey

Not like Rugby school. I am thinking of its grammar schools. That is what this Bill is all about. It is about the retention of proven local schools.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Bill was bad for councils and bad for parents. Really, the reverse is true. It is good for councils because it restores choice. Let us remember that councillors, like ourselves, are accountable to the electorate for their decisions. When so much power lies at the centre, is it not really a good thing that some of that power moves away from this House to local authorities so that they themselves may express opinions and respond to the will of their electorates?

I also maintain that this Bill is good for parents. All parents want what is best for their own children. With six sons myself, I can readily appreciate that. Can anyone in the House doubt that if I felt that comprehensive education presented the only answer, I would not be arguing passionately for it? I do not believe that comprehensive education is the only answer. I believe that this argument today is about the right to choose. It is about the removal of compulsion to go comprehensive. That is all that the Bill is about. The only privilege that is demanded by parents is the privilege of choice. Parents know best what is right for their own children.

Perhaps I may refer briefly to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). I am sorry to see that he is not in his place. He made certain remarks relating to Oxbridge, saying that the present Cabinet went to Oxbridge. He was implying substantial class prejudice. Let me reassure him that, for my part, I am not a product, as he evidently is, of a grammar school. I am not the product of a public school. For me, it was an elementary and a technical secondary school, so I do not claim any privilege whatsoever.

Let me give Opposition Members yet a further item of reassurance. My children are not educated at public schools. They are educated within the State sector, both at grammar schools and at high schools.

I turn to the question of falling rolls. I believe that falling rolls in the educational system present the opportunity for a much larger percentage of children to enjoy grammar school education. In my constituency of Rugby, which is part of the Warwickshire education committee's area, about 24 per cent. of children currently enjoy grammar school education. I do not doubt that as school rolls fall, that percentage will increase and even more children will enjoy the benefits of a grammar school education.

But we in Rugby also operate—and it is the general practice of Warwickshire county council—what I call the Warwickshire safety net, for in Rugby children have two opportunities of transferring to a grammar school. One occurs at the end of their first year and the second at the end of their fifth year, when they have taken their CSE and O-level examinations. This presents the opportunity of their transferring to grammar schools and being able to go on to take A-level examinations. The grammar school system as operated in Warwickshire is in no way a straitjacket system. It is quite the reverse.

I wish to make a special plea for Warwickshire and for a second wear my Warwickshire county council hat. Warwickshire has been hit hard. As a shire county, it has lost substantial amounts of revenue from rate support grants. In addition, it lost substantially on boundary reorganisation. I therefore ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to look in detail at Warwickshire when rate support grant is reassessed. It is a truly special case.

I believe that in terms of the rate support grant shire counties have a stronger case than metropolitan counties. Their services are spread over greater areas, they have the cost of funding village schools and the additional cost of larger road networks. They have a right to expect and, reasons to demand special privileges in the allocation of rate support grant.

I am a member of Warwickshire county council and its education committee. The system in that county operates reason ably well. It is not perfect, but what system is? The system of selection that is operated, with its emphasis on examination and personal reports, is fair.

This Bill is about freedom—about less compulsion. It is not against comprehensive education. The hon. Member for Hillsborough has it wrong. He sees it as a devious Bill to undermine the comprehensive principle, and that is not so. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State in opening the debate specifically said that those areas with comprehensive schools would continue with them. It is in no sense an attack on the comprehensive system. If local communities want comprehensive systems, well and good. Equally, if they wish to keep their proven grammar schools, those also should be maintained. That is what the Bill is about. It is about freedom and choice, and that is why I will support this Bill.

7.42 p.m.

Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)

The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey) beat my namesake in the election. I admired the tone of his speech but did not agree with a great deal of it. Although it was not his maiden speech, I am sure that we shall hear more from him in education debates.

I particularly disagreed with him when he said that the Bill is not against comprehensive education. If we are unlucky, this Bill and the resulting policies may prove to be a turning point in the steady progress that we have made in developing our education system since the 1944 Education Act. The Bill is reactionary, and we shall have to make good the destruction caused.

The Bill takes away one of the three criteria that the Minister and local education authorities have to consider in taking decisions about selection. The first criterion concerned age, ability and aptitude. The second concerned taking account of the wishes of parents. In 1976 we added a third criterion to those laid down by the 1944 Education Act. That was the need to ensure that children were educated in schools in which they were not divided by age, ability and aptitude. The Bill will take the third criterion away, but the Government have won an election and have every right to do that. If the Government insist on adopting that approach they must have an alternative policy. At present they have none.

The criterion of age, ability and aptitude was put in the 1944 Act because there was then a general consensus that it was possible with reasonable equity to pick 15 per cent. to 25 per cent. of clever children for one sort of school and 75 per cent. of not-so-clever children for others. That belief was mainly founded on the research of Sir Cyril Burt. Subsequently, that was discovered to be completely pseudo-scientific and fiddled right along the line. I say no more of that.

As a result of that belief, many hon. Members and the civil servants who run the Department of Education and Science went to the grammar schools set up by that system. In 1944, there was a rash of new grammar schools to cater for the increased number of children born after the war.

After the 1944 Act, the consensus changed. The psychologists were shown to be wrong in their belief that children could be picked exactly. The sociologists showed us that even if children were picked reasonably fairly, generally the privileged children went to the grammar schools and the less privileged to the secondary modern schools.

Pressure from Conservative local authorities and often from Conservative parents abolished the 11-plus exam in local authority after local authority. That also happened in Labour local authorities but perhaps more slowly. They were more wedded to their grammar schools than the Conservative chairmen of education committees who in those days usually sent their children to public schools and did not mind about the State system.

In 1970 when the present Prime Minister was Secretary of State she failed to produce an alternative policy. The Government have failed to do that on this occasion. In 1970, the right hon. Lady withdrew circular 10/65 and the Government are now repealing the 1976 Education Act. That is a negative policy. They have not positively stated their criteria for future secondary education.

The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) said that picking 25 per cent. of youngsters for grammar schools was too large a percentage and that 10 per cent. was all right. That is an interesting opinion, but I should like to know the opinion of the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson). If the Government are returning to selection, they must say what the proper percentage of youngsters for selection should be. Without that, local authorities, parents and teachers will not know where they are. With youngsters switching from one authority to another it will be extremely difficult and there will be absolute chaos.

Between 1944 and 1970, when it was decided that grammar schools should remain, they were frequently planned for about 15 per cent. of the age group affected. Massive parental pressure to get youngsters into grammar schools often raised that figure to as high as 35 per cent. In the 1960s—when I was a Member for a Birmingham constituency—before it went comprehensive Birmingham was selecting 35 per cent. of the age group to go to grammar schools. If London had not gone comprehensive one of its problems, particularly in the inner city areas, would have been that it would have been selecting 50 per cent., 60 per cent. or even 70 per cent. of the youngsters for grammar schools [Interruption.] That is not much fun for the 30 per cent. residue that are dumped in the remaining schools.

If the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) wants to have a long conversation with one of his hon. Friends there are certain courtesies that should be observed in the House, and he should go outside. We all listened to his rantings. There are certain courtesies which he should now observe.

x It is important for the Government to have a policy on education because they will soon receive a number of section 13 proposals. When the Prime Minister was Secretary of State for Education she refused to give any criteria for accepting or rejecting section 13 proposals. No local authority ever knew, when putting forward such a proposal for secondary education, whether it would be turned down or accepted. It was a complete caprice. It depended on how the right hon. Lady was feeling at the time. If the Government refuse once again to give the criteria for section 13 proposals this will herald another period like the early 1970s when Surrey, a Conservative council, had its proposals turned down by a Conservative Government completely capriciously. This is no way to administer the education service—whether it is comprehensive or selective.

Unfortunately this is the history of the Tory Party in education. It goes right back to 1952 when the Tories won power after the 1951 general election. One of the earliest decisions Dame Florence Horsbrugh had to make was over Eltham Hill grammar school for girls when Kidbrooke comprehensive was being opened. Although many similar schemes in London has been accepted—the closure of a selective school in order to make way for a comprehensive school—Dame Florence said she would not close this grammar school. She refused to allow what London had hoped would be a showpiece comprehensive to operate properly as a comprehensive, taking all the girls in that area. Eventually the Government must face up to this issue. If they are considering selective schemes for secondary education they must decide on the proper percentage that they think right. Is it 5 per cent?

Many people—politicians, civil servants and others—believe that this Bill is the first step towards the re introduction of an elitist system in Britain. The combination of this Bill, and Tory policies on grammar schools, the freedom for local authorities to support independent schools and cutting down the amount of money available to the State system is a movement towards a system where one has, in the private and selective system wrapped up together, about 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. of youngsters in Britain attending elitist schools with a much more enriched education than that which is available to the rest of the country.

This system has been advocated since the turn of the century by certain people. Sir William Alexander, now Lord Alexander of Potterhill, who was former chief education officer of Sheffield and former secretary of the associated education committees, advocated this 5 per cent. selection system immediately after the Second World War as a means of trying to solve our post-war problems. The hon. Member for Wokingham said that 25 per cent. was socially unacceptable, but he did not believe that people in Wokingham would mind very much if only 10 per cent. of their youngsters were picked for a particular elitist system. This, together with the Government's policy on top salaries and a whole range of other matters, looks like the beginning of a policy to attempt to reintroduce or deliberately engineer a new elite in Britain with a particularly privileged and enriched education as some sort of doctrinaire method of solving our problems.

The fascinating thing about the last election is that the Conservatives were the doctrinaire people. It was the Labour Party which put forward policies based on experience. I do not think that in any other field has the Conservative doctrinaire attitude to policy formation come out more than in education. The Tories can pretend that this is a matter of local authority freedom. The test of whether this Bill is about local authority freedom will come when Tameside puts its plans in to the Department of Education and Science. We shall then see the reaction of the Department to the section 13 applications from Tameside and other local education authorities. If, as I suspect, they get the same sort of treatment from the Secretary of State as they had from the present Prime Minister when she was Secretary of State, the whole hypocrisy of the Bill will be out in the open and the idea that it has anything at all to do with local authority freedom will be proved completely false. I very much fear that the subsequent legislation we shall have will simply show up little by little the Conservatives' plan for attempting, in a wholly doctrinaire way, which is not based on local authority experience, to reintroduce by social engineering an elite in this country. They think, quite wrongly, that this is some sort of solution to the problems of our country. I hope that that does not happen.

7.58 p.m.

Mr. William Shelton (Streatham)

I listened with great interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey). I understand that he made his maiden speech the other day, but it is a great pleasure to have another new hon. Friend talking about education.

It was with considerable dismay and sadness that I listened to the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) for whom I have respect. He is still talking in the same manner as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), for whom I see little hope.

Mr. Flannery

Thank God for that.

Mr. Shelton

I do not propose to spend much time on the speech of the hon. Member for Hillsborough, because my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) dealt with it. I would only say that I am sure that he is indeed an hon. Gentleman and I am sure that he has, in general, the same view of us. I can only suppose that he has not listened to what my hon. Friends and I have been saying time after time after time, year in year out, for the past nine years. Had he listened he could not stand up and say that the Conservative Party has a hatred of comprehensives. He says that when, in the same breath, he is saying that Conservative education authorities have installed more comprehensives—Labour comprehensives according to his hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West, although the Prime Minister approved many comprehensive schools. I can only suppose that he has not had the fortune to listen to what has been said in the debate. We do not have a hatred of comprehensives but we have a hatred of bad schools.

We like good comprehensives, good grammar schools and any sort of good school. That is the criterion—if it is a good school we are for it; if it is a bad school we are against it.

Mr. Flannery

In the face of the Bill the long struggle that the Conservative Party has put up against comprehensive education and the sort of speech made by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton)—every word of which breathes hatred of comprehensive education—either the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) must denounce that sort of speech or he must admit that it is a speech that has the philosophy of the Tory Party deeply embedded into it.

Mr. Shelton

I am sure that it is not unparliamentary language to suggest that the hon. Gentleman is the Don Quixote of the Conservative Benches, putting up windmills at which he tilts. I have never heard a larger list of imaginary targets that he has attacked with such verve. I suggest that he clears his mind of dogma and reads the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield tomorrow.

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State said, the Bill is less about education and more about freedom. It is the first Bill—rushed through quickly—to remove the compulsion of dogma. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West said, in a speech on education that should unite the House—we all have the same objectives, although we disagree about the methods for reaching those objectives—that the Bill is a Bill of dogma. The Bill merely gives freedom to local people to decide on the sort of education that they want. For the House to say that those people should not have the freedom is, first, arrogant and, secondly, contemptuous of the judgment of local authorities and people, in the same way that to deny the sale of council houses is contemptuous of the judgment of local people.

Power may reside ultimately in this place but if we are not to be arrogant, and if we are to govern the country in the best way possible, we should pass as much power as we can to those who know about the problems—the parents. We have heard that a parent's charter and a local authorities' charter will be incorporated in the Bill later in the session. The hon. Member for Hillsborough said that a parent's charter is a hollow-sounding phrase. I should be delighted to let him have half a dozen or so specific points that I am sure will be incorporated in the legislation. I am sure that the same points, to some extent, would have been incorporated by the Labour Party had it remained in government.

The object of the Bill is to preserve good schools if the local people believe that they should be preserved. If the Tameside local authority puts forward a good scheme I do not doubt that it will be approved—provided it improves the quality of education. That will not be a matter of organisation. We have been mesmerised for too long by the problem of organisation.

I say to the hon. Member for Lewisham, West that that problem of dogma comes from the Labour Benches. In the view of Labour Members education is a matter of social engineering. There have been many debates on education in the House and yet we have hardly discussed what goes on in schools; we have discussed only the social engineering aspects of the way in which the schools are organised. It is time that we moved away from that point of view and discussed the real problems that are coming to light.

I hope that the hon. Member for Hillsborough will not misunderstand me when I say that there are so many comprehensives in this country—although I welcome the good ones—that we are now starting to see the problems that exist in them. It is particularly true of the "allthrough" comprehensives in the inner urban areas—the 11–18 years schemes. Those problems should have been discussed and considered before the introduction of the 1976 Act. However, the Act was produced in a rush of dogma and now some of the problems are being revealed.

The main problem is summed up by saying that if the comprehensive is large enough for 15 options to be produced at sixth-form level it is unmanageable in the sort of area that I represent—and if the comprehensive is small enough to be manageable there is an insufficient range of options available at sixth-form level. It is a dilemma that local education authorities and hon. Members will have to resolve. I do not believe that it will be solved by making comprehensives smaller. We shall have to examine the experiments that are taking place—thank heavens—in the middle-school system, the sixth-form colleges and centres and the campus system. Those experiments will have to be examined to see how the problem of sixth-form organisation can be solved.

I am pleased to see my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) on the Front Bench. It is also a pleasure to take part in an education debate from the Government side of the House. I suggest to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North that if the Department of Education and Science can more fully monitor what is going on throughout the country and let the education authorities and hon. Members know the good and bad results the Department will contribute much more than it has in the past to deliberations in the Chamber and in town halls throughout the country. Although I have taken a deep interest in education for many years I am not aware, for example, of the results of the middle-school system studies that have been taking place in Merton and Morden. I do not know if the results are good or bad, or if anybody is examining them. However, it would be of benefit if they could be known.

Another problem of comprehensive schooling is trunancy and absenteeism. Something must be done to solve the problem of absenteeism in my area, where it runs at 40 per cent. or 50 per cent. at fifth-form level. Truancy is running at about 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. I believe that the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 has contributed partly to the problem of truancy.

The local education authority and hon. Members have a duty to look carefully at the problems. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North knows my concern about the problem of banding in the inner London education authority. Not all hon. Members may be familiar with that term, because it is specific to inner London. It is a form of bussing according to ability. In theory, each school in the London area has 25 per cent. of its pupils in the top band, 50 per cent. in the middle and 25 per cent. at the bottom. I understand why authorities want to act in that way, because to some extent it avoids the poor neighbourhood school in a very poor area.

I was interested in the remarks of the right hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong), who said that this kind of banding was wrong. He said that he was a neighbourhood school man and thought that such schools should stick together. That system has its problems; on the other hand, the difficulty about banding lies in the injustice that it creates. I hope I shall not be misunderstood if I say that it is the bright child in band I who faces the greatest difficulty. Because band 1 fills up first, the parent tells his Member of Parliament "Johnny cannot get into the school he wants to attend, because he is too bright." However, he adds "Jimmy has got into that school because there are vacancies in band 3".

Mr. Flannery

Absolute claptrap.

Mr. Shelton

I am talking of the Inner London education authority, and it is true of that area. If the hon. Gentleman will speak to me after the debate, I will show him the figures relating to the fifth form. I am referring not to school absenteeism in general, but to absenteeism in the fifth form. That figure is running as high as 40 or 50 per cent., which means that truancy is running at about 30 or 40 per cent. That is true of the school of which I am a governor, and we had a special discussion on this point at a governors' meeting only two weeks ago. Therefore, the hon. Member for Hillsborough might now wish to withdraw his sedentary comment.

Banding in the Inner London education authority is as I described it. The top band fills up first and the bright child cannot get admission to the school of his first choice because he is brighter than the boy who lives next door in band two or band three, and there is a vacancy in those bands. Therefore, they will take the one boy in band 3, but will not take the other boy in band 1. This is seen as a great injustice by the parents of the brighter child. They take the view "Our boy cannot obtain the school of his choice because he has worked hard." I understand what they mean by that comment.

I hope that later in the year we shall carefully examine the principle of banding. I am very ambivalent on the subject. I understand why it is being carried out, and I see the difficulties in the system, but I come down on the side of parental freedom and choice. I believe that this kind of social engineering results in a reduction of parental freedom and choice. I very much hope that we shall be able to take steps to alleviate the situation when we discuss later legislation.

I shall take great pleasure this evening in supporting the Bill. It reverses past dogma. To pass a Bill in 1976 insisting on compulsory education was as close to dogma in education as anything I know. By repealing that earlier legislation, I consider that we are now repealing dogma.

8.14 p.m.

Miss Joan Maynard (Sheffield, Brightside)

The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) spent a good deal of time explaining that only the Conservatives have taken the lead in introducing comprehensive education. In fact, we know that the Conservative Party has always opposed comprehensive education. This Bill indicates once again the strength of that opposition. Therefore, they cannot have things both ways. The Bill may look innocent, but I believe it to be a piece of naked class legislation, typical of the class nature of the present Government.

A wonderful lady once sat on the Labour Benches representing Jarrow. Her name was Ellen Wilkinson. She said that Tories do not preach class war because they are much too busy practising it. We have seen a lot of this attitude in the present Government in the short time they have been in office.

I believe that this Bill will divide the nation by allowing certain people to opt out of the comprehensive system. I believe that the comprehensive system is supported by the vast majority of the population because of the results it has achieved both educationally and socially. I do not accept the view of Conservative spokesmen that comprehensive education is a threat to liberty and learning. I believe that exactly the opposite has been true in respect of most of the nation's children.

I agree that there are members of every party who support comprehensive education. However, one must add that the Conservative Party has always opposed comprehensive education. My closest experience with comprehensive education was in the old North Riding of Yorkshire, now referred to as North Yorkshire. I was a member of the education committee in that area for a period of nine years. That education committee was similar to this House in that there was hardly a member of that committee who sent his child to the State schools. Nevertheless, its members decided the policy for that area.

Mr. Flannery


Miss Maynard

In a similar sense we now have an Oxbridge-dominated House of Commons.

Thirsk was one of the first places to have a comprehensive school. That happened not because the Conservative-controlled council supported comprehensive education, but because, on economic grounds, it could not justify the building of another school and having, as it were, a small grammar school and a secondary modern. That council settled for a comprehensive school.

What were the effects of that new comprehensive school, which was opposed by the whole of the staff of the old grammar school, who did their best to stop it? In a social sense, it united the district because all its inhabitants had to send their children to that school at 11-plus. Its educational achievements were much greater than any achievements of the old, small grammar school. The B-stream had much better results than the old A-stream in the grammar school had ever achieved. It found abilities among children who in the past had been thought to have no ability and it helped those children to develop their potential to the full. This is what education must be about. It must develop the potential of the individual and must not merely train people to pass examinations or merely to run this complicated society of ours. It should not merely train children how to get a good job, which means a better paid job; in other words, it should not fit them merely to join the rat race. Education must seek to develop the whole person.

The size of our first comprehensive school meant that for the first time we had a sixth form with a real choice of subject. I accept that some comprehensives can be too large and impersonal, but that is an argument about size rather than about the comprehensive principle. The comprehensive system widened the horizons of village children who had been mainly, apart from the few who were creamed off to grammar schools, been confined within the village to the all-age village schools.

I am untypical of this place. I went to an all-age village school and left at 14. I do not suppose that many hon. Members have that kind of educational background. Going to a bigger comprehensive school is a shock after the small all-age village school but it allows children to see, once they have settled down, that there is a bigger, wider world offering different choices from those they had seen when they attended the all-age village school.

Comprehensives have proved that it was wrong to decide the educational future of a child at the age of 11. Comprehensives have also proved that IQs do not stand still. They can, and do, rise, given the right stimulus, in the same way that they fall when children are dis couraged and find themselves in the wrong environment. Our complicated, modern, materialistic and industrial society creates many stresses and strains, nowhere more so than in family life. Schools have to try to cope with these new problems. They have to take on new responsibilities, particularly at secondary school level.

To disrupt the present system when it is beginning to settle down is criminal. The comprehensive system is not perfect. We are learning all the time. I am against streaming. To my mind, that is reintroducing selection all over again. Some schools are moving away from rigid streaming to setting. A smaller number of schools are trying to upstream the systems they operate. Those are steps in the right direction.

This Bill will put back the clock in the name of freedom of choice. We know, in reality, that only a very few people will have any real choice.

I would like to raise a point that has not been satisfactorily answered. I do not recollect any freedom of choice on the question of the sale of council houses. Local authorities are to have no freedom of choice. We are told that on the educational issue local authorities will have a freedom of choice. We shall have to wait and see. On the council house question—when it is a case of municipal assetstripping—there is to be no choice. When it is educational privilege for a few, that means choice for a few and no choice and a worse service for the majority.

Only the snobs and the selfish will welcome this Bill. The grammar school has some good traditions that we have tried to incorporate in our comprehensive system. Let us share the good things and not restrict them to the few. The grammar school also has some serious limitations. Sometimes, its excessive zeal to get children through examinations has led to impoverishment of the rest of the syllabus. The purpose of a comprehensive school is to educate all the children, not just some of the children. Surely, that must be good not only for the children but also for our society.

A. S. Neil, a great pioneer in education, said: The first thing is to love the child. The second thing is to be for the child. This Bill meets neither of those criteria. It is, as I have said, an attempt to put back the clock. We, on the Labour Benches, shall oppose it all along the line. We shall do more than that. We shall mobilise people outside the House against this Bill. I do not believe that will be a difficult task.

8.23 p.m.

Mr. Malcolm Thornton (Liverpool, Garston)

Until 3 May I was chairman of the education committee of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities. That is one of the bodies to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State referred in his opening remarks. It is therefore with considerable pleasure that I welcome the Bill so soon in the life of this Parliament. It seeks to do something for which I have stood for a long time, namely, to preserve and strengthen local democracy. It is that, and that alone, which I believe is before the House today.

We are not here to talk about the merits of comprehensive education. We are here to talk about whether local authorities should have the right to determine what they do for themselves. It was therefore with considerable dismay and surprise, matched only by my delight at the honour recently accorded to him, that I heard the opening remarks of the right hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes). The right hon. Gentleman is, I know, a great friend of local government, and I had therefore hoped that he would understand how important it is to our local authorities that they should have this freedom.

It is and must remain the right of local education authorities, having weighed all the local considerations, to decide what form of secondary education is best for their area. They are the best people to decide it. They are in touch with local opinion. I suggest, with respect, that it is not for us in this place to impose a system on local authorities.

I am not, and the Conservative Party is not, against comprehensive education. What I am against is the compulsory imposition of any system of education against the wishes of a local authority.

Perhaps I can best illustrate that principle by a brief reference to my own former local authority, where there is a variety of systems under the umbrella of the one authority. We have middle school systems and we have a selective system. We have an admirable opportunity to compare the two. It is a matter of fact, whether we like it or not—perhaps this picks up some of the points that we have heard in earlier speeches—that some of the results that are coming out of the secondary modern schools in the selective area are infinitely better than some of the results coming out of the comprehensive schools within the same local education authority area, and people in those areas say "We do not want to change."

Admittedly, all comparisons are to some degree odious, but that is a comparison that can be made within one authority area, and it is a fair comparison. The Wirral local authority has therefore said "We want to decide when, and if, change should come", and it will be one of the authorities in this country which will give a wholehearted welcome to the Bill.

As I have said, the debate seems to have gone somewhat off the subject. We have spent a good deal of time listening to speeches about comprehensive education and we have heard prejudices being paraded in the Chamber. But as some of the uncertainties facing local authorities have been removed, or will be removed upon the enactment of the Bill, there remain even greater uncertainties facing our education system, and the House should be addressing itself to these matters, not indulging in the sterile argument about comprehensive education.

It is a matter of fact—I speak with some authority on this subject—that as 85 per cent. of children in secondary education are already in comprehensive schools, in no way would either the Conservative or local education authorities contemplate another major upheaval. We are not talking about undoing what has been done. What we stand for as a party is evolutionary change in education, not revolutionary change. Political dogma and educational shortsightedness have together, I believe, obscurred the real issues which we should be considering for the future of education in this country. It is not systems and not labels for schools but the purpose of education that is important.

Education does not exist for politicians, for teachers or for administrators—and not even for the DES. As we all know, it is a means of equipping children with the basic skills to cope with life as it really is today and as it is likely to be in the near future.

What we fail to appreciate is that unless we turn our minds to what is happening within our education system and within our schools we shall fail the children who are there and who will shortly go out into society. We must examine closely every facet of our education system. We must ask ourselves two simple questions: Is it relevant to the needs of the individual child? Is it relevant to the needs of a changing society? That is what the great debate should be about. Sadly, too often the answer to those questions must be: No, it is not relevant.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), in a recent article, referred to good jobs going begging because our youngsters lack the skills to fill them. In a television programme last year reference was made to an area of high youth unemployment where there were vacancies for 400 design engineers, yet there were not the young people with the training and skills to fill them. I am not talking of isolated cases. They occur in too many places. We must question the relevance and realism of our education system.

There is much talk of microtechnology and other aspects of our changing society which necessitate a fundamental rethink of our educaton system and the curriculum in schools. Already there are too many on the youth unemployment register. Youth unemployment is increasing and will continue to increase. It could be the most serious problem for this country for the remainder of the century unless something is done about it now. People who are unemployed for too long rapidly become unemployable. We must not allow that to happen.

We must ensure that the curriculum of schools reflects local needs. We know from statistics that the majority of children will live and work within a 50-mile radius of their school. The skills taught by a school must reflect the opportunities that exist in the area for school leavers.

Mr. Stan Thorne (Preston, South)

Will my Member of Parliament, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton) explain his proposals for curriculum changes in comprehensive schools so that I can explain them to my constituents?

Mr. Thornton

I propose to do little other than to talk to people in the area This issue must be decided by the local education authority in consultation with the head teacher of the school in question. That is the way in which education works. If the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) thinks that it works in any other way, he shows an ignorance of the system.

It is unfair to expect our education system to remain unchanged. It is unfair to the children, because children are conditioned by what they are taught in our schools. If there is no reflection in the schools of present and future job opportunities, the expectations of children will be raised to an unrealistic level and their expectations will be dashed on the cold realities of chronic youth unemployment.

When we talk about education, we must look at where we direct our attention. Perhaps it is too late to do anything with the 15 and 16-year-olds. Perhaps we should be looking at the input at an earlier age. There is hard evidence that with stronger links with industry and commerce, and with an input at the age of 12 or 13, much can be done to inject a note of realism into our education system.

That means that attitudes must change. Education must be flexible. It must have within itself infinite variety and infinite opportunities. This is why I spoke earlier about evolutionary rather than revolutionary change. It is not a coincidence that 85 per cent. of our children are in comprehensive schools. I believe that had it not been for compulsion many of the ills that exist in the comprehensive system today would not be there, because its development would not have been hurried along so quickly. Matters would have taken their own course, and I believe that that is the way in which we must allow the remainder of our system to adapt to a changing society.

What, then, of the future? I hope that all who are interested in the real purposes of education, and in the welfare of and future opportunities for our children will apply to their thinking an ingredient which has been sadly lacking. That ingredient is common sense. It makes sense to ensure that our primary schools teach basic skills such as literacy and numeracy. It makes sense to see our secondary schools offering wide-ranging opportunities to all. It makes sense to see that colleges, polytechnics and universities provide courses, retraining or whatever is necessary.

It is complete nonsense if the education system is so blinkered in its attitudes—whether by political dogma or unrealistic educational thinking—that it fails to see what is happening around it. It has been said in this debate that education is a means to an end and not an end in itself. What we call the system, or the schools, is unimportant. What is important is what happens to the children while they are part of that system. Even more important is how well that system equips them to cope with life at the end of the day.

8.37 p.m.

Mr. K. J. Woolmer (Batley and Morley)

Perhaps this debate should not be about the broad issues of education policy though we have heard many speeches which have dwelt on that point. I shall make one observation on the broad issues, and then try to concentrate the attention of the House on the practical effects of this proposed legislation.

I found it interesting that during the debate Conservative Members have praised grammar schools and rarely criticised comprehensive schools and that Labour Members have praised comprehensive schools. Neither side has praised, or stood up for, the secondary modem system. That is a fact. We have had virtually no discussion about the secondary modern system even though the selection system is not a grammar school system, but a secondary modern one. That is the truth of the matter for 80 per cent. of our children. Yet on behalf of that 80 per cent. we have had no discussion whatever today. We have heard nothing about the merits of the secondary modern system or about its problems and difficulties. It is shameful that when this Bill is brought before the House there is no serious discussion of, and virtually no reference to, the education implications for 80 per cent. of our children in respect of selection procedures.

I shall oppose this Bill because my constituency of Batley and Morley con tains an area which has retained selection. My constituency has one of those odd features where part of it has comprehensive schools—well-liked and effective for 100 per cent. of the children—and yet in Batley, by a quirk of history, we have selection.

Batley is even more difficult for people to understand because not only do we have selection but the Roman Catholic children can obtain comprehensive education by choice by going into the neighbouring town of Dewsbury. I am delighted for them. But the remaining children face a fee-paying independent boys grammar school and a State girls grammar school, with two large secondary modern schools alongside them.

This debate is not about the individual merits of schools. In every school the teachers, pupils and parents do their utmost to produce the very best that the school can produce. Criticism of a system should never be confused with criticism of individual schools. In my township of Batley secondary modern schools do a magnificent job in all the circumstances. We are concerned not about the individual schools but about the systems and their problems.

I do not believe that it is fair to leave 70 per cent. to 80 per cent. of the children of the town of Batley with no choice. Instead of choice for the parents or children a decision is imposed on the children at the early age of 11. Furthermore, the teachers, governors and managers in the State schools have overwhelmingly supported the introduction of the 11–18 comprehensive school system in my town of Batley.

Conservative Members have said that the Bill is not about the comprehensive system versus the grammar school system. That may or may not be true in their eyes, but that is what it will mean to the community. The Bill was welcomed by the Conservative-controlled district council, which saw it not as something that simply gave it the opportunity to discuss the matter but rather as an excuse to keep the grammar schools.

The education committee of the Kirklees district council met today for the first time since the Bill was published. I was told in a written answer on 22 May that the authority would be asked whether it wished to withdraw or proceed with the schemes that it submitted in the spring of this year. I have spoken on the telephone to members of the education committee since it met today. That committee, governed by the Conservative majority, steadfastly refused to put on the agenda the question of the comprehensive position. Moreover, it even refused to report the fact that the Secretary of State had written to the authority.

Conservative Members may not wish the Bill to be used as an excuse to deny choice, but rather wish it to generate discussion of the options. But in practice I have already heard of the consequences in my constituency this very day. They are that the controlling group has refused to discuss, and even to report, the Secretary of State's letter to the authority. That is one of the reasons why we are concerned about deadlines. It is clear that the deadline may be abused rather than used.

For the rest of my time I should like to be constructive. My concern is to consider what will happen if the Bill goes through. I shall oppose it, but I am realistic enough to know that the Bill is likely to be enacted. What will happen when the Bill is enacted? I address three or four questions to the Government Front Bench to seek clarification.

First, is it true that the authority of Kirklees has been asked whether it wishes its spring submissions to stand, and which of the two it prefers?

Secondly, it would help enormously in the consideration of the issues if the Conservative Front Bench, and the Secretary of State especially, were to say loud and clear that they believe that comprehensive schools are as good—I should say better—as the grammar-secondary modern system. That would clear a great deal of air. There was an impression created in the pre-election and post-election periods that the Bill would be aimed at retaining grammar schools. If the Secretary of State wishes to encourage genuine debate and open discussion in each individual authority, he should make it clear to authorities that he wishes each community to be aware of the benefits of the comprehensive system and genuinely to consider them when making a decision.

Thirdly, and importantly, I believe that the authority of Kirklees will support the comprehensive principle because there is Conservative minority control. The full council may decide to proceed with a comprehensive system. How will the Sec-secretary of State react to any comprehensive proposals? The implementation of this measure will clearly be judged on the response of the Secretary of State and the Conservative Government if comprehensive schemes are submitted. I hope that I shall have an assurance that if such a scheme is submitted it will be treated with due speed and that the authority will be given every encouragement.

Finally, I come to finance. Money is involved in any comprehensive scheme of reorganisation. If the choice, freely expressed by the overall council of an area, is to introduce a comprehensive system, the issue of finance will be raised. In those circumstances I ask the Government Front Bench if it will agree to meet a delegation of the Kirklees district council, including myself, to discuss ways of implementing the freely made choice of that authority. That is clearly most important.

I hope that the Bill is defeated. It is appalling when a small township in West Yorkshire, an area of two million people—I would not call it an oasis but a small desert island—is deprived of a comprehensive system.

8.44 p.m.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)

The hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer) said that he hoped the Bill would not be enacted. I have news for him. I am normally regarded as being on the left-hand side of the Tory Party—it depends on which direction one looks at me—but I intend to support the Bill, so I am sure it will be enacted.

It is a good Bill. It is worth noting, however, that it does not achieve everything that is necessary in education. I shall refer to some of its omissions, which may appear in Committee or in a subsequent education Bill. I reinforce the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) about selection in reverse. The Inner London education authority is one of the pioneers of comprehensive schools and the abolition of the 11-plus. In my constituency, and in many other inner London ones, there are families who say "We have encouraged our children at primary school"—which is clearly the right attitude—"and we have worked in co-operation with the teachers at the primary schools"—which again is clearly the right attitude—"yet our child cannot get into the school of our first choice because he has come out with a grade 1."

One can understand the reasons for trying to achieve a balanced intake at secondary school, but it is perverse to have a system which basically encourages parents to tell their child, during the last year in primary school, when there are tests which are just as influential as the 11-plus, to write across the front, "I hate skool", so that he will be graded grade 3 and be sent to the school of their choice. I hope that the Department will encourage the ILEA and other education authorities to consider that system. I do not have a simple answer to the issue, but it is far more important in inner London than giving extra freedom to the ILEA, which will not take it to withdraw schemes to go fully comprehensive.

The Bill does not deal with examinations for children who are not likely to take O-levels or to do particularly well at CSE. O-levels are geared to the top 20 per cent. in the fifth form, CSEs to the next 40 per cent. although many schools get more children through. What is the target for a child who will not succeed in the conventional academic sense? At the moment, he is asked to look ahead four or five years to an examination that he is not likely to pass—and then we wonder why there is so much truancy in the third, fourth and fifth forms.

For the basic education—not just in primary school but, for many children, through secondary school as well—we need to have progressive standards in the same way as applies in the boy scouts or the brownies or in music or swimming. We should say "This is grade 1, which you might be able to achieve in six weeks or in six months, but that is the standard that you are aiming for. However, you will take it when you are ready and then you can move up." That might underpin the CSE system.

The Bill is just an agenda for a subsequent Bill. Although it is necessary, there are more important things in education than to have a fight about whether we have a comprehensive system or whether we insist that every school is a comprehensive school. I thoroughly believe in allowing education authorities to have a comprehensive system which will deal with all the children, rather than insisting that there is a nameplate outside each gate saying "Comprehensive School" so that people are dumped in there willy-nilly, whether it is mixed ability or whatever.

For the last four years, while I have been the Member for Woolwich West, families have been saying the same things to me about the same schools—the reason for their first choices or why many of them will not accept a particular school. What are education authorities doing about these parental opinions?

Instead of waiting until March each year and then suddenly saying, "Sorry, but we have redrawn the catchment area because another school has become more popular", why do they not say to families two or three years in advance "Which school, at the moment, do you believe you will choose for your child when he reaches the 11-plus age, and why"?

I have been the governor of a comprehensive school, as many hon. Members have, for many years. No education authority has ever told us "The reason why parents are not choosing your school is that you have streaming, or mixed ability, or there is no discipline." Not one hon. Member of the many to whom I have spoken has said that that has happened.

We are throwing away parental views and wishes. Politicians, education councillors, even teachers do not have the right to say to parents, the full-time guardians of children "We know what is best. Give us your child at five years old and we will deliver him back at 16 and never care about what happens in between." We must get parents more involved. The Bill helps to involve education authorities more. The next step is to work with parents in the school so that more of them are satisfied more often.

8.55 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)

Some hon. Members seemed puzzled when the Secretary of State referred to the fact that Tameside was in my constituency. One-third of my constituents live in Manchester. The rest live in Tameside. Those in Tameside have not bragged about it too much in the past three years.

In the Manchester part of my constituency there are three comprehensive schools. One is purpose-built. It was included in the pamphlet on 10 good schools which was published by the Department of Education and Science. The second school is a Roman Catholic comprehensive school which, in spite of social problems, is going well. It went comprehensive fairly recently.

There is another fine school, which serves the area well. It is an outstanding school in the provision of academic, cultural and physical education and in the work that it does with the community. I refer to Spurley Hey school, which the Under-Secretary of State once described as a "sink" school. He had not seen it when he said that. I think that he regrets making that remark. The headmaster, the staff, the parents and pupils combined to show the media and the public how wrong he was.

For a good many years I campaigned against 11-plus selection and the segregation of children into different types of schools at the age of 11.

Immediately after the war I taught in primary, all-age and secondary schools in Manchester, where there was a system of grammar, technical and secondary modern schools, in the proportion 15 per cent., 15 per cent. and 70 per cent. It was obvious that social deprivation and family background were major criteria in success or failure at 11-plus. Indeed, they still are at O and A levels. Administrators and teachers spent many hours and days discussing methods of selection and in examining in English, arithmetic and intelligence. The last subject appeared on some of the timetables in the Tameside school.

There were also recommendations by teachers' panels and head teachers. In the end we asked ourselves "What are we selecting for? Is there a definition of the grammar school child, the technical school child or the secondary modern school child?" The answer was "No". Selection was made to fill a number of places based on a pre-war idea of the numbers of pupils who should go into those schools. However, by the 1950s, the number varied all over the country—5 per cent., 10 per cent., and 25 per cent. In parts of Wales I understand that the figure was 50 per cent. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), especially in view of the 7 June result, must reckon that the Welsh have a high intelligence.

The results showed that there was no criterion for a grammar school child. The system distorted primary school education in the inner cities—where many children, as a result of their backgrounds, had little hope—and in the suburbs. In one of my local schools it was almost inevitable that the A stream, which was selected in the infants' section, would go to the grammar school and that the B stream would go to a secondary modern school.

In one year a child did not make the grade. I tried to persuade the mother that it would not make much difference. She said 'What worries me is the neighbours and other children talking as though my child were deaf". Anyone who has taught in a secondary modern school knows that such children regard themselves as branded as failures. My hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer) was right to bring up that point. Secondary modern schools had not been mentioned. There was no campaign by members of the Conservative Party to save the secondary modern schools. We know how difficult it is to get rid of a sense of failure. That takes pupils a long time, even in good secondary modern schools. Selection systems are inaccurate. That has been admitted.

The plight of children transferred from secondary modern to grammar schools—there were not many—in the second or third year has usually been very difficult. By the early 1960s authorities of all political shades were moving away from the selective system. I do not accept the view that many Conservatives did not approve and accept the comprehensive principle. They did. Certainly many of them in rural areas adopted it ages ago. It was generally accepted in educational and, to some extent, political circles by the 1960s that the abolition of the 11-plus examination and the introduction of comprehensive education would proceed apace. Certainly the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), a former Prime Minister, accepted it. Perhaps all his then Ministers did not.

When the present Prime Minister was Secretary of State, I asked her, during Question Time, what her views were on 11-plus selection, and she said that she had no opinion. I hope that the Secretary of State will not use that answer.

What has happened in the Conservative Party since that time? Was it the Black Papers? Was it the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), or the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), touring the country? Was it the outstanding success of Councillor Grantham, at the Tory Party conference? Councillor Grantham, incidentally, was the Tory leader on the Tameside council and I shall mention him later.

This Government have no policy on secondary education or 11-plus selection. This Bill, trying to carry through an electioneering slogan of "Save the grammar schools", will create chaos and instability, particularly in Conservative-controlled areas that have gone comprehensive. We know how the hon. Member for Macclesfield will be attacking the chairman of Cheshire education committee. Chairmen and members of education committees will be under heavy pressure.

I turn briefly to Tameside. There are those who have accused the new Labour council of Tameside of rushing into comprehensive education. Before 1974 the borough was partly in Lancashire and partly in Cheshire. In the five districts in Lancashire, after discussions with a Tory-controlled Lancashire county council in 1964, a working party was set up and a scheme for comprehensive schools for pupils from 11 to 16 years of age, with sixth-form colleges, was approved by the entire council and teaching profession. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Macclesfield is not present to hear this, but in the Hyde and Longendale area, a system of comprehensive education, including a number of purpose-built schools, was approved in 1969 and a great deal of that type of building took place. In the Dukinfield and Stalybridge area, the Cheshire county council submitted a scheme to the Government for combining secondary modern and grammar schools into comprehensives for 11 to 18-year olds.

By 1974, the new council again set up a working party and reviewed the whole system because of the difference of opinion. It presented a scheme for comprehensive schools for 11 to 16-year-olds, with six-form colleges, for the whole of Tameside. It was accepted by the Government and the date for its implementation was to be September 1976. In May 1976 the Conservatives gained a majority. I do not need to describe the chaos that eventually resulted, with the selection examination taking place in August for admission to the schools in September.

The first opportunity that the people of Tameside had to re-elect councillors was last year. There was no doubt that education was the main subject on everyone's mind. It was not only everyone in Tameside who knew the points of view of all the candidates on education. Almost everyone in the country knew.

It was not a particularly good year for Labour, but Labour candidates took 15 seats and the Conservatives three. It was better than what occurred in Wigan and parts of South Wales. This year the Labour candidates took 14 seats and the Conservatives four, and there are now 36 Labour councillors and 18 Conservative councillors.

I believe that the new education committee has acted in a responsible manner. It has asked to meet the Secretary of State. I was very glad to hear today that although he has not heard officially—because the full council has not met—he will meet it. The new education committee will honour the arrangements made for entry into secondary schools this year—unlike its predecessor committee—but in 1980 and subsequent years it wants to make parents' choice its sole criterion. I hope that the committee gets the full support of the Government to do that.

Pupils who are already in sixth forms or going into them in September will be able to complete their course in their existing schools. Two of the grammar schools will eventually become sixth-form colleges.

The scheme for comprehensive education that the committee now submits is exactly the same as the one that it submitted, had accepted and had financial allocation to carry out in 1976. The work has been carried out in a great many schools. Roughly £5 million has been spent, on a comprehensive basis. The staffs appointed in 1976—many of them are still there—are based on the fact that the schools should be comprehensive.

The Secretary of State said today that he must insist on the committee resubmitting the section 13 application. I hope that he will reconsider that matter. If it is absolutely legally necessary, I hope that he will realise that the objections that will arise will be over much prevously trodden ground.

The important thing is that parents, teachers and officials should know in ample time for next year just where they stand. I hope that the Secretary of State will give urgent consideration to the applications that come from Tameside.

9.6 p.m.

Mr. Raymond Whitney (Wycombe)

Only a very brief time is available to me. Therefore, I hope that the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) will forgive me for not following up his arguments. I wish merely to take this opportunity of congratulating my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State on introducing this measure so early in the life of this Parliament. This follows so encouragingly on the heels of the measures which we were promised and received in the Gracious Address and in the Budget. This is a unique example of a party honouring its pledges to the electorate.

This measure will give special pleasure in Buckinghamshire, part of which I have the honour to represent, because, as the House knows, Buckinghamshire has fought a valiant fight to preserve the selective system. It has fought it for the benefit of education as a whole.

Here I offer advice to Opposition Members who are concerned about the state of secondary modern schools. I invite them to come to Buckinghamshire, where they will find high standards not only in the selective schools but in the other schools too. If they care to refer to the results of the Institute of Mathematics test, published in January of last year, they will find that the secondary modern schools in Buckinghamshire scored far higher than any of the comprehensive schools in other parts of the country. This is a splendid example of how freedom of choice, operating at the local level, works. This is what the Conservative Party stands for.

Therefore, whilst congratulating the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) on his new and, perhaps, surprising appointment—he glories under the description, of which I am sure he is proud, of being a Left-winger—I hope that he will do the House and the country the service of taking this issue of choice and comprehensivisation out of politics. I may hope in vain, but I hope very much that we can all get back to the real problem—the problem of standards in education.

Even the Leader of the Opposition was forced to recognise this problem in his speech at Ruskin college in October 1976, when he launched the great debate, a debate which fizzled out. But then even he acknowledged that there were problems about standards of education. All who employ young people coming from our education system know that there are these problems. Therefore, I urge the House to help my right hon. and learned Friend to deal with these problems and to stop fighting the ideological battles of the 1960s.

9.9 p.m.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

I can set your mind at rest, Mr. Speaker. I am as likely to remove the question of comprehensive education from the sphere of political debate as the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) is to send his children to a secondary modern school, a type of school which he so much admires.

The debate was set alight by the hon. Member. Until his remarks it had been a somewhat studious affair, apart from the intervention of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) who brings the guile of a Panzer driver to these affairs.

We have been graced by two appealing maiden speeches, but I am filled with regret that the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) replaces my close friend, comrade and fellow countryman, Bill Molloy. He was widely respected in this place for many reasons. I also regret that a younger close comrade and trade union brother of mine, Max Madden, has been replaced by the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Thompson)—or as I understand we are to pronounce it, "Sawby". We shall have difficulty over that, and if the hon. Gentleman will undertake to pronounce Bedwellty properly by the end of the Committee stage, I shall get down to Sowerby.

I also owe thanks to my right hon. and hon. Friends who in the past 24 hours have been extremely kind to me. My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) is credited with saying that a week is a long time in politics, but 24 hours seems a tremendously short time to me, especially to do what I am doing now.

I congratulate the maiden speakers with a special kind of fellow feeling, standing as I do on the 50-metre board looking down at the shallow end, not the deep end. I invite hon. Gentlemen to speculate on the physical consequences for me.

I am grateful to my right hon. and hon. Friends, most notably those who have been kind enough to offer me their congraulations on my appointment. It was something of a surprise to me, but my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is full of little surprises. I am especially grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes). As hon. Members will recognise, he has shown extraordinary generosity in the way that he regards my appointment. This is not the place to canvass for him. I do not want to damage the remainder of his career. I sincerely hope that the considerable talents demonstrated in his opening speech, which was a clinical destruction of the Secretary of State's speech, will be deployed usefully elsewhere.

I also extend my thanks to the Secretary of State for the generous remarks that he made about me. They were echoed to some extent by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), who always makes an interesting contribution in any circumstances and any company. I regard the blandishments of the hon. Gentleman even though I know that they are utterly sincere, as a gift from the Greeks.

As one would expect, I distrust the Greeks—even more the Tories—bearing gifts. I saw the way that my former right hon. Friend Mrs. Shirley Williams was treated. She was lacerated politically whenever she espoused the cause of egali tarianism and even more when she followed her principles and pursued trade union solidarity to the very gates of Grunwick. When the propaganda and poison intensively preached by the press during the general election got through, the electors of Hertford and Stevenage took note and threw her out. That same press and those same editors then dipped into the great cornucopia of hypocrisy reserved for such occasions and wrote dewy-eyed editorials about what a great loss she would be to public life. I regard the welcomes and blandishments with the credibility that they deserve, even though I acknowledge their sincerity.

I am also wary of the gifts of this Education Bill—and I use the word "education" extremely loosely. It is alleged to be about choice and removing compulsion. In a libertarian, pluralistic democracy the espousal of choice and removal of compulsion is recognised to be altogether endearing, attractive and laudable. In the words of the song "It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it." Indeed, it is the purpose for which one does something and the way in which one goes about it which is important.

We must examine tortuously and thoroughly in Committee exactly what is meant by the extension of choice and the removal of compulsion. In reality this Bill has little to do with either. It is an attempt by the Conservative Government to find a means of enshrining a basic and deep rooted anti-comprehensive attitude. They have to do this somehow because they live in 1979—or some of them do—and because they have to deal with the realities of the age—or at least some of them try to. It is 35 years since the 1944 Act and the whole idea of selection has become disreputable and has been widely rejected. For all these reasons, the Tories cannot afford to espouse the cause of selection. They cannot openly take the step back to yesterday or protect the vested interests of the crustaceans in their party and in the local authorities. Therefore, they have to do it invisibly and this Bill is the invisible evidence which shows what they are trying to do.

The purpose of the Bill is not to extend choice or to remove compulsion. It is to secure, in the face of overwhelming opposition to selection, the aim of the Conservative Party—the classic aim of the maintenance, defence and advancement of material privilege. That is what the Conservatives have always done and I do not expect them to surrender their birthright or their origins now. If they do they are even less honest than I give them credit for.

The appeal of this Bill is not to most parents or teachers, and certainly not to children. As a profiteer, as it were, from the 11-plus system, I went to what could only be described as a hyper-super-duper selective grammar school. It was not until I got into the non-selective or comprehensive part—the sixth form—that there was any freedom or integration of pupil and teacher instead of the relationship of master and man, and an element of democracy. At that stage we did participate and discuss. That was when I began to enjoy that school. Until then I am afraid that school was a regrettable experience for me and, I am sure, for my headmaster as well.

The Bill is not for pupils, parents or teachers. Therefore, who wants the Bill? Not the 78 per cent. of local education authorities which have comprehensive education. Not the 83 per cent. of pupils and parents who are now part of a non-selective educational system. Not the Liberal Party—and I congratulate the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) on his speech. Not the nationalist parties, not the Labour Party and, indeed, not even sections of the Tory Party. This is shown by the evidence from some of the more progressive strains in the Tory Party—particularly in educational terms—which indicates that this Bill is, at best, an irrelevance. The demand and support for the Bill does not even come from the Tory Party.

The Bill has been put together to serve the purposes of the 59 Tory-controlled LEAs which have managed to dodge, duck and delay long enough to survive civilisation and get beyond 3 May. The consequence is that they will wreak havoc with thousands of lives in their care. There are thousands of children who will not benefit—if that is the word—from the advantages of the schools that cream off the top children. Thousands of children, nevertheless, will have the last two years of their primary school life dominated by the great madness of the 11-plus examination. Thousands of children will know, when the results are announced, the deep and poisoning frustration, and the depression and disappointment of being written off at 11 years of age. That is the fact of the matter.

Nobody who has observed a community that operates a selective 11-plus system can doubt that on the morning of the results there are not faces of schoolchildren wreathed in smiles at having encoutnered the examination. There are floods of tears in many homes. The guilt for those tears will remain on the backs of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues. [Interruption.]

Wild gesticulations by Conservative Members are not evidence to contradict the fact that those children are told that they are the victims of a competitive system, and that they are scarred and second-rate. No amount of compensation and reassurance can alleviate that. For many years those children will not come to terms with the fact that they are not second-class and will not be regarded as second-rate failures. It takes a great amount of therapeutic attention to compensate for that—time that would be better spent by teachers and parents in getting on with the job of education.

The only interests who want the Bill are those buried in the political permafrost of their own prejudice and privilege. They are the Tories who control various local education authorities. Such persons are frequently an embarrassment to many Conservatives, especially the more progressive strands of the party. However, they exist and they are easily identified. [An hon. Member: "Who are they?"] They are the ones who not only go to sleep but utterly fail to comprehend any of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph). They enjoy living in a permanent yesterday. Indeed, the Prime Minister has even appointed a Minister especially to represent yesterday—the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), the "Minister for Yesterday", from whom we shall be hearing later.

Now we have a Bill to protect yesterday. It is a remnant from a bygone educational age. The reason why there has been selection in the form that it has been, as my hon. Friends the Members for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price), Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer) and Bolton, East (Mr. Young) have pointed out, is that when it was introduced it was conceived as a progressive means of releasing working-class children in a meritocratic system from the material chains and disadvantages which bound them down. Thirty-five years on we recognise that in the nonselective systems of the remainder of the Western world and in this country where we see daily, weekly and yearly academic, sporting, cultural and communication standards rising among school children, elements of the Conseravtive Party wish to freeze us somewhere around June 1944.

Dr. Hampson

Will the hon. Gentleman recognise that if, as he said, 83 per cent. of children are already in comprehensive schools, to get at the remaining 17 per cent. the Labour Government spent £26 million last year, in addition to £25 million in 1976–77, and £10 million was planned for this year, just to achieve that objective? Will that not distort the improvement in the quality of comprehensive schools, primary schools and others?

Mr. Kinnock

I spoke of progressive strains, and I know that the hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) is under considerable strain, although I do not know whether it is progressive. It is apposite for the hon. Gentleman to remind the House of those figures. Looking back through the records I discover that when our education legislation was being debated the hon. Gentleman criticised the fact that £25 million was not being made available. What was being made available to the LEAs was loan sanction up to £25 million. I take the criticism because, within a couple of weeks after that, I was contradicting my right hon. Friends on the matter of public expenditure cuts. I hope that the hon. Member for Ripon will do the same thing in relation to his right hon. Friends.

This comes ill from a representative of a party which has not given loan sanction for £25 million, or £10 million, or minuscule amounts of that nature in pursuit of Tory education policy. If we rely on reports in the "Daily Torygraph", we discover that the Conservatives are not intending to spend loan sanctions of £25 million, but are envisaging a figure of £50 million on subsidising direct grant schools in order to send out the rich to become more privileged. I am happy to debate the finances of education with the hon. Gentleman and anybody else, because there are a few skeletons that must be shaken out of the Tory cupboard. I intend to enjoy myself by following that entirely laudable pursuit.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Perhaps I may say, in passing, that we are enjoying the hon. Gentleman's wit, if not his vituperation. He will no doubt remember the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) and myself about the reverse selection in the inner London system, which creates tears. We are awaiting, I hope not in vain, for his condemnation of the practice.

Mr. Kinnock

I shall be condemning that practice tonight, and I shall be exploring the consequences. I fail to see how this Bill will rescue the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) and the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) from the terrible difficulties which they have encountered. I sympathise with the way in which they tried to represent the difficulties of their constituents. However, if the hon. Gentleman is so concerned about the matter, and if the Conservative Front Bench shares that concern, rather than put this tawdry Bill before the House tonight, they should pursue a much more progressive way of trying to develop and improve the education system in our capital.

The juntas which pass for local education authorities and which have managed to hang on to selective education speak of choice. They are regarded by the Tory Front Bench as crusaders of choice and as prophets of freedom, but this selective system does not involve choice at all. It is not selection by the consumer, which is classically how we understand choice, but selection of the consumer. That is a different proposition altogether. It is not the entry into the free market by people with full information and material resources at their disposal who can make a supermarket choice between goods of approximately equal value. We are not talking of cars or cabbages or colour television. We are talking about people's lives. Those people do not have a choice. Those people are chosen. The remnants of that selective system will mean that only particular kinds of people will be chosen.

We are seeing a Tory system of choice. What we are seeing enshrined in this Bill is the box office economy applied to education. In that economy, choice is limited to those who can buy entrance. It is not the careful and discriminating decision of people to turn away from the door. It is not that kind of choice. It is not even a feckless unwillingness to sacrifice, as the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister frequently tells us her parents did, and as my parents did, so that choice can be exercised. It is not any of those things.

The reason why people do not exercise choice in this system is through sheer resignation to the fact that they cannot afford the entry fee. This means that the children of the well endowed homes start off with a much stronger chance of gaining access to the grammar school system than those from poor homes. Not content with that domestic advantage that some children can enjoy, there are the private schools, the "crammers" which are obligatory, in the last two years of primary education, for those children so that they can get themselves into the mainstream and on to the escalator into the local grammar school.

Mr. Cormack

If the hon. Gentleman does not believe in choice, what is he doing there tonight? He was not elected last week to that position in the Shadow Cabinet elections.

Mr. Kinnock

My lack of discrimination in choice is evidenced even more by the fact that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman.

As long as there is a selective system in any area, the children of that area could have their whole lives scarred and frustrated through being born to the wrong parents. We, on the Opposition side, believe—I do not know if there is any agreement on the Tory side—that it is unforgivable and unsupportable that a whole life can be moulded simply because an atom chose to be a twinkle in the wrong father's eye. That is not a fair basis on which to decide. I do not believe that even the meritocrats on the Government side of the House would choose that system. But that is what it means when we boil down the system of selection into such a narrow region of prejudice.

That system is one of privilege in which the few, using the assets donated by the many, can ensconce themselves in perpetuity to remain as leaders and as top people or, as the Prime Minister might call them, the tall people. Here is a party now worshipping at the shrine of inequality as it has not done for a long time past and following the nostrum of the right hon. Lady—"Let our children grow tall"—a remark which would have done justice to John Wayne in one of his worst movies. "Let our children grow tall and some grow taller than others if they have it in them to do so." That is the dream of the Conservative Party—a society run by tall people for the advantage of tall people. The short people can put up with the tawdry and the second class.

It is what one expects from a party led by a Cabinet containing 22 people, 19 of them public school boys. The Cabinet is more thickly populated with public school boys than the free bar at Twickenham on international day. I must not knock public school boys too much. They will be sucking their thumbs and shouting for matron before we know where we are.

How much things have changed since this question was last debated in 1976. We were then berated by the right hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) for £25 million loan sanction. Whether that was because of its generosity or meanness, I am not sure. He did not like the idea. Since the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) has graced us with his presence, he would expect me to do him the favour of quoting his ermine-lined words. He said: The education service is facing unprecedented problems. We are facing drastic cutbacks in the rate of financial growth. We are seeing the demolition of the nursery programme"— that must be why the Government have just taken another quarter off it— which was so assiduously and far-sightedly planned by my right hon. Friend who is now Leader of the Opposition. We are seeing closures in colleges of education, cutbacks in the number of teachers and rising teacher unemployment Things do not change much, do they? We have seen the demoralising of the universities"— I noticed a statement from the committee of vice-chancellors on Sunday much to that effect— and other institutions of higher learning, and the collapse of confidence among millions of parents over standards of learning and discipline in our schools. This is an extraordinary time to put forward a partisan, doctrinaire, and unwanted measure."—[Official Report, 4 February 1976; Vol. 904, c. 1233–4.] I say "Aye" to that when it is applied to this Bill.

Of course, the right hon. Gentleman is not now in education. He is a collector of fine things—mainly, as far as I can make out, Government Ministries. He is Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster He is Lord President of the Council. [Hon. Members: "No."] No, he is not that, but he is Leader of the House of Commons, he is Minister for the arts—and he is resident Cabinet jester. That is all on the arts side, of course, and the right hon. Genleman has left the crafts to the other three.

What we must assert to the Government—I hope that they will take this fully on board—is that they cannot protest their support for comprehensives and still try to breathe life into the grammar schools with this Bill. They must understand that the age of selection is outlived. It is passed. They cannot keep it alive.

The Government must understand that now is no time for the instability, the indetermination and the indecision which they will create. We are talking about Whole futures, whole careers, whole lives, and we have to uphold them. If the Secretary of State and his hon. Friends are really concerned about educational standards and the future of education in this country, they should rip up the Bill here and now.

9.37 p.m.

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

First, I pay tribute to the education spokesman for the Opposition, the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). I do not suppose that I got the pronunciation of his constituency quite right. I have a one-quarter Welsh wife, and that is my only claim to be able to get these things anywhere near right. I think that the one thing that the hon. Gentleman and I have in common—I am sure that it is not our political views, and I hope that it is not the amount of bitterness in our souls either—is that we both spent time at University college, Cardiff. I spent a year there in the Royal Navy reading one of the subjects that the hon. Member read there. At least, I enjoyed my time there, as I am sure we shall enjoy the hon. Gentleman's continued wit and leadership in the House.

I pay tribute also to my two hon. Friends who made their maiden speeches today. I refer, first, to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway). I am a godfather to his son, so I suppose I should declare an interest. The other godfather is Bishop Huddleston, so it is a really comprehensive godfathership. I pay tribute also to my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Thompson), whose maiden speech was, I know, much appreciated.

To me, the amazing feature of the debate is that, listening to it, one would think that the Bill was for the dissolution of comprehensive schools rather on the lines of action many years ago for the dissolution of the monasteries. In fact, as was made clear by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey), all that the Bill does is to return freedom to local education authorities—with the agreement of their areas—to decide how they want to run the secondary schools in their areas. That is all it is.

Mr. Flannery


Dr. Boyson

The hon. Member is an expert in claptrap. I am not sure what that interruption means, but I am pointing out that the Bill means that if certain areas want to keep their comprehensive schools, as we would expect the vast number of areas to wish to do, they can keep them. Nobody is taking them away. Similarly, if certain areas want to change to comprehensive education, they can change to comprehensive education. Nobody is stopping their doing so.

A lack of confidence in comprehensive schools is shown by some Opposition Members. They seem to think that comprehensives are unpopular and that marches will be organised to change them. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I have more confidence in comprehensive schools than do some Labour Members.

The Bill brings back partnership in education. Hon. Members have referred to yesterday and tomorrow. The provisions of the 1944 Act were wiser than those of the 1976 Act. This is why we are debating the issue again tonight. It is an issue that appeals to people.

The 1944 Act established a partnership between the Government, local education authorities and teachers. The 1976 Act was driven through regardless of the desires of the local education authorities and of many teachers. It was passed with little support. That is why we have returned to the situation that existed before that Act. That is why my hon. Friends the Members for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) and Carshalton (Mr. Forman) have made clear that the 1976 Act actually harmed the comprehensive principle in many areas. Before the passage of that Act, people moved when they were ready. The Labour Party made a political issue out of it. It invented politics that did not exist in education. We are returning to the partnership between the local authorities, the teachers and the Government.

Some hon. Members would benefit from a knowledge of the history of comprehensive education. On 1 January 1964 many education authorities which were Conservative-controlled had comprehensive schools and there was no opposition to them. Such schools were set up in Dorset, Oxfordshire, Leicestershire, West Sussex and Westmorland. During the time that the 1945 to 1951 Labour Government were in office Westmorland, which was Conservative/Independent-controlled, put forward a scheme for comprehensive education and it was rejected by the Labour Government. It is ridiculous to pretend that there has been a battle between a Labour Party, which is so far-seeing and has so many bleeding hearts, and the Conservative Party, which has held it back. The 1976 Act actually held back the advance of comprehensive education.

Mr. Flannery

If the Conservative Party was the initiator of comprehensive education, why do the Conservatives fight tooth and nail for the 11-plus examination and against comprehensive education?

Dr. Boyson

It is difficult to answer that question simply. The Bill does not fight tooth and nail to bring grammar schools back. The Bill is not about choice. It passes freedom back to local education authorities so that they can develop schools in the interests of their areas.

Labour Members seem to think that the problems will be solved once the whole country goes comprehensive. They believe that the tears of the 11-plus will then be banished. When I was the headmaster of Highbury Grove school, I found that parents whose children were not admitted to schools of their choice protested more than they did if their children did not pass the 11-plus. The gap between the good comprehensive and the bad comprehensive is now wider than that between some of the best selective schools and the worst secondary modern schools.

It would help if Opposition Members concentrated on ensuring that children have a good education. Figures for inner London comprehensive schools were published in 1977. In only one in three London comprehensive schools could a pupil take a technical subject at A-level. In only half of those schools could a pupil sit an examination in pure mathematics. In only two-thirds could a pupil take an examination in French at A-level. Only in another one-third can one now take a second foreign language at A-level. Those are not the choices that most parents, Tory or Labour, would want for their children were they academically inclined.

My hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) referred to truancy in London. I suggest that certain Opposition Members read Professor Rutter's book. All credit should go to the Inner London education authority for allowing that book to be written. It is an in-depth analysis of 12 comprehensive schools in London. These schools were from the same background and had the same staffing. The analysis showed that pupils entering school A as against those at another school had five times as much chance of getting an O-level pass than in the other school. This is the choice in the comprehensive system in relation to non-achievement in many of those schools.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) doubted the figures given by my hon. Friend concerning truancy. But figures are also published in that book. One school, the better school, had only 16 per cent. of its 15-year-olds playing truant normally. The other school had 41 per cent. of its pupils missing. It is all very well for hon. Mem bers on the Opposition Benches to shout when they do not like the figures, but it might be a good idea if they read them. We can also give the same figures for delinquency.

If one goes to a county such as Oxfordshire, which is Conservative-controlled and almost totally comprehensive, one can see recently published figures of O-and A-level passes there. One finds that the gap between certain comprehensive schools and others is such that there is no doubt that there is the same pressure to get into those high-achievement comprehensive schools in Oxfordshire as once existed in relation to grammar schools as against secondary modern schools.

The idea that by passing an Act and driving pupils through the system regardless and calling schools comprehensives one has solved the problems of education, is not true. These problems can be solved only by long-term co-operation among teachers, local education authorities and Government.

I can speak about the change to comprehensive schools because I spent 12 years in them. I also spent 10 years in secondary modem schools—five years as a chalk-faced teacher and five as a headmaster. If one looks at the 1976–77 figures in UCCA, of the percentage of children of blue-collar workers who get to university—of the full intake—the fascinating aspect is that whilst we have been moving to comprehensive schools, which the Labour Party says has given opportunities to children who never had them before, the percentage of children of blue-collar workers going to university is 2 per cent. less in 1977 than in 1974. The figure fell from 26 per cent. to 24 per cent. of university intake.

Is that the great social revolution that has been heralded from the Opposition side of the Chamber? We can all do bleeding hearts on figures and we can do it emotionally. I would much prefer figures to be presented from both sides of an argument so that parents may make their decision. They are the people who should decide, with their local education authorities, how their schools should be run.

I would like to quote Mrs. Shirley Williams twice. I do not disagree with her statements. First of all, she asks whether comprehensive schools have improved academic standards. Perhaps I should not have given her name straight away, Mr. Speaker. You must forgive me for not allowing the opportunity for a little more hilarity which I could have provoked had I asked Labour Members who they thought had made these statements. On 12 July 1978, Mrs. Williams was reported as saying at the conference of local education authorities that information about comprehensive schools was still too patchy to draw conclusions on the crucial issue of standards.

Now, with 83 per cent. of our children in comprehensive schools and with certain areas having been totally comprehensive for up to 25 years, if we still have not got the evidence I would like to know when we will get it.

It always astonishes me how politicians get into the habit of speaking on behalf of everybody in the country, particularly about anybody who is not present at the time. In 1977, there were two surveys. One, by the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, sponsored a British Market Research Bureau survey into 79 secondary schools. It found that 58 per cent. of teachers thought that comprehensive schools in their areas had lowered academic standards. I am not saying those schools had lowered standards, but I asked Opposition Members who claim to speak on their behalf to let us have a better figure.

The Times Educational Supplement published in 1977 an NOP poll showing that 72 per cent. of teachers opposed the elimination of grammar schools. I am not saying that these schools should be kept, but the Opposition seem to think that they alone represent the future and that we represent the past, and the public told them what they thought of that on 3 May. Perhaps some people like the old verities and high standards and moral responsibility; perhaps that is the sort of thing that many people want.

It was good to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton), who was the chairman of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities education committee until he entered the House. He and some of my other hon. Friends referred to the big problem of the comprehensive schools. Statistically, one would need a 5,000-strong comprehensive school to do a viable group O-level Greek course. Unless one has a big school of 2,000 or 1,500, one cannot provide a wide variety of courses. But if one has a small school, which does not have the disciplinary problems of the big school, one will not have the variety of courses. There must be some form of combination. That is where thought should be given for the future.

Mrs. Williams told a London conference on 5 March this year that it was only a minority of comprehensive schools that produced a large and regular flow of entrants to universities. She said that pupils from the others trickled through in ones and twos. Therefore, simply producing comprehensive schools does not solve all the problems of education. The division between the good and the less good comprehensive school is as wide as anything that came before. I am sure that that is why a smaller percentage of children of blue-collar workers are going on to university.

The comprehensive school in the suburban area is usually a grammar school with a CSE stream and the comprehensive school in a downtown area is a large secondary modern school with a few pupils doing GCE. In good areas the system has given greater advantage to children and in downtown areas it has taken them away. We can see the figures for London. As the Bible says, "From him that hath not even that which he hath shall be taken away."

Some hon. Members talk as if the Conservatives are the hard men and the soft, compassionate men are to be found on the Labour Benches. We and the hon. Member for Bedwellty can decide how to do research to find out what is happening. I believe that the coming of the comprehensive school to the inner city has done more to deprive the bright child in that area than anything else in the past 25 years.

I should like to give two more quotations before I come to the end of this winding-up speech. If I refer to The Times, that is history again, but we hope that it is the future as well. It said in a leader article on 25 March 1977: The most characteristic socialist reform in education, the introduction of comprehensive schools, is generally believed to have led to a serious lowering of standards and to have done great harm to the prospects of hundreds of thousands of children. That is already true. Dr. Harry Judge, who, unlike many hon. Members, had long experience of comprehensive schooling and was the head of Banbury school, which is always used as an illustration for non-streaming, said recently that Comprehensive schools are systematically neglecting the needs of able children. Labour Members have said that we are putting the clock back. I do not mind putting the clock back to correct a wrong. On this occasion I do not believe that we are putting the clock back. I say to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) that at least when we put the clock back we get another hour's daylight. The Labour Party waits until it is dark before stopping the clock. There is no harm in assessing what is going on.

The chief education officer of Richmond said recently: We cannot just keep behaving as if comprehensive schools were something mysterious. Education is suffering a crisis of confidence that can only be removed by frankness and openness. The Government do not object to frankness and openness. There is no doubt that the Labour Party is dogmatic and doctrinaire. We accept that in certain areas comprehensive schools have worked well. There are good comprehensive schools. On that basis the Labour Party says that there must be comprehensive schools throughout the country, regardless of whether they are wanted. It surprises me that the Left wing of the Labour Party has been bewitched by the Fabian idea of the mandarin comprehensive school. I thought that there would be rather more Friggings on the Left wing of the Labour Party.

There is one sector of the Labour Party in particular that objects to the Bill's passage. Those in that sector scorn our claim that the Bill was proposed in the Conservative Party's manifesto. It is fascinating that the Left wing of the Labour Party is talking all the time about the Right wing of the Labour Party because it chooses to carry through its manifesto commitments. It seems that Governments are not supposed to implement their manifesto pledges. I do not know how a Government can win if that argument is accepted. The Bill was proposed in the Conservative Party's manifesto. The Left wing of the Labour Party should congratulate the Government on introducing the Bill so soon in the Parliament. If it did so, however, it might put Left-wing seats at risk.

The Bill will pass to Committee within a week. Undoubtedly we shall enjoy the long battles that will take place in Committee. The Bill is part of the overall policy that was advanced by the Conservative Party with the object of putting Britain back on the right course. The Conservative Party proposed the lowering of taxes. I know that Labour Members do not like that, but unfortunately for them the electorate does. The electorate wants to see taxes reduced, and it is with us on that score. There is similar agreement about the sale of council housing. The Labour mandarins do not want to allow the sale of council houses. However, the electorate wants that to take place. There is no doubt that it is already supporting the Government on the sale of council houses.

There is no doubt that the electorate will similarly support the Government's education policy. It will support the Government's comprehensive policy on two grounds. First, it does not believe that comprehensive schools should be forced on the public in areas where they are not wanted. It will support a measure that places power again in the hands of local authorities. Secondly, I have no doubt that the majority of parents who have children in comprehensive schools will thank the Conservative Party for introducing a policy to ensure that all comprehensive schools work. There is no doubt that the policy of the previous

Labour Government—they presumed that they had solved everything by introducing comprehensive schools—has not worked. There is great disillusionment in many areas with downtown comprehensives. We have seen the figures and we are aware of the alarm and concern.

It was interesting that the hon. Member for Bedwellty referred to me as being appointed Minister for Yesteryear. I sometimes feel that it is the Labour Party that is the party of yesteryear. When I hear the hon. Member for Hillsborough I am convinced that he represents not the party of yesteryear but of yestercentury. He trotted out the same speech that we hear time after time in this place. It reminds me of the early comprehensive school battles at a time when I was advocating comprehensive school experiments. I have a great personal respect for the hon. Gentleman. I do not have respect for his views, but I respect him personally. He had long experience of schooling but I doubt whether he is aware of current thinking in society.

I ask my right hon. Friends to support the Bill. I hope that they will do so without a shadow of a doubt. I hope that Labour Members who have comprehensive schools in their areas that are unpopular and who think that the Government should concentrate on putting right the present deficiencies will also support the Government.

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

The House divided: Ayes 307, Noes 237.

Division No. 13] AYES [10.00 p.m.
Adley, Robert Bowden, Andrew Channon, Paul
Aitken, Jonathan Boyson, Dr Rhodes Chapman, Sydney
Alexander, Richard Bradford, Rev. R. Churchill, W. S.
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Braine, Sir Bernard Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)
Ancram, Michael Bright, Graham Clark, William (Croydon South)
Arnold, Tom Brinton, Timothy Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Aspinwall, Jack Brittan, Leon Clegg, Walter
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Cockeram, Eric
Baker, Kenneth (St. Morylebone) Brooke, Hon Peter Colvin, Michael
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Brotherton, Michael Cope, John
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe) Cormack, Patrick
Bell, Ronald Browne, John (Winchester) Costain, A. P.
Bendall, Vivian Bruce-Gardyne, John Cranborne, Viscount
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Bryan, Sir Paul Crouch, David
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Buck, Antony Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Best, Keith Budgen, Nick Dickens, Geoffrey
Bevan, David Gilroy Bulmer, Esmond Dodsworth, Geoffrey
Biffen, Rt Hon John Burden, F. A. Dorrell, Stephen
Biggs-Davison, John Butcher, John Dover, Denshore
Blackburn, John Butler, Hon Adam du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Blaker, Peter Cadbury, Jocelyn Dunn, Robert (Dartford)
Body, Richard Carlisle, John (Luton West) Durant, Tony
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Boscawen, Hon Robert Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn) Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Chalker, Mrs Lynda Eggar, Timothy
Elliott, Sir William Lester, Jim (Beeston) Rhodes James, Robert
Emery, Peter Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Eyre, Reginald Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo) Ridsdale, Julian
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Rifkind, Malcolm
Fairgrieve, Russell Loveridge, John Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Faith, Mrs Sheila Lyell, Nicholas Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW.)
Farr, John McAdden, Sir Stephen Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Fell, Anthony McCrindle, Robert Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Fenner, Mrs Peggy McCusker, H. Rossi, Hugh
Finsberg, Geoffrey Macfarlane, Neil Rost, Peter
Fisher, Sir Nigel MacGregor, John Royle, Sir Anthony
Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N) Mackay, John (Argyll) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Fookes, Miss Janet Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
Forman, Nigel McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Scott, Nicholas
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Fox, Marcus McQuarrie, Albert Shelton, William (Streatham)
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Madel, David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Major, John Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Marland, Paul Shersby, Michael
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Marlow, Antony Silvester, Fred
Gardner, Edward (South Fylde) Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Sims, Roger
Garel-Jones, Tristan Marten, Neil (Banbury) Skeet, T. H. H.
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Mates, Michael Smith, Dudley (War, and Leam'ton)
Glyn, Dr Alan Mather, Carol Speed, Keith
Goodhart, Philip Maude, Rt Hon Angus Speller, Tony
Goodhew, Victor Mawby, Ray Spence, John
Goodlad, Alastair Mawhinney, Dr Brian Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)
Gorst, John Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Sproat, Iain
Gow, Ian Mayhew, Patrick Squire, Robin
Gower, Sir Raymond Mellor, David Stanbrook, Ivor
Gray, Hamish Meyer, Sir Anthony Stanley, John
Greenway, Harry Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch) Steen, Anthony
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Mills, Iain (Meriden) Stevens, Martin
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Mills, Peter (West Devon) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Grist, Ian Miscampbell, Norman Stewart, J. (East Renfrewshire)
Grylls, Michael Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Stokes, John
Gummer, John Selwyn Moate, Roger Stradling Thomas, J.
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll) Molyneaux, James Tapsell, Peter
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Monro, Hector Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW.)
Hampson, Dr Keith Montgomery, Fergus Tebbit, Norman
Hannam, John Moore, John Temple-Morris, Peter
Haselhurst, Alan Morgan, Geraint Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Hastings, Stephen Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Thompson, Donald
Hawksley, Warren Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Hayhoe, Barney Murphy, Christopher Thornton, George
Heddle, John Myles, David Townend, John (Bridlington)
Henderson, Barry Neale, Gerrard Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Needham, Richard Trippier, David
Hicks, Robert Nelson, Anthony Trotter, Neville
Higgins, Terence L. Neubert, Michael Van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hill, James Newton, Tony Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham) Nott, Rt Hon John Viggers, Peter
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Onslow, Cranley Waddington, David
Hooson, Tom Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Hordern, Peter Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Wakeham, John
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Parkinson, Cecil Waldegrave, Hon William
Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford) Parris, Matthew Wall, Patrick
Hunt, David (Wirral) Patten, Christopher (Bath) Walters, Dennis
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Patten, John (Oxford) Ward, John
Hurd, Hon Douglas Pattie, Geoffrey Watson, John
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Pawsey, James Wells, John (Maidstone)
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Penhaligon, David Wells, P. Bowen (Hert'rd&Stev'nage)
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Percival, Sir Ian Wheeler, John
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Peyton, Rt Hon John Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Pink, R. Bonner Whitney, Raymond
Kaberry, Sir Donald Pollock, Alexander Wickenden, Keith
Kilfedder, James A. Porter, George Wiggin, Jerry
Kimball, Marcus Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down) Wilkinson, John
Kitson, Sir Timothy Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Knight, Mrs Jill Price, David (Eastleigh) Winterton, Nicholas
Knox, David Prior, Rt Hon James Wolfson, Mark
Lamont, Norman Proctor, K. Harvey Young, Sir George (Acton)
Lang, Ian Pym, Rt Hon Francis Younger, Rt Hon George
Latham, Michael Raison, Timothy
Lawrence, Ivan Rathbone, Tim TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Lawson, Nigel Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal) Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Lee, John Rees-Davies, W. R. Mr. Anthony Berry.
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Renton, Tim
Abse, Leo Alton, David Armstrong, Ernest
Adams, Allen Anderson, Donald Ashley, Jack
Allaun, Frank Archer, Peter Ashton, Joe
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Golding, John Palmer, Arthur
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Gourlay, Harry Park, George
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Grant, George (Morpeth) Parker, John
Beith, A. J. Grant, John (Islington C) Parry, Robert
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Pendry, Tom
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Bidwell, Sydney Hart, Rt Hon Judith Prfce, Christopher (Lewisham West)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Race, Reg
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Haynes, David Radice, Giles
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough) Healey, Rt Hon Denis Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)
Bradley, Tom Heffer, Eric S. Richardson, Miss Jo
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Home Robertson, John Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith) Hooley, Frank Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Buchan, Norman Horam, John Robertson, George
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Howells, Geraint Rodgers, Rt Hon William
Campbell, Ian Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) Rooker, J. W.
Campbell-Savours, Dale Janner, Hon Greville Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Canavan, Dennis Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Carmichael, Neil John, Brynmor Rowlands, Ted
Carter-Jones, Lewis Johnson, James (Hull West) Ryman, John
Cartwright, John Johnson, Walter (Derby South) Sandelson, Neville
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Sever, John
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Sheerman, Barry
Cohen, Stanley Jones, Dan (Burnley) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Shore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)
Conlan, Bernard Kerr, Russell Short, Mrs Renée
Cowans, Harry Kilroy-Silk, Robert Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Cox, Tom (Wandsworth, Tooting) Kinnock, Neil Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Crowther, J. S. Lambie, David Silverman, Julius
Cryer, Bob Lamond, James Skinner, Dennis
Cunliffe, Lawrence Leadbitter, Ted Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven) Leighlon, Ronald Snape, Peter
Davidson, Arthur Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Soley, Clive
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Spearing, Nigel
Davies, E. Hudson (Caerphilly) Lofthouse, Geoffrey Spriggs, Leslie
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lyon, Alexander (York) Slallard, A. W.
Davis, Clinton (Hackney central) Lyons, Edward (Bradford West) Steel, Rt Hon David
Davis, Terry (Br'm'ham, Stechford) Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Stoddart, David
Deakins, Eric McCartney, Hugh Stott, Roger
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) McDonald, Dr Oonagh Strang, Gavin
Dempsey, James McElhone, Frank Straw, Jack
Dewar, Donald McKay, Allen (Penistone) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Dixon, Donald McKelvey, William Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Dobson, Frank MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Dormand, J. D. Maclennan, Robert Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Douglas, Dick McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce McNally, Thomas Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Dubs, Alfred McWilliam, John Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Duffy, A. E. P. Magee, Bryan Tilley, John
Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale) Marks, Kenneth Tinn, James
Dunnett, Jack Marshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n) Torney, Tom
Eadie, Alex Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Eastham, Ken Marshall, Jim (Leicester South) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire) Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn) Watkins, David
English, Michael Mason, Rt Hon Roy Weetch, Ken
Ennals, Rt Hon David Maxton, John Wellbeloved, James
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Maynard, Miss Joan Welsh, Michael
Evans, John (Newton) Meacher, Michael White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Ewing, Harry Mellish, Rt Hon Robert White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Field, F. Mikardo, Ian Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Flannery, Martin Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby) Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe) Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Ford, Ben Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw) Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Forrester, John Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Winnick, David
Foster, Derek Morton, George Woodall, Alec
Foulkes, George Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Woolmer, Kenneth
Ftaser, John (Lambeth, Norwood) Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Wrigglesworth, Ian
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Newens, Stanley Wright, Miss Sheila
Freud, Clement Oakes, Gordon Young, David (Bolton East)
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Ogden, Eric
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) O'Halloran, Michael TELLERS FOR THE NOES
George, Bruce O'Neill, Martin Mr. Ted Graham and
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Mr. James Hamilton.
Ginsburg, David

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).