HC Deb 12 February 1981 vol 998 cc1002-79

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Speaker

I have not selected the reasoned amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux).

4.37 pm
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Younger)

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

The Bill was laid before the House last year as the Education (Scotland) (No. 2) Bill. As we have passed the beginning of a new calendar year, the "No. 2" part of the title falls to be removed The first Scottish education Bill of 1980 was, of course, what is now the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 which was a consolidation measure with minor changes of the education provisions in more than 20 statutes. This Bill is a very different matter. It is not too much to describe the Bill, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, the Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) did on its publication, as the biggest initiative in Scottish education legislation for many years, probably the biggest since the Education (Scotland) Act 1945.

It might be helpful if I mentioned at this point—because it explains what may strike some as an unusual layout of the Bill—that in order not to lose too quickly the advantages of the 1980 consolidation the Bill has been largely drafted in the form of provisions to be inserted in the 1980 Act either as new provisions or as substitutions. That will enable the 1980 Act to be produced in due course incorporating the Bill's provisions when enacted—the whole then being in an easily readable and comprehensible form to the benefit of those who will use it.

The main subject of the Bill—the provisions relating to admissions to school—fulfils an undertaking given in our election manifesto, as does the assisted places scheme. Another group of provisions—relating to special educational needs—implement the recommendations of the Warnock committee so far as they relate to the statutory framework. The Bill also relaxes some controls administered by the Scottish Education Department, and contains provisions relating to the Scottish Certificate of Education Examination Board, the negotiations of teachers' pay and conditions of service, and the responsibility for educational endowments.

The Bill is the product of a great deal of work which has been going on in the Scottish Education Department over the past year or so and before I turn to its provisions I pause briefly to put its subject matter in context against the background of the whole scope and needs of the Scottish educational system at present. That is essential to any proper understanding of the Bill, because suggestions have been made frequently recently both that it is "irrelevant" to the present needs of Scottish education and that important issues that ought to have been dealt with in it have been ignored.

For example, I should like to explain briefly why the Bill does not deal with the special needs of the 16 to 18-year-olds which, as hon. Members will recall, were the subject of a consultative paper, "16–18s in Scotland: The First 2 Years of Post-Compulsory Education". In that area our principal aim, of course, must be to improve the preparation of young people for work and, to that end, to strengthen existing links between education and training. The Government's proposals for extending the existing programme of vocational preparation schemes have already been announced. We are also considering, in the light of the responses to the consultative paper, whether there is any action to be taken to integrate more effectively the work of schools and further education colleges in Scotland. No need for legislation, however, has so far been identified, as the work can and will proceed without any direct reference in the Bill.

In primary education, the recently published HMI report on teaching and learning in primary 4 and primary 7 has been recognised as an important landmark. As the first major report on such matters since the publication of the primary memorandum in 1965, it points the way ahead for that vital sector. The ground work laid down is being furthered in a number of ways. I know that it has been felt by some teachers that primary education has been left unrecognised and neglected in comparison with the much-publicised developments in secondary education and I am glad to be able to put on record the vital importance which we attach to the primary schools. I look forward to steady development along the lines suggested in the report.

Turning to secondary schools, the Government have accepted the main recommendations of the Munn and Dunning reports in principle and work is progressing satisfactorily on the development programme announced last March in response to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay). A progress report has now been published. Here again, however, no legislation is called for.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

When talking about the Munn and Dunning reports, will the Secretary of State give some indication of what expenditure for in-service training for teachers he is prepared to allow, as that was a major factor in both reports?

Mr. Younger

That is an important point. We have made adequate recognition of it in our calculations for the rate support grant. That is the proper way to do it and I am sure that the education authorities will make the best possible use of the resources.

There are many other initiatives that I could mention if this were the time to do so. For example, the Education for the Industrial Society project, with its emphasis on ways in which school courses generally might be adapted to give pupils a better preparation for the world of work, is making good progress and will be completed in spring 1982. But I hope that those few examples will leave the House in no doubt that the fact that existing statute does not require amendment in relation to any particular major initiatives in no way implies that they are being undervalued or neglected.

If I were asked to nominate the theme most recurrent in the Bill, it would be in the one word "freedom". The Government's purposes in the Bill, by contrast with the policies of some Labour Members, who seem apt to subordinate freedom to their preference for Government intervention and control, are greatly concerned with freedom—freedom for local authorities to act on their own initiatives where that is appropriate, and after due consultation with parents, but, above all, greater freedom for parents to choose the school and the type of education that they consider best for their children. For too long the attitude has prevailed in some quarters that parents must just accept without question whatever education authorities or teachers think fit to offer them. I remind the House that it is on the parent that the statutory responsibility rests for seeing that his child receives efficient education … suitable to his age, ability and aptitude". Is it not time that we acted in accordance with the spirit of that provision and gave parents a greater say in how their children are to be educated?

The first part of the Bill—clauses 1 and 2—expresses that theme. As hon. Members will be aware, last March my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North invited a wide range of bodies to comment on proposals outlined in our consultative document "Admission to School—A Charter for Parents"—proposals designed to give parents a greater say on the choice of school. Clause 1 follows that up by providing a statutory framework within which parents can express their choice. Some authorities in Scotland already adopt a flexible and sympathetic attitude towards parental choice and try to accede to parental wishes wherever they can. But that is not, alas, the universal practice. There are areas where authorities are willing to meet a parent's request for a particular school only in the most exceptional circumstances. At a time of falling rolls, when there is often plenty of room in the school of the parent's choice, I do not think there is any justification for such an approach. Clause 1 therefore gives education authorities a duty to comply with parental requests, unless one or more of the specified grounds for refusal apply.

Clearly there will still be cases where parental requests will be refused, and indeed some refusals will be quite justifiable. We have made it plain on many occasions that parental choice cannot operate at any price. To safeguard parents, however, if they are not satisfied by the education authority's refusal of a request, clause 1 and schedule 1 provide for a system of independent appeal committees to examine each case referred to them. I should make it clear that I do not expect many cases to go to appeal committees.

The commonest cause for the complaints that I receive from parents is that their request has been turned down, although they believe that there is room for their child in the chosen school. The Bill will end that cause of complaint and, if the new provisions are seen to be operated fairly, there should be few parents who believe that they have cause to appeal, even if they have been unsuccessful in their request because the school they want is oversubscribed. Nevertheless, I accept that there will be some parents who will wish to go to the appeal committees, and thereafter a few who will remain dissatisfied even after an appeal committee has heard their case. To cater for such parents clause 1 also makes provision for a further level of appeal to the sheriff.

In our consultative paper last March, we urged authorities to act in accordance with the spirit of our proposals and to accept an obligation to meet parents' wishes if that can be done within the existing accommodation and staffing resources in the school of choice. I take the opportunity to repeat that request in relation to the arrangements which they are now beginning to make for the admission of children to primary schools or transfer to secondary schools next August. No one, I am sure, would wish to contemplate the disruption which will be caused if a large number of parents are left feeling that their requests have been turned down unreasonably, and exercise their right to repeat their request and to appeal if it is refused, when this part of the Bill comes into operation at some point during the 1981–82 school session.

Parents will need information about schools and about the education authority's admission arrangements. Clause 1 therefore provides that education authorities will be required to make prescribed information available and to tell parents, when their child is allocated to a particular school, of their right to request an alternative school. Clause 2 provides that authorities will not have to incur additional expenditure in respect of board, lodgings and transport when they have offered a place with suitable arrangements for transport and so on, but the parent has asked for a place in a different school. Authorities will be empowered to provide assistance with transport to the school of the parent's choice, but that will be entirely within their discretion.

I turn now to the provisions in the Bill that deal with special educational needs. These provisions implement the basic changes in attitude to the education of handicapped children and young people recommended by the Warnock committee. The central message of the Warnock report—and it is especially apt in this International Year of Disabled People—is that children are individuals and should be seen as such. The educational system should look positively at the child's capacity and his educational needs: the common aim for all must be the achievement of the full potential of each child. As a foundation for this approach clause 3 introduces a broad and flexible concept of special educational needs in terms which make it clear that we are concerned with all children who need a fair amount of extra help with their schooling. The new definition covers not only the small number of children who, under the existing law, would be ascertained within rigid categories of handicap as requiring special education but many more children besides—the Warnock committee itself thought that up to one in five would evince some form of special educational need at some time during their school career.

Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

In this International Year of Disabled People, what extra provision will the Scottish Office make available? I have two schools under threat of closure and it seems to me that extra provision will be required if local authorities are to make this new legislation work.

Mr. Younger

I should be very glad to look into the particular instances that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. [Interruption.] I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) will look into it. I shall be very grateful if he does. Whether he is trying to make his own speech from a sitting position I do not know. We are looking forward tremendously to hearing from him later on. Perhaps he could leave us to whet our appetites a little for when he gets called later on, if he does. If the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) has worries about this matter I should be very glad to look into the point.

As far as resources are concerned, if the hon. Gentleman is referring to education and the needs of the disabled, the rate support grant settlement for social work generally—which includes work for the disabled—actually shows a real increase of approximately 1 per cent. There is, therefore, absolutely no excuse whatever for any local authority cutting back on essential needs for the disabled. Indeed, it ought to be able marginally to increase them. As the hon. Gentleman, I am sure, will approve of that, I think that it is a pan answer to his question.

Clause 4 makes new provision directly concerned with children and young people whose needs are both marked and continuing—generally those for whom special education has been found necessary in the past. The clause has two main effects. First, it provides for the assessment of children and young persons with the object of establishing whether their special needs are, in the words of the Bill, "pronounced, specific or complex". Where they are, the education authority has a duty to keep a special individual record which sets out the character and severity of the pupil's handicaps, lists his educational needs and the measures the authority proposes to take, and, where appropriate, names the school it proposes. Secondly, the parents of recorded children are given opportunities to express their views on the needs of the child and the same right to express their wishes with regard to a choice of school as clause 1 gives to other parents.

Hon. Members may recall that in the White Paper "Special Educational Needs in Scotland" published last summer I canvassed the possibility that the appeal committee and the sheriff should hear appeals against the record as well as choice of school issues. I received strong representations, however, to the effect that the consideration of the sensitive issues raised by questions of impaired ability should remain with my own professional advisers. Clause 4, therefore, now distinguishes carefully between appeals against the decision to record a child or against the description in the record—these will have to be referred to the Secretary of State—and appeals against the refusal of the parent's choice of school, which will be dealt with by the appeal committee in the ordinary way. I think we now have in the Bill a system which, without being too complicated in operation, will ensure that the separate issues are each handled in the proper way.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline)

Clauses 3 and 4 impose severe burdens on the education authority. If I recall them correctly, the provisions envisaged in Warnock would require the education authorities, if they are to carry out their duties, to have recourse to such sophisticated teaching elements as physiotherapists and speech therapists and there is no provision, as I understand it, in this Bill for doing that. Indeed, there is a reduction in these facilities.

Mr. Younger

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern. He is quite right, of course, in saying that one cannot improve facilities for the education of disabled children without some money. Of course, this measure is only just having its Second Reading today and we hope it will be approved by the House. It is our intention, if it is approved, that provision will be made in the rate support grant settlements in the normal way so that the provision that local authorities are likely to be able to make use of is allowed for. I think that that is the fairest way to approach it. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with that.

The next part of the Bill—clause 5 and schedule 4—concerns the assisted places scheme. Labour Members have lost no opportunity of making it clear in recent months that this is the part of the Bill to which they are most strongly opposed. Indeed, it seems to be the only part of the Bill that they have taken on board at all. I believe, however, that their opposition, though no doubt sincere, is compounded of prejudice and a great deal of misunderstanding. I hope I can dispel at least some of the misunderstanding, although it may be beyond me to dispel all the prejudice.

Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

In dispelling these misunderstandings, will the right hon. Gentleman take great care to tell us, in describing the detail of the scheme proposed in clause 5, what educational bodies in Scotland approve of the scheme?

Mr. Younger

If the right hon. Gentleman would like some detail on that, I will ask my hon. Friend to mention it in replying. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman would also like a list—[Interruption.]

Mr. Canavan

The name of one will do.

Mr. Younger

The right hon. Gentleman may like a list of those who are gladly taking advantage of the scheme as well. I think that perhaps the most eloquent testimony that the scheme is entirely voluntary is to be found in the people taking part in it. I am not even despairing of dispelling some of the prejudice of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). I am sure he will respond vocally if I succeed.

Perhaps I could describe briefly what the scheme is. [Interruption.] Whether the right hon. Member for Craigton is still halfway through his speech I am not sure, but he is doing a very good job on it. Perhaps he has to prepare his speeches while he is sitting on the Front Bench. I always feel a little deprived because I rarely get the privilege of hearing the excellent speeches the right hon. Gentleman makes from the Front Bench from a sedentary position. No doubt they are so much better than the ones he makes standing up. I shall just have to make do with those.

The proposal in Clause 5 is that the existing block grant to the grant-aided secondary schools will be phased out and the resources thus released put at the disposal of suitable fee-paying secondary schools to enable them to remit the fees of pupils in accord with a prescribed parental income scale. At income levels up to about £90 a week remission will be total. Above that level an increasing parental contribution will be required and remission will cease altogether at the level of about £180 a week. The pupils to be admitted to assisted places will be chosen by the schools themselves, subject only to a requirement that they must be capable of benefiting from the education provided. In addition, some resources will be provided also to cover certain specified incidental expenses. This latter power will be exercised only to the extent of ensuring that pupils enjoying fee remission will not be at a disadvantage in comparison with children in the public sector.

I ask hon. Members to consider what they would have been saying on this subject if we had decided not to have an assisted places scheme in Scotland but simply to go on with the grant-aided secondary schools on the basis we inherited. Of course, I know that in principle Opposition Members would like to see all fee-paying schools abolished. But would they really have preferred us to preserve the status quo? I should have thought that Labour Members would recognise that the scheme is at least a step in the right direction. It will progressively convert the traditional indiscriminate subsidy, which helps only families who can already afford to pay substantial fees, into an income-linked subsidy. I simply cannot see how the Opposition can take the view that that step is undesirable in itself.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

The Secretary of State is very fond of telling us, as is his junior Minister, that the assisted places scheme will not cost one extra penny of public money, that it is just redistributing the grant aid that is already there. Will he come clean, stop misleading the House and tell us that since his Government came to power the increase in grant aid to fee-paying schools has been well over 200 per cent., and that there is nothing in the Bill to stop him or any future Secretary of State increasing the amount of public money that will be doled out through the assisted places scheme to these privileged fee-paying schools?

Mr. Younger

The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) is quite right. I am extremely fond of telling him things; it is a useful activity. I always enjoy hearing from him too. The answer is that it is true that we have managed to put right some of the damage the previous Government did to these schools by reducing the grant paid to them to a level which made it almost useless to those with low incomes who wished to exercise some choice in education. The hon. Gentleman must face the fact that his views on education, if implemented, would leave only two categories of people—those who were extremely well off and could afford some choice, and all the rest who could afford no choice whatever. He, as a good Socialist—as I understand he is—should be very pleased to think that some people with low incomes will be able to exercise some choice in the education of their children instead of the choice being confined to those who are very well off. But perhaps the hon. Gentleman is beginning to change his views. I look forward to his conversion, although I should view it with some apprehension if he were to cross the Floor of the House.

People used to talk about grant-aided schools as a bridge between the public sector and the private sector, meaning that they provided an alternative accessible to the lower income family. They sometimes still speak in that way. But the truth is that that bridge has long since collapsed. It existed in the days when fully economic school fees were much lower than they are now and when the subsidy to the grant-aided schools reduced those fees by more than half. There is no pretending that today's fees of, say, £1,000 reduced by the block grant to £800 are within the reach of lower income families. The assisted places scheme is fundamentally an effort to rebuild that bridge.

There is one other thing I must mention. I have taken note of the criticism levelled at the Government by Labour Members against the preparations that are being made for the scheme in advance of the Bill. This criticism is unjustified. It is perfectly normal for any Government to carry out preparatory work, and we have been at pains to keep Parliament fully informed of our preparations. I take this opportunity of mentioning a small change in the proposed parental income scale—the raising of the deduction allowed for a dependent relative to the figure of £600. We also make it clear that the scheme remains subject to the enactment of the Bill. The House should know, however, that the Bill is not essential to the introduction of the assisted places scheme as I already have powers to introduce the scheme under existing legislation. I propose, therefore, to use my existing powers in sections 73 and 74 of the 1980 Act to make interim regulations which I hope to lay before the House shortly. This will not, of course, deprive the House of the opportunity of discussing the proposals fully, and the regulations will, indeed, help us to have a better informed discussion since they will provide background to the provision in the Bill.

I now pass on into what I hope will be calmer waters.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

Does the Secretary of State agree that the Dundee high school jumped the gun and issued a pamphlet well in advance of the matter being debated in the Chamber? Is it not wholly incorrect to suggest that certain things might take place when the House has not had a chance to discuss those matters? This is to deny the House its right to discuss the matter. Even if the right hon. Gentleman does have powers, he should lay the matter before the House before making an announcement.

Mr. Younger

With respect, I do not think the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) has quite taken the point. I already have powers under a previous Act passed by the House to do this under regulations, and that is how I shall proceed until the Bill becomes law. I hope the hon. Gentleman will feel that that is fair. I should have thought that he would have been extremely pleased that I am, by this method, trying to extend to the children of some of his constituents on low incomes the chance to go to Dundee high school. I would expect him to be pleased about that and to be pressing me to allow as many of his constituents as possible to have this benefit, but perhaps I have misjudged him.

Mr. Ernie Ross

Will the Secretary of State accept that very few of my constituents wish to send their children to Dundee high school? Does he concede that one group who will benefit are the pupils at present at the school, and that that is what is behind the assisted places scheme? It is a method that the Government have chosen to give money back to the people who generally support them.

Mr. Younger

If the hon. Gentleman thinks about it, he will surely be pleased that some of his constituents on low incomes with children already at Dundee high school will get some help with the school fees. I should have thought that that would have pleased the hon. Gentleman, although I shall not press him to write a letter of thanks.

In reply to the hon. Gentleman's first point, I hope that he was not implying that, because only a few people would benefit from the scheme, it is undesirable. That is not the right way to look at it. If it benefits only one of his constituents he should be pleased about it.

I want now to pass on to clauses 6 to 8, dealing with the relaxation of controls. At present education authorities have to seek my consent to any school closure and to any change in their schemes of educational provision—these list the schools which they run, the stages of education which each covers, and the normal feeder arrangements between primary and secondary schools—or in their transfer schemes, which cover other arrangements for transfer from primary to secondary education. These specific controls date from a time when the school system was closely regulated by central Government, and we believe that authorities should now have freedom to tailor their school system to meet local circumstances. Clause 8 therefore abolishes the requirement on education authorities to prepare schemes and submit them to me for approval, and schedule 9 repeals the specific requirement that they must seek my approval to any school closure. Clause 6, however, will ensure that parents' wishes will continue to be taken into account. Authorities will be required to consult parents before making changes of a prescribed kind and there will be power also to prescribe changes which will still require my approval.

I have given considerable thought to the effect on denominational schools of this relaxation of my controls. Let me make our position with regard to denominational schools quite clear. We have no intention of altering the balance achieved by the 1918 Act, still less of ending the existence of separate denominational schools. That is an assurance which I have been specifically asked to give. My concern has been to retain that balance. Thus, just as the Bill removes many of the controls at present exercised by the Secretary of State over non-denominational schools, so it proposes to end the present control over changes affecting denominational schools. But it provides a particular safeguard—where the closure of a denominational school means that its pupils will have to transfer to a non-denominational school, this will continue to require my approval.

The Roman Catholic hierarchy in Scotland, however, made representations to me about the proposed provisions of the Bill. It has emphasised that, although it has no apprehension that any existing education authority would discriminate against denominational schools, it still regards some mechanism to ensure the preservation of the underlying intentions and principles of the 1918 Act as essential. It has, therefore, asked for a right of appeal to the Secretary of State in any case where a proposal would, in its view, materially worsen the position of denominational schools in comparison with other schools. We have come to the conclusion that we should safeguard the present balance in this way, and we propose, therefore, to put forward a Government amendment in Committee to the effect that if a Church or denominational body makes representations to the Secretary of State stating that a proposal by an education authority would result in a materially inequitable distribution or materially unsatisfactory standard of denominational schools compared with other schools, and if I am satisfied that these representations are justified, the proposal will require my consent.

Mr. Frank McElhone (Glasgow, Queen's Park)

It appears that the hierarchy has been forced into an embarrassing and rather shabby manoeuvre by the Secretary of State. Having stood up for Catholic schools in Scotland at the Dispatch Box when I was a Minister I shall stand up equally strongly for non-Catholic schools in Scotland. May I give one constituency example? If the Adelphi secondary school is closed by the Strathclyde regional council—that is a non-denominational school and an excellent school and I am opposed to its closure—will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that I have the right of appeal to him? If that right is not made available, it will be seen by many as discrimination in reverse. The Government have made a shabby deal.

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman knows a great deal about these matters. He will be able to ascertain whether the Roman Catholic hierarchy takes the view that he has outlined. As far as I am aware, it is grateful for the arrangement that has been made.

Mr. McElhone

It has been forced into it.

Mr. Younger

On the contrary, it requested the Government to make such arrangements if they could and that is what we have done. I think that it is grateful for that.

I emphasise that the nature of the appeal is not against the closure of the school but against any discrimination that a religious body feels has been exercised as against one denomination or another. This method of appeal is not open to a parent who wishes to object to a particular school being closed on the ground of that reason alone. The right of appeal will be open if it is an issue of discrimination of one denomination as against others.

Mr. McElhone

Again, I press the right hon. Gentleman to answer my question about the Adelphi secondary school, a non-denominational school, which is to be closed. Will I have the right of appeal to the Secretary of State or will that right be available to parents?

Mr. Younger

I shall have specifically to consider the case—

Mr. Canavan

Answer the question.

Mr. Younger

I am about to answer the question. I have got through only half the sentence so far. Labour Members seem to be getting over-excited. I shall have specifically to consider the case, but if it is a nondenominational school and if no question of denomination enters into it, there will be no right of appeal to me by means of the Act, assuming that Parliament enacts this measure. The only ground of appeal lies with denominational discrimination

Mr. McElhone

It is discrimination reversed.

Mr. Younger

It is not an appeal against the closure itself. It is an appeal against denominational discrimination if such is thought to have occurred. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have ample opportunity to make his views known if he wishes to do so.

Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, East)

Is there not a danger that the Opposition are being hypocritical? The hon. Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone) has made an allegation. Others have questioned the part of the Bill that we are now discussing. If there is any evidence that the Catholic Church claims that it has been pressurised as has been suggested by the hon. Gentleman, and if there is not a clear statement from the Catholic hierarchy that it wants this part of the Bill, will my right hon. Friend accept an amendment to delete it?

Mr. Younger

I appreciate what my hon. Friend is suggesting. It is probably best in the first instance for the hon. Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone) to ascertain from the Roman Catholic hierarchy—he is well equipped to do so—whether it approves.

I do not want to take up any more of the time of the House. I have given way on many occasions and I hope that hon. Members will now allow me to finish my speech. I am sure that many others wish to contribute to the debate.

I shall mention briefly some of the remaining clauses. Clauses 9, 10 and 11 are minor provisions concerning the registration of independent schools. Clause 12 merely puts it beyond doubt that an education authority has power to provide nursery teachers to work in day and residential nurseries, as some do already.

Clause 13 amends the legislation which established the Scottish Certificate of Education Examination Board in 1963, to extend the interests which can be represented on the board, to provide for the transfer to local authorities—in effect the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities—of the responsibility I have at present for approving the board's annual estimates of income and expenditure, and to substitute charging for presentations for the present arrangements by which I set annually the contribution due from each education authority to meet board expenditure. Education authorities and managers of non-education authority establishments will be responsible for meeting the charges for the presentations they make.

Mr. Maxton

May we have an assurance from the Secretary of State that the transfer of charges to the local authorities does not mean that local authorities will have the power to charge parents or pupils for taking examinations? There is some dubiety due to the wording of the Bill. Will he ensure that that is clarified?

Mr. Younger

I think that I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that the local authorities will not have such power. It is a different method of payment rather than a method that involves different amounts.

Clause 15 and schedule 6 deal with educational endowments. In accord with this Government's policy of reducing public expenditure and the size of the Civil Service, I have decided that my powers to reorganise endowments should be transferred to the Court of Session and the education authorities. The reorganisation powers of the Scottish Universities Committee of the Privy Council are also transferred to the court. I propose, however, to retain power to amend the constitutions of central institutions and I shall continue to maintain a register to aid people in search of benefits.

Clause 16 makes minor improvements to existing legislation for admission to teacher training courses. The primary object is to allow new regulations to be more flexibly drawn. Clause 17 transfers from the Crown to the respective university courts the power to appoint the principals of the universities of St. Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen. The courts and senates of the three universities themselves favoured the proposed change and Her Majesty has graciously expressed herself content.

Mr. Canavan

Hear, hear.

Mr. Younger

Finally, I shall deal at slightly more length with clause 14 and schedule 5, which provide for new machinery for negotiating the pay and conditions of Scottish teaching staff. The proposed structure derives from recommendations by the Houghton committee.

Mr. Maxton

Five years ago.

Mr. Younger

Yes, exactly. In place of five existing negotiating committees dealing separately with pay and conditions there will be two new committees dealing with both pay and conditions, in the one case of teachers in schools and in the other of teachers in further education colleges, central institutions and colleges of education. Both committees will have representatives of the Secretary of State, the employers and of teaching staff.

Instead of the present cumbersome procedure under which the Secretary of State gives formal effect to settlements reached in the Scottish Teachers Salaries Committee by means of a memorandum and a statutory order, the new committees will promulgate settlements to employing authorities. The Secretary of State is required after consultations to prescribe the circumstances in which there may be recourse to arbitration and the relevant procedure. He is also empowered to set aside an arbiter's award by a statutory order subject to negative resolution.

This is a long Bill and I have taken up rather more time than I intended in describing it. However, it is an extremely important Bill which involves many education interests and is the fruit of a great deal of work within the Department. I have no doubt that hon. Members will have many matters to raise, which will be dealt with by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State when he replies.

I am rather surprised that the Opposition, as I understand it, propose to vote against the Bill. It may be that they are under the illusion that there is nothing in the Bill but the assisted places scheme, which affects only a few in our education system. The overwhelming balance of the Bill is devoted to improvements in the general stream of Scottish education for the vast majority of pupils. It should help to lessen the situation in which for many years parents have been expected to accept on behalf of their children whatever education is dished out to them without question. This is a major step towards introducing a much wider degree of parental choice into Scottish education.

If the Opposition vote against the Bill, they will be voting against parental choice and against the provisions for the better handling of disabled children. Further, they will be making a great mistake as many interests in Scotland will recognise that this is a Bill of great progress.

Mr. Canavan

Name them.

Mr. Younger

If Labour Members, having heard the debate, decide to vote against the Bill, they will be making a great mistake. It is one of the greatest education advances that we have had for a long time.

5.20 pm
Mr. Bruce Millan (Glasgow, Craigton)

Deapite what the Secretary of State has just said, the Bill is largely without friends. The only support for at least one clause is from Her Majesty. The right hon. Gentleman was not able to quote anyone else on the contentious clauses in the Bill. The Secretary of State ought to know—if he does not he should not be where he is—that no reputable body of educational opinion in Scotland approves of what the Government are doing on the assisted places scheme.

The right hon. Gentleman began by saying that the Bill had to be set against a general educational background where all sorts of advances were being made in all sorts of directions in primary, secondary and post-school education. His description of what is happening in Scottish education is foreign to the experience of Opposition Members, and also to general educational opinion, on the current state of Scottish education, which is facing a series of crises, largely as a result of Government-imposed cuts in public expenditure. When we consider some of the provisions of the Bill, which we welcome in principle— for example, the provisions on special education—we see how little reality there is in the claim by the Secretary of State that the provisions will make an appreciable difference to education in Scotland, given that there are no additional resources to be made available for them.

We must consider the Bill also, against the background of the prospects of employment for school leavers. According to the January figures, more than 20,000 school leavers are at present unemployed. That is a considerable increase on the year before. The prospects for those who will leave school in the summer of 1981 are bleaker than they have been since the end of the war. That is the reality of the situation that faces our young people, and unless yesterday's disastrous decision about Linwood can be reversed, it will make the situation considerably worse for young people in the West of Scotland. What is happening in Linwood in the West of Scotland is happening all over Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends should know that. It is against that background that we must consider the Bill. It is for those reasons that we say that the proposals are irrelevant to the needs of Scottish education.

The greatest irrelevancy is the assisted places scheme. I said that the Secretary of State was not able to produce one reputable body of educational opinion in Scotland that was in favour of the assisted places scheme. It is no good trying to pretend that the scheme will not cost more, when every other educational provision in Scotland is being cut. Additional money is being put into that scheme. My hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) gave some of the figures.

The Labour Government decided that, over five years—incidentally, I now regret that decision—the assistance to grant-aided schools was to be phased out. In 1978–79 the amount of money going to grant-aided schools was reduced to £1½1 million. In the current financial year, 1980–81, that figure has been trebled to £3½4 million, when every other sort of educational expenditure in Scotland has been cut. Every day we read in the newspapers about a further cut in educational provision in Scotland. Today we read about a reduction in the number of post graduate studentships. Every day there is a further sign of more cuts.

The Secretary of State does not apologise for, but glories in, the cuts that he is making in Scottish education, yet this small, privileged sector of Scottish education, which is of no interest to the majority of our constituents and the constituents of every hon. Member, including Conservative Members, has been given favoured treatment by the Secretary of State over the past couple of years. The provisions in the Bill will give that sector even more favoured treatment over the next few years, unless, of course, we can remove these provisions before the Bill reaches the statute book.

We know why those provisions are in the Bill. They are there not only because Conservative Members are more concerned about private education than about the education that is provided for the majority of the nation's children, but because many of them have a positive dislike and hatred of local authority education. They have no interest in seeing that the education provided for the majority of our people is strengthened and improved as it should be. Education is, instead, being damaged by much of the Government's action.

Who will benefit from these provisions? If the Secretary of State can answer that question it will be a change, because he was not able to answer any questions during his own speech. Will he tell us which children are meant to benefit from the assisted places scheme? Will it be the least able, the most able, or something in between?

Mr. Younger

The answer is that by definition, low-income families will benefit. No one will benefit from the scheme by one penny unless a low income is being earned. The right hon. Gentleman refers to such people as privileged. How can they be privileged if they are lowincome families?

Mr. Millan

Will the right hon. Gentleman now answer my question? Will able children, less able children or a cross-section of children with all grades of ability benefit from the scheme? Why does he not answer the question?

Mr. Younger

I do not answer the question because I do not understand the point of it. The people who will benefit from the scheme will, by definition, be those with low incomes. Some may be very able, some may be not particularly able and some may be not very able. There is no restriction according to the ability of the child. The decision on whether the child will benefit will depend upon whether the family is on a low income. The right hon. Gentleman must decide and say clearly to the House whether he approves or disapproves of helping lowincome families. Why are they privileged if they are on low incomes?

Mr. Millan

The right hon. Gentleman is not answering my question. Either he does not know the answer, or he is unwilling to give the answer to the House. The Under-Secretary, who is not responsible for education, is now whispering the answer to him. Why cannot the Secretary of State give us the answer? It will depend on whom the schools select for entry to the scheme. Is that the answer?

We shall ask a second question following that. Will any conditions be laid down by the Secretary of State for selecting children for the scheme, with the schools seeing that they cover a range of ability, or are we dealing only with the most able pupils? Will he give an answer to that question, which is fair? I should like to have the information.

Mr. Younger

I still do not understand what the right hon. Gentleman is getting at. There is no definition of range of ability. The children who benefit may be of any ability—good, bad or indifferent. The common factor is that their families will all have low incomes and will all wish to exercise a choice in education. The right hon. Gentleman must come clean and tell us whether he approves of low-income families having a choice in education. Will he answer that simple question?

Mr. Millan

We may be making a little progress, although what the right hon. Gentleman says is not in accordance with my understanding of the situation. The abolition of selection at secondary school level was opposed by Conservative Members, although it has been the greatest step towards freedom of choice for ordinary children. Is the Secretary of State saying that he will ensure that the schools will admit children of a whole range of ability? If that is his intention, it is news to me and to the schools concerned. I hope that that is the intention.

Mr. Ernie Ross

Dundee high school's preliminary form indicates that children will have to sit an entrance examination.

Mr. Millan

That is why I say that what the Secretary of State has just said will be news to the schools that are enthusiastically asking to participate in the scheme. The schools will not participate if he makes it a condition that they take the whole range of ability. I repeat that the measure is concerned with a small, privileged section of Scottish education.

There is no parental choice in a selective system. The greatest step towards choice came through comprehensive reorganisation. That movement has been almost wholly accepted by educational opinion in Scotland. I agree that there has to be some flexibility in local authority arrangements for admission to particular schools, especially at secondary level. The Secretary of State did not give much information about the authorities that do not exercise flexibility. What authorities do not pay attention to the wishes of parents, particularly over appeals against original allocation of schools?

I shall give some figures that demonstrate that, by and large, Scottish education authorities treat sympathetically appeals against original allocation. In 1980 Lothian region had 391 appeals, of which 265 were granted and 126 refused. The figures for earlier years also show that most of the appeals were granted. In 1980, out of 300 appeals in Central region, 226 were granted and only 74 refused. In the same year in Strathclyde region, out of 3,707 appeals 3,373 were granted. In most cases the appeal systems that operate in education authorities in Scotland are satisfactory.

I do not believe that it is sensible to legislate on such matters. The Bill sets up a cumbersome structure and we may find that a number of appeals that would have been granted under existing arrangements will not be granted. A balance has always to be struck between parental choice and administrative practicalities. Clause 1 lays down a whole range of circumstances in which an education authority must be allowed to exclude parental choice. The system will also become more rigid. Education authorities will have to lay down optimum numbers not only for each school overall, but at each level where it appears likely that there will be an excessive demand for places. That will create a bureaucratic structure that will cost authorities much more money than the amount provided for in the explanatory and financial memorandum.

The scheme has other deficiencies. In Strathclyde, for example, school councils handle appeals successfully. Schedule 1 provides for an appeal committee, and the school councils will apparently be excluded. In addition, the appeal committee will be made up mainly of members of the authority or the education committee of the authority. I do not disagree with that. Given the responsibilities of the education authority, it is difficult to have an independent appeal committee.

When the Bill is enacted, if the appeal committee turns down the appeal, it will then go not to the Secretary of State, but to the sheriff. The issues to be decided in such appeals are not suitable to be dealt with on a legal basis. The right hon. Gentleman says that he is concerned that people on low incomes and with modest backgrounds should be able to exercise their rights of educational choice, but the worst possible way is by providing, for appeal through the sheriff. The appeal should be to the Secretary of State. Ordinary people do not like legal complications. I do not believe that the process will even be legally aided.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Alexander Fletcher)

It will be.

Mr. Millan

I am grateful for that information. However, I still feel that the appeal should not be to the sheriff. The matters to be decided are not merely the objective circumstances. There is an additional test of reasonableness. That sort of decision should be made by the Secretary of State, not by sheriffs. When the Undersecretary replies to the debate, will he say whether the sherriffs have been consulted and, if so, whether they are happy to take on the additional responsibility? I think that responsibility should not be placed on the sheriffs. The procedure is potentially unworkable in other respects, and it may lead to considerable disorganisation and dislocation in certain schools.

The Opposition are opposed to another aspect of the Bill, which again arises from the determination of the Secretary of State not to leave these matters to the good sense of the education authorities, but to prescribe all the rules himself in the form of legislation. I refer to the right hon. Gentleman's intention to publish examination results for individual schools. Not one body of educational opinion in Scotland has approved that proposal. Teacher organisations and others are wholly opposed to the publication of crude, external examination results for individual schools, because of the way in which the results can be misinterpreted and misunderstood.

Taken by themselves, the results are not a true test of how well a school has done. The matter has to be considered in relation to the circumstances surrounding the school—for example, the area in which it is located and from which it draws its pupils, and many other considerations. Once we enter the area of legislation—which is not necessary for Scotland—and try to lay down rules, instead of leaving matters to the education authorities, we get into all sorts of difficulties. For example, we must provide all the loopholes on which the education authority can rely to turn down an appeal. That may lead to a more rigid system than at present. There will also be difficulties about the publication of examination results.

While the clauses may appear to represent an advance for parental choice, the reality will be a good deal less than that. In many circumstances, parents will be a good deal worse off under this legislation than they will be if individual authorities in Scotland—who are basically willing—are encouraged to improve their administrative and other arrangements for dealing with appeals. In a period of falling school population it should be possible for education authorities to operate rather more flexible admission arrangements than has been the tradition. That is the way forward, rather than laying down rules in legislation.

I turn to clauses 3 and 4, which relate to special education. The Secretary of State was asked what additional money would be made available. He said that he would look into the matter and answer the question later. He does not have to look into the matter and answer later, because the answer is in the explanatory and financial memorandum, in paragraph 1 on page v. No additional money will be made available for special educational needs. The Secretary of State should know that. Either he knows it but is not willing to disclose it to the House, or he does not know it, in which case he should not be introducing the Bill. As my hon. Friends have pointed out, without additional resources for special education the changes in the legal structure—important as they are—will, at the end of the day, have little or no effect on the quality and range of education for the unfortunate minority of children in Scotland who require special education.

The present legislative arrangements for Scotland are not all that old. They date from as recently as 1969. However, I agree that the changes provided for in the Bill should be made. I am simply saying that nothing of any substance will arise from the Bill to provide improved education for those children. Some aspects of the appeal procedure, including the appeal to the sheriff and the question of grant-aided or independent schools, will require considerable attention in Committee.

Despite my dislike of private education, grant-aided and independent schools, I agree—although I make a distinction here—that certain independent schools, usually run on a non-profit-making basis by voluntary bodies, are necessary to deal with certain aspects of special education. The figures that I quoted earlier did not include assistance to those schools. There is no party difference about those schools. I am not against the provision in the Bill that allows a parent, in certain circumstances, to ask a local authority to send his or her child to one of the non-local authority schools that provide special education for children with disabilities—for example, blind or deaf children. Obviously such provisions must be included in the Bill, but I do not believe that the provisions for appeal are sufficient to protect the interests of local education authorities, which are genuinely trying to build up provisions for such children within their local arrangements.

Mr. Peter Fraser (South Angus)

The right hon. Gentleman has explained his attitude towards children with disabilities. He said that he would not take exception to such children being sent to independent schools. Does he include in that classification or exception children of special ability, especially children who are musically gifted?

Mr. Millan

The assisted places scheme is not concerned with what the hon. Gentleman is suggesting. It is concerned with privilege and, in many cases, sheer snobbery. In that respect we are talking not about special ability, but about giving additional financial assistance to those who simply want to contract out of the local education system for reasons that have nothing to do with education.

I pass from the question of special education to that of school closures. The provisions in the Bill may seem to be an advance on the face of it—this is true of much of the Bill—because the argument is that it gets the Secretary of State off the backs of local education authorities, but in truth, the provisions are included for entirely different reasons. The clause relating to closures is included because the Secretary of State is currently encouraging local education authorities to close small schools, especially rural schools, in Scotland. That is the reality. Not only rural schools, but schools in cities too are being closed. They are being closed not against the right hon. Gentleman's wishes, but with his positive encouragement. That is why there is a continuing toll of school closures. It has not proved difficult in the past for the Secretary of State to be the final appeal authority for school closures. That was not a tremendous burden on the Scottish Office. During my period in the Scottish Office all such matters were dealt with personally by Ministers.

I do not remember spending a great deal of time considering school closures, because the number if closures was small, but the position has changed now, because the Secretary of State is asking local authorities to close their schools. In his typical, dodging manner, he does not want to be associated with that. He wants them to do his dirty work for him. That is the reality of clause 6. The right hon. Gentleman pretends that it will no longer be his responsibilty, but then includes a provision that says that parents must be consulted. In my experience, no Secretary of State—and this is true of myself and, I believe, of former Conservative Secretaries of State—ever allowed a school to be closed without assuring himself that the parents had been properly consulted before authority was given. The Bill provides no additional protection to ensure that consultation takes place.

Consultation does, of course, take place. Indeed, no school is closed without consultation. In some cases a school is not closed because the Secretary of State decides that the education authority is not behaving reasonably. The right hon. Gentleman is trying to get out of having to take unpleasant decisions. He is perfectly happy that these decisions should be taken by somebody else. The Government's policy lies behind the need for those unpleasant decisions to be taken. Once the law is changed in this way, qualifications and special provisions have to be inserted.

The Secretary of State gave a rather elaborate explanation of the provisions for denominational schools and the amendment that is to be introduced in Committee.

The right hon. Gentleman can try to explain the issue as much as he likes. He can explain it to the House, and his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State can explain it in Committee. If two school closures take place in any area—whether in Glasgow or anywhere else—and if one concerns a denominational school, and the other a nondenominational school, the Secretary of State may believe that the parents will find it acceptable for an appeal to be able to be made to him in one case, but not in the other. If the right hon. Gentleman believes that, he could not be more misinformed about the feelings that are engendered by such issues.

The Secretary of State is going down an extremely dangerous road. He has admitted that there will be a need to appeal to him about denominational schools, but there will be an equal need to appeal to him about non-denominational schools. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to avoid a good deal of unnecessary aggravation, bitterness and resentment, the answer is not to introduce further amendments that will deal with one category of school, but to withdraw the clause. We should maintain the present system, under which school closures need the Secretary of State's authority. In that way there can be no suggestion that one section of the community is being treated more favourably than another.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman listened to the points that were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Queens Park (Mr. McElhone), because he knows a good deal more about Catholic education than does the Secretary of State. Instead of giving those rather self-satisfied answers, the right hon. Gentleman should have listened more carefully.

I turn to the pay machinery contained in clause 14. This is another example of a clause that says one thing and means another. The Secretary of State's speech did not disclose the reality behind the clause. I welcome the revision of the committees and their rationalisation into two committees—one for schools and one for post-school education. It is right that salaries and conditions of service should be considered together. I say that in defence of local authorities. It might be convenient for the teachers to keep the two items separate, but education authorities also have some rights. Therefore, salaries and conditions of service should be considered by one committee.

There are difficulties about the composition of the teachers' side of the committee. The Bill does not meet those difficulties. However, we can return to that problem in Committee. The Secretary of State must know that even if we get things right it will still be possible for one union to dominate the teacher's side of the committee. I am not sure how that can be avoided, because various teaching unions have different views.

I am more interested in what will happen to the management side of the committee. The Secretary of State told us nothing about that, yet he is represented on the management side. He has never told us how he operates in such matters—or at least when he has told us how he operates we have not believed him. Until now, not only was the Secretary of State—or his representative—part of the committee, but there was a "concordat" between him and the education authorities. As a result, he had a deciding voice in the total offer made by the Scottish Teachers' Salaries Committee. That was well known. The authorities did not like it, nor did the teachers, but it was an honest way of dealing with the matter.

Under that system everyone knew that the offer had the Secretary of State's approval. There is now a different, and completely dishonest way of behaving. The Secretary of State can now say that the offer has nothing to do with him. He does not care what the managament side offers. He does not intervene. However, only 6 per cent. will be provided in the rate support grant. The management side can do anything that it likes. The right hon. Gentleman does not care whether 60 per cent. is offered, but he will provide only 6 per cent. That is a fairly dishonest way of behaving. It means that the local education authority has to do all the dirty work. Indeed, the whole Bill is concerned with taking the dirty work away from the Secretary of State and passing it on to the education authorities.

It is humbug to say that the education authorities will have greater freedom. That is clearly illustrated by the arbitration provisions. Although the Secretary of State says that he does not want anything to do with arbitration, he will—under the Bill—be able to set an award aside without giving any reason. Under existing legislation, such an award can be set aside only if national economic circumstances determine that that should be so. The House makes that judgment.

The Bill contains an unjustified provision which will enable the Secretary of State to intervene on any ground. Indeed, there are parallels with another Bill that is now being considered in Committee. The right hon. Gentleman is judge and jury in his own case. He may simply say that he does not like the award and set it aside. That is an objectionable feature of the Bill, and we shall oppose it in Committee.

The Bill is largely irrelevant to the needs of Scottish education. It has many objectionable features and that is why we shall vote against it tonight. It does not include certain aspects that require attention. For example, the Secretary of State still has not given a satisfactory answer to our questions about the colleges of education. Nor have we been offered a satisfactory opportunity to discuss this issue on the Floor of the House. Hon. Members should remember the fiasco in the Scottish Grand Committee, when the right hon. Gentleman did not even have the courage to vote for his own proposals, but sat there and allowed them to be defeated. I have never known a greater muddle when debating education or any other subject. I have never known an education issue in which the personal integrity of the Secretary of State and of the Undersecretary has been more at stake or more criticised by responsible educational interests.

I am not accusing right hon. and hon. Members of being liars. I know that that is not part of our parliamentary procedure. The right hon. Gentleman and the Undersecretary know that educational interests in Scotland have accused them of being liars. If the right hon. Gentleman had any regard for his reputation he would be more than anxious for the matter to be fully debated and ventilated in the House. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would be more than anxious to demonstrate that his figures for the savings that will result from the closures are accurate, and to show that the alternative figures provided by the colleges are inaccurate. I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman would be more than anxious to have such matters fully debated in the House, particularly as he knows that he has not convinced half the members of the House of Commons Scottish Tory group. The Secretary of State is dodging the issue and he has got the Leader of the House, on successive Thursdays, to dodge it as well.

We do not intend to let this matter rest. Even if it cannot be discussed on the Bill, it will have to be properly discussed. On this, as on so many issues in Scottish education, and indeed a considerable number of other matters for which he has responsibility, the Secretary of State's reputation is in tatters. It will certainly not be enhanced by this shabby and dishonest Bill. That is why we shall vote against it this evening.

6 pm

Mr. Michael Ancram (Edinburgh, South)

We heard from the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) what amounted to a reselection speech. It bore very little relation to the Bill, but a great deal of relation to other matters on which he felt he could make a populist speech. To the extent that he dealt with the Bill, he did so with a series of questions. On the meat of the Bill, his speech was more of an interview than a constructive contribution to the debate.

Certain of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks filled me with great surprise. He said, for instance, that he did not think that sheriffs were the right people to decide what was in the best interests of children. If he were to ask his colleague, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), he might learn that sheriffs spend a great deal of the time dealing with custody and access cases, and deciding what is in the best interests of children. As the right hon. Gentleman himself said later, and as many of his colleagues are saying in the Standing Committee on another Bill, the discretion of the Secretary of State is sometimes too widespread. Yet here is another area in which he would like it to be increased. To me, that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech defied both comprehension and reality.

The most indicative part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was what it lacked. I listened very carefully to what he said and I made a number of notes. One thing was lacking, namely, anything about parents. That sums up the attitude of Labour Members to education. They seem to think that it is a matter for the State rather than for parents. Conservative Members believe that education is about children and parents, and I believe that that is the spirit in which the Bill has been introduced.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us where in the Bill one finds the paramountcy of parental choice?

Mr. Ancram

If the hon. Gentleman will be patient, I shall refer in the course of my speech to what the Bill does for parental involvement and participation. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, this is a progressive measure. In a sense, for the first time in many years, it takes Scottish education out of the crystallised cobweb of bureaucracy in which it has been stuck for far too long. Most important of all—I shall explain why in a moment—the Bill brings the parent back into the educational picture.

Mr. Robert Hughes


Mr. Ancram

I shall come to that in my own time. It does this in a real, practical way which will itself create a greater involvement of parents.

The principle that parents should have a major say in how their children are educated is widely regarded as a human right, but the present structure has effectively denied parents that right. From what the right hon. Member for Craigton, and some of his colleagues have said, it seems that there is an underlying horror in their minds at the idea that parents might know best what is good for their children. I hope that they will tell us in the course of the debate whether they believe in parental choice. Do they accept that part of the Charter of Human Rights that says that parents should have the right to choose where and how their children are educated? Do they believe that? If they do not, they should come clean about it.

The present law regarding parental choice is a dog's breakfast. The principle of choice is enshrined in law. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State read out the relevant section. The principle that a parent has the right to decide how his child should be educated is enshrined in the law, but it does not—or, if originally it did, it cannot now—provide the means for allowing such choice effectively to be practised.

In my view, the basic problem has been the introduction of rigid catchment zones, which was part of a philosophy of levelling down, which has created the equivalent of "bos-ing" in certain cities and which at the end of the day allows bureaucrats to try their hand at some form of social engineering. That has led to the most insidious form of choice, namely, the choice that can be exercised only by having the cash to buy a house in another area. That is happening in my constituency. I find that kind of choice unacceptable, and I believe that the Bill sets out to deal with it.

That form of choice has given rise to an even more insidious act of bureaucratc administration. That is the idea that, if the bureaucrats do not like what is happening in an area, they can simply change the catchment zone by redrawing the line. There is an instance in my constituency in which that is likely to happen in the near future. Many people who have children at a particular school may suddenly find that those children are moved.

Clause 1 opens the door to allow parents an element of choice.

Mr. Robert Hughes

The hon. Gentleman's entire speech so far has been about how marvellous the Bill is in providing the paramountcy of parental right to choose. He has now given the game away by saying that clause 1 gives them "an element of choice". That is precisely why the Bill is defective.

Mr. Ancram

Of course it is an element of choice. The hon. Gentleman must be aware, as I am sure my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench are aware, that one cannot say to everyone in the country "You can all send your children to whatever school you wish without any restriction at all", because that would cause chaos. The Government are beginning to create the flexibility which I understood even the right hon. Member for Craigton welcomed in a qualified sense, and which over a period of time under this legislation will allow parents to choose where to send their children to school.

Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire) rose

Mr. Ancram

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, but before doing so I must say that I found his behaviour deplorable in not being present to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at the beginning of the debate.

Mr. Foulkes

I have heard the Secretary of State many times before on this subject. Before I came into the Chamber I was talking to pupils, which is the best way of finding out what is happening in the education service. The hon. Gentleman is expounding the theory of choice. I ask him to imagine a situation in which a school, because of its confines and the accommodation available, has a possible secondary intake of 100 places but 200 applications. How will the choice be made?

Mr. Ancram

I understand that it will be up to the headmaster to decide, on the basis of the nature of his school, which children would be best served by coming to that school. That is my understanding of how the Bill will operate.

Mr. Foulkes

This is a very interesting train of argument. I think that the hon. Gentleman is being briefed by the Under-Secretary of State. Let us consider the situation in which there are 200 applicants and the choice is made by the headmaster, on the basis given by the hon. Gentleman. What criteria will the headmaster use? Will the choice be based on academic ability, on sporting ability, or simply on whether the applicant's face happens to fit?

Mr. Ancram

As I understand it, the criteria will be published. It is not for me to say what they will be. But I can tell the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes), who for some time, much to the disadvantage of education in the Lothian region, was convenor of the education committee there, that on the day of his election to this House there were more smiles in my constituency about his having left that job than perhaps at my own election.

One of the more interesting sessions that occurred during the election campaign was when a number of Labour supporters came to see me to ask how they could get rid of the now hon. Member for South Ayrshire. I sent them out of my constituency to canvass in his, because I said that that was the most efficient way of ensuring that the hon. Gentleman no longer had a hand in education in the Lothian region.

Mr. John MacKay (Argyll)

I should like to take the theory of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) a little further. Does my hon. Friend agree that perhaps the education authority ought to take into account the fact that so many people wish to send their children to the school that the hon. Gentleman postulated? Should not that education authority ask what sort of education that school provides, and should it not ask the schools that are not attracting pupils to move in the educational direction of that popular school?

Mr. Ancram

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It was a point that I had intended to make later. This is one of the advantages of allowing flexibility and choice within the education system. I am, however, slightly anxious about the number of exclusions for which the Bill allows. As the right hon. Member for Craigton said, it could, in effect, be used as a bureaucratic block to choice. I hope that my hon. Friend will consider this matter carefully.

I am also anxious about the fact that it appears to be left to the local authorities to decide the capacity of the schools. In areas such as mine, where the education authority does not seem to like the idea of allowing parents to exercise choice, it seems that local authorities will be able to block the purpose of this legislation by setting optimum capacity figures too low and saying that there is no room for choice to be exercised. I hope my hon. Friend will also consider that point.

It seems that the real argument of Labour Members, including the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, against the Bill is that in some way it will create distinctions, differences and some insidious form of privilege. In the vast number of cases in which I have been involved since the election where parents have been unable to get their children into the school of their choice they have come to see me not for reasons of distinction, difference or privilege. For example, one parent did not believe in corporal punishment, but her child attended a school in which corporal punishment was exercised. She felt that she should have a right to have her child removed to another school, but the Lothian education authority did not seem to be too keen on that.

Another parent came to me because he had moved out of one catchment zone into another. At the same time he had moved nearer to the school that his children attended. Yet it was only after three or four applications to the transfer committee that it saw the sense of allowing his children to stay in the original school.

Mr. Neil Carmichael (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)

In an area such as mine, which until recently has had a large number of fee-paying schools, it is important to try to spell out the criteria. Whenever parents who were trying to get a choice of one of the fee-paying schools came to see me it was usually because one of the children had been admitted—perhaps the eldest son—whereas the daughter, or the youngest son, had not. As a result, the family was torn to pieces. The criteria for entry included passing an entrance examination. Is that the the sort of criterion that the hon. Gentleman thinks should be used again?

Mr. Ancram

I apologise if I have been unclear. The hon. Gentleman appears to be talking about criteria for entrance to the assisted places scheme, whereas I have been talking about the choice within the public sector, which is being allowed for under clause 1. I was referring to the reasons why people want the ability to exercise such choice—for instance, a genuine, even though personal, dissatisfaction of a parent with the school that his child attends. If that is a strong dissatisfaction, it is important that that parent's wishes should be taken into consideration. Far from creating division, it can create an incentive to schools to level up their standards rather than continually level them down.

In a document sent to us the Educational Institute of Scotland warned of the danger of leaving ghetto schools of children of uninterested and non-inspiring parents". Has it ever asked itself why parents might be uninterested and non-inspiring? What incentive is there in a system that has no choice—as we so often find in the Lothian region—for the average parent to be interested or inspiring in a child's education, when the part that he can play is so strictly limited? The Bill creates flexibility, choice and variety. The change is carefully controlled, because it has to be, but in my constituency, which has had numerous problems with the transfer committee it will be warmly welcomed.

Mr. Martin J. O'Neill (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

How many?

Mr. Ancram

I shall reply to the hon. Gentleman, who has intervened from a sedentary position. The right hon. Member for Craigton said, as if it were a fantastic point, that two-thirds of transfer appeals in the Lothian region had been allowed. If there are places available, as there were in respect of many of the primary applications last year, for the other one-third, I want to ensure that, unless there is a specific, strong and stated reason—as is required by this legislation—for not allowing the parents to transfer, the transfer will be allowed. That is why I so strongly welcome what is proposed in the Bill.

I turn to the question of appeals, which was also mentioned by the right hon. Member for Craigton. I welcome the clause that deals with this matter. In the past, while there has been theoretical choice, it has gone far adrift. All too often we have heard of decisions being taken in smoke-filled rooms and enclosed committees. At present, when a parent appeals to a sheriff, the law requires no reasons to be given by the sheriff court why it finds in favour of the committee. All that the sheriff must do is be satisfied that the transfer committee has "considered" the parent's application. There is no definition of the "considered", and there is no requirement for the transfer committee to tell the sheriff court the criteria or reasons for its decision in the first place. I should have thought that Labour Members would find that level of decision unacceptable, if not dangerous, in a democracy.

The Bill provides an open appeal system through which the merits of the case can be argued and decided upon, rather than allowing an enclosed decision to be taken, which all too often may be subject to political prejudice. I cannot believe that Labour Members are against that.

I shall not speak at length about assisted places. However, I found the remarks of the right hon. Member for Craigton bogus. He made the point that so much money would be spent, but he should appreciate that it is money that is being spent already. Although it is at present being spread across a broad area, the Government intend to apply it to the area which, in a sense, has a far greater need for it—that of the low-income families. Instead of this being an increase in privilege, I see it as a way of bridging some of the gaps and the chasms that exist within our education system. I sometimes wonder whether Labour Members are fighting the Bill because they are frightened that by dilution their favourite hobby-horse will be destroyed and they will have nothing to argue against.

I turn to the provisions of clauses 3 and 4, which relate to special educational needs. I warmly welcome those clauses. Particularly during this year, it is right for the Government to proceed with such legislation. I should, however, like to raise one point, and it might be useful if the Minister considers it before the Bill goes into Committee. I notice that whereas it will be obligatory for education authorities to record children who come into this category from the age of 5 onwards, it will be discretionary for them to do so in respect of children below the age of 5.

My fear is that when something is left to discretion it often is not done. While there are logical arguments for saying that the need is greater when the school age comes, there are categories of children who need assistance before that stage. I would instance deaf children. If they are ever to be schooled reasonably normally, they have to be taught to speak before they reach school age. I hope that the Minister will be prepared to consider ways of including these children within the obligation side of this provision, either in Committee or at a later stage.

The Bill broadens educational choice. It broadens educational variety. It broadens parental involvement. I do not expect Opposition Members, or even educationists, to accept it, because it diminishes and dilutes State power and educationist power. It gives back genuine power and genuine rights to parents. It boosts the family at the expense of the State. It recognises an important human right. For those reasons, I support it wholeheartedly.

6.20 pm
Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)

As the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram) was speaking, I wondered which school he attended. The fact is that most Conservative Members went to private, fee-paying schools. When they talk about parental choice, we on the Opposition Benches tend to reach for our guns.

There are very few bodies of informed educational opinion in Scotland that approve of the contents of the Bill. When the Secretary of State was questioned on that specific matter, he refused to answer. He knows very well that what we say is true. Not a single teaching organisation, or any educational expert opinion, agrees with the main contents of the Bill, largely because it is regarded as socially divisive. It is also regarded as highly irrelevant. My right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) has already made these points.

I shall deal first with the irrelevance of the Bill. Neither in the short term or in the long term will the Bill make any notable, or significant comtribution towards solving the problems faced by Scottish education. My right hon. Friend made the point about school leavers. They are the seed corn. The whole future of the Scottish economy depends on how we handle the school leavers. The sad story is that these youngsters, mainly as a direct consequence of the Government's policies, are being thrown onto the scrap-heap of the dole queue. No one appears to give a damn what happens to them. If the Bill had been scrapped and replaced by a Bill dealing with a compulsory and statutory educational and vocational programme for the 16 to 19 age group, it would have received unanimous support not only in the House but throughout Scotland. We are, however, faced with the Bill before the House.

I have a copy of The Times Educational Supplement which contains a report headed "Army service idea for young jobless." The article states: The Ministry of Defence has asked the Manpower Services Commission for its views on army training for unemployed young people. The Government is considering a proposal but it will need Mrs. Thatcher's approval. That is the Government's approach to this problem. They want to put these youngsters in uniform. If they are put in the Army, that will get rid of those on the dole right away.

The gloss put on the Bill is awe inspiring. The Secretary of State used phrases such as "the most inspiring" and "the most exciting" initiative since 1945. At one time, we had a tenants' charter. Now we have a parents' charter. This Government behave like a sleazy, crooked, second-hand car salesman. That is exactly how the Secretary of State behaved in trying to sell us a second-hand car riddled with rust, saying it was a magnificent vehicle, guaranteed to solve all the problems of Scottish education over the next 20 years.

I turn to the socially divisive parts of the Bill, especially clauses 4 and 5 relating to the fee-paying sector, the grant-aided schools. The presumption, emphasised by the Secretary of State in his speech, is that a better education is available to the children of poor parents in that sector. The implication is that a superior and better education is available to those who can pay and an inferior one in schools that happen to be attended by 95 per cent, or more of all school children in Scotland. The Government are taking steps to emphasise the superiority of the one for the privileged minority and the inferior status of that to which 95 per cent, or more of the children of Scotland go.

An article in the Daily Record today deals with parental choice. It refers to this scheme of creaming kids off from the State sector into these other schools and says: The charter"— that is to say, this parental choice lark that the Tories are trying to sell— has been given a mixed reception. The general view in education circles is that there are so many snags attached, the provisions will make little difference. A recent survey showed that eight out of ten families were happy with the schools their children attended. That is the measure of the general consent in Scotland with the way things are now operated. The Bill recognises that it is not the case that parents can have any meaningful choice, even within the present situation or within the terms of the Bill. The Bill lays down in clause 1 a whole lot of exceptions. A whole page of the Bill is covered with special cases in which parents cannot have their choice. There are 10 reasons why parents cannot have that choice. For the Government to pretend that the Bill gives wider choice is nonsense and is known to be nonsense by everyone interested in education in Scotland Insofar as it works at all, it will mean that the abler children will be creamed off from the State sector and put into that top 4 or 5 per cent. That is why the Bill is socially divisive.

My right hon. Friend tried to pin down the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State talked about children of poorer families. The fact is that such children will have to pass an entrance examination. To emphasise its socially divisive nature, the Government have provided additional resources.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) has made the point, as did my right hon. Friend, that additional resources have been put into the private privileged sector while 95 per cent, of children attend schools which are short of staff and face threat of closure.

The Government are encouraging authorities throughout Scotland to sack teachers. That emphasises the divide between one section of the country and another. When the Prime Minister and her cohorts mouth phrases about one nation, let me tell her and the Government that no Government since the war have done more to divide the nation in educational terms, job terms and social services provision than this. Government. The Bill is part of the same process.

If there were a public opinion poll in Scotland on this Bill, I should like to gamble on the outcome. The humbug that is perpetrated daily by the Prime Minister and other Government spokesmen about uniting this nation is denied by this legislation. It is an outstanding example of it.

Mr. Foulkes

In effect, there was a public opinion poll on this issue at the last general election. The Conservative Party's election manifesto commitment on the matter was overwhelmingly rejected by the people of Scotland.

Mr. Hamilton

We make that point whenever a Bill of this sort is introduced.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Craigton asked the Secretary of State about the method by which schools are closed. In the name of so-called freedom for the education authorities, the Secretary of State is passing the buck. He is getting them to do his dirty work, and he is giving them the so-called freedom to take the unpopular decisions that are a direct consequence of his policies. What freedom does the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act—the so-called tenants' charter—give to local authorities? The Secretary of State told local authorities that they would be compelled to sell council houses at knock-down prices.

Mr. Henderson

That was nothing to do with the tenants' charter.

Mr. Hamilton

I am saying that that was the misleading trade description of the Act. It gave the tenant the right to buy his house, but there was no obligation on the part of the local authority that owned the house to sell it. This legislation is in line with that Act. It is divisive between those who have and those who have not. The Government are in for a rough passage with the Bill in Committee. They had better get out their midnight oil, because they will need every gallon of it.

6.33 pm
Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)

The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) referred to the freedom of local authorities with regard to the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act and to the freedom of local authorities with regard to the Bill. The Bill is an extension of freedom, not because it has anything to do with freedom for or from local authorities, but because it extends freedom of choice to parents. That is the central principle on the Government side of the House, just as the central principle of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act was the extension of the principle of freedom of choice to the tenants. It gave them the chance to own their houses if they wished to do so, just as the Bill extends the rights of parents to send their children to the schools that they prefer, even if the local authorities do not.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that if there was one phrase or theme on which he would like to concentrate, it was that of freedom. He is right. That theme runs through the Bill. It is the principle to which the Government are dedicated—to taking control from bureaucracies and restoring it to individuals, taking power from central authorities and restoring it to individuals and families. That right is taken from local authorities over housing and restored to tenants in the same way as the Government are seeking to put the emphasis on indirect taxation rather than direct taxation, and are seeking to restore freedom of choice to individuals in medical matters. They are doing the same in education. That is the principle upon which the Bill is so strongly and rightly based.

I should like to exemplify the theme of freedom in some aspects of the Bill. Clause 1 deals with the parents' charter, which has been much derided by Labour Members during the debate. That was one of our manifesto commitments. We stated: Our parents' charter will place a clear duty on government and local authorities to take account of parents' wishes when allocating children to schools, with a local appeals system for those dissatisfied. That is what we promised, and that is what we have done. I believe that hardly a parent in Scotland, apart from the most rabid Socialists who put political dogma above the interests of their children, will not welcome the extra freedom of choice that the parents' charter gives to them.

Mr. Henderson

Is it not a fact that the Consumers Association has particularly welcomed that?

Mr. Sproat

My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I look forward later to hearing speeches from Labour Members trying to deny it. I hope that when they do so, they will quote the document that my hon. Friend mentioned, because they will find the words taken out of their mouths and denied therein.

I have listened to the speeches this afternoon and to speeches from certain local authorities in Scotland. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram) that some authorities will do everything in their power to frustrate the will of Parliament and parents. They will seek to use the objections that are rightly written into clause 1 in terms of expense and numbers to do so. I hope that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues in the Scottish Office will make certain that no local authority in Scotland will be able to frustrate the will of the people over the Bill, as they have tried to do by delay or false reports in the case of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act.

One other point is worth making in regard to the extension of freedom of choice. At present, if parents are desperately keen for their children not to go to one school, but to go to another local authority school, they are compelled to try to get another house in another catchment area simply to be able to do so. That is an undoubted fact, and if the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) does not know it, he does not know anything about the needs of parents in Scotland. [Interruption.] I am told that the hon. Gentleman has done that himself. The House can draw its conclusions from the hon. Gentleman's sedentary non-interruption.

Mr. Foulkes

I hope that I shall have the opportunity later to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and elaborate on that point in great detail, and I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) will be present to hear me.

Mr. Sproat

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will also take the opportunity to explain to his hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central why he was educated where he was. It would be interesting to hear a dialogue between the hon. Gentlemen on that aspect.

In our Conservative manifesto we also said that schools should be required to publish details of their examination and other results.

Mr. William Hamilton

League tables.

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Member for Fife, Central says "League tables". I do not suppose that there is anyone in the House or anyone in education who seriously thinks that examination results are the only criterion by which the excellence of a school should be judged. Surely no sensible person will deny that examination results have a very important part to play in judging the success of a school. Whether or not anyone in the House believes that examination results are important, it is not up to us to deny parents information about examination results.

We are not saying that a school must publish its examination results and that on those results parents will make their judgment. We are simply seeking to make the information freely available. If parents wish to send their children to a school which achieves very high academic results, so be it. But there will be many parents who will prefer to send their children to a school where the discipline is better, or where the sport or the music facilities are better.

We on the Conservative Benches do not choose to tell people how to decide to which school to send their children. Our aim is to provide parents with all the information they require in order to be able to make up their own minds. Indeed, in that very phrase "to make up their own minds" lies the central difference between Conservative and Labour philosophies. We believe that people should have the right to make up their own minds, whereas Labour Members try to prevent people from doing that.

No doubt, where the examination results are not at first sight very impressive, headmasters will say to parents and to prospective parents that the reason is that they prefer to concentrate on character building than on trying to tune up the intelligence quotients of their pupils. Parents will be able to make distinctions, and no doubt those distinctions will be valid. None the less, it will benefit parents to have the maximum information published. Schools will be able to make their own cases explaining why examination results or other aspects of education are higher or lower in the scale. It will be up to the parents to make the choice, not the local authorities. That is the prime principle that is involved in the Bill.

The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) implied that there would be certain schools in which the rolls would fall simply because parents would not want to send their children to those schools. That may very well happen, but if parents demonstrate—by, as it were, voting with their children's feet—that they do not want their children to go to a particular school, perhaps they will be telling us something about that school. The local authority may then ask the headmaster why his school is consistently not chosen by parents and suggest that he do something to make it more appealing to parents. In effect, this is a piece of educational democracy, because it is giving to parents the right to tell local education authorities in which respects they believe on education to be inadequate.

But it is not only a matter of criticism; it is also a matter of praise. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire gave an idiotic example in which 200 people wanted to send their children to the same school. Surely if that happened it would be wonderful praise for the school involved. Just as some comments from parents would indicate to the local authority where schools were failing, other comments would indicate where certain schools were successful. That would enable the local authority to say what parents wanted, and to urge that other schools should provide more of it.

Mr. Ernie Ross

In Dundee there is a school from which almost every parent would like to remove his child. I refer to Rockwell high school. But parents cannot do so, because of the failure of the hon. Gentleman's Government to provide funds for Tayside region and the failure to build the Ardler high school. For that reason, children have to go to a school that is described as being below standard and that is 50 or 60 years old. In that instance, the parents have absolutely no choice.

Mr. Sproat

I shall be interested to hear my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Fraser) deal with the problems of Dundee if he manages to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker. But in general, as a result of the Bill, parents will have more chance of not being compelled to send their children to the school in question than they would if the Bill did not exist.

Clause 5 deals with the assisted places scheme. This is not, as has been explained, a major part of the Bill in terms of the number of children that it will affect, although one would not think so, judging from the volume of comment from the Labour Benches. None the less, although it is a minor part of the Bill, it also exemplifies the principle of freedom with which the Bill—and, I hope, all our Bills—is informed. What is certainly true is that parents who would not otherwise be able to afford to send their children to grant-aided and independent schools will be able to do so as a result of the Bill.

This cannot be claimed to be privilege, because the only children involved will be children of parents on low incomes. Labour Members may twist the English language as they will, but they cannot equate low-income families with privileged families. When Labour Members talk about privilege it simply shows that they are determined to twist the words of the Bill and to refuse to recognise the realities of it.

There is no doubt that the assisted places scheme will help those children whom Labour Members ought to want to help—the children of low-income families. It will enable parents to widen their choice by sending their children to the schools that they choose rather than the schools that the local authorities may nominate. The assisted places scheme, like the parents' charter, enlarges the freedom of every parent in Scotland. For that reason, I warmly support the Bill.

6.46 pm
Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

The main criticism of the Bill must be that it is fraudulent in the way in which it is presented. When there is talk of the parents' charter, it has to be accepted that, perhaps apart from the Lothian region, for which special legislation is being made, most other areas of Scotland provide choice to parents who object to their children going to particular schools. My experience of Tayside region—a local authority with which I am usually at variance—is that the education department goes out of its way to try to meet the wishes of parents.

It is perfectly possible for the Government to produce an improved procedure by which the parents' wishes can be achieved, but to pin the whole case for the Bill on the claim that it is a so-called parents' charter comes into the realms of fraud. Indeed, we are discussing the Bill in a context in which the money being made available to education is being cut back. So the Government, on the one hand, are talking in rhetorical terms about freedom of choice, but, on the other hand, their educational expenditure policies are restricting the development of an improved education system.

Many schools in Scotland are under the threat of closure-—about 50 this year, ranging from remote rural primary schools to at least one urban secondary school. So the choice of school—in numerical terms and in terms of distance—will be narrower for parents than it would otherwise be by the time that this year has ended.

The Government are asking local authorities to reduce their spending by about £20 million this year. The recently published Scottish Education Department statistics indicate that the Government are expecting a reduction of 4,250 teachers in education authorities this year, to comply with the cutbacks. If there are declining school rolls—as undoubtedly there are—that should be used as a method by which to improve the quality and standard of education in our schools. It is a contradiction in terms to say that the Government are planning greater freedom in choice when they are busily running down the system instead of improving it. Real freedom will come only when standards and expenditure in State schools meet the expectations of all those involved—teachers, pupils, parents and the future employers who expect good standards to be achieved by the school leavers whom they seek as employees.

One of the problems facing our schools is the difficulty of motivating pupils. I have a letter from a school's council which said that, because of the lack of opportunity which children know that they will have when they leave school to get a job, they cannot see any reason why they should push ahead and work hard to improve their educational capability. It could be said that that is a job for parents. But children are realists. Against the backdrop of the declining economic situation, they realise that qualifications may not help. They may know someone two or three years older who is leaving school with the lower or higher leaving certificates who will not get a job. Even university graduates are finding it difficult to get jobs. It is therefore hardly surprising to hear school councils say that it is difficult to motivate children to work hard.

In surveys about deprivation several years ago it was well understood that deprivation could be eradicated if opportunities for work and the quality of life were improved. Education is just one piece of that jigsaw. If opportunities for work are not provided, the ability of schools and teachers, however dedicated, to improve the education of the children will be affected, because the co-operation of the children is needed.

It is a sad reflection on the piecemeal approach to Scottish education that 60 per cent, of our youngsters leave school without qualifications. The Government should tell us more about the pilot schemes for the implementation of the Munn and Dunning reports. The scheme seems to be dragging on interminably. I believe that 1986 is the expected date of implementation.

Mr. John MacKay

I was about to draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the Munn and Dunning reports as a way of reaching those pupils who cannot do O grades. The worst thing that any Government could have done with Munn and Dunning was to impose the scheme on schools. I can assure the hon. Gentleman from bitter experience that resources have nothing to do with it. Pushing proposals on schools without proper trials is a certain road to disaster.

Mr. Wilson

I am prepared to accept part of what the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) says, because I agree that to rush implementation could be potentially disastrous. It is a matter of common sense. However, the implementation seems to be going ahead at an extremely slow pace. Criticism of a non-party political nature can be made of the speed at which the Government are moving.

During the recess I visited a secondary school. I met a group of teachers there who had gathered from other schools in the Tayside region. Their meeting was part of the warm-up and response to the two reports. It was clear that the proposed scheme was intended to introduce the reforms which had been approved. But I believe that the pace of implementation is too slow considering the almost 100 per cent, backing for the reports. I know that some people object to them, but they are in a distinct minority.

The Government seem to be shifting the blame for the closure of schools and colleges from their own door to that of the education authorities. During the IMF cuts, the Scottish Office, under the Labour Administration, was very willing to answer parliamentary questions about the detailed actions of and responsibilities for local government, but it was unwilling to do so once it became apparent that those cuts were to be passed on to local authorities. The unpopularity also was passed on.

It appears that the Secretary of State has learnt one or two practical political lessons. His Government and his Department, with the help of the Treasury, will the means by which some schools are to be kept open. Therefore, he has some responsibility. It is somewhat cynical that this measure, which has been introduced with a blast of trumpets as a parents' charter, should be a way of sliding out of any responsibility, except in the small concession made for Roman Catholic schools.

I shall say a word or two about the appeals procedure in relation to parental choice. It seems reasonable to have a committee composed of people who are not necessarily members of the local authority. The case could be argued as though it were the type of tribunal which deals with simple complaints about the levels of rates or valuations.

However, it is rather surprising that, after the appeal stage, it is necessary for the parent to apply to the sheriff, not on a ground of law, which is normal in appeals to tribunals, but in order to bring about a re-hearing of the evidence. This is a most unusual appeal system. Are there any parallels for it in other legislation? Also, I hope that the Government will justify why they need a double-barrelled approch to the appeal system, instead of an appeal on fact to the committee and then an appeal on law to the sheriff.

As a solicitor, I tend to favour appeals to the sheriff court because it is a way of keeping the profession in work. But, I know from experience, that the cost tends to inhibit many people from taking appeals further. I notice that the reference to expenses is somewhat ambivalent. It will need a very determined parent to take an appeal to the sheriff.

Double standards are being brought into play in the proposal for assisted places. I cannot understand the justice of this proposal at a time when the public sector is facing enormous cutbacks. I have never been a devotee of grant-aided schools, and I voted against the aid given to them in the past. But it is entirely unjustifiable to give £800,000 at a time when an enormous retrenchment is taking place and when facilities are not being provided by the Government for the improvement of the system. It is downright disgraceful. The Government may say that the proposal is justified because it is based on their party manifesto, but it is entirely wrong to bring it forward at a time when they are cutting back the State sector by about £20 million.

I conclude my remarks with a reference to children with special needs. I am sure that this part of the Bill is welcomed by all hon. Members. However, it was significant that the Educational Institute of Scotland, in commending this part of the Bill which implements the Warnock report on the education of handicapped children and young people, said: it affords an outstanding example of the determination of Governments to will the end without the means. I hope that the Minister will tell us what means the Government intend to will to put this into legislative effect.

I draw his attention to the recommendation in that report that there should be a provision of a "named person" to help parents of handicapped children to deal with the vast numbers of different experts whom they see while the child is being assessed for special education. It is difficult for the parent of a handicapped child without any experience of the system to find his way through the labyrinthine corridors. A "parent's friend" should be appointed to help out. I understand that that recommendation is supported by most of the organisations involved in the welfare of handicapped children.

A good opportunity for legislation on vocational training has been lost. The Bill provides an ideal opportunity for the Scottish Office and the Secretary of State to invoke the new Special Standing Committee system. Members who were fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to be members of the Committee could then interrogate experts on the practicality of the Bill and of the means which the Government are willing. The Committee could take a balanced opinion. I am sure that after hearing the evidence such a Committee would decide that the Bill was a fraudulent prospectus.

7.1 pm

Mr. Ian Lang (Galloway)

It is clear that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) will have nothing to do with Centre parties. He is obviously taking a massive lurch to the Left. He is stepping from the crumbling ruins of his existing party to the smouldering ruins of the Labour Party.

I am astonished that Opposition Members find it so difficult to say anything good about the Bill. The Bill deserves a broad welcome. It is full of highly commendable provisions. It must be difficult to be an Opposition Member and to treat a Bill in that way when it so clearly responds to the needs of Scottish education and the aspirations of Scottish parents. It is essentially a benign and relevant measure. It will improve the nature and quality of Scottish education in the years ahead. I can only assume that Opposition Members fell back on their naturally sour reflexes when responding to the Bill.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend not only on the Bill, but on the intense and detailed preparatory studies, and the publication of discussion papers ahead of drafting the legislation. Of course, opinions might differ on points of detail and minor changes might be sought in Committee. However, the structure is sound and the intentions commendable.

I accord a particularly warm welcome to the parents' charter in clauses 1 and 2. I cannot emphasise too strongly the duty of parents to take responsibility for the education of their own children. Anything that helps to bring parents to a closer involvement and interest is helpful.

As the 1962 Act points out, the duty to provide efficient education for every child of school age suitable to his age, ability or aptitude" rests on the parents of the child. Local authorities, which have too easily arrogated to themselves the right to dictate to parents on educational matters and based their approach on the belief that parents did not know enough to recognise what was in the best interests of their children, did those children and the cause of education a grave disservice.

I look forward to the closer involvement of parents that will result from the Bill because of the greater freedom of choice, the appeals procedure and the need for local authorities to respond to it. This can lead in the long run only to better education standards and a better rapport between schools and parents, as well as a more relevant and responsive approach to the education process in our schools to fulfill the needs and bring out the talents of pupils.

I turn to a problem in my constituency in the context of increased parental choice. I refer to the secondary schools in Kirkcudbright, Castle Douglas and Dalbeattie with which my hon. Friend the Minister is familiar because he has been conscientious in his attention to correspondence on the matter. In the past, Castle Douglas and Dalbeattie high schools were fourth-year schools, from which pupils went on to complete their education at Kirkcudbright, a few miles away.

In 1977 the Dumfries and Galloway regional council decided to upgrade Castle Douglas from a fourth-year to a fifth-year school. That was achieved in 1979, with extremely satisfactory results in terms of examination results and increased morale. However, in Dalbeattie there remains a problem because it is still a fourth-year school.

Upgraded schools obviously allow for the easier implementation of the recommendations in the Munn and Dunning reports. In spite of churlish remarks of Labour Members about those reports, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the decision to implement their recommendations. That is yet another constructive initiative in Scottish education by the Government.

Dalbeattie, with 360 pupils and still a fourth-year school, is in the largest town in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbrightshire. The town is still growing, but the school has a falling roll. Although it has the smallest percentage fall in the number of pupils in the constituency, the school roll is falling faster. It is the only school in the immediate area without all-through secondary education. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Monro) has a similar concern with the school at Langholm.

The strong, social and educational case for upgrading a school of that nature is clear. There are transport problems caused by the longer day away from home when pupils have to be transported further away. There is the loss of extra-curricular activities which results when the pupils have to come home, with a corresponding effect on morale. There is the decline in the morale and career prospects of the staff. Great expense is involved if parents decide to take away their child before the fourth year to transfer to Kirkcudbright to provide a smoother education in the later years, but that is what is happening.

In 1976, 10 pupils transferred in the second and third years to Kirkcudbright. In 1977, 14 pupils transferred, and in 1978, 20 transferred. Last year, in addition to several from the second and third year, 10 were transferred from the primary department, bypassing Dalbeattie high school altogether.

Dalbeattie high school has a fine reputation. It has a good staff, who have a genuine concern for the pupils in their care and for the well-being of the school and the town. However, unless the school is upgraded from a fourth-year to a fifth-year school, they will fight a losing battle. Upgrading would cost about £300,000. That is a large sum.

Mr. Craigen

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is not this a Second Reading debate and not an Adjournment debate?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Traditionally, we can have a wide discussion on Second Reading.

Mr. Lang

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The sum of £300,000 is high even in an education budget of £30 million. Consideration has been given to building temporary classrooms at a lower cost of about £50,000. I have corresponded with the Minister about that. I understand the block allocation method of financing capital expenditure and that discretion and responsibility properly remain with the local education authority, but the increased emphasis on parental choice, which I warmly welcome, intensifies the problems of schools such as Dalbeattie.

Competition is healthy. It raises standards. Equality of opportunity is also highly desirable. We are opening up the desirable new perspective of parental choice. Is there not a corresponding duty to help competing schools to get on an equal footing? Perhaps consideration can be given at the Scottish Office to a form of special allocation or special direction to the Dumfries and Galloway regional council, and to other councils, because achieving the future viability of education in such schools has an importance that is out of all proportion to the costs.

Clause 6 deals with the withdrawal of the Secretary of State's powers over school closures. I greet that with mixed feelings. I should have been reluctant to see the powers forfeited, because they are a useful long-stop against a doctrinaire local authority. However, having seen them fail to save Gatehouse secondary school in my constituency—a closure that was not justified on educational, social or financial grounds and that took place in the face of the near unanimous opposition of parents, pupils, teachers and others in the area—one realises that the powers have been operable within such narrow constraints as to be of little value.

I acknowledge my right hon. Friend's reluctance to intervene in the affairs of local government and to have a proper regard for devolution. As the powers do not seem to be effective and allow closures of schools of that nature, it would probably be better to withdraw them altogether, as the Bill proposes, than to maintain a lingering cloud of doubt about where the responsibility lies. Once the powers are withdrawn, responsibility will be seen clearly to lie with the local authorities, which will not in future be able to shelter behind the Secretary of State to avoid the consequences of their decisions.

I accept that the local authorities' task is not easy. They are subject to pressure from two directions. On the one hand, they have pressures of operating within the financially sound and responsible constraints set by the Government and, on the other hand, they have pressure from falling school rolls. In those circumstances some schools must inevitably close, but I am anxious that that should be the last resort. I am not always convinced that that has been the case. Educational expenditure has risen enormously in the past 20 years. Since we came to office, it has increased in real terms per pupil this year and last. One must ask why schools are now closing. One cannot help but wonder whether too much is spent on non-essential and administrative back-up instead of in the front line, in the classroom, where educational expenditure should take place.

Mr. Maxton

I have heard the argument about more money per head time and again from Conservative Members. Of course, in a sense, it is true, but if there are fewer children in primary schools, where expenditure per head is inevitably lower, and more children at the top of a secondary school, where expenditure is inevitably higher, the average per head will come out higher. Those are the statistical facts that the hon. Gentleman should get straight instead of perpetuating myths and rumours.

Mr. Lang

I am glad that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) agrees that what I have said is true and that he accepts the analysis that I made earlier. The matter is one of priorities. I am anxious to ensure that the closure of rural schools is a policy of last resort and not a policy of first resort. There are three primary schools in my constituency that are rumoured to be in danger of closure.

I shall not bore the House, as it is unwilling to take an interest in my constituency's serious problems. I shall not impose the problems further. Suffice it to say that I am in touch with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on the matter, about which I am greatly concerned. I want to be sure that the closures do not take place for doctrinal reasons, for the belief that big is beautiful or that education is more easily administered in large units. A school is the linchpin of a rural community. It can mean the difference between the survival of the community, with young families staying and sending their children to the school, and decline and depopulation.

When we were in Opposition we made strong statements in support of the need to maintain rural schools. I have repeated those, and I am sure that many of my hon. Friends have, as a candidate and since we took office. I know that my right hon. Friend's heart is in the right place, but I hope that his Department will continue to keep a close watch on developments and bring whatever influence he can to bear on local authorities and fight hard to save the small rural schools, which are so important to the well-being of country areas.

I do not wish to detain the House, but I should like to mention the assisted places scheme, which I regard as an extension of the parent's charter. Philosophically it is impeccable. It introduces freedom of choice, strengthens the variety of education, increases the provision of specialist education and absorbs a tiny proportion—about . per cent.—of the total education budget in the area of independent schools, where about 3. per cent, of pupils are educated. Thus, it relieves pressure on the State system, but it will bring about the better application of funds than the direct grant system that it replaces. Twice as many schools will be involved and there will be a commendable widening of opportunity, with the finance going to the child in need rather than to the school.

The scheme is criticised as being selective. Certainly it is, because it excludes well-off parents earning over £9,000 per annum. I welcome that and the fact that there is no creaming off to the detriment of State schools. Selection is on a broader base than academic ability. It should be emphasised to critics such as the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton), who claims that the scheme is a slight on the State educational system, that the choice is made not by the Government but by parents. It is they who choose to apply for places, who decide that their children's needs are best served in that way and who make massive sacrifices over many years, not just during the education period, to give the child the education that they consider best for it.

One of the criteria of the Secretary of State's task in selecting schools to join the scheme is to find the best geographical spread. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that that is a factor that prevents the scheme from having an even-handed advantage to children from all parts of the country. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend to consider the possibility of introducing some sort of distance factor loading or increased income exemption for parents living some distance from a school. With the present financial limits, my constituents live so far from the majority of schools that boarding, which many cannot afford, would be essential. If I have a criticism of the scheme, it is that it is too restricted and too limited. The principle of assisted places can be boldly and clearly justified and such unfairnesses as exist can be removed by extending and broadening the scheme.

Labour Members always become schizophrenic about independent schools. Half of them went to such schools or came to the House on an assisted place from some trade union. Now they want to kick away the ladder of opportunity. The confused state of mind that that can engender is well illustrated in an article that I tore from The Sunday Times some while ago, when a certain Mr. Peter Jay was interviewed shortly after taking up an assisted place at our Washington Embassy.

It is a revealing interview: Q. Do you consider yourself a Socialist? A. Yes. The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) listens to me as though he were a public meeting. Q. Why then do you send your children to public school? A. I send one of my children to a fee-paying school because it's the best school for her. That is a perfect example of the exercise of parental choice in the interests of the child. Q. Which arises from an immediate concern for the family rather than a long-term concern for society? A. I remember reaching this conclusion when I was 17, and it's always seemed to me to be logically correct, though there have been times when, out of my concern for my reputation with people who don't see it the same way, I might have bowed briefly to misconceived, though sincere, pressure. Hon. Members will recall that Mr. Jay was a Wykehamist, whose motto is "Manners Maketh Man". I should add that some of my best friends are Wykehamists. The answer continues: Basically, it's like this. In the conduct of your life, some of the questions you face are about what kind of society you want to live in. They're political questions demanding collective actions, and you should vote or work politically for what you believe to be the right answers. But you also have responsibilities to your family and to the people you work with, and they have to be answered on a different time scale. Here we come to the central philosophical thrust of the argument: If we live in a jungle it's no good refusing to let your children wear boots on the grounds that you believe it would be better if they lived in a carpeted hotel. The decision you make must be related to the circumstances that are relevant to that decision, and it's not a question of rights, it's a duty—in some ways a disagreeable and expensive one—to make the right decision on behalf of the person you're responsible for, not to make the decision you would make if you lived in a different world. I suggest that that is the purest example of Socialist intellectual self-deception and twaddle that I have ever come across. It is humbug of a kind that typifies the Socialist approach to such matters, indeed to all matters of education. On the whole, the Bill is sensible and relevant to the needs of Scottish education. It deserves a smooth passage to the statute book, and I wish it well.

7.20 pm
Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire)

I imagine that after that performance the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Lang) will be applying for an Arts Council grant rather than an educational grant. I am genuinely sorry that I was unable to be here for the Secretary of State's speech. A group of pupils from my constituency was visiting the House and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman agrees that it is important to talk to pupils and to find out what they think of the education system.

I am particularly sorry to have missed the right hon. Gentleman's speech, because he is my Member and he will know that, like the rest of my hon. Friends who are in the Chamber, I send my children to local authority schools. That shows that we have faith in the system that we are discussing, unlike Conservative Members who have no confidence in the system on which they presume to legislate. That reveals a lot about those hon. Members.

Mr. Canavan

My hon. Friend said that he was a constituent of the Secretary of State. May I complete the triangle by pointing out that the Secretary of State is my constituent? I sat through the whole of his speech and I can assure my hon. Friend that he did not miss anything.

Mr. Foulkes

Whereas I send my children to schools in the Secretary of State's constituency, I doubt whether he sends his children to schools in my hon. Friend's constituency.

Mr. Ancram

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what school he went to and, more important, which catchment zone his children came under when he lived in my constituency?

Mr. Foulkes

My children have always gone to the school in the catchment area in which I lived, whether it be Fiennes or Ayr grammar school. I am talking about parental choice and my making the decisions for my children. I will not be diverted by the catcalls of Conservative Members.

Mr. David Myles (Banff)

The hon. Gentleman has not replied to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram). Is he ashamed that he went to Keith grammar school?

Mr. Foulkes

I am not ashamed that I went to a school in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, but that is irrelevant to the matter before us.

There are normally great expectations among the unions, local authorities and other bodies concerned with education when an education Bill is published. But this Bill was greeted with dismay and anger—

Mr. Peter Fraser

By the Labour Party.

Mr. Foulkes

No, by everybody in education. The Under-Secretary will have received letters from the Educational Institute of Scotland, the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association and every other organisation concerned with education. None supports the Bill. Apart from the special education provision, which I welcome, and the technical changes in the negotiating machinery, the Bill is irrelevant to the major problems in education in Scotland.

There is another reason why we should not have the Bill before us. I say, more in sorrow than anything else, that the Bill, which undermines the comprehensive system in Scotland and perpetuates and extends privilege in education, has been presented because of the campaign carried out by some hon. Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook), Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) and, particularly, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham).

Education in Scotland should be being considered by an elected Scottish Assembly. That was the will of Parliament and of the people of Scotland. It would have been a Labour Assembly and we should have had a better Bill which was relevant and tackled the major problems in education. Instead of that, we have a Bill which will be carried through by a majority of English Tory Members who are nowhere near the House at present but will come in from their clubs at 10 o'clock to push the Bill through.

Most of the Bill is the brain child—I use the word "brain" as loosely as possible—of the Under-Secretaries of State, the hon. Members for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) and Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind).

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

Who me?

Mr. Foulkes

The Bill is born out of the prejudices of and promises to the Edinburgh bourgeoisie.

Mr. Ancram

The hon. Gentleman was one of them.

Mr. Foulkes

The other Edinburgh bourgeoisie. The Bill has no relevance to the major problems in education, including the education of the 16-to-19 age group, the relationship between education and training and a comprehensive system of further education, all of which were dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan). It has no relevance to the problem of indiscipline in schools. We have heard about Munn and Dunning, but what about the Pack report? That has been consigned to the shelves. Dust is settling on it. It has been sent packing.

Nothing is being done about the major problems in education. Instead, we are presented with the product of the discussions on the so-called parents' charter—a phoney charter, a prigs' charter if ever I saw one. It is a charter for the rich to opt out, either to private schools or to a new form of selective State school, with selection based on criteria that are even more suspect than the discredited 11-plus and the qualifying examination.

When I asked the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram) what would be the criteria for choice, he could not answer the question, and I doubt whether the Under-Secretary will be able to answer it. They do not know what the criteria will be.

Mr. Robert Hughes

We know.

Mr. Foulkes

Indeed. We know exactly what the criteria will be.

Conservative Members have asked whether we are against choice. The Labour Party is not against choice in education. We are greatly in favour of it. We are in favour of choice within a school and choice from a wide curriculum. However, the choice of curriculum is being narrowed because of the Government's public expenditure cuts. Some schools are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain a whole range of education.

We are in favour of choice between schools within agreed parameters, but, as the hon. Member for Galloway said so nicely and so elegantly to his hon. Friends, choice in rural areas will be severely limited by the policy of the Government and there will be wholesale school closures in many areas. There will be no question of a choice among two or three schools.

Mr. Younger

As a former chairman of an education committee, can the hon. Gentleman tell us how education committees can be narrowing choice within schools when we are providing more money per pupil this year than ever before?

Mr. Maxton

I explained that. The right hon. Gentleman did not listen.

Mr. Foulkes

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) has already dealt with one aspect of that matter. The other aspect is that per capita expenditure will, of course, increase as the number of pupils falls. But that does not mean that the range of choice is increasing. I challenge the Secretary of State to go to the schools in his constituency. He will see that secondary schools are having difficulty in maintaining courses. If he comes to my constituency, he will see that there are secondary and primary schools that are no longer able to carry out specialist instruction in music, physical education, sewing and other subjects, because of the Government's cutbacks. If the Secretary of State ever went into a school in Scotland, he would know what is happening.

We are also in favour of pupil choice—much more radical than parent choice—and it is about time that Conservative Members realised this. We realise, particularly those of us who have some experience in local government, the problem of the education authority, as does the Scottish Education Department. It produced one of its occasional papers—we wish that it would produce them more often—on choice, compulsion and cost. I wonder whether the Secretary of State and Undersecretary have even read it. They are not reacting. I doubt that they have, because if they had they would realise the problems in education. They would realise some of the practical problems facing local authorities. One is the capacity of buildings in each year and for each course of study. That limits the number of pupils who can go into a school. That is a very important criterion.

I was asked by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat), who is no longer with us, to deal with the question raised by an hon. Member about the representation from the Scottish Consumer Council to the effect that capacity of the building should not be included in the Bill. I am glad that it is included. I am glad that the Government have taken the advice of officials and have included it, because if there were no reference to the capacity of the building, there would be gross overcrowding in schools. That would be totally outrageous. We should have complaints about overcrowding. There would be complaints about safety in schools.

It is totally irresponsible for a body like the Scottish Consumer Council to make this suggestion. It puts in doubt its whole submission.

There is also the question of staff availability. One cannot transfer staff willy-nilly from one school to the other, as the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) knows only too well, being a former teacher, just because pupils are moving in hundreds, by the whims of the parents.

The professionals in education talk about the need for forward planning in education—planning is something about which Conservative Members forget and the need, for example, for mobility of labour; and who is encouraging mobility of labour more than the Prime Minister? There is also the question of late entrants moving into a particular area. There being no place in the local school for late entrants, can cause great difficulties for a family moving into the area.

Some Conservative Members and local authorities want to phase out obsolete buildings—not just 50 or 60 year-old-buildings but 70, 80, 90 and 100 year-old-buildings. This will become increasingly impossible if they pack pupils into schools using annexe after annexe, as they have had to do in Leith academy because of the sheriffs ruling.

Another point in the report related to the importance of primary and secondary links. A lot of people have been suggesting that secondary schools should increase their links with primary schools in the catchment areas so that the transfer of pupils from primary to secondary is not a traumatic, difficult experience. A secondary school can build up links with a primary school if there are three, four or five in its catchment area and it knows most of the pupils from the primary school are transferring to the secondary school. If there is a scatter, helter-skelter throughout the city, these links cannot be built up. A secondary school cannot build up links with primary schools throughout a city.

What is being suggested by Conservative Members would destroy the whole concept of community school. A school is not just a place where a young person goes from the age of five to the age of 16 for education between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm. A school is a whole resource for a community. Increasingly it is a place to which adults can go. Grannies can use the educational facilities alongside their grandchildren. It is a place where the communities meet. That is not possible if pupils are scattered round the city. Therefore, the concepts of primary and secondary school links and community schools would be lost if we were to accept what is being suggested by Conservative Members.

Finally, hon. Members opposite are suggesting that parents should be able to send their children to any school that they wish. But they are also saying that no funds will be provided to transport them, so that if they choose a school the other side of the city, they will be all right if they have a car or can afford to send their children on the buses. Again the poor parents would be handicapped if we were to accept what is being suggested by hon. Members opposite.

What motivates the Government if all the arguments put forward by the professionals are against them? The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) spoke of experience in the Lothian region. Let us look at the experience in the Lothian region, about which I know something. There have been a few protests from a few individuals in Edinburgh. The statistics show that last year, of 11,308 transfers, only 126 were refused places of their own choice. That means that 98.9 per cent, of the parents were satisfied. There is no disputing that statistic.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I understand the argument which my hon. Friend is putting forward. I do not wish to prolong his speech, or anyone else's for that matter, but if there were 11,000 appeals, I wonder whether he would address his mind to the possibility of devising better machinery so that appeals would not have to be heard.

Mr. Foulkes

I may have misled my hon. Friend. There were 11,308 transfers. In fact, there were only 391 appeals. Of those 265 were granted and 126 were refused. I hope that I have shown the very small number of pupils with whom we are dealing. We have the whole panoply of the Bill for those pupils. We have schedule 1. I shall pick two holes, although there are hundreds of holes that could be picked. Paragraph 3 of schedule 1 provides that the appeal committee shall not include any person employed by the authority". Bus drivers, sewerage workers—a whole range of people—might be ruled out. Why should they not participate in the appeal? If there is to be an appeal, why cannot bus drivers participate?

Paragraph 5 provides: A person shall not be a member of an appeal committee" if he took part in a previous discussion. In a local authority most councillors will have taken part in either the committee or council discussions. One could pull holes in this whole structure. It is ridiculous that we should set up such a complicated structure for a system that is working well at the moment.

There are a number of criteria. In the Lothian region, if parents want to send their children to another school, if there is a brother or sister already in attendance, they may do so; or if there are medical reasons; for road safety or travel reasons; or because they are single-parent families; or because the parents are employed in the police force; or because an educational course is not available in the local school. These are currently the arrangements in the Lothian region.

Mr. Ancram

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the criteria which may be written on some piece of paper are applied uniformly in the Lothian region? I have had instances in my constituency which fitted those criteria when transfers were refused.

Mr. Foulkes

Until the last election I sat regularly on all the committees dealing with these matters and those were the criteria. We are replacing those with no criteria, just parental choice. No one will consider these important social, medical, travel and other criteria. It will just be a question of parental choice. A mythical 200 people may apply for the 100 places and only the headmaster or some strange system that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South does not know about will make the decisions.

Finally, the appeal will be to the sheriff. I agree with my right hon. Friend and speak from experience, having gone as a witness to the Edinburgh sheriff court, when I say that the sheriff is a totally inappropriate person to deal with these kinds of appeal. The sheriff has no knowledge of the system. More than half of our sheriffs and judges in Scotland went to private schools and have no knowledge of the public education system whatsoever. They have no framework within which to judge whether to grant or dismiss the appeal. If there is to be a second appeal, it should be to the Secretary of State. Even a Tory Secretary of State would be better than a sheriff. At least he would have the advice of Her Majesty's Inspectorate and be able to give some professional consideration to it.

Even more obnoxious is the assisted places scheme. It is a strange sense of priorities to have cutbacks in every region in local authority schools when we are receiving letters from the Educational Publishers' Association saying that books are not being bought by schools, when there are cuts in school maintenance leaving buildings in a deplorable condition and when school meals are worse than workhouse meals a hundred years ago. In some of our schools the children are being given bread to eat, while those who already have cake with jam on it are being given cream on top of that.

Most private schools in Scotland are in the East and in Edinburgh, and this scheme means that taxpayers in the West will be subsidising the privileged education of those in the East. I hope that one of the first priorities of the next Labour Government will be to end this scheme immediately, with no phasing out as there was the last time round. These schools are the breeding ground of privilege. They are where the problems we have in industry today are born.

The Bill is a ragbag of prejudice and privilege. It is irrelevant to the major problems in education. Whether in the area of education or industry, the Government and the Secretary of State have failed lamentably. It is the young people of Scotland who will suffer, and the sooner we relieve the young people of Scotland of this Government the better.

7.42 pm
Mr. John MacKay (Argyll)

I am honorary parliamentary adviser to the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, and it would help that association if I were to make it clear that our views on some parts of the Bill do not coincide. The association is opposed to the assisted places scheme and to the parents' charter, but it welcomes most warmly the Warnock part of the Bill.

I start by referring to some matters in the Bill that are important, but are not the meat of political controversy. I wish to mention briefly the Scottish certificate of examination board—clause 13. I am doubtful about the addition to that board of extra institutions. I am particularly doubtful about the addition of advisers to that board. If advisers are part of the educational directorate, and if the educational directorate wishes to appoint advisers to the board, it should appoint them as part of its number and not expect them to have separate places on the board.

The proposed new method of charging is an improvement on the present method. It is better that authorities should be charged in direct proportion to the number of presentations. I was pleased to hear the assurance that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton), that there was no danger that authorities might pass those charges on to the pupils. I hope that authorities will not allow financial considerations to rule the number of pupils presented, because schools have an obligation of responsible presentation. Schools that present pupils who do not get double figure results in the examination board marking are being irresponsible. They are wasting the pupils' time by asking them to pursue courses for which they are not suited, they are wasting money by asking the examination board to do the marking, and they are also suggesting to pupils that they might be capable of doing something which the staff in the school ought to know that they are incapable of doing. While schools should exercise care about presentation, I hope that authorities will not use the Bill as a way to lever schools into cutting the number of presentations merely for economic reasons.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will have second thoughts about removing the Secretary of State's discretion to give money to the examination board. While I cannot immediately think of a situation in which the Secretary of State might have to give money, it is conceivable that there will be a situation in which the board has a financial problem, and the power of the Secretary of State to give financial aid should be kept.

Clause 14, which deals with the teachers' salary negotiating machinery, is important. The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association would like to have the machinery of a standing independent commission to determine teachers salaries, not a "Clegg", but something that could look at the broad picture of teachers' salaries. I find it difficult to justify that for teachers alone in the light of all the other people who work for local authorities, but the association feels that it might help to cut down the annual wrangling and disruption that have been features of our educational service. I fear that that annual disruption owes a little to the infiltration into the teaching profession of some Left-wing people with a militant motivation.

I welcome the coming together, in the same committee, of salaries and conditions of service. I know that some parts of the teaching profession would prefer to keep them apart, but it is not practical for those two important and interlinked aspects to be kept in separate committees. It makes sense that the committee dealing with salaries should also deal with conditions of service, and I welcome it.

Two committees, one for FE and one for schools, are to be set up. I wonder whether there is a case for having three committees. The staff and the conditions of service in primary and secondary schools are different. I wonder whether the differences in qualifications in these two sectors do not merit two separate committees, one for primary and one for secondary. The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) said that at present the Secretary of State is responsible for the cost of the salary memorandum. As I understand the Bill, that will be changed and the parties will be responsible for the cost. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether it is fair that the cost should be put on to the shoulders of the teaching profession and of the employers.

Perhaps the most serious aspect of the Bill occurs in the FE and school sections. Attention has been drawn to it by the SSTA, the Federation of Associations of College Lecturers which represents The Scottish Further Education Association, the Association of Lecturers in Colleges of Education in Scotland and the Association of Lecturers in Scottish Central Institutions. Having read the proposed sections 92(3) and 95(6) as set out in clause 14, I am left with the feeling that after the Secretary of State fixes the number of teachers, a majority of the committee—it is not too difficult to see that one union could dominate both bodies—could decide to add one of its own members to the teachers' side. Then, to keep within the numbers, it could exclude the members of another union. I hope that in Committee we can resolve this dilemma, if it is there. I hope, too, that my right hon. Friend, either tonight or between now and the Committee stage, will look into the distinct possibility that the minority union on the teachers' side, and the smaller unions representing sectors of the FE part, might find themselves voted off by the majority using what will be sections 92(3) and 95(6) of the 1980 Act.

Another matter that concerns the negotiating machinery is the significant change that is being made to the chairmanship. At present the chairman of the negotiating body is independent, but in schedule 5 there is the proposition that the chairman should be drawn from the committee. I urge my right hon. Friend to reconsider that proposition. There is considerable advantage in having a neutral chairman appointed from outwith the employers and the teachers' sides. That is especially important when there is deadlock and the dispute has to go to arbitration.

I hope that we shall not move towards a position where both sides are required to agree before the issue can go to arbitration. At present, if the chairman feels that there is deadlock and he receives a request: for arbitration from one side—this happened in 1980—he can decide to send the issue to arbitration. That is an important role that only an independent chairman can fulfil. It would be a hopeless position if the chairman were drawn from one side or the other and he had to make a decision, either for or against his own side, about going to arbitration.

I ask my right hon. Friend to consider the change that he has made in the overturning principle. I do not disagree that at the end of the day the Government have to have the power to overturn an arbiter's decision. However, I think that the present position, in which the Secretary of State has to resolve positively in the House that the arbiter's award should be overturned, is better than the long-drawn-out and rather negative process of laying a statutory instrument on the Table. That means that there is no debate and no argument in the House unless there is a prayer to annul. It is unlikely that my right hon. Friend, or any future Secretary of State, will wish to overturn an arbiter's decision, but it is better that the Secretary of State does so positively, rather than go about it in a negative manner.

I fear that clauses 3 and 4 on special education needs have not received the attention that they merit. It is especially important in this year of the handicapped that we should be introducing these proposals, which are a direct result of Mrs. Warnock's report. Last week the parallel English and Welsh Bill was given its Second Reading, and I shall refer to some parts of that measure.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's decision to make an alteration in the appeals procedure as outlined in the White Paper. I know that he received a number of representations, including my own. I am delighted that he has moved from the position that meant that the appeals committees set up by local authorities to deal with matters such as the parents' charter were to decide whether a child should be recorded. A change has been made, and if a parent is aggrieved about a decision to record-he will have a right of appeal to the Secretary of State.

That is important, because the grounds on which such an appeal will be based will be medical or psychological. I do not think that those grounds could be judged by the sort of appeals committees that we were considering. Their composition would not have been sufficient to allow their members to make a judgment on medical and psychological issues.

The House will know that the education difficulties of the handicapped child are as many as there are handicapped children. The proposals in the Bill recognise that fact. No longer will children be categorised, and we shall have a record of their education needs, rather than a note of their handicap. There are many divisions of handicapped children in our schools. It is difficult to make any contribution that will cover the various areas of difficulty. There are many children whose problem is mental. They are not handicapped to the extent of physically handicapped children, in that their problems are not so obvious, but those problems are just as real when it comes to education in primary or secondary schools.

At present the children who do not quite merit being sent to a special school on mental grounds and who go to an ordinary school are all too often not treated as they should be in that school. When the Bill becomes an Act, as I know it will, I hope that the Education Department will take every possible step to ensure that the schools in our system are coping properly with the children that they are already receiving who are mentally handicapped.

There are children who go to secondary schools who have not passed the level of primary 4 or 5. It is appalling that some secondary schools have jumped on the egalitarian nonsense that the Labour Party so often spouts in education debates. We have moved from mixed ability classes and common courses and put children into the normal stream who are incapable of coping. We have ignored the fact that in reality they have not done the work of primary 6 and 7. That does not happen in every school. Many schools have a remedial department, but that remedial department sometimes has to be fought for against the desire that children should go into mixed ability classes.

Mr. O'Neill

If the hon. Gentleman is so well briefed by the SSTA and all the other teaching unions, will he give us some examples to justify the arguments that he is advancing?

Mr. MacKay

I have personal knowledge. At the school in which I taught there was the problem of how many children could be put in the remedial department. There was pressure to keep as many children as possible in the mixed ability classes. The reduction of the role of the remedial department continued while mixed ability classes were considered to be the in thing. On many occasions I had considerable difficulty in trying to explain to a parent whose child had been given remedial help in primary school that he or she could not be sent to the remedial department of my school. Children in that position had to be pulled through the horror of trying to do mathematics in the mixed ability first year. I had to explain to the parents that I was sorry, but that the system worked in that way. It is a sad reflection on those responsible that we should let that happen within Scottish education.

It was fairly common that in S3 and S4 the remedial child would be put back in the main stream because the remedial department catered only for S1 and S2. I know that there are some authorities that try hard to avoid that happening, but this is one of the areas in which Scottish education has to try much harder. There are many children who go to secondary schools whose mental handicap and limited ability are not being properly catered for during their school career.

I turn to the group with which Mrs. Warnock's report is more concerned—children with both mental and physical handicaps. They are much more difficult to deal with, for a variety of reasons. There has been a misunderstanding of the Warnock report—namely, that Mrs. Warnock considers that such children should go to an ordinary school and be integrated in the classes of that school. It is an attempt to allow as many children to do that as possible, but it is a misunderstanding that they should all be integrated into ordinary schools. It would be a great pity if we were to go down that road. There are many good special schools that do a splendid job. It would be a great pity if they were closed and the children were moved to adjacent primary or secondary schools.

I have listened to many remarks about resources. One would think that no money was being spent on the handicapped. In my constituency, Strathclyde regional council has done some sterling work, and in Oban there is an extremely good school that caters for the handicapped. I find it hard to believe that putting handicapped children into ordinary schools would be advantageous compared with their current education provision, which is very good in every way.

I am not happy about the use of the word "record". The child will be given a record. The corresponding Bill for England does not use the word "record". The Undersecretary of State for Education and Science, my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) said on 2 February: Having a record is rather like helping the police with their inquiries. People who have a record are not necessarily the most famous old boys of a school."—[Official Report, 2 February 1981; Vol. 998, c. 96.] It is a word with connotations, which we would do best to do without. I suggest to my hon. Friend that he should consider the English terminology, which uses the word "assessment".

In an article in The Times Educational Supplement on 5 December, Mrs. Warnock welcomed what was being done in these matters. I have no doubt that what she said will be contested by Opposition Members. She said: Reactions have been amazingly predictable. Everyone complains that there will be no more money. Local authorities complain that there will be no monitoring quango for them to have seats on, teachers complain because their work will be harder, but no better paid. I find the general pessimism sad, and the outcome probably wasteful. The proposition that nothing is possible without the allocation of extra resources will render itself true. People will come to believe that nothing can be done on the grounds that not everything can be done. However, Mrs. Warnock and others who have written about this matter welcome what is proposed.

I shall deal briefly with the assisted places and parents' charter schemes. It is only fair that I should say in this regard that I am not speaking on behalf of the SSTA.

I am fortunate. I stay in an area that has a good school. I am happy that my children go to it. However, if I lived in some other parts of Scotland, I should not take that view. It is interesting that when he stayed in Edinburgh the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) did not purchase a house in the catchment area of some of the lesser well-known and poorer schools in Edinburgh. Instead he made sure—perhaps by accident, perhaps by design—that he lived in the catchment area of a good school. That is one of the unfortunate options for parents in the city and urban areas of Scotland. If they are in a catchment area of a school that they do not like, they move house. Everyone knows that. We see it from the advertisements in the papers. The factor in the proposals about parental choice should help to remove that.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire could not decide whether to boast about the number of transfers allowed by Lothian region or to condemn anyone who wanted to move out of the zone. He talked about the demand for community schools, how essential they were and how everyone should go to them, but two or three minutes later he was boasting about the number of transfers.

Mr. Foulkes

I was not boasting about the number of transfers. Few of the 11,000 asked for a transfer, but of that number a high proportion were satisfied. If the hon. Member cannot understand that, he should be elsewhere.

Mr. MacKay

I understand that perfectly. Does the hon. Member approve of those transfers? If he accepts them and thinks that they are good, why does he oppose the Government's proposition to give parents the right—

Mr. Foulkes

Because it is unnecessary.

Mr. MacKay

I accept that the hon. Member is opposing it because it is unnecessary. I hope that my hon. Friend is listening to that. We look forward to the Opposition's not being obstructive to the clause in Committee because they agree with parental choice. They just do not think that it is necessary to have a Bill about it. That is interesting news.

Mr. Millan

That is not an odd view. Amongst other things, it happens to be the view of the SSTA, on whose behalf the hon. Gentleman purports to speak.

Mr. McKay

The right hon. Member is being unfair. I was not speaking on its behalf. Parental choice is an excellent thing, and I am glad that the Opposition approve of it. I am glad to hear that some hon. Members believe that my hon. Friend has made a legal definition that is too narrow. I am also concerned about that.

I now turn to the assisted places scheme. I wish to make two points of particular interest, not just to my constituency, but to many rural areas in Scotland. Some children can go to a local school whose parents would like to send them to an assisted places scheme, but cannot afford the boarding fees. I understand the Government's reluctance to move in that direction.

I wish to consider those children who will have to go away from home and board in a hostel at a local authority school. There are many such cases. I have heard of one in particular on one of the islands in my constituency. There is an overlaying problem in that the parent involved would prefer his child to have a Catholic secondary education—something of which I imagine the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) would approve. If his child goes to the local authority school and lives in hostel accomodation, he will not get that Catholic education because the school will be non-denominational.

My constituent will be eligible for the assisted places scheme, but, because that is so, he will not be able to afford the boarding fees. In any case, the boarding fees will have to be paid by Strathclyde region. In those circumstances, there is a case for considering that the boarding fees should be paid, even if the child goes outwith the State sector and comes within the assisted places scheme. That is important. Although the hostel accommodation is splendid, some parents would feel happier about their children being in a boarding school when they have to go away from home than if they were in hostel accommodation with a separate day school.

I welcome the assisted places scheme, but I should like my hon. Friend to consider those parents whose children will have to go away from home, who could go to a private school and who could qualify for the assisted places scheme, but would find it impossible to take it up as the boarding fees are too expensive. I understand from what my right hon. Friend said that legal provision would be made if the parent decided to appeal to the sheriff. That is important.

I should like to make a brief point about the publication of information about a school to parents. At the moment, many schools are proud of their activities. They publish documents telling parents what they do—sports, orchestras, foreign trips, drama and so on. However, they never publish examination results. I do not understand why examination results are not just as important as those other activities. [Interruption.] I heard the word "Freedom of information". The publication of those results is important to parents, and also for the school. The recent ILEA inspectors' report made it clear that too many schools did not take into account their examination results when they considered their performance, what improvements they should make, their staffing and curriculum standards and so on. More schools could publish that information. They would be helped to do that if the parents knew about the results of the school. It is not true that parents do not know what is going on. They hear about it by rumour, which is not always true.

I should have been happy, during the years when I presented for examination O-grades, highers and certificates of sixth year studies for mathematics, to have the results published. My department would have been equally happy to see its results published. We were reasonably proud of them and thought that we did a reasonable job. I cannot understand why the teaching profession should be so opposed to parents finding out what the school does in relation to this important sphere of activity—O-grades and highers.

I am disappointed that my hon. Friend has not seen fit to do anything about the schools councils. A report about them by Glasgow university concluded that no meaningful role was given to them and that they would die. The Taylor report in England was welcomed by the then Secretary of State for Education, Mrs. Shirley Williams—if I dare mention her name without upsetting the Opposition. We should consider that report and the Glasgow university report. That way, we may round off the unifying concept of the Bill, which is to bring parents more into education, to give them choice of school for their children, to give those of limited means the choice of sending their children to private schools and to give the parents of handicapped children a choice. Choice runs throughout the Bill.

I should have been happier had we looked for a more meaningful role for parents on school councils. Nevertheless, I welcome the Bill. It gives parents an increased role. They are important. Every teacher that I know wants parents to take an interest in their children's education. When they decide that they would prefer their child to go to a different school, we cannot say "Stop there". We must accept that they may make choices that are unpleasant for the bureaucrats and for the Labour Party. Parents are responsible for their children. It is important to give back to them some of that responsibility.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. As a non-Scot, may I say that the debate has been enjoyable, but speeches lasting half an hour deny other hon. Members the opportunity to speak. Five other hon. Members have indicated their wish to take part in the debate. If speeches are limited to 10 minutes, they will all have a chance to speak.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Scotland has only a small number of Tory Members of Parliament, but they seem to believe that their speeches should take half an hour, but Labour Members seem to be restricted to making 10-minute speeches.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I did not wish to condemn the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) in my previous remarks. Hon. Members on the Opposition Benches have also made speeches that have taken a fair amount of time.

Mr. Henderson

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Throughout most of the debate there have been as many hon. Members on the Government Benches as on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I said that it had been an enjoyable debate. Let us keep it that way.

8.12 pm
Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

I shall try to be brief. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) is concerned about disadvantage. I shall give him other examples of disadvantage that the Bill does not deal with. I hope that he will join us tonight in voting against the Bill.

The legislation is an attempt by the Government to claim that they are doing something for Scottish education. Throughout Scotland there is a firm belief that the Government's education policies are destroying it. I have no doubt that the Under-Secretary of State responsible for education in Scotland believes that he is opening up a new era of educational opportunity and advance. However, it is a cosmetic measure that does nothing to tap the deep-rooted inequalities in Scottish education.

The inequalities should be highlighted so that we can see how superficial and irrelevant the measure is. Parents' rights in education go far beyond the mere selection of the school that their children should attend. Educational opportunity and success are firmly dependent on home background and the economic circumstances of the family. The right to work, to decent housing and to decent health provision all affect educational performance. They are not catered for in the Bill. The Minister is mistaken if he believes that the legislation will thaw any educational barriers. Scotland is deeply divided by class distinctions. That is borne out by educational research. Merely to tinker with the educational system will not break down the distinctions. Only a full-blooded, radical attack on the disadvantages and inequalities across the whole spectrum of the social services will do that.

I shall attempt to summarise recent important research surveys in Scotland on educational performance and social class. The Maxwell report inquired into the reading ability of Scottish children between the ages of eight and 15. At primary 4 level, neighbourhood conditions explained 44 per cent. of the differences in results between schools. By primary 7 level, 68 per cent. of the differences in reading ability could be accounted for by factors such as unemployment and neighbourhood social conditions. Does the Minister seriously believe that transferring a child from an economically deprived background, in an area of educational disadvantage, to a school with primarily a middle-class intake will immeasurably improve his educational performance? The answer must be that it will not. The major findings of educational research over the past 15 years demonstrate clearly that it is the factors associated with the home and the environment and not those associated with school that determine educational success.

I go further. The sociology department of Aberdeen university four years ago undertook a Scottish mobility study, which examined the educational performance of about 4,000 male Scots over the past 60 years. Over 50 per cent. of the sons of upper middle-class families gained highers compared with only 5 per cent. of those from an unskilled working-class background. Four out of five manual workers' sons left school at the minimum age. Fewer sons of manual workers are staying on at school now than in the 1920s and 1930s. There is virtually no difference between the proportion of highers awarded to the sons of manual workers now and those awarded in the 1920s. It is little wonder that the study concluded: the outcome of educational reform in Scotland has been to give further advantage to the sons of non-manual workers, and there is little evidence that the sons of manual workers are in any way catching up. Will the legislation do anything to tackle that inequality? The answer is again "No".

I go even further. Recent research by the centre for educational sociology at Edinburgh university estimated the level of superiority of middle-class children's chances of reaching certain levels of educational success in Scotland. For any Scottish Certificate of Education exam pass the ratio is almost 3:1, in favour of middle-class children over working-class children. For gaining at least three highers it is 3:1, and for gaining entry to university it is 6:1.

I realise that the mention of the word "class" in the context of Scotland deeply offends hon. Members on the Government Benches and Members of the SNP such as the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), who, unfortunately, is not in the Chamber. He believes that the only class difference in Scotland is that which exists in railway carriages. Class differences do exist in Scotland. This parents' charter, or whatever fanciful name the Minister proposes to give the measure, does nothing to tackle the root causes of inequality in Scottish education. That is why I hope that the hon. Member for Argyll will join us in the Lobby tonight.

The assisted places scheme is a subsidy in disguise for the privileged private sector in education, which caters for only a tiny minority of pupils. It is being introduced at a time when State education is being throttled by public expenditure cuts. We can expect nothing else from this Government. However, I was astonished to read the Secretary of State's remarks to the young Tories' annual conference last November. He was quoted inThe Scotsman as saying: Of course our overwhelming priority is the betterment of the comprehensive system where 95 percent. or more of our children are going to be educated. How can he claim that when he is starving that system of funds and introducing a scheme to help the fee-paying sector of Scottish education, which the overwhelming majority of parents and teachers in Scotland regard as unjust and socially divisive? The Secretary of State is telling us that State education in Scotland is second rate, which is a slur on those who work in it and those who send their children to State schools.

The scheme has few friends in Scotland. It is opposed by the teaching unions. Its only supporters appear to be those Tories who detest the comprehensive system and the standards that it has achieved. They have a theory—"Fee paying schools, good; comprehensives, bad." To prove their theory they are trying to poach the best pupils that the comprehensive system produces and transfer them to the private sector They would deny the remaining pupils the chance to watch the progress of the successful pupils, who would have encouraged them to work harder. That displays the Tories' love of elitism and snobbery at its worst.

We have already seen the mentality that exists in those schools. I refer to the incident in my constituency, when Dundee high school began issuing preliminary application forms for the assisted places scheme before the Bill had been presented to Parliament. The form was one of the most detailed that I have ever seen. It stated that children should sit an entrance examination for Dundee high school. It should be for Parliament, not Dundee high school, to decide whether a child who attends the school by virtue of the assisted places scheme should sit an entrance examination.

I wish to thank my right hon. and hon. Friends who signed my early-day motion deploring that practice. They would be pleased to know that it was the subject of a major news item on BBC's "Reporting Scotland" the same evening that we tabled the motion. The glow from the red faces within Dundee high school lit up the night sky of Dundee for some nights afterwards. The scheme is a scandalous abuse of public money. It is a slur on the comprehensive system. It is an example of the Tories' traditional contempt for the real Scottish educational system. It deserves nothing but the outright rejection of the House.

The Secretary of State said that I should be thankful that pupils in Dundee high school who came from lower income families would benefit from his actions. I am more concerned about the comments made by Mr. Ian Mackie, the Tory leader of Tayside regional council, in The Scotsman on 6 February. The article states: Councillor Mackie agreed yesterday that the region would be unable to fulfil their statutory obligations if they confined themselves to the expenditure guidelines of the Government. When I sought to allay the fears of my constituents by tabling a written question today, the Minister replied: Councillor Mackie called on me on 3 February while he was in London to discuss a number of matters of interest to Tayside regional council. I made it clear in a letter to the Minister that if we discover that, because of the Government's policies, the Tayside regional council is not fulfilling its statutory obligations, I shall ask him to authorise Her Majesty's Inspectorate from the Scottish Education Department to investigate whether the council is fulfilling its statutory duties in Dundee, and demand that it does so.

I take great pleasure in saying that I shall vote against the Bill. It does nothing for education in Scotland. If the hon. Member for Argyll is sincere, he will join with us in the vote tonight.

8.23 pm
Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

The Bill ignores the needs of the vast majority of children in Scottish schools. Parts of the Bill will do a great deal of damage to the Scottish education system—a system which appears to have been lurching from one crisis to another since the Minister at the Scottish Office with responsibility for education took office.

I agree with the principle of parental choice, but the scheme proposed by the Government is unnecessary, bureaucratic and expensive. The Bill refers to at least £100,000 expenditure in 1981–82, increasing to an annual sum of £300,000 in subsequent years. One clause in the Bill will make it easier to close schools. The victims probably will be schools in rural areas, some of which are in areas represented by Conservative Members. The new negotiating machinery for teachers' salaries will do little, if anything, to restore the morale of the teaching profession following last year's fiasco about salaries, especially at a time when the Government are allowing only 6 per cent. for wage increases in the rate support grant to local education authorities.

I said earlier that the Bill ignores the real needs of the vast majority of children in Scotland. The goodness or badness of an education Bill must be judged not on what it will do for parents, teachers and Ministers, but on the main criterion of what it will do for children. I shall devote most of my remarks to the effect of the Bill on two minority groups of children, and deal with the way in which the Government are treating one minority group as compared with the other.

The first minority group is children and young people with special educational needs. They were the subject of a study by the Warnock committee. The hallmark of any educational system that proclaims itself to be humane and just is that there is equality of educational opportunity. If we are to achieve that, most help should go to the children who need it most. I am sure that most hon. Members will agree that the children studied by the Warnock committee come into that category. That committee was established as long ago as November 1973. The Secretary of State for Education and Science at that time was none other than the present Prime Minister—the same Prime Minster who is heading a Government who are doing so little to help those children. The committee reported in 1978 with more than 200 recommendations. Eventually, in this, the International Year of Disabled People, the Government have brought forward proposals to take action on some of those recommendations. But the sad truth is that most of the recommendations have been ignored. The Bill is a pathetic response to Warnock and to the crying need to give more educational priority to children and young people with special educational needs.

Along with most hon. Members, I wish to give a general welcome to the abolition of the rigid system of categorisation of different forms of handicap, and its replacement with a new system based on an individual assessment, combined with a record for a child with special needs. There will be a general welcome for that proposal from educational circles outside the House. I accept what the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) said about nomenclature—one of the few remarks that I accepted in his speech. We should look for another word than "record". The new system appears to be based on a more child-centred approach, rather than on the old method of trying to pigeon-hole children into different categories.

Having given a general welcome to those legislative proposals, I should add that there are several major omissions. There is a failure to insist on assessment of the child by a truly multi-disciplinary team. The role of the teacher is relegated to a mere consultative capacity, yet specific reference is made to the role of the psychologist and to that of the doctor, and to medical and psychological examinations. The teacher should be brought more into the multi-disciplinary team to assess the child. The Bill also fails to provide more opportunity for an earlier school entry age and for a later school leaving age, which would benefit many of these children and young people.

The Government have failed to legislate for a named person who could become a contact point for the parents. Instead of being shoved from one office to another and from one specialist to another the parents would know that a "one-door" policy existed and that there was a named person to whom they could go for advice at any stage during the child's education.

The Bill also fails to set up an advisory body to promote research and development into children's educational needs. In addition, it fails to improve staffing standards in certain types of special schools, which were formerly called junior occupational centres and which cater for severely mentally handicapped children. As recently as 1975, those institutions were not called schools.

We should be ashamed of the fact that not until 1975 did we remove the stigma or label of "ineducable" from those children. In 1975 it was decided that henceforth those children would be called "educable", and that the institutions that catered for their education would be called "schools". We all know that, in itself, a change of labels does not necessarily mean an improvement in educational opportunity. It is sad that the former junior occupational centres are still exempt from the staffing provisions contained in the code that applies to other special schools.

At a time when we should be training more teachers so that we can improve the educational opportunity for such children along the lines of the Melville report, it is particularly tragic that the Government should propose to reduce teacher training facilities and to close down colleges of education. The most serious point is that insufficient resources are being provided for these Warnock children. The Bill makes no provision for additional resources. The Government pay hypocritical lip service to the Warnock report and to the International Year of Disabled People when they proclaim that they are doing something that will be of tremendous advantage to such children.

In 1979, when the Conservative Party came into office, one of the Government's first actions was to cut the education budget for Scotland, including a cut in the special education budget. The Bill does not provide a single extra penny for the education of these children. Earlier, I said that they were a minority. Only 2 per cent. of schoolchildren have pronounced, specific or complex educational needs. However, if we take into account those who at some stage in their educational life require some specialist or remedial education, one in five of schoolchildren, or 20 percent. of the school population are involved.

The Government may claim that they cannot provide more resources for these children, because the educational system is in some way bankrupt, or because the Treasury is bankrupt. If they make that claim, how on earth can they find £3.5 million for an assisted places scheme? Indeed, that £3.5 million is only the initial amount. More money will probably be provided. It is most unfair to cut the amount of money being given to those most in need so that the Government can prop up private fee-paying schools that cater for fewer than 5 per cent. of the school population. That is a distorted sense of educational priorities. The Government seem to be depriving those with special educational needs while, at the same time, they are shovelling millions of pounds of public money into private, elitist, fee-paying schools, so that a tiny minority of parents can buy extra privilege—real or imaginary—by sending their children to them.

Soon after the Conservative Party took office grant aid for fee-paying schools was increased from about £900,000 to £2.3 million. That is an increase of about 150 per cent. Grant aid has been increased by about another 50 per cent. for this financial year. As a result, it now totals about £3.5 million. The Government are not only cutting expenditure in education, they are redistributing whatever expenditure is left. Instead of redistributing it in favour of those pupils and those schools that are most in need, they are doing the opposite. They are taking money away from deprived children to give it to the privileged few. It is Robin Hood in reverse. They are robbing the poor to give to the rich. They are robbing the underprivileged to give more to the over-privileged.

As other hon. Members have said, the effect of the assisted places scheme will be to reinforce the social divisions in Scotland. It is worth pointing out that 95 per cent. of parents appear to be perfectly happy for their children to attend local education authority schools. But the Government are implying that those schools are somehow inferior, and that the teachers who teach in them are somehow incapable of bringing the best out of the brightest children. That is to insult the teachers and the children in those schools. If there is any motivation at all behind this crazy scheme, it seems to be an attempt by the Government to reward a few Tory voters, their old school pals and the old boy network, especially in places such as Edinburgh.

It is interesting to read the provisional list of schools participating in the assisted places scheme. There are none in my constituency, but I think that my constituents in West Stirlingshire, whether or not they voted for me in the last general election, will deeply resent the fact that, while their children have to suffer the effects of cuts in education expenditure in local education authority schools they will at the same time have to subsidise the Edinburgh bourgeoisie who imagine that private fee-paying schools in Edinburgh are somehow superior to local education authority schools.

One has only to look at some of the products of the schools on the provisional list. One is Loretto school. That school was not grant-aided before. It was an independent school. Among its illustrious or infamous former pupils is the Solicitor-General for Scotland, whose name appears on the cover of the Bill as one of the principal sponsors. What does the Solicitor-General for Scotland think about his old school? I have looked this up in "Who's Who". I should not like to be accused of misquoting, so I shall read out the entry, which I presume was submitted or at least approved by the hon. and learned Gentleman himself. It reads as follows: Fairbairn of Fordell, Nicholas Hardwick… Baron of Fordell; born 24 December 1933"— That must have been one hell of a Christmas for Mrs. Fairbairn. Here we come to the important part—

Educated: Loretto and Edinburgh University, educated in spite of both. In other words, the Solicitor-General for Scotland, a former pupil of Loretto, clearly thinks that it is a rotten school. Yet he has put his name to a Bill which will give public money to Loretto school to enable more children to suffer the severe educational disadvantage that he suffered as a result of going to that school.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Is this a personal attack?

Mr. Douglas

No, it is too mild.

Mr. Canavan

I must point out, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I left a note for the Solicitor-General for Scotland saying that I intended to mention this during the debate. Unfortunately, however, despite the fact that his name appears on the Bill, he has not appeared throughout the debate. It seems that if there is one thing that Loretto school does teach its pupils, it is truancy. That is another reason for not giving it any public money.

Among the other schools, there is George Heriot's school which the Solicitor-General for Scotland's pal, the Lord Advocate, attended. There is George Watson's college, which produced the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) and the Secretary of State's messenger boy, the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie), who is not present today, either. I notice that Glasgow Academy is also on the list. That was the school of the substitute messenger boy, the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Pollock).

Mr. Alex Pollock (Moray and Nairn)

Will the hon. Gentleman explain to the House the reasoning behind the decision of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) to take up his first teaching post—in history, rugby and ethics—at that school?

Mr. Canavan

That is a question which my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) is best qualified to answer. However, in these days when the Secretary of State is chopping back on the number of teaching jobs, I would imagine that some teachers would be glad to get a job anywhere.

If I had more time, I could say more about the educational records of some Conservative Members. Many of them however, including the Secretary of State himself, were exported to English fee-paying schools for most of their education.

The list of these schools reminds me of a line of old school tie scroungers, queueing up with their begging bowls at the door of their Ministerial pals demanding that their old boys dish out more public money to bolster up their educational system. That system has produced many of the people who are now hell bent on destroying the Scottish educational system and are trying to reinforce the class divisions which currently exist in Scotland. This whole scheme is absolutely unjustifiable on educational, moral and financial grounds. I hope that all of my hon. Friends and perhaps even some Conservative Members will vote against this vicious measure.

We would like to make it crystal clear that after the next general election, when we have a massive Labour majority in this place, one of our first priorities will be to get rid of the assisted places scheme and to abolish privilege once and for all from our educational system with the same ruthless determination as the Tories try to prop it up.

8.41 pm
Mr. Peter Fraser (South Angus)

My hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) may have been criticised for speaking at some length, but all 30 minutes of his speech had a lot more relevance to the Bill than the last five minutes of the speech of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan).

The line of opposition adopted by the Labour Party is the same tired and obvious ploy which it used in respect of the other two items of major legislation which the Government have brought forward. On the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act, they studiously ignored and underplayed the social importance to Scotland of the tenants' charter, which they knew perfectly well provided new and welcome safeguards, not for owner-occupiers but for council tenants.

During discussions on the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, they uncritically associated themselves with the "Stop the Bill" campaign, although again they knew perfectly well that had their own Government survived just a month of two more most of the proposals contained in it would have been enacted.

Now that we are discussing this Bill, the parents' charter is studiously ignored. The provisions for special educational needs of some children, along the lines recommended in Warnock, are underplayed. The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire ought to have paid more attention to what Mrs. Warnock had to say about the implementation of those proposals in this Bill.

I unhesitatingly welcome the provisions in the Bill. I hope that in Scotland it will be remembered how much in previous legislation the attempt was made to distort what was included. I hope that it will be realised that the same attempt is being made on this occasion.

The provisions of clause 1 relating to placings in schools are not, I tend to agree, wholly required in every region in Scotland. As the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) acknowledged, my own education authority in Tayside already operates a flexible and sensible scheme for those parents who wish to have their children educated at other schools. Possibly it is not necessary for me to repeat this, but that same responsive approach has been singularly lacking in our capital city of Edinburgh.

Labour Members frequently enjoy taking the mickey out of Conservative Members who have earned their living at the Bar. For a while, I made a very good living out of representing the interests of those tenants who found that they were reacting to a wholly unresponsive education authority.

What surprises me most about the opposition to the Bill is resistance to the idea that education authorities should be required to supply information regarding any school under their management. At present, it seems quite acceptable and is frequently the case, even in the House, to judge and even to pillory an education authority on the basis of its crude expenditure on education. There might be some sense in that approach if the statistic used was expenditure per pupil. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) and his hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross), who I am sorry to see has left the Chamber, have both used in the past the statistic of expenditure, not per pupil but per head of population. That seems to me absurd. Anyone who knows anything about Scotland appreciates that the proportion of schoolchildren as part of the total population varies enormously in different regions.

This attack has been frequently used, especially against Tayside region. If we are to use those arguments and play that game, it is interesting to see what comes out of the statistics from the rate review last year. Tayside spends £348 per pupil on teaching staff. That is well above the average and far more than the £313 that Strathclyde spends per pupil on teaching staff. On non-teaching staff, Tayside spends the average while Strathclyde manages to spend nearly double. What parents want to know is how their children will get on at school.

I do not believe that if parents in any part of Scotland were told that this education authority spends £348 per pupil on teaching staff while that spends £313 they would have any idea whether this represented excessive expenditure or a serious underspending on this vital issue. I should have thought that the more vital figure and the more vital approach would be the type of educational information that parents can understand. For example, more children leave school in Tayside with three or more highers than in any other region of Scotland. At the same time, fewer than the national average leave school with no qualification at all. Within Tayside, one has a better chance of being educated better than in any other region in Scotland.

If it is legitimate to examine these figures on a regional or a national basis, it is surely logical and sensible to give information to parents on what happens in the region and what happens in individual schools. Opposition Members have been at pains to say that educational establishments in Scotland are opposed to the Bill. The factor that they have attempted to avoid facing is that organisations such as the Scottish Consumer Council have given a very warm welcome to a number of provisions in the Bill. The council says: We see the provision of information for parents as the cornerstone of the government's commitment to a 'parents' charter, and greatly welcome key clauses in the bill requiring education authorities to publish details about their admission arrangements … If the charge of elitism is made against the Government, it seems extraordinary that the whole attitude of the Opposition is that it is legitimate for the educational establishments to pass opinions but that if parents deign to intervene and to ask questions this passes out of the area of legitimate concern and becomes a matter that they should never be told about.

The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire made the point that, because we wish to introduce an assisted places scheme, we are playing down the value and the contribution of State education. He seemed to relate that proposition, if I understood him correctly, to the belief that the provision of information might incite a movement of musical chairs from one school to another. I do not believe for a moment that that will be the effect. I accept that about 80 per cent. of parents are satisfied with the education of their children at a particular school, but more than 80 per cent. believe that they should at least have a choice, the right to know about the school, and be given the opportunity to move their children from it if necessary.

In my constituency there is a high school in Arbroath, about which I have pestered and will continue to pester the Minister on the replacement of the school building. One of the problems with which we were faced was that there was so little information about the educational facilities within the admittedly inadequate building that children were beginning to drift away. Once we had collected information on that school in the form of a prospectus the movement away from it was prevented.

I ask the Under-Secretary of State to consider the fact that from time to time children are just under the age at which they are required to be admitted to schools. If it is a matter of days or weeks, a number of education authorities try to introduce a flexibility into the arrangements, and permit the children to enter school before the required age. However, some people in educational establishments feel that they know better, and they say that in no circumstances should children be taken into school before the required age. Subject to the qualifications in clause 1(3)(b), if an education authority can admit a child to school before the required age, a greater educational opportunity will be given to that child.

I re-echo the point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll on assisted places. The arguments have been discussed at length. I support my hon. Friend on the issue of boarding fees being included within the assisted places scheme where, in any event, the local education authority would have to educate the child away from home. That would be a useful extension to the scheme but, at the same time, it would not be solely for the benefit of some public schools in Edinburgh, to which Labour Members so fervently object. I hope that we shall be able to discuss that matter in Committee but that the assisted places scheme, as set out in the Bill, emerges from Committee intact.

8.53 pm
Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

I do not envisage that the Bill will do very much for the coming generation of young Scots. Having listened to some of the speeches, one realises that its conception owes much to the ideological hang-up that still exists on the Government Benches in terms of promoting independent schools.

I wish to concentrate on three aspects of the Bill. The first concerns assisted places. It is a pity that the Government have not thought it worthy to regard all young Scots as being eligible for assisted places, by strengthening community schools throughout the country and by raising the quality of these State schools. There will be a misdirection of the current educational funding.

The Minister responsible for education in Scotland is in a unique position. He has at his disposal far more resources in terms of teaching staff than any previous Minister. In the 1960s and 1970s the main problem in the community schools was a shortage of teachers, not least in specialist subjects. I hope that the Minister will not seek to squander the tremendous asset that he has at his disposal, because the success of the schools is to be judged by more than mere SCE examination results. Youngsters spend a great deal of time in primary and secondary schools, and it is important that they should take away with them more than their certificates alone. Unfortunately, not enough of them take away certificates, but I am suggesting that school is more than a place in which only certification should count.

With regard to the illusion of parental choice, there is no suggestion that extra resources will be made available to the parents. Indeed, the previous Bill, the Education (Scotland) (No. 1) Bill, deliberately sought to reduce the financial resources available to parents by savaging the ability of local authorities to deliver services. In most inner urban areas—and in quite a number of rural areas—the problem of school closures will overhang the educational situation, and not only because of the decline in the number of pupils. It seems that there will be even more difficulties in terms of planning courses, timetabling and staffing arrangements, and one visualises that a lot of Portakabins will be required for all the movement that will exist between the popular and the unpopular schools—that is, if parents have the resources to pay for their youngsters to go to the popular schools.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) referred to the appeals machinery that exists in Strathclyde where, as I was able to find, there were about 3,700 applications for exceptional transfers, of which about 3,400 were granted. There may well be a need to improve the appeals machinery, but here we have a Government who despise quangos. So what do they seek to do? They seek to have superimposed public authority non-governmental organisations. We might call them "spangos". They will be mushrooming from Gretna Green to Sullom Voe. No doubt they will require clerks and administration, and will be a very costly aspect of education.

Reference has been made to the fact that the sheriff will be involved. I wonder how many sheriffs will have adequate knowledge of community schools, because they are, in the nature of things, drawn from a select element in the community.

But the third and most serious omission from the Bill relates to the 16 to 19 age group. The Secretary of State said this afternoon that he did not have much to say about that group. If I may say so, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he did not have very much to say about anything this afternoon, but the absence of hope for the 16 to 19 age group is particularly galling.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) drew attention to the de-motivation that exists in many of our schools. The most serious problem facing a lot of youngsters is the absence of employment opportunity when they leave school. Although more than two-fifths of them leave school with no qualifications, many youngsters who leave school with qualifications are finding it extremely difficult to obtain employment.

It may well be that decisions will be taken later on in respect of the Munn and Dunning reports. The Scottish Office published a little leaflet entitled "The Government's Development Programme—The Munn and Dunning Reports: A Progress Report". When one examines the document in detail, one sees that it appears to be all cover and little content. When I asked the Secretary of State a question about introducing, on an experimental basis in Strathclyde region, maintenance allowances so that youngsters could stay at school after 16 without financial worries, he refused to consider the proposition. But that would seem to be a necessary step at a time when we know that almost one school leaver in three will require a place in the youth opportunities programme.

I have no doubt that the Scottish Select Committee, under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), will be able to examine this important issue of youth unemployment. But there must be a greater bridge between the secondary schools and the further education colleges. It struck me that the Secretary of State intends to draw on some of the initiatives that the last Government started, but I wish that he had spelt out in greater detail what he had in mind. Next year we shall see the beginning of a sharp drop in the number of 16-year-olds. The Government are uniquely placed. There will be a drop in the number of school leavers over the next decade, and there will be corresponding demand for places in further education colleges.

Coming back to the point that was made earlier about provision for the disabled, I hope that the Secretary of State will bear in mind the problem that is now developing in respect of the mentally handicapped, where parents whose youngsters are reaching 16—because of medical advance they are living longer—are now worried about what happens to their children after the age of 16. Are they to stay at home, or are they to be institutionalised? I hope that the Secretary of State, in this of all years, will respond to that difficulty.

I see the Bill as a spurious and shoddy piece of legislation which will do little for Scotland's young people today, and will certainly not prepare them for the world of tomorrow. Despite what has been said about some of the bureaucracies, the zoning and other arrangements will provoke a shambles in the administration of Scottish education over the coming years.

9.3 pm

Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, East)

Unlike the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen), I welcome the Bill as an extremely useful and practical measure. There is one matter on which there is universal agreement, and that is that the university courts of the universities of St. Andrew's, Glasgow and Aberdeen will now have the right to appoint their own principals. As one of those universities is situated in my constituency, I believe that this provision will be warmly welcomed, despite the maintenance by the Opposition, when in Government, of the Royal Prerogative of the past.

Clauses 1 and 2, which relate to parental choice, would not be necessary if all regional councils acted like the best regional councils. It is a matter for regret that these clauses are necessary. After a number of years of pressure, Fife regional council, for example, has introduced a useful and remarkably successful measure of parental choice in primary schools. For some time I have asked it to extend the scheme more rapidly in the secondary schools. The Bill will ensure that parents have the rights to which they are entitled. Fife regional council is now beginning to realise that it is a useful measure.

The special educational needs part of the Bill is of particular value. Opposition Members have talked about finance for particular proposals in the Bill. Nobody will disagree that the Government's measures in relation to the Warnock report are first class. The only query that the Opposition raised in that respect was about finance. My right hon. Friend said that the scheme would be financed primarily under the rate support grant formula, but we should not forget that Mrs. Warnock argued that a great deal could be done which did not necessarily require finance.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider the possibility of stressing in the Bill the duty of an education authority to provide education for children with special needs as soon as the needs are discovered and assessed. We should not wait until such children start their school careers. That is a recommendation of the National Deaf Children's Society. The suggestion applies in particular to deaf children.

Mr. David Myles (Banff)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, because this might be the only way in which I can make my point tonight. I wish to refer to deafness and the removal of categorisation. I am slightly worried, because deafness is invisible. Sometimes deafness is mistaken for a mental disability. Sometimes I am thought to be stupid rather than deaf. Does my hon. Friend agree that deafness should be named, in order to remove the stigma?

Mr. Henderson

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will have noticed that important point, which is made with knowledge and experience of that disability.

At the risk of my reputation, I must say that I agree with the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) on one matter. I agree with his proposition that a named person should handle the cases of children with special educational needs. One of the problems of bureaucracy is knowing where to start and how to tackle it. That suggestion would not impose a serious burden on the education authorities, and would be of immense benefit.

With all the many reorganisations and multi-million pounds that have been put into the education system in the last 20 years, it is still a cause for anxiety that the proportion of pupils leaving school without any educational qualification is disturbingly and persistently high. Anything that we can do to reduce that will be good for the children and help their employment prospects.

9.9 pm

Mr. Martin J. O'Neill (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

The debate has been wide-ranging perhaps because of the generosity of the Chair. We heard an Adjournment-type speech from the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Lang) about the problems in his area. The debate has been restricted by the Bill's content because it deals with little that is relevant to Scottish education. Because of the ingenuity of my right hon. and hon. Friends, we have been able to discuss the important issues that affect education. We regret that an issue, which should be the subject of wide concern throughout the country, will be hindered by the almost unintelligible form in which the legislation has appeared. In Committee we shall endeavour to make the Bill appear clearer and more honest to the general public.

Much has been made of the parents' charter as a new extension of parental freedom which will, somehow, transform our education system. The message of the 1979 Tory manifesto was to the effect that by extending parental rights and responsibilities, and by giving parents a greater influence in education, there would be an improvement in the education system. From what we have heard today, the secret of Tory education policy seems to be to give parents more rights and somehow educational standards will improve. It is not books, money or resources, but parents' rights which will improve the education system.

It has been argued that some local authorities have not been fulfilling their requirements or allowing the transfer of children from one school to another. My right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) and I approached four authorities in Strathclyde, Lothian, Fife and Central. We took Labour authorities because we felt that, in the Government's view, Conservative authorities would be beyond reproach. In 1980, in Strathclyde, out of 3,700 requests, 3,370 were granted and 334 refused. Lothian, the bete noir of the Tory Party in Scotland, had 391 requests of which 265 were granted and 126 were refused. In the Central region, my own region, there were 300 requests of which 226 were granted and 74 were refused. In 1980 Fife had 88 requests of which 78 were granted and 10 were refused. About 97 per cent. of all placements in the four regions were accepted without appeal.

However, the Minister is so determined to give all parents the right of appeal to move their children that he is setting up a vast bureaucracy to provide information and to afford leave to appeal.

Will the Minister tell us how he proposes to operate the legal aid system, which is not in the Bill? We have looked in vain through the Bill and have found no reference. It may be in the regulations. I hope that he will explain that when he replies. It came to light only today that legal aid would be provided.

Most of the provisions concerning the parental charter are largely irrelevant as most schools now have prospectuses, which are revised annually and include details of the range of courses, the content, the choice, the school facilities, the clubs and the societies. In short, they are an attempt to encapsulate what the school offers. In most cases they tell us a great deal more about the school than we can find in the Public and Preparatory Schools Year Book or the Independent Schools Association Year Book which give details of fee-paying schools in the form of a prospectus.

Common to both the public and the private sector is that none of the publications mentions examination results. If it is not felt necessary to make exam pass figures available in the standard directories of fee-paying schools, why should it be obligatory for local authority schools? Is it because many of the so-called better schools which give wider opportunities would be "done" under the Trade Descriptions Act if they had to come clean about the real state of their so-called academic standards?

Notwithstanding that, will the Minister be more specific about what he will require in the way of pass rate figures? Will it be simply the number of passes or the number of passes against presentations? Will it be the numbers who get C, B or A grades at O level? Will it include those who receive certificates, but who have failed to achieve over 50 per cent. and are awarded D and E grades? Will it be the number presented against the rest of the year population? Will it encompass matters such as the CSE mode 3 courses that are offered in Lothian and other areas? Will it reflect different approaches to presentation within a school? In some departments head teachers will allow only those who will definitely pass to sit an exam, while others say that it is sufficient for a pupil to complete a course and submit himself to presentation.

Those are the sort of questions to which teachers and parents are entitled to know the answers. If the regulations and guidelines are to be all-embracing, it will be an incredibly complicated system. As well as differences within schools, there are different types of schools. I choose as examples two local authority schools in the Under-Secretary's constituency—Drummond high school, a former junior secondary, and Broughton high school, an old-style high school, which has moved into a new building, opposite Fettes college, and is arguably one of the best equipped schools in Scotland.

The Broughton school covers areas such as the new town and the middle class housing estates such as Craigleith. On the other hand, Drummond looks to the inner urban area where there are housing problems, higher unemployment and greater social problems. It is in an outdated building and is fighting for its existence, but it has a wide range of community-related activities, has specialised in work with immigrant ethnic groups and is steadily improving the academic side of its work.

Would it be possible for the tidy-minded bookkeeper in St. Andrew's House, the education Minister, to construct a league table to cover that range of variables? The differences are impossible to quantify in the way that the Minister would like. He knows that. Even organisations such as the SSTA—I see that their paid hack is not present, perhaps he is ashamed of being unable to take his money—

Mr. Henderson

There are many sponsored trade union members who do not have such remarks made to them. My hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) is a member of a trade union and declared that fact when he spoke. It is no disgrace to be a member of a trade union. My hon. Friend is neither paid nor a hack.

Mr. O'Neill

The hon. Member for Fife (Mr. Henderson) knows as much about trade unionism as he does about education. The hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) spent his time discussing the policies of the SSTA. [Hon. Members: "Withdraw."] I will not withdraw. The hon. Gentleman gave a disgraceful peformance. He has returned to the Chamber and I am pleased to repeat that in his speech, tactfully or untactfully and in a hack-like manner, he ignored the evidence of his own union.

Mr. John MacKay

If the hon. Gentleman had listened to my speech, he would have heard me emphasise that I am an honorary adviser. I get no payment. I would not have taken payment if the union had offered it. It did not offer payment. I get nothing from the union. If the hon. Gentleman said that I did, will he withdraw?

Mr. O'Neill

I withdraw my reference to the hon. Gentleman. He is an unpaid hack of the trade union.

I should like to quote the part of the SSTA briefing that was not referred to by the hon. Member for Argyll. The association stated: schools often achieve good or bad reputations on the basis of no more than fad or whim or rumour. A minor matter giving rise to unfavourable publicity may commence a vicious circle which causes a school to acquire an entirely undeserved bad reputation; similarly, the accident of a particularly clever pupil's obtaining some national recognition or the avid use of the media by a publicity conscious head teacher may lead to a school's acquiring an undeserved good reputation. That is the view of a union which is not particularly known for its progressive views. In this instance, it has hit the nail on the head in regard to parental choice.

Everybody is an expert on education, because everybody went to school, but we shall find that parents will seek to use the league tables to justify their actions. Instead of its being a parents' charter, it will be a moaners' manifesto and a small, snobbish minority will take their children away from schools, thus jeopardising their very existence, regardless of the quality of buildings concerned, the effect on staffing levels or the general morale of the school. That could lead to the creation of junior secondary schools—something which we thought we had seen the end of in Scotland many years ago.

By allowing parents the right to appeal to a sheriff against the decision of a local authority, as the charter provides, we shall find legal rather than educational considerations taking priority. We shall try in Committee to have all the appeals referred to the Secretary of State. We shall at least have the opportunity to take educational considerations into account.

The Government propose to set up a system and somehow parents will take a greater interest and standards in education will improve. Reference was made earlier by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) to the 11,000 pupils who were sent to Lothian schools from primary to secondary school and the 391 requests which were made for the children to go to other schools. Of the people who had appeals heard, only 126 were not satisfied; about 1 per cent. were disappointed. The Minister is trying to tell us that within this grouping of 126 parents will lie the salvation of Scottish education, that by satisfying the 126 who were not satisfied by Lothian region our education system will be transformed. The Minister knows that this is nonsense. I think that this parental charter is a sham, and simply appeals to the worst instincts of Tory voters. We shall take every opportunity to undermine it in Committee.

On the Warnock report, it was probably in this area that the Government could have got most support from the Opposition. Unfortunately, once again they have missed the opportunity. Certainly the biggest single omission is the failure to provide the resources to cater for the expansion of special education which the report envisages. There are three areas of priority which were included in the Warnock report about which very little mention is made: provision for children under five with special educational needs; provision for young people over 16 with special needs; and teacher training.

At a time when the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) is hell-bent on closing colleges of education, here is a God-given opportunity for him to find something to do with the colleges where he regards the numbers of students as being too small. These were the three priorities above all else that the Warnock report requested. We shall not seek to approach this area in a partisan way, but we shall seek to get financial backing for the Government's resolve. We should like to see greater involvement by teachers in the preparation of reports. We should like pre-school children to be given clearer vetting and better consideration.

We believe that as far as possible it should be the responsibility of the local authorities to provide the necessary care and we are concerned by the proposal which will give parents the right to ask that their children be sent to a grant-aided or independent school with a right of appeal. We want to ensure that where local authorities have these provisions available they are made the fullest use of.

We support those Members on the Government Benches who made reference to the desirability of appointing a named person. We hope that the widespread concern about this question in the House today will persuade the Minister to look again at that. We hope that it would be a good starting point for a concession. We hope also that we can come back to the question of list D schools and the problems of children with special educational needs.

I echo the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) that no provision has been made for transitional arrangements for young people at 16. The problems of young people leaving care after 11 years and being thrown into the world is something which many of us believe to be of paramount importance. We think that the Minister must, in the International Year of Disabled People, find money for this particular group who probably above all are the ones most at risk at this moment.

The area which is probably most controversial is that of the assisted places scheme. We should like the Under-secretary of State to be a little clearer in his mind than was the Secretary of State as to whether the ability of the pupils will be the criterion for acceptance into the schools in the scheme. The Tory manifesto said that grant-aided schools gave wider opportunities for bright children. That reference to bright children tends to suggest that less able children will not be included in the scheme. We give notice that, as soon as we are back in power, we shall discontinue the scheme, and this will be the first step towards the elimination of any State funding for private education either by rate relief or by privileges presently enjoyed under the so-called charitable status. We also hope at that time to end the income tax relief for parents.

This scheme is half-baked. It rests on the premise that independent schools are somehow better than State schools. The election manifesto spoke of giving wider opportunities to bright children from modest backgrounds. If these schools are so good, there is a case for giving less able children a chance as well. The Minister should be specific on this and let us know what is happening.

As the geographical spread of these institutions is uneven, the effect of the scheme will be felt more severely in some areas than in others. Once again, Edinburgh seems to be the target for the Government's policy. There are 14 schools in Edinburgh, 14 schools in the whole of Strathclyde, six on Tayside, one in Highland, three in Grampian, one in Central, one in Dumfries and Galloway, and one in Fife. As the size of the schools varies and the location will not necessarily be convenient for all who want to go to to them, this system is basically unfair from the start. It is a cruel deception being played on the people who were foolish enough to vote for the Government in the expectation that something like this would be created. The concentration of numbers in particular areas will have the effect of creaming off many of the more able pupils. At a time of falling school rolls, this will further exacerbate the opportunities for the children in the State system, and will prevent them from having a wider range of senior school options.

It has been suggested that the scheme in the first year will cost about £800,000 and will rise to in excess of £5 million. When it is taken into account that aid to the private sector has already risen from £1 million to about £3.4 million, it is easy to understand the bitterness that this scheme arouses in the rest of the school system in Scotland. It had been suggested that the proposal is not even popular with the schools themselves, and that they would rather have the money under the old system to deal with as they wish.

We regard this system as an affront to Scottish education and no more than an attempt to appease ill-informed parents who feel that there must be something better than the local school. My concern is for the children who go to those schools and discover that they will be second class citizens, denied the right of membership of clubs, societies, and activities for which payment must be made. The question of school uniform arises and the provisions of the proposed section 75B are all too vague. There is no great commitment to ensuring that the young people who go to these schools will get the necessary resources to play a full part in the school.

While I appreciate that the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North, went to a local authority school, far too many of his colleagues are totally ignorant of our system because the only time they have been in Scottish schools is on polling day when they have gone to vote. It would perhaps do some hon. Members on the Government Benches good to spend some time in the State system that they spend so much time denigrating.

To go on to look at the miscellaneous provisions, clause 14 is probably the most complicated clause, and the hon. Member for Argyll read out the provisions very fully. This must be looked at in Committee and the question of salaries and conditions must be considered in some detail, but not in the House this evening.

The status of non-denominational school closures is an issue that has caused a great deal of concern. We should like to see equality of treatment between the two communities. We hope that the Minister will reconsider the vexed issue of closures. We are especially concerned, at a time when rolls are falling and resources are scarce, that an unscrupulous authority will take advantage of these circumstances to close schools indiscriminately. We ask the Minister to think again and to amend the clause or withdraw it so that both communities in Scotland can be treated equally.

The Bill is at best an irrelevance and at worst a cruel deception. We recognise that there is always a need for tidying-up legislation, but there is nothing of any substance in the Bill that will give any hope to those who care about Scottish education.

The Secretary of State is without a friend for his assisted places scheme. Professional organisations such as the Educational Institute of Scotland, the NAS/AWT, the Scottish School Teachers Association and the headmasters' Association are all against it. They regard it as a slight against their members who work in the State sector. They reject the notion that in some way local authority schools are inferior to fee-paying institutions. They resent a scheme that will mean that resources that could be used to improve the lot of the great mass of Scottish young people will be diverted to help a privileged and pampered few.

The professional organisations find it incomprehensible that low pupil-teacher ratios should be desirable in private schools but should be regarded as not necessary in local authority schools. Equally despicable is the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has tried to dress up the wretched assisted places scheme as mutton dressed as lamb. The clever children of the deserving poor will be allowed to go to fee-paying schools provided that they do not live too far away and if they are prepared to put up with the ignominy of being second-class citizens who are not able to participate in activities such as music lessons, the skiing trips, the continental holidays and all the other activities that are advertised in the brochures as being a desirable part of the education that the schools can provide, when there is no likelihood of financial support being given to enable them to take part.

Is the Minister aware of the problems that he is creating? No one wants the scheme. The schools do not want it. They would rather have the money in the form in which they used to have it, but we shall not necessarily give it to them in that way when we are in Government.

After the next general election the financial support will go. There will be difficult conditions in State schools, and apart from the cuts in staffing and resources and the working of clauses 1 and 2, which will result in havoc being created, we shall find that the more able children will be creamed off to the fee-paying sector. The socially ambitious will be taking their children away from the more difficult schools to the lusher pastures of surburbia where the catchment areas are better. The effect on teaching morale of these measures will be disastrous. We shall be back to the worst days of the old junior secondaries.

The detailed regulations that will ensue from the working of the parental charter—appeals to the sheriff, the complicated procedures of the law and problems with the legal profession—will create a bureaucratic warren far worse than that which now exists. There will be neither consistency nor fairness in the application of the law as envisaged in the Bill.

In the main, local authorities have schemes that satisfy most parents. They afford reasonable means of dealing with requests for children to be moved from one school to another. The league tables by their simplicity will merely serve to confuse the issue.

In many respects the least controversial aspect of the Bill, that dealing with special education needs, is the most disappointing. In the International Year of Disabled People it is utter hypocrisy for the Government to deny funds for the implementation of even part of the Warnock report.

We thought that somewhere in St. Andrew's House there was someone prepared to make a stand against the Treasury, but it seems that the cowardice that has categorised the political performance of Ministers since they came to St. Andrew's House is being carried through in this area. In their treatment of the young and the disabled, the Government have been most cruel and heartless in their deception. After food and shelter, education is the greatest need of the young. The Bill, with the rest of the Government's measures, will result in no remission the despair and misery which parents in Scotland feel about their children's future. For those reasons, I have no difficulty in calling my hon. Friends to join me in the Lobby in opposing the Bill.

9.36 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Alexander Fletcher)

I was disappointed at the reaction of the Opposition to the Bill presented by my right hon. Friend. It is not surprising that they oppose the Bill and that they feel strongly about certain aspects of it. However, it seems to me, from most of the speeches made by Opposition Members, that they oppose the Bill for purely doctrinal reasons, and have not attempted to read the Bill and try to understand its proposals. I accept that, in view of the Renton committee proposals, the drafting of the Bill makes it a little more difficult to read than a normal Bill. However, it is a most important piece of legislation.

The Bill concerns many aspects of education—not simply the assisted places scheme, which, important though it is, deals with a relatively small proportion of the population. Parts of the Bill deal with Warnock and parental choice. Surely the interests and desires of parents in sending their children to school are of prime importance, not just to the parents and the children, but to the education system. No organisation and no system can prosper and survive unless the wishes of the consumers—in this case the parents and children—are taken into account, not just in the schools, by school teachers, but by those who administer education, and by education authorities.

Mr. Robert Hughes

As a Socialist and an egalitarian, and as someone who believes that the rights of the child are paramount, I believe that the widest possible parental choice should be exercised within the State system, given that there must always be limitations of practicality and space. The Bill does not provide for progress in this area. Schemes could be produced far better than this one, with proper parental choice. This is a mouse of a Bill. For that reason, I oppose it.

Mr. Fletcher

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join the Committee on the Bill, because we do not pretend for a moment that we have all the answers to the improvement of parental choice. If he joins the Committee and wants to expand the opportunities for parents to be involved in their children's education, we would be delighted.

When I listened to the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. O'Neill), it was disappointing to hear the concentration in his speech—and in most other speeches—on the assisted places scheme. As my right hon. Friend said, there is no need to introduce the Bill simply to change the grant aid system for the assisted places scheme. My right hon. Friend already has legislation which has been on the statute book for many years which, through the introduction of regulations, enables us to transfer the grant aided scheme to the assisted places scheme. As he told the House, that is what we propose to do.

The hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire went further than most of his colleagues when he used the expression "the deserving poor", when talking about grant aided and independent schools. He took delight in pointing out that many Conservative Members had gone not to local authority schools but to fee-paying schools.

In the interests of fairness, I point out that a number of hon. Members on the Opposition Benches did not go to local authority schools.

The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) went to Ampleforth. The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) went to Eton. The hon. Members for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) went to Glasgow Academy, which few of my hon. Friends could afford. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes), who is most reluctant to own up to his old school, went to Haberdashers' Aske school. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) is not in the Chamber. To beat it all, he went to Lord Williams' grammar school, which is very appropriate.

Mr. Foulkes

Surely the acid test is not where we went to school but where we send our children. That shows our view on parental choice.

Mr. Fletcher

Shall I produce that list? No. There has been enough embarrassment on the Opposition Benches this evening. I shall leave that list for now. There will be ample opportunity to use it in Committee.

Mr. Foulkes

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fletcher

No, not again.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire on his first appearance on the Front Bench in these debates. We wish him well. I am sorry that he, as a young family man, has so little interest in parental choice, to judge from his remarks. Is he one of the privileged people in Edinburgh who can afford to buy a house in a catchment zone to suit his requirements? That is the privileged way in which choice is exercised under the rigid catchment zone system that he and his hon. Friends warmly support.

Mr. Douglas

That is the market.

Mr. Fletcher

It is not the market in education. It is the market in housing. That is why we have little respect for that system.

Mr. Douglas

It may be a distortion of the market but it is the market. If a league table was produced, we should find that house prices in the areas where the better schools are situated would rise. It is a distortion of the market produced by a distortion of education.

Mr. Fletcher

The hon. Gentleman misunderstands the facts and the purpose of the Bill. We wish to put an end to rigid catchment zones so that people do not have to buy a house—if they can afford to do so—in the area in which they wish their children to go to school. By providing assisted places in independent schools we are taking that financial consideration out of the issue. That is why the Bill is important.

The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) seemed to say that the Bill should be opposed simply because it does not help school leavers to find jobs. However, especially at a time of recession, the quality of education must continue to improve, which is what we are seeking to achieve. By introducing choice and increasing parental interest we can also improve the motivation of teachers, which is important if we are to have a sound, viable and improving educational system.

My right hon. Friend outlined the improvements that are under way not only in this legislation but in the Munn and Dunning reports, which do not require statutory provisions. However, those reports gathered dust on the shelves under the previous Government, who had neither the wit nor the will to bring forward proposals to implement the recommendations. The Bill covers the areas where legislation is required to improve the education system.

The right hon. Member for Craigton criticised the provision for parental choice. I do not think that he did so because he objects to parental choice. From his speech, it appeared that he had not fully considered the provisions relating either to parental choice of to the assisted places scheme. The Opposition should be concerned about the image that they present in more than one respect. They constantly represent the bureaucracy. They are forever coming to debates and talking about the need to support and help the administration of housing, education and local authorities. Yet, as the so-called people's party, the Opposition seem to have little time for the choice and aspirations of those whom they claim to represent.

What can be more important for the so-called people's party than to take into account the considerations and aspirations of their constituents—whether on the question of having the opportunity to buy their local authority houses, or on the question of having an opportunity to make representations about the school in which their children will be educated?

The right hon. Gentleman asked a number of specific questions. He asked about appeals to the sheriffs, and whether they had been consulted about the new procedure. Indeed, they have been consulted and they have agreed to the procedure. He was wrong to suggest that school councils were to be excluded from consideration of transfer requests. There is no reason why they should be excluded. Indeed, we shall encourage them to be involved in the early stages of a request for a transfer. Many of them are already involved.

I turn to the relaxation of powers, and the fact that local authorities will be able, to a greater extent, to make decisions about the organisations of education in their areas. Local authorities welcome the proposals for the relaxation of controls proposed by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Millan

I said that the school councils in many areas, including Strathclyde, act as the appeals committees. Why cannot they continue to do so, instead of being supplanted by the provisions in the Bill?

Mr. Fletcher

We must provide a system that will be fair throughout the country. I do not believe that any local authority, within its power to look sympathetically at parents' requests, has anything to fear from the provisions in the Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman gave his support to the proposal to bring together teachers' pays and conditions of service. We very much welcome his support in that area.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram) made clear the reasons why parental rights and choice are an important part of the Bill. He mentioned the rigid catchment zone. I know of his experience in his constituency and the number of complaints that he has received from disatisfied parents. They spring only too readily to mind. He mentioned the restriction on moving home, which I have already discussed, and the bureaucratic convenience that is supported by the Opposition party in preference to the wishes of parents and children.

Opposition Members suggested that the assisted places scheme involved privilege, or an extension of privilege. If we were to concede that the assisted places scheme is privileged—which we do not—why in all the world should the Opposition object to privilege being applied to low income families? That is the total lack of logic evident in the arguments presented by almost every Opposition Member this evening.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South was worried about the need to record children before primary school age. We shall be happy to consider that in Committee. In particular, we shall be particularly happy to consider the question of deafness about which my hon. Friend, and my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson) are extremely concerned. My hon. Friend also mentioned the provisions for a maximum intake. It is unavoidable that some provisions should be included in the Bill. If an education authority tries to engineer an artificially low intake, parental appeals should force a remedy.

The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) said that we had no support for the Bill. We might not have support from the trade unions that represent teachers, but a recent opinion poll run by The Observer and the recent BBC Scotland programme, "Current Account" showed that there was considerable public support for the assisted places scheme. The hon. Gentleman drew a comparison between the provisions of the Tenants'Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act and the Bill. I agree with the hon. Gentleman. Given all the years that the hon. Gentleman has spent in politics and the constituency that he represents, I do not know why he should be so determined to deny his constituents a choice in such an important aspect of their lives. We are trying to ensure that those of modest means will be given a new opportunity to expand their freedom of choice—whether in home owning or education—if they so wish. There is no compulsion. It is purely a matter of opening up opportunities that people may wish to take advantage of.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) emphasised the principle of reducing the amount of power held over people and of providing more choice. He asked us to ensure that no local authority would try to prevent the Bill from being effective, as some authorities have tried to frustrate tenants in their attempts to buy their local authority homes. Any Bill of this nature would require local authorities to act reasonably and responsibly. I am sure that they will do so, particularly as education authorities learn to respond to parents' wishes, and as parents learn to exercise their rights, to the benefit of classroom motivation and educational standards generally.

Any local authority that deals sympathetically with the requests of parents has nothing to fear from the Bill. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) mentioned public funds and the fact that between 1980–81 and 1981–82 the rate support grant will be reduced by about £20 million. Essentially, that is due to falling school rolls, which in turn will cause school closures. That should not surprise the hon. Gentleman. No valid complaint can be made against expenditure cuts. In 1981–82, expenditure per pupil in real terms will increase by £6. It cannot be considered insignificant if expenditure per pupil increases at a time when school rolls are falling. Any accusation that the Government are making slashing attacks on public expenditure is completely unjustified.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when school rolls fall the cost per pupil rises regardless of the quality of education being given? As an accountant, the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that. Is it not better that the Government should expend that additional £20 million on improvements in the pupil-teacher ratio? In that way, the quality of education can be improved.

Mr. Fletcher

We do not have to harp on about resources and increased expenditure to improve the quality of education. At a time of economic hardship it would be absurd to ignore falling school rolls when we prepare our budgets. The hon. Gentleman also complained that no progress had been made in dealing with the Munn and Dunning reports. The hon. Gentleman has been a little slow. Last month a progress report was issued on Munn and Dunning, and I commend it to the hon. Gentleman. We are anxious to ensure that progress is maintained in that important area..

My hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Lang) reminded us of the duties that parents have for the education of their children. I am glad that he did so. Local authorities, teachers and parents are in great danger of forgetting that. That goes against the principles by which Scottish education earned the respect of the world. The object of the Bill in dealing with parental choice, the assisted places scheme and special education needs, is to provide the opportunity for Scotland to recapture that respect.

I noted my hon. Friend's special pleading about secondary education in his constituency on grounds of extra finance and school closures. While I can do little about the former, I am glad that he accepts the latter. How local authorities use their resources is, of course, very much a matter for them.

My hon. Friend and others expressed anxiety about rural schools. The regulations will make it clear that outwith a certain distance my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's permission will be required on school closures. In other words, where the distance between schools in a rural area is more than a specified amount, the matter will automatically be referred to my right hon. Friend for his approval.

My hon. Friend also mentioned the question of assisted places and travelling costs. The number of schools in the scheme will be almost double that in the old grant-aided scheme. Under the grant-aided scheme, there were 22 schools. Under the assisted places scheme, there will be 41 schools. A 25-mile radius will qualify low-income families for travelling expenses, but 85 per cent. of the population of Scotland will, in fact, live within a 25-mile radius of schools in the assisted places scheme. That is a remarkable transformation compared with the scheme that we are abolishing in the legislation.

I listened to the strong nationalist noises of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire and his objection to English votes on Scottish Bills. I am sure that his English colleagues hope that from now on he will not exercise his Scottish vote on any English Bill. There is clearly something wrong with the air in South Ayrshire. To judge from the hon. Gentleman's record and that of his predecessor, it seems to attract the politically suicidal.

The whole object of the Bill, as my right hon. Friend and I have repeatedly pointed out, is to try to improve the quality of education through parental choice and to provide a statutory framework within which parents can choose the schools that their children attend. In doing that, a system of independent appeals will be set up with recourse to the sheriff where this is necessary. Education authorities will be required to make information available to parents—and why not?—so that parents will have a reasonable amount of information on which to base their choice.

I was glad that the Educational Institute of Scotland generally welcomes the principle that parents should be allowed a measure of choice in the schools that their children attend, although it has some reservations about the machinery.

On the subject of special educational needs, the Bill implements the fundamental changes in attitude and approach to the education needs of handicapped children and young people recommended by the Warnock committee. I was glad to see from almost all of the speeches, perhaps more gradually in some than in others, that there seems to be a consensus of support and understanding of the desirability of introducing these proposals in Scotland as soon as possible.

We have, therefore, the prospect of producing, for the first time in 20 years, a Scottish education Bill of significance, which I believe will be well appreciated by the users of the education system in Scotland. I agree that it is slanted towards the consumer rather than the education authorities, and I make no apology for that, because it is in that area that the imbalance so clearly lies at the moment. That is why I have been astonished to hear one Labour spokesman after another defend the bureaucracy against the interests of the people they claim to represent.

That is what we are trying to put right in the Bill. We shall proceed through its stages in the House in the knowledge that the vast majority of the people of Scotland want us to do this and to give them a better choice in their children's education.

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

The House divided: Ayes 306, Noes 254.

Division No. 69] [10.00 pm
Adley, Robert Bruce-Gardyne, John
Aitken, Jonathan Bryan, Sir Paul
Alexander, Richard Buchanan-Smith, HonAlick
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Buck, Antony
Ancram, Michael Bulmer, Esmond
Arnold, Tom Burden, SirFrederick
Atkins, Robert(PrestonN) Butcher, John
Atkinson, David(B'm'th, E) Butler, HonAdam
Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone) Carlisle, John(Luton West)
Baker, Nicholas(NDorset) Carlisle, Kenneth(Lincoln)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)
Bell, SirRonald Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Bendall, Vivian Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul
Benyon, Thomas(A 'don) Chapman, Sydney
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Churchill, W.S.
Best, Keith Clark, Hon A.(Plym'th, S'n)
Bevan, David Gilroy Clark, Sir W.(Croydon S)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Clarke, Kenneth(Rushcliffe)
Biggs-Davison, John Clegg, SirWalter
Blackburn, John Colvin, Michael
Blaker, Peter Cope, John
Body, Richard Cormack, Patrick
Bonsor, SirNicholas Costain, SirAlbert
Boscawen, HonRobert Cranborne, Viscount
Bottomley, Peter(W'wich W) Critchley, Julian
Bowden, Andrew Crouch, David
Boyson, DrRhodes Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Braine, SirBernard Dorrell, Stephen
Bright, Graham Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ.
Brinton, Tim Dover, Denshore
Brittan, Leon du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Brooke, Hon Peter Dunn, Robert(Dartford)
Brotherton, Michael Durant, Tony
Brown, M.(BriggandScun) Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Browne, John(Winchester) Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Eggar, Tim Latham, Michael
Elliott, SirWilliam Lawrence, Ivan
Emery, Peter Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Eyre, Reginald Lee, John
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lennox-Boyd, HonMark
Faith, MrsSheila Lester Jim (Beeston)
Farr, John Lewis, Kenneth(Rutland)
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)
Finsberg, Geoffrey Loveridge, John
Fisher, SirNigel Luce, Richard
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N) Lyell, Nicholas
Fletcher-Cooke, SirCharles McCrindle, Robert
Fookes, Miss Janet Macfarlane, Neil
Forman, Nigel MacGregor, John
Fowler, RtHon Norman MacKay, John(Argyll)
Fox, Marcus Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh McNair-Wilson, M.(N'bury)
Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd) McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Fry, Peter McQuarrie, Albert
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Madel, David
Gardiner, George(Reigate) Major, John
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Marland, Paul
Garel-Jones, Tristan Marlow, Tony
Glyn, Dr Alan MarshallMichael(Arundel)
Goodhart, Philip Marten, Neil (Banbury)
Goodlad, Alastair Mates, Michael
Gorst, John Mather, Carol
Gow, Ian Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Gower, Sir Raymond Mawby, Ray
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Mawhinney, DrBrian
Gray, Hamish Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Greenway, Harry Mayhew, Patrick
Grieve, Percy Mellor, David
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Grist, Ian Miller, Hal(B'grove)
Grylls, Michael Mills, lain(Meriden)
Gummer, JohnSelwyn Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Hamilton, Hon A. Miscampbell, Norman
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mitchell, David(Basingstoke)
Hampson, Dr Keith Moate, Roger
Hannam, John Monro, Hector
Haselhurst, Alan Montgomery, Fergus
Hastings, Stephen Moore, John
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Morgan, Geraint
Hawkins, Paul Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Hawksley, Warren Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hayhoe, Barney Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Mudd, David
Heddle, John Murphy, Christopher
Henderson, Barry Myles, David
Heseltine, RtHon Michael Needham, Richard
Hicks, Robert Nelson, Anthony
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L Neubert, Michael
Hill, James Newton, Tony
Hogg, HonDouglas(Gr'th'm) Nott, Rt Hon John
Holland, Philip(Carlton) Onslow, Cranley
Hooson, Tom Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Hordern, Peter Osborn, John
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd) Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Parkinson, Cecil
Hunt, David (Wirral) Parris, Matthew
Hunt, John(Ravensbourne) Patten, Christopher(Bath)
Hurd, HonDouglas Patten, John (Oxford)
lrving, Charles(Cheltenham) Pattie, Geoffrey
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Pawsey, James
Jessel, Toby Pink, R.Bonner
JohnsonSmith, Geoffrey Pollock, Alexander
Jopling, RtHonMichael Porter, Barry
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Kaberry, SirDonald Price, SirDavid(Eastleigh)
Kershaw, Anthony Prior, Rt Hon James
Kimball, Marcus Proctor, K. Harvey
King, Rt Hon Tom Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Kitson, SirTimothy Raison, Timothy
Knight, MrsJill Rathbone, Tim
Knox, David Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Lamont, Norman Rees-Davies, W. R.
Lang, Ian Renton, Tim
Langford-Holt, SirJohn Rhodes James, Robert
Rhys Williams, SirBrandon Temple-Morris, Peter
Ridley, HonNicholas Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Ridsdale, Julian Thompson, Donald
Rifkind, Malcolm Thorne, Neil(llfordSouth)
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Thornton, Malcolm
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW) Townend, John(Bridlington)
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Rossi, Hugh Trippier, David
Rost, Peter Trotter, Neville
Sainsbury, HonTimothy van Straubenzee, W. R.
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Vaughan, DrGerard
Scott, Nicholas Viggers, Peter
Shaw, Michael(Scarborough) Waddington, David
Shelton, William(Streatham) Wakeham, John
Shepherd, Colin(Hereford) Waldegrave, HonWilliam
Shepherd, Richard Walker, B. (Perth)
Shersby, Michael Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Silvester, Fred Wall, Patrick
Sims, Roger Waller, Gary
Skeet, T. H. H. Walters, Dennis
Smith, Dudley Ward, John
Speller, Tony Warren, Kenneth
Spence, John Watson, John
Spicer, Jim (West Dorset) Wells, John(Maidstone)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Wells, Bowen
Sproat, lain Wheeler, John
Squire, Robin Whitelaw, RtHon William
Stainton, Keith Wickenden, Keith
Stanbrook, lvor Wiggin, Jerry
Stanley, John Wilkinson, John
Steen, Anthony Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Stevens, Martin Winterton, Nicholas
Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Wolfson, Mark
Stewart, A.(ERenfrewshire) Young, SirGeorge(Actor)
Stokes, John Younger, Rt Hon George
Stradling Thomas, J.
Tapsell, Peter Tellers for the Ayes:
Taylor, Robert(Croydon NW) Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Mr. Anthony Berry.
Tebbit, Norman
Abse, Leo Cook, Robin F.
Adams, Allen Cowans, Harry
Alton, David Cox, T.(W'dsw'th, Toot'g)
Anderson, Donald Craigen, J. M.
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Crowther, J.S.
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest Cryer, Bob
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Cunliffe, Lawrence
Ashton, Joe Cunningham, G.(lslingtonS)
Atkinson, H.(H'gey, ) Cunningham, DrJ. (W'h'n)
Bagier, GordonA.T. Dalyell, Tam
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Davidson, Arthur
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Beith, A. J. Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Benn, Rt Hon A. Wedgwood Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)
Bennett.Andrew(St 'kp 'tN) Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd)
Bidwell, Sydney Deakins, Eric
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Boothroyd, MissBetty Dewar, Donald
Bradley, Tom Dixon, Donald
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dobson, Frank
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Dormand, Jack
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W) Douglas, Dick
Brown, Hon(E'burgh, Leith) Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'yS) Dubs, Alfred
Callaghan, Jim(Midd't'n&P) Duffy, A. E. P.
Campbell, Ian Dunn, James A.
Campbell-Savours, Dale Dunnett, Jack
Canavan, Dennis Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Cant, R. B. Eastham, Ken
Carmichael, Neil Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)
Cartwright, John Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) English, Michael
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Ennals, Rt Hon David
Cohen, Stanley Evans, loan (Aberdare)
Coleman, Donald Evans, John (Newton)
Concannon, Rt Hon J.D. Ewing, Harry
Conlan, Bernard Field, Frank
Fitch,Alan Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Flannery,Martin Maxton,John
Fletcher,Raymond(llkeston) Maynard,Miss Joan
Fletcher,Ted (Darlington) Meacher,Michael
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Mellish,RtHonRobert
Ford, Ben Mikardo,lan
Forrester,John Millan,Rt Hon Bruce
Foster,Derek Miller, Dr M.S. (E Kilbride)
Foulkes,George Mitchell,Austin(Grimsby)
Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd) Mitchell, R.C. (Soton Itchen)
Freeson,Rt Hon Reginald Molyneaux,James
Freud,Clement Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
George,Bruce Morton,George
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
Ginsburg,David Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Golding,John Newens,Stanley
Graham,Ted Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Grant,George(Morpeth) Ogden,Eric
Grant, John (Islington C) O'Neill,Martin
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Hamilton,James(Bothwell) Palmer,Arthur
Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife) Park,George
Hardy, Peter Parker,John
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Parry,Robert
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Pavitt,Laurie
Haynes, Frank Pendry,Tom
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Penhaligon,David
Heffer, Eric S. Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Hogg, N.(EDunb't'nshire) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Holland,S. (L'b'th,Vauxh'll) Prescott,John
HomeRobertson,John Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Homewood,William Race, Reg
Hooley,Frank Radice,Giles
Horam,John Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Howell,Rt Hon D. Richardson,Jo
Howells,Geraint Roberts,Allan(Bootle)
Huckfield,Les Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Hudson Davies, Gwilym E. Roberts,Gwilym(Cannock)
Hughes,Mark(Durham) Robertson,George
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Rodgers, Rt Hon William
Janner,Hon Greville Rooker, J.W.
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Roper,John
John,Brynmor Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Johnson, James (Hull West) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Ross,Wm.(Londonderry)
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda) Rowlands,Ted
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Ryman,John
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Sandelson, Neville
Kerr, Russell Sheerman,Barry
Kilfedder,James A. Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
KiIroy-Silk,Robert Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Lambie,David Short, Mrs Renée
Lamborn, Harry Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
Lamond,James Silkin, Rt Hon S.C. (Dulwich)
Leadbitter,Ted Silverman,Julius
Lestor, Miss Joan Skinner,Dennis
Lewis,Arthur(N'ham NW) Snape,Peter
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Soley,Clive
Litherland,Robert Spriggs,Leslie
Lofthouse,Geoffrey Stallard,A.W.
Lyon,Alexander(york) Steel, Rt Hon David
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
McCartney, Hugh Stoddart, David
McCusker,H. Stott,Roger
McDonald, DrOonagh Strang, Gavin
McElhone,Frank Straw,Jack
McGuire,Michael(lnce) Summerskill,HonDrShirley
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Maclennan,Robert Thomas,Jeffrey(Abertillery)
McNally,Thomas Thomas, DrR.(Carmarthen)
McTaggart,Robert Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
McWilliam,John Tilley,John
Marks,Kenneth Tinn,James
Marshall, D(G'gowS'ton) Torney,Tom
Marshall,DrEdmund (Goole) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Wainwright,E.(Dearne V)
Martin,M(G'gowS'burn) Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Watkins,David Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Weetch,Ken Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H.(H'ton)
Wellbeloved,James Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Welsh,Michael Winnick,David
White, J. (G'gowPollok) Woolmer,Kenneth
Whitehead,Phillip Wrigglesworth,lan
Whitlock,William Young, David (Bolton E)
Willey, Rt Hon Frederick Tellers for the Noes:
Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W) Mr. Ron Leighton and
Williams,SirT.(W'ton) Mr. Allen McKay.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

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