HC Deb 14 November 1984 vol 67 cc685-768
Mr. Speaker

I should tell the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

3.38 pm
Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

I beg to move, That this House, believing that the future of the nation depends on developing the skills and abilities of all children and sharing the concern felt by parents and teachers about inadequate educational provision in many parts of the country, deplores the squeeze on educational spending which, as reports of Her Majesty's Inspectorate have warned, are already threatening standards in schools and colleges, and believes that investment in education ought to be improved and increased.

Last January the Secretary of State made a speech at Sheffield to the north of England education conference in which he set out a plan for raising standards. He modestly called the plan bold and ambitious, but realistic. One week ago the Secretary of State was complacently puffing the same plan in the Queen's Speech, but today, nearly one year after the Sheffield speech, the House is entitled to more than a complacent puff. It is entitled to an honest assessment of how much has beeen achieved.

As the Secretary of State knows, I welcomed the Sheffield speech because it accepted that comprehensive schools had standards and because it was a sign that at last the Government were beginning to concentrate on some of the real educational issues—the curriculum, examinations, teaching quality and the rest. However, we were always sceptical about the Secretary of State's ability to deliver. I expressed three anxieties at the time. The first concerned resources. Here was the Secretary of State talking about raising standards when his advisers, Her Majesty's Inspectors were warning him that the squeeze on resources was undermining the standards of provision in many areas.

Our second worry was that unemployment and social deprivation, a great deal of which has been caused by the Government, was making the job of teachers and schools far more difficult.

My third warning and worry was more personal. The Secretary of State's track record as a Minister is scarcely reassuring. Not even his most enthusiastic supporters can be confident about the prospects of success of a Minister who, in previous incarnations, brought off the incredible hat-trick of being one of the most fervent advocates of high-rise flats, being the man who carried out the disastrous reorganisation of the National Health Service and being responsible for introducing to British industry, at great public expense, Mr. Ian MacGregor.

I must observe, though with more sorrow than anger, that the Secretary of State's strategy is now running into the sands. There are two principal reasons for that. The first is the manner in which he has attempted to carry out his plans. The second is his failure to win additional resources to back the plans. As regards the Secretary of State's performance, I congratulate him on his decision in principle to introduce the 16-plus, but we want to see how it works out in practice. We also want the resources to go with it. Despite one or two good things, he has undermined the prospect of eventual success by his tendency to believe that he knows best, that he can change education by Elizabeth house diktat, by his abrasive handling of the educational partners, especially teachers, and because he has handed over a large part of education to the Manpower Services Commission.

I should like to give two examples of the Secretary of State's high-handed approach. In his Green Paper on parental involvement he rejected the advice of the educational community which favoured a balanced solution. Instead, the Secretary of State proposed that there should be a majority of parents on school governing bodies. Not surprisingly, his proposals have been opposed by virtually everyone in the education community, especially organisations that represent parents. Then we had the Secretary of State's extraordinary peace studies initiative. Despite having received only seven complaints —I know there were only seven, because I asked him—he alleged without a shred of evidence that teachers and local authorities were teaching in a biased way.

The Secretary of State has spent most of the year issuing a stream of circulars and papers from the dizzy heights of Elizabeth house, but he has made little effort to enter a real dialogue with those whom he seeks to influence—local authorities, educationists, teachers and parents. The Secretary of State simply fails to understand that one cannot bring about change in British education by diktat. There must be dialogue, consensus and partnership. The right hon. Gentleman's handling of the teachers has been especially crass. Everybody knows that the Secretary of State's plans need the support of teachers, yet the right hon. Gentleman has continually criticised the teachers in a generalised fashion. He intervened disastrously in this year's pay negotiations and has now tried to short-circuit the Burnham negotiations on conditions of service by threatening to legislate unless teachers accept his version of assessment.

Finally, the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to stick up for education. He encouraged the invasion by the Manpower Services Commission of the secondary school curriculum, under the guise of the technical and vocational education initiative. We have also seen the abject capitulation of the Secretary of State when he decided without consultation to hand over large parts of further education to the MSC. Only united resistance by local authorities and trade unions, and an intelligent volte-face by the new chairman, have created the opportunity for a constructive compromise. It is as yet no more than an opportunity, and no thanks are due to the Secretary of State even for that.

Now there is the appointment of Lord Young. Who is responsible for the education of the 14-to-18 age group — the Secretary of State, or Lord Young? Does the Secretary of State agree with Lord Young that the school leaving age should be lowered to 14? We are entitled to know. To sum up, the truth is that the right hon. Gentleman's performance in carrying out his plans has not lived up to his initial promise at Sheffield.

I know that the Secretary of State does not like hearing about cash. To make him feel good for a moment, I can assure him that the Labour party understands as well as he does that raising the level of educational achievement is not just a question of money. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear."] I am glad to hear that roar of approval from the Conservative Benches. Raising the level of educational achievement is also — as the latest report by Her Majesty's inspectors points out — about improving the match between the qualifications and experience of teachers and the jobs that they are called upon to do, raising the effectiveness of teachers' perceptions of the needs and potentials of pupils, varying teaching styles and approaches, and improving the ability to manage.

However, as the report also points out, even those processes are not cost-free. If we want the right teachers in the right places, if we want adequate provision of books and equipment and if we want schools and colleges that are decently maintained, we must provide the necessary resources. Our case against the Government is that they are failing to provide the money to finance the existing system adequately, let alone the improvements which the Secretary of State wants.

During the past year I have had the opportunity and good fortune to travel to the north, south, east and west of our country and visit over 150 schools and colleges. On the whole, I have found that the teachers are doing a good job, that the children and students are well taught and that much is being achieved. However, in many areas, shortages and deficiencies are becoming glaringly obvious. There are shortages of teachers in key subjects such as mathematics, physics, crafts and design, there are inadequate supplies of books and model equipment, and there are leaking roofs and peeling walls. There is also the growth of pay-as-you-learn. Parents are paying not just for extras but for the basics of education. That is wrong in principle, and unfair on the areas which are less prosperous.

If the Secretary of State believes that I am a subjective witness, he should consider the HMI reports, which are based on visits to nearly 1,500 schools, and on examples from all 97 local education authorities. The latest report shows a shortage of books in one fifth of lessons seen in primary schools; unsatisfactory provision of books and equipment in two fifths of local authorities; moderate or substantial parental contributions in three quarters of schools visited; and more reliance on parents than before. What should worry the Secretary of State especially is that in only 14 local education authorities was the provision regarded by the HMI as satisfactory in all respects.

The Secretary of State cannot say that the position is improving when he receives the sort of report that was published last week on educational provision in Norfolk. HMI, his advisers, warned him that, The officers, advisers and teachers…are all operating in a system that not only has no slack in it, but which is already decidely over-stretched. The report also spells out clearly that schools will be unable to meet national demands for improved standards without more funds. The Secretary of State should take that seriously. I am glad that, unlike some Conservative chairs, Mrs. Gillian Shephard welcomed the report and said: It gives us strong evidence for our discussions with those who set the levels of Government grant. That is a sensible attitude.

While on the subject of the HMI, I hope that the Secretary of State will take the opportunity this afternoon to reaffirm its independence and to dissociate himself from the ludicrous and biased inquiry about the role of the HMI conducted among Conservative chairmen—an inquiry in which his junior Minister was so unwisely and perhaps predictably involved. The Secretary of State should at least understand that shooting the messenger will do nothing to improve our children's education.

A reading of all the HMI reports—the Secretary of State prides himself on reading them all—shows that Norfolk is not an isolated example; in some areas, its spending is near the average for the shires. The Secretary of State should consider the lower spenders, such as Somerset, West Sussex and Hereford and Worcester. Not only the shires have problems. Dudley's director of education has issued a cry for help—

Mr. John Powley (Norwich, South)

I take the hon. Gentleman's point about Norfolk because I represent a Norfolk constituency. However, does he agree that it did not help Norfolk education authority's case for improving resources in the education budget to maintain school buildings and equipment when the settlement to the teachers was above the going rate and above what had been agreed? That meant a reduction in resources for the areas to which the HMI report drew attention.

Mr. Radice

The settlement was not above the going rate; it was above the Secretary of State's assumption about pay. The Secretary of State got it wrong, and we cannot blame the teachers for that. Teachers' pay is still far below the level that it reached under the Labour Government.

The director of education in Dudley said that some schools had not been painted for nearly 20 years, and nearly 50 of his schools were inadequately cleaned. He further said: The disgraceful state of the committee's schools is now undermining morale, lowering educational expectations and militating against a sound education for the borough's pupils. There were many other examples as well.

I know that the Secretary of State's stock answer to all such criticism is that a lot of money is already being spent on education, and what is needed now is redeployment of resources. The Secretary of State's announcement on the abolition of minimum grant and the charging of tuition fees has shocked many parents and pupils. The announcement on tuition fees was the latest development of pay-as-you-learn. Parents of many thousands of students will be expected not only to meet in full the living costs of their sons and daughters but some of the costs of their education as well. Does the Secretary of State plan to introduce a scheme for charging parents full-cost fees as charged to overseas students, of £3,500 for art subject students and £7,000 for medical students? What are his future plans? I am sure that many constituents of Conservative Members will be anxious to hear what the Secretary of State has to say this afternoon.

No doubt the Secretary of State will also tell the House that the provision for education and science in 1985–86 is to be increased by just over 4 per cent. In real terms that represents a slight decrease in total spending. He will probably refer to the so-called planned increase of 6 per cent. in local authority spending on education. However, I hope that he will admit, because he knows it perfectly well, that the £10,259 million put aside for local authority spending on education is a peculiar figure.

The education expenditure steering group, which contains some of the Secretary of State's officials, confirmed that merely to maintain existing policies the Government would need to give local education authorities £10,734 million or £475 million more than the amount that the Government are planning for 1985–86. I am sure that the Secretary of State will confirm those figures, because they have already been confirmed by his officials.

Before the Secretary of State leaps up and tells me that I have forgotten the unallocated margin of £600 million —he always tells me that—I assure him that I have not forgotten it, but I believe that education will not get much more than 50 per cent. of that unallocated margin. The truth is, and the Secretary of State knows it, that the majority of local education authorities are likely to be worse off and not better off as a consequence of the Government spending plans for 1985–86. His officials have already admitted that.

The next stage of the Secretary of State's argument is that the existing resources should be redeployed or better used. Those are the Secretary of State's polite phrases for saying that there should be cuts. However, let the voters be clear. The Secretary of State wants local authorities to make further cuts in school meals and milk, and that is said in his press release. Despite the High Court judgment in the Kent case, he also wants dinner ladies to take cuts in negotiated levels of wages and conditions.

Sir Kenneth Lewis (Stamford and Spalding)

Why not?

Mr. Radice

Because they are extremely badly paid already.

Sir Kenneth Lewis

I know of local education authorities that have reorganised the employment of dinner ladies, have brought in part-time workers rather than full-time workers and have saved a lot of money. They are quite happy, and this can happen in other areas as well.

Mr. Radice

I am glad to take the hon. Gentleman's word for it that they are happy. But that is not my impression going round local authorities. I have met many dinner ladies who are extremely unhappy. Often they have no choice. Either they accept or they have no jobs. A pistol is being held to their heads. However, it remains true that since 1944 school meals have played an important part in our education service.

Then the Secretary of State turns to what he describes as the so-called extravagant authorities. That is his doublespeak for the authorities that try to live up to their statutory obligations and which, as the ILEA polls show, have the support of their voters for so doing. However, the right hon. Gentleman never explains how cuts in the budgets of these authorities—

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)


Mr. Radice

If the hon. Lady wishes to intervene, I shall give way to her when I have completed my sentence. The right hon. Gentleman never explains how cuts in the budgets of these authorities will help authorities such as Norfolk, which need to spend more. To take the example of the largest authority, if ILEA followed the advice of the Secretary of State and spent at its Government-set target level it would begin to attract the central Government money which it does not get now. The result would be not more central Government money for such counties as Norfolk but less. That is the reality, and I should like the Secretary of State to confirm it.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

How does the hon. Gentleman explain that Haringey's cost per unit is the second highest, yet it was roundly condemned for its standards by Her Majesty's inspectors?

Mr. Radice

In my view the chairman of the education committee was absolutely right. She said that she would take the HMI report very seriously, unlike some Conservative chairmen. We in the Labour party have never suggested that every aspect of education was perfect and that such problems as it had could always be solved by money. Money has to be properly used. However, we do not say that it is possible to improve the situation by cutting, which seems to be the policy of the Conservative party.

What makes matters even worse is that the Government's policies are so perverse that if such authorities as Norfolk and Dudley try to raise more resources through the rates, they immediately run into the Government's targets and penalties system. That is a classic "Catch 22" situation. Her Majesty's inspectors say that they think an authority ought to spend more. The Department of the Environment says that it cannot and that, if it does, it will lose money. The victims of this absurdity are the children who are the nation's future.

The question for the Secretary of State to answer is when and how he will live up to his obligations and provide the extra resources for the low-spending authorities. It is a question that he constantly ducks. He does not want to answer it. He never has so far.

R. H. Tawney wrote: What a wise parent would desire for his own children a nation, in so far as it is wise, must desire for all children. Every wise parent wants access to nursery education for three to four-year-olds. Every wise parent wants a high standard of decently resourced primary and secondary education. Every wise parent wants a decent education and training for 16 to 19-year-olds leading either to jobs or to well-resourced further education or into a far more open system of higher education.

I recognise that these are ambitious objectives. But if we are to survive and prosper as a country in the 21st century we shall need this kind of education provision. If the Secretary of State asks where the money is to come from, my initial reply is that such a question is downright impertinent coming from the main architect of the policies that squeezed our economy more severely than that of any other major industrial country in 1981, tore the heart out of British industry and, as the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) pointed out an Monday's Guardian, created 2 million extra unemployed.

My second reply is that, even on the Government's assumption of economic growth contained in the Green Paper on spending plans for the next 10 years, there is room for extra education expenditure. There is no doubt about that.

My third reply is that under a Labour Government our economy will grow faster and we shall be able to spend more on education. We cannot help doing better than this Government.

My final reply is that as a nation we cannot afford not to invest in education. Investing in education is investing in our future.

4.6 pm

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Sir Keith Joseph)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: believes that the future of this nation depends on developing the skills and abilities of all children; congratulates Her Majesty's Government on its policies for raising standards of education for all abilities by action on the curriculum, examinations and teaching quality; and welcomes Her Majesty's Government's policies for securing the most effective use of the substantial resources available for the benefit of the education service.'.

I shall try to answer the questions posed by the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) as I go through what I have to say. However, at the beginning of my remarks, because he attempted to flaunt his party's record and prospects, I must mildly take issue with some of his comments.

Looking at the record, one sees that the growth rate under the 1979 and so far under the 1984 Conservative Governments is substantially higher per annum than it was under the Labour Government of 1974–79, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out yesterday, and was not interrupted when he did so by any Opposition Member.

Mr. Radice


Sir Keith Joseph

No. I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. My remarks are on the record, and the hon. Gentleman should refer to the report of yesterday's proceedings in Hansard.

When it comes to which party has cut public expenditure most fiercely, I am slightly ashamed to say that I have to give the palm to the last Labour Government. When they had to call in the International Monetary Fund, they succeeded in cutting public expenditure more fiercely than we, for the benefit of taxpayers and the public as a whole, have so far managed to do.

The hon. Member for Durham, North produced the piety that a Labour Government would preside over greater growth. On the records of Labour Governments it is highly unlikely that a future Labour Government would intend to spend more on education. But can the hon. Gentleman give the House a commitment that, if there is another Labour Government, he is authorised to say that more than he inherits will be spent on education?

Mr. Radice

Yes, I am authorised to say that. I also say that the country is only just beginning to recover from the tremendous onslaught of the policies associated with the Secretary of State on manufacturing output. We are only just recovering from the level of manufacturing output that there was in 1979. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to look at the facts. My right hon. Friend the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer made the same point, and he was not interrupted by the Chancellor. I remind the Secretary of State that the Labour Government spent £600 million more on education than on defence whereas the Conservatives are spending £3.5 billion more on defence than on education. It is a matter of priority.

Sir Keith Joseph

I fear that the hon. Gentleman has added to the credibility gap which I believe will prevent the Labour party from ever being re-elected. He has added to the infinite number of pledges given by the Labour party which failed to convince the voting public at the last election and will fail again.

It has proved no easy task for any Government, Labour or Conservative, to control public spending. It is as though the Government of the day were struggling like Laocoon with the snakes of public expenditure without ever quite vanquishing the commitments from the past. Nevertheless, the Labour party deserves some credit for facing the difficulties because it was the Labour Government who invented cash limits. The Opposition should take pride in having designed that instrument to try to limit the burdens on taxpayers and ratepayers.

The hon. Gentleman cannot escape by quoting the old relativities of defence and education spending because his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has warned the Labour party that for a Labour Government to move from nuclear to conventional emphasis would require at least as much, if not more, spending to secure the country's defence, which he properly accepts as a top priority. That being so, Labour spokesmen cannot expect to raid defence spending for easy transfer to social spending. They will have to grapple with the same problems as we face.

Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Keith Joseph

No, I am anxious to make progress. I rejoice that there is some common ground between the two sides. Both sides want improved standards and both sides accept that adequate resources are an essential ingredient. We may argue about what is adequate, but just as the hon. Member for Durham, North accepts that resources are not the only ingredient, so we accept that resources must be adequate.

Where the hon. Member for Durham, North went wrong was in criticising the resources available for education in 1985–86. The result of the Government announcements is that in 1985–86 education will be £600 million better off than in 1984–85 after allowing for the abolition of national insurance surcharge and the transfer of £64 million to the Manpower Services Commission.

Mr. Radice

That is not a real increase.

Sir Keith Joseph

Of course, it is not a real increase to the tune of 6 per cent. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has forecast 41½ per cent. inflation, so there is a real increase of 1½ per cent. In addition, however, one must take into account falling school rolls— a further significant reduction is expected compared with the current year — although the smaller population of students will probably rise by one quarter less than the fall in the school population. However one looks at the figures, there is a substantial improvement. Nevertheless, I accept that many authorities will find it hard to do all that they want to do even with that extra provision.

Mr. Radice

Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that the majority of local authorities will be better or worse off as a result of the spending plans announced on Monday?

Sir Keith Joseph

Comparing 1985–86 with 1984–85, most of them will be—[HON. MEMBERS: "Worse off."] No, I am seeking the right adjective. Most of them will be usefully—I cannot say "substantially" and I am cautious about saying "significantly"—better off. The overspenders, of course, will not be better off and the local situation must depend to some extent on the extent to which the school population and the student population in the area meet the national average.

When we have finished arguing about these important minutiae, the fact remains that after years of constant criticism from the hon. Gentleman the pupil-teacher ratio is lower than ever before and expenditure per child is at record high levels. I accept that local education authorities have to grapple with all the problems of diseconomies of scale, but the House should take those two substantial criteria into account.

In replying to the various criticisms, I wish first to justify the Government's constant emphasis on the scope in many education authorities for redeployment of resources to higher priority education expenditure from lower priority education expenditure. For example, about 30 local education authorities, including a couple of Labour-controlled authorities, have achieved substantial savings on school meals by various means which I shall be happy to spell out for the record if anyone wishes to cross-examine me. I do not believe that those authorities are harder hearted than others. They are simply better custodians in the interests of the children of the very large amounts of public money made available to them.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

During his visits to schools, the right hon. Gentleman must have seen children eating just chips and gravy or chips and curry for their lunch. That certainly worries me. Does it not worry the Secretary of State?

Sir Keith Joseph

Children from households where there is poverty—households receiving family income supplement or supplementary benefit—are entitled to free school meals and those free meals are provided everywhere in England. If other children are provided by their parents with less than we would regard as desirable, or prefer to feed themselves in some particular way, we may well regret that, but I do not believe that there is a case for returning to the old universality.

I must also emphasise that there are other ways to save money for redeployment within education. I congratulate the local education world for its continuing effort to take out surplus places. It is not a popular task and it is laborious, but we are on the way to the target of 1 million surplus places being taken out of use set by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Carlisle) or his predecessor in office to be achieved by spring 1987. Nevertheless, there is scope for still futher redeployment.

The hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Powley) intervened effectively to point out that money provided for maintenance in the education allocation would have been adequate if it had been used regularly for that purpose over the previous decades—which it has not been in every case by any manner of means — to fulfil at least a respectable slice of maintenance. But, as my hon. Friend says, there is all too often a raid upon the maintenance provision — indeed, a raid upon book and equipment provision — when teachers manage to negotiate with their employers a larger pay increase than has been provided for them. Teachers have not yet come to terms with the fact that when they succeed in raising their pay increase it is at the expense of teacher numbers or other provisions in the local authority budgets.

Mr. Foster

How much of the Secretary of State's boast about the record pupil-teacher ratio is as a result of the so-called raids upon other aspects of the education budget and also the so-called overspending authorities? Is he not on the one hand boasting about a record pupil-teacher ratio and on the other criticising those authorities which have been giving him the results?

Sir Keith Joseph

Yes, there is an element of truth in that, but the hon. Gentleman and I may share the view that there is still room for redeployment of money if only more local authorities would copy the example of the economies achieved by some of their colleagues.

The hon. Member for Durham, North made an assertion about what would happen if ILEA managed to reduce its spending to such a level that it once again received grant from the taxpayer. I confimi that his analysis is correct.

The hon. Gentleman made much play of the shortages revealed by Her Majesty's inspectorate's annual report on the effects of local education authorities' expenditure policies. He is right to draw attention to them—they concern us all—but he is wrong to imply that those shortages are new and that matters have generally become worse under this Government. What a pity the previous Labour Government did not publish the HMI reports. They might have given the hon. Gentleman cause to look at the questions a little more deeply.

Let us be clear what Her Majesty's inspectorate did say in the most recent report. It found that in autumn 1983 there was over the country as a whole a small improvement in the levels of appropriate resources in schools and colleges, particularly as regards the provision of teachers and books.

Mr. Radice

Read the next sentence.

Sir Keith Joseph

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to say what I want to say.

I pointed many times to the significant improvement in pupil-teacher ratios under this Government. It is not just a statistical phenomenon. It is having its effect in schools. Thus, this year Her Majesty's inspectorate reported that in about one eighth of the schools visited their performance was judged to be adversely affected by one or both of an insufficient number of teachers, or by the presence of teachers whose initial qualifications and subsequent experience did not match the jobs required of them. Four years ago Her Majesty's inspectorate reported that almost one fifth of schools did not have satisfactory provision of teachers. That shows that there has been a marked improvement. Of course, there is scope for further advance, but the situation is not, as the hon. Gentleman implied, getting worse.

Mr. Radice

I hope that the House will forgive this textual analysis, but I did ask the Secretary of State to read out the sentence following the one which he quoted, and he did not. Let me read it now: But these improvements were patchy between and within LEAs, phases of education and institutions, and must be seen against the low baselines of some aspects of provision noted in previous years.

Sir Keith Joseph

Surely the hon. Gentleman is emphasising the point that I made. If the Labour Government had published Her Majesty's inspectorate's reports earlier, they would have revealed even worse base lines—that is what the report is saying—than they are legitimately criticising now.

I accept that none of the HMI reports has presented a wholly satisfactory picture and that this year's was no exception. For instance, it drew particular attention, as the hon. Gentleman says, to the patchiness of improvements around the country—both betweeen LEAs and schools within authorities—and to the deterioration of school and college premises because of inadequate repairs and maintenance. On both counts I share the inspectorate's concern.

But we cannot solve the problems simply by spending vastly more. The country just cannot afford it. Unemployment would go even higher if we tried to do so. We must look also to the need to secure better value for the money that we are spending.

The HMI report is useful on that aspect, too. The inspectorate makes it clear that in many cases there is scope for bettter deployment of existing resources and for better perceptions by heads and teachers of resources needed for good education, as well as, in some cases, absolute increases in the levels of resources.

Her Majesty's inspectorate identified the factors most commonly influencing effective learning as the quality of teaching, the identification of pupil and student needs, the levels of resources available, and the ability to manage and deploy those resources. It stated firmly that without clearer agreement about what it is that the resources are intended to help achieve and consequent careful planning and development, and without adequate and continuing training for teachers, the addition of more, different and better quality material resources will not of itself maintain present quality levels or lead to desirable changes and improvements.

That is the task that faces us, and in facing it we would all do well to avoid over—simplification of what is a complex question—the relationship between levels of resources for education and its quality.

I want to emphasise at this point what a difficult task teachers have if they are to be effective. That is why I regard the present teachers' salary structure talks as so important. They range across many aspects of teachers' work and recognise the need to relate that work and the way in which it is rewarded to changing circumstances.

The main ingredients of a successful outcome from those talks will provide for a closer relationship, more amenable to local education authority management, between teachers' pay, performance and responsibilities; a more precise definition of teachers' duties, including the supervision of pupils at midday and the provision of classroom cover for absent teachers; systematic arrangements for the formal appraisal of the performance of all teachers linked to provision for in-service training, promotion and deployment, and enabling the best teachers to be appropriately rewarded.

As I said in the House last Thursday, I should like to see a successful outcome from those talks because satisfactory agreements on those issues would lead to improvements in the quality of education offered by our schools. Therefore, I hope that the representatives of the local authorities and the teachers' unions engaged in the discussions will be successful, although I recognise the problems of bringing complex negotiations in that field to a satisfactory conclusion.

Reform proposals will need to pass three stringent tests if they are to come to fruition. First, they must be negotiable between the parties. Secondly, they need to be educationally acceptable and hold the realistic promise of delivering improvements in the classroom. Thirdly, they must be affordable. As for the latter, I hope that the teachers' leaders will not mislead their members, as they did earlier this year in the 1984 negotiations, as to what level of pay settlement might be regarded as reasonable.

The autumn statement made earlier this week by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor shows that the Government fully intend to keep faith with the inescapable fact that we cannot spend more on public services such as education than is consistent with the country's ability to pay. To do otherwise would put us back on the destructive road to wage-push inflation and still higher levels of unemployment.

The hon. Member for Durham, North asked me about the Sheffield speech and the progress under it. The speech announced the fourfold Government initiative that is intended, with the help of teachers, local education authorities and parents, to raise the standards of children of all abilities in our schools. I have never pretended that that speech did more than set in place the necessary conditions for the raising of standards.

I remind the House briefly that the four parallel initiatives cover the more rigorous selection and training of teachers, an attempt to reach a national agreement on the curriculum, a transformation of examinations towards clearer absolute assessment and the introduction of records of achievement so that children's performances outside the classroom can be assessed and recorded. All four initiatives are progressing according to the publicly announced timetable. Again, I cannot pretend that they have yet begun to have an effect, and I hope that no hon. Member will chide me for that, as there was never any pretence that they could have an instantaneous effect. However, the schedules are all as announced.

I turn to an area upon which I believe the whole House can unite in seeking more information. I refer to research into what explains the different standards in different schools. I announced in the House on 1 March 1984 that I had asked the Department to undertake two studies before considering the potential for further research into school standards. I have now received reports on the two studies and these will be published shortly. Copies are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The first of these studies extends the earlier analysis by the Department, published as statistical bulletin 16/83, of factors affecting examination results in different local education authority areas. It shows an even higher correlation—over 70 per cent.—than the earlier analysis between examination achievements at school and social background factors, probably reflecting the more recent information available for these factors. I explained in my earlier statement that it was expected that the extended study would provide limited insight into the effect of other factors on examination results. In the event, after taking account of the effect of social background—I stress that — the new study shows no more than a slight relationship at local authority level between pupils' examination achievements and the level of resources, including teaching resources, available to their schools, and a similarly slight statistical relationship with the proportion of pupils in grammar schools.

The second study was designed to examine the scope for carrying out further research on these relationships at the level of individual schools or groups of schools. This study also shows a strong statistical relationship between examination results and social background factors, and again does not show a very substantial relationship with other factors such as the level of resources available to the schools. It also demonstrates the difficulty of extracting suitable data on social background factors from census material. Difficulties over the use and interpretation of data relevant to social background are also indicated by research commissioned by the Department and undertaken by the university of Leeds, which examined, inter alia, the development of suitable measures of home background. A report on this research is being prepared. I impose all this on the House because it is the background against which we can make further progress.

The two studies carried out by the Department thus show a strong relationship between school pupils' examination results and socio-economic background, but they shed little light on the influence of other factors on school pupils' performance, or on the wide variation in examination achievements among pupils from similar socio-economic backgrounds. I believe that it would now be research into the factors giving rise to this wide variation, which may be factors related to the way the school carries out its work rather than external to the school, which is likely to be most relevant to the development of the Government's policies for improving standards in schools, particularly if the research also includes other measures of pupil performance.

I have concluded that I would not be justified in providing funds for more research along the lines of the Department's recent studies. I am, however, willing to consider proposals for research ranging more widely and exploring the relationship between the social background of pupils collected at the level of individual pupils, a range of school outputs including public examinations, and a range of school inputs such as resources, the achievements of pupils on entry to secondary schools, teaching quality, the organisation of the school and its internal practices including teacher expectations, curriculum continuity and homework. Such research would be complex and expensive and could not be expected to yield results in less than three years. I shall want the Department to discuss any proposals in detail with the applicants before I decide on financial support.

Since that offers help only over the middle distance, I shall tell the House of a new initiative that may help in the slightly nearer future. Hon. Members will be aware that in announcing the Government's decision to adopt a single system of examination at 16, the Government also announced their intention that there should be distinction awards to recognise the breadths and levels of performance of those whose new GCSE grades and subjects reach a defined standard. The Government intend to add another level below distinction to encourage both the breadth and level of performance. Below the distinction award, we propose to introduce an award that will be called a merit award, which will recognise a breadth and level of achievement that is lower than that of the distinction award but which is still commendably wide and high. I hope that that will prove to be a further stimulus towards excellence.

Mr. Radice

Is that not reintroducing the 0-level by another name?

Sir Keith Joseph

No such thought is in my mind. The award stands self-justified by its objective. In due course, I shall spell out the definition.

The Government and I were chided for the announced increase in the parental contributions made to some students in higher education. However, the Government have no plans to charge parents the same amount as overseas students. The purpose of that extra contribution is, first, to meet the cost of higher student awards: and secondly, to enable the Government to provide some more badly-needed money for basic research in universities and through the research councils. I believe that the strong national asset of basic scientific research should be supported in that way, and that is why the Government have asked the families of students to pay the extra contributions.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

My right hon. Friend will appreciate the problem of many of his supporters, who find it very difficult to justify this increasing tax on families, many of whom have other children at home and large financial commitments as a result, when at the same time we are increasing the payment to farmers who have had a bumper record harvest this year. Is there no way of squaring this circle? How does my right hon. Friend intend to deal with those students who have obtained places in higher education and who are deemed to be receiving parental contributions sufficient to pay towards the fees, if the parents do not cough up the money? Will there be sentries on the gates to stop them getting into their classes, or what will happen?

Sir Keith Joseph

I have no answer to either limb of my hon. Friend's question. The world is not a perfect place and no Government have yet managed to secure that all parents provide what their children need. That means that those children must show initiative in coping with the problem. Mercifully, I am not responsible for agriculture.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Does not the Secretary of State agree that it is important that all young people should be treated equally? Does he realise that some girls whose parents come from the Indian sub-continent have considerable problems because their parents do not consider that they should go on to higher education? Consequently, their parents will not fill in the application form for a grant; thus, although the family may be on an extremely low income, those girls will lose any grant. Furthermore, they will have to find their own fees if they go on to higher education. Is that not an extremely unfortunate development from those proposals?

Sir Keith Joseph

If the hon. Gentleman has a way of overcoming the problem I should be glad to hear it.

I hope that I have answered the questions asked by the hon. Member for Durham, North. I can report to the House that we are on schedule with the Sheffield policies, but we do not expect instant transformation from them. I have announced various initiatives in research and for the encouragement of standards. I have explained our support for discussions between local education authorities and teacher organisations which are broadly encouraging. I ask the House to vote for the amendment and against the Opposition motion.

4.40 pm
Mr. Sean Hughes (Knowsley, South)

I am pleased that in the preface to his remarks the Secretary of State said that he was sure that both sides of the House were interested in improving education standards. Time arid again his party has postured as the party committed to the maintenance and improvement of standards and quality. Tory Members have often pointed their fingers at the Opposition Benches and implied — if they have not openly accused — that we were opposed to good standards and quality in education. It is time to expose the fallacious premise on which the Tory party's claim is made.

After five years of Conservative Government and their proudly proclaimed commitment to quality and standard in education, what is the reality? In 1975 the Bullock report emphasised the importance of literacy, stressing that the ability to read was crucial, not just because we were becoming a society of form-fillers, but because the inability to read seriously impinges on individual freedom. A browse of Hansard just after the publication of that report reveals various examples of Government Members stressing the need for literacy and increased book provision in schools.

The Conservative party manifesto is not my favourite reading One section is entitled Schools: The pursuit of excellence. In response to the HMI paper on the curriculum entitled English from 5 to 16 the Secretary of State emphasised the essential part that the teaching of English must play in the school curriculum. He said that English was a tool and a channel of learning in all subjects for the great majority of pupils in England and Wales.

On 6 November the Government pledged themselves to continue to develop policies to raise education standards. We must examine how the claims are borne out by the facts, as opposed to the soothing statements from the Department of Education and Science. I do not doubt the good faith of the Secretary of State and many Government Members. If they are committed to quality in education and the laudable aims in the Bullock report, we can presume that they have a commitment to the provision of books in schools. Reading is impossible without reading material. I am reminded of "Desert Island Discs" when the presenter asks a composer whether he would take records or scores to the island. The composer always chooses scores on the ground that he can hear the music in his head. We cannot expect teachers to tell the class, "Turn to page 57 of the textbook—in your head."

In 1978–79 expenditure on primary school books was £19.9 million. In 1982–83 it was £27.9 million. Taking into account a 14 per cent. drop in pupil numbers and the book price inflation rate, expenditure should now be £29.2 million. The shortfall is £1.3 million.

National averages and national figures are meaningless in a country with such huge regional variations. In my borough of Knowsley spending on books per primary school pupil was £4.52 in 1982–83. That sum was worth only £2.65 at 1978–79 prices. The drop is 12.8 per cent., using the book price index. Knowsley spends 41 per cent. of its total budget on education. It is all the more surprising that the Secretary of State, when asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) whether he would seek additional money for education, replied that he was not convinced that, overall, more was needed. The minuscule increase in the Chancellor's statement does not alter that. I wonder what sort of earthquake it will take to convince the Secretary of State and other Ministers of the need for more expenditure on education.

There are areas of utter wretchedness in the country, although one might not have thought so when listening to the Chancellor's statement on Monday. Part and parcel of that wretchedness is educational deprivation. John Hughes wrote in The Guardian on 4 September: To focus the discussion on the links between poverty and deprivation in our communities and an improvised state education system is to raise issues of inequality in their most acute form. For we are not only neglecting and wasting human capital and potential on a vast scale: we are palpably undermining the assumptions, palpably repudiating the necessary value systems of any mature political and social democracy.

The reality is that in the deprived regions everything mitigates against an individual's educational development. Massive unemployment rates, a decaying environment, life in an overcrowded upstairs maisonette, hardly creates an atmosphere conducive to self-fulfilment. The oasis of hope in such an environment has been the school. However, there, too, morale is collapsing.

Expenditure cuts have their visible effects in fewer books and equipment, deteriorating buildings and, as the HMI report of May 1984 states: In some cases the circumstances in which education takes place and the availability of appropriate resources in the right quantity was found to be such as to make worthwhile learning well-nigh impossible.

Equally pernicious, if not more so, is the invisible effect of expenditure cuts — the collapse of morale among parents, pupils and teachers. The Government emphasise such issues as parental choice, but we all know that parental choice works on the assumption that the majority of parents will not exercise it. Parents' morale is collapsing because reality for them in areas such as Knowsley is a dole queue, shortage of money and life in an area with a total lack of educational ethos. Parental choice for them is a sick and irrelevant joke.

Teachers' morale is collapsing in a contracting profession. Avenues of promotion are being closed rapidly. After 10 years, many teachers are simply worn out. Of course, there are good and bad teachers—there is good and bad in every profession. There are even good and bad Secretaries of State. But to hammer the teachers, as some Conservative Members do, when those teachers often give their all throughout an exhausting period is no way to improve standards and quality in our education system.

We must also consider pupil morale. I would like to see those centres of excellence referred to in the Tory manifesto in all our deprived areas. However, we must understand where we are now if we are realistically to build for the future. We are faced with the appalling paradox that it is in the areas of highest unemployment and greatest deprivation that the pressure is on the young people to leave school at 16.

In the MSC briefing on the careers service in London, it was noted that Barnet, with a staying-on rate at 16 of 72 per cent., found that 33 per cent. of those who left school were unlikely to find jobs. In Tower Hamlets, with a staying-on rate of 41 per cent, 62 per cent. of those who left school were unlikely to find jobs. My borough has a staying-on rate of 46 per cent., but during the past three years, first 85 per cent, and now 80 per cent., of our school leavers have been without permanent employment. That seriously affects what we are trying to do in our schools.

The Secretary of State told the House last week that it was a question of the relevance of the curriculum, the effectiveness of the teachers and support from the home.

He should have realised that those are precisely the things now at risk in the current climate of educational expenditure. That is why I place emphasis on the provision of books. The Secretary of State and the Government must realise the harsh, unpalatable fact that many youngsters, once they leave school, will never read a book again. School is the only place where people can be introduced to reading as something worthwhile in itself.

The HMI report commented on the instances of unsatisfactory educational provision. These relate precisely to the children who do not have a second chance for a decent education. That is why I was struck by the Secretary of State's choice of words in his speech last week. He used the word "affordability". I have checked a few dictionaries, but could not find any reference to that word. Unfortunately the Conservative party see afford-ability — if I must use that dreadful word—in money terms only. Just for once tonight, I hope that Conservative Members will discuss it in its wider context.

How can we, as a society, afford to waste the talents of so many of our young people? Even from a utilitarian point of view, it is crazy to squander the nation's single greatest resource. From the individual view—shared by those of us who, perhaps naively, see education as the means of self-fulfilment and enrichment and a means of conquering the often squalid conditions in which so many of our young people are born—affordability, as defined by the Secretary of State, demonstrates how the Government have all their priorities wrong. That is why I hope that the House will reject the amendment and support the motion.

4.54 pm
Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South-West)

The hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. Hughes) mentioned teachers' pay. I welcome my right hon. Friend's remarks about the salary structure talks. Like him, and all hon. Members, I hope that they will be successful. It is essential to avoid another period of the classroom disruption that we saw earlier this year. Not only is that bad for classroom morale, but it runs strongly against the Government's efforts to raise standards and is destabilising for both teachers and children.

One thing that might help the public, and the teachers themselves, when considering the cost of salaries and the totality of education spending is a system by which we could know the actual running costs of each school. Parents and others could then see what it really costs, on a carefully broken-down basis, to run each school. Those figures should include any debt charges resulting from those schools having been built relatively recently.

I appreciate the problems of monitoring performance and rewarding efficiency in the teaching profession. The salary talks will be difficult. However, there is a case for asking for outside industrial advice if the talks run into difficulties. Industry has for many years monitored efficiency and rewarded performance and those involved in the teachers' negotiations could learn much from that.

The status of teachers is important. The changing role of their job and the need for more in-service training is changing public attitudes towards the profession. It is especially important for teachers to realise that they should be a stabilising influence on the children they teach. We must bear in mind the general unease caused by unemployment in many homes and, alas, the fact that so many children come from single-parent homes. Before we again find ourselves in any of the difficulties that we have experienced this year, I hope that the teaching profession will ponder long and hard on the influences for good that they can bring to bear.

There have been many quotations from the HMI report, especially by the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice). He left out one point that he should have included in his speech. In the principal findings section of the report it states: It is apparent that teachers, schools, colleges and LEAs are providing an adequate education for the majority of pupils and students.

Mr. Radice

I acknowledged that point when quoting. I gave my impression, having visited more than 50 schools and colleges throughout the country.

Mr. Madel

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but Conservative Members would have appreciated greater emphasis on that point, especially as the hon. Gentleman spoke about what the Government should try to do.

The report says that the level of resources available and the ability to manage and deploy them by all levels in the service depends to a great extent on proper management of resources. It states: In secondary schools, poor management of resources by the department or individual teacher was a particularly critical factor associated with those lessons seen in which the work was judged less than satisfactory. That emphasises what Conservative Members have said in many of our debates. Unless the resources are properly and effectively managed, poor learning occurs and little is achieved—the very things that we all want to avoid.

My right hon. Friend, in a written answer on 12 November, referred to the provision for in-service training. If we do not improve that, the anxieties referred to in the HMI report will not be allayed. My right hon.

Friend said: Grant of £17.5 million will be available in the 1985–86 financial year.

My right hon. Friend then identified three projects, two of which are especially important in improving our education service. One is a special programme to support the introduction of the general certificate of secondary education, and the other is the teaching of craft, design and technology in schools. I hope that included in the budget figure will be an element to ensure that in managing those projects teachers will have an opportunity of learning something about management development and general ability to manage financial resources. The new examination system and the necessary improvement in craft, design and technology cannot be effective unless those managing them are up to date in the management of resources. I hope that some money will be available within the budget of £17.5 million for that purpose.

I commend the Government for their support for the establishment of British school technology. I do so for what British school technology is doing to encourage the development of technological education within schools and for the way in which it is helping in practical ways by running in-service courses for teachers and helping authorities plan and organise their provision in technolgical areas. It is a pity that no mention was made of that by the hon. Member for Durham, North. That is a definite plus to the Government, to the education service and to young people passing through the education service.

I fully support what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is doing in his new system of examinations in laying greater emphasis on practical tests. However, according to the Joint Council of Examination Boards, some schools do not as yet have the facilities to ensure that practical tests in science can be effectively carried out. An adjustment in local authority spending will be essential if practical tests in science are to be fully carried out in line with what the Government are proposing for the new system of examinations. Where local authorities do that and have to spend more to ensure that what they provide can cope with the practical tests, I hope that there will be no danger of their falling foul of any penalties for overspending or colliding with the Department of the Environment when it comes to rate support grant provision.

In the long written answer of 12 November there emerged what the Government foresee happening in non-advanced further education. One important sentence reads: There are inevitable uncertainties about student numbers. The plans"— these are the plans for non-advanced further education— assume some limited increase in the participation rate of 16 and 17-year-olds in future years."—[Official Report, 12 November 1984; Vol. 67, c. 56.] Those two sentences highlight a growing problem for young people if they want to return to non-advanced education or go straight on to it from school. We have the complicated 21-hour rule and 12-hour study rule which determine whether a student will receive benefit.

The ability to be trained and retrained is essential to careers, and much depends on the lengths and levels of initial education attainment and access to continuous education and training after a person has left school. By altering the rules on benefit in a sensible cost-conscious way we can bring more young people back into the education system if they cannot get a job and ensure that they and the country benefit from the many excellent education facilities that we have. I am not advocating a blank cheque or vastly increased spending. I am suggesting that, in view of all the new courses in schools and the improvement in schools, especially in technical education, a growing number of young people will probably want to come back after school into education and benefit from it. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that student financial support is sensible and reasonable for those young people.

5.4 pm

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

In the debate on the Gracious Speech last Tuesday the Prime Minister referred to the need to expand support for wealth-creating free enterprise rather than a wealth-consuming public sector. The Secretary of State's comments this afternoon have echoed that sentiment. It is important to recognise at the start of a debate on education that the public sector provides a major contribution to creating the nation's wealth and that an educated population's ability to provide economic success as well as social success is dependent on ensuring that we have the best standard of education that we can afford.

I suggest that the Secretary of State has not addressed himself this afternoon to whether we can get the best standard that we can afford. It seems that the Government are not prepared to afford as much as is necessary even to maintain standards, let alone improve them.

There is a good reason for considering ways of improving the quality of education and it is right that money is not the only answer, but parents, as well as teachers and children, are aware of the almost weekly reduction in standards and availability of support within our schools. The Government will pay a high price if they fail to recognise the strength of feeling among parents when they see a clear reduction in standards within schools that has a specific effect on their children.

Some interesting observations have been made on the discussions on teachers' pay and conditions. If we knew no different, we might think that the Secretary of State was engaged in a free-ranging discussion on teachers' pay and conditions with a view to making a fair and proper assessment of their role in society. However, we all know that constraints within the education budget allow for a total increase in the wage bill of only 3 per cent. With those constraints, it is not possible to have a proper discussion on what teachers' relative pay should be. Their pay should reflect their proper position in society when set against other forms of employment and our objective in ensuring that we have a motivated teaching profession. Secondly, their pay should reflect the work that they are expected to do. We are expecting them to cope with an increasing work load with rapidly changing curricula.

Mr. Powley

The hon. Gentleman is advancing a valid argument, but if the Government were able, within the constraints that he has mentioned, to allocate more resources to education, how would he devise a system whereby the extra resources were directed to the maintenance of school buildings and the provision of books and pencils, for example, and not to a higher proportion of the total allocation being taken in teachers' salaries?

Mr. Bruce

I would accept that argument if I were not aware that the Government have not afforded to education the protection that they have claimed to afford to the Health Service, for example. They are using opportunities within the education service to reduce the real commitment to education. That is where the difference lies between the Government's approach to education and other parts of the public sector. The majority of parents would resist and reject a declared reduction in overall and real funding in education, but that is what we are seeing. The Government quote statistics such as expenditure per pupil against the background of falling numbers and falling rolls, but they know, as do parents, that in individual schools class sizes are found frequently to be growing while available resources are frequently falling.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Bob Dunn)

It is necessary in this sort of debate to discuss the level of resourcing of the education service, but does the hon. Gentleman agree that the main issue should be whether the available money is being spent effectively and not so much the amount of money that should be spent?

Mr. Bruce

I agree with that. However, there has been an erosion of teachers' pay over the past few years, and it appears from what the Secretary of State has been saying that teachers can expect their real pay to be reduced still further in coming years. If that happens, we shall have a demoralised teaching profession. Teachers are already leaving their profession, and almost by definition it is the best who leave because they are the ones who receive the best offers outside the profession. The erosion of teachers' pay will discourage the right quality of person from entering the profession. I suggest that the erosion has occurred to such an extent that we are likely to suffer real damage in terms of the quality of teachers, because the Government have not yet conceded the need to take account of that fact.

Mr. Bernard Conlan (Gateshead, East)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Bruce

I must continue. I do not have much time.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)


Mr. Bruce

I have given way twice. I want to make a number of points.

Mr. Conlan

I might help the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Bruce

The hon. Gentleman might help me more by allowing me to develop my argument.

I have a thick file of letters that I have received from parents about the specific problems they are experiencing at all levels of education and about the cuts that are affecting them.

Mr. Conlan

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Bruce

If the alliance were allocated another speaker in this debate, I would be more than happy to give way. I should like to make the best use of my time and I must, therefore, continue.

I shall work through the main areas of education and show where the shortfall is taking place. I shall start with the youngest in our society. I cannot remember the exact quotation, but I believe that the Prime Minister, when Secretary of State for Education and Science, placed great store on the expansion of nursery education. Since the right hon. Lady became Prime Minister, however, there has been no such expansion. There has been a freezing, if not a contraction.

Mr. Dunn

The voluntary sector has expanded.

Mr. Bruce

The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the voluntary side has expanded. That is the point that I was just about to make. Play groups and nursery schools are not the same, although they apply themselves to the same age group. Play groups have expanded rapidly. In the absence of alternative provision, play groups do a good job. I have had considerable contact with the play group movement, and I know that it is finding it increasingly difficult to accept responsibility in an area in which the Government do not accept responsibility. The operation of play groups is, properly, constrained by Government legislation. That constraint affects costs. The play groups have to run services, which must be paid for by parents. The play groups are effectively means-tested and the variation in charges is considerable. The cost per child can be extremely high in a community where there is a lack of accommodation and facilities. The position becomes extremely difficult for a parent with two pre-school age children, and those on low incomes may find it impossible. If the Government argue that the voluntary sector has expanded, they should show a little more willingness to help by reducing operating costs. I stress that I do not believe that play groups are a substitute for nursery schools; they are a complementary service.

Because of falling primary school rolls and Government constraints making local authorities reduce the number of teachers so as to get costs down, there is a definite loss of quality. There is a real cut in the availability of support teaching. There are increases in class sizes and more composite classes. Those aspects are observable. Parents are aware of them and do not like them. In the school attended by my son the provision of subjects such as art, physical education, music and drama has been cut in one blow, across the board, by 25 per cent. In some schools there has been a cut of 50 per cent. The cut means that, where there was one art period a week, there is now one a fortnight. If the art period falls on a holiday Monday, there is only one art period in the month. It is hardly worth the bother of having an art period—but I must not give the Under-Secretary of State ideas. I believe that most parents feel that the previous minimum is the least that they should expect. They are not impressed when the Government say that the expenditure cuts are not leading to real cuts in the educational provision. In my book, there is a real and perceptible cut, which parents rightly resist. Parents are filling my postbag with their complaints.

The position in secondary schools rightly gives most cause for concern. Although children suffer if their preparation in primary schools is not good, the prospects of those children who are caught in a bad time at secondary school are most at risk. The Secretary of State referred to changing teaching methods and changing curricula in secondary schools. Dedicated teachers are expected to provide more pupil-teacher contact, and most have responded to that need. Teachers are expected to undertake more preparation, yet often they must do so with fewer resources and less pay.

What is happening in Scotland should be of interest to the rest of the country, because we are pioneering the new secondary school curriculum. I assure the House that, although the net result is potentially exciting, the curriculum is worrying in practice. The implementation of the new curriculum involves each teacher and each school in preparing their own courses, producing the material. for those courses and assessing substantially the quality of the work produced. That involves a massive amount of additional preparation work outside normal contractual time. Teachers are doing that willingly, but, as the Under-Secretary of State knows, some teachers feel that it is imposing an unacceptable burden. Regrettably, but perhaps understandably, some of those teachers are refusing to implement the new curriculum in the hope of forcing the Government to take some action on pay and conditions. I believe that all hon. Members think that such action is regrettable.

What can I or the Under-Secretary of State say when teachers state that the Government do not take notice of them when they are dedicated and get on with the job? The teachers say, "They just exploit us. They take advantage. How can we persuade the Government that we have a fair case if they consistently ignore us when we are reasonable?" The teachers have so far been extremely reasonable, because they value the parent-teacher relationship and know that industrial action in schools is damaging. I do not believe that any hon. Member would deny the fact that industrial action should be avoided at all costs. The Government should not exploit teachers shamelessly when they know that there is a real grievance that must be redressed.

It is not simply a matter of saying, "Give the teachers more money, and the job will be done." During the past week, I completed a tour of all the secondary schools in my constituency. Teachers are frustrated and angry. They say that giving more money would not solve the problem and that what they have been asked to do is virtually impossible. I have met teachers who have had to work through the night as well as on Saturdays and Sundays to get material ready. They have had to photocopy great quantities of material and to produce audio-visual material — yet there has been no increase in the resources budget. Not one penny more has been allocated.

It is hardly surprising that the whole situation could well come crashing down about the Government's ears. I regret the fact that there is no Minister from the Scottish Office present to listen to this debate. I would impress upon a Scottish Minister the fact that he must recognise that the position in Scotland requires an independent review body on teachers' pay. If such a review is not granted soon, the secondary school curriculum will fall apart around the Minister's ears. I am worried not about what will happen to the Minister but about what will happen to the children who will be caught in the consequences. I hope that the Secretary of State will take account of those children.

Teachers in Scotland are being asked, with no extra resources and no real evaluation, to introduce not only the new Munn and Dunning curriculum but the 10-to-14 action plan and the 16-to-18 action plan. Any reasonable Government must recognise that if they want teacher motivation and delivery of services, they must treat teachers differently.

I regret the fact that certain Conservative Members have sought to divide parents from teachers and to exploit a difficult situation. I suggest that those Conservative Members will not succeed. Teachers and parents must be on the same side — on the side of the children — to persuade the Government to provide the necessary resources. It is not helpful for chairmen of education committees to say that parents have been spoilt. It is not helpful for those chairmen to say, "In the past we have given parents too much, and they should be prepared to accept these cuts simply as a recognition of the fact that we have been far too generous in the past." Such statements are not helpful. They are even less helpful when they come from councillors and people in authority who are taking decisions and are not even sending their children to the schools that they administer. I feel that if they did—this is not just a cheap point—they might show more interest in what is going on in the schools they have opted out of.

Mr. Hind

The hon. Gentleman is talking about the Government driving a wedge between teachers and parents. Does he not feel that the positive moves that the Government have made to put teachers and parents side by side on governing bodies is completely contrary to what he has said, and is a clear sign of the Government's desire to unite parents and teachers in a partnership for the benefit of the pupils in the schools?

Mr. Bruce

I am not sure that I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I rather suspect that the Secretary of State's motivation was precisely the opposite, because it was an attempt to try to undermine respect for teachers.

Of course parents should be more involved in the running of schools, but the professional has also to be able to make professional decisions. I hope that the Secretary of State will produce a revised proposal that will take account of the fact that parents should be involved but that the professionals, nevertheless, should not be undermined. I accept the sincerity behind the question, but the object is to ensure that parents and teachers work collectively for the benefit of the children and, if necessary—I believe that it is necessary — collectively to show the Government their dissatisfaction with the lack of resources.

I am interested in special schools. Increasingly the ideal is to try as far as possible to integrate children from special schools into ordinary schools. One or two authorities have, perhaps mischievously, misconstrued that as a way of undermining special schools. The evidence suggests that the integration—which will require specially qualified staff and support—within the environment of the mixed ability and ordinary schools requires resources. That move is progressing relatively slowly.

I am interested in the teaching of the deaf as I have a deaf daughter. She is at the Aberdeen school for the deaf. There are one or two proposals that might have caused anxiety to those involved in teaching the deaf. The first is the report of the Advisory Committee on the Supply and Education of Teachers which suggests that the Government might consider not requiring a specialist qualification for teachers of the deaf in future. I should be grateful, and so would a great many other people who are involved, if the Minister could assure us that he had no intention of pursuing that recommendation, and that he recognises that teachers of the deaf need special qualifications, as they always have in the past, and that they should continue to have them.

Will the Minister also give more positive encouragement to introducing an opportunity for deaf people to teach deaf people? It is undesirable that all teachers of the deaf should be deaf, but it is also undesirable that those deaf people who have something to contribute should be excluded from the profession for what to some extent seem to be bureaucratic reasons. I believe that it would be a great advance if the Government could provide more positive encouragement for that.

Although this is a debate about schools and further education, it is true that many of the people going through our schools are looking forward to going into further education and universities. The measures that the Government have proposed include reduced grants and the abolition of the minimum grant. There is a suggestion that up to 11,000 students will have to pay a full-cost £520 contribution towards their fees. That is a burden that should not be imposed and one that is likely to fall unfairly on those students. The Government should not move further down that road, as they are effectively taking from many people the opportunity to benefit from the further education that they wish to enjoy.

While I and my colleagues appreciate that there is a genuine need to improve the quality of education, and to consider methods of improving it, that is rather subjective, and cannot be done by cutting resources. If the Government do not take seriously the representations that are made and the detailed information that they are receiving from their inspectorate — that real cuts in resources are having real and damaging effect on education, which will become worse over the next year or two if the Government's policies persist—the generation going through our schools today will live bitterly to regret the fact that they went through under this Thatcher Government. I and my colleagues will be voting with the Labour Opposition.

5.24 pm
Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich)

It is inevitable that the Inner London education authority should feature early as an example in any debate about value for money in education. Casting my mind back, I realise that I have been involved with inner London education in one way or another for more than 40 years.

Throughout that time, parents, teachers and ordinary people in the street have pleaded that the provision of education should be less political. I can understand what they mean by that. We recognise, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, that there is common ground between us — education is about providing the skills which allow a child to develop into an adult and to live a fulfilling and rewarding life. The difficulty in the past has been how that common ground can be achieved and by what policies. There have been political differences about policy. In inner London, as is inevitable all over the country, the education authority has been politically divided.

I wish to draw the attention of the House to a further aspect. Education in London has become more political over the past decade than ever before. The signs are that it will become more political still. In the 1960s and early 1970s many saw that an education authority was an implement for social engineering and social change. It could be done by the adaptation of the curriculum, by the programming of teachers along certain learning paths. Attitudes in society should be changed rather than giving learning skills to pupils.

That was a development which should be noted with some anxiety. Over the past few years, the politicising of education has gone a stage further. With the present administration of the ILEA there are one or two features at which we should look with greater care and anxiety. During the past few days ILEA's leadership has said that it feels that it has been misrepresented in the House. It is worth, therefore, identifying one or two points that we can see emerging.

I suggest tentatively that the present leadership of ILEA sees the ILEA as being not just an instrument for education or an implement for social change, but a weapon with which to conduct warfare against the Government on a front rather wider than education. The redeployment of resources has been the opportunity to join battle. We have seen evidence of it in the past months. One may ask how such a situation has come to pass. I suggest that there has been a systematic approach over a number of years. There has been an attempt to ensure that those elected on the Left of the Labour party are prepared to subscribe to the party's 39 articles of belief and to ensure that they do not step out of line and express any views contrary to that belief. That is perhaps something that we must accept as being part of the to and fro, the give and take of political life in the elective area. We can recognise it as an overt political division, and I do not make any harsh judgment on that basis.

We have seen, however, a change whereby the members of the authority have sought to see that the political divisions permeate to other levels. There is clear evidence over the past few years that many senior appointments in the administration have been made or at least coloured by the political persuasion of those who seek those appointments. Not only has this trend affected the officers of the authority, but it has been noticeable in the appointment of the governors who are political nominees. Political associations appoint some of the Labour governors on the various governing bodies of the schools. We have seen evidence that those associations have made it a requirement that those governors do not represent views that they hold personally, but should subscribe to and vote along lines that are put to them before the meetings take place. Therefore, there has been an opportunity to affect decisions and make sure that the attitudes of members of governing bodies and of the officers to some extent politically coincide.

But things have gone a stage further. Over the past few years, there has been a development in the appointment of head teachers. I have sat on head teacher panels in ILEA for several years. In the early days, there was a requirement to assess the candidates to see whether they were of the right educational calibre to give leadership and of the right administrative ability to preside over a whole round of activities, which the head of a school is required to do. However, today there have been clear signs from the questions that have been asked of an intention to probe the political attitudes of candidates. I am not saying that that is happening in every case, but it is happening in a significant number of cases. We should be alert to that factor and take such steps as may be necessary in due course.

We have seen that attitude in the appointment of head teachers and again in teacher training, where political attitudes are explicit in many courses of study. I should like to give an anecdotal example of a mature teacher who had been teaching for many years, and was very experienced, but who lacked the teacher qualification—the licence to preach — that would be necessary in future. Therefore, she sought an in-service training scheme that would allow her to get that qualification. She was among several other mature students on that course. They found it a salutary experience in one way that mature teachers were being instructed in the art of teaching by those who had little or no classroom experience. That was stimulating enough, but what stuck in their gullet, the point that annoyed them most and that they could not swallow, was the fact that the philosophy put forward in the course was so totally alien to their experience of what was right in the classroom, where there was a neutral political standpoint and an objective point of view. They were told that explicit political attitudes were right and proper. Mature students with classroom experience can assess the quality of what is being put before them and discard the dross, but those who do not have that experience, especially young teachers, are not so well able to judge, so the situation is more ambiguous and bewildering for them.

There is also evidence that in inner London the curriculum itself is being manipulated somewhat cynically towards political ends. Several courses might be seen as politically desirable at the Fabian summer school, but it is not appropriate to teach them to children in inner London, who need to gain the skills that will give them the opportunity to make their way in the world and earn their living in later life.

These things are happening concurrently and tend towards a certain end. That end has become apparent in recent weeks. It is apparent that ILEA is on a conflict course with the Government and the Secretary of State. One can see that these elements that I have sought to identify are now being mobilised. I received a letter the other day from a constituent who said: My son is a pupil at a school in my constituency. Today I received a letter from the school, signed by the Headmaster"— he names the headmaster— saying that the school will be closed on 7 November because members of the National Union of Teachers will be taking strike action as a protest against ILEA budget proposals and the imposition of Rate Capping on the Authority's finances.

Such an approach is an abuse of a head teacher's position. It is an abuse of an authority's position. It should not use children as the emissaries of such a political message. There is an important issue here, but it should not be fought in the classroom. Such approaches are entirely reprehensible. My correspondent continues: The letter goes on to request parents to register their views with their Members of Parliament. That is why my constituent wrote to me. He adds: May I assure you of my wholehearted support for the Government's action in bringing this spendthrift authority back to reality … ILEA must be prevented from squandering any more millions of pounds of ratepayers' money. As a Southwark ratepayer I feel doubly penalised. Interestingly enough, in this case the approach was counter-productive, but few parents have the courage to write such a letter in the face of authority. Few parents who thought that would dare say it. Few governors who felt that could say it in open meetings where they are in a minority. There are some sinister elements that should be identified and brought out into the open if we are discussing whether ILEA has a good case for being rate capped, for redeploying its resources or being considered special. The present administration of ILEA is not presenting a good case. In fact, it is letting down the children of inner London.

To end on a more optimistic note, I congratulate the Secretary of State on making sure that the ILEA of the future remains a unitary body serving deprived areas of inner London as well as more prosperous areas, and at the same time ensuring that it is a directly elected and democratically sensitive body that can recognise educational need in inner London and make an assessment of the proper price that should be paid in achieving the standards that we require.

5.37 pm
Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)

I do not want to follow the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) down that avenue, except to say that, as a former education administrator, I always look to the professionals of ILEA as examples of the height of professionalism and as representing all that is truly progressive in the education service. The hon. Gentleman's description of what is going on in ILEA was not credible, but he knows his own area best.

I shall confine most of my remarks to non-advanced further education. The education service resents some of the messages that come from Conservative Members—although not from the Secretary of State—who denigrate all those who serve in the public service. It has become almost a dirty word to many Conservative Members to say that one works in the public sector. It is as if everyone who worked in the public sector was an inferior animal who would be working in the private sector if only he could get a proper job.

I have worked in the public, private and voluntary sectors. The level of dedication in the public sector is at least the equal of that in the private sector, where the rewards and the perks of the job are so much greater. I should like to put on record the Opposition's appreciation of the dedication of teachers, administrators, cleaners, caretakers and dinner ladies to the state education service.

I wish that Conservative Members understood how much their ill-thought-out statements about the public service affect the morale of those who work in it. There is a crisis of morale in the teaching profession, and the Secretary of State would do well to address himself to it. I was glad to hear him recognise the difficulty of the teachers' task, because it is not widely recognised. We should all say how extremely difficult it is to teach today when many of the old models of authority have been broken. Many teachers wrestle with problems which their predecessors of 30 or 40 years ago would not have recognised or been able to cope with. We should all support the teachers, who are trying to contend with the many social problems which society is throwing up. Parents are often unable to deal with them, as are the social services. All too often such problems fall to be dealt with by teachers, heads of department or head teachers.

Some people like to pretend that all teachers live in a cloistered atmosphere and are unaware of and uninterested in the problems of the real world, but many people in further education have worked in industry and commerce and are only too familiar with their problems. That sector of the education service is at the interface between education and training and industry and commerce. It is difficult to cope at that interface.

In the past few years further education has had to wrestle with the repercussions of the collapse of manufacturing industry. That collapse has devastated large parts of the country, especially County Durham. My hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) and I are all too familiar with the devastation that has resulted from the destruction of jobs in the area. It has been difficult to sustain the education service in those circumstances. The involvement of employers in training has often collapsed even faster than industry. Further education has had to find students and then contend with the impact of advanced technology. Some hon. Members are more or less experts on the repercussions of advanced technology, but most of us are unaware of them, especially in education and training. The uncertainties of advanced technology have to be coped with daily.

I remind the Secretary of State that the education and training part of the education service is at the sharp end of our problems over competitiveness. It can be argued that the further education service has a greater contribution to make to the country's competitiveness, to our ability to handle the impact of advanced technology and to cope with the social and economic changes that are riding roughshod over many parts of the country. People who provide further education and training must therefore not be ignored or denigrated. They do not live in a cloistered atmosphere. They have always had to draw their students from industry and commerce and have had to prove to industry that their courses are relevant and that the quality of their teaching is high.

Mrs. Angela Rumbold (Mitcham and Morden)

I have listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has said and agree with much of it. Does he agree that the Department of Environment's initiative is absolutely right, as it ensures that people in colleges of further education have the full benefit of working in concert with employers and that they, with money provided by the Manpower Services Commission, will supply the very technology and information that people in colleges need?

Mr. Foster

I do not entirely agree with the hon. Lady. I was about to consider that matter, so, if she will bear with me, I might be able to agree with some of what she said.

We face a great problem over how to implement change in the education service. Every Secretary of State for Education and Science has wrestled with the problem of getting people in the education service to agree a plan of action and then to achieve a set of objectives. It is understandable that Secretaries of State want more power to achieve change, but decision making in the education service is diffuse. We have to persuade local education authorities, colleges, heads of department, boards of governors, perhaps academic boards and teachers, that what we have decided is best.

Many people in the education service long to impose change. We are impatient for it, as it never goes as fast as we should like. Politicians might have only a short run. The Secretary of State has been with us for a long time —some might say too long—and he might continue in office for some time yet. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] At least he has the support of his Back Benchers. He has been fortunate in that he has been able to pursue a course of action and see it through. What puzzles me is that he has not chosen to take on the authorities or to change the constitutional arrangements by which education is administered. Rather he has chosen to stand on one side. The Secretary of State has chosen to turn a blind eye while the further education service has been raped by the Manpower Services Commission.

Mr. J. F. Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

That conjures up an interesting picture.

Mr. Foster

Perhaps at some other time we may discuss the implications of rape in relation to the MSC.

Where was the Secretary of State when the decision was made to take a quarter of the further education service from the local education authorities? What part did he play in those discussions? Did he feel that he was doing education a service when he allowed that to happen? Did he not owe it to the education service to stand up for it and fight in its corner? How will he be able to deliver the good will of the education service — of the local education authorities, the colleges, the principals and the heads of department—when he stands on one side and allows them to be dealt with in that way by the MSC?

Sir Keith Joseph

Because I take the view that non-advanced further education, like most other aspects of education, is patchy—it varies from the excellent to the not-so-excellent — I assume that the interests of local education authorities, principals and lecturers are not always the same as the interests of students, and my interest is the students' interest.

Mr. Foster

I accept that explanation from the Secretary of State. He sweeps aside the dedication of those involved in further education—the principals, lecturers and departmental heads.

Sir Keith Joseph

indicated dissent.

Mr. Foster

The Secretary of State says that his interest in the students is better informed and more dedicated than that of those involved in further education.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Perhaps my hon. Friend can find out whether the Secretary of State now accepts the compromise. Also, why does the Secretary of State feel that students can influence the MSC and so improve the quality of their courses, although there is no real democratic accountability, but that they cannot influence the local education authorities through the locally elected councils?

Mr. Foster

That is a point that I wished to make. Any Secretary of State must want more power to implement change, but to stand on one side and give that power to the MSC, whose structure is unresponsive and insensitive to the forces that have to be persuaded to implement any changes, is not the way to use that power. The Secretary of State may achieve his aims in the short term, but only at the expense of upsetting all those forces within education which he must reconcile to his ideas.

I deal now with the point raised by the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mrs. Rumbold). I have never regarded the MSC as the big black beast which must be resisted at all costs. I welcome the money from the MSC for the youth opportunities programme, because that money can be used as a lever for change within education. I take the same view with regard to the rest of work-related non-advanced education. By all means let us use the money from the MSC as a lever for change, but the Secretary of State for Education should not stand on one side, wash his hands of the matter and say that it is nothing to do with him and that the MSC is in a better position to influence the situation and is better equipped to deal with educational institutions.

Does the Secretary of State accept the compromise being worked out between the education authorities and the MSC under its new chairman? Would he like to tell us whether, in his view, the arrangement is satisfactory?

Sir Keith Joseph

indicated dissent.

Mr. Foster

The Secretary of State does not wish to tell us at present. I do not regard the MSC as a malevolent influence within the system. Money from the MSC should enable us to implement work-related schemes which will be relevant and responsive to the needs of industry and commerce. However, the MSC is acting in a most insensitive way — a way almost calculated to cause uncertainty and disruption within education. The Secretary of State will regret his abrogation of his responsibility in that respect.

The Secretary of State must wrestle with the problem of the necessity to provide a variety of support for young people in the 16 to 19 age group. Some young people are in receipt of unemployment benefit, some get an allowance from the youth training scheme, some are able to use the 21-hour rule, some receive a meagre educational maintenance allowance from the local education authority and some get nothing at all.

There is a great opportunity here. The problem of youth unemployment is horrifying. I have been highly critical of the attitude of the Department of Education and Science to the youth training scheme, and I believe that the Secretary of State himself should have played a much greater part in the discussions.

We can deal with the problem in a constructive way, or we can miss the opportunity to do so. I believe that many of those who gain nothing from school could, between the ages of 16 and 19, be motivated by the youth training scheme to understand the value of education and training. However, the Secretary of State must realise that many young people are dissuaded from staying on at school or embarking on further education because they receive no income support. I am thinking in particular of children from very poor working-class families. That is a great waste.

We must not pretend that the YTS is the best way of catering for the needs of all those students. Very often, it would be better for them to stay on at school or go on to further education. We must find some way of giving those students and their families an incentive to pursue what is for them by far the better course. I would not denigrate the YTS in any way, although it needs to be improved. However, a substantial proportion of young people would be better advised to stay on at school or go on to full-time further education. The Secretary of State ignores the fact that many children from poor families cannot afford to do so.

The Labour party is committed to a comprehensive scheme, lasting at least two years, in which the YTS will be part of an integrated system of further education and training. Staying on at school and in further education will be part of the integrated scheme. Youngsters can enter the youth training scheme, then go back into the education system, and then perhaps proceed to another aspect of education and training during the two-year period. I admit that the scheme would be expensive, but we must work out a way of persuading those for whom it would be best to stay at school or to proceed to full-time further education.

There is a great divide in the House, especially between the Conservative party and the Labour party, about the society that we want. We cannot pretend that politics has no part in education. Politics will always be an integral part of discussions about education, because we are talking about resources and how they should be allocated, how many students should continue in full-time education and what that full-time education should be.

The Secretary of State must understand that he cannot cry for an improvement in standards across the board and then talk as though resources were irrelevant. I recognise that we need more than more resources if we are to improve standards in schools and in further education, but to talk as though resources are irrelevant to that objective is to deceive the electorate. We cannot deliver better standards in education without adequate resources, and in failing to stand up for the education service at Cabinet meetings, and in offering cuts time after time, the Secretary of State has let down the education service and an entire generation of students. If we cannot afford to invest in our young people, we do not believe in the values which we say we uphold.

6.2 pm

Mr. Peter Griffiths (Portsmouth, North)

As I listened to the final comments of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster), I thought that I would be able to agree with what he said. However, I cannot accept his criticism of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The hon. Gentleman will find much agreement for his statement that resources are not irrelevant to the achievement of excellence. The divide between the parties to which he referred does not mean that those of us who believe that resources should be used more efficiently also believe that there is merit in restricting resources. We are aware that, in education as in many other public services, more money could be used wisely and well. However, we are not always certain that the extra money would be used wisely and well.

If we had extra resources for education we might follow the example of our cousins across the Atlantic. In the state of Florida, whose economy is beginning to expand, from September of this year the junior high and high schools will have an extra period in each day's schooling—three quarters of an hour extra schooling. That is a recognition of the fact that there can be a desire for more education, not simply better education within given parameters. In California—another state that has benefited from the growth of the American economy—in September of this year the college semester began a week early. Each semester will be a week longer, which is again a recognition that, in some cases, more education is desirable and can be better.

However, we must remember that in Florida parents pay for the writing materials, stationery and art materials that their children take to school. There is a different participation by parents in Florida in paying the costs of education, and, a much higher proportion of fees is paid by parents and students than happens in Britain. Even if resources were widely available, we would have to examine closely how those increased resources were allocated to ensure that we got the best value.

I shall confine my remarks to the allocation of resources. When it has been debated in the past, it has tended to mean the allocation of resources between those who are directly concerned with teaching in the classroom and those outside. That is an important factor. Even after all that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and other Ministers have done, about half of those paid out of the education budget today will never face a classroom full of pupils. There is room for redeployment of resources in the education budget away from those who are not directly concerned with education and towards those who are.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will accept that resources could be better deployed in schools. I was a teacher for many years, and then a head teacher, and I know that a problem in many schools is the growing burden of administrative duties that are carried out by skilled teachers. I hope that we can reverse that trend, because the best teacher—who often obtains promotion to head of department or head teacher because of his skills in the classroom—is not always the best administrator.

We have already heard this afternoon about the current review of teachers' pay and conditions. One of the most revolutionary and desirable changes that could be made would be to offer a system whereby the excellent teacher was rewarded as a career teacher in the classroom, not by being given an administrative post or by a reduction of his time in the classroom.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House visit schools regularly, and are often shown young pupils doing remarkable work with computers, which I welcome wholeheartedly. However, it is odd that only a few of the schools that have excellent computer programmes for pupils as aids to learning and as training for future careers use computers for their administration. Most schools keep their records on pieces of paper or cardboard in filing cabinets. If the information was recorded electronically so that it could be brought back instantly, it would save an enormous amount of time and effort by teachers who are asked to fill in returns and to make lists of pupils.

There is no need for records to be kept in schools, although that happens all too often. If schools had terminals from a mainframe computer at the education office, it would be unnecessary to ask head teachers to send lists of pupils who met certain criteria, because that information would be available at the touch of a button. The school would not be bothered with such administrative tasks, which all too often fill the time of the most skilled teachers, who would be far better employed teaching in the classroom.

I make it clear that I am not suggesting that education is no more than teaching in the classroom. I recognise that the education budget has to cover a great deal more than that. It has to cover the costs of administration, of building and of providing equipment. I am not belittling these needs. However, one way in which we might achieve the excellence in education that is the object of both sides of the House would be to ensure that the very best teachers were rewarded so that they continued to make their contribution in the classroom during their careers rather than being diverted into an administrative role. If we could achieve that, and ensure that our best pupils were taught by our best teachers, we should also achieve excellence.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

The hon. Gentleman is talking about rewards. From where will the money come?

Mr. Griffiths

I have said that I would like to see increased resources as and when they are available, and out of that I should like to see increased rewards for the best teachers. At the moment, the allocation of funds for salaries is geared to the ability of the nation to pay, as is recognised by the Department of Education and Science, which knows what the allocation is likely to be. I should like teachers to be rewarded within the present totality of salaries for excellence in teaching rather than being promoted into jobs that require them to devote their time to administration. Within the totality of existing salaries, more money going to the best teachers rather than to administrators would be helpful, and as and when greater resources become available I am sure that the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) and I would wish more resources to be devoted to this.

I agree with much that is implied in the Opposition's motion, but they are taking too narrow and too limited a view. It is necessary for us to recognise that only a small increase in excellence in education can be achieved by increases in resources. What is needed is careful thought and management of the resources, on whatever level they may be provided.

6.12 pm
Mr. Ken Eastham (Manchester, Blackley)

I shall take up several of the points made by the Secretary of State. This is one of the rare occasions when hon. Members who would like to do so can take him on about some of the statements that he regularly makes from the Dispatch Box when he tries to fool the House into believing that expenditure in education is for ever expanding. The only person that the Secretary of State is fooling is himself. Educationists and chief education officers, wherever they are, say that things are getting not better, but worse.

In some authorities, the shortage of the basic resources of education such as books is so critical that teachers have been breaking the law by using machinery illegally to photostat textbooks so that the children can complete courses. This is so serious that writs have been issued against certain local authorities. The teachers are merely attempting to cope with the savage cuts that have been experienced, not only in their salaries but in necessary requirements such as books. The hon. Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) talked about an extra computer for the school secretary to help with administration. However, in education the need is far more basic than that.

Often, the Secretary of State is tempted to play the numbers game when he talks about pupil-teacher ratios. I shall point out one or two anomalies that show that things are not as simple as the Secretary of State would have the House believe. It is true that there are falling rolls, but it is not simple to match schools with falling rolls to the number of teachers. For example, one cannot say that numbers in a primary school are so low that the school will be closed and the pupils will be concentrated in another primary school four miles away. In many instances, although such a solution may be economic, it will be difficult to close the original primary school because mothers have very young children who cannot travel long distances. For that reason, uneconomic schools may need to be kept open.

The Secretary of State attempts to fool the House with his numbers game, but his theories do not hold water. He should stop playing the game. because it is far from being as honest as we should expect of him. If the Secretary of State wishes confirmation of this theory, I suggest that he initiates an investigation into the problem of schools with falling rolls and trying to staff them with teachers, when schools already have so many problems.

With great pride, the Secretary of State quoted savings from school meals. This is a vexed problem for many local authorities. Making savings in school meals means that local authorities are serving junk food menus, which are no longer nutritional and do not provide a balanced diet for the children. Some authorities, including mine, have high incidences of poverty and in many cases the midday meal at school is the only main meal that the child will have. For this reason, educationists believe that it is essential that a child should have a balanced diet at school. It is not good enough to say that the kids can be provided with food at home so that at lunch time they cart have merely a sausage roll or a cheese bun. That is not giving them an adequate meal, even though savings may be made.

I remember that some years ago, under a previous Conservative Government, the Prime Minister was the Secretary of State for Education and Science. She had the idea of stopping school milk. My authority was outraged and up in arms about this, because it recognised that school milk was essential and was good for the development of the child, and even good for education. The local authority on that occasion countermanded the order. Instead of breaking the law, we introduced free soup. However, the then Conservative Government were not satisfied and tried to introduce regulations to deny the children their free soup. Talk about cuts being made in the cost of school meals is nothing new. Such efforts to cut costs are a constant nag, because education has become a whipping boy and millions of pounds are always being lopped off its budget.

Dr. John Marek (Wrexham)

The position is even worse than my hon. Friend describes. If a child is given a cheese sandwich, there is at least some nutritional value in it. The cheese contains calories and there are carbohydrates in the bread. But in many schools that I have visited children now go for chips with curry sauce. Some sort of soup is poured over the chips. I really cannot see the nutritional value in such food. Incidentally such a meal costs 50p. — for chips with some sort of soupy, curry-like liquid on them. That is what children are having today.

Mr. Eastham

What my hon. Friend says typifies the true position. Our children are now being served junk food in schools, which cannot be in the interests of good education.

Mr. Dunn

I have been listening with interest to the hon. Gentleman, who talks about the city of Manchester, an area which I know well. I am curious to know why he thinks that the Labour Government, who succeeded the Conservative Government of 1970–74, did not reintroduce the provision of milk in schools.

Mr. Eastham

The Minister does not know Manchester as well as I do. I have lived in Manchester all my life, other than during my national service. When we had the reorganisation of local government in 1974, the Labour-controlled Greater Manchester county council had a licence to spend 2p. Hon. Members will remember that there was a licence for a local authority to spend a certain amount of money. It was decided to spend that money to allow the 10 districts to provide milk. It was done because there were two local authorities that were not Labour but Conservative. The Labour Government told local authorities that they could now supply free milk if they wished to do so. However, the two Conservative authorities in the Greater Manchester area had no intention of reintroducing the provision of milk. As a result the Greater Manchester county council—the upper tier for the 10 authorities—said that it would provide it. Those are the true facts about the provision of school milk.

We talk a great deal about examination results. They are an issue very dear to the Labour party. But it is not unreasonable to point out that many factors are involved in getting good examination results. Children have to live in decent homes. They do not do very well when they live in terrible slums. We have many problems in the inner city areas, where the Government are doing next to nothing to improve housing conditions. If a child has homework to do, it is essential that he goes to a decent home, possibly with central heating, and to a room where he can study.

I realise that the majority of Government supporters do not come from poor homes. They do not appreciate what it is like to live in a slum and consequently they do not understand the importance of other amenities in addition to classrooms. Bad housing is another reason why children in our inner city areas do not achieve very good examination results.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

Just now I heard a Government supporter ask about Liverpool. Will my hon. Friend comment on the worth of providing a temporary flower garden, which is about all that this Government have done for Liverpool, when set against the real poverty of opportunity for children in the north-west generally and the real poverty of the backgrounds of these children? However valuable a flower garden might be, it does not solve these problems.

Mr. Eastham

I would never refuse anything from this Government. If they want to provide a few flower gardens, at least they will make life a little more tolerable. However, I do not think that Government supporters should imagine that they will make a devastating contribution to an improvement in standards of education.

We have had numerous reports on education—the Newsom report, the Plowden report and the Robbins report. All of them made one basic point. All of them recognised the need to spend money. Until the Government are honest enough to say that it is necessary to provide money, we shall never achieve the standards of education that the House wants to provide.

There is no shortage of resources in private education. I remember watching a television programme a couple of years ago about some of the posh, fee-paying schools. It was said with a certain amount of pride that even the rowing equipment was worth £250,000. In some of our schools we cannot even afford textbooks. That underlines the dishonesty of the Government. They know these facts but they try to cheek their way through and convince people that they really care. We know that they do not care. Actions are better than words, and we are not getting the necessary resources.

Education is always the whipping boy of Conservative Governments, and no longer does education have its rightful place among the professions. It does not have the prestige to which it is entitled. We have this constant haggling every time the teachers as a profession make representations for decent pay. As time goes on we shall get what we pay for, so we shall have low morale among our teachers and, as a consequence, we shall have steadily reducing standards of education.

In this debate we are discussing two sections —schools and further education—and there is one major problem about our schools which was touched on by one of my hon. Friends earlier today. It refers to maintenance grants and the unequal subsidies. There is a great deal of confusion in all local authorities. In massaging the unemployment figures the Government have decided to spend money on the Manpower Services Commission, and grants are to be paid to young people under its scheme. There are other education answers such as discretionary grants, which the Government tell local authorities they may give if they wish. But if they do they get into difficulties with the Treasury, which says that they are spending too much money. What is more, very often the grants are means-tested, which causes further problems.

Local authorities should not be penalised if they wish to give grants to encourage young people to stay on at school. Sometimes, obviously, school leavers will benefit by staying on in education, but some can do so only if there is some financial benefit for them. Instead, they say to themselves that if they go on the dole they will get unemployment pay so they may as well stay in bed and collect money for doing so. That is no use to anyone. It is of no benefit to the young people concerned and it is of no benefit to the country's future. Other children stay on but their parents receive virtually no assistance. If the Government genuinely wish to give equal opportunities to children, that aspect should be cleared up.

The Secretary of State periodically announces that he intends to impose a curriculum but local authorities are given no clear idea of what is in his mind so they do not know where they are going.

I hope that the Government will also give us some answers about the effect of falling rolls on parental freedom of choice. There is no easy solution. Popular schools are filled to overflowing while pupils rattle against the sides of the other schools. It is time that the Department suggested some logical solution.

The word "privatisation" is constantly wafting around and it seems that there may be some more of it in the offing for education. This naturally causes restlessness in the work force. Staff are entitled to be treated with respect. They are not parasites. Many education authority workers providing school meals and other services do a first-class job, although they are often underpaid. They are entitled to security and to some idea of where they are going. It is all very well to talk about parents' rights, but it should be remembered that teachers and other staff are often parents as well.

In further education there was great resentment when it was discovered that the new money for Manpower Services Commission training was being taken away from education. I remember being told by the Minister that £60 million was being transferred. That was not new money. It was just a bookkeeping exercise, taking money from further education and slinging it into the Manpower Services Commission in an attempt to kid people that the Government were spending more money. There was quite an eruption over this and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities made it clear to the Government that there would be no co-operation. We are now told that there is to be some kind of peace formula. If that is so, may we take it that the Government intend to bring back some kind of sanity into spending in these areas?

The special problems of the polytechnics have not so far been raised in the debate. It is time that the Government applied themselves to problems such as capital allocation. Polytechnics suffer the annual problem of having to replace obsolete equipment. High technology equipment such as computers is very expensive. It is a matter not of a couple of hundred pounds but of several thousands of pounds. If they are to train students for industry they must keep abreast of technical developments, but they are falling far behind in the attempt to kit themselves out with the necessary equipment.

On the subject of training in education, even the Government must admit that not all educationists agree with the Government's new theory that education authorities should be training students for specific jobs. Many of them believe that their business is to provide education for the child's entire future. People tend to change jobs three times in their lifetime, so it is more important to provide a broad education. Moreover, specific requirements are constantly changing. The Select Committee on Employment recently took evidence from industrialists and we found that many of them did not really know what they wanted. For instance, five or six years ago there was a shortage of production management engineers. In the four or five years necessary to produce the necessary specialists, however, developments in robotics meant that many of those trained people were not required. Therefore, we should not be fooled into rushing to provide everything that industrialists say that they need. We should be developing talent so that people can adapt to the changing needs of industry.

The purpose of today's debate is to impress on the Government that excellence in education cannot be achieved on the cheap. Education is an investment for the future and it is vital for this country's survival into the next century.

6.37 pm
Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)

I have no hesitation in supporting the Prime Minister's amendment. For the first time, we have a Secretary of State who has turned his attention to the 40 per cent. of school leavers who, in his own words, after 11 years of compulsory schooling, show no apparent benefit from having been at school. He has also said that to do something about this The keys are effective teachers and motivated pupils", that Teaching effectively is a hard job —I entirely agree—and that the Government's first job was to raise the quality of teachers.

That is not best achieved by talking of teachers as commodities in a supply and demand situation. As a former teacher, I know that teaching is very much a vocation. There are very few professions of that kind in which the ruling system is that of supply and demand. With falling school rolls, the profession is contracting. Pay is also part of that. There have been enormous fluctuations in pay increases for teachers in the past 10 years or so. This has led to an uncharacteristic militancy on the part of teachers, for whom money has traditionally been a secondary consideration. The Secretary of State, employers and teachers all want to succeed in finding a new structure for future pay arrangements.

The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) spoke wisely on a number of issues. We should all remember that education administrators, and indeed councillors in local education authorities, have a unique propensity for causing deep gloom among teachers, parents and pupils, often to the detriment of their children's education. That is often not intentional, but, perceived from a teacher's point of view, it can be very damping.

The hon. Gentleman pointed out that all the problems of society tend to end up on teachers' plates. That is often true. That is why much more community support is necessary for our schools and teachers. I speak with feeling as a former parent-teachers' association chairman and a former elected parent-governor, but that works both ways, and increased specialisation by teachers, including at primary level, can lead to a freezing out of parents from the educational process — a weakening of that partnership between parents and teachers.

I was in the United States recently looking at education and I was impressed by the fact that the teaching profession there seems to be less jealous and more welcoming of parents into classrooms and the education process. We should bear that in mind.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on his commitment to a change from a relative examination system far nearer to an absolute system in which young people will in future be tested not on how they compare with other young people, but on what they understand, know and can do. Many teachers welcome the concept of criteria-related grades. That step will improve motivation, among both teachers and pupils. Pupils will be tested according to their potential.

The amendment speaks of securing the most effective use of the substantial resources available for the benefit of the education service. Those substantial resources are provided not just for the benefit of the education service but for the benefit of the community, and there is one aspect of that which we neglect at our peril.

I want to concentrate on the need for our young people to be made much more fully aware of the dangers of substance abuse. Today, my regional health authority is considering a report which it commissioned on the rising tide of drug abuse. Like many other hon. Members, I have discussed that matter with local police, the local education authority and the district health authority. In common with everybody else, my education authority has a curriculum for social and personal education in its schools and within that there is a unit on community responsibility for drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. I stress the words "community responsibility" because that is how we should be tackling the problem, particularly in schools. However, my education authority confines that curriculum to the fourth and fifth years, and I am not convinced that that is adequate.

There seems to be agreement that because of trends in the availability and price of marijuana and cocaine, because there are doubts about the efficiency of the voluntary code for retail sales of solvents such as glue and butane, and because there is no sign of a downturn in the consumption of alcohol, its social acceptability and its use and misuse, we probably have about two years before we shall have to face major problems of chemical dependency among our young people.

I welcome the Government's initiative on drug abuse and the work of the ministerial committee responsible for co-ordinating Government action in that area, but are my right hon. Friend and his Department represented on that committee? The Government must take a long-term and broad view and the solution of the problems of substance abuse must start with education.

I had so many questions in my mind about the issue of substance abuse that I went to California last month with the prime purpose of examining prevention and rehabilitation projects. I found that some 60 per cent. of high school children have had experience of marijuana or cocaine, or both. There is no easy transfer of solutions. It cannot even be said that a similar situation will arise here, but we ignore California's experience and conclusions at our peril.

It is often said that to talk about drugs and substance abuse in schools encourages experimentation and their use and abuse among young people. The best evidence suggests that that is not so. When perhaps it is so, it is the result of general comment in general studies in schools, probably by a teacher with the best of intentions who is not supported by a rigorous curriculum in the school or education authority. There is also a body of evidence which suggests that education on alcohol, drugs, tobacco and solvents should begin when a child is as young as eight years old. Later, it may be too late.

Two of the most experienced teams in the United States have produced programmes which I commend to my right hon. Friend. Many San Francisco schools have widely adopted a sophisticated model chemical policy which is designed to institute clear chemical abuse prevention programmes within their schools. It stresses the interrelation of student, family and community and the importance of teacher training.

The Centre for Human Development in Lafayette, California, has developed a programme which has been widely used and proven throughout schools in the United States. It involves a mutual support network for teenagers with alcohol and drug problems, known as NEAT family groups. NEAT stands for "new experience in affection and trust". That is an untranslatable Californian expression of the need for young people to become more confident in their ability to succeed in school, in their relationships and in life in general.

The Department of Education and Science is to be congratulated on the careful advice that it has given to local education authorities on drugs and drug-related problems, but the time has come when we can no longer rely exclusively on circulars from Elizabeth house to prevent the waste of human resources—people—and the family tragedies which result from all forms of chemical substance abuse, whether we are talking of tobacco, alcohol, solvents or drugs.

I draw two conclusions. First, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his Department should play a full part in the co-ordination of the Government's drug abuse policy. Secondly, education authorities should take a lead in establishing community-based school-centred groups to act on local problems. The local education authority is too big a unit. The problems of Swindon are different from those of Salisbury, and those of Trowbridge are different from those of Amesbury. The headmaster of the Stonehenge comprehensive school in Amesbury told me on Monday of problems there relating to the Stonehenge festival, the spectacle of drug availability and the wholesale disregard for the law which inevitably goes right through into the school and community.

If such community-based groups could be established, membership should undoubtedly include not only teachers and parents, but doctors, police, social workers and local churchmen. As I am sure hon. Members will agree, substance abuse occurs among schoolchildren, but often after school hours and off school premises. It is a community phenomenon.

It is still true that prevention is better than cure. Cure and rehabilitation is another area of great deficiency in Britain, but it would be inappropriate for me to talk about that now. We cannot afford to be complacent about substance abuse in our schools. Many problems face education, but that is one which we can prevent from becoming worse while the situation is under control. For once we can avoid lurching into management by crisis of a major social threat if we all have the will to act now.

6.49 pm
Dr. John Marek (Wrexham)

I was very interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key), which dwelt on a very serious problem. I had great sympathy with almost all of his speech. However, he also said that he would congratulate the Department of Education and Science and I cannot go along with him on that. Although it may perceive the problem, it has not done enough about it. It is one thing to send out circulars saying that something should be done about glue sniffing, but there are also possibilities for action. Legislation could be introduced making it impossible for young children to buy glues and various chemicals. Certainly more could be done in that way.

I urge the Department to look again at the problem. After all, it is a serious problem and has existed for 50 or 60 years in the United States. I believe that in large measure it arises because of the uncertain future facing many young American children. That problem is now coming home to roost in Britain. One cause—although perhaps not the major cause—may be that children go to school, not because they will eventually go on to higher education or vocational training, or because they will then obtain jobs, but simply because there is nowhere else to go. Their parents want to get rid of them between 9 am and 4 pm. When they finish school, they will have no future and will be thrown on to the scrap-heap.

There are various schemes, such as the youth training scheme, which are intended to give children the impression that there is a future, but children are not that daft. They know that the schemes last for a year and that after that they have to find a job. But they cannot find jobs and they know what their older peers are doing. Consequently, there is a lowering of morale. Children do not know what to do, and that is one of the factors that make many of them go to places in which they can sniff glue and other substances.

Although that is an important subject, I want to talk about higher education and the curricula—

Mr. Hind

If the hon. Gentleman had been in the Chamber from the beginning of the debate, instead of being wheeled in to waste our time, he would know that the debate is about schools and further education.

Dr. Marek

Higher education is contained in further education.

Mr. Matthew Parris (Derbyshire, West)

Perhaps I can assist the hon. Gentleman. Although the debate is on further education in schools, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State dwelt, without apology and at length, on the grant cuts that have arisen from the autumn statement. Many of us would like the opportunity of speaking on that subject as well.

Dr. Marek

I think that this is a wide-ranging debate. I have read the motion and the amendment, and I think that I am in order. I hope that Conservative Members will make interventions, but that they will be interventions of substance and of logical argument and that they will not raise mere peccadilloes as to whether one is using the right terminology.

I shall concentrate on what happens to schoolchildren and on what is taught in schools and in courses of higher education. I was a lecturer at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, for nearly 20 years and, although I have not seen the report, I have it on good authority that this year the principal of that college said that some students do not now find places and that the situation is the worst since the last war. I stress that a principal and an eminently respected figure in the community has said that the situation is the worst since the last war.

It is not good enough for Conservative Members to give facile excuses about the problem being simply a question of a little more efficiency or economy, and I do not expect them to say that if only students were shunted from one institution to another everything would be all right, or that students numbers have increased, and so on. That principal understands the position, and he says that the situation in his university college is the worst since the last war.

There was a time when universities had quinquennial planning and were able to plan five years in advance. Such systems are efficient. If institutions, colleges and schools know what their resources are to be, they can plan for their starting numbers. They can also make projections about students numbers and plan efficiently. To be fair, the previous Labour Government must to a certain extent take responsibility, but what happened then is as nothing compared with what is happening now under a Conservative Government.

The rate support grant figures are often changed, and consequently local authorities are under pressure because they do not know from one year to the next what their financial obligations will be, or how much money they will have at their disposal in order to provide for the education services in their areas.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

My hon. Friend will be well aware that a bombshell has fallen on another section of further education and training with the announcement that the information technology centres' programme, which was supposed to be the jewel in the crown of the new training system, is to be cut. The Department of Trade and Industry will not top it up after this year. That is a cruel blow to what was supposed to be the jewel in the crown of a new sort of training for young people.

Dr. Marek

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that valid point. It might be carrying it too far to say that the Government should be interested in education above everything else, but they should see education as a vital and necessary function of government if they are to provide for succeeding generations. Unfortunately, the Government put their medium-term financial strategy at the top of the list and are concerned with reducing public borrowing as far as possible. They do not like public expenditure, and it does not matter one whit whether generation after generation of schoolchildren are ruined, because the Government are not interested in that. They are concerned only with reducing public expenditure or the public sector borrowing requirement to, say, 1 per cent. of gross domestic product by some future date. That is a great pity.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the summation of the situation is that if the state has to provide it will cut that provision back to the minimum? The Government seem to believe in the policy that if one can afford it one can have it, and that if one cannot afford it one will not get it.

Dr. Marek

My hon. Friend is quite right. One has only to look at the figures for assisted places and private education to see that that point is proved. The Government are against public expenditure. The Department has even produced various figures for students entering colleges and universities, but they are quite unrealistic. Some of those figures have had to be changed. The DES "Report on Education 100" brought the figures up a little, but suffice it to say that the University Grants Committee does not believe in the X or Y variants for projected student numbers. It is all part of the Government's grand design to reduce public expenditure. Meanwhile, education suffers.

I support education as an end in itself. I support the notion that anyone — whether a school child, student, worker or pensioner—should be able to avail himself of education if he can benefit from it in any way. It is the Government's duty to provide a system of education in which that can be achieved.

I want to ask the Secretary of State a question, but unfortunately I think I know his answer. I have heard him say different things during Question Time on education, but everyone has a chance to redeem himself. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that education should be available to all who can benefit from it? If he does not, why not? Surely the nation's wealth is in the generation that is growing up. We shall pay dearly if we waste talents.

The Clwyd county council is going through its budgetary exercise. Class sizes in the county are among the largest in Wales, but the council plans to cut the number of secondary school teachers by at least 122. That is planned so that the grant holdback provisions will not be too onerous. It is a substantial cut that is proposed by the officers. If they had decided to produce a budget with no holdback, many more teachers would be involved than the proposed five or six in each comprehensive school.

One headmaster has written to the parents of each of his pupils. He said: Quite simply it will mean that the school will not be able to provide the depth and variety of education that is the right of every child in the country. To be more specific: the 'O' level and CSE groups in Welsh, French and Religious Education will have to be combined. Examinations groups in Physics and Child Care will disappear. It is deplorable that an important subject such as physics will disappear. Certain computer studies and design groups will also disappear if the cuts take place.

The letter continued: German, Modular Technology, Pottery and Domestic Science are all at risk. All classes will have increased numbers. The school concerned is Ysgol Bryn Alyn. It says something that a headmaster feels so strongly about what is happening to his school and the provisions for it that he has to write such a circular letter to every parent.

I find the situation deplorable. If the Government have any sense, and if they care about the wealth of the country and the generations to come, they will do something quickly.

The Teacher of 28 September 1984 says that half the schools studies in a survey used the help of unpaid parents to undertake essential school work. That cannot be right. If we want a proper education system we must pay for it. I am not saying that we are squandering money, but education costs money and needs investment. Eventually we shall be repaid, because we shall produce a civilised and educated population to create the wealth that we need.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

My hon. Friend referred to parental help in schools. In which type school and in which areas do we expect the most help from parents? Does not the need for such help emphasise the divisions in our education system?

Dr. Marek

That is a valid point. I do not like the terms "middle class", "working class" or "ruling class", but the middle classes can afford to provide the textbooks and "minding" duties at certain times. They can afford to provide the little extras. In working-class schools, where there is the greatest deprivation, such extra help cannot be provided. Parents have no incentive because they know that even when their children are educated there will be no jobs for them.

Yesterday the Clwyd education committee voted not to implement cuts, but to go for a standstill budget for next year. That has to be ratified by the full council, but if a standstill budget is agreed and I were to ask the Secretary of State for Wales what he thought of that he would say that he would have seriously to consider rate-capping Clwyd county council next year. That is deplorable. We should try to unscramble the mix so that we can provide an education system which our people deserve and from which they can benefit.

In recent months steps have been taken to try to decrease the term of the standard three-year degree course to two years. There are arguments for doing that. Education is a life-long process and some people want to spend one or two years in further education before gaining vocational experience and then going back to education. I see the argument against the standard, rigid three-year pattern.

I suspect that the Government are trying to make the change because of their overriding desire to cut public expenditure. I hope that the Minister can reassure me. I hope that if changes are made it will be because of the desire to improve the balance and increase the mix of courses to allow different students to complete their education in the way that they wish. That is important to the development of education.

The two-year course for the diploma of higher education, introduced as a result of the James report in 1972, required two A-levels for entry. It was not a success and was abandoned because it was thought to be second-rate. I do not want the Government to pile on the agony by trying to make the majority of students enrol for second-rate education courses.

Three years are necessary for most courses. Students need a year to get used to higher education, which is different from that which they receive in school. Then they need a second year to digest the education. Only in the third year do they see the design of the course and the education system. Three years is particularly necessary for engineering courses. Some people are pressing for a four-year engineering course. Vocational courses often last five or six years. A law course at university takes only three years, but students have to continue studying beyond that. Medical courses also take longer than three years.

I hope that the Secretary of State will resist his Treasury taskmasters when they ask him to squeeze another £100 million out of the higher education budget. I hope that he will say, "No. So far, but no further." We must have a higher education system of which we can be proud and which will produce engineers, doctors, professionals and, more than that, a better-educated and therefore wealthier and more civilised nation.

I wish briefly to discuss course content. There have been little babblings from the Department about what should or should not be taught in our schools. What we teach, how we teach it and when we teach it is important to educational development. The Secretary of State complained bitterly about the content of the sociology course at the Open University. He said that economists had told him that it was wrong. Of course, those economists are his own paid lackeys. The right hon. Gentleman has instilled changes into the course. He should be careful about doing that, because extremism in both directions —Fascist and Stalinist—starts from such actions.

We know what happened in Germany before the second world war, and we know what is happening in Russia today. It tells its teachers that they must teach Marxism. If I told Conservative Members that our schools must teach Marxism between the hours of 9 am and 10 am every Monday and Wednesday, they would howl me down with screams of protest. The Fascist ideas in Germany resulted from the abandonment of consensus on what should be in a core curriculum. The Secretary of State said that our schools should teach history. He said that we should be proud of our past. If that is taken too far, it could lead to sad results.

I know of one or two actions of which I, as a British subject, am not very proud. I wonder whether anyone is proud of what we did as a nation in the opium wars in China. I wonder whether that is taught in our schools. It should be, because it is part of our history.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we should be proud of the fact that we are able to learn from our history? We do not have distorted history. It is important to teach that history and to learn from it.

Dr. Marek

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. However, there should be a balance of all types of history. I shall give a few more examples—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] Oh, yes. Conservative Members have been taught about the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo, about the capture of the Falkland Islands and the turfing out of the Argentinian Governor 200 years ago. There is more to our history than that. I am making a serious point about the development of education. It is central to the motion and the amendment.

What about the treatment of conscientious objectors in world war 1? We are now beginning to learn of the Fascist and racist attitudes of the ruling classes during the 1920s and 1930s. We may have to wait for a few more decades before all is known.

We cannot be proud of what we have done in India. We used the Indian Army to police the whole of the Empire. That was paid for by the taxpayers of India. We destroyed India's textile industry. How could we be proud of the Amritsar massacre? Is that taught in our schools? What about the secret treaty of London in 1915 to bring Italy into the war? I wonder how many children are taught about that. There was our appalling intervention in Russia in 1918—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)

Order. This is interesting history, but I am finding it a little difficult to relate the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the motion before us.

Dr. Marek

My remarks are central to the motion, because I am referring to educational development. It was the Secretary of State who said that we should teach history in a certain way. I must mention Ireland, our non-action after the potato blight, the highland clearances and the use of torture since 1945 in Northern Ireland, Kenya, Palestine and Cyprus. Of course, there are good parts to our history. My point is that we should allow our schools the freedom to teach. There should be no interference by the Secretary of State. This country has always believed in religious freedom, free speech and political freedom. We should also have the freedom to educate according to the wishes of our community.

Of course, I accept that there is an argument for a core curriculum. Everyone should learn certain things. No one would dispute that everyone should be numerate and able to multiply nine by seven and come up with 63. However, at a higher level of education there may be some argument about what should be taught. Some people may say that in the first year of university a mathematician should know how to solve linear differential equations with constant co-efficients. If there is a general consensus that something should be taught, it should be considered for inclusion in the core curriculum. However, if a body of opinion believes that something should not be taught, the Government should not impose that core curriculum against its wishes, because that would be to embark upon extremism. No nation can walk the road to righteousness without any guilt. Everybody feels guilt. Nothing is white and nothing is black.

I hope that the Secretary of State will consider the two major points that I have made in my speech. Irrespective of what the right hon. Gentleman says, local government does not have the facilities to provide a proper education system. Any of my hon. Friends could give countless examples of that—deprivation, not sufficient textbooks, bad school meals, not sufficient equipment and recreational equipment, not sufficient teachers and not sufficient subject possibilities.

One of the major causes of the problem is that, although the Government say that it is for the county councils to determine their priorities, we all know that the county councils have no fat left on them and that their financial priorities are limited. They have a difficult job to do if they are to provide any sort of moderate education provision. Will the Secretary of State stand up for education and ask for some education expenditure to be closed as disregarded expenditure? That would be a step in the right direction. I suggest that he goes to the Treasury to hear what it says. It will say no, of course, but we would judge him by the progress that he made in that fight.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take into account the comments that I have made on a core curriculum. If we are to impose a core curriculum with the aim of furthering education development, it can be introduced only if there is consensus among the community at large that it is the right thing to do. That will be necessary wherever it is introduced and at whatever level.

7.21 pm
Mr. Matthew Parris (Derbyshire, West)

I mean no disrespect to Opposition Members who know that they have spoken at great length, who have never been less than engaging and who for all I know are experts on the subjects on which they speak, when I say that Conservative Members know as well as they do what it is like to try to sneak across the lobby only to feel the heavy hand of a Whip on their shoulder. The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) must feel a sense of great bitterness when he considers the immense contribution that his once great party has made to education and at the same time surveys the empty green Benches behind him.

Mr. Sayeed

This is the first Opposition Supply day of the Session and one would expect Opposition Members to talk about a subject which concerns them passionately. The degree of passion which they feel for education is revealed by the presence now of only six Labour Back Benchers. There have been no more than four, five or six throughout the debate.

Mr. Parris

I agree with my hon. Friend but I shall not pursue that line. I am the last person to attempt a tour d'horizon of education—

Mr. Pawsey

May I gently draw my hon. Friend's attention to the few Labour Members present in the Chamber and to the lack of alliance Members? My hon. Friend might care to speculate on the whereabouts of Social Democratic party and Liberal party Members. These are matters that perhaps my hon. Friend should refer to and we look forward with interest to what he has to say.

Mr. Parris

I shall resist the temptation to do so and I shall speculate no further.

I planned to say a good deal on primary and secondary schooling, but almost all of it has already been said by my right hon. and hon. Friends and so I shall not repeat it. I am restrained from launching into that subject by the immensely kind and courteous way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn), the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, received a small delegation from my constituency earlier this week to talk about the proposed closure of Hazelwood school. I shall say no more on that subject beyond venturing to him the thought that a county council which is about to spend £50,000 on recalling all school stationery to have it overprinted with "Derbyshire supports nuclear-free zones" might find it in its heart to keep going a smashing little school. I very much hope that my hon. Friend will come to the same conclusion.

The debate earlier in the Session on higher education preceded the autumn statement and a number of contributors to the debate have referred to the increases in parental contributions for which the autumn statement has paved the way. I hope that, as a vice-president of London Conservative students, I shall be forgiven for saying a few words about the increases.

I do not pretend that the levels of student grants or parental contributions are the most important subjects in further or higher education. The most important element is the maintenance of our institutions and the improvement of the quality of teaching within them.

Mr. Bermingham

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that in the area which he represents the issue of student travel grants is of considerable importance because of the distances that students have to travel outside the Matlock area? The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I know the area fairly well. Perhaps he will agree with me that the cost of travelling to college in Derby, Sheffield or surrounding areas, where specialist facilities are available, is of importance to students in the area.

Mr. Parris

The hon. Gentleman interrupted my flow. In common with many other hon. Members, I intended to lay the ground, by a statement that I did not suppose that what I had chosen to speak about could be considered the most important matter in the world, for an explanation that I considered my chosen topic to be rather important. I accept that the levels of student grants and parental contributions must always take second place to maintaining the institutions and the teaching within them, but that has become precisely the problem for students and their parents.

When, as now, there is a shortage of resources, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has to take difficult decisions in deciding where the resources should go, when he has to choose between maintaining the level of the student grant and keeping parental contributions at the current level, and when he has to consider cutting into the resources allocated to the institutions themselves, he must make his decision, as he has on the basis that the most important consideration is the maintenance of the institutions, and that that must be done sometimes at the expense of the level of student grants. He has made the right decision.

That has been done year after year, and every year we have snipped a little more around the edges of the living standards of students and around the edges of the provision that we make available to help parents to maintain their children at college and at university. That snipping has continued over the years and it has been felt every year that there are more important things on which to spend the money than student grants and parental contributions. That will be the position every year, but the result of the snipping is that the real value of student grants has fallen steadily and the assistance that the state is able to give parents has similarly fallen. We are approaching the stage at which many students and parents will find themselves in genuine difficulties.

The changes unveiled in the autumn statement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer mean that parents with an income of £13,000 will have to pay an extra £79 a year—an extra 10 per cent. on their previous year's contribution. Parents with an income of £18,000 will have to pay an extra £333, or 26 per cent. more than they did in the previous year. Those with an income of £20,000 to £22,000 will have to find an extra £725, or 46 per cent. more.

These increases will make life very difficult for students. They face difficulties when their parents are unwilling or unable to pay their full share of the contribution. There are difficulties for students who have to maintain themselves even on the full grant because its real value has fallen by about 16 per cent. since the grants were set and instituted in 1962. The real value has declined in London by 32 per cent. All these factors make life increasingly difficult for students in higher education.

I accept that my right hon. Friend has made the only decision open to him. I accept also that when resources are scarce the institutions and the quality of teaching within them must be protected almost at all costs. However, I hope that my right hon. Friend understands that student grants have been cut by about as much as students are able to stand and that parental contributions will have to be increased accordingly. That will be a sharp and cruel blow to many parents. It would not be fair to go very much further along the road that the Government and previous Governments have been following.

7.29 pm
Mr. Michael Carttiss (Great Yarmouth)

I began my teaching career in those expansionist and exciting years under the Administration presided over by the present Earl of Stockton, whose maiden speech in another place yesterday I much appreciated hearing. The early 1960s were a challenging period in which to begin teaching. It was a time of great optimism, when bringing the advantages of further and higher education to many more young people was seen as not only a major opportunity but a necessity. As a teacher starting then, I had the pick of any job. There had been the beginnings of the expansion of higher education during the Macmillan years, but there were too few teachers for the jobs available. It was a time when we saw ahead falling rolls, eventually bringing smaller classes with all the benefits that they mean in education.

The spirit of optimism then, when as a new entrant to the profession I was perhaps more enthusiastic than I became later, contrasts to some extent with the times in which we live today. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. Hughes), who talked about the collapse of morale, but one must recognise that there is low morale today in many school staff rooms. It must be recognised also that, in many classrooms, young people look to the prospect of obtaining employment with increasing pessimism, and we must not ignore that aspect.

There is much that is positive in the contemporary education scene. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has brought to his office a candour and an intellectual honesty that has rightly challenged many of the practices that became accepted in the 1970s and that are now widely regarded as having led to much that is second-rate. As we have been clearly reminded more than once today, my right hon. Friend has presided over a period during which pupil numbers have fallen more than teacher numbers, so that at 17.8 pupils per teacher we have the best pupil-teacher ratio ever.

Expecting that there would be more Opposition Members present, I wrote that no amount of mocking from the Opposition can deny that fact—but there is no one there to mock. The best we heard came from the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek), who condemned the Governments of the 19th century. We are now in the 1980s, and if the hon. Gentleman had had much to say that he felt would condemn the Government's policies, I am sure that he would have said it.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

It seems that the hon. Member is not looking carefully around the Chamber. If he does, he will find that there are almost as many Opposition Members present as Conservative Members. If the hon. Gentleman is so worried about the improvement in pupil-teacher ratios, is he satisfied with the fact that more than 1,250,000 children are taught in classes of more than 30 students and more than 170,000 children are taught in classes of more than 40 students?

Mr. Carttiss

I do not think that anyone would be satisfied with anything in education that does not represent the ideal that Rousseau saw as acceptable. We must live in the real world, where the parents of those children must pay taxes and rates and are already finding that burden too heavy.

The view that more money will mean better standards comes across the whole time. What goes on in our schools depends less on finance and more on personnel—the teachers. One of the disadvantages in the great expansion of teacher training places in the 1960s was that some entrants were inadequately prepared and were not motivated for the profession. I welcome the commitment of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the need for a regular appraisal of teachers' performance. He has rightly emphasised that there is an absolute requirement for that.

Except during the probationary year that so many of us went through when we entered teaching in the 1960s, we were never examined for competence in the classroom. We were never required to submit ourselves to objective assessment.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

Will the hon. Gentleman define what he means by "objective assessment"? Who is to conduct those systems of appraisal of teachers in the classroom?

Mr. Carttiss

The profession has often sought to exercise its ability to judge the quality of its members, and there would be considerable encouragement of that aim. The teaching profession has sought to establish itself—I have been a member of it and have sought to back its campaign—to obtain the sort of competence that would be judged acceptable by those fellows who are successful in the profession. Teachers in the classroom know very well the colleagues who are incompetent and those who are able and whose example they wish to follow. There is no difficulty in the Secretary of State introducing a method of objective assessment so that colleagues in the profession and the advisory service—in many parts of the country that service is highly skilled—have an opportunity to see people at work in the classroom more regularly than has been the case.

Mr. Sayeed

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is already an objective assessment of how schools are going — the HMIs' assessment? If it is possible to assess objectively what the schools are doing, it is, therefore, possible to assess objectively the performance of teachers, and that is already being done by professionals.

Mr. Carttiss

There is merit in my hon. Friend's observations, but I do not share his view that the inspectorate is necessarily the right body to perform that task. One would not necessarily see the HMI report on Norfolk as an example of everyday factual experience of teaching in ordinary situations, from which HMIs sometimes seem to be distant. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is carefully considering that aspect. I hope that colleagues in the teaching profession will recognise that nothing but good for their status and the regard in which they are held in the community can come from a method of objective assessment. Many teachers are undertaking objective assessment now. I talked about people entering the teaching profession in the 1960s when I started, and how they were not assessed more than once in the one year of their probationary service. The fact is that many of those teachers have gone on to take Open University courses. They have taken on part-time degree courses at their local university. Within the profession, a large body of people have already sought to improve and extend their qualifications and expertise. The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), who left the Chamber a few moments ago, and the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) were right to speak highly of the majority of teachers.

Between 1971 and 1981, the population in Norfolk increased by 70,000. Proportionately, that is a larger and faster growth than most other counties have experienced. It represents a faster growth than for the nation as a whole. Although recently there has been an increase in the birth rate, that population growth comes mainly from people moving from other parts of the country — often, it seems, from those parts of the country administered by profligate and high-spending Labour-controlled authorities. Although we experience the problem of falling rolls in some parts of the county, schools are overcrowded in others.

The HMI report on national trends published in 1982 expressed anxiety about resource provision in four local authorities in particular. That led to Norfolk being condemned as one of four local education authorities at the bottom of the league. The then chief inspector and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State have emphasised that that did not refer to performance, but it led the county council to ask the HMI to make a general survey of four specific areas of the county. The report gained national attention at the beginning of this month and prompted a letter in The Guardian from the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice), most of which I agree with.

Although I have had some doubts about the practical day-to-day teaching experience of HMIs generally, to which I have already referred, on the whole I should not wish to denigrate the value of their report about Norfolk, nor would I dispute most of their conclusions.

The education committee of which I have been a member for 17 years cannot escape its share of responsibility for some of the criticisms in the report levelled at the lack of resources. The county council, rightly in my view, has consistently sought, year by year, to limit its expenditure. It has been economical since the distinguished Labour Secretary of State for the Environment, Tony Crosland, said, "The party is over," in reference, all those years ago, to the need to restrain local government spending.

Norfolk's net expenditure on education for 1983–84 was £104.8 million. That was almost equivalent to the assessment of grant-related expenditure on education for rate support grant purposes. If the county council budgets at the same level—allowing for inflation—to provide for the same requirements next year as it financed last year, in Norfolk we shall be running into penalty. I ask my right hon. Friend to draw to the attention of the Secretary of State for the Environment the need to look again at the way he and his Department have been dealing with the consistently low-spending local authorities in East Anglia, because the major part of county council expenditure is on education, and that is where we cannot contemplate more reductions.

Norfolk has already gone on the long road towards rationalising and economising in the provision of school dinners. I can never understand why people become upset about children choosing chips and gravy. I suspect that only about one child out of 200 in any school goes for that abomination. Most children have their pocket money and buy what they want. Those who are entitled to a free school meal have it to the value of 50p and they do not have to spend that on chips and gravy; they can spend it on a piece of meat and plenty of salad. I reject the view that we should not be studying means of economising on our school meals service to enable money to be spent on school books and equipment and to provide teachers. That is something that Norfolk has done.

Dr. Marek

I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman could find anywhere in the country where he could have chips and meat for 50p. If the children have 50p, I am sorry to say that it is chips and gravy for many of them.

Mr. Carttiss

I have had the privilege this morning of showing around the House 40 young people from a middle school in my constituency. I should be delighted for the hon. Gentleman to have lunch with me there. For 50p plus VAT for adults, he will find that he can have chips and a piece of meat at the West Flegg middle school, Martham, as I know.

Mr. Bermingham


Mr. Carttiss

Many of us in Norfolk took a long time to be convinced that bringing in a comprehensive school system would achieve improvements in the quality of education. Some of the problems identified in the HMI report relate to anxieties that some of us had about comprehensive schools generally. I do not regret the fact that reorganisation came about eventually, but at a pace that we thought was right. Incidentally, the legislation put through the House by the then Socialist Administration, denying local authorities the right to determine their own system of education, represented then a major infringement of local powers that makes the current cries from the Opposition Benches about rate capping hypocritical in the extreme.

Our unwillingness in Norfolk from 1974 to 1978 to abolish our grammar schools led to the then Labour Administration declining to approve various capital expenditure schemes unless they led directly to a comprehensive school system.

The anxieties to which I have referred are not unfamiliar and are related to the possibility that Much of the work of secondary school pupils would be geared towards those of average ability. That was the anxiety that we felt about comprehensive education. That is one of the judgments on some of the schools in Norfolk today that we read in the HMI report. It also says that it is a problem by no means confined to schools inspected in Norfolk.

We must support and encourage the teachers, and I believe that hon. Members are interested in and keen to give teachers the praise that they rightly deserve for the enormous amount of time that they give up during their lunch hours and evenings. It is a pity that some of their leaders in the professional associations, which have now affiliated to the TUC and see themselves more as industrial bodies than professional organisations, do not show the same recognition of that dedication to duty. That is not a question of spending policies.

There is more that I wish to say but, in contrast to the hon. Member for Wrexham, I know that several other Conservative Members are anxious to contribute to the debate. I welcome my right hon. Friend's initiative on the curriculum. It needs to be broadly based, relevant and balanced. I was interested in the comments about ensuring that everyone knows all about the opium wars. I thought that the modern trend in the so-called progressive element was towards peace studies—to show everyone how, by throwing down our arms, we would ensure peace. That was the mistake that the Chinese made in 1840–41.

The Secretary of State has spoken about the common ground that exists in the House. Notwithstanding the remarks that I have happily provoked from the Opposition Benches, which earlier had seemed dead, I believe that there is common ground between us. I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has shown his ability to agree in some measure with some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Durham, North.

There is much more to be said, but I believe that the Government's current education policies can be backed with complete confidence. However, while more money does not mean, ipso facto, better education, we need to recognise that less money will not produce a higher quality of education.

7.50 pm
Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

To a great extent this debate has dealt with English matters, but it would be wise to remind ourselves of several universal truths.

I should like to ask the Tory, party several questions. I have been stimulated to do so by the extraordinary speech by the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Carttiss). I sometimes wonder who on earth teaches the members of the Tory party. There must be a special little school producing those extraordinary philosophies and ideas—from chips with gravy to chips with everything. I do not think that anyone will disagree when I say that this is the most mean-minded and philistine Government that Britain has suffered since the 17th century. Charles I was not bad but this Government—

Dr. Godman

My hon. Friend is being too harsh on the English.

Mr. Buchan

Of course, Charles I was Scots, but he had particular problems.

This most mean-minded and philistine Government have a hatred of learning. I should like to examine what has been done by them and by the Secretary of State. I should like to remind hon. Members of the wise words of Marghanita Laski, who wondered what on earth would be the response if we had no libraries, but someone, for example in the Greater London council or the House, stood up and said that he had a good idea, stating, "Let us put up a building, four walls and a roof, put shelves in it and books on the shelves, and let people borrow the books free of charge." Imagine the reception that that idea would get from Conservative Members, who would see it as another phenomenon of Red Ken, and as the Left paying out more public money. Victorian philanthropy introduced libraries, and it is several degrees more progressive than the present Tory party. It is extraordinary, but that is precisely what would happen.

What worries me are statements about books by the Minister for the Arts, Lord Gowrie, who is also responsible for libraries. He made an extraordinary speech when opening a library — one of the products of Victorian philanthropy that Tory Members seem to hate so much—deploring the fact that not enough was being charged. He recommended the library to charge for every possible service related to it. He recommended that where it was legal for the library to make charges it should do so, because, if a charge was made, the user would appreciate what he or she was getting. It is an extraordinary philosophy that when a charge is made the user will appreciate what she or he is getting. There is only one profession of which that would be a proper description —prostitution. The prerogative of the harlot through the ages has now become the philosophy of the Government.

The Tory party is the party of gentlemen. The definition of a Tory gentleman is someone who develops a life of enhanced leisure. The Tories are making sure that plenty of leisure is given to people. There is leisure for the unemployed, but they will not let it be enhanced leisure.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Did my hon. Friend notice that the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Carttiss) admitted that he thought that the Government should spend more, so he pleaded guilty to the charge that there was a lack of books, to which the school inspectors' report drew special attention?

Mr. Buchan

It is true not only of the hon. Gentleman's area in Norfolk but—

Mr. Spearing

But of Oxford too.

Mr. Buchan

Nothing is sacred from the juggernaut of the philistines in the Tory party, not even Oxford.

Another sinister development is the proposition that is going around in the Treasury to extend value added tax to books and publications. It is no use saying that the Government would not do anything as monstrous as that. They have been capable of it. For example, they have already extended VAT to takeaway food. There are only about three more areas left into which VAT can be extended. The first is children's clothes, the second is food, in addition to hot takeaway food, and the third is books and publications. Clearly, the Government do not want to arouse the anger of mothers by putting VAT on children's clothes. They do not want to face the contumely that would come with the extension of VAT to all foods. They had enough trouble with Chinese takeaways. That leaves books and publications. We know that their beady eye is fixed upon them.

That has never been repudiated. We have tabled question after question asking the Government to state publicly that they will no longer consider the proposition of putting VAT on books. They have carefully avoided doing any such thing. I should like to remind Tory Members that that proposition was last put forward, in August 1940 by Kingsley Wood, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. That was the time when Churchill was exhorting us to fight on the beaches, but the Government were saying, "Let us put a tax on books." What happened? The whole House of Commons, including A.P. Herbert, said, "We are fighting for the things that matter. We are fighting for values. We shall not put a tax on books despite the difficulty that this country is in." In the height of that crisis in the summer of 1940 that proposition was rejected by the House not only with contempt but in a gale of laughter. That imposition of VAT would have had to apply to all books, including the Bible and, as A.P.Herbert said, it would have been the first time in history that the word of God had been taxed.

But the Tory party is prepared to do that. It says, "Shakespeare—poof. The Bible—poof. Let us get the money in." That is what the Tories' concept is. They say that if it is good to make a charge, it is even better if one can add 15 per cent. to it. Thus VAT becomes a sort of good so that the customer will appreciate books all the more. If he appreciates being charged, he will appreciate it more if 15 per cent. more is added to it. I hope that before the night is out the Minister will tell us that the Government will not go ahead with the noxious proposition of putting a tax on books.

Mr. Powley

I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman is saying. I am not privy to any information as to what the Treasury might do in the next Budget, but is he aware that books and publications are subject to tax on the continent, in many European countries? Will he apply his mind to the thinking behind the actions of Socialist countries in the EEC that put a tax on books, periodicals and so on?

Mr. Buchan

I cannot think of any Socialist Government who initiated a tax on books, but the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that almost every country in Europe imposes a tax on books. That is precisely why we are worried. Tory Members want harmonisation of taxation. Furthermore, as costs are rising and as the ludicrous common agricultural policy continues, there is a growing demand for a bigger return from VAT. The Government have already increased by 40 per cent. this year the 1 per cent. on own resources. They can do one of only two things. Either they can increase VAT to meet the costs or they can broaden the range. When I have questioned the Treasury on that, I have been told that the Government's policy is to cut back on personal taxation, that is the tax on income, and to place tax on spending, in other words VAT. I challenge any Conservative Member flatly to deny that the Government will not tax books. I pause, as Shakespeare said, for a reply, but none dare reply, as they know that their Front Bench is capable of such a monstrosity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] If that is the case, I should like one Conservative Member to stand up and deny on behalf of the Government that they will not do it. They did not do it in 1940 when our backs were to the wall. Not one Conservative Member trusts the Government enough to deny it. That is the extent of their faith in their own Government.

If books and publications are to be taxed, there will be, by definition, a tax on knowledge and learning matter. A tax on learning and knowledge is a tax on democracy as it is not possible to have democracy unless there is an informed democracy. One of the problems at the moment is the profound attack on democracy that the present price of books presents, but that ignores the financial censorship that would arise from a tax on books. If Conservative Members do not remember 1940 they may remember when a tax was last put on publications. It was the Stamp Act of the 18th century, the result of which was Britain's loss of the American colonies. That is a hell of a price to pay for taxing books.

Dr. Godman

Might I compliment my hon. Friend on raising the level of the debate? That is to be expected as he is a product of the Scottish education system. Is he aware that the Western Isles council has had to make the sad decision not to buy any books for its libraries this year because of the Government's refusal to give it the assistance that it badly needs?

Mr. Buchan

I know about the acute problems of the Western Isles. My hon. Friend has given a sad commentary of the state of affairs to which the Government and their minions in the Scottish Office have brought us. If there was one thing of which we were proud in Scotland it was our devotion to learning, books and education. The Western Isles' main exports used to be herring and professors.

Dr. Godman

And master mariners.

Mr. Buchan

I apologise; I should have remembered my hon. Friend. The problem can be seen to be acute, not so much as a result of the philosophy of the Minister for the Arts, who believes that what has to be paid for is good for people — with all the dangers that that holds for schools and universities—as by considering who leads the Conservative party. When the Prime Minister was Secretary of State for Education and Science she was known by the children of Britain as Maggie Thatcher, the milk snatcher. Have we forgotten that? There is something else. It was under her vice-regal control of the Department of Education and Science that museum charges were imposed. It is important to education and to an understanding of the world that museums and galleries should be open to all. She ran into difficulties because many of the bequests in our museums were made on condition that they be shown freely. One thinks of the Erskine of Torry bequest by which the Government were so badly hurt when attempting to introduce charges in Scotland. The matter is serious because charges are being encouraged by the Minister for the Arts and because the maritime museum has been given permission to make charges. Permission has been given on the premise—the philosophy of the prostitute—that if a charge is made the user will appreciate what he or she gets. The Minister said that making charges will encourage people to go only if they have a real interest—so that they will not go just on a whim. I favour people going to museums and galleries just on a whim. None of us knows what sparks off a kid's interest and desire to expand knowledge. I would prefer that people went into a museum to shelter from the rain rather than just stand in a bus shelter.

We see the same attitude from the Secretary of State, who is no longer here—I was about to say, "Who is no longer with us", but that would, perhaps, be too good to be true—in regard to arts schools. The Government are pressing schools of art to amalgamate and merge under some phoney economic argument when the whole point of education in the arts is to have individuality in our independent free-standing schools or colleges of art. We can see the effects of that pressure on one of our great national institutions, the Royal College of Art. It will now halt entry into the department of environmental design. After allowing the freebooters of the 1950s and 1960s to despoil our cities, the Government are now stopping people from studying how to create a better environment. Entry is also being halted into the design education unit, environmental media studies, and the department of design research and the intake into the departments of painting, printing, photography, ceramics and cultural history is to be reduced. The Conservative party really hates culture.

Mr. Spearing

Yes, the Tories tax it.

Mr. Buchan

They are the new philistines. I regret to say that the Tory gentlemen have long gone.

The Secretary of State has concentrated on design but the best British design has not come from the consciously mechanical or industrial design schools. Many of the great advances in design for which Britain is known throughout the world in recent years have come out of the art schools. Fashion design, for example, came from art schools. Faced with all of this evidence, we realise that the Government dislike learning. They have a price for everything and a value for nothing. As a result, some institutions are fighting back. I was delighted to learn that deans of faculties of arts at most of our universities have formed a standing committee to defend values and to say that there is more to life than creating efficient robot societies. Learning is concerned with rather more than that.

Some of us will have to fight to defend civilisation in the face of this philistinism. Perhaps we can get just one mark of response from the Government today showing that they will no longer encourage charging for entry to museums and that they will drop the nonsensical proposition of taxing books. They should turn their attention to providing our people with the enhanced leisure that should be the result of education.

8.8 pm

Mr. J. F. Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

I hope that the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) will forgive me if I do not follow him down the road that he signposted. I found it interesting that he embraced Victorian beliefs. He talked about Victorian values and philosophy, and it is clear that he and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have much in common. Only on one thing did I seriously fault him. I was under the impression that we lost the American colonies because of a tax on tea, not a tax on stamps.

Mr. Buchan

I do not want to give a history lesson, but the most important factor in bringing together the 13 colonies was the Stamp Act, which was a tax on publications, papers and legal matter. The tea in Boston harbour was a nice little exciting coup d'etat rather than an effective cause.

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Member will agree with me that it was the exciting act of theatre in Boston that brought matters to a head and effectively led to the loss of the colonies.

I intend to speak to the debate, which is more than Opposition Members have done. The fact that they have had to wheel in speakers to talk about opium wars, India and Ireland, to bolster their argument, and to take up time, is an indication of the paucity of their thinking.

The opening speech by the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) was disappointing. It seldom rose above the level of the cheque book. Today we have been subjected, not to cheque book journalism, but to cheque book education. The Opposition do not seek to judge education by standards. They try to judge it by the amount of funding available. That seems to be the main thrust of the Opposition's argument. Their argument seems to be that more money automatically equals better education. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Durham, North has returned to his place. No doubt he will intervene in due course. The Opposition's premise is a doubtful one and is not borne out by the facts.

Concern about education is not new. Parents and educationists have felt disquiet for years. If there is any doubt about that, I remind the Opposition of the education Black Papers which my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) did so much to bring into being. They were published in the mid and late 1960s.

If Opposition Members do not like references to Black Papers, they should remember that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) initiated the great debate on education and educational standards in 1976. That debate was an attempt to draw attention to what was properly seen as a decline in standards. But if money were the answer, why did education not greatly improve between the years 1960 and 1980? [HON. MEMBERS: "It did."] No, it did not. Expenditure increased dramatically in that period. On primary schools it increased by 60 per cent. in real terms and on secondary schools by 44 per cent.

That is not the only measure that can be used to gauge the amount of spending on education and decide whether more money really equals better education. An alternative is to consider public expenditure on education as a percentage of gross domestic product. In 1960 the percentage in France was 3.4 per cent., in West Germany 3.7 per cent., and in the United Kingdom 4.2 per cent. In 1970 the percentage in France was 4.9 per cent., in West Germany 3.7 per cent., and in the United Kingdom 5.3 per cent. In 1980 the figure for France was 5 per cent., for West Germany 5.6 per cent., and for the United Kingdom 5.8 per cent. We have spent more than our competitors and yet we remain concerned about the quality of education. Opposition Members have not proved the connection between more spending and a better quality of education.

Mr. Radice

Opposition Members may have failed to prove the point, but the hon. Gentleman has just done so. Spending increased in the years that he mentioned, and examination results also improved greatly in that period. The percentages of those passing A-levels, those gaining five O-levels or more, and those leaving school with some examination successes rose in that period.

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Gentleman has not followed my argument. If what he says is correct, why was it thought necessary to produce the Black Papers? Why did the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth open the great debate? The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. Examination results improved, but they did not improve by 44 per cent. We were not getting value for the money invested in education. There is no automatic relationship between increased spending and an improvement in education.

Mr. Bermingham

Nobody said there was.

Mr. Pawsey

Opposition Members seem to be arguing that more money equals better standards.

Mr. Bermingham

Unless the hon. Gentleman did not take either A-levels or O-levels, he may know from personal experience that the standards required to pass O-levels and A-levels rose substantially between 1960 and 1980.

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Gentleman has not been listening, either. If that is so, why did his right hon. Friend start the great debate? Why were the Black Papers published? Why has there been concern among parents, teachers and Governments about the quality of education?

One cannot judge the education service by the funding. Funding is only one of the benchmarks that can be used. Perhaps a better reason for the expressed concern might be found in the reorganisation of education between the early 1960s and early 1970s. Can it be coincidence that it was during and after that major reorganisation that concern about standards properly began to surface? Can it be coincidence that the move away from a selective to a comprehensive system coincided with an expression of disquiet about standards of education? It is fair to say that Her Majesty's inspectors have drawn attention in report after report to the low expectations of teachers. They say that pupils are not stretched and that lower standards are tolerated.

Perhaps we could change all that by bringing together the more academic pupils. That would generate a healthy spirit of competition, which would stimulate their interest and that of teaching staff. I would not argue the case for another major reorganisation of education, but we should encourage the LEAs to allow the emergence of schools which would cater for the academically bright.

My right hon. Friend has already said elsewhere that he will consider any schemes for a gradual movement away from the comprehensive principle. It might be worth reminding the LEAs of that point. We should be spending less time arguing about money, and more time debating the education system itself.

I should like to put four questions to the House. First, does the present education system cater for the brighter pupils? Secondly, does it give job satisfaction to the teaching staff? Thirdly, does it provide value for money? Fourthly, and most importantly of all, could we not improve upon the present system? Even by the criterion of the Opposition, that more money automatically means better standards, we are not doing as well as we should. However, it is fair to remind the Opposition that spending per pupil in real terms has increased since 1979 and that the pupil-teacher ratio in the United Kingdom has never been better.

Incidentally, opposition Members might turn their attention, not just to the pupil-teacher ratio, but to the Opposition-Government ratio. It is surprising how few official Opposition Members are present for a debate initiated by the Opposition.

Mr. Radice

Where are the Conservative Members?

Mr. Pawsey

This is an Opposition debate, but the Opposition are having difficulty in sustaining it. That is my criticism of Labour Members, and it is a criticism that will stand. When hon. Members read the debate in Hansard, they will agree that Labour Members do not care about education. If they did, they would now be in the Chamber.

Despite what Labour Members say, falling rolls do not invalidate the figures that I have provided for pupil-teacher ratios and higher per-capita spending. The education service must respond to a dramatic reduction in pupil numbers. That is the choice of parents; it is not a draconian measure introduced by Whitehall. There is no Herod in Elizabeth house.

To emphasise the point about falling rolls, it is interesting to note that in 1977–78 there were 8.5 million children in our schools. By 1990 that figure will have dropped to 6.6 million. Such a remarkable reduction in pupil numbers represents a dramatic revolution that will echo through society for decades to come, and the implications of that revolution must be fully understood.

Recently, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has announced measures that will lift standards. I say that deliberately and despite the somewhat cavalier comments of the hon. Member for Durham, North. My right hon. Friend has sought to improve the quality of teaching by making available an additional £8.5 million for in-service training. He is ensuring that student teachers will spend about 15 weeks at the chalk face. Moreover, they will specialise in age ranges and in one or two subjects. He is making available to local education authorities a further £14 million to help them to employ replacement teachers, to improve training in school management and to help to overcome the problems of shortage subjects.

My right hon. Friend will be calling for a regular appraisal of teachers. Clearly, he believes that there is a positive relationship between well-trained teachers and higher standards. He is right to draw that conclusion, because education depends above all on the interaction of minds. The teacher holds the key. There is a fairly simple equation in education: if there is good head teacher, he will attract good staff; if there is good staff, it will be a good school. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am delighted to hear those echoes of agreement. I join Conservative Members in applauding the work of teachers, who do their best in what are not always the easiest of times.

Mr. Spearing

On Thursday of last week, in reply to an intervention in which I suggested that the Secretary of State wished to impose on teachers a cut in pay, the right hon. Gentleman implied that he would be willing to contemplate a little more pay for teachers, or even more than that, if they agreed to the system of evaluation that he is now presenting. If that is so—the Secretary of State is here and can correct me if I am wrong—does the hon. Gentleman believe that he will get the best from teachers by saying, "I will cut your pay unless you accept my system of appraisal, even if it is accepted as possible"? Would he be a good headmaster?

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Gentleman is using his parliamentary expertise to pose a question to me which, had he been here at the start of the debate, he should have more properly put to my right hon. Friend. Therefore, he will forgive me if I do not answer him. It will teach him to be here earlier next time.

I welcome plans for more parental involvement. Those plans will raise standards, because, irrespective of party dogma, parents will undoubtedly seek the best for their children. They are unlikely to promote peace studies, for example, if that promotion is at the expense of mathematics or English. Parents, using the powers which I hope they will receive in the not-too-distant future, will ensure that the standards at their children's schools are as good as they can be. Nothing concentrates the parental mind as much as their children experiencing the latest progressive fashions.

I read with some interest in The Times yesterday an article entitled, "Why Meacher was the last straw", by Mr. Eric Moonman, a former Labour Member of Parliament, who has now seen the light. He said: Members of local health authorities who are also Labour Party members are being asked, on House of Commons paper, to record, for the benefit of Mr. Meacher, details of the sex, age, political affiliation and voting habits of all members of the authority. That is what is happening in health authorities. If Labour Members have their way, how long will it be before a letter on House of Commons paper goes to school governing bodies? We do not want that. We need more involvement of parents in the schools which their children attend.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Pawsey

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but I am being pressed not to give way by my hon. Friends, who have a genuine interest in the debate. I have given way a great deal, so the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not do so now.

I was disappointed that no Labour Member referred to religious education. The subject interests many thousands of parents, and I hope that the safeguards with reference to religious education that were built into the Education Act 1944 are retained, because they are so important.

The Gracious Speech mentioned the European Court ruling on corporal punishment, and to comply with the ruling the Government will soon introduce a Bill. It is an unhappy matter. It is unfortunate that the European Court did not give sufficient consideration to the customs and traditions of the United Kingdom. We have used caning as a means of discipline for many years, but other countries have different systems. In France, schools believe in suspension, and when a child is suspended from a French school the social security benefits which are normally paid are not given for the duration of the suspension. That is a much more draconian punishment than the one we employ in the United Kingdom. It affects not only the child but the whole family, and that is to be regretted.

Eastern European schools operate a different system. The child's misdemeanours are posted on the notice board at the father's workplace so that all his colleagues can see what his child has been up to at school. How would Opposition Members take a Bill that sought to introduce that in place of corporal punishment? It is an unhappy business to recognise this court ruling. I realise that we have little choice if we are to remain within the law, but it is unfortunate that the traditions and customs of our country have not received fair consideration from the European Court.

8.30 pm
Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

A few moments ago the Labour party was accused of not taking education seriously, in a speech that, with great respect to the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), contained not only error, wrong assumptions and cant, but an over-large amount of rubbish. To start at the end, the hon. Gentleman does not know or recognise that we are the only country in the civilised world that seems to think that it is permissible for children to be beaten, sometimes in public, for their misdemeanours. The Americans, the Canadians, the Australians, the French, the Germans, the Russians and the Poles do not need to do it—across Europe nobody does it. Apparently, we have some hedonistic instinct that leads us to tolerate such behaviour. My only regret is that the Government did not have the courage to go all the way and ban corporal punishment once and for all. As sure as night will follow day, corporal punishment will come to an end in both the public and private sectors before the century is out. When it does, we shall have taken one further step on the road to civilisation.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)

Teachers are now being left very isolated, with few sanctions that they can enforce. In ideal circumstances, there would be massive parental support when there is indiscipline by the child in school. However, much consideration has to be given in these less than ideal circumstances to ways of providing support to teachers if corporal punishment in schools is to be finally banned. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that in the meantime we should not rush headlong until we have established sanctions that are acceptable and will be supportive of teachers in classrooms. On many occasions they have to face assault from unruly pupils.

Mr. Bermingham

The hon. Gentleman is trying to put the cart after the horse, as is normal. In removing corporal punishment, we are seeking to remove a barbaric practice that has been shown by psychiatrists to have effect in later life. As well as removing corporal punishment —this is why I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will follow the Opposition into the Lobby tonight—we should be putting into schools the support system that teachers need and deserve, and that are called for in our motion. The interesting difference between the Opposition motion and the Government amendment—a difference that occurs in many other matters—is merely of one missing word. The word missing from the Government motion is "investment", which is present in our motion. The Government seem frightened of the word "investment".

The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth failed lamentably to speak about investment. I do not propose to go over his speech inch by inch, because that would take a long time. His speech could be readily answered because it contained so many errors of fact. I agree that pupil-teacher ratios are falling, as are the numbers of pupils. Do we not have a heaven-sent opportunity as a result? We have the buildings, but we are now talking about mothballing schools, closing them or selling them. This is the Government of the quick buck. Anything that they can lay their hands on and sell , they will get rid of. whether it is playing fields, schools or whatever. What do they do with the proceeds? Do they invest in our industries or society? No — the money goes in handouts to their supporters, when it should be going into investment, because education is an investment in the future. It is an investment in the generations to come.

I am not satisfied with the standards in our schools. In the past 20 years, they have increased greatly, but they are still not high enough. I want to see more investment. I want children to be better educated. People should be able to go back later in their lives for further education, which is further investment in them as human beings and further investment in our society and in our future. That is the sort of education system towards which we should be moving, but we are not. At best we are standing still, and in some cases we are declining.

Over the past 20 or 30 years, HMI reports have said that only one fifth of LEAs have made satisfactory or better provision for library assistance, the programme of maintenance in schools has continued to be less than satisfactory or poor in 54 of the 97 LEAs, and in two fifths of the LEAs the provision of books and equipment was less than satisfactory. Nothing seems to be right—we are simply not meeting standards. Why is that? I have the horrible sick feeling that the reason is that many of the sons and daughters of Government supporters are in private sector schools. The rest of us can go to the wall in the public sector. I have said before and I shall say again that the Government's attitude is, "If you can pay for it you can have it but if you look to the state to provide it you will get the minimum to get by."

I welcome the movement from examinations to assessments in the Sheffield speech. I have some experience of the education world, having taught for about a year, been a governor of many schools and a vice-chairman of a further education college for some years, and having gone through the system myself. I have always felt that to judge a child on the results of examinations such as the 11-plus, O-level or A-level, which is one performance, is unfair. He or she might not be well or might have trouble at home, or have pressures on him or her. It is far better for the child's development during that year of schooling to be the measure of its advancement. That reflects the child's capability, so I welcome this movement.

However, I am worried about the problem of a national curriculum. Education is meant to reflect the area where the child is educated. The needs of Durham and of Surrey are in some ways different, because of the different environments, and education should reflect those environments. I am worried about the idea that "London knows best".

Mr. Spearing

Whitehall knows best.

Mr. Bermingham

My hon. Friend is correct —Whitehall knows best.

There should be certain levels in mathematics, science, English, history and other such subjects, but I do not accept the concept that the content of the history course can be laid down, because that can reflect a political view, and it worries me. There might be, just as there was last Session, a move by a Government Back Bencher to ban peace studies, for example. Children have a right to be taught such subjects. Once we begin to ban, to proscribe and to say that this or that shall not be taught, we are on the road to totalitarianism. It is the road that was trodden in Germany in the 1930s and in parts of Russia from 1918 onwards. It is a road where Big Brother or Whitehall knows best. That is what worries me about a national school curriculum. I do not object to levels of attainment being suggested and agreed by discussion. I object to dictation from Whitehall or anywhere else, because that is not in the interests of the children.

Many Opposition Members are deeply worried about education. We do not believe that we have yet put enough investment into it. We have improved it and, in many Socialist-controlled local authorities such as my own, levels of achievement have been improving. I know from personal experience as a member of a local education committee for some six years that levels went up steadily over that period. However, Opposition Members do not believe that we have gone far enough. We know that there is still a need for more. We know that improvement is necessary, and we are determined to see that society gets what it deserves, which is a first-class education service. But that requires investment, which we fear this Government will not make.

8.42 pm
Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

It has been rightly said in this debate that the standard of education has not changed for the worse in terms of resources since 1979. Looking at the amount of money spent on each pupil in our system today, we see that more money is being spent proportionately than ever before. The pupil-teacher ratio is better. We are spending £7.7 billion, which is a great deal of money and which compares extremely favourably with the year 1979–80, when only £4.6 billion was spent.

During that period, we have seen a great drop in the number of pupils. I do not seek to say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that the education system should merely stand still on that basis. The purpose of my argument is to encourage him to have vision, to look at the sort of education system that we want in the future and, therefore, to plan ahead.

I appreciate my right hon. Friend's problems. All of us do. We have an economy which is dependent to too large an extent on oil exports. We have to strengthen that economy so that, in the future, basic industries can produce, without the aid of oil, sufficient money to pay for good education and social services systems.

I was always brought up to believe that the time to plan was when one had nothing. In my opinion, this is the time to plan.

The position today is quite simple. We face a social revolution that we in the House cannot afford to ignore. In the future, people will not work in the way that they have in the past, on the basis of full employment. That being so, the sort of education system that we have to create is one that will prepare people for fewer working hours, for earlier retirement and for staying on longer at school. We should be planning that system now.

Two factors come immediately to mind. The first is the need for greater training and education for the jobs of the future, which inevitably will require skills. It will be no good to have no skill. Only those with skills will have jobs. We must also educate for leisure. That is the way that we must go and we must look at our education system in that light.

The days of the cycle in which one left the family and had a child, that child went to school and was educated, he left school, found a job and immediately began the cycle again, have gone. Society is changing fundamentally, and that is the message that we have to get across to the pupils in our schools. It is the educative function that we must get across to them.

I appreciate that there are problems today with funding, but looking to the future we must produce the best quality teachers. In my opinion, it is wrong that we pay a head teacher in a primary school £12,000. Bearing in mind the responsibility of the job, it is a wholly inadequate salary. A grade 1 teacher on scale 1 starting to teach earns about £75 or £80 a week take-home pay, with all his training. We have to rectify this for the future. We have to give people an incentive to go into the teaching profession. Only in that way shall we produce the best education system.

We face falling rolls in our secondary schools of dramatic proportions in the next few years. We must work towards protecting the curriculum base of those schools, and that means—

Mr. Dunn


Mr. Hind

I am glad to hear my hon. Friend say that. I agree that we must begin now and work towards it.

A third factor that I press upon my hon. Friend is the need for the implementation of the Warnock report and providing the resources for bringing disabled children into our schools and making sure that they are properly cared for and suitably able to be taught.

A fourth factor has already been alluded to by one of my hon. Friends. It is to take the politicisation out of our school system. At present, we have too much of it. The Lancashire education committee, with which I am familiar, provides a good example. There are areas of my constituency which time and time again elect Conservative councillors with enormous majorities, yet the schools and their governing bodies are dominated by Labour party supporters, who do not represent the community. I impress upon the House the need for governing bodies that are community-based. What is more, I do not mean just parents, because I do not go all the way with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in wanting to see a majority of parents. I want to see parents and teachers from the area.

I quote the example of a school in Aughton in my constituency, where a local councillor with a majority of 1,000 votes was removed from her post as chairman of the governors by a woman who stood against her and got fewer than 100 votes simply because she belonged to the party in power. That is quite wrong.

Still in Lancashire, I hear from governors and head teachers that where they have had chairmen of governors belonging to the Labour party they have been told not to press for further resources because those resources should go into other areas which were obviously of greater need. I could not agree more, but when it comes to televsion sets, videos and basic teaching equipment, surely they should be distributed on an equal basis. There are arguments for special teaching facilities for deprived areas, but they do not extend to painting walls and providing the basics in our schools. This should not happen, and we must prevent it in the future.

I quote another example, that of Aughton St. Michael's, a Church of England school. It was located on two sites, and an agreed proposal was put before a subcommittee of the Lancashire county council to locate the school on one site and to build two new classrooms. The chairman of the Lancashire education committee walked in and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are not doing this." All the governors and everyone else involved believed that the proposal was going through, but the whole thing was stopped there and then.

The introduction of peace studies is a typical example. Instead of allowing the subject to be dealt with in religious education, history or general periods, we are allowing politics to interfere. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) said, authorities such as Lancashire county council are doing one thing that should be stopped—putting politics before children.

We must have vision and that vision must include an increase in nursery education. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister has that in mind as an important objective as soon as resources are available. We have done a good job with the resources currently available. Let us now plan and build for the future the education system that we all want.

8.50 pm
Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)

As a Lancashire Member, I must first correct the impression given by the hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind) that the situation on governing bodies is a new development since Labour took control in 1981. When the Conservatives were in control at county hall they controlled every governing body in Burnley, although the majority of people there elected Labour county and borough councillors as well as a Labour Member of Parliament. I agree that there are problems with the present system, but criticism cannot be levelled at one particular political party. I agree that governing bodies should be more representative of the locality and that a county-wide basis is perhaps casting the net too wide.

I agree, too, that insufficient attention is paid to nursery education. Far more resources should be devoted to providing education facilities for the under-fives. Due to the foresight of the former county borough before local government reorganisation my area is fortunate in having good average provision in this respect, but I know that there is an acute shortage in many parts of the country.

In an age of new technology, a changing society and new developments in industry we must recognise that education and the leisure industries will have an increasing role in the future. We must accept that education will not end at the age of 16 or 18. People must be able to move in and out of education at all stages of their lives and resources must be made available to meet that demand, which will undoubtedly increase considerably in the years ahead

I do not speak as an education expert, although I was chairman of one governing body and served on many others before I was elected to the House last year. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. Hughes) that the morale of teaching staff is at a very low ebb. When I was chairman of a governing body I had the difficult task of choosing just one out of a very large number of applicants. I was also aware that many of those who were appointed were then unable to advance, due to the lack of movement. Voluntary redundancy terms have also had to be negotiated. Lancashire has recently had to announce that a further 200 voluntary redundancies will be necessary to keep within their budget constraints. It is regrettable that so many excellent teachers at all levels have had to leave the profession in recent years. The recent announcement is a further blow to education in the area.

My hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South also mentioned the shortage of books. Only last weekend my 15-year-old daughter, who is studying for O-levels next year, asked me whether I could photocopy her English literature book, "A Man for all Seasons", because there were not enough copies and she had to return it on Monday. Having been unable to buy a copy on Saturday, I had to photocopy the book at 11 pm on Sunday so that she could give it back on Monday. Acute shortages of this sort must be rectified.

Education will be a major growth area in the years ahead and it needs more, not fewer, resources.

8.55 pm
Mr. David Amess (Basildon)

I must correct the view of the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham), who implied that all Conservative Members came from privileged backgrounds and thus could not understand the problems of people living in the slums. I do not wish to cast aspersions on the house in the east end in which my parents still live and in which I lived for many years, but it could scarcely be described as a palace. I certainly did not come from a privileged background. I had an ordinary state education and I am delighted to say that I sit very comfortably on the Conservative Benches. The Opposition should not judge us so harshly. We genuinely understand the difficulties of people being educated in areas with housing problems.

The Conservative election manifesto last year contained a commitment to improve education standards. Bolstered by the Education Act 1980 we are now moving towards that end. Parental choice and reorganisation of governing bodies will all help towards that. Naturally, however, people become concerned and frustrated when progress is not so rapid as one would wish. Indeed, some people believe that in some schools under some local authorities there is not a full commitment to improving standards. Happily, that is not the position in my constituency, which is blessed with excellent infant, junior and secondary school teachers. They are hard-working and dedicated people.

Since January, however, we have faced unexpected problems because in the past 12 months more than £1,500,000 worth of damage has been done to schools by arsonists. There are 59 schools in my constituency and 43 of them have been attacked. I have appealed to Essex county council to launch an immediate inquiry into the security of our schools and I am glad to see that it is taking up the matter urgently. The local police and fire services have reacted marvellously in seeking the co-operation of local headmasters, residents and other affected persons to try to prevent any further attacks.

I emphasise that there is little point in worrying about education provision while our schools are inadequately protected. It must be the responsibility of all local education authorities to provide adequate caretaking facilities, suitable alarm systems and evening patrol security cover. There can be no doubt that all parents support us in our desire to see improvements in the standards of education. They rightly adopt the maxim that parents cannot give their children brains, but they can at least give them the best start in life.

The pupil-teacher ratio between 1950 and 1980 has decreased by 20 per cent., which many would say has helped tremendously. However, I smile when I consider my education in the London borough of Newham. I was often in classes of 50 and the teachers still gave us excellent tuition and kept order to a high standard.

I wanted to talk about the excellent college of further education in Basildon, but, unfortunately, time does not allow.

Education is one of those subjects on which everyone considers himself an expert, if only on the premise that at some time we have all been to school. Advice comes from all quarters—the Government, the Opposition, myself, teachers, parents, the unions, and so on. But before putting our clever theories forward we should remember that it is the future of young lives that we are talking about and, ultimately, the future of the nation.

9 pm

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

Most people in Britain can think of hundreds of reasons why we need to improve and extend education. Few can think of reasons why we need less education and why we should be contracting it. With all the arguments before the Secretary of State, the Chancellor should have had little chance to cut the education budget in his autumn statement. Nobody in Britain really wants tax cuts if they are at the expense of denying our children the opportunities that many of us have enjoyed.

The Secretary of State should have been like the stoat — able to mesmerise the floppy rabbit. Instead, the Chancellor has savaged the Secretary of State. Despite all the educational and social arguments, the Secretery of State has allowed his Department to be cut, and cut drastically.

It is amazing, having surrendered in that way, that he can table such a complacent amendment which talks about developing the skills and abilities of all children

Sir Keith Joseph

The hon. Gentleman keeps on talking about a cut. There is not a cut, either in money terms or in real terms. The hon. Gentleman could not have heard what I said. There is a 6 per cent. increase in money against a forecast of 4.5 per cent. inflation and a 2 per cent. fall in school populations.

Mr. Bennett

I am sorry that the Secretary of State seems to believe his own statements. The figures show a rather different picture. There is an increase of £540 million in the expenditure for next year compared with this year — 4.1 per cent. extra expenditure. But given inflation of 4.5 per cent. that is a cut of 0.4 per cent. The Department's press release talks about opportunities for improving services if, for example, there are further economies in caretaking and cleaning costs. The protection of educational spending depends on teachers accepting a pay increase, which I am sure none of them will find acceptable. Less money will be available for education next year.

Therefore, the Government amendment is extremely complacent. It will not do anything at all to improve education opportunities for the handicapped child or for the child whose parents are on supplementary benefit. It will deny higher education opportunities to many students, particularly those referred to earlier, whose parents disapprove of their behaviour or just do not think that higher education is suitable for them. In the next 12 months the Government will deny educational opportunities to many people.

I also feel very aggrieved that once again the Government are turning to school meals for further economies. There have already been many exchanges in the Chamber about the number of children who end up having nothing more to eat than chips and gravy. As a result, many of them do not get the full benefit from their education. There is considerable evidence that children are not alert enough in schools because of the conditions under which they are brought up. I think that it is now a joke among school kids that school dinners will not spoil their appetites in between the bags of crisps. That is a reflection of the way in which we have allowed food standards in schools to diminish.

In the past 12 months the Secretary of State has been trying to convince the country that student numbers will fall over the next few years and that resources for universities, polytechnics and colleges of higher education may be cut by 1 or 2 per cent. However, the country has decisively rejected that. So the Secretary of State, instead of accepting that student numbers should be increasing, is trying to achieve his ambition of fewer students by imposing a savage cut in student support. That is probably one of the worst aspects of the way in which the education service is being cut following the autumn statement.

In the Secretary of State's press release he has accepted a £18 million cut in capital expenditure for education. Not only will education suffer as a result but the construction industry and the capital equipment manufacturers will also suffer. The Secretary of State's press release assumes that there is a possibility of an expansion in the number of 16 and 17-year-olds staying on in education. My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster), the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South-West (Mr. Madel) and others have argued the importance of encouraging young people to stay on in education instead of drifting away into youth training schemes and so on. But the reality is that many drift away from education because of the economic difficulties of staying on at school. If their parents are unemployed, it is extremely difficult for young people to face up to staying on at school, with the extra costs and problems that it causes for the parents. It is high time that a comprehensive system of income support was introduced for those 16 to 19-year-olds who choose to stay on in education instead of going on the dole, joining youth training schemes or taking jobs which are perhaps not suitable for them and consequently force others on to schemes.

The hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South-West said that the Government—I am pleased to say—have been able to increase the amount available for in-service training. But the increase in money is extremely small. Over the country as a whole, I think that it works out at about £35 per teacher available for in-service training. Given the Secretary of State's long shopping list—and I approve of much of it— to try to improve education standards, the amount of money available for in-service training is pitifully small. If we want to make a reality of ensuring that most primary schools teach science effectively and improving the curriculum in secondary schools, far more money must be available for in-service training. It is a question not of getting one or two specialists retrained, but of giving most teachers the opportunity at some point in each 12-month period to obtain some in-service training.

When the Secretary of State issued his press release there seemed to be many areas in which he was apologising for cuts. But there was no reference at all to many other areas. The hon. Members for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) and for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind) drew attention to the Education Act 1980 and to the whole question of dealing with the special education needs of young people. The Education Act was right in principle, but it was a disgrace that the Government did not produce any resources to implement it. There are still no resources to implement it. Consequently, there are carefully prepared statements about the needs of those children but they only highlight the fact that there are not the resources to do the right thing.

The principles of the Act have been implemented, but we are denying them by failing to make the resources available. We do not have enough nursery places for handicapped children. When the legislation was going through the House everyone agreed that nursery education was important for all children, and that it was particularly important for handicapped children. We agreed that the education of handicapped children should begin as early as possible to help them overcome their handicaps.

No money is available to train teachers in ordinary schools to teach children with special needs. As a result, integration does not work. No money is available to adapt buildings. The Act places a duty on local education authorities to provide education for 16 to 19 year-old handicapped youngsters. Little provision is made for that age group. Any Secretary of State who tabled an amendment such as that on today's Order Paper should have on his conscience the fact that we are still doing far too little for handicapped youngsters in our education system. If we want to make the 1981 Act work we must find the resources.

The Department's press release says that the Secretary of State has asked the caretaking and cleaning services to pay for the extra books, the extra equipment and the repairs. It states: If costs can be contained and savings made elsewhere—for example, in caretaking and cleaning costs—there should be scope for some further improvement in expenditure per pupil compared to 1982–83 levels". The Secretary of State is being harsh if he expects the cleaners and caretakers to pay for improvements.

When I visit schools I am upset because I see pupils and teachers working hard. So often the lack of repairs and cleaning gives a wrong impression of a school. Many parents think that a school's standards are poor because of the lack of care and maintenance. We should now spend money on repairs and maintenance.

I often hear parents say that a school is in such a bad state that they should volunteer to do the cleaning or repairs themselves. We should not have to run our education system in that way, but I suspect that the Government are hoping that people will feel that the state maintains and repairs so inadequately that they should volunteer to do the work themselves.

The Government have talked about making a little more money available for books and other equipment. A critical HMI report was issued in 1981–82 and for a year there was a substantial increase in the money made available for books and materials. After that improvement, provision slipped in secondary schools and remained the same in primary schools.

What are the Government to do about school books? The rumour is that VAT will be imposed upon books. That is something for the Budget and it will be deplorable if it happens. It will have a crucial impact on the education budget for next year. A 15 per cent. increase in the price of books and other written materials means a 15 per cent. cut in expenditure. The Government must make it clear now that they will not impose VAT on educational materials and books. If they will not give that undertaking, I hope that the Minister of State will make it clear that he will compensate fully for any VAT on the education budget.

There is another area in which the Government's record is deplorable—nursery education. There should be better nursery provision for the handicapped. Despite evidence of the great benefit to children and parents of nursery education, there are no proposals in the autumn statement and there is no money available for the expansion of nursery education.

A large number of our primary schools have spare cash and capacity. A large number of unemployed teachers could attend conversion courses on nursery education. Indeed, we have a large number of unemployed nursery nurses. We have a considerable opportunity to expand nursery education, yet the Government appear to be determined to let that opportunity pass. In the EC, especially in France and Germany, nursery education is taken for granted. Almost all three and four-year-olds in those countries enjoy nursery education. Few three or four-year-olds—in Britain enjoy nursery education.

I think that the Minister is becoming worried about the Government's education policy. He is obviously upset about the mounting evidence in the HMI reports about the lack of resources. However, rather than acting on those reports, he is keen to muzzle their publication. I hope that he will come clean and say that he is fully committed to publishing the HMI report. It was his Government who began publication of the reports. I hope that he will make it clear that he has no intention of reneging on that.

The Minister does not appear to be too happy about the Secretary of State's belief in market forces; he is beginning to realise its disastrous effect on teachers. The Secretary of State continues to tell the House that there is no shortage of teachers, so they must be well paid. I find a shortage of trained people for craft, design and technology in almost every school that I visit. Many schools are short of teachers of physics and chemistry. The Minister appreciates that it takes time to train teachers—at least three or four years. Indeed, it takes longer than that. Third and fourth-year pupils must decide whether they want to be teachers.

While the Secretary of State relies on market forces, the Minister has gone out of his way to draw attention to a new film aimed at recruiting more primary school teachers. There has been a nice press release, and I understand that the Minister is becoming worried about the supply of primary school teachers. I am glad that he has said that an additional 2,000 must be trained each year in the late 1980s.

However, if that film is shown to a group of sharp third and fourth-year students, they will immediately ask how much the teachers are paid and how long is a teacher's training. The Minister can tell us that a newly trained teacher receives about £7,239 a year. No doubt one pupil in the class will ask how long is the training for a policeman and how much does he earn. It takes much less time to train a policeman than it does to train a teacher, yet that policeman earns almost £3,000 more than a teacher. I am glad that the Minister is launching the film with such enthusiasm, but he must look carefully at the teachers' rates of pay. The market economy will be as great an influence on recruitment as the film will be.

I understood the Secretary of State to say in his speech that if the teachers made a further sacrifice next year there would be a little more equipment and a little more of this and that. Teachers are bitterly disappointed with the way in which they have been treated in this year's pay negotiations.

If the Secretary of State expects teachers to accept a 3 per cent. increase next year, he will be disappointed. They will not accept 3 per cent. next year and he must realise that he will have to find some extra resources. If he does not, he will destroy morale to such an extent that any attempt that he wants to make to improve standards—an attempt that I believe the whole House would like to see — will be abortive. That will happen because of his failure to pay teachers an adequate sum and to make it clear to them that the Government have a belief in them.

It is unfortunate that the Government and their predecessors have had a tendency in recent years to seek far more central control of education, especially of the curriculum. It is unfortunate that the Secretary of State is not prepared to trust teachers, local education authorities, parents and pupils to decide what is relevant to them. It seems that he does not trust local democracy and that he feels that it is far easier for a Secretary of State to be able to dictate to local schools what they should teach rather than cajoling and persuading them to opt for a certain course.

Foreign language teaching fails almost the majority of the population. Even when students have managed to achieve O-level French, many of them have an almost total inability to communicate in French.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the courses that are being run at the St. Martin's teacher training college at Lancaster, which have spread the capacity to speak French at all levels throughout Lancashire and Cumbria? They are outstandingly good courses and there are graded tests. Even the parents join in. These courses should be spread throughout the country.

Mr. Bennett

I am well aware that some imaginative work is being done in some areas but I am aware also that the standard of many who have passed through the education system and passed the tests is very low when it comes to a practical use of the language. Central direction will not improve upon that.

In many areas there is a major problem in motivating children to learn a foreign language. Perhaps it is all too easy for us to think that we can safely assume that many in other countries will speak English. In many areas there will be greater motivation to learn a language other than French as a second language. It would be far more sensible of the Government to say that all secondary schools should aim at teaching youngsters a second language. It is ridiculous for them to say which language it should be. It would be far better for a decision to be made locally on the most suitable second language to teach.

It is especially unfortunate that the number of youngsters who have learnt Russian has declined steeply in recent years. There are very few people who learn to speak Japanese while at school. However, the Japanese are only too willing to speak English while selling to us. If we want to sell to the Japanese, those engaged in the selling should speak Japanese. How many schools are teaching either Russian or Japanese?

I think that almost everyone is keen to see primary science developed but it is extremely difficult to say what elements of primary science should be developed in a particular locality. It is clear that the skills that need to be developed in primary schools can be catered for through physics, chemistry, biology and botany. It would be far more appropriate for an individual school, depending on the environment and the skills of the teachers, to choose how to teach primary science instead of having the subject imposed from the centre.

I have said many times in the House that we proudly claim in Government publications that we have a free education service without acknowledging that there is a series of charges that impose problems for youngsters from families on low incomes or living on benefits. I am only too conscious of the fact that, when I was a young teacher, it seemed simple to say to parents that 50p was needed for a trip for geography field work or a history visit, never stopping to think that other people in the school were doing the same. As a parent, I am well aware that kids come home from school and say, "Can I have this? Can I have that?" Some schools have to supplement the local authority provision by running Christmas fairs, raffles and other fund-raising efforts. Many of those programmes place financial pressures on low-income parents.

I have referred to the problem of 16 to 19-year-olds and the numbers who ought to go on the youth training schemes rather than stay at school. A grant would make a great deal of difference to those students.

The way in which the Government handled the announcement on student grants was appalling. The Government have not yet met the National Union of Students to discuss this round of student grants. Unilaterally, the Government announced the abolition of the minimum grant and the imposition of fees on people who will not receive any grant.

When I challenged the Secretary of State about the problems of those youngsters whose parents will not even fill out forms because they disapprove of their sons or daughters going into higher education, he said, "Give us a solution." There should have been full discussions with the NUS and an attempt to solve those problems before unilateral action was taken.

There has been an amazing about-turn by the Conservative party. The Prime Minister, when in opposition, said that she wanted students to be independent of their parents. Last year and this year the Government moved massively in the opposite direction and have made increasing numbers of students more dependent on their parents.

I should have liked to have the time to discuss further education a little more. The House should return to this subject, to which it gives far too little attention.

Mr. Parris


Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

I shall not give way now.

We pressed the Secretary of State to tell us whether he was now satisfied that a compromise had been worked out between the local authorities and the MSC. We were not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman was saying that he was not satisfied with the compromise, or was saying that at that stage in the debate he did not want to say anything. The Under-Secretary of State should tell the House whether he is satisfied that a compromise has been worked out and where he sees it going. The proposals to take from the colleges 30 per cent. of the work in non-advanced further education which is vocationally orientated and give it to the MSC caused a great deal of in the colleges. That change seemed to be unnecessary.

I have no evidence that employers are dissatisfied with what the colleges are able to do. Many employers want the colleges to do more and to have better equipment, but basically they are not dissatisfied with what the colleges are going to do. That is another example of the way in which the Government want to remove people's democratic opportunities to influence colleges and hand the work to the MSC, which is in no way accountable to local democracy even though, to a certain extent—not all that great—it is accountable to Ministers. I strongly argue that we want clear information about how the Government see developments.

The Government should spend a bit more time looking at what has happened to apprenticeship schemes. Such schemes were crucial in many instances to feeding people through the process of further education into higher education. Because of the decimation of industry and the even greater destruction of apprenticeship courses, the approach through further education into higher education has disappeared. Much more time should be given to debating that aspect.

The complacency of the Secretary of State as shown in the amendment sums up his position. It seems that, at the end of his political career, he is losing his opportunities. [HON. MEMBERS: "Many more years".] Many more years? Well, let us see. It was my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) who reminded the House that the Secretary of State's career started with the high-rise flats. He went on to reorganise the Health Service. He was enthusiastic about monetarism in the 1970 to 1979 period. He was at the Department of Industry when he pretty well decimated British industry. He was the man who brought Ian MacGregor to this country. I do not believe that he can be pleased about that. In the Department of Education and Science he had an opportunity to repent of some of the crises that he created.

Instead of setting about doing what is necessary for education—many people agree with what the Secretary of State has been saying about education—he has failed to put the money where he has put his words. That is a fundamental failure. It is no good talking about raising educational standards, expanding educational opportunity or giving a fair deal to the handicapped unless the Government come up with the money. That is the problem. The Government's record in education has been one of cuts and a failure to take the opportunities to expand education when the money was available from North sea oil to do so.

We have had a tragic missed opportunity, but we shall not know what opportunities the country has missed in education until the Japanese come selling to us. I suggest that the House should vote for our motion and decisively reject the amendment.

9.31 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Bob Dunn)

Perhaps I should start by telling the House about a matter of particular pride for Conservative Members. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of his appointment to the Front Bench of our party.

This has been a most interesting, intriguing and, at times, strange debate. We have had speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Bedfordshire, South-West (Mr. Madel), for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths), for Salisbury (Mr. Key), for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden), for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Carttiss), for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Paths), for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind) and for Basildon (Mr. Amess). We have had a strange assortment of speeches from Opposition Members, from the hon. Members for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster), for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), for Knowsley, South (Mr. Hughes), for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), for Wrexham (Dr. Marek), for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham), for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) and for Burnley (Mr. Pike). I apologise for sounding like a railway announcer.

We hoped for great things during the course of the debate. The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice), on his appointment to the Opposition Front Bench, promised us last November a Supply day on education. He mentioned it once, twice or three further times, but we heard no more about it. That was promised and threatened over the past 12 months, but after today's performance and the general lack of commitment by the Opposition in the debate I rather suspect that the hon. Member for Durham, North wished that he had not bothered.

We have been here for the whole afternoon and we have listened with interest, care, calm and courtesy. As one of the nicest men in this place, may I say that I had hoped for rather more than we received. This debate was to be the showpiece. If it was the showpiece, I should love to see the Rolls-Royce model.

Mr. Radice

The hon. Member may have forgotten that at 6.53 pm on Tuesday 3 April 1984 he made a speech. His memory has plainly just gone.

Mr. Dunn

I remember the speech well. It was one of the best I ever made. As I am starting in a relatively good frame of mind, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member on his re-election to the shadow Cabinet. I am delighted that he was reappointed to the education brief. I am also pleased that he has rejected the invitation to join the alliance. I am delighted that he intends to stay in his own party to fight for the cause in which he believes, at least for the time being.

When the debate started, I expected a tremendous barrage of speeches, comments and points of view and, in truth, there have been many good speeches and sensible comments. But I must say, because I feel that I should, that there have been no speeches from the Social Democratic party and only one from the Liberal party. I am so disappointed—

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

But Conservative Members usually complain if more alliance speakers are called.

Mr. Dunn

Of course I am complaining. This is an Opposition day. If education is so important to the alliance, it is a pity that more members of it were not here during the day. Therefore, Conservative Members are more impressed by the eloquence of absent Members than by the nature of the speeches that have been made.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be an enormous improvement to many debates if there were no speeches from the Social Democratic party and the Liberal party?

Mr. Dunn

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but as we are approaching Christmas we must express charity and good will.

I have said that the Department of Education and Science can be a power for extreme good and, occasionally, for evil. In the five years that we have been in government that Department, under two Secretaries of State, has been a power for enormous good, dynamism and improvement in the education service. I remember a distant time when there was, in the words of one of my young son's books, a "wicked witch" called Shirley Williams who occupied the Department of Education and Science and did disastrous things. Her actions were supported by Opposition Members, veterans such as the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and others whose constituencies I have forgotten. During that time, there was an all-out assault on good standards and centres of excellence. Much of the blame for some of the faults in the maintained education service lie absolutely and resolutely at the doorstep of the Labour party.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth referred to the great debate started by the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan). At that time we all wondered why the right hon. Gentleman did what he did. He started the great debate, and there were headlines in the papers for about half a day. Then nothing happened. If one looks back at the course of education history and attempts to establish the high points of Socialist education policy as well as those of the Conservative party, one finds that at the time of that great debate there was not even a bang, but a whisper — [HON. MEMBERS: "A whimper."] Perhaps it was a whimper, or a Wimpy. But the fact is that nothing was done by the Labour party in many years of Socialist Government of which we and, I suspect, Labour Members can be proud.

In a recent debate the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) promised that expenditure on health by a future Labour Government, if ever there were one, would increase by 3 per cent. That amounts to about £500 million in cash terms. The hon. Member for Oldham, West said that that was the bottom line, which I assume is the minimum amount by which the Labour Government would increase expenditure. The hon. Member for Durham, North was canny when he was asked a question on expenditure by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in the House on 8 November. My right hon. Friend said that the hon. Gentleman must tell the House and the country whether he will commit a future Labour Government, if there ever is one, to provide more money for education via the local education authorities."—[Official Report, 8 November 1984; Vol. 67, c. 310.] In reply, the hon. Member for Durham, North talked about the relativities of defence and education expenditure. To be fair, the hon. Gentleman was caught on the hop. My right hon. Friend posed the same question again today and we received the same answer. I accept that expenditure would increase under Labour, but by how much?

Mr. Radice


Mr. Dunn

Let me finish the question first. By £100 million? By £500 million? Today, the hon. Gentleman gave a list of demands for more expenditure on this, that and the other and things yet to be thought of. The hon. Gentleman must ultimately put a figure on it.

Mr. Radice

There will probably be some time before the next election and I seem to remember that the Conservative party, when in opposition, did not put a figure to any of its plans until just before the general election. Indeed, I do not think that it gave any figures at all. We are committed to spending more on education. I shall certainly not give a precise commitment at this stage. I have no intention of doing that.

Mr. Dunn

I assume, therefore, that the hon. Member for Oldham, West is in the doghouse as he has done just that. If the hon. Member for Durham, North chooses not to answer the question as I should like, so be it, but I reserve the right to refer to it in future, and I shall.

The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland made a reasoned speech and some interesting points in a telling way. He asked me to comment on the concordat between the Manpower Services Commission and the local authority associations about the proposals on training for jobs. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) also referred to it. I understand that the chairman of the MSC has reached an agreement with the education leaders of the local authority associations which I understand the associations have endorsed. The Government welcome that outcome and are grateful for the co-operation that is now offered by the local authority associations. As the House knows, that will be in the interests of young people. I am sure that both sides of the House are delighted with that result.

I must thank the hon. Member for Durham, North for causing me to be on the front page of The Times Educational Supplement for five weeks running. He mentioned the HMI expenditure report. I should like to reiterate what my right hon. Friend said earlier today. We have no intention of varying the present and long-standing arrangements for securing the professional independence of Her Majesty's inspectorate. The practice of publishing HMI reports, for which we take credit, is new and we should all continue to think about how they can be used to the greatest benefit of the education service. That is especially true of the annual report on the effects of local authority expenditure policies.

My right hon. Friend warned about the dangers of oversimplification. I can understand why the press restricts itself to headlines about shortages of resources, but it is less easy to know why, despite all that has been said, Opposition Members insist on saying that levels of provision have got worse during the Government's term of office and that spending much more would automatically improve the quality of education in schools.

The most recent HMI expenditure report noted an overall improvement in resource levels and made it quite clear that the quality of teaching, the proper indentification of pupil needs and the effective management of resources are essential complements to the provision of resources in securing good education.

The hon. Member for St. Helen's, North—

Mr. Bermingham


Mr. Dunn

East or West, it does not really matter—commented on the absence of evidence from the past on which to make a comparative judgment. He did not hear my right hon. Friend observe that we did not have published HMI reports from earlier years so we could not know how low the base line had been in earlier years. We should remember that it was a Conservative Secretary of State who decided to publish HMI reports.

Mr. Bermingham

I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but would he not accept that we are not interested in comparisons? We are interested not in the past but in the future. We are commenting on the deficiencies shown in the reports, in the hope that the Government will repair them and that future reports will show fewer deficiencies.

Mr. Dunn

We are conscious of that point. My point is that, if some of the problems had particularly deep historical roots, earlier publications would have revealed them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West made some glowing remarks in my absence. I am sorry that I was not here, because it is always nice to be complimented. He also referred to the decision of the Labour-controlled Derbyshire county council to call in its writing paper and envelopes so that they could be overprinted with the slogan "nuclear-free zone". I understand from a report in the Daily Star of 12 November that such an action would involve the authority in the expenditure of about £50,000. [HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraceful."] The article states: Defending what he claims to be a non-political decision, education committee chairman Frank Revel says 'The money we are spending is just a drop in he ocean'". In Derbyshire, £50,000 is nearly 4 per cent. of total expenditure on school books in 1983–84. I am prepared to give way to the hon. Member for Durham, North so that he can join me in condemning such a gross abuse of expenditure. I see that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to intervene. That is game, set and match to me.

Mr. Buchan

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dunn

In my part of the world we have an expression—

Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister sought to give way to another hon. Member, not to the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan).

Mr. Dunn

I am sure that the hon. Member for Paisley, South will not mind if I say that I would rather talk to the organ-grinder.

Mr. Buchan

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dunn

I am only a tenth of the way through my speech.

Mr. Buchan

The hon. Member has not said anything yet.

Mr. Dunn

The hon. Gentleman must listen patiently.

The Government's plans for local authority expenditure on education for 1985–86 are consistent with our commitment further to improve standards of attainment by pupils. It is up to the LEAs to make the best use of the substantial resources available to them. That means taking every opportunity to redeploy resources as school rolls fall.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Will the hon. Gentleman not accept that this year, in practice, local authorities have had to borrow from other areas of the rate support grant some 12 per cent. to subsidise education budgets and that if they are to balance their books they must make substantial cuts in education or continue to redirect resources intended for other areas such as personal social services?

Mr. Dunn

I am aware of the problems of LEAs in connection with the competing calls on limited sums of money. I have been a member of a local authority myself—the London borough of Southwark. It is essential to understand that the concern of LEAs should be to get the best value for money. If that means that local authorities — whether Labour or Conservative — will consider alternative means of making the same pound stretch further, more power to their elbow. I would have quoted figures to show the advantages of privatisation, but with only 10 minutes left, and 90 per cent. of my speech still to come, I shall probably not reach them.

The hon. Member for Blackley made an interesting speech, which confused me a little, about the problems of Manchester. I accept that Manchester, like any inner-city area, has problems. None the less, Manchester has got to grips with the problems of surplus places and has taken some schools out of use. The city of Manchester, which is controlled by the Labour party, has a duty to go further and consider the benefits of privatisation. It should consider carefully the advantage to the ratepayer. Labour Members talk about opinion polls which say this, or say that so many ILEA people say that; we have never had an opinion poll of the ratepayers. Ratepayers are a much-denied, much-deluded and much-abused category of people, and the Labour party does not take their views into account, as was shown by the example of Derbyshire.

Mr. Radice

What will the Minister do about Norfolk?

Mr. Dunn

It is a very flat county, Norfolk, but I hope to go there some day and examine the provisions.

Mr. Radice

I am glad that the Minister will consider visiting Norfolk some day. I was there the week before last and I visited the schools whose provisions the HMI criticised. The Minister and the Secretary of State must answer this question: when and how will they provide the resources that are necessary to improve educational provision in Norfolk?

Mr. Dunn

The chairman of Norfolk education authority made it plain that she intends to examine the report with interest and will use it as and when she can. Someone said earlier that my actions in relation to the HMI showed that I was trying to shoot the messenger. The reverse is true. We have given the messenger some arms. The Labour Government did not publish HMI reports, and one wonders whether they would have published these.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich asked about political appointments of head teachers or teaching staff. I must speak for all hon. Members when I condemn those occasions when people are appointed to positions of responsibility in local education authorities because they are good politicians rather than being good for the jobs to which they are appointed. I am sure that I speak for Labour Members as well as Conservative Members.

My hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth mentioned teacher appraisal. I welcome his remarks and his support for the objective assessment of teacher competence at various stages in a teacher's career. The facts are already known to the teachers. The Secretary of State and I must now create a way of gathering those facts objectively and rewarding those who need to be rewarded, or helping those who need to be helped, in the best way possible through the local education authority.

New teachers entering the profession must be adequately trained and suitable for the demanding task that faces them. Our White Paper entitled "Teaching Quality" announced proposals to strengthen initial teacher training. I am pleased to say that they have been implemented. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales have issued rigorous criteria for the approval of initial teacher training courses, and have established a council for the accreditation of teacher education to examine each course against those criteria. The House will know that the council started work in September and is expected to complete its first review of courses three or four years from now.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South-West referred to the advantages of in-service training. The Government welcome in-service training in whatever level it is adopted, if it is to the benefit of pupils and teachers. However, we must address a question to those who organise and take part in in-service training. At the end of the training, do the people who have taken part know more and react better, and have they gained from the experience of undergoing in-service training? If the answer to that question is yes, then in-service training is adequate and worthwhile, and must be to the benefit of all concerned.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth referred to the problems caused by the European Court's decision to end corporal punishment in schools. As the House will know, in the Gracious Speech we announced a forthcoming Bill to secure compliance with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights of February 1982, that parents who hold a philosophical conviction against corporal punishment should be entitled to have that conviction respected. The Government are bound by that ruling, and can do no other than give effect to it. The choice was between abolishing corporal punishment altogether and creating a system giving parents an option about its use.

Several hon. Members have referred to peace studies. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear his views to the National Council of Women of Britain on 3 March this year. He argued then that, as pupils mature, they should be encouraged to apply their reasoning powers to important issues of the day, including such questions as the morality of war, the conditions that lie behind war, and so on. No matter what standards we set, and what guidelines are laid down by local education authorities, the problem of the perverse teacher in the classroom with 23 children can never be eliminated. We must place our trust in the tolerance and professionalism of the teachers. I hope that those who might seek to abuse their privileged position will refrain from doing so. That must be right.

Mr. Buchan

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dunn


Mr. Buchan

What about VAT on books?

Mr. Dunn

VAT on books is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett


Mr. Dunn

I have a right in a free society to make my own speech in the way that I choose.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has considered the Green Paper on parental influence in schools. We believe that governors have a greater role and a greater sense of stewardship than they had previously. It is up to the governers, either with the new powers—whatever they turn out to be — or with existing conventions, to operate within their schools, to become familiar with the teaching practices and activities that take place in schools. If more governors went round the premises for which they were appointed, some of the errors and abuses referred to by some of my hon. Friends would not take place.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth also referred to religious education in schools. Religious education will always have a vital part to play in the education of all our children. The religious education provisions of the Education Act 1944 are part of a settlement between the churches and the state, which underpin that Act. We have no plans to amend the 1944 Act.

The hon. Member for Blackley referred to a number of problems in Manchester, especially the problems of food and diet for the poor, and I shall write to him about that.

Socialism has failed in this debate. The Labour Opposition will put it to the vote, but will undoubtedly lose. Therefore, I urge my hon. Friends to vote for the Government's amendment and against the motion put down by the Opposition.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 174, Noes 274.

Division No. 8] [10 pm
Abse, Leo Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Conlan, Bernard
Alton, David Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Anderson, Donald Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Ashdown, Paddy Corbett, Robin
Ashton, Joe Corbyn, Jeremy
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Cowans, Harry
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Craigen, J. M.
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Crowther, Stan
Barnett, Guy Cunliffe, Lawrence
Barron, Kevin Cunningham, Dr John
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Beith, A. J. Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Benn, Tony Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Deakins, Eric
Bermingham, Gerald Dewar, Donald
Bidwell, Sydney Dixon, Donald
Blair, Anthony Dobson, Frank
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Dormand, Jack
Boyes, Roland Douglas, Dick
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dubs, Alfred
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Eastham, Ken
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Bruce, Malcolm Ewing, Harry
Buchan, Norman Fatchett, Derek
Caborn, Richard Faulds, Andrew
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Campbell, Ian Fisher, Mark
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Foster, Derek
Clarke, Thomas Foulkes, George
Clay, Robert Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Garrett, W. E.
Cohen, Harry Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Coleman, Donald Godman, Dr Norman
Gould, Bryan Paisley, Rev Ian
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Park, George
Hardy, Peter Pike, Peter
Harman, Ms Harriet Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Prescott, John
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Radice, Giles
Heffer, Eric S. Randall, Stuart
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Redmond, M.
Home Robertson, John Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Howells, Geraint Richardson, Ms Jo
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Rooker, J. W.
Janner, Hon Greville Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
John, Brynmor Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Johnston, Russell Rowlands, Ted
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Ryman, John
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Sheerman, Barry
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Kirkwood, Archy Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Lamond, James Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Leadbitter, Ted Short, Mrs H. (W'hampt'n NE)
Leighton, Ronald Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Skinner, Dennis
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Smith, C. (lsl'ton S & F'bury)
Litherland, Robert Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Snape, Peter
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Soley, Clive
Loyden, Edward Spearing, Nigel
McCartney, Hugh Stott, Roger
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Strang, Gavin
McGuire, Michael Straw, Jack
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
McKelvey, William Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
McTaggart, Robert Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Madden, Max Tinn, James
Marek, Dr John Torney, Tom
Martin, Michael Wallace, James
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Maxton, John Wareing, Robert
Maynard, Miss Joan Weetch, Ken
Meadowcroft, Michael White, James
Michie, William Wig ley, Dafydd
Mikardo, Ian Williams, Rt Hon A.
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Wilson, Gordon
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Winnick, David
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Nellist, David
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Tellers for the Ayes:
O'Brien, William Mr. James Hamilton and
O'Neill, Martin Mr. Frank Haynes.
Aitken, Jonathan Bryan, Sir Paul
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Buck, Sir Antony
Amess, David Bulmer, Esmond
Ancram, Michael Burl, Alistair
Arnold, Tom Butcher, John
Ashby, David Butler, Hon Adam
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Carlisle, John (N Luton)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Baldry, Tony Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)
Batiste, Spencer Carttiss, Michael
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Cash, William
Bellingham, Henry Chapman, Sydney
Benyon, William Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Bevan, David Gilroy Cockeram, Eric
Biffen, Rt Hon John Colvin, Michael
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Conway, Derek
Bottomley, Peter Cope, John
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Couchman, James
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Cranborne, Viscount
Braine, Sir Bernard Crouch, David
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Currie, Mrs Edwina
Bright, Graham Dickens, Geoffrey
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Dorrell, Stephen
Brooke, Hon Peter Dunn, Robert
Browne, John Durant, Tony
Dykes, Hugh Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Evennett, David Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Fairbairn, Nicholas Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Farr, Sir John Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Favell, Anthony Key, Robert
Fletcher, Alexander King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Fookes, Miss Janet King, Rt Hon Tom
Forman, Nigel Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Forth, Eric Knowles, Michael
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Knox, David
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Lamont, Norman
Freeman, Roger Latham, Michael
Fry, Peter Lawler, Geoffrey
Gale, Roger Lawrence, Ivan
Galley, Roy Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Gael-Jones, Tristan Lester, Jim
Glen, Dr Alan Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Staff's)
Goodland, Alistair Lilley, Peter
Gown, Ian Lloyd, Ian (Haven't)
Greenway, Harry Lloyd, Peter, (Fare ham)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Lyell, Nicholas
Grist, Ian McCurley, Mrs Anna
Ground, Patrick Macfarlane, Neil
Grylls, Michael MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Maclean, David John
Hampson, Dr Keith McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Hanley, Jeremy McQuarrie, Albert
Hannam, John Madel, David
Hargreaves, Kenneth Major, John
Harris, David Malins, Humfrey
Harvey, Robert Malone, Gerald
Haselhurst, Alan Maples, John
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Marland, Paul
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Marlow, Antony
Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk) Mates, Michael
Hawksley, Warren Mather, Carol
Hayes, J. Maude, Hon Francis
Hayhoe, Barney Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Hayward, Robert Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Heathcoat-Amory, David Mellor, David
Heddle, John Merchant, Piers
Henderson, Barry Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hickmet, Richard Mills, lain (Meriden)
Hicks, Robert Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Miscampbell, Norman
Hind, Kenneth Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Hirst, Michael Moate, Roger
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Monro, Sir Hector
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Montgomery, Fergus
Holt, Richard Moore, John
Hooson, Tom Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Hordern, Peter Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Howard, Michael Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Moynihan, Hon C.
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Mudd, David
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Neale, Gerrard
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Needham, Richard
Hunt, David (Wirral) Nelson, Anthony
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Neubert, Michael
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Newton, Tony
Jackson, Robert Nicholls, Patrick
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Onslow, Cranley
Jessel, Toby Oppenheim, Phillip
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Ottaway, Richard Steen, Anthony
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Stern, Michael
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Parris, Matthew Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Patten, John (Oxford) Stokes, John
Pattie, Geoffrey Stradling Thomas, J.
Pawsey, James Sumberg, David
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Taylor, John (Solihull)
Pollock, Alexander Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Powell, William (Corby) Temple-Morris, Peter
Powley, John Terlezki, Stefan
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Price, Sir David Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Prior, Rt Hon James Thornton, Malcolm
Raffan, Keith Thurnham, Peter
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Townend, John (Bridlington)
Rathbone, Tim Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Rhodes James, Robert Tracey, Richard
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Trotter, Neville
Rifkind, Malcolm Twinn, Dr Ian
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Waddington, David
Roe, Mrs Marion Waldegrave, Hon William
Rost, Peter Walden, George
Rowe, Andrew Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Ryder, Richard Ward, John
Sackville, Hon Thomas Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Sayeed, Jonathan Watson, John
Scott, Nicholas Watts, John
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Shelton, William (Streatham) Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Whitfield, John
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Whitney, Raymond
Shersby, Michael Wiggin, Jerry
Silvester, Fred Wilkinson, John
Sims, Roger Winterton, Mrs Ann
Skeet, T. H. H. Winterton, Nicholas
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wolfson, Mark
Soames, Hon Nicholas Wood, Timothy
Speed, Keith Woodcock, Michael
Speller, Tony Yeo, Tim
Spence, John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Spencer, Derek Younger, Rt Hon George
Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Tellers for the Noes:
Squire, Robin Mr. Ian Lang and
Stanbrook, Ivor Mr. Timothy Sainsbury.
Stanley, Rt Hon John

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 32 (Question on amendments), and agreed to.

Mr. Speaker

forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House believes that the future of this nation depends on developing the skills and abilities of all children; congratulates Her Majesty's Government on its policies for raising standards of education for all abilities by action on the curriculum, examinations and teaching quality; and welcomes Her Majesty's Government's policies for securing the most effective use of the substantial resources available for the benefit of the education service.

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