HC Deb 28 January 1985 vol 72 cc38-117

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

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

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

The objective of the Bill is to secure compliance with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in February 1982. Under article 2 of the first protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, states are obliged to respect the philosophical convictions of their citizens. The court's judgment means that a parental conviction against corporal punishment in schools comes within the terms of that article.

The United Kingdom Government ratified the convention in March 1951 and undertook to abide by the decision of the court in any case to which they were a party. There is no provision for appeal, and the court's judgment in February 1982 is therefore binding.

The question for the Government, therefore, was to decide on the means of compliance. One way of complying would be to legislate to abolish corporal punishment in state schools. That is not required by the judgment, which was concerned with respect for a philosophical conviction, and the Government reject that option. The Government are opposed in principle to forcing abolition.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has encouraged gradual elimination of corporal punishment on a voluntary basis. For many years that has been the policy in Scotland, where the circumstances are different from those in the rest of the United Kingdom, and where the process of voluntary elimination has largely been completed. The Government are at one in rejecting enforced abolition.

Outside Scotland, there is no prospect of a consensus on abolition. Many parents and teachers see a place for corporal punishment in schools; for example, last year a sample poll in England and Wales showed more than half of the teachers interviewed to be in favour of retention, compared with more than a third in favour of abolition. Therefore, a state ban on corporal punishment is not called for by the European Court's judgment. The Government are not prepared to ride roughshod over the views of the millions of parents and teachers in this country who see a place for corporal punishment.

It is all very well for the Opposition to adopt a centralist posture and say that they will ignore the views of millions of teachers and parents who believe that they should have a voice in the decision whether corporal punishment in any school should be ruled out of order. Once again the Opposition have espoused a policy of imposing their views on the country. We are going as far as we can to consult parents and teachers by the means described in the Bill.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

Since the Secretary of State is so keen to give powers to parents, will he explain how the Bill deals with the position in which one parent believes in corporal punishment and the other does not?

Sir Keith Joseph

In compliance with the judgment of the court, we must give priority to the view of the parent who has a philosophical conviction, or who expresses a wish consistent with a philosophical conviction against corporal punishment.

The second option for the Government was to adopt what might be called a dual system. The Government therefore considered the possibility of a dual system of schools, some where corporal punishment was used, and others where it was not. In theory, such a dual system would allow parents to choose between the two types of school.

However, there would be enormous practical difficulties and it could be hugely expensive. The practical difficulties would be greatest in rural areas, where choice is limited by the sparsity of population. In all areas, however, there would be administrative complications for the allocation of pupils to schools. It would be expensive because of the need to provide additional schools to maintain existing patterns of choice between different types of school. Altogether it would be a wasteful use of resources. Since no parent must be penalised for seeking respect for his or her philosophical conviction, the existing provision of schools would virtually have to be doubled. Therefore, the Government rejected a dual system option.

The remaining option is that embodied in the Bill.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

My right hon. Friend spoke of the remaining option. Will he explain why he did not consider a fourth option, which is to do absolutely nothing?

Sir Keith Joseph

That is an attractive option, but for the one overriding factor that the country does not break its treaty obligations. The country subscribed to the rule of court in 1951. In 1966, under a Labour Government, the country widened its undertaking to comply from those cases where the applicant was another state to those where the applicant was an individual. Since 1966, the Government have confirmed their compliance with the treaty every five years, and the latest date of such confirmation was 1981. I am sure that many hon. Members find aspects of the Bill distasteful, but most hon. Members will agree that it would be even more distasteful for the country to fail to comply with the judgment of the court and with the treaty to which the country has subscribed.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

Although I welcome the Government's commitment to trying to enforce the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, does the Secretary of State agree that there is a wider obligation upon the Government to respect the convention which, under article 3, provides that inhuman and degrading treatment shall not be administered? Does he accept that article 3 was considered in the court's judgment which the Bill seeks to enforce and that, although the circumstances were held not to require the invocation of article 3, it remains the case that if corporal punishment is inflicted in schools, on the facts of some cases, the British Government may once again be hauled before an international court? Is it not extremely undesirable that Britain should once again face the possibility of a judgment against the Government because the Secretary of State has not sought to abolish corporal punishment?

Sir Keith Joseph

I understand that some cases under article 3 will come before the court. The Government will defend their position. It is not obvious to the Government that corporal punishment, especially when one considers the breadth of definition of that phrase, represents degrading or inhuman treatment. The hon. Gentleman should not make judgments before the court does.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

My right hon. Friend said that some aspects of the Bill might be distasteful. Does he find distasteful the fact that, in consequence of the measure, the principle of in loco parentis, and with it the authority of teachers, head teachers and governors of schools may be seriously undermined?

Sir Keith Joseph

If that were true, I would respect my hon. Friend's concern, but I am advised that the in loco parentis position of the teacher is not undermined. It is slightly reduced in connection with this Bill only, but in all other aspects of responsibility in school it remains undiminished.

The Government have adopted the only other course available—an exemptions scheme. It may not be ideal, but it is better than abolition or a dual system. In short, it is the least objectionable solution. An exemptions scheme allows parents whose children would otherwise be liable to corporal punishment in school to exempt them from such punishment. Where schools have abandoned all forms of corporal punishment, or to the extent that a school has abandoned it — I am thinking of a school with an infant class as well as junior classes—the Bill will not affect them, and there will be no obligation to consult parents. Where schools use corporal punishment, in any of its forms — I must emphasise that a slap would constitute corporal punishment—the Bill gives parents a choice. They can leave the matter to the school, in which case the child will be liable to corporal punishment, or they can opt the child out of corporal punishment.

Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)

Will my right hon. Friend make it crystal clear to me and to the House whether this is an opting-in or opting-out system? My facility to read legislative documents is not as strong as it could be, but the first part of clause 2 refers to maintaining registers showing those pupils who are not to be exempt from corporal punishment", which suggests to me that the onus is on parents to opt in if they wish their children to be subject to corporal punishment.

Sir Keith Joseph

The Bill is an opting-out measure. The children whose parents do not opt them out will remain on the register; it is the children on the register who will remain liable to corporal punishment. I was about to explain that with my next sentence.

Under the system to be introduced by regulations, parents who do not reply to an approach from the school will be deemed to have consented to the use of corporal punishment on their children. In effect, it is an opting-out scheme. Unless parents take the trouble to return a form to the school saying that they opt their child out, a teacher in any court action will have the defence of acting in loco parentis. The initiative of asking the question, "Do you or do you not agree to corporal punishment for your child?" lies with the school. The responsibility for saying no lies with the parents.

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Is that not made clear in clause 2(4)?

Sir Keith Joseph

I had hoped that it was abundantly clear from the entire Bill, but I am glad to have that confirmation from my hon. Friend.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Does the Secretary of State accept that it is clear from the Bill that schools will have some administrative problems if they must take the responsibility of ensuring that a reply from a parent is kept safely? Does he accept that many schools would prefer a system in which the opposite was true, so that they had proof of the willingness of parents that their children should be liable to corporal punishment?

Sir Keith Joseph

I imagine that there are two points of view about this, and no doubt it can be argued in Committee. However, especially after the helpful results of the consultation that we have carried out in recent months, we believe this option to be the most practical.

If the school does not receive an answer from a parent, I imagine that it will be required by regulations to remind the parent that an answer is awaited. If, after a few weeks —or the period that is laid down in the regulations—no answer has been received, that parent will be assumed to have forgone the opportunity to opt out his child or children, and his or their names will be entered on the register.

As the court requires us to respect the philosophical conviction of a parent or parents, it is surely not too much to hope that a parent with such philosophical convictions will answer a question from the school and return a form.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

The Bill has given encouragement to many parents with children in schools where corporal punishment has not been available until now. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Bill will allow parents to opt in to corporal punishment in schools where there is at present no corporal punishment? If not, why not?

Sir Keith Joseph

I cannot answer my hon. Friend as he would wish. Where a school has already stopped using corporal punishment in any of its forms, it will not be required by the Bill to approach parents for their permission. Of course, it is open to a school to reconsider, but it will not automatically be open to parents to act under the Bill to persuade a school to change its view. If parents, singly or in a group, wish to ask a school to reconsider its position, they will be as free in the future as they are now, and have been, to try so to persuade the school.

Mr. John Heddle (Mid-Staffordshire)

Could my right hon. Friend help those Conservative Members who are genuinely concerned about how to cast their votes later tonight on what appears, at the very least, to be a muddled Bill? Has my right hon. Friend received the suggestion from teachers' organisations that if there are to be two tiers of punishment—for those children whose parents are prepared to allow corporal punishment to be administered to them there will be three of the best, whereas for the others there will be 100 lines or three hours of detention — this will create the most enormous administrative problems?

Sir Keith Joseph

Yes, such views have reached my ears. It has been widely said, both in the House and among the teachers, that such difficulties might arise. In a few moments I propose to deal with them.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

Is it not becoming apparent that if a child wants to carry out a misdemeanour he should do it with a child who is on the register because then he will not be beaten, whereas if he misbehaves with a child who is on the register he will be beaten? Is it not obvious that the legislation is absurd? Is this not the penalty that we are paying for allowing foreign institutions to decide what laws we in this country should have?

Sir Keith Joseph

My hon. Friend will find much support for that point of view. However, the fact is that the Government of this country subscribe to the treaty. Therefore, we have an obligation. The method that we have adopted in the Bill has more regard for the wishes of parents than would a Government ban on corporal punishment. If a school wishes to use corporal punishment on any pupil, it has to go to that pupil's parents to seek their views. The school is obliged to accede to the parent's wishes if the parent says no. In the most direct way possible, therefore, an exemption scheme meets the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. Without children moving from one school, normally the one the parent has chosen, to another, parents are able to secure respect for their philosophical convictions against corporal punishment.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Does this apply to public schools, or are public schools exempt from human rights? Is the parent of a child who is at a public school—this is, in fact, a private school, but it is a curious British habit to call private schools public schools—able to prevent his offspring receiving corporal punishment? May I therefore pose to the Minister the problem of the assisted places scheme?

Sir Keith Joseph

I wonder whether the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) will permit me to deal with that precise point in a few moments.

Mr. Flannery

I do not want to create difficulties for the Minister, but can he explain what will happen to such a child?

Sir Keith Joseph

The hon. Member will have his chance, if he will allow me to reach that part of my speech.

The exemptions approach has been criticised — I come now to the anxiety expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Heddle)—

Mr. Fred Silvester (Manchester, Withington)

My right hon. Friend said that the Bill provides for the rights laid down by the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg. Will he make it perfectly clear to me and to the House whether, if left to his own good judgment, he would have introduced a Bill of this kind? Does he find that, as presented to the House, the Bill is in the best interests of the education of the children of this country?

Sir Keith Joseph

I shall go only so far as to say that if my right hon. Friends in the Government had offered me the chance to present a Bill on education, this is not the subject upon which we should be legislating.

An exemptions approach has been criticised as unfair. It would allow corporal punishment to be used on one child and not on another, even if both had committed the same offence. This is a very plausible argument, and I can see that it contains a good deal of force, but even within the same school individual circumstances already sometimes cause one child, perhaps because of problems at home, or because of an emotional crisis, or for some other reason, not to be subject to corporal punishment.

In the case of two schools virtually adjacent to one another and serving the same catchment area, one may have abolished corporal punishment, while the other has not. Moreover, in the same school, in particular where there is a mixed age range, although infants are not subject to corporal punishment they are occasionally slapped on the leg or the hand. In many schools, girls are exempt from many forms of corporal punishment, while boys are not. To argue that an exemptions scheme makes for unfairness between children who have misbehaved in the same way is to assume that corporal punishment is the only sort of punishment.

I hope that all hon. Members will accept that corporal punishment is used only for the most severe offences. Nor is it the only punishment. There are all sorts of punishments, including the withdrawal of rewards and privileges. This is probably one of the most widely used forms of punishment. Therefore, I do not accept that unfairness is necessarily a compelling argument.

If two children in a school have committed the same offence and one is subject to corporal punishment and the other is not, and corporal punishment is applied to the child who is not exempt, I do not accept that the child who is exempt will not be jealous of the child who is subject to corporal punishment. In certain circumstances, it could be that a child would rather have a short, sharp punishment rather than the longer drawn out punishment that might replace it. Nevertheless, I freely grant to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Silvester) that there may well be a risk of unfairness between children, one of whom is exempt and one of whom is not.

Exempted pupils would not go unpunished. There is a range of other sanctions that teachers could use. Where pupils are caught in the same act of misbehaviour and some are exempted and some are not, teachers can decide to offer to those who are liable to corporal punishment the choice of an alternative. This choice of punishment is sometimes given now. What matters is that pupils should know that they will not go unpunished. The withdrawal of rewards and privileges can be, and perhaps is, the best alternative. Pupils are made to realise that they cannot misbehave with impunity. An exemptions scheme can therefore be made to work.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

If the philosophical argument in favour of the Bill, as opposed to the pragmatic argument, is that parents have the right of ultimate control to remove their children from activities which they dislike, whether it be religious education under the Education Act 1944 or caning under this Bill, why should we stop at that? Why should parents not have the right to withdraw their children from biased political education, such as peace studies? Are we not in danger of imposing double standards?

Sir Keith Joseph

It is open to any parent or child to complain if education is being distorted into indoctrination.

An exemptions scheme can be made to work. Practical questions arise, however, about obtaining and recording the views of parents. That is why a consultative document was issued in 1983. The Bill has benefited from that exercise, in particular because the response has shown the advantage of seeking the views of all parents whose children are liable to corporal punishment. Under the scheme outlined in the Bill, the initiative lies with the school rather than with the parents. This, together with the fact that the school will keep a list of those who are liable to corporal punishment, from which exempted children will have been excluded by their parents, reduces to a minimum the risk of errors and misunderstandings.

I come now to the main features of the Bill. The first three clauses relate to England and Wales. Clause 1 concerns the defence available to a teacher or other member of staff in civil or criminal proceedings for battery. Where a teacher has administered moderate and reasonable corporal punishment, he can at present advance the defence that he was acting in loco parentis.

The Bill provides that that defence cannot be advanced in civil proceedings in the case of pupils who have been exempted from corporal punishment. The definition of corporal punishment is necessarily wide. It extends beyond the use of the cane or tawse, to other forms of bodily chastisement. Most acts which constitute battery would be disallowed in the case of an exempted pupil.

However, there must be safeguards for staff who are obliged to intervene physically for the purpose of restraining pupils. Provided that averting immediate danger to a person or property is one of the reasons for the action, the in loco parentis defence will still be available. There is no question of destroying the in loco parentis concept. For most practical purposes, apart from that issue of corporal punishment, it stays.

Pupils would be exempt from corporal punishment unless their names appeared on a register. The requirement to keep a register will apply to all maintained schools and to non-maintained special schools in which corporal punishment is used. I repeat that where a school has given up the use of corporal punishment in all its forms, the Bill does not affect it.

The requirement to comply with the Bill will also extend to pupils whose fees are paid wholly or in part directly out of public funds. That will affect local authority placements and pupils benefiting under the assisted places scheme or the music and ballet schemes. The legislation will not apply to other pupils in independent schools.

Finally, I should stress that the clause applies to corporal punishment used by or on the authority of a member of staff, and therefore extends to others besides teachers.

Mr. Marlow

I am sorry to intervene a second time, but would a public school, or a private school as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) called it, be able to say that, as a condition of allowing a child to come under the assisted places scheme, it would require the parents to put their child on the register? If not, does my right hon. Friend expect to lose several assisted places?

Sir Keith Joseph

I should like to consider that question. My impression is that that would not be consistent with the assisted places scheme. Either my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will answer that question whether he replies to the debate if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or I shall ensure that a letter goes to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)

My right hon. Friend said that schools in receipt of public money would be liable to the scheme. Does that include children of military and diplomatic officers?

Sir Keith Joseph

I must give my hon. Friend the same answer. I should like to make sure of the answer to that and then write to him. The Bill applies to those children placed by local authorities in independent schools.

Clause 2 provides for the registers maintained by schools using corporal punishment to record the names of those pupils who are liable to the sanction on the basis of consent by their parents. The clause is the framework around which regulations will be prepared. We envisage regulations which will allow a school to assume consent if the parent did not reply to the school within a specified period of, say, six weeks. We also envisage that parents could change their minds. "Parent" would be interpreted broadly. A school's initial responsibility to seek the views of parents would be discharged by sending a form to the pupil's home address.

A school or local education authority may change its policy on corporal punishment, introducing it in schools where it was not previously used, or abandoning it in others. In that case, schools would have to set up registers or abandon them as the case may be.

Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridgeshire, North-East)

Would there be some sort of gestation period, or would it be possible for a parent to phone up when he finds that his or her child will be caned and countermand that instruction?

Sir Keith Joseph

No, the thought is that regulations will provide for a few days between the decision and the effectiveness of that decision so that the teacher concerned can have no doubt about the position. Time is provided for a name to be put on or taken off the register without any misunderstanding.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Does my right hon. Friend, with his long parliamentary experience, remember any piece of legislation more bizarre than this? Has he ever spoken to anything with less conviction? Would he not be rather relieved if Parliament discharged him of his responsibilities this evening?

Sir Keith Joseph

I think that the answers to my hon. Friend's questions are yes, no, no, but I should like to Make sure.

The main purpose of clause 3 is to define responsibility for the maintenance of registers. In a maintained school, the responsible body would be the governors; in a non-maintained special school and for pupils affected in an independent school, the proprietor; for nursery schools maintained by an LEA, and for pupils educated otherwise than at school, the LEA would be the responsible body.

Clause 4 applies to Scotland. While its provisions are basically similar to those contained in clauses 1, 2 and 3, it also takes into account certain aspects particular to the Scottish position. Such aspects include, in the case of young persons—those aged 16 or 17 years—that it will be the young person himself whose views are sought, not those of his parents. That mirrors the position accorded young persons in other aspects of Scottish education legislation; for example, rights relating to choice of school.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett


Sir Keith Joseph

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not cross-examine me on Scotland.

Mr. Bennett

I want to ask about a much more general philosophical point. Why should pupils over 16 be consulted in Scotland, but not in England and Wales? The European Court was concerned with the philosophical views of parents. If we take into account the philosophical views of 16-year-olds in Scotland, surely we should do the same in England and Wales?

Sir Keith Joseph

That is not what the court requires us to comply with.

Clause 4 reflects the long-standing policy of Scotland to which I have already referred. Those authorities which have already eliminated corporal punishment from their schools need not give fresh consideration to the issue, but can rest on their past decisions.

Clause 5 anticipates arrangements for the extension of provisions corresponding to those in clauses 1, 2 and 3 to Northern Ireland. Clauses 6 and 7 are of a general nature and, inter alia, provide for different clauses to be brought into force at different times. The schedule describes aspects of the Bill which are to be covered by regulations.

The administrative cost of an exemptions scheme would be slight, confined largely to postal and other costs incidental to keeping registers. As to extra expenditure arising from alternatives to corporal punishment, I reject the notion that there must be expensive alternatives. Some period of adjustment for schools which decide not to use corporal punishment will be necessary, but in the past others have made that adjustment, either from their own choice or as a result of local education authority policy. There is no need to expand teaching forces.

Sir Kenneth Lewis (Stamford and Spalding)

I notice that there is nothing in the Bill about savings in the cost of buying canes.

Sir Keith Joseph

I must bear that argument in mind if anyone claims that more expense would be involved.

I repeat that action was necessary to secure compliance with a ruling which has the status of a treaty obligation. I accept that any method of compliance is bound to be untidy. I do not accept that the Bill is a muddle. The Bill is consistent with upholding good discipline in schools, for which many parents and teachers regard the availability of corporal punishment as an important requirement, because, as the House will understand, there are alternatives to corporal punishment.

The Government have sought to produce a measure which keeps the additional administrative burden to a minimum. In England and Wales the reaction of many schools may be to choose abolition. If so, it will be their choice. The essential concern of the Government is to maintain the rights of the school and to consult the parents to comply with the court ruling in the important matter of discipline. I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

5 pm

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: That this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill because it does not abolish corporal punishment, leads to unfairness between pupils, creates a bureaucratic nightmare, and fails to establish the atmosphere of co-operation in which good discipline can be maintained and educational standards raised. This is a totally unworkable Bill. As everyone knows, it is an uneasy compromise between the view held by many Conservative hon. Members that corporal punishment is good, and the binding decision of the European Court of Human Rights which, in the Campbell and Cosans case, upheld, under article 2, the rights of parents who oppose corporal punishment.

Conservative Members of Parliament, among them the Secretary of State, believe that it is right, even in the 1980s when corporal punishment is banned in all other European countries, that schools should be able to use the sanction of what outside the classroom is defined as battery—in other words, a criminal offence. The Secretary of State has tried desperately but unavailingly to square the circle between his party's prejudices and the decision of the European Court of Human Rights.

Right hon. and hon. Members will recollect that the Secretary of State produced a four-page consultative document 17 months after the court's decision. That proposed a system of opt-out, which was exactly the same as that contained in the Bill, for the children of parents who opposed corporal punishment. However, in the consultative exercise which followed, the opt-out compromise was roundly condemned by all authoritative organisations, and I think that the Secretary of State should have told the House that when he was extolling the virtues of his Bill.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman of what the organisations said to him. The Association of Metropolitan Authorities called the proposals "unworkable". The Association of County Councils said: a system which allowed different sanctions for the same misdemeanour … would be difficult to justify. The Campaign for State Education said that the European Court had made the use of corporal punishment inequitable, illogical and above all impracticable.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)

These criticisms of the Bill may be justified, but why should not school governors make the ultimate decision, as the Bill provides?

Mr. Radice

I shall come to that. I want to make my speech in my own way.

The National Union of Teachers said that the Government's policy was "ill-conceived".

The Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association had the gravest reservations about the wisdom of creating two disciplinary systems.

Perhaps the most significant comment came from the National Association of Head Teachers. Right hon. and hon. Members will be aware that the consultative document stressed the central role played by heads in maintaining discipline. The head teachers warned the Government of the conflict between the decision not to abolish and the decision to retain a sanction which would be implemented on an unsatisfactory basis. Only last week the same association went so far as to urge the Government to fix a date for phasing out beating instead of introducing a measure that would bring about abolition by the back door.

On 26 October the Secretary of State told the House: Over 100 organisations and individuals responded, and it is clear that there is concern about an exemptions system." — [Official Report, 26 October 1984; Vol. 65 c. 735.] If the Secretary of State is honest—and I know that he tries to be — I think that he will admit that the organisations which support him can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

The right hon. Gentleman has himself publicly accepted, as he told the House on 8 November, that an opt-out system would have "untidy consequences." Today he went even further in airing his misgivings about the Bill. Yet, despite the almost universal condemnation, despite all the warnings about unworkability and despite his own awareness of the inadequacy of the Bill, the Secretary of State has chosen to proceed with this absurd piece of legislation.

Any objective observer must conclude that the Bill's main effect is to create two patterns of discipline in the classroom—one for those pupils whose parents do not consent to corporal punishment, and the other for those pupils whose parents either support corporal punishment or have failed to reply to the school governors in writing that they are against corporal punishment.

Mr. Forth

The hon. Gentleman may wish to make some play with the term "philosophical convictions," because that is the basis of the court's judgment. However, if a parent has philosophical convictions, it is unlikely that he will fail to respond to an approach to him by the school about a subject which is as important as this one. Is not that so?

Mr. Radice

It may be that the hon. Gentleman is a better correspondent than I am, but I do not always reply to every letter sent to me. I do my best, but occasionally matters go wrong. The problem is that if a parent does not reply, the assumption is that he or she is in favour of corporal punishment. That is the difficulty. [Interruption.] In any event, as my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) points out, he may not receive the letter.

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

Did not my right hon. Friend say that not only would parents receive a letter asking whether they were prepared to have their children punished corporally but, if they did not reply, that they would also receive a reminder? They would have to neglect two specific letters. On such an important matter as this, that would be extremely unlikely.

Mr. Radice

I hope that most parents would reply, but some might not. But that is not my main argument against the Bill.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

It is not a very good one, either.

Mr. Radice

It is not a bad one. But I am coming to the "alpha" part.

Mr. Hogg

Could do better.

Mr. Cormack

Not very good for a Wykehamist.

Mr. Radice

Let me paint a scenario for right hon. and hon. Members. Let us say that there are two pupils who misbehave. For the sake of argument, I shall call them Keith and Giles. Keith's parents do not mind him being beaten, but Giles's parents happen to mind. They have a conviction against it. [Laughter.] Right hon. and hon. Members may laugh, but this is what will happen, and it will be chaotic. The teacher may remember the wishes of the parents of the two unruly pupils, or he may have to consult the register of those parents who are in favour of corporal punishment. It has even been suggested that Keith and Giles will be wearing different coloured badges—blue for Keith and red for Giles. Whatever is the case, the two pupils are bound to resent the different punishments for the same misdemeanour—let us say, smoking in class—while the teacher will be put in the impossible position of applying different sanctions for the same offence. That is the reality of what the Secretary of State is offering the House, and right hon. and hon. Members should realise it.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

Should I assume from what the hon. Gentleman has said that if a Labour Government were in power, he would say to the parents of Keith, "Caning will be abolished; you will have no say"? The hon. Gentleman must admit that at least the Bill gives parents a choice. How will he explain his attitude to parents who believe that caning is an appropriate punishment?

Mr. Radice

If parents believe in caning, they can administer it at home. The House knows that the Labour party is in favour of abolishing corporal punishment.

Once the European Court of Human Rights had made its decision, in practical terms there was no real alternative to abolition. Otherwise two classes of discipline would be created. That is the point that I have been trying to make. It is the overwhelming argument against the Bill, and the reason why hon. Members should vote against it.

The difficulties for schools do not end there. In primary and secondary schools, governors will have to write to parents and then compile a register of those who do not object in writing to corporal punishment. The procedure will be slightly different for nursery schools. I did not realise that teachers still hit three and four-year-old children. However, I am reminded by the Bill that that is a possibility. For nursery schools, local education authorities will have the responsibility of drawing up the register or, perhaps, getting rid of it — I am not sure what the Secretary of State has in mind. He appears to be offering Conservative Members in favour of corporal punishment the carrot that it might be possible to introduce more corporal punishment than currently exists. I think that that is basically dishonest because I do not believe that that will happen.

The Bill will create additional problems for schools and local education authorities. It is a farcical nonsense, and the Secretary of State, the Minister and Conservative Back Benchers are well aware of that. We are considering an absolute nonsense. It is arguable that the Bill does not even carry out the minimum requirements of the decision by the European Court of Human Rights in the Campbell and Cosans case—which is to ensure that parents who are opposed to corporal punishment have their wishes respected. If parents fail to dissent in writing, they will be assumed to be in favour of corporal punishment, whether or not that is the case.

Hon. Members should bear in mind a further point, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan). He said that there are 30 cases currently before the court at Strasbourg of children having been beaten. It is possible that the court will rule that corporal punishment is not only against article 2 but against article 3 of the European Convention on Human rights, which states that no one shall be subject to "degrading treatment or punishment."

Mr. Cormack

I am somewhat comforted to know that the hon. Gentleman supports the convention so strongly. Can I therefore infer that he supports that part of it which gives parents the right to pay for their children's education?

Mr. Radice

I should like to look rather more carefully at that point. As far as I am aware, no case has arisen on that point in this country—

Mr. Cormack

Give a straight answer.

Mr. Radice

I am not prepared to give the hon. Gentleman a yes or no answer. My father paid for a privileged education for me. The important issue is what one does for one's children. I should like to know how many Conservative Members sent their children to comprehensive schools?

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

I did, for one.

Mr. Radice

Well, bully for the hon. Lady. I respect her more now.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

We chose the school because it was a jolly good school.

Mr. Radice

If the court rules that corporal punishment is against article 3, the Government will be forced—whether or not they like it—to ban corporal punishment. The tragedy is that the Secretary of State has not had the courage to take the only feasible and practical course, which is to abolish corporal punishment.

It is significant that there is a difference between the response of the Secretary of State for Education and Science and that of the Secretary of State for Scotland. I am not surprised that the Secretary of State for Scotland is not here today — [Interruption.] If the right hon. Gentleman's underlings would listen, I shall tell them why I am not surprised. On 10 July 1984, he told the House: Compliance with the court's judgment … would be best secured by completion of the voluntary process of elimination of corporal punishment in education authority schools." —[Official Report, 10 July 1984; Vol. 63, c. 448.] Some hon. Members may conclude that the Secretary of State for Scotland is relying too much on voluntary persuasion, but he has not done too badly so far. As the House knows, the vast majority of Scottish education authorities have abolished corporal punishment. Hon. Members may wonder why the right hon. Gentleman has allowed Scottish schools to be included in the Bill and why there is not a separate Bill for Scotland, given the different circumstances about which the Secretary of State for Education and Science has been telling us. At least the Secretary of State for Scotland has understood quite clearly that the game is up. Accordingly, he has written to all Scottish education authorities urging them to abolish corporal punishment as soon as possible. That was the sensible thing to do. It would be a credible posture for the Secretary of State for Education and Science to take also; it is not credible to do what he is doing this afternoon.

Not for the first time, the Scots are taking a more progressive view than the English about education. Perhaps the Secretary of State should take a trip north of the border for a seminar on the subject. The truth is that he has ducked the issue and, instead, has brought this pathetic little Bill before us. It is an evasion of responsibility that exposes him to ridicule and derision — as we have seen already this afternoon. It has exposed our schools to an unworkable system of punishment.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

I have already asked the hon. Gentleman a question, which he said he would answer. He has not done so. He has constantly said that important decisions should be left to local authorities and school governing bodies. That is precisely what the Bill does. It may be that criticisms of the Bill are well founded, but why are the Opposition not allowing the school governing bodies—or, in some cases, local authorities—to decide this matter?

Mr. Radice

I have explained the reason quite carefully. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman was not listening. The decision of the Court of Human Rights has made it almost impossible—indeed, I would say wholly impossible —to continue with corporal punishment in our schools. By creating two classes of discipline, the Bill creates two classes of pupils. That will make discipline very difficult.

It would have been a legitimate position for the Government to have come to the House and said, as the Secretary of State for Scotland said, that the Court of Human Rights had reached a decision and that, therefore, local authorities should support the abolition of corporal punishment. The decision would still have been left to local authorities and school governing bodies, but at least the Government would have had a defensible position on discipline. Now, they do not have a defensible position at all.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

The Labour party's policy is to deprive school governors and education authorities of the power to manage schools for which they are responsible.

Mr. Radice

The hon. Gentleman had better talk to the Secretary of State for Scotland. He should try to present a logical argument. Of course, I know that he wants to defend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. We all like the right hon. Gentleman but he has introduced a "total nonsense Bill"; I quote the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway). It is not surprising that the right hon. Gentleman has been exposed to ridicule and derision.

The Labour party is against corporal punishment in principle. It is barbaric, inhumane and degrading both to the chastiser and the chastised.

Mr. Cormack

Except on the picket line.

Mr. Radice

I know that the hon. Gentleman will be voting in the same Lobby as the Opposition tonight. I suppose that that might cause him to make cheap remarks. The Labour party is against corporal punishment in principle and also because it does not work. It is not a deterrent. It does not improve discipline. On the contrary, the evidence suggests that it can be counter-productive. The Secretary of State often quotes the Rutter study when dealing with other matters and he often quotes it at me. It suggests that there is a tendency for high levels of corporal punishment to be associated with rather worse behaviour.

I wish to reassure those who are worried and concerned that abolition had been implemented successfully in every European country apart from Britain. About 90 per cent. of Scottish schools do not practise corporal punishment. It is significant that of the 16 local education authorities which have abolished corporal punishment in England, none has reversed its position. When the Conservatives came to power in Waltham Forest they intelligently dropped their pledge to restore corporal punishment. That was a sensible thing to do.

During the debate on the Queen's Speech the hon. Member for Ealing, North asked me to provide feasible and workable alternatives to corporal punishment. As the evidence suggests that corporal punishment is counter-productive, it would be wrong to provide the options for which the hon. Gentleman asks. However he has been courageous enough to call the Bill a nonsense, and bully for him. The hon. Gentleman receives my accolade, as did the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman), who is now leaving the Chamber. I wish to reassure the hon. Gentleman, if he needs reassuring, that a high standard of behaviour is linked to a considerable extent with a firm, constructive and purposeful teaching which leads, as the Opposition's amendment suggests, to an atmosphere of co-operation in which good discipline can be maintained and education quality raised.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman


Mr. Radice

No, I shall not give way.

Mrs. Kellet-Bowman

The hon. Gentleman said that I was leaving the Chamber.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. The hon. Lady must not persist if the hon. Gentleman who has the Floor is not giving way.

Mr. Radice


Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) referred to me and said that I was leaving the Chamber. I left the Chamber to get some extra paper but he is implying that I had lost interest in the debate. I asked him to allow me to intervene so that I could explain to him my reason for leaving the Chamber.

Mr. Radice

I fully accept the hon. Lady's explanation and now she has it on the record.

Mr. Cormack

Does the hon. Gentleman believe in corporal punishment now?

Mr. Radice

I was saying that good schools and good teachers have no trouble in maintaining discipline and providing an atmosphere and ethos that is conducive to learning. Of course problems and difficulties arise in the classroom but there are, as the Secretary of State said, a variety of options ranging from reprimands, reports, parental involvement, withdrawal, suspension to exclusion. These options are available to local education authorities and schools. It is incorrect to say that corporal punishment is essential in the maintenance of good discipline or that there are not other, more effective, sanctions available.

There are at least three major hurdles facing the Bill. First, there is Second Reading. I hope very much that Conservative Members will support the Opposition's amendment when the Division takes place.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

Certainly not.

Mr. Radice

Secondly, there is the deliberation that the Bill will receive in Committee.

Mr. Cormack


Mr. Radice

Sometimes instruction has to be basic in this place, especially when Conservative Members are listening to me. I warn the Secretary of State that we shall try to amend the Bill to make it an abolition rather than an exemption Bill — [Interruption.] Would the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) like to intervene?

Mr. Douglas Hogg

I can never resist an opportunity to intervene. Surely the hon. Gentleman is telling us what we already know.

Mr. Flannery

What a clever boy.

Mr. Radice

Perhaps it would be a good thing for the hon. Member for Grantham to be a member of the Committee that considers the Bill. If he does become a member of it, we can try to build an alliance. I can assure him that it is quite fun being in Committee. If he does not know much about that, I hope that he will take the opportunity to increase his knowledge of such matters.

The final hurdle is the other place. I think that there is a good chance that the Bill will be defeated there or amended. I suspect that that is what Ministers are playing for. If the Bill is enacted in its existing form, I must advise all local authorities, especially Labour-controlled ones, to proceed as quickly as possible to abolition because, if chaos in our schools is to be avoided, abolition will be the only sensible response.

Of course, hon. Members will be well aware that there is a Machiavellian theory that the Secretary of State has produced an unworkable Bill because secretly he wants to abolish corporal punishment but does not dare say so. I am not sure whether he really knows his own mind on this issue. It is my view that in this instance, as with student grants, the right hon. Gentleman is out of touch with the real world.

Whatever are the motives of the Secretary of State, I am convinced that over the next five years, and whether we have a Labour or a Conservative Government, we shall abolish coporal punishment. Ironically, the main architect of abolition will be the Secretary of State, who is asking the House to give a Second Reading to an unfair and unworkable Bill. I urge all hon. Members who have regard for the good reputation of this place to vote for the Opposition's amendment.

5.28 pm
Sir Ian Percival (Southport)

Like many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I deplore the Bill. However, I shall vote for its Second Reading this evening. I want therefore to take a moment or two of the time of the House to explain those two apparently irreconcilable statements. It is right that we should face the consequences of what we are doing. We are interfering with a power that has been vested in teachers for a long time by the common law of England to use reasonable force in the maintenance of discipline. It has been vested in them by common law because they were regarded as acting in loco parentis. My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) was right about that. At present parents do not have power to override that right, and we shall give them that power if the Bill is enacted. I shall vote for giving parents that power, but it is only right that we should face what we are doing.

The power of teachers to inflict corporal punishment is a right to use reasonable force in the maintaining of discipline. All this nonsense about barbarity and inhumane and degrading punishment is typical of the sort of argument that so overstates the case that it defeats its own ends. If a teacher did anything that came remotely within any of those descriptions, he would be as open to prosecution in the courts as if the power had never existed. All of us would support a parent who took a teacher to court in those circumstances. What we cannot stomach is the parent who takes to court a teacher who has used the mildest of force in the pursuit of discipline in circumstances that would try the patience of a saint. Let us forget all about barbarity, inhumane and degrading treatment and all that nonsense.

I hope that we shall not hear anyone say that we should not try to maintain discipline. Heaven knows, that mistake has been made often enough in our great country and has gone a long way towards undermining some of the virtues and values that we love so much.

The arguments of those who oppose the retention of the power to use reasonable force for the maintenance of discipline underestimate the position of the teacher. Have they ever tried to keep discipline in a class? If someone can keep discipline without using force, so be it; every parent tries to do that. However, it is arrogant to overlook the possibility that the teacher who has used reasonable force knew what was the best in the circumstances and what was best for the child involved and for the other children in the class. We must not forget the other children. Some unruly little brats stop a lot of other children getting the education that they deserve.

Another reason why I do not like the Bill is that it will cause administrative difficulties. However, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on meeting that problem head on and accepting it. The alternative was the abolition of corporal punishment. I caution my hon. Friends against making too much of the administrative difficulties argument.

It is not coincidental that those who oppose corporal punishment are seizing on the Bill and arguing that it cannot work and must lead to the abolition of corporal punishment. Those of us who wish parents to retain a choice should not fall into the trap of mulitplying the arguments of those who want to use the difficulties created by the Bill as an argument for getting rid of corporal punishment. I beg my hon. Friends to see that danger.

I do not believe that the administrative difficulties will be as great as some fear. I believe—and all the statistics show—that a substantial majority of parents favour the use of corporal punishment. If I am right, the number of parents who opt out may be comparatively small — probably a minority.

Secondly, I beg hon. Members not to be influenced by the argument that corporal punishment will necessarily cause terrible psychological problems for children. Children are a lot tougher than many of us give them credit for being. If I were a child, I should hate my parents to opt me out. The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) laughs, but he is not a very good example for the propositions that he has been putting forward.

If I were a child, I should not want to be opted out. First, I would not want to be thought a cissy. Secondly — I went to a school where corporal punishment was used within the limits of which I have spoken, and without causing any resentment — more often than not, one favoured the quick punishment rather than being shut up for an hour or two. There were far too many other things that one would rather be doing than being kept in detention. I much preferred to take the punishment and get it over with. As I said, I never felt any resentment and I never noticed resentment in any other boy. Let us not be too bothered about the effects in this area on children. It is far from certain that those who are still liable to corporal punishment will think that they are hard done by. I hope that parents will remember that it may be the other way round.

Yes, there will be administrative difficulties. I know a little about them because I was a Law Officer when the decision was made by the European Court and I had a part in the consideration of what should be done. However, I do not believe that the administrative difficulties will be nearly as great as some people fear. A bigger worry to me is that those difficulties may be built upon by those who wish to do away with corporal punishment.

Sir Kenneth Lewis

As my right hon. and learned Friend was involved after the decision of the European Court, can he advise us whether, if this does not work, we can go back to the court and ask permission to revert to normal?

Sir Ian Percival

Even as an old friend and colleague of my hon. Friend, I cannot advise him on that matter. It is a difficult question, and one for the present Law Officers rather than for me.

All my instincts are against what is proposed. I have tried to summarise the positive arguments, but so many of the arguments against it are so wet. There is talk about "hitting" a child of three. Has the hon. Member for Durham, North never heard of the word "smack"? Why try to make the issue emotive by talking about "hitting a child"? What is so awful about a little smack? A great swipe that knocks somebody flying is to be deplored, but emotive language unbalances the argument.

It may be felt to be unbelievable that the judgment of the European Court should have decided that corporal punishment can come within the scope of the provisions about "philosophical conviction". I thought that we all accepted that that phrase was a safeguard to prevent the indoctrination of our children with philosophical ideas with which we disagree. I applaud the British judge on the court for the clarity with which he saw the law and the independence and clarity with which he stated it in is dissenting judgment.

However, now that the court has concluded that if someone has a philosophical conviction that his child should not be subjected to corporal punishment, and there is no right of appeal, I should be interested to see whether it works the other way as well. Perhaps a parent who has a philosophical conviction that teachers ought to be able to use corporal punishment might care to take a case to the court one day. Those who say that we must give effect to the European judgment because it would allow the philosophical convictions of some parents to be met ought to realise that we ought not to go against the philosophical convictions of parents taking the other view who are just as entitled to their views.

Lastly, a Bill like this may in fact pose some danger to the cause of human rights. I suspect that every hon. Member in the Chamber, most of whom will be saying nasty things about the Bill, counts himself as a strong supporter of the cause of human rights. But I tremble sometimes for the way in which we are going. Many distinguished people in this country would make the whole European Convention on Human Rights part of our domestic law. What of that, when we see what has happened in this case about corporal punishment and philosophical convictions? There is a good deal in what my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) said a moment ago. When we have such judgments and have to act on them, many people ask why we have to go against our own philosophical convictions because foreigners tell us to do so. I do not agree with that attitude.

The Times once carried the headline: Fog in the Channel. Continent isolated. We have come a long way since then. We must work with our European colleagues in this sphere, as in other spheres, if we are to further the objective, which we all share, of increasing human rights. However, there is a danger that if things go the way in which these things have gone, far from furthering the cause of human rights, we may actually put people against that cause.

Having said all that, why then shall I vote for this Bill? Because, as often happens in life, where one has few options one must take the least unattractive of them. It is not a mere matter of words for us to say that when we enter into international agreements, we must stand by them. Indeed, the decisions which it is most important we do implement are frequently those we do not like. We have no difficulty in implementing those we like. I recall the present Lord Chancellor saying that the only laws that matter are those we do not like. It is easy for us to obey those we like. We must also obey the ones we do not like.

So long as we remain a member of a convention of this type, we must implement the decisions of its court. I am glad that the Secretary of State is implementing them with the minimum of interference with the rights that we want to preserve. Parents who share my convictions and those of many of my hon. Friends will still be able to see that corporal punishment—where it is not prevented by the governors or local authority—reasonable force for the maintenance of discipline is available to those into whose care they have entrusted their children.

5.42 pm
Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridgeshire, North-East)

This is a poor little Bill. My fear is that its opponents will be so disparate that there will be little happy conversation in our Lobby at the end of the debate. What we have had so far is akin to armed men attacking a jelly.

It might be right at the outset for me to make clear the position of my party. Liberal policy on education is to abolish corporal punishment, while recognising the need to support teachers more effectively in promoting good discipline. I share substantially the philosophy of the right hon. and learned Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) on this subject, except that I do not believe that people take pleasure in seeing other people's children beaten when they themselves do not believe that that is right.

Sir Ian Percival

Nothing in the world that I said could suggest that anybody took pleasure in seeing anybody beaten, and I trust that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw that remark.

Mr. Freud

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that there was a sort of justice in the imposition of corporal punishment.

Sir Ian Percival

I said nothing about anybody enjoying it.

Mr. Freud

If there is a sort of justice in it, and if one has a conviction that one does not want it for one's own child, I take the inference—and I am happy to withdraw it if the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not enjoy watching other people's children being beaten—

Sir Ian Percival


Mr. Freud

For hundreds of years it has been recognised that corporal punishment is not a satisfactory way of chastising children. In the 17th century a children's petition was presented to Parliament as a modest remonstrance of that intolerable grievance. In 1883 the Committee of the Privy Council on Education reported: the more thoroughly a teacher is qualified for his position by skill, character and personal influence, the less necessary it is for him to resort to corporal punishment. Dr. Arnold said of corporal punishment: it is a defeat for the teacher and a counsel of despair. I do not understand why we who are trying to distance ourselves from those arcane malpractices should now, when we have advanced in every other respect and when we no longer send children up chimneys or down pits, should pride ourselves on continuing corporal punishment.

A recent initiative to abolish corporal punishment came from the Plowden committee in 1967. It reported: The excessive use of punishment of any kind should be regarded as an acknowledgment of someone's failure. Any punishment of a corporal nature is bad, because beating a child does not produce a better child but tends to produce a more bitter and truculent one. If I believed anything else, I would not be arguing as I am.

As the only country in Europe which retains a teacher's right to spank, hit or beat children, we are not badly advised to look again. I regret the type of Bill that this is, because I am an abolitionist. Athough the measure is designed with some intent and principle in mind, rarely can a Bill have come from the Secretary of State's Department so lacking in either of those respects, so limited in its purpose and so devoid of spine. Nor have we had many Bills which will be so incomprehensible to those whom it will affect and which will please so few people because, as hon. Members have shown, it goes too far or does not go far enough.

The Bill has no guiding principle behind it. There is no indication that the concept of discipline, self-discipline or punishment has been understood by the Department, that the right hon. Gentleman has an appreciation of the problems facing our schools and teachers or of the fact that many teachers will not punish, even if their local education authorities recommend them to do so, and that many unions are opposed to it.

Worse still, there is no analysis of the moral or educational basis of corporal punishment. On what grounds, for example, are we to be the only country in Europe to retain the sanction? Why is this measure being presented when there are over 30 outstanding cases awaiting judgment in the Commission, judgments which may render this piece of legislation outwith the convention? As the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) said, as we debate the Bill through its different stages we may be overtaken by events as the result of new judgments from the European Court of Human Rights.

To encourage the gradual introduction of other, more imaginative, forms of punishment in our schools is a sensible idea. I attended a school at which other boys were punished but, because the views of my family were known, I was not corporally punished. Instead, I was made to learn Le Morte D'Arthur and Chaucer's prologue, which I still know by heart.

Mr. Cormack

He must have been very bad.

Mr. Freud

There is nothing so bad about Chaucer's prologue.

Mr. Cormack

I meant that, as a boy, the hon. Gentleman must have been rather bad if he had time to learn it by heart.

Mr. Freud

I hope that the hon. Gentleman has an opportunity to make his own speech, when he can develop that, if he so wishes.

Why do the Government persist in seeing corporal punishment as a solution? What great virtue do they see in our spending our time discussing such a pathetic and potentially damaging little Bill? Although the Minister did not say so, one suspects that it is a crumb to help assuage the voracious appetites of his hon. Friends who gave him such a hard time when he had to explain his proposals on student grants, and who gave me a hard time because I was in the next Committee Room hoping for a well-attended meeting of the Friends of the British Council. Few turned up for my meeting, because they wanted to hear the Secretary of State. [Interruption.] A few came.

What will the Bill do for our schools? It will not do a lot. It will do even less for our school secretaries and administrators, because it will impose even more work on those overworked people. This will happen particularly in the small comprehensive schools, which are already facing increasing amounts of paper work. What is worse, the new work load will be such that teachers will never be sure whether the list is up to date or whether a mistake has been made. Teachers will feel considerable guilt if things go wrong.

What does the Bill do for parents whose rights, we are told, the legislation respects and who are trying to bring up their children with a sense of fairness and equity and to face the immense problem—to a child—of being "different"? Will parents need to explain that punishment and right and wrong have different meanings for different children? How will parents react to the ritualisation and bureaucratisation of punishment which the Bill will usher in?

How can the Secretary of State think that the Bill does anything to encourage greater responsibility by parents for their children's behaviour and more involvement in what happens in schools? If behavioural problems have as much origin in the home as in the school, relying on the simplistic answer of the cane seems naive.

Most importantly, what does the Bill do for the teacher? The teacher will now have to stop in the middle of administering a punishment and say to the child, "Hold on a minute while I check the punishment register. Stay there and do not do anything." The harassed teacher will then go to the school office and say, "Can I punish this child? Are you sure it is this child, and not the child's brother? Are the parents separated? Do we have consent from both the father and the mother?"

To the teacher who asks, "What can I do when I am confronted by a violent 16-year-old?" I say that the Bill is no answer and that the child does not suddenly become violent. The cane is not the answer and, with respect, has never been the answer. The child will not be reformed by the imposition of institutionalised violence, nor will he be deterred, as all the evidence shows. We should be looking beyond the expression of his fears and frustrations. Those who support the Bill seem to think that there is a simple solution to these problems. I believe that it is time we thought again.

How will a teacher teach his children self-discipline or to understand what discipline means when he faces the scenario that I have mentioned? Surely the admittedly nebulous concepts of justice and equity are part of what we should include when we speak of educating our children.

In an intervention the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) asked the hon. Member for Durham, North whether, if he had such faith in the European Court of Human Rights, he would preserve the private sector. If I were asked that question, I would say that I believe in the retention of his private sector of education, but I believe that it should become truly independent. I do not believe that giving charitable status to a concept as uncharitable as Eton, Harrow or Winchester makes much sense.

Liberal Members reject the belief that caning is a solution to any problem in our schools. We reject the Bill, whose only point seems to be to meet a ruling of the European convention: this is laudable but misguided, in that there is nothing more—no reasoned defence and no attempt to make our schools better or to tackle the real problem of motivation and discipline. I hope the Minister will promise us that he will examine those education authorities which no longer impose corporal punishment and ascertain whether they have found an answer. I advise the House to follow the example of the Liberal party and to reject the Bill. As the hon. Member for Durham, North said, there are many hurdles to come—but none need come up. Kill off the Bill tonight.

5.54 pm
Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

I shall not follow the abolitionist path taken by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud). I would like to send the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) to a comprehensive school for a couple of years so that they will really be at the "chalk face" and will know every aspect of this problem. They speak as though they have known comprehensive schools from the inside, but they have not.

I hope that I have not been too damaged by the accolade of the hon. Member for Durham, North, which went straight to my heart. The hon. Gentleman's points could be damaging to teachers, especially when he makes trite remarks about the need for teaching to be firm, constructive and purposeful. Tell that to the east end teachers struggling to control many children who are deprived and damaged in certain ways. The hon. Gentleman needs to go beyond such broad, sweeping statements and think of the extra problems faced by teachers.

Mr. Radice

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Greenway

With respect, I did not interrupt the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Radice

The hon. Gentleman did not dare.

Mr. Greenway

I have demolished the hon. Gentleman's arguments so many times in the House that I believe I should let him off today.

There are two separate discussions about punishment in schools. The Labour party and the National Union of Teachers hold one view. I notice that the hon. Member for Durham, North did not refer to the views of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, which believes that corporal punishment is a sensible form of punishment.

Mr. Radice

The hon. Gentleman should give way on that point.

Mr. Greenway

The hon. Member for Durham, North tried to give the impression that all the unions oppose corporal punishment.

Mr. Radice

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Greenway

I will not give way at the moment.

The hon. Member for Durham, North takes an idealistic line on corporal punishment and behaviour in general, as does the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment and others who agree with him, including the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East. They say that all children are basically good and that punishment is therefore irrelevant and unnecessary. They say that it is wrong to use force to bend children to one's will. They believe that Rousseau was right when he said that children are basically self-motivated and self-motivated for good and that, if children are left to their own devices, all will be well.

The hon. Member for Durham, North should consider what the great Thomas Arnold of Rugby said: My object will be, if possible, to produce Christian men, for Christian boys I can scarcely hope to make. That point should be borne in mind.

The other view on punishment in schools is held by the practical person—the schoolmaster. The hon. Member for Durham, North has conceded that I have been in comprehensive schools. I have been involved at the top of them for 23 years, so I have dealt with every disciplinary problem, and many more, in areas such as King's Cross and Lewisham.

Schoolmasters and all teachers need a practical approach. One cannot always be intellectual about the discipline one administers, but one must be intelligent about it. I would not say that no schoolmaster has never said that corporal punishment is a cure, but it is a deterrent. If sparingly, effectively and thoughtfully used, it can be a deterrent. I am not defending massive beatings by grown men of schoolchildren, but, carefully administered, the use of corporal punishment is sensible and right as a punishment for gross bullying, vandalism, and other misdemeanours.

Corporal punishment is sparingly used today. It is slowly going out of the punishment book, but it is still there. It is wrong to argue that it should suddenly be withdrawn by a sweep of the legislative pen. Corporal punishment has parental and teacher support. What is done in schools must have, if possible, parental and teacher support. That fundamental value must be considered in determining the use of corporal punishment. Children must always be given equal punishment. That punishment should be given when needed and should never be malicious.

What are the alternatives? What are we talking about? I will mention some alternatives that the hon. Member for Durham, North gave and some that he did not. There are sin bins, lines and extra maths. As I have said before in the House, what does it do for the teaching and learning of maths if a teacher says, "You will stay behind to do some maths tonight for your misbehaviour."? Punishment runs might be good. There is sarcasm. We have had a little of that in the House, and we all accept it. However, sarcasm destroys and damages a child's mind. That is much worse than a tap on the bottom or somewhere else. Do they advocate shouting or suspension? Expulsion has been advocated.

If the Labour and Liberal parties advocate suspension and expulsion as an alternative to corporal punishment, they should know that almost always those children who need to be in school for educational, social and other reasons are put outside by these, to their lifelong damage. Moderate corporal punishment is much better for those children.

What else do the hon. Gentleman and his Labour colleagues advocate? The juvenile court? The abolition of corporal punishment can bring the juvenile court much closer. Perhaps they advocate psychiatrists, but the psychology service is already overworked.

We must take account of the fact that most teachers are in favour of corporal punishment. My experience, which is long and well known to the House, is that some of the keenest abolitionists are the first to run to the head or deputy head's office and say, "That boy is out of hand. Will you give him the cane?" However, they do not advocate corporal punishment; they are against it, they always say.

I can give an example of a teacher who ran to me. No woman was keener on abolishing corporal punishment than that lady. She burst into my office one day at the end of school and said, "Two horrible boys have just let down the tyres of my car. Will you catch them and give them a good hiding?". I said, "Miss Jones, you have always been opposed to corporal punishment. What are we talking about?" She said, "I cannot have that. What is to be done about it?" That is what happens in some schools. The abolitionists do not accept what they advocate when they are challenged or upset. That is a telling indictment of them.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett


Mr. Greenway

I shall not give way, because I think the hon. Gentleman will be replying to the debate.

The Bill is damaging because it permits unequal treatment in schools. I was pleased when my right hon. Friend said that in some areas there are schools side by side, one of which has corporal punishment and one of which is against it, which the parents know when they enter their child. It is in the school prospectus. That is the way that we should go. I hope that the Bill can be turned in that direction. I shall support the Bill because I shall seek to amend it.

I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Durham, North and the Liberal party because they are seeking to make the Bill an abolition Bill for the slight and flimsy reasons that they have given. The Bill must be amended. People inside and outside the House have pointed out instances that cause serious anxiety. It is wrong to damage the position of a teacher acting in loco parentis. I know that the Labour party wishes to take that away altogether.

To make teachers subject to civil actions because they have behaved as a parent might in certain circumstances, as the Bill does, is to damage the finest set of working people — the teaching profession — and to make life unnecessarily difficult for them.

The objections of the much-respected National Association of Head Teachers should be considered. It objects to the Bill and says that it creates an obligation upon schools to maintain a list of all pupils who can be subject to corporal punishment. The association feels that that is an unwarranted imposition. It argues that it would have been far better if the list merely recorded those people who were subject to parental exemption. I ask my hon. Friend to take up that point and respond to it when he replies. The association says: We remain concerned that the heads and teachers will be at risk of civil action when a genuine mistake is made in the application of corporal punishment to an individual pupil who has been exempted. Everyone can make mistakes. The Bill contains no let-out for the head or teacher who makes a mistake.

The association also says: We strongly believe that only those heads and teachers who act in deliberate breach of parental wishes or who are guilty of recklessness or gross negligence, should be liable to civil action. That would be much more reasonable than the Bill's position on that matter. I argue strongly in support of heads and teachers with whom I formerly worked and with whom I am in close contact in advancing their objections.

I am sorry to see that the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East is not in his place. He was on exceedingly thin ground when he said that we should emulate Sweden and abolish corporal punishment and not be the only country to retain it. Only a week or two ago on the radio he was arguing that we should not emulate Sweden on loans. I happen to agree with him about that, but he is trying to have the argument both ways. He should see the error of his argument.

I ask for the guidance of my hon. Friend when he replies on the subject of the hysterical pupil. The Bill does not mention, and nor did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the teacher who has to deal with a pupil who has become completely hysterical. In schools or anywhere else, traditionally one has had to give a good hard slap across the face or elsewhere. Sometimes that is the only possible thing to do to bring back reason. That point should be covered. It should be made clear that teachers and heads who do that are covered.

May we know how many weeks will have to elapse before parents who have not replied to an invitation to opt in and accept corporal punishment will be said to have done so? There are many parents who cannot read. They could not read a letter sent to them on that point. They may have to get someone else to read it for them. There are others who cannot write and who never respond to any letter. They are almost always the parents of children for whom punishment should be thought about carefully. I should like my hon. Friend to consider the position of such children and parents when he replies.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Does the hon. Member accept that any school that has the interests of such a child at heart will ask the parent to come to the school, when a decision will be taken as a result of discussions between the teacher and the parent? One of the objections to the Bill is that it does not do more to foster co-operation between the parent and the school, and to make it clear that parents have a responsibility for discipline.

Mr. Greenway

There are some parents who would never come to the school, even if one promised them £1,000 or a pint of beer. What the hon. Member for Denton and Redditch (Mr. Bennett) says sounds grand, but it is not entirely realistic.

My right hon. Friend made a valuable point when he said that we have to reaffirm our acceptance of the European Court of Human Rights, and its charter every five years. Presumably that gives us the right to renegotiate at that time on any point on which we have reservations and indeed to opt out altogether on such points. I hope that, as the European Court is making such nonsense of discipline in our schools, the Government will assure us that they will bear that point in mind when the next five-yearly negotiating time arrives.

How long will the established policy of the school have to last before it can be reversed? Once a school has established its policy under the legislation, will that policy have to last for a year, two years or five years, or could it be overturned at a week's or a day's notice?

How much notice will parents have to give of a change in their wishes for their child? That is another important point. Presumably they could not, within minutes of hearing that the child was to be given a smack, announce that, although they had formerly agreed to corporal punishment, they were now opposed to it.

I have no hesitation in voting for the Bill. Bad though it is — nonsensical though it is — I believe that it is amendable, and that the Opposition's policy is destructive or worse. In Sweden, children of five can take their parents to court for giving them a smack. That is the situation that the Labour party appears to advocate. We must avoid it at all costs.

6.13 pm
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

I find it almost unbelievable that a group of reputedly intelligent human beings should be discussing such nonsense. The Bill is so backward as to be almost unbelievable. Those who are in favour of corporal punishment would be just as defeated by the passage of the Bill as those who, like me, are opposed to it. We are searching for convoluted methods of helping people off a hook on which they have impaled themselves. The situation is so silly that I defy anyone who has passed the infant school stage to believe what we are talking about.

If we examine what has been said repeatedly in the debate, we must assume the existence of some kind of British exceptionalism that we are arrogating to ourselves. Perhaps, like the prevention of terrorism legislation, the Bill should be renewed every six months. From what some people say, one might think that children were creating terror on a grand scale in our schools.

We all want discipline in school. Those of us who have taught know how necessary it is. I have been opposed to corporal punishment throughout a long teaching life. I can never understand how — witout saying it in so many words — we dare to accuse all the nations that have abolished corporal punishment of enduring utter chaos in their schools as a result, while, because we retain corporal punishment, we have wonderful discipline. That is nonsense.

The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), with whom I have worked as closely as two hon. Members on opposite sides can work, has fallen for that line. How can we possibly believe that, because of corporal punishment, we, out of the whole of Europe, have discipline in our schools, while all those poor, benighted souls in the Common Market — in which I do not believe — have schools that are in a state of chaos because of the lack of corporal punishment? It is an abuse of teachers in other countries—

Mr. Forth


Mr. Flannery

I may give way later.

British exceptionalism in schools is arrant nonsense. It is akin to gunboat diplomacy.

Mr. Radice

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Flannery

I would not want the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) to feel abused. Perhaps my hon. Friend would wait a little.

As any experienced teacher knows, corporal punishment is born of sheer frustration. It eases the situation of a teacher who cannot teach any longer without caning a certain child. It is the last refuge of many good teachers; but it is the first refuge of the poor teacher.

Many years ago, when I was teaching a junior class—

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Flannery

With respect, I should like to tell my anecdote, which is absolutely true.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman


Mr. Flannery

I hope that the hon. Lady will not interrupt me.

In those days, primary and secondary schools were not so neatly divided. There were junior boys and secondary boys in the school in which I was teaching, as happened in the state system. As hon. Members may remember, many teachers were needed after the war, so an emergency scheme was set up. People had only a year's training. Many of them were ex-service men. We needed them, even though they were inadequately trained. Many of them were far better teachers than they would otherwise have been, because they entered the profession after the war, after long experience of life, rather than being pushed into it by mummy.

One teacher at that school had been a lieutenant in the Navy. He was a very good person, but, as soon as there was any indiscipline, he felt that he must use the cane. Like me, he had taught primary and secondary school children. He took over a class of mine in which there were 46 nine-year-olds. I had found the class easy and friendly.

When the head asked me to move around the school and teach history and English to some of the bigger and smaller boys, the teacher to whom I have referred took over my class.

I still took the class for one or two lessons a week. On one such occasion, a little boy came and stood beside my desk and boasted, "Sir, I have been caned." I asked, "Have you, John? What had you done?" He told me about some peccadillo for which he had been caned. Another child came up with his book and said the same thing. I told him to go and sit down. I then said, "Hands up those boys who have been caned," and 46 boys put up their hands.

Caning goes on in more than 80 per cent. of our secondary schools. There is a caning every 19 seconds. It closes the channels of learning, makes it more difficult for the teacher to teach, and it has all sorts of bad effects.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Flannery

In a moment. Do not be impatient.

Most canings are contrary to law and take place in front of a full class. Often small and sensitive children are caned, and the caning makes it difficult to go on teaching them. The caning is not put into a punishment book, as it should be, and is not conducted before witnesses, except children. I fail to see how it helps teaching.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Flannery

I shall have to eventually. Very well.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that he gave his case away when he said that caning is the last refuge of a good teacher? That is precisely the argument that my right hon. and hon. Friends are using. It is a deterrent, and even good teachers need a deterrent.

Mr. Flannery

As usual, the hon. Lady is wong. Before I said that, I said that caning was born of frustration.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Look at Hansard.

Mr. Flannery

Perhaps the hon. Lady would stop interrupting me. She knows that I would never interrupt her.

Caning is born of frustration and has no impact, except a negative one. We are discussing a bizarre Bill which, like caning, is born of frustration. There is an air of panic about the Bill. Ministers have said, "The European Court of Human Rights has made a decision and we must react to it." The only real reaction is the abolition of corporal punishment, but the Tory party could not face that. It could not face abolishing one of its most cherished notions about children. The result is a half-way house which is unfair and utterly unworkable. Conservative Members will not have to implement the Bill. I wish that they would talk to the teachers who are expected to implement it. It is simply not true that teachers agree with the Bill. Even teachers who believe in corporal punishment disagree profoundly with it because they know that it is unworkable and unfair and will help nobody.

The Bill has been dreamt up by people who do not understand and have never faced the problem. They have merely a memory of what happened to them in their childhood. In many cases that was a long time ago. Teachers oppose the Bill because they know that they will not be able to implement it and that, therefore, matters will be worse.

Mr. David Evennett (Erith and Crayford)

The hon. Gentleman has been a teacher. Does he agree that some teachers believe that physical assaults on teaching staff by pupils are the very form of misdemeanour from which corporal punishment can safeguard them? Does he also agree that that is an important reason for keeping corporal punishment?

Mr. Flannery

The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong. Statistics prove that when corporal punishment is abolished, the incidence of assaults on teachers is reduced. There is gross indignity in one human being chastised by another, when it would be an assault outside the education system. Physically punishing people up to the age of 18 is bound to arouse passions. Schools which have relied to some extent on corporal punishment will be in most difficulty if the Bill becomes law. There will have to be discussions about how to deal with recalcitrant children.

The smaller the class, the less difficulty there is in teaching. The abolition of corporal punishment will be expensive. It means having better schools, more teachers and smaller classes. Anyone who has taught knows that there is a point at which a teacher becomes a child minder. We want classes that are small enough to enable teachers to have a one-to-one relationship with pupils and to let the pupils know that the teacher is deeply interested in their problems. Opposition Members are struggling towards that goal, as are many Conservative Members. We all know that the Bill is nonsense.

We are providing that people under the age of 18 in England and Wales can be beaten, although pupils over the age of 15 in Scotland can choose whether to be beaten. Are we really suggesting that a 17½-year-old boy or girl will walk up to a teacher and say, "I want to be beaten for what I do wrong."? That is claptrap. It is insulting for the House to be expected to vote on such rubbish. We have far better things to do. The Bill is the child of a bureaucratic mind and panic.

I am sorry that corporal punishment is so deeply ingrained in the Tory party as the best method of bringing up children. I have met ex-pupils, who were never caned in my schools, boasting about how they were caned. It made them feel manly. I have seen people standing at bars saying that caning never hurt or did them any harm. Others look at them quizzically and say to themselves, "Good God! Did it not? We all have our own opinions about that." It is all so manly being 21, starting to shave, boasting about being caned and slapping on the after-shave lotion. Caning has no part in teaching, but, unfortunately, some Conservative Members will go on with it until what is bound to occur occurs.

There is only one progressive element in the Bill. It opens the way to complete abolition, when it is proved that the Bill is unworkable and backward.

Most parents do not want their children to be caned. They do not want someone else doing what they do not do. We should not equate a little get-along slap on the leg of a child with standing over him with cane in hand. The older the child, the more terrible it is to stand over him with a cane. He may even take the cane from the teacher and snap it over his knees. That causes a great deal of trouble in secondary schools.

Sir Keith Joseph

I am sure that the words of the hon. Gentleman are widely read, so I should warn him that even a little "get-along" slap on the leg would count as corporal punishment.

Mr. Flannery

Conservative members have already used euphemisms that equate caning with the sort of little get-along that I have just mentioned. That is not the way to deal with the problem. No one is complaining about the tiny losses of temper, even though the right hon. Gentleman says that they are wrong and that one should beware of them. My point is that we cannot equate caning with a little slap of that nature.

Sir Keith Joseph

I should have completed my remarks. A slap that is given as part or as the whole of a punishment constitutes an offence under the Bill.

Mr. Flannery

I accept that. I reiterate that I am totally against slapping a child. My point is that Conservative Members are equating a slap with caning as though they were the same thing. I am against both. I want good teaching. That means not beating children, but opening the channels of learning by gaining their interest and respect without beatings.

The fact that private schools are not included in the measure shows that it is fatuous. I understand that in public schools they try to conceal the fact that children are there on public money. If a parent opts out and says that he does not want his child John caned, it will become clear that John comes from the state sector and has an assisted place on taxpayers' money. There will be a stigma attached, as there is with free meals. That is one of the tiny peccadillos of the Bill.

In its attempt to preserve the backward methods of discipline of the past, the Bill falls between two stools. By doing so, it could lessen and even cause the collapse of discipline in schools. If we had a free vote, the Bill would be rejected, because both sides of the House would oppose the middle way. Conservative Members should have sufficient courage to join us in throwing out a measure in which no one believes and which could deepen rather than solve the problems in our schools.

6.33 pm
Mr. David Evennett (Erith and Crayford)

I always enjoy listening to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), and this evening I agreed with some of his points. Unfortunately, many of my right hon. and hon. Friends cannot support the Opposition amendment because of its wording, although our sympathies may be with some of the points that it raises.

I compliment my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his ministerial colleagues on all the good work that they have done since the Government took office. They have attempted to get to grips with the real problems of education in contemporary Britain. When I listened to the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) talking about the education policy of the Labour party, I thought back to the last Labour Secretary of State for Education, who now belongs to a different party. She ruined many good schools, allowed standards to decline drastically and ignored the literacy and curriculum problems of schools. Although I agree with Opposition Members who say that the Department should improve the curricula and discipline in schools, when the Labour party was in office quite the opposite occurred.

I am thankful that since 1979 the Government have been heavily involved in dealing with those real problems. Their record on teacher quality, raising pupils' levels of attainment, reviewing examination methods and encouraging greater parental involvement in schools lead us to look forward to future reforms which are in the pipeline. With such a good record, it is regrettable that the Government are obliged to introduce this Bill. It is a hindrance to the progress that they have made in many areas.

It is regrettable that Government time is being taken up by this so-called reform. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, it is not the Bill that he would have liked to introduce if he had had the choice. It cannot be denied that some measure to reform corporal punishment had to be introduced. Because of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, the Government must make provision for respecting the philosophical convictions about corporal punishment of parents whose children are educated at public expense.

Conservative Members believe in abiding by the rule of law. The United Kingdom is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights and must, therefore, be bound by the rulings of the court, regrettable though they may be. To ignore its decisions would be to breach an undertaking in international law. Conservative Members could never suggest nor condone such a thing.

Having accepted that some measure of reform is necessary, and having acknowledged that the wishes of parents must be respected, one wonders what effect the Bill will have on discipline in schools, if it is left in its present form. I agree with the hon. Member for Hillsborough that that must be the criterion on which we judge the measure.

I am a former teacher, and I am only too aware of the difficulties which many teachers face in maintaining discipline. Education can be successful only in an atmosphere conducive to study. Such an atmosphere cannot exist where unruly children disrupt classes. Where corporal punishment is available as an ultimate punishment, discipline is generally maintained. Without it, unruly pupils may face a less painful punishment but a more damaging one.

Some of my Conservative colleagues have mentioned in interjections that an alternative may be to expel disruptive pupils, who then end up in a so-called sin bin. I regret that, because it means that a child's education may be further prejudiced. I accept that there are other acceptable methods of punishment and that corporal punishment is not widely used. It is rarely used, but it is a deterrent and an ultimate punishment.

Many people say that disruptive children deserve their fate if they go to a sin bin, but should a child's education be irreversibly harmed because of thoughtless childish behaviour which could be remedied by a few strokes of the cane or a smack, depending on the age of the child? I am not in favour of 17-year-olds being caned. It is not practical. However, it may be a deterrent and a punishment for younger children.

The decision of the European Court of Human Rights requires the Government only to make allowances for the philosophical convictions of parents about corporal punishment. The court did not say that the punishment was wrong. It did not decide that it was cruel or degrading, contrary to what Opposition Members have said.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

No Opposition Member suggested that the court said that in its judgment. We simply referred to the 20 cases that are pending, some of them under a different article, and the possibility that the Government might have to legislate again.

Mr. Evennett

I accept that the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman did not say that, but the hon. Member for Hillsborough suggested that it was cruel and degrading. However, I agree that the court did not say that—

Mr. Flannery

I did not say that the Court of Human Rights said that it was degrading. I said that I believed it was degrading.

Mr. Evennett

I accept that the court did not say that and that the hon. Gentleman did. It would appear that the Opposition are suggesting that the punishment is degrading.

The Bill seems to be leading us along the path of abolition, not by the will of the House, but because its provisions, if implemented, will cause serious problems to schools, and especially to teachers. They will have to abandon corporal punishment, and the result will be abolition by default. We cannot have it both ways. If we want greater professionalism from teachers, we must give them as much support as possible to carry out their duties. The Bill will not only fail to support them, but will undermine discipline, which is the essential foundation upon which teachers must rely.

Despite my right hon. Friend's interesting and informative speech, I am still a little confused about opting in and opting out. He suggested that letters will be sent to parents telling them that they have the option of putting their child on the register. It will be difficult, in schools where the majority of parents decide to opt their children out, to maintain a couple or half a dozen children on the corporal punishment list. That would be unfair to the parents and to the children. There is a large question mark against whether parents will write to the schools and say, "Yes, I want my child to be punished if necessary." The result may be that a minority of pupils at the school will be liable to corporal punishment. Many parents who saw that would then opt their children out, and corporal punishment in that institution would end.

The teachers unions, the press and nearly everyone has been against some aspects of the Bill. During the years in which I have been interested in education, no other education legislation has attracted so much criticism.

Parental choice has become a keynote of the Government's education policy. I hope that, having suggested to my right hon. Friend that parental choice could be restricted by the Bill, he will consider it slightly differently. We must conform with the court's ruling, but of the three options that my right hon. Friend mentioned in his speech, I wonder whether he would reconsider the option to designate schools and allow school governors and local authorities to determine whether a school should be subject to corporal punishment.

Recent legislation has forced schools to draw up lists of information about the subjects and facilities that they offer. When parents look for secondary schools to which to send their children, they have a choice—encouraged by the Government — depending on curriculum and opportunities available. The Bill might be better received if the Government allowed school governors and local education authorities to designate some schools as corporal punishment schools and to give parents the choice of sending their children to those schools.

Mr. David Lightbown (Staffordshire, South-East)

Does my hon. Friend agree that if his proposal were enacted it would create problems for school transport? Immediately the two-mile limit for primary schools and the three-mile limit for secondary schools were breached, parents would demand, as a statutory right, that the local education authorities provided transport. That would be an expensive alternative.

Mr. Evennett

There are two sides to that argument. In urban areas, such as my constituency, it would not be a problem, because there are many schools in the area. However, in rural or outlying districts it could be a great problem. If we are dealing with a philosophical conviction — that the parent does not want his child to attend a school that has corporal punishment—the risk of a child having to travel a little further may be a consequence of his opting his child out of corporal punishment. It may involve additional expenditure, but if the Government believe in more choice for parents they should consider providing choice in this area.

Opposition Members mentioned the children who attend public schools, not because their parents pay the full fees, but because they receive a grant from the Government. As we believe in excellence in education, the opportunity for children of a certain background or from a certain area to attend schools, often of academic excellence, at public expense is greatly welcome. However, if those children come within the provisions of the Bill, schools may be less keen to take them. It will cause public schools more problems, because they will be able to maintain corporal punishment, unhindered by the Bill, for those who are not on the assisted places scheme.

I realise that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is in a difficult position, and we sympathise with him. He is obliged to introduce legislation to comply with the court's decision, and he believes the Bill to be the most practical way out of the difficulty. I understand his reservations about the alternatives, but the Bill in its present form will result in the abolition of corporal punishment by the back door. I agree completely with my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) that the Bill should be amended at a later stage.

6.48 pm
Mr. David Young (Bolton, South-East)

If I, as a teacher, had received the Bill as a submission for A-level work, I should have been tempted to write on the report, "Your son has received an excellent education from us, but it is evident that he has been educated beyond his intelligence." It worries me that we have not talked much about the children. Children will accept many forms of discipline, provided that they believe it to be fair and just, and provided that pupils in the same class do not receive different punishment for the same offence. That is the basis not only of class discrimination but of legal discrimination.

What we should try to do in schools — I am not referring to social engineering, because I do not believe that it works — is to make each child feel when he leaves school that he will receive equal justice before the law. For children to be brought up in a society in which the rules and regulations discriminate against them creates no basis for turning them into responsible citizens of the future. When I was a teacher I did not use corporal punishment, not because the lads tended to be bigger than I was — although that would have been a reasonable enough excuse — but because in many of our city schools lads are brought up in violent areas. One very often faced lads with whom even the police could not deal.

My reason for not using corporal punishment was that its use meant that I should descend to the level that I condemned. If I had used the cane as a deterrent, I should have sown in the minds of those children the belief that might was right, that the guardian of the law was not the courts but the guy with the biggest fists and the most effective punch. That is the key argument for the abolition of corporal punishment. We are referring not to the occasional misdemeanour but to serious disruption. My experience was that if lads accepted corporal punishment they did not need it in the first place.

Already a distinction is made between the punishment that is right for girls and the punishment that is right for boys. A distinction is now to be made between the parents of those boys who write to the school and those who do not. The parents who write tend to be the more articulate parents, whereas the boys who very often need help but who get the bashing have parents who do not care. They are discriminated against at home and they are then discriminated against by the first kind of authority with which they come into contact. That is no way in which to build a one-nation society.

My condemnation of this Government's legislation is that it will create a two-nation society: the privileged and the under-privileged, the articulate and the inarticulate, those who have the resources to stand up for themselves and those who do not. That is no way in which to create a one-nation society. It will not be easy to create the kind of society that we want to create in schools. It will involve all kinds of additional resources. If the Minister wishes to create discipline in schools, by which I mean the creation of a working relationship, there must be smaller classes and more teachers and more books. However, the Minister is a wrecker. There are 1.4 million children in classes with over 30 pupils and 130,000 children in classes with over 35 pupils; 30,000 teachers have disappeared in the last four years and 20,000 teachers are due to disappear in the next two years. Again the Government are skimping on a pay claim by the teachers. The Government are creating dissatisfaction among both the pupils and the teachers whom they are there to serve and to defend.

Mr. Lightbown

Is it not a fact that every year since the early 1970s the pupil-teacher ratios in both primary and secondary schools have improved?

Mr. Young

No, not according to what needs to be done.

Who else will deal with glue sniffing? The parents, the police, the courts and this House cannot deal with it. This is another among the many jobs that have to be done by teachers and social workers. Ours is the only society that seems not to recognise that the real potential of this country rests upon the education of our young people, both at school, in industry, and in our universities. Every cut slashes at the very seedcorn upon which this country depends if it is to compete with our competitors abroad.

Unless we create in our schools, because the classroom is the doorway to society, the belief that children will receive fair treatment—everybody cannot be equal but equality of treatment can be expected—and that they will not be divided from the age of five into two societies, we shall have failed in our duty to those upon whom the future of this nation rests.

I am very sad that in legislation such as this we are pandering to the maintenance of prejudice. If children do not behave in grammar schools, they can be told to go elsewhere. Where, however, does the kid from the comprehensive go? Nobody can solve that problem. There has been a great deal of discussion about handing this question over to governors. I suppose that when we next debate capital punishment we shall ask somebody else to deal with it. One of the jobs of this House is to create a better educational environment for our kids. I hope that hon. Members will support the Opposition amendment and ensure that corporal punishment is abolished. At the end of tonight's debate I, as a constituency Member of Parliament, shall be writing to my local authority asking it to make a decision that will not divide one child in a class from his neighbour in Bolton at least.

6.58 pm
Mr. Warren Hawksley (The Wrekin)

I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Bolton. South-East (Mr. Young) down the abolitionist road.

I am glad that the debate is taking place this week. If it had taken place last week it would have been much shorter, had the powers that be had their way. It is crucial that we should have a long and full discussion on Second Reading of what I believe to be a very important Bill.

In March 1982 I tried to raise the question of corporal punishment for young offenders by putting down a new clause to the Criminal Justice Bill. I initiated a debate that continued in Committee for 61/2 hours. The was no filibustering. It demonstrated the importance of the subject to the Committee, although one appreciates that the context was different. However, it is interesting to note that many of the arguments that are being put forward today, particularly those relating to the European Court of Human Rights, were raised then as reasons why it was not possible to consider the reintroduction of corporal punishment for young offenders.

This Bill is not concerned with whether we should allow corporal punishment. Most people think, as do I, that it may be the beginning of the end. I regret that, although I appreciate that some Labour Members hope that that will be so.

When I advocated corporal punishment for young offenders in 1982, I said that those of us who had had corporal punishment at school were none the worse for it. When the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) was being questioned about his education, I was tempted to ask whether he had ever experienced corporal punishment. If he had answered that in the affirmative, I would have gone on to ask whether he thought it did him any harm. I do not believe that it does anybody any harm to be caned to a reasonable degree. I admit that we are talking of a sparing use of the cane, not of brutal attacks by teachers which would be open to action in the criminal courts.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Does the hon. Gentleman feel that it does any good at all when, on occasions, pupils tell teachers who have administered corporal punishment that it did not hurt and go off to glory, first, in that fact in front of other pupils and, secondly, in the fact that they could make such a remark to a teacher?

Mr. Hawksley

I am sure that I always said that corporal punishment did not hurt when I was at school, but I have a funny feeling that it acted as a deterrent. I was slightly more careful next time about committing that offence. It is a deterrent. I appreciate that people may claim that corporal punishment does not hurt and may try to glory in it, but in their heart of hearts they must feel that it is a deterrent. It is a sanction which teachers should use sparingly, but which I believe strongly should be available to them to use as they think fit.

Is the Bill before us today because the Government disagree with corporal punishment? The answer must be no. It comes about only because the European Court of Human Rights said so in the February 1982 judgment in the case of Campbell and Cosans. We should look at the judgments of the European court. Let us spread the net a little wider. Let us consider not just that case, but the case involving corporal punishment in the Isle of Man—the Tyrer case. In both those cases the British judge dissented from the judgment which went against the British interest.

It is also interesting to note that Lord Scarman, in a judgment in another place in 1980, stressed the importance of the rule of Parliament here at Westminster. He said: This House's decision, even though the European Court has held the rule it declares to be an infringement of the Convention, is the law. Our courts must continue to look, not to the European Court's decision but to the House of Lords' decision. Is it in our interest that we should blindly follow a court whose judgments have nothing to do with Britain's legal system and are not even arrived at by our judges? I should say no.

Rather than push the Bill to a vote tonight, the Government should have decided to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. When that convention was ratified in 1951, we retained the right to decide that it was not for Britain. In view of the judgments that are coming forward, we should reconsider the situation. That, I hasten to add, has nothing to do with our membership of and responsibilities to the EEC. It concerns, purely and simply, the ratification by the Government in 1951.

I hope that we shall consider whether we want our law to be made in this Chamber and to be enforced by British judges.

Sir Keith Joseph

I ask my hon. Friend to bear in mind that many hon. Members had reason to welcome at least one, if not more, of the judgments of that court from which he wants us to withdraw.

Mr. Hawksley

I think that I know what judgment my right hon. Friend is thinking about, but, on balance, the argument that we should be ruled in such matters by a court in which the British judge dissented from the judgment does not appeal to me.

The right for teachers on the continent to be regarded as acting in loco parentis is not common. Although my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State says that we are dealing here with a small and fine point, that whole relationship will be endangered by the fact that we are prepared to go on accepting the edicts of the European Court. If that is continental practice, I fear that that will be inflicted on us. That is wrong.

Decisions on the system that we want in our schools and the relationship between teachers and the children that they are looking after should and must be made by the House and the other place.

I shall have no option but to vote against the Labour party's amendment, which would abolish corporal punishment and therefore cannot possibly have my support; but I shall also be unable to support the Government when we vote on this important issue tonight.

My support for corporal punishment as a sanction, and my dislike of the Europeans telling us what to do in our own country, is joined in my mind by a belief—some Opposition Members may agree with me here—that the Government's proposal to create the sheep and the goats — those children who can be caned and those who cannot—is probably the worst of both worlds.

The teachers are right to say that the abolition of the cane will lead to problems and that increased expenditure will be necessary. That point was mentioned by the hon. Member for Bolton, South-East. To a certain extent, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State skirted round that point in his opening speech, but he accepted that some slight expenditure would be necessary. At this time, when education is having to play its part in helping the economy to get back on its feet, can we possibly accept any extra expenditure on an item such as this?

There are some practical problems. I can imagine a situation where, a crime having been committed that deserves to be punished by the cane, the headmaster finds that of the two children involved one can be caned and the other cannot. If it is the ringleader who cannot be caned, is it fair that the minor party should be caned? It is not.

What safeguards are there against a 15-year-old with a single parent intimidating his mother when she has to decide whether he should be exempt from punishment? When detention slips have to be returned, one sometimes hears of children forging them. What safeguards have we to prevent these forms being returned with forged signatures? Those are practical problems which must be dealt with in Committee.

I hope that the views of the National Association of Head Teachers on retaining a list of pupils who are subject to parental exemption will be considered in Committee. What punishment will be offered as an alternative? We have heard suggestions from both sides of the House. I am slightly nervous that, at a later date, some of those may be ruled out of order by the European Court if we remain a signatory to the convention.

Some people may have read in The Times today of the 16-year-old boy from Wirral who was suspended from school because he would not be caned and whose lawyers are claiming £17,000 in compensation for him. Will that be the first of many cases? If so, it causes me great concern. I hope that, when he replies, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will deal with the future of the European Court and how those further decisions will be arrived at. According to The Times, it is unlikely that that case will be heard by the judges. It is expected that it will end in a friendly settlement. If that is the case, will taxpayers' money be used to support the parents of that child who is making the complaint?

Even at this late stage I hope that Ministers will think again and withdraw the Bill, go back to the Cabinet and ask it to agree to our withdrawal from the European convention. It is important that we retain for Britain the right to make our own decisions about how we maintain law and order.

7.10 pm
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

I find it odd that I am the sole hon. Member representing a Scottish constituency to seek to contribute to a debate that intends to amend the law of Scotland. It is odd that a proposition of this kind should not arouse the interest of either Front Bench. However, when I contemplate the reason for it a little more closely, it becomes clear that there is a certain underlying and unspoken justification for there being less interest in this debate among my Scottish colleagues than among right hon. and hon. Members representing constituencies south of the border.

When the judgment in the Scottish case of Campbell and Cosans was handed down by the European Court of Human Rights, it was recognised in Scotland that it was giving the red light to corporal punishment. Although I am not one of the greatest admirers of the Secretary of State for Scotland and have little admiration for his political courage, on this issue at least he showed the kind of leadership that ought to have been demonstrated by the Secretary of State for Education and Science. He showed a willingness to recognise that, notwithstanding the existence of a strong body of opinion in Scotland that favoured the continuance of corporal punishment — an opinion privately shared by many teachers even though many representative bodies in education were not prepared to say so publicly—he should advise local authorities to proceed with the abolition of corporal punishment. They are in the process of doing that.

The Bill seeks to change the law in Scotland and to introduce a number of bizarre anomalies. For example, a young person over the age of 16 in Scotland who is to be subjected to corporal punishment must himself say whether he wishes to receive it. In Scotland, the Bill in a sense will be a dead letter. I do not think that local education authorities will continue to accept that corporal punishment should have any place in the Scottish education system. That is a recognition of the practical difficulty of any other conclusion, in the light of the Campbell and Cosans case.

It is odd that the Secretary of State for Education and Science has not been able to resolve this difficulty south of the border in the same way that his Cabinet colleague did north of the border, and I do not find what the right hon. Gentleman said about our differences of position particularly compelling. He did not specify those differences—differences of degree or of popular opinion —on the subject north and south of the border. He did not demonstrate that there was any greater use of corporal punishment south of the border than north before the Campbell and Cosans case.

I think that the explanation lies in the natures of the two Secretaries of State. The Secretary of State for Education and Science seeks to defer to the atavistic instincts of those of his colleagues and those members of the Conservative party who wish to resist the abolition of corporal punishment at any cost. But he is signalling to his colleagues behind him that he regards this Bill as a tiresome necessity and not as a measure which he has any great pleasure in presenting to the House. He is seeking to have it both ways.

Mr. Forth

Will the hon. Gentleman try to be more consistent? Not too long ago, people applauded the reaction of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to what his Back Benchers were saying about student grants. Is it not consistent for my right hon. Friend to be rightly concerned about and sympathetic to what his Back Benchers may be saying in today's debate?

Mr. Maclennan

If the right hon. Gentleman tried to follow the opinions of his Back Benchers on this issue he would be in dire difficulty. A range of opinions has been expressed which is so confusing that it cannot have given him any guidance. In those circumstances, he would have been wiser to rely upon his own judgment and not to twist like a weather vane, blown by the winds of the opinions behind him.

Mr. David Young

That is what we are here for.

Mr. Maclennan

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that the views of his colleague, the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley), bear the slightest resemblance to those of the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) or those of the former Solicitor-General and of any other Government supporter who has spoken, he has been only half listening to the debate.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science would be wise to consider what has happened in Scotland since the Secretary of State for Scotland issued his advice to local education authorities, because he should recognise that there is now no significant body of opinion in favour of the reintroduction or retention of corporal punishment and that the debate in Scotland is no longer about corporal punishment in schools so much as what is to be done to maintain discipline in difficult schools in the absence of corporal punishment. That is a pressing and much-needed debate.

It is important to consider whether teachers in areas of stress and deprivation whose pupils are unruly, unmotivated and capable of disrupting classes have adequate means of instilling discipline and the circumstances which enable the education of those who wish to have it and those who would be better for it if it were to proceed.

Not enough thought has been given to the other available options. I had hoped to hear about them from the Secretary of State. It is clear that the majority of local authorities in England, as in Scotland, will recognise that the Bill is wholly unworkable and wholly inequitable. Their political complexion will not matter. They will proceed step by step inexorably down the road to abolition.

Today's debate would have been altogether more constructive if the Secretary of State had addressed himself to the circumstances that are to follow abolition. Instead, he buried his head in the sand and tried to split the difference between himself and those other hon. Members who have a more realistic appraisal of what goes on in the classroom.

I want to comment on what the hon. Member for The Wrekin said about the European Convention on Human Rights and the authority of the European Court. I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's point of view that it is not wholly satisfactory for Parliament to legislate to bring the United Kingdom into conformity with judgments reached in Strasbourg, especially when there is so much reluctance on the part of the Government even to commend the terms of the Bill.

The route around that difficulty would be the hon. Gentleman's acceptance — as many of his hon. Friends have accepted—of the overwhelming case to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into our domestic law. I introduced a Bill for that purpose during the last Session of Parliament, and enjoyed the support of a considerable number of Conservative Members. I think that 137 hon. Members, many of them Conservative, supported that principle in an early-day motion.

The hon. Gentleman is wrong to think that the principles of the convention are in any sense exotic or unsuited to this country. The convention was drafted by Englishmen in 1950 and was the product of the work of the late Lord Kilmuir, a distinguished Conservative Lord Chancellor who, at that time, was the chairman and rapporteur of the legal affairs committee of the Council of Europe on the subject of the protection of human rights. The convention was essentially a conservative measure, drawn up by lawyers well versed in the common law system and its practice. They knew what needed to be done to strengthen the protection of human rights — not abstractly in Europe as a whole, but in all the member countries of the Council of Europe.

Mr. Forth

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the United Kingdom entered a reservation against the protocol on which this whole case is based, and that that must cast some doubt on the suggestion that, even in the 1950s, the United Kingdom gave any credence to the sort of thing that has been brought before us today?

Mr. Maclennan

The protocols have been brought forward at different times, and different Governments have given assent on behalf of the British people. No doubt further protocols will be considered by the Government. Some protocols remain unratified by the Government.

There is a further respect in which the Bill is defective, which is that the issue should have been faced once and for all. It is highly unsatisfactory that this country should be dragged before the European Court of Human Rights time and again on the issue of corporal punishment—or, indeed, on any of the issues that have arisen from our alleged infractions of the convention to which we are a signatory.

In reply to my intervention earlier, the Secretary of State acknowledged that a number of cases are pending under article 3 of the convention—not under article 2 of the protocol — which may lead, in certain cases, to it being held that the corporal punishment was inhuman or degrading—

Mr. Forth


Mr. Maclennan

The hon. Gentleman may say that, but he is not following the argument. Under the convention, it is possible that the infliction of corporal punishment in a school may be held to be inhuman and degrading. That fact was brought out not only in the Tyrer case but in the judgment on the Campbell and Cosans case.

The court said: it follows from that judgment"— the Tyrer case— that 'treatment' itself will not be 'degrading' unless the person concerned has undergone—either in the eyes of others or in his own eyes … humiliation or debasement attaining a minimum level of severity. That level has to be assessed with regard to the circumstance of the case. It is quite clear that defining, in one case, that the infliction of corporal punishment is not inhuman or degrading does not end the right of another individual to take his case to the court. It is absolutely insufferable that case after case of corporal punishment should be brought before the court with the issue being decided judicially and over a protracted period. The Government must face the issue — it is time to bring an end to that form of punishment.

It is surely reasonable to study the experience not only of Scotland but of other European countries—on other occasions, the Government are quite ready to say, "We are culturally and socially close to them" — that have abolished corporal punishment in schools.

If, by some mischance, the Bill is given a Second Reading—and the SDP will vote against it—it will need to be amended if it is not to lead to the most gross of inequities and the most shocking administrative difficulties for those who have to give effect to it. I cannot envisage how the Bill can be amended to make sense. Nothing that has been said tonight by any hon. Member who has supported the principle of the Bill and has wanted to follow the Secretary of State's road has altered my view on that. They have raised questions to which there are already answers. We look forward with great interest to seeing how the difficulties mentioned by Conservative Members will be taken into account. We are highly sceptical about the Bill and oppose it in principle.

7.26 pm
Sir. Kenneth Lewis (Stamford and Spalding)

To cane or not to cane, that is the question—or is it? The Prime Minister is constantly saying that she does not want anything to be fudged. This issue is something which she will have to accept is being fudged—even though she is a previous Secretary of State for Education and Science. If ever there was a Bill that fudged anything, this is it.

When I was at school, if I had been told that in 50 years I would be in the House of Commons with an opportunity to do away with caning, I would have been delighted. I would have told my chums that it could not be true, but that if it did happen it would be worth waiting for.

This is about the daftest Bill that the House has been asked to pass. It has been imposed upon us by the European Court of Human Rights. I hope that the court realises the ridiculous position in which it is putting the Secretary of State. During the 25 years that I have been in the House I have voted on a number of daft issues produced by Governments, so I am realistic enough to say that I shall vote in favour of the Bill, in the hope that when it comes out of Committee it will be improved in some way. I keep my votes and abstentions against the Treasury Bench for those occasions, which will certainly occur during this Session, and perhaps in Sessions yet to come, when the Government are being daft in what they themselves are proposing. At the moment the Government are stuck with the Bill, so we are stuck with it and have to live with it: thanks to the European Court judgement.

When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State introduced the Bill, he said that if he had had a choice of Bill to introduce he would not have picked this one. However, his name is at the top of the Bill, I regret to say, so he must put it through the House.

A number of ex-teachers have contributed to the debate. There are many more ex-teachers in the House than when I first entered it and some will say that that is splendid. At times the place seems full of ex-researchers, ex-teachers, ex-university lecturers and others of that ilk. That can be said of Members on both sides of the House. I would merely urge that teachers should not be allowed to sway us too far when they express their views on education, let alone on corporal punishment.

I happen to believe that there is much merit in allowing a headmaster to use the cane on occasions when he thinks that it is proper to do so and when he has been advised by his teachers that it should be done to keep order. The procedure was quite different when I was at school. In those days, the teachers in the classrooms used the cane. They used it pretty rapidly, pretty heavily and pretty often. That has long since changed. As I understand it, there has to be a register in a school if caning is to take place, and the headmaster is usually the person who is responsible for administering corporal punishment. I believe that that is right and that some parents would prefer that system to continue. I accept that practice varies from area to area and from school to school.

When I read the Bill for the first time, my immediate reaction was to ask myself why the matter should not be decided by parent-teacher organisations and governors. Why should there not be a democratic vote? My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is in favour of involving parents on all education issues, and I see no reason why parents should not also be involved here.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

I am sure my hon. Friend recognises that governors of any school have the power to prevent corporal punishment being administered, by not providing a register. That is the way in which governors can exercise their jurisdiction and come to a final decision.

Sir Kenneth Lewis

As I have said, my immediate reaction was to ask why parents should not be allowed to vote on whether a school be one where corporal punishment is allowed. However, I am told that that would not be in keeping with the terms of the European Court judgment. That being so, I presume that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State does not have the option to consult parents as a group. I hope that this matter will be thrashed out in Committee—not necessarily by me—so that we may become aware of the realities.

Many difficulties are bound to be seen as likely to arise. The House will understand that this is an opting-out Bill. Let us suppose that a parent decides on behalf of little Johnny to opt out of the use of the cane for the boy at school and that little Johnny is doubtful about being opted out and cannot convince his mum that she should opt him in. The result will be that he is opted out. Let us suppose also that then his great friend at school, Jimmy, has been opted in by his mum. That means that he will be subject to receiving the cane. It is thus probable that little Jimmy will become the hero of the class. Little Johnny may well then tell his mother that he also wants the right to be caned if he does something naughty. He will have his eye on his friend who has become a hero, and he will want the same status. That is quite likely to happen among boys at school. So it is a difficulty that will arise because of the Bill.

If a parent decides to allow his child or children to be caned during one term, will he be able to take the opposite view during the following term?

Sir Keith Joseph

Yes, there will be scope for parental changes of mind. A certain number of days would have to be allowed for the change of mind to be duly established on the register or removed from the register.

Sir Kenneth Lewis

That makes the position even more difficult and confusing. There may well be a class meeting at which it is decided that all the children want to change their minds except for one or two. The pupils will then return to their parents and say, "Next year, mum, you must opt us all in for caning." The Opposition are assuming that this measure will become a non-caning Bill. I feel that it might lead eventually to the abolition of caning, but, equally, it might have the reverse effect. We do not know. Parents will be able to change their minds, and so will children, and children may press upon their parents that they should exercise their authority by agreeing with what they, the children, want.

There has been talk of public schools. An important parent suggested recently that it was a sad state of affairs that if a parent wanted his child to be subject to corporal punishment and reasonable correction he had to put his hand in his pocket and pay for his child's education. That is no longer true. More than half of our public schools have opted out of caning. Many of the top public schools no longer use the cane. They have almost totally done away with the system of canings by prefects, and a great many have also taken away the right of masters to cane. Almost all the modern headmasters who are appointed to lead public schools are non-caners.

I still believe that there is some merit in a headmaster having the right to administer corporal punishment in certain situations, but it might be thought that with so many opting out of caning it is no longer possible to have a division between schools which are in favour of corporal punishment and those which are not. There is also a division between parents. It would seem that the majority of parents are against the idea of corporal punishment, so it is clear that the Bill is the thin end of the wedge and that we may be moving to a general system of education that accepts that caning is out.

In my school days there used to be a sick-note system. If Johnny was given a sick note by his parent, he would be absolved from punishment while that note was in force, and sometimes a note had effect for a long time. Now, in this Bill we have to have a letter. I shall tell a story about a famous headmaster who is now a well-known Member of this place. He is well known to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, because he was Minister of State, Department of Education and Science until a few months ago. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) was a famous and effective headmaster before becoming an hon. Member. I have his permission to tell the story of what happened when there was trouble at one of the schools at which he was headmaster. Trouble was one of the things up with which he would not put.

Headmaster Boyson found out that the trouble was being caused by one of three boys. He kept on at them, investigated the matter, plagued the life out of them and would not let up. Although he thought that one particular boy was responsible for the trouble, he was still not sure. Eventually one young chap walked into his office and voluntarily admitted responsibility. Headmaster Boyson said, "You know that means that you have got to take your punishment—six of the best." It seemed to headmaster Boyson that that was the end of the matter. However, a week later he discovered that he had punished the wrong fellow. Being a fair headmaster, he asked the boy to come to his study and said, "I am sorry about that, but why did you admit responsibility?" The boy said, "You were plaguing the life out of us. We could not get rid of you, so I thought that I would admit responsibility and then it would all be over." Fair-minded headmaster Boyson then said, "We cannot leave it at that. We must do something about it." The boy replied that he did not know what could now be done about it. But headmaster Boyson did. He wrote out a note on a piece of paper on his desk and said to the boy, "There you are—a credit note for six of the best." The boy carried that credit note through the next two years he spent at the school.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is giving a wide range of caning credit notes in this Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North is the first hon. Member ever to have an incident at his school enshrined in legislation.

The Bill became inevitable after the decision of the European Court. I wish those who examine it in Committee the best of luck. I do not know how it will come out of Committee, and still less how it will come out of another place. It will be fascinating to read the report of the debate there. Indeed, I hope that they are still on the television at the time of that debate so that we can watch another place debating whether to cane or not to cane.

We could do without the Bill, but the Government had to introduce it and, because that is not their fault, I shall vote for the Bill.

7.43 pm
Mr. Ken Eastham (Manchester, Blackley)

I have never heard a Secretary of State present such an unconvincing case for a Bill. The right hon. Gentleman made it clear that the Bill was being introduced only because the Government had to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The House ought to tell the Secretary of State to take the Bill back, have a fresh look at it and change the Government's thinking. Conservatives have traditionally been hangers and floggers, and they are dissatisfied with the Bill because they have always supported the physical violence attached to education. There are one or two exceptions who do not support physical violence in schools, but that is not the traditional attitude of Conservatives, and the titters of some Tory Members have been noticeable throughout the debate. One Conservative Member made the crazy suggestion that schools should be designated as beating or non-beating schools. I do not see how any sensible education authority could adopt such a policy.

The Opposition say that the Bill is unworkable. Even a Conservative Member said that it was a muddled Bill which resulted from muddled thinking. I go further and say that it is a loony Bill. I predict that soon after it becomes an act it will have to come back to the House for amendment, because it will be seen to be so nonsensical that something will have to be done.

Conservatives have always supported physical punishment in education. A leading Conservative politician said that that attitude was the result of the public school and Royal Navy tradition in his party. He said that rum, sodomy and the lash were part of that tradition.

Mr. Freud

Not at the same time.

Mr. Eastham

No, not at the same time. The House knows what I mean.

The boarding schools are noted for brutality, and homosexuality is common in those establishments because of the abnormal non-family life that the unfortunate children experience during their education.

Manchester city council advises me that there is no physical punishment given in its primary or special schools and that it is rapidly dying out in secondary schools. One of the largest authorities in the country is attempting to revolutionise thinking and to concentrate more on education, which is what it is all about.

I have always contended that teachers are not policemen. Their job is to teach, and the other side of the business should come from the parents. The parents' example is usually reflected in the children. Those from good homes usually do not need the physical violence that some parents demand that their children should receive. A councillor on Manchester's education committee once told me that West Indian parents used to say to him, "You should beat my child." I do not know what that attitude has to do with education, but it seems to be the mentality of some people.

A friend of mine used to be the headmaster of one of the largest comprehensive schools in Manchester. He was a little Welshman, about 5 ft 3 ins tall, and he did not permit physical punishment in his school. Any new teacher was made clearly to understand that corporal punishment would not be tolerated. The discipline in that school was a good as, if not better than, discipline in most other schools in the city.

When I was a member of the local education committee, we received reports from various high schools, and we always noted that one of the most difficult schools in the city was one where corporal punishment was known to be meted out regularly. We resolved that once the headmaster of that school retired, we would make some changes and remove some of the violence that was taking place there.

I wrote to my Welsh friend, the little headmaster, for a considerable time, and I remember that in one letter he stated a profound truism. In effect he said, "On the day when children in any secondary school walk into the playground and tell the staff, 'We have had enough of this violence,' that is the end of physical punishment in that school." In other words, once a group of children decide that they will take corporal punishment no longer, no headmaster is able to permit physical punishment to be inflicted.

A few teachers get some sadistic satisfaction out of the corporal punishment of children. I recall a primary school where an elderly spinster teacher was known to be a most sadistic person. Even today I think of her with fear and trepidation. She instilled in her pupils not good education: only fear. Unfortunately it is not uncommon in schools for there to be the odd teacher with a violent reputation. The sooner we can put and end to such violence, the better.

I was worried some years ago by reports of what was occurring in some special boarding schools. I chaired meetings at which I had to discipline male teachers over some of the thuggery—I must call it that—that they were inflicting on children in special boarding schools. Let us not forget that for those children, being in special schools, the situation was worse because the school was their home. They were at the mercy of their teachers. They were not able to go home and complain to their parents. I agree that it is rare to come across such violent teachers, but it went on in those days, when I was concerned with education committees. For that reason, I welcome the day when it will be illegal for corporal punishment to be inflicted on children.

Parents must accept that they, too, have a responsibility for their children in school. That particularly applies to parents who object to corporal punishment. It is not good enough for them to say that discipline is the job of the teacher. Many of our problems are caused by failure not in school but at home.

Flogging does not do anything to improve children's education. Youngsters do not learn by being afraid. Better discipline can come in a variety of ways, including better staffing, the provision of equipment, and so on. Smaller classes are vital. Imagine the problems facing a teacher trying to educate 35 or 40 children in a class. What must it be like to try to maintain mutual respect and discipline in such an environment?

We must devote more resources to education and provide children with a challenge to learn. They will then know that the local authority and all concerned are interested in their education, and they will not become rebellious and frustrated.

The abolition of corporal punishment does not mean a lawless school. There are other sanctions for noncompliance by children — and there is the ultimate sanction of expulsion. That final sanction was not unknown in the authority the education committee of which occupied my attention. Parents amd children can be presented with alternative sanctions so as to gain their cooperation.

I support the call from Europe, but what makes our schools so different from those in the rest of Europe? Why should we be less able to organise our education system than, say, France, Italy and Germany? No case has been made to set us aside from the rest.

In my experience, the teacher who is a thug is usually the most unsuccessful as a teacher. In my school days, the teacher who was a thug was always despised by the youngsters. Never to his credit could he say that he educated his pupils successfully. For those reasons, I shall oppose Second Reading of the Bill.

7.58 pm
Mr. David Amess (Basildon)

It is clear from the speeches of Opposition Members that the Bill has had the one effect so far of rekindling the cause of the abolitionists. The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) has made his position clear on that issue. While I do not agree with him, I respect his opinion.

The education spokesman for the Liberal party, the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) told us how, because of arrangements made by his family, he was exempted from corporal punishment. That being so, I could not understand his later comments about the Bill. I should have thought that he would wish to support a measure which would allow people to opt in and out of the system.

Last year I found myself at odds with the Government over what was then the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Bill, a piece of legislation which I considered to be most un-Conservative in its nature. I regard this Bill in much the same light — as a surprising piece of legislation for my party to be introducing. Those two measures seem to be at odds with Conservative belief in the family and discipline. I am probably leaving myself open to being called unkind—I am prepared to take the risk—by some of my comments today.

My right hon. Friend is doing a great deal to improve standards and widen the opportunities available for our children, and I greatly admire his efforts, but I regard this measure as nonsense and I fear that it will prove to be a great mistake. The legislation has been introduced to fulfil an obligation arising under article 2 of the first protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. As that is clearly the case, perhaps we should be discussing that matter rather than the Bill. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will not argue in defence of the Bill that this convention has never been broken before.

Teachers are an important section of society, particularly in their role in influencing young people and future generations. An essential part of their job is to be responsible for teaching young people the difference between right and wrong and for maintaining discipline in our schools. We can all think of teachers who are fine academics but who are not successful in their jobs because of their inability to maintain discipline. For many teachers an essential part of their armoury is their option to use corporal punishment, and I would certainly defend that option.

No doubt many hon. Members were on the receiving end of corporal punishment during their days at school. I went to a fairly tough school in the east end of London, where corporal punishment was administered on many occasions. I believe that in the school that I attended, and because of the circumstances under which it operated, corporal punishment was an effective deterrent, and I am not aware of any damaging psychological problems suffered by those to whom it was administered.

Mr. Freud

Would the hon. Gentleman talk about the deterrent if some of his friends had not been punished and he had been punished? Is that not the most divisive action that could occur in a class?

Mr. Amess

I certainly never found that to be the case when I was at school, and I am sure that it will not be the case in the future.

When I taught I never had to administer corporal punishment, but the option was always available. My fundamental objection to the Bill is that it is unnecessary and unjust. It perpetrates and encourages injustice. One of the best definitions that I have heard states that justice is the treatment of equals equally and of unequals unequally. Our whole system of education is founded on that principle. How often have hon. Members received a reply from one of my right hon. Friends saying that an individual case must be treated on its merits? The Bill could serve as a definition of injustice — the treatment of equals unequally. What sort of justice allows two children at a school who commit the same punishable offence to be treated differently, one receiving corporal punishment and the other, after the teacher has referred to the register, receiving detention? What sort of example does this set our young people, other than a bad example amounting to dual standards?

There are further consequences of this court judgment about punishment. The child in detention will be held by the rest of the children to have got away with his action, while the child who is caned will suffer from the thought that she or he has been singled out for special punishment for an offence that others committed as well. Grievance and dissent will spread throughout the school, with rival parents blaming the teacher, the head and the local authority. The net effect will be the lowering of standards of discipline at a time when the teaching profession is seeking to restore those standards.

I draw the attention of the House to the evidence given by the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association to the Education, Science and Arts Committee, which was investigating achievement in primary schools. That evidence demonstrated the marked deterioration in children's behaviour. At the AMMA's assembly in April 1984 Mrs. Heather Ryan stated: Disobedience, aggression and destructiveness are no longer the exception in classrooms or playground. Aggression includes physical and verbal abuse of peers and adults. I can back up that statement with hard evidence. Although primary school teachers are doing a heroic job in inducing social training, some of these children will enter secondary school in the same state and with the same attitudes. The Bill will do nothing to assist secondary school teachers in enforcing discipline; in fact, it will militate against any such discipline. The bureaucracy involved in the register will mean some delay in the traditional administration of justice in schools, and that is wrong.

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

At the moment, many schools have a number of nominated persons who administer corporal punishment to children who have committed a misdemeanour. Often the child is sent from the classroom to the headmaster's study, where he awaits receipt of that punishment.

Mr. Amess

I stand corrected. My hon. Friend appears to have found a defect in my argument.

The bureaucracy involved in compiling the register will be excessive. I am afraid that, after a time, people will become lax about registering their children on the corporal punishment list. A parent may take a particular dislike to a teacher and may be up in arms when his child is wrongly punished. We may then have a court case on our hands and bad publicity for the school.

We have the extraordinary case of a small group of people in the schools—teachers—seizing the opportunity the Bill presents to impose their will on the majority and thus destroy any access within a school to corporal punishment. Is that right? Is it democratic? Upholding the right of one person over the right of another when both rights are equally good is the negation of justice.

Before voting on the Bill, I must consider three views —the view of my constituents, of my party and of my conscience. In supporting this measure, I satisfy all three.

8.7 pm

Mr. Stan Thorne (Preston)

A number of points have emerged from the decision of the European Court of Human Rights. Are the Government concerned with conformity—with carrying out what the court believes to be right? Are the Government concerned with force —with being forced by the court to take this action? Are the Government concerned with persuasion? Each of those questions is relevant to the subject of corporal punishment.

A long time ago, I read a book by Émile Durkheim, a sociologist. He said something of value about corporal punishment—that the punishment of children by parents is personal, but by teachers is impersonal. He came down very much on the side of those opposing the use of such punishment in schools.

Like many hon. Members, I have direct connections with this subject. For many years I was the deputy chairman of the Liverpool education committee and chairman of the schools sub-committee. Inevitably, we had to consider whether as an authority we favoured or opposed corporal punishment. We considered that point about the time we were discussing reorganising education in the city. The National Union of Teachers made it abundantly clear that it wished to retain corporal punishment. It considered that if corporal punishment were taken away, it would be deprived of a means of maintaining discipline within the classroom.

We decided as a committee—I accepted responsibility for a large share of this — to visit schools and examine the punishment book. An interesting point emerged from that study. In almost all the schools, when the punishment book was brought forward by the headmaster and examined day-by-day over a couple of years, it was fairly clear that there was a pattern — Johnny Smith had been punished on one day and Johnny Smith was punished a few weeks later. There were invariably no more than three or four names repeated again and again in the punishment book.

What did the committee deduce from that? It was apparent that pupils repeated their offences and teachers repeated their punishments. The result was that there was no change in the child's behaviour. The argument that the punishment of children is an effective way to improve discipline is not proven by the evidence that I have seen within the city of Liverpool. Hon. Members may say that that is not the same in Norwich, Portsmouth, or elsewhere. I am speaking from experience. I do not believe that Liverpool is unique. A handful of repetitive punishments tends to establish that corporal punishment is not a cure for the indiscipline that exists in many of our schools.

The debate within Liverpool took place when the committee was considering secondary school reorganisation. Two grammar schools, which were in a fairly well-placed area in terms of their intake, were being amalgamated to form one comprehensive school. The headmaster of the boys' grammar school had abolished corporal punishment several years earlier. The girls and boys grammar schools became a comprehensive school. We wondered whether the headmaster of the boys school would change his decision about punishment for indiscipline when the school had a different catchment area.

I visited the school about seven years after it was established as a comprehensive because there was a change of headmaster. Being a governor, I took the opportunity to visit the school. When I raised this subject with the teachers, they said that they had not found it necessary to return to any form of corporal punishment. They had disciplinary problems—no school is free of them—but they dealt with them differently.

To pass a Bill which will result in some children in some schools being subject to punishment and other children in other schools, or in the same school, being free of it is unfortunate. It will make life extremely difficult for teachers. It may be suggested that we are interested not in teachers but in the discipline of children. That is the teachers' problem. We should be talking to teachers and to organisations such as the NUT and the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association. If the Department of Education and Science or the Select Committee on Education and Science were to set up a thorough investigation of the problem of corporal punishment and indiscipline in schools with the right to make recommendations — as was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) when he referred to the size of classes—about the resources available for schools, the whole range of problems and how best to provide education, I suggest that we might have meaningful discussions with teachers about the problem.

According to recent information—I shall no doubt be corrected if I am wrong — the NUT has shifted its position on this matter. Originally it was in favour of corporal punishment. I do not know why it has changed its views, but its experience over recent years probably tends to establish what I have said: that the same pupils are being punished repeatedly and it does not deter them or improve relations within the schools.

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for having been given the opportunity to take part in the debate.

8.16 pm
Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)

We are debating this issue not because we want to but because we have to. We should perhaps debate discipline in schools regularly. It is a great shame that the Benches are so empty, when this is an issue which must affect all of us. That the debate is taking place at all is the result of a disciplinary admonition by the European Court, which has been much referred to today. The Government have responded by producing the Bill—something which many people find unpleasant to debate.

I had expected that hon. and learned Members would come scurrying from their courts this afternoon to tell us why we, as laymen, should throw out the Bill on some legal or constitutional ground. We might have expected some arguments from the anti-European lobby. I have other arguments in mind. We will not leave the European Community for the sake of letting some of our teachers beat other people's children. That old chestnut would be an excuse, not a reason. We could do worse than ask ourselves why discipline is better in other European schools, where no cane is employed. It might be because there is a stronger form of family discipline and responsibility, which is perhaps lost in this country. It might be something to which we should be looking in the future, rather than lamenting the passing of the cane, which I suspect will be the result of the Bill.

As a child in the 1950s, the backs of my bare legs—short trousers of course—were hit regularly with a ruler as an aid to learning mathematics. It was entirely counter-productive. Later, school prefects administered an automatic cumulative points system for enforcing discipline, punctuality and tidiness at school. I must admit that I failed the bed-making test. The boy who beat me is now an acclaimed film producer, and the school is all the better for having changed the system. At about the same time, my eldest brother was doing his national service. The Queen visited his barracks by train, and the day before was spent by those national servicemen sandpapering the railway lines. On the day itself, they were usefully employed painting the grass green.

I mention these examples to illustrate two important principles. First, a sensible teacher never sees physical violence as an aid to learning, and rarely as an aid to discipline. Children whose work falls short of acceptability can usually be separated into the idle, slovenly and disobedient, and those whose academic progress needs encouragement and incentive. Secondly, though teachers of every kind and generation recognise discipline and indiscipline when they see it, the consequences and punishments, mercifully, have changed, along with the demands and perceptions of those in authority. Calls for a return to national service often come from those who remember the daily routine bounded by the automatic discipline of Queen's regulations. The services are different today, and so are the schools.

In the 17th century Samuel Butler said: Love is a boy, by poets styled; Then spare the rod, and spoil the child. We have heard about the distinction between a smack and a caning. There have been occasions when my own children have felt the physical representation of my wrath. That does not mean that I caned them, or sought corporally to punish them. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) is a most gentle and distinguished Member of the House. He presented us with many arguments, but I have to say that my experience leads me to different conclusions.

In 16 years as a schoolmaster, I only once caned a boy. It happened in my first year in the profession. That was the system. It was loathsome. It was humiliating for both of us. For the rest of my teaching career, I neither needed nor used the cane. Indeed, after I moved south of the border, I was not allowed to use it. A distinguished headmaster said to me this weekend that people who cannot control children without recourse to physical assault should be in some other business.

Mr. Forth

I have listened to my hon. Friend's speech with rapt fascination. Does he agree that we do not in fact need any legislation? He has just given the perfect example of a system that works. Either the teacher makes his own decision whether or not corporal punishment is efficacious, or the school or the local authority does so. Why do we need legislation?

Mr. Key

We have no option in the matter. We must produce a Bill of some sort. In my view, the Government have got it as nearly right as is possible.

In all our best schools, whether in the maintained or the private sector, the cane is not used. Conversely, in the more difficult schools and the more deprived local communities, the cane is used more. The use of corporal punishment is an excuse for failure to attack the root causes of indiscipline. That is not a reason for continuing to support it.

I regret to say that many head teachers who say that they have not used the cane for years and would not do so will not come clean with their parents and children, on the ground that they still need to have a deterrent in the cane cupboard. That is a strange moral argument and a negative approach to discipline. A number of headmasters and teachers have begged me not to identify their schools because this is a sensitive issue. What are they afraid of?

The Bill is so dotty that it could safely be supported by abolitionists as well as by retentionists. It is a clever Bill. It is not what it seems. However, we should not underestimate the opposition to the Bill. Of parents with children at primary school, 54 per cent. are in favour of retention. Of parents with children at secondary school, 67 per cent. favour retention. Only 36 per cent. of teachers favour abolition, against 52 per cent. who are retentionists —the majority of them women.

Great strides are being made by the teaching profession in all areas of discipline in schools. Teachers are not helped by the silly, ideological and political excesses of local education authorities, nor by strident and negative lobbying by pressure groups. Some hon. Members still believe—basing that belief on their own school days—that there can be no discipline without corporal punishment. They should remember that they were at their secondary schools—whether in the public or the state sector— for only four or five years, some years ago, when the demands on schoolchildren were very much less and the problems facing parents and teachers were fewer. It would be encouraging to think that my hon. Friends would take note of the views of the small number of us who spent much longer in the world of schools. Parents had sufficient confidence in us then to entrust their children to us. I have tried to teach the sons of several right hon. and hon. Members, including my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, whose admirable son was a model pupil.

It is always dangerous to judge schools today by one's own experience as a child. Indeed, I have some reservations about the Government's proposal for more parental involvement in schools. I have seen teachers' morale lowered and progress delayed, both on school governing bodies and on local education authorities, by well-intentioned but reactionary governors trying to recreate what they believe to have been the happiest days of their lives, some 30 years before. I predict that the Bill will meet opposition of that kind in the other place.

What are the alternatives? With what could we replace corporal punishment? In the schools where, as we are told, it is used two or three times a week, it is said that the system is good for certain children, often those whose parents do not support the teachers or the schools. Where does one draw the line? Should one cane girls? Is 10 years old too young? Is 16 too old? One must draw a line somewhere. The issue cannot be fudged. Teachers who use the cane often say that it works best on pubescent 11 to 13-year-olds. However, the Secretary of State identified that group this afternoon as perhaps unsuitable for caning.

Who still uses the cane? Is it the older teachers who have always done so? Do women teachers have more discipline problems and refer children on to senior management for a semi-automatic beating? In my experience, the best disciplined schools usually rely on a series of steps. The more steps that the teacher can apply, the better. Schools which have tried withdrawal classes for disruptive pupils have found that that is a rather doubtful solution. Children often like being sent to a withdrawal class with other children who have offended the social code of a school. Similarly, suspension from school can be popular among the children whom it is designed to improve. More successful in my view is withdrawal of freedom and privileges in school. That can often disrupt family life and force parental attention on to the problem, and that is one of the keys to discipline.

Another point that is often overlooked is the folly of moving teacher to pupils, rather than the other way around. I know of one teacher who, in a school of 1,700 children, taught in 11 different rooms during the week. That school had problems. The teacher is now working in another school where he has his own classroom, which he can personalise and which strengthens the bond between children and teacher. The system works. That school has fewer problems.

We should not forget the importance of resources in schools. Staff numbers matter, not only from the point of view of supervision, but from that of the positive role of pastoral care. Many pastoral heads of year in our schools have only four periods a week for pastoral care. That is not time enough in which to deal with 180 children. Often academic teachers are rewarded with pastoral work. Both aspects of their career suffer, and so do the children.

Those are management problems, but nothing is as important as the tripod on which successful teacher recruitment depends. An experienced teacher from a comprehensive, which is not in my constituency, told me only yesterday: Two of our worst teachers are the best qualified men in the school". Teaching depends on three things — academic ability, aptitude to teach and attitude to education. It was never true that those who can, do and those who can't, teach. Much more should be done to encourage positive attitudes to discipline and responsibility in schools. I have mentioned a few alternatives which work, but there are many more. Much more needs to be done in teacher training and retraining. I shall never accept that there is no alternative to corporal punishment. There most certainly is, and it works.

The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) said that there was no underlying principle to the Bill. He is wrong, because if the Bill has a principle it is a democratic one. This is the most democratic option that was open to the Government within the narrow range available. There has been a voluntary elimination of corporal punishment in Scotland. That should be a lesson to us all. The Bill is important because it means that there will be no heavy hand from Whitehall telling local education authorities what to do. Education authorities can phase out the cane, as can governors. Parents will effectively have to opt in, as far as I can understand it, if their school or authority operates a register. If parents cannot be bothered to write in, they will be opted out by default. That is a matter for debate, which we might have to consider closely in Committee. I should say that it is a matter which those who are on the Committee will have to consider carefully.

Among the implications of maintaining a register is the time and money involved in maintaining it and the good will of teaching and non-teaching staff, which will be under additional strain. That is a valid point for the teaching unions to argue. They are mostly abolitionists, so I am surprised that they do not support the Bill on that ground alone.

I believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State means what he says about strengthening the role of parents, as is explained in his Green Paper on parental influence in schools. The Bill gives parents a choice and requires them to get appointed or elected to governing bodies if they wish their views to prevail. It also requires them to get elected as councillors and on to the local education authority to be sure of getting their views over. If there is one thing wrong with local democracy at the moment, it is that people do not take it seriously and therefore do not vote, and that the people who make the most noise do not wish to stand and take on the onerous tasks involved in being on a local authority.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State knows very well—more of us should realise it—that the Bill is not really about caning. It is about who runs the schools and the future of discipline in them. The hard-line opponents of abolition are not addressing themselves to the issues that face parents and teachers in 1985—nor are the hard-line egalitarians who insist on throwing out the baby with the bathwater by abolishing speech days, prizes and every other simple incentive to which children respond so naturally. We all respond to a mixture of sticks and carrots, and if we abolish sticks we shall need more carrots, not fewer.

The Bill is not about beating children, but about the whole structure of discipline and responsibility in schools. It has always been clear that the Government are concerned with standards and with an extension of responsibility towards schools, teachers and parents. That is why schools now issue prospectuses, why my right hon. friend wants more parent-governors with some direct financial control and why teacher appraisal is not just about removing bad teachers but about making good teachers better.

The Bill, expedient and dotty as it might seem, will concentrate all our minds wonderfully. I believe that we should give it a Second Reading.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Before I call the next hon. Member, I should say that five hon. Members still hope to speak before the winding-up speeches start at about 9.15 pm. I appeal for brevity so that all five hon. Members can get in.

8.33 pm
Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

It is a pleasure to speak after the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key). He made an excellent speech in favour of abolition and then baffled the House with a bizarre, perverse and tortuous argument in support of the Bill. If it was an attempt to get on the Front Bench, we should welcome him there, as he has sane and liberal views on discipline. He would be an embellishment to the Front Bench but I fear that it will take more than such perverse logic.

Undoubtedly the hon. Member for Salisbury would have agreed with Roger Ascham. As a former school teacher he is probably one of the few hon. Members who knows who Roger Ascham was. He was the tutor to Queen Elizabeth I. As a former teacher, the hon. Gentleman will probably remember Roger Ascham's work entitled "The Scholemaster", which was one of the first on educational theory. He referred to corporal punishment with an enlightened attitude for his day. He wrote: Even the wisest of your great beaters do as oft punish nature as they do correct faults. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees with that. Unfortunately, we have heard a great deal of noise from Conservative Members who profess to be great beaters, but they are not among the wisest of their kind. They seem to have learnt nothing in the past 400 years. In supporting the Bill, which is an utterly ill-considered compromise and which satisfied neither them nor Opposition Members, they do no credit to their case or to the seriousness of the subject.

When I read the Bill, I thought that there were considerable drafting problems. I am sorry to have missed the Secretary of State's speech but I gather that he gave way a good deal on the drafting implications. I also understand that he has sorted out many of them. I look forward to reading his speech tomorrow, and perhaps examining the drafting in greater detail in Committee.

The implementation of the Bill has taxed the House. That is right, as it will create many problems, not least for children who, as many hon. Members have said, will now find that they are punished differently for the same offence. That is the worst possible example of justice and effective discipline for children. I am also worried about implementation in regard to teachers. If a head teacher is faced with two children, one of whom he is allowed to beat and the other of whom he is not, what is he to do? Should he beat one and not the other, knowing that he is behaving unfairly, unreasonably and unjustly, or should he amend the punishment for both children although his professional judgment—in my view mistaken—is that he would be correct to beat both? It is nonsense that he should change his professional judgment because the parents of one child do not want that child to be caned.

There is also a problem with what is to go on the register. How are parents to be communicated with? I understand that the Secretary of State said that a letter would be sent home. Is it to be sent by post? That would be expensive. Moreover, what would happen if, by chance, the Royal Mail did not get through and the parents did not receive the letter?

Mr. Freud

Nobody gets beaten.

Mr. Fisher

On the contrary, I understand that parents have to opt out and therefore they must receive the letter and return it. The vagaries of the mail might determine whether a child is on the list. There are also difficulties associated with recording the views of parents. What happens when parents are separated or divorced or indecisive? What happens when the father takes one view and the mother takes another? What will happen with children in care?

Mr. Dunn

When there is a divorce and parents live apart, the view of the parent who wishes the child to be exempted will prevail.

Mr. Fisher

I am grateful to the Minister, but it would be helpful if that were made clear in the Bill. Perhaps it can be amended. The views of parents in regard to step-parents and foster parents is also a contentious isue. If the Minister wants to amend the Bill to clarify the matter, I hope that the Government will table such an amendment.

Legal responsibilities if things go wrong with the implementation of the Bill are also a vexed issue. I understand from clauses 2 and 3 that governors have the responsibility to maintain the register. Presumably, if a child is beaten in error, even if it is not the error of the governors in maintaining the register—it could be a clerical error by the school secretary —the governors will be responsible. Will a parent whose child has been beaten against his wishes and his record on the register be able to take a suit for battery against the governors? That would be a thoroughly unsatisfactory position. That is a thoroughly onerous responsibility for governing bodies, which may meet only once a term.

The shambles comes about because of the Secretary of State's dilemma. He consulted, and more than 100 professional bodies and people responded and said that his three options were all rotten, but that this option was the most rotten and unworkable of the lot. Despite that response, he introduced this measure. That is perverse in the extreme. Conservative Members ask what else the Secretary of State can do, and argue that he is circumscribed by the European Court. That is not true. Other European countries have abolished corporal punishment. He could have taken a straightforward abolitionist line and solved his problem. Instead, he is frightened of his Back Benchers. He is wrong to be frightened of them, because he has taken the wrong decision.

Labour Members are almost unanimously in favour of abolition, both on the principle and because it is the only effective and efficient option. Because Conservative Members, the beaters, have spent a lot of our time discussing this matter, it is important to state the principal case for abolition. Corporal punishment is beating. It is the infliction of bodily pain and the punishment of the body. It does not address the mind, which has occasioned the offence. Would Conservative Members inflict corporal punishment? As the hon. Member for Salisbury said, it is an extremely unpleasant task. I doubt whether many of them, being gentle souls despite their misguided views, would wish to do it. I doubt whether they believe in beating pets.

Mr. Dunn

The hon. Gentleman served on a local education authority, and he speaks with vigour. Does he not think that those arguments should take place in the council chamber of a local education authority, so that others may be persuaded of the rightness of his case? The local education authority should not rely on the strong hand of central Government dictating that it should abolish corporal punishment by law.

Mr. Fisher

That is a feeble argument. The Secretary of State is introducing a measure to change discipline in schools, and because he cannot bring himself to abolish, which he knows in heart of hearts to be right, he seeks to devolve the responsibility to local government. As the Government have a responsibility to respond to the European Court, they should abolish corporal punishment. They know that the principal argument for abolition is correct.

I am sure that Conservative Members do not believe in beating dogs. Why then do they believe that beating children is such a good idea and so suitable? Judicial beating was abolished in 1948. The Army, showing an amazing degree of prescience and sanity, abolished corporal punishment in 1868. Why should it still exist in schools? What is it about children that makes them susceptible to violence? Is it that Conservative Members believe that children can understand only violence, and that they cannot understand reason? That is nonsense. It is not justifiable in principle and it is not effective in practice. No schools or authorities which have abolished corporal punishment have regretted it. There is no sign that discipline in those schools is any the worse for it. Indeed, the evidence that exists, suggests that discipline improves.

The only argument that has force— it is surprising that it has not been used — is the in loco parentis argument. One form of logic is that if parents have the right to beat children and schools are in loco parentis, schools have the right to beat children on behalf of parents. That is the logic behind the non-exemption that allows schools to continue beating pupils. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary nods as though he agrees, but it is a poor piece of logic.

If parents hit their children, they do so in the heat of the moment, in the context of a close and, I hope, loving and complex relationship, in the confidence of knowing each other, and with an opportunity to forgive and recreate that relationship. If a child is beaten in school it is right that it should be beaten in this way — in a cool, objective judicial atmosphere, possibly by the head, whom the pupil may not even know, a long time after the event, and with no opportunity to restore the relationship. There is no similarity between the position of parents and schools.

For schools to suggest to parents that it is intelligent to give their consent to beating, and to approve the idea of generalised consent is extremely unintelligent and unsatisfactory. Parents cannot know the context of the offence, what the alternatives were, what was passing through the mind of their child or what the position in the classroom or school was. Yet they are being asked to give generalised consent by opting on to the register for beating, or off it for being exempted. The Government should have addressed themselves to a proper structure of discipline.

The Government should have provided an entirely new contract for teachers and children. They should have said to the education world, "We shall give you a decent context for education. We shall give you books, buildings and resources so that you as teachers can do a good job. We shall give you a good pastoral context to create good discipline in schools." The Government should have said to the children, "We shall give you a society in which it is worth being educated, worth having the prospect of a job and therefore worth behaving and getting the most from education. In return we shall expect discipline and self-discipline from all members of the school community."

Instead, the Government have given teachers poor buildings, too few materials, too little in-service training, large classes, no supply teachers and insufficient staffing levels to maintain a good pastoral organisation. Teachers are overstretched and undervalued. Recently, the Secretary of State told them that their standards were too low and that they were failures as teachers. No wonder teachers' morale is low.

How do pupils react in such a position? If the Government manifestly do not rate and value the teachers, why should pupils respect them? Throughout the country, pupils are looking at the estates on which they live, the schools where they are educated, and the prospects for them when they leave school and saying, "If the Government do not rate us or teachers, why should we care or behave?" The Government have removed the carrot of the prospect of worthwhile education. Now they are removing part of the stick. The Government are inadvertently fostering any discipline problems that exist by their educational neglect. By their faulty Bill they are compounding those problems and making a bad position worse.

The only way to achieve better discipline, better relationships and a better atmosphere in schools, is through smaller classes, a full and proper pastoral structure, and teachers with time to spare to form relationships with pupils and to know what their problems are.

Mr. Pawsey

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the pupil-teacher ratio in our schools is at the highest level ever, and that the per capita spending is also at its best level? How does he reconcile those two points with the picture of real privation that he paints? That is not the case. Unfortunately, and I am sure unintentionally, the hon. Gentleman is misleading the House with his 18th-century description of education.

Mr. Fisher

The hon. Gentleman referred to the highest pupil-teacher ratio, when he meant the lowest pupil-teacher ratio. It has undoubtedly come down, but like all those who read much and understand little about education, he does not understand the difference between pupil-teacher ratios and class sizes. Classes are extremely large. As pastoral roles have improved and developed in schools from a rudimentary start 10 years ago, class sizes have not improved to reflect the undoubted improvement in the pupil-teacher ratio. If the hon. Gentleman doubts my description of low morale in schools, he should visit the schools in his constituency and ask teachers whether they believe that the Government value them, and whether their morale is high or low. He will obtain only one answer: that morale is low because teachers feel neglected. If they feel neglected, so do pupils.

The only way to achieve discipline is to have a better atmosphere, smaller classes and pupils who believe that education is worth while. That will come, but certainly not from this Government. It will come only from a Government who have a vision of education and who care about the future of children. Only in that context can good discipline be fostered.

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

I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I do not follow the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) too far down the road that he signposted. Since he talked about my constituency, I should tell him that, perhaps unlike him, I take the trouble to visit the schools in my constituency regularly. I visit most schools at least once every two years, so I have a good idea of what happens in schools. Teacher morale is not as low as the hon. Gentleman would have us believe. Generally, teachers appreciate what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is doing—for example, with teacher assessment.

The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) said that the Bill was unworkable, but, in the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies, "He would, wouldn't he?" He is an outspoken abolitionist, so clearly nothing in the Bill commends itself to him. Therefore, most of his speech should be dismissed for what it was.

Mr. Radice

Do not consider the argument.

Mr. Pawsey

The argument was persuasive, but unfortunately the hon. Gentleman had not bent his mind to it. He usually contributes much to our debates, but on this occasion his intellect was not focused on the problem before the House.

When considering the Bill, my worst prejudices about Europe come to the surface. The judgment by the European Court of Human Rights has helped neither Britain nor the House. We have been making our own laws for hundreds of years without the benefit of European advice and interference, and our laws reflect our customs and our traditions. The latter are not always those of France, Italy or Belgium. However, the United Kingdom has signed the European convention on human rights, and it must abide by the consequences of that signing.

The Bill sets out to meet the requirements of the European Court and to make the best of a bad decision. The decision was made not by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, nor by the Government, but by European judges. The only alternative to this Bill is the complete abolition of corporal punishment, which is clearly unacceptable to the majority of hon. Members. No doubt we shall see after the Division this evening who is right on that point, as on all the other points that we have discussed.

Mr. Ian Grist (Cardiff, Central)

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would have been better to have not a whipped vote but a plain statement of the opinions of hon. Members?

Mr. Pawsey

My hon. Friend knows as well as I do that, sadly, it is sometimes thought necessary to impose disciplines on hon. Members, in the same way as we seek to impose them on others outside.

The alternative to the Bill is the total abolition of corporal punishment, which I believe would be a retrograde step. It would not endear us to parents or teachers, and it would leave schools without one of their principal deterrents — a deterrent that helps to counter defiance. Opposition Members have not said what they would put in place of corporal punishment. They have tried, but they have not proved their case. Until they do so, and provide a viable alternative to corporal punishment, the status quo should remain.

It is not necessary for the cane to be often used and, as I know, it is hardly ever used in the best schools. The knowledge that it exists is usually sufficient. We have heard the argument this evening that what is good enough for European countries should be good enough for us. Hon. Members have said that if European states can manage without corporal punishment, why should not Britain? That is a short-sighted argument that does not take into account the fact that, in the United Kingdom, the teacher is in loco parentis. That is not understood in Europe, and that is one reason why the European Court's judgment was in error. The court did not appreciate the basic point that, in Britain, the teacher stands in for the parent.

In the United Kingdom, the cane is the traditional punishment for misdemeanours. In many European countries, the punishment is suspension or detention. In France, if a child is suspended for poor attendance at school, the social security benefits that they would normally attract are also suspended for that period. The punishment affects not only the child, but the rest of his family. Do hon. Members put that forward as a viable alternative? Of course not, because it would be impossible to introduce. In eastern Europe, the child's misdemeanours are posted on the notice board of the factory in which his father works. One can imagine the outcry, especially from Opposition Members, if we suggested using that method in the United Kingdom.

Sovereign nations have evolved methods of maintaining discipline in schools, and the United Kingdom has evolved its method—

Mr. Fisher


Mr. Pawsey

No, not beatings. That is an emotive word. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the usual terminology is "caning". I noted that during his speech he did not use the word "caning". It was either a mistake or a deliberate attempt to mislead the House into believing that most schools administer the sort of treatment that he may have experienced at his school.

Opposition Members have not suggested a punishment that would provide an effective deterrent in place of corporal punishment.

Parents need to understand that if corporal punishment is abolished and their child misbehaves, he will probably receive more detentions and a greater loss of privileges. In severe cases, that may result in positive suspension from school. When parents know that those are the alternatives, I believe that they will decide that corporal punishment is the lesser evil.

If, for example, in country areas a child is put into detention, it may mean that he misses the school bus home. In many country areas the only bus to get the child home is the school bus. Such punishment would undoubtedly exceed that of corporal punishment were it to be used in country schools.

We should not seek to minimise the difficulties created for head teachers by the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. I appreciate the difficulties surrounding the need to record the names of those who can be caned, but I do not believe that they should be overstated. When one considers the alternatives, I believe that, problems or no problems, we should support the Bill. I believe that parents will decide not to opt out of the system. Because they will recognise the clear need to maintain school discipline, I believe that parents will co-operate with head teachers and teachers. In view of the increase in parental choice that the Bill provides, I believe that parents will opt in. I further believe that my right hon. and hon. Friends have tried and, in general, succeeded in salvaging a working measure from the wreck of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.

9.1 pm

Mr. Sean Hughes (Knowsley, South)

If the debate has served one purpose, it has emphasised the fact that the sooner the House of Commons is televised the better. The country will then have an opportunity to watch and listen to some of the antediluvian arguments which are put forward by Conservative Members.

The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley) said that this is a very important Bill. I believe that it is trivial in the extreme, compared with the real needs of education. Some Conservative Members are obsessed by such punitive issues as this. I believe that they are totally irrelevant to educational problems and that it is one of the most negative ways of looking at education, its development and its problems. Having listened to Conservative Members, with the honourable exception of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key), one would think that the use of the cane and the strap is crucial to the maintenance of standards and discipline. What utter nonsense. Of course the Bill has been forced upon us by the decision of the European Court of Human Rights. However, as my hon. Friend the Minister for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) said, it should have been used as an opportunity to get rid of an uncivilised, punitive irrelevance.

To put my comments in perspective, I could never be considered to be a trendy, middle-class ex-teacher. I believe very much in educational standards and quality. I am consious of how a deprived environment distorts educational aims. The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) asked us to consider the plight of the harassed teacher in a deprived area. I suggest the cane is not the way in which to overcome deprivation. I taught for 13 years in one of our most deprived areas. I noted that the hon. Member for Ealing, North suggested that the hon. Member for Cambridge, North-East (Mr. Freud) should spend a few years in the classroom of a large comprehensive school. That is what I did. It was an area of massive youth unemployment, whose educational ethos was non-existent, but the school in which I taught did not practise corporal punishment. That experience over 13 years taught me that one cannot whack excellence into children, or beat them into examination success or cane them into discipline.

I do not want to exaggerate the incidence or extent of corporal punishment. Indeed, I am not very convinced by some of the sociological arguments against corporal punishment, although I accept that corporal punishment might cause psychological damage to children. I simply do not know whether the occasional whack promotes in a child the belief that might is right. In my case it did precisely the opposite. However, I accept that the worst schools overuse corporal punishment and that it adds to an atmosphere of violence. I accept equally, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) mentioned, that when he is at the end of his tether even the most civilised, rational, decent-minded teacher can be goaded into contemplating meting out a good hiding to somebody.

Although I accept that the environment distorts educational achievement and behaviour, I accept, too, the concept of original sin.

Why then do I oppose corporal punishment? It is simply because the sight of a 40-year-old man hitting with a stick the outstretched hand of a 12-year-old boy is distinctly distasteful and wholly unnecessary. Conservative Members have said that it is a deterrent. All the evidence points to the fact that it is the same child who is repeatedly beaten, caned or strapped, as my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Thorne) said. Either that means that, apparently like some Conservative Members, they like it, or that it is not a deterrent.

I am opposed to corporal punishment because I hold it to be uncivilised. My experience tells me that it is unnecessary. It distracts us, as it has done today, from debating the real reasons for educational deprivation and inequality. That is why I hope that the House will support the Opposition amendment.

9.5 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)

Unfortunately, I must restrict my comments severely because of the hour, but I want to put forward an argument that we have not yet heard. I want to return to the genesis of this measure and to see why it is that what we are told is inevitable is not so at all.

Let us go back to the original debate in the Council of Europe in 1951 when the origin of this measure was considered. We have been told repeatedly that the people who wrote the European convention on human rights and the protocol on which it is based had in mind corporal punishment and its effect on children. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I wish to quote the words of Mr. Teitgen, the rapporteur in the Council of Europe at the time. He said: it is essential for our Protocol to protect the rights of parents in the field of education and teaching against the danger of nationalisation, absorption, monopolisation, requisitioning of young people by the State". In other words, the intention of the original protocol to the convention had nothing whatever to do with corporal punishment in schools; it concerned the post-war context and the fear of the then generation of undue political influence in the educational process.

That is bad enough. It is also relevant that even then, and in the light of that, the United Kingdom entered a reservation to the protocol on which the judgment is based, distancing itself from the protocol as then expressed and using such vague and rather difficult words as "philosophical conviction".

On the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights we have the excellent dissenting opinion of Sir Vincent Evans, the British judge in that court. He said that the original aim, as I have set it out, and as the words of the rapporteur suggest, give no basis for the judgment which was passed down by the court against his dissenting opinion.

The way in which our continental friends conduct their legal proceedings takes no account of the original intention of those who pass the law. They feel free to graft on to that law a meaning which may suit them at the time. Therefore, 30 years after the original passing of the convention and the protocol we find a judgment by the court which bears no relationship to the circumstances of the 1980s.

It is for that reason that I believe the oft-quoted convention and protocol, as laid before us, do not have the strength, relevance or directness which have been suggested to us over and over again during the debate. Therefore, we are entitled to decline to accept the solution that has been offered to us and that has been so rightly criticised on both sides of the House. We are right in asking the Government to think again, probably at great length, and possibly to return with another half-baked solution. In other words, we should have time to reconsider whether we should have anything to do with the European convention on human rights, which was created 30 years ago in such different circumstances; to reconsider whether we should still be signatories to and supporters of the protocol which was based on a different time and in different circumstances; and to reconsider whether Britain should allow itself to be subject constantly to interpretations and reinterpretations of conventions and protocols—116 of them—which have been cumulatively created by the Council of Europe over the years.

It is for that reason, and that reason principally, that I shall be unable to support the Government in what they have brought before us today. I look forward to the day when we seriously reconsider our membership of the Council of Europe and our adherence to the European convention on human rights in order that we may obviate and eliminate the repetition of an unfortunate case such as we have before us this evening.

9.10 pm
Mr. Humfrey Malins (Croydon, North-West)

This has been a long debate, but I am reminded of the words of an old schoolmaster friend of mine, Mr. Tom Peacocke, who said: For the boy, the stick. For the politician, the red hot poker." I think that he had it right on one count at least. Unfortunately, the Bill falls between two stools. It introduces for the first time a two-tier system and, in trying to please everyone, I suspect that the Government are likely to end up pleasing no one.

The argument is not about the merits or otherwise of corporal punishment. I support corporal punishment, provided that it is used appropriately, and I believe that my view is widely shared. As a punishment it has the merits of being immediate, quickly over with and easily associated with the offence, and in many cases it is far less damaging to the pupil than its logical alternatives of expulsion or suspension. Those latter punishments often cause long-term resentment in children and long-term damage to a child's education, since they may interfere with examinations. Apart from all else, when a school suspends or expels a pupil, it is an admission of failure by the school. In the borough of Croydon, we tend to suspend some 300 pupils per year, often for long periods, with resultant disruption to their education and family life.

There are a number of problems with the Bill. First, it appears that either parent has a right to object to corporal punishment. One parent may be strongly in favour, the other may be against. The "against" view will prevail, which may cause rifts and divisions in the family.

The situation could arise where a parent objected to corporal punishment for one of his two children but not for the other. That could only result in divisions between children in the same home.

At the school, for an identical offence two children might be punished in different ways. Is that not bound to cause divisions between children and between staff at the school?

Given that public and parental opinion can change, the possibility is there of a child being subject to corporal punishment or not, as the case may be, at different stages in his education.

The message is clear. A two-tier system of punishment is divisive both within the school and within the family. Children respect principles of certainty, consistency and, above all, equality of treatment. Passing the Bill opens the way to enormous divisions and resentments when those well-established principles are breached.

The extraordinary picture emerges of two children, perhaps the best of friends, starting together on the same day at the same school. From the moment that they enter the school gates together, they are subject to wholly different regimes. In punishment, the word "choice" does not seem to be wholly relevant. There is much more merit in the word "consistency".

I put a few short points to the Minister. There is reference in the Bill to "a parent". Who is a parent? Does a divorced parent qualify? Even though he has no rights of access to or custody of the child, can he exempt a child of his from corporal punishment? If a child is in care, does the local authority make the decision, or does the parent or either parent make the decision? If a child is subject to a supervision order, is the position different from that of a child under a care order? Who carries the can? Who makes the decision? We have not heard about these matters, and I hope that we shall do so before the debate ends.

I am sure that no hon. Member has ever had any difficulty in distinguishing between the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, established by the convention, and the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, established by the Treaty of Rome. However, for understandable reasons, the two courts are inevitably confused.

Many people will think that the Bill is being foisted on us by the EEC, which it is not. Even the Daily Telegraph political staff slipped into that error last Wednesday when it said that the deferment of the Bill had averted a second rebellion over the EEC. We must distinguish between the two courts. It is not an EEC matter that is being foisted upon us.

We must recognise that a large number of people in Britain are beginning to resent some of the interference from the Court of Human Rights. We are beginning to feel that these are matters that we can best deal with ourselves. We do not have a great deal to learn about human rights from a number of the signatories to the convention. A bill of rights for us and a withdrawal from the convention are matters for another day.

9.15 pm
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

The Government have been on a hiding to nothing in this debate, and there has been very little support for them. Even the Secretary of State did not really recommend the Bill to the House with great enthusiasm; he was obviously only too well aware of the many internal inconsistencies in it. He found little support on the Conservative Benches. At best, Conservative Members said that they would support it because it is making the best of a bad job.

I used to be a teacher and I now regret that I sometimes inflicted corporal punishment at one or two schools, where the ethos expected it of teachers. I always felt ashamed when I caned a pupil. I also felt that somehow I had failed to carry out my duties as an effective teacher. Equally, as a school governor, I was responsible on one occasion for pressing very hard and successfully for a teacher to be appointed particularly and specifically to reduce the amount of corporal punishment in that school. The level of violence in that school was unacceptably high. Unfortunately, the teacher turned out to be disastrous, which was unfortunate for him and the school.

I have no illusions that getting rid of corporal punishment in any school is an easy task. It must be done over a period, especially where a school has consistently relied upon it. I also believe that we cannot effectively teach in an atmosphere of fear. Conservative Members who have spoken about deterrence are really saying that schools should work through an atmosphere of fear. It is essential that we get rid of that element from our educational system.

We must remember that one of the key features of education is teaching young people self-discipline. The approach of many head teachers, teachers and local authorities who have set deadlines of six or 12 months for the ending of corporal punishment is the correct way to tackle the problem. The Secretary of State for Scotland gave a good and effective lead when he suggested that all local authorities should aim to phase out corporal punishment within 12 months. It is commendable that all but two regions in Scotland are moving in that direction. The reality is that in the two regions which, apparently, will try to retain corporal punishment, the number of children who are caned or strapped is extremely small.

We must measure the Bill against that background. It is a tragic missed opportunity because it fails to abolish corporal punishment and to make positive proposals for improving school discipline. Shortly before Christmas the Opposition suggested that the Bill should be subject to the Special Standing Committee procedure so that Parliament could have an opportunity to discuss school discipline, find ways to deal with the problems created by the court's judgment and come forward with positive proposals to incorporate in our legislation. It is sad that the Government refused. No doubt they anticipated trouble with Conservative Back Benchers.

The Secretary of State talks almost continually about wanting to raise standards in schools, and one of the keys to high standards in good behaviour. The right hon. Gentleman should have sought by means of the Bill to give schools positive help in achieving good behaviour. Instead, he has offered them muddle and compromise. The Bill does nothing to help schools improve the discipline of pupils.

At the very beginning of the debate I pressed the Secretary of State to tell the House which parent would have overriding responsibility. The Bill does not tell us which parent will have the right to decide if two parents have different views. The Minister has said in an intervention that that issue will be dealt with in the regulations. That may be, but unfortunately the Bill does not give the right to one parent or the other. If, as the Secretary of State said earlier, the one parent who wants to opt out of corporal punishment for the child will have the right to do so, how will this be done? The right is not set out in the Bill and it seems that this issue will have to be dealt with in the regulations. That is unsatisfactory.

The Secretary of State said that he had a relaxed view about who should count as a parent. I think that the Bill should have referred to parents or guardians. That is the term that is used in much of our family legislation. It is not especially appropriate to lay down who will have responsibility for carrying out this parental right only in the regulations. It would be far better to set it out clearly in the Bill in order to make it clear that responsibility lies with the parent or guardian. As the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Matins) said, we need to know the position of the child who is in care, for example.

We have heard during the debate about the opt-out procedure. It has been put to me by several people in education offices that the procedure that is set out in the Bill is the most difficult one to administer. It relies on a letter being sent from the school to the parent. It relies also on an assumption that the parent receives and understands the letter. The Secretary of State has told us that if necessary the school will send a second letter, but we all know that in practice some children move from one household to another. Sometimes they are looked after by a granny, sometimes by an aunt, sometimes by one parent and sometimes by the other. In these circumstances it will not be particularly easy to establish in a court of law that a letter was sent by the local authority to the parent.

Another issue will be whether the letter has been returned by the parent. The pupil concerned may insist that the letter was handed in at the school office. How will the school office record that the letter is with it? It has been put to me by those who are involved in education administration that it would be much better to have the alternative system which would require the school to have in its possession a letter that states, "I am the parent of X and I agree to corporal punishment being administered to my child if it is necessary." The Minister must address himself to these practical issues. I understand the political reasons that led him to go for the opt-out system but in administrative terms the opt-in system is much more positive and easier to deal with by the authorities.

Mr. Freud

I have been following closely the hon. Gentleman's remarks. Surely an opt-in system would mean opting in by both parents, step-parents, guardians and aunts and grandparents where necessary.

Mr. Bennett

I accept that argument. I do not want to spend too long trying to improve the Bill. However, I have some sympathy for the local authorities which will have to administer a measure that will cause them problems. I is a measure that the Minister should not have introduced.

I wish that the Secretary of State had dealt more fully with suspensions. It is disturbing that many local authorities and school governing bodies have gone increasingly for suspensions. This seems to be a development within the education world and is not the result of the phasing out of corporal punishment. Several Conservative Members expressed the fear that considerable harm could be caused to children who are kept out of school for long periods as s result of suspensions.

The Government argue that the Opposition should not oppose the Bill because we favour giving powers to local authorities. The Government claim honour for the fact that they are returning power to local authorities, schools and parents. We would have more sympathy with that argument if the Government were prepared to allow local authorities to have control over their own finances. But the Government say to local authorities that they are taking away control over expenditure and other important matters and giving back only the small right to make decisions on such matters as corporal punishment. I welcome the support of the Liberal party and the SDP for our reasoned amendment.

The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) misrepresented the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers when he said that it did not object to the Bill. The union favours corporal punishment, but it objects to the Bill. It is one of the many groups involved in teaching that feel that the legislation is unworkable.

Mr. Greenway

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Bennett

No. The hon. Gentleman would not give way. He said that he favoured corporal punishment because it was quick. In most secondary schools and in many junior schools it is no longer quick. There is almost always a member of staff designated as the person to administer corporal punishment. In mixed schools, punishments for boys and for girls are administered by different people. The member of staff has to be found and usually wants an explanation of why corporal punishment is to be administered before even considering it. In many instances, it is a long-drawn-out process. The hon. Gentleman should reconsider his view.

Mr. Greenway

In my experience, corporal punishment is very quick. However, that was not the defence that I advanced. I said that it was a suitable deterrent and punishment for grossly serious crimes, such as bullying and some forms of vandalism. I said that the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers supported corporal punishment. I did not mention its position on the Bill.

Mr. Bennett

I am sure that in practice corporal punishment is not quick. If it were such a good deterrent, we would not have the problems of bullying and bad behaviour.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) made the valid point, echoed by other hon. Members, that we should look at the experience of other countries. No one has suggested that discipline in European schools is a major problem because they do not have corporal punishment. Discipline in almost all the other countries of Europe is as good as, if not better than, the discipline in our schools, even though there is no corporal punishment in those countries.

The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) mentioned the sanctions that were available in France and some other countries. I am told that the withdrawal of social security benefit because of a child's non-attendance at school is a rarely used sanction in France.

Mr. Pawsey

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, even if it is used rarely, the threat exists, so the deterrent effect is the same as that of the cane being available in schools? The cane may not be used frequently, but the fact that it is available puts children off. They will behave.

Mr. Bennett

That is a doubtful argument. On the whole, deterrents which are not used fall into disrepute.

The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) suggested a system under which one school would practise corporal punishment and another would not. Probably all hon. Members accept that that would not be a practical solution. There are already too many problems when parents want to choose between schools and we find that what they want does not fit in with what is available.

The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley) expressed great enthusiasm for the deterrent—he spoke of his school days — and suggested that corporal punishment had not done him any harm. Presumably it did not deter him, either. I suggest that he defeated his own argument.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Mr. Young) was rightly concerned about the way in which pupils would perceive the situation, and he questioned whether they would think the arrangement fair—a point echoed by almost all hon. Members. Two pupils involved in the same offence would not feel it fair if one was punished in one way and the other was punished in another. Several hon. Members pointed out that, even worse, two pupils involved in the same type of offence might find that the one who had committed the least serious aspect of the offence was subject to corporal punishment and the other not. That would be seen by pupils as unfair.

The hon. Member for Stamford and Spalding (Sir K. Lewis) pointed out that more than half the public schools, the better ones, had already abolished corporal punishment.

The hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) referred to injustice resulting from different treatment. He should reflect on the situation that would be created if, for an offence, one pupil got one type of punishment and a second received the cane. Both would feel that injustice had occurred. But mistakes are made in schools, and it might be discovered later that neither pupil should have been punished. One of the two may have been given detention or some other punishment which had not yet been inflicted, but little could be done about the pupil who had already been caned. Thus, great resentment could arise.

The speech of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) came as a breath of fresh air and enlightenment from the Government Benches. He probably summed the Bill up best when he said that it was so dotty that it could enjoy support from hon. Members on both sides of the House. Conservative Members who take the trouble to read his speech will note with interest his account of the well-run school in which corporal punishment is unnecessary. That is the type of school for which we should be striving. It is regrettable that the Bill will do little positive in that direction. Rather, it will help to produce a bureaucratic nightmare.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) spoke of the problems and cost involved in writing to parents. He also spoke of the errors that can occur. Mistakes also arise because several pupils on the register can have the same or similar names. It is not too difficult to avoid confusing, say, two John Smiths. One is aware of Smith being a common name; hence, the teacher is wary of making mistakes. But it is surprising how often quite uncommon names crop up and there are two children with the same name.

Are we to have "John Smith the cane" and "John Smith the detention" as the names by which teachers remember which boy is which? I suggest that the possibility of error will be horrendous and that, in practice, the majority of schools will decide to abolish corporal punishment rather then get involved with that type of bureaucracy.

The Government should take this measure away and go to the local authorities and say, "We want you to get a debate going in your area so that we can establish a framework for discipline by which parents and schools are clear about their roles when trying to ensure good discipline." Teachers should examine the alternatives to corporal punishment. There should be debate on how the schools administer those alternatives, the role of suspension in schools and, if a pupil is suspended by the school, the duty of local authorities to ensure that, after a short period, the child is found another school to attend. In some authorities pupils remain suspended for a term or more, and that is most unsatisfactory.

We need much more discussion between local authorities about the implication of withdrawal groups in schools and what happens if a local authority creates what one might call "sin bin" schools. What are the implications for Warnock-type integration if we try to integrate children from maladjusted schools into other schools? What are the implications of excluding pupils for punishment reasons?

I suggest to the Government that they advise local authorities to address themselves to the question of how to create an atmosphere in all their schools where self-discipline prevails, where good behaviour is the order of the day and where all teachers and senior staff need to spend little time in enforcing discipline. That has already been achieved in a few schools, but it needs to be achieved in all our schools. The Bill does nothing to achieve that end. The Government should take the legislation away and bring forward proposals to abolish corporal punishment and to create a positive framework within which good discipline can evolve in our schools.

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

We have had a long debate on a difficult subject. We have heard speeches from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival), my hon. Friends the Members for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), for Frith and Crayford (Mr. Evennett), for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley), for Stamford and Spalding (Sir K. Lewis), for Basildon (Mr. Amess), for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) and for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Malins), and by the hon. Members for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud), for Bolton, South-East (Mr. Young), for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), for Manchester, 13 lacicley (Mr. Eastham), for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), for Preston (Mr. Thorne), for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher), and for Knowsley, South (Mr. Hughes). In the time available to me I shall attempt to deal with the points of substance and political dogma, and I undertake to write to those hon. Members whose points I cannot answer now.

The House will know that I have looked forward to this debate since the Queen's Speech last November. In recent weeks, the words of George Canning have gone through my mind. He said: Give me the avowed, the erect, the manly foe; Bold I can meet—perhaps may turn his blow; But of all plagues, good Heaven, thy wrath can send, Save, save, oh! save me from the Candid Friend! But I had no need to quote those words tonight because this debate has been amiable, good natured, cheerful and enthralling. It has been a debate on a serious and difficult subject, and the Government have faced a dilemma.

The debate has been good natured, except for the contribution by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central who overstated his case by the language he used and the intemperance he brought to it. One had the idea that Wackford Squeers had not died 100 years ago, but was alive and well and replicated throughout our education system. The draconian and irresolute picture painted by the hon. Gentleman is not one of fact today.

Some Opposition Members have accused us of bringing forward a Bill which is not based on any principle. That was referred to in a most elegant speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key). The Bill is based upon a principle which should unite every Member of the House — the principle that local education authorities should decide whether to permit the application of corporal punishment in their schools, and those local authorities that so decide will allow school governors and parents to decide the matter in each school.

If any parent wishes to have his or her child exempted from corporal punishment, he has the right to seek that objective. We have debated this subject in the knowledge that some of the views expressed have been at odds with the views of the people we represent. I am convinced that if I were to have an opinion poll in any part of my constituency, I should find that the vast majority of my constituents are in favour of the retention of corporal punishment in schools, as are those represented by Members on both sides of the House.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Has the Minister asked the GLC?

Mr. Dunn

The hon. Gentleman brings a peculiar affectation to our debate. I always think that he has the fervour of a poodle dog attempting to seduce a wellington boot. If he is to learn from my answers, he should remain silent for a little longer.

The Daily Telegraph, in its column written by John Izbicki, pointed out that a Gallup poll showed that 69 per cent. of the people polled believed that discipline had become worse in our schools; 19 per cent. thought that it was about the same; and only 3 per cent. thought that it had improved. That is the background to the debate and the Second Reading that we shall undoubtedly give to the Bill.

Mr. Forth

Does not the point that my hon. Friend has made reinforce the fact that the European Court of Human Rights in its judgment is as far from the opinion of the people of this country as many of us have suggested? Is that not the problem that the Government have had to face? How does he relate the results of the opinion poll that he has given with the court's judgment?

Mr. Dunn

I do not intend to do so tonight, if my hon. Friend will forgive me. I am sure that his remarks about the European Court of Human Rights will be noted by my right hon. and hon. Friends who have responsibility for those matters.

Mr. Fisher

We are overcome by the Under-Secretary's theatrical and seductive winks to the Opposition Front Bench. When he is taking these straw polls in his constituency, does he consult teachers and head teachers? Will he confirm that the vast majority of those whom he is expecting to administer corporal punishment are against the Bill?

Mr. Dunn

If I thought that were the case, I should be the first to admit it. The hon. Member has known me long enough to accept that. I am conscious that last year a sample poll mounted by NOP for The Times Educational Supplement showed 52 per cent. of teachers interviewed to be in favour of retention, compared with 36 per cent. in favour of abolition. In the north, and the midlands where the hon. Member has his constituency, the comparative figures were 64 per cent. and 27 per cent.

Mr. Radice

Is any teachers' trade union in favour of the Bill?

Mr. Dunn

I dare say that if I researched for long enough, I might find one. However, the question that the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) should address is whether those trade union leaders are acting in the interests of the members they purport to represent. Probably they are not doing so.

The Bill is before the House because of a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Campbell and Cosans. We cannot accept some judgments and discard others, picking and choosing between those that we like and those that we do not like. The case was vigorously defended by the United Kingdom, but the judgment went against us. We have an obligation to abide by the judgment of the court, and that obligation will be fulfilled by the scheme that the Bill introduces. Failure to act would place us in breach of a treaty obligation and expose us to the possibility of a succession of cases under the European convention on human rights and the further possibility of compensation awards.

Mr. Silvester

I am sorry to give my hon. Friend such cause for pause, but if he feels that we are under an obligation, are not the Government also under an obligation—before we commit ourselves to a Bill which my hon. Friend has hardly defended with vigour—to provide time for the House, for the first time in history, to make a judgment on whether we wish the European Court of Human Rights to operate in that way?

Mr. Dunn

My responsibility tonight is to steer the Second Reading debate to a satisfactory conclusion. The matters to which my hon. Friend refers are for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, whose attention to such matters is known to all.

We cannot pick and choose between judgments, and we must act to give effect to the ruling. Our obligations on the matter date back to 1951, when the Government of the day accepted the court's jurisdiction in cases brought by another state in which the prior agreement of this country had been obtained. In 1966, the Labour Government accepted the right of individuals to make complaints under the convention. That acceptance has been renewed by successive Governments. The latest renewal was in January 1981 and was to last for five years. Consequently, we must give effect to the ruling.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dunn

I do not have much time. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman.

The Opposition parties would have preferred our action to take the form of abolishing corporal punishment. Opposition Members who have spoken tonight appear to be united in their determination to abolish corporal punishment, whether they belong to the Labour party, the Liberal party or the Social Democratic party.

Mr. Maclennan

Will the hon. Gentleman explain why no Scottish Minister has participated in the debate, even though the Bill applies to Scotland? Am I right in saying that Scottish Ministers are in total disagreement with the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend, believing that corporal punishment should be abolished — advice that they have already given to local authorities?

Mr. Dunn

The hon. Gentleman is churlish. We have been supported throughout the debate by a representative of the Scottish Office.

Mr. David Young

Can the Minister name any education authority which supports the educational apartheid proposed in the Bill?

Hon. Members


Mr. Dunn

I had some difficulty in hearing the hon. Gentleman, but I undertake to answer his question in the fullness of time. I was not able to hear the hon. Gentleman's speech, but if he asked that question during the course of it, I undertake to give him a genuine reply.

Mr. Home Robertson


Mr. Dunn

I must press on.

Mr. David Young


Mr. Dunn

I have many questions to answer.

The Opposition parties have made it plain that they want corporal punishment abolished. We accept that the Bill is a response to the European Court's ruling. It deals with some problems and not with others. The Labour party has made it plain that it would solve the problems facing us, if it were in government, by abolishing corporal punishment. It is consistent with the theme that we have heard often since I came to the House in 1979. Labour would abolish corporal punishment, private education, the assisted places scheme and local authorities' discretion whether to permit corporal punishment in their schools. The Labour party has the answer to everything—the abolition of circumstances in which people get together and do something of which the state does not approve.

Our theme has been consistent with the view of many parents and teachers in England and Wales who want the sanction of corporal punishment to be retained. We believe that the Government should not legislate to force abolition. That centralist line might appeal to Opposition Members, but it has no appeal to the Government.

The court's judgment was not about banning corporal punishment, but about the right of parents to exempt their children from such punishment. We have proposed such a right. We examined the alterntives carefully. On close examination, the possibility of some schools being able to use corporal punishment while others could not—the so-called dual system—proved utterly impractical. Having rejected abolition and the dual system, an exemption scheme was clearly the only practical solution. As we have said, it might not be perfect but criticism has greatly exaggerated the difficulties. An exemption scheme can work. Schools which wish to retain corporal punishment will make it work, and I am sure that the common sense of parents and schools will make an exemption scheme workable.

Some people have claimed that the system is unfair. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has exposed the weakness of that argument. Schools which wish to offer exemptions while retaining corporal punishment should be free to do so. That is the basis of the Bill. It confers rights, whereas Opposition Members, who made it clear that they are committed to abolition, would like to withdraw rights.

Several detailed questions have been asked and some of them are matters for consideration in Committee. I look forward to joining battle in Committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford referred to a dual system. I am sure that the House agrees that such a system would be costly and difficult to administer. It would entail virtually doubling existing provision so that parents could gain respect for their convictions without losing the range of school choice that they have now. That would be impossibly expensive. Moreover, such a system would create practical day-to-day difficulties in the allocation of pupils to schools. Indeed, the problems for local education authorities, especially those serving country districts, would be colossal. The House would need to face the fact that children in a particular school would have to be treated differently because of the change of status in that school. That would pose unique and particular problems for the parents of those children during that difficult transitional period.

Hon. Members referred to the problems of cost and asked whether the scheme would be expensive to administer. We accept that it will involve extra work for schools which attempt to administer the scheme.

My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury asked about the children of military or diplomatic personnel who are being educated in the private sector. Public moneys received for that purpose will be regarded as emoluments of salary and will therefore not be covered by the Bill. We took clear legal advice on that matter. I hope that my hon. Friend, who has a great interest in that matter, will be happy with my explanation.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough asked what the Bill meant for children in receipt of assisted places. We envisage that the question whether a child should be liable to corporal punishment will be put to parents after the pupil has been accepted by the school. If the parents of such a child seek exemption, the school will be obliged to respect their wishes.

Independent schools will be free, but not obliged, to offer the choice of exemption to all parents. The hon. Member for Hillsborough mentioned the stigma that may be attached to assisted-place children. His interpretation and general thrust are wrong. There is no stigma attached to being a recipient of a right. The parents of an assisted-place pupil will have a right which will be embodied in legislation. I accept that some independent schools will extend that right to all parents. In such circumstances, the assisted-place pupil will not be distinguished from others.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North referred to the problem of parents changing their minds. There will be a requirement for some delay—a few days—before a change of mind in favour of exemption can come into force. My hon. Friend also asked what would happen if the school changed its policy. He accepts, as I do, that a school can change its policy at any time, but clearly it will not wish to continue to change its approach.

This has been an interesting and thoughtful debate. We were invited earlier to join battle in Committee. As I have already made clear, I relish the prospect of victory both in Committee and tonight. I promise hon. Members whose points I have not answered that I shall answer them. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against the Opposition amendment and in favour of this important legislation.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 168, Noes 298.

Division No. 78[ [10 pm
Abse, Leo Anderson, Donald
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Archer, Rt Hon Peter
Ashton, Joe Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Barnett, Guy Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Barron, Kevin John, Brynmor
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Beith, A. J. Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Bermingham, Gerald Lamond, James
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Leadbitter, Ted
Boyes, Roland Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Bruce, Malcolm Loyden, Edward
Buchan, Norman McCartney, Hugh
Caborn, Richard McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Campbell, Ian McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Canavan, Dennis McKelvey, William
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Cartwright, John Maclennan, Robert
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) McNamara, Kevin
Clarke, Thomas McTaggart, Robert
Clay, Robert Madden, Max
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Marek, Dr John
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Cohen, Harry Maxton, John
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Meacher, Michael
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Meadowcroft, Michael
Corbett, Robin Michie, William
Cowans, Harry Mikardo, Ian
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Crowther, Stan Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Cunliffe, Lawrence Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Dalyell, Tam Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Nellist, David
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) O'Brien, William
Deakins, Eric Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Dewar, Donald Park, George
Dixon, Donald Patchett, Terry
Dobson, Frank Pendry, Tom
Dormand, Jack Penhaligon, David
Douglas, Dick Pike, Peter
Dubs, Alfred Powell, Rt Hon J. E, (S Down)
Duffy, A. E. P. Prescott, John
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Radice, Giles
Eadie, Alex Randall, Stuart
Eastham, Ken Redmond, M.
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Richardson, Ms Jo
Fatchett, Derek Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Faulds, Andrew Robertson, George
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Rogers, Allan
Fisher, Mark Rowlands, Ted
Flannery, Martin Sedgemore, Brian
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Sheerman, Barry
Forrester, John Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Foster, Derek Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Foulkes, George Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Freud, Clement Skinner, Dennis
George, Bruce Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Snape, Peter
Golding, John Soley, Clive
Gould, Bryan Spearing, Nigel
Gourlay, Harry Stott, Roger
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Strang, Gavin
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Straw, Jack
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Taylor, Rt Hon John David
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Haynes, Frank Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Tinn, James
Heffer, Eric S. Torney, Tom
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Wallace, James
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Home Robertson, John Wareing, Robert
Howells, Geraint Weetch, Ken
Hoyle, Douglas Welsh, Michael
White, James
Williams, Rt Hon A. Tellers for the Ayes:
Winnick, David Mr. Ray Powell and
Young, David (Bolton SE) Mr. John McWilliam.
Adley, Robert Farr, Sir John
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Favell, Anthony
Amess, David Fletcher, Alexander
Ancram, Michael Fookes, Miss Janet
Arnold, Tom Forman, Nigel
Ashby, David Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Aspinwall, Jack Forth, Eric
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Fox, Marcus
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Franks, Cecil
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Baldry, Tony Freeman, Roger
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Gale, Roger
Batiste, Spencer Galley, Roy
Bellingham, Henry Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Bendall, Vivian Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)
Benyon, William Garel-Jones, Tristan
Best, Keith Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Biffen, Rt Hon John Goodhart, Sir Philip
Blackburn, John Goodlad, Alastair
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Gorst, John
Body, Richard Gow, Ian
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gower, Sir Raymond
Bottomley, Peter Greenway, Harry
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Gregory, Conal
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Ground, Patrick
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Grylls, Michael
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Gummer, John Selwyn
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Brinton, Tim Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Hannam, John
Brooke, Hon Peter Hargreaves, Kenneth
Browne, John Harris, David
Bruinvels, Peter Harvey, Robert
Bryan, Sir Paul Haselhurst, Alan
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Budgen, Nick Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Bulmer, Esmond Hawksley, Warren
Butcher, John Hayes, J.
Butler, Hon Adam Hayhoe, Barney
Butterfill, John Hayward, Robert
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cash, William Heddle, John
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Henderson, Barry
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Chapman, Sydney Hickmet, Richard
Chope, Christopher Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Churchill, W. S. Hind, Kenneth
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Holt, Richard
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hordern, Peter
Clegg, Sir Walter Howard, Michael
Cockeram, Eric Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Colvin, Michael Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Conway, Derek Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Coombs, Simon Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Cope, John Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Cranborne, Viscount Irving, Charles
Critchley, Julian Jackson, Robert
Crouch, David Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Currie, Mrs Edwina Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dickens, Geoffrey Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dorrell, Stephen Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Dunn, Robert Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Durant, Tony Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Dykes, Hugh Key, Robert
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) King, Rt Hon Tom
Eggar, Tim Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Emery, Sir Peter Knowles, Michael
Evennett, David Lamont, Norman
Eyre, Sir Reginald Lawrence, Ivan
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Lee, John (Pendle) Roe, Mrs Marion
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Rost, Peter
Lester, Jim Rowe, Andrew
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Lightbown, David Ryder, Richard
Lilley, Peter Sackville, Hon Thomas
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Lord, Michael Sayeed, Jonathan
Luce, Richard Scott, Nicholas
Lyell, Nicholas Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
McCrindle, Robert Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
McCurley, Mrs Anna Shelton, William (Streatham)
Macfarlane, Neil Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
MacGregor, John Shersby, Michael
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Sims, Roger
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Skeet, T. H. H.
Maclean, David John Soames, Hon Nicholas
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Speed, Keith
McQuarrie, Albert Speller, Tony
Major, John Spence, John
Malins, Humfrey Spencer, Derek
Malone, Gerald Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Maples, John Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Marland, Paul Squire, Robin
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Stanbrook, Ivor
Mates, Michael Stanley, John
Mather, Carol Steen, Anthony
Maude, Hon Francis Stern, Michael
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Mellor, David Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Merchant, Piers Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Stradling Thomas, J.
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Sumberg, David
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Miscampbell, Norman Taylor, John (Solihull)
Moate, Roger Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Monro, Sir Hector Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Moore, John Terlezki, Stefan
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Moynihan, Hon C. Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Neale, Gerrard Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Needham, Richard Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Nelson, Anthony Tracey, Richard
Neubert, Michael Trippier, David
Newton, Tony Twinn, Dr Ian
Nicholls, Patrick van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Norris, Steven Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Onslow, Cranley Viggers, Peter
Oppenheim, Phillip Waddington, David
Ottaway, Richard Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Waldegrave, Hon William
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Walden, George
Patten, John (Oxford) Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Pattie, Geoffrey Waller, Gary
Pawsey, James Walters, Dennis
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Watson, John
Pollock, Alexander Watts, John
Portillo, Michael Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Powell, William (Corby) Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Powley, John Wheeler, John
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Whitney, Raymond
Price, Sir David Wilkinson, John
Proctor, K. Harvey Wolfson, Mark
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Wood, Timothy
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Woodcock, Michael
Rathbone, Tim Yeo, Tim
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Renton, Tim
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Tellers for the Noes:
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Rifkind, Malcolm Mr. Ian Lang.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 41 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading):

The House divided: Ayes 290, Noes 171.

Division No. 79] [10.15 pm
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Farr, Sir John
Ancram, Michael Favell, Anthony
Arnold, Tom Fletcher, Alexander
Ashby, David Fookes, Miss Janet
Aspinwall, Jack Forman, Nigel
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Fox, Marcus
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Franks, Cecil
Baldry, Tony Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Freeman, Roger
Batiste, Spencer Gale, Roger
Bellingham, Henry Galley, Roy
Bendall, Vivian Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Benyon, William Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)
Best, Keith Garel-Jones, Tristan
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Blackburn, John Goodhart, Sir Philip
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Goodlad, Alastair
Body, Richard Gorst, John
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gow, Ian
Bottomley, Peter Gower, Sir Raymond
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Greenway, Harry
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Gregory, Conal
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Ground, Patrick
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Grylls, Michael
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Gummer, John Selwyn
Brinton, Tim Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Brooke, Hon Peter Hannam, John
Browne, John Hargreaves, Kenneth
Bruinvels, Peter Harris, David
Bryan, Sir Paul Harvey, Robert
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Haselhurst, Alan
Buck, Sir Antony Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Bulmer, Esmond Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Butcher, John Hayes, J.
Butler, Hon Adam Hayhoe, Barney
Butterfill, John Hayward, Robert
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cash, William Heddle, John
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Henderson, Barry
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Chapman, Sydney Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L
Chope, Christopher Hind, Kenneth
Churchill, W. S. Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Holt, Richard
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hordern, Peter
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Howard, Michael
Clegg, Sir Walter Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Cockeram, Eric Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Colvin, Michael Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Conway, Derek Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Coombs, Simon Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Cope, John Irving, Charles
Cranborne, Viscount Jackson, Robert
Critchley, Julian Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Crouch, David Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Currie, Mrs Edwina Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dickens, Geoffrey Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Dorrell, Stephen Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Dunn, Robert Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Durant, Tony Key, Robert
Dykes, Hugh King, Rt Hon Tom
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Eggar, Tim Knowles, Michael
Emery, Sir Peter Lamont, Norman
Evennett, David Lawrence, Ivan
Eyre, Sir Reginald Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Lee, John (Pendle) Roe, Mrs Marion
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Rost, Peter
Lester, Jim Rowe, Andrew
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Lightbown, David Ryder, Richard
Lilley, Peter Sackville, Hon Thomas
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Lord, Michael Sayeed, Jonathan
Luce, Richard Scott, Nicholas
Lyell, Nicholas Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
McCrindle, Robert Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
McCurley, Mrs Anna Shelton, William (Streatham)
Macfarlane, Neil Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
MacGregor, John Shersby, Michael
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Sims, Roger
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Skeet, T. H. H.
Maclean, David John Soames, Hon Nicholas
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Speed, Keith
McQuarrie, Albert Speller, Tony
Major, John Spence, John
Malone, Gerald Spencer, Derek
Maples, John Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Marland, Paul Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Squire, Robin
Mates, Michael Stanbrook, Ivor
Mather, Carol Stanley, John
Maude, Hon Francis Steen, Anthony
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stern, Michael
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Mellor, David Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Merchant, Piers Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Stradling Thomas, J.
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Sumberg, David
Miscampbell, Norman Tapsell, Sir Peter
Moate, Roger Taylor, John (Solihull)
Monro, Sir Hector Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Moore, John Terlezki, Stefan
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Moynihan, Hon C. Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Neale, Gerrard Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Needham, Richard Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Nelson, Anthony Tracey, Richard
Neubert, Michael Trippier, David
Newton, Tony Twinn, Dr Ian
Nicholls, Patrick van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Norris, Steven Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Onslow, Cranley Viggers, Peter
Oppenheim, Phillip Waddington, David
Ottaway, Richard Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Waldegrave, Hon William
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Walden, George
Patten, John (Oxford) Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Pattie, Geoffrey Waller, Gary
Pawsey, James Walters, Dennis
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Watson, John
Pollock, Alexander Watts, John
Portillo, Michael Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Powell, William (Corby) Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Powley, John Wheeler, John
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Whitney, Raymond
Price, Sir David Wilkinson, John
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Wolfson, Mark
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Wood, Timothy
Rathbone, Tim Woodcock, Michael
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Yeo, Tim
Renton, Tim Young, Sir George (Acton)
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Tellers for the Ayes:
Rifkind, Malcolm Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Mr. Ian Lang.
Abse, Leo Archer, Rt Hon Peter
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Ashton, Joe
Anderson, Donald Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) John, Brynmor
Barnett, Guy Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Barron, Kevin Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Beith, A. J. Lamond, James
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Leadbitter, Ted
Bermingham, Gerald Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Boyes, Roland Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Loyden, Edward
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) McCartney, Hugh
Bruce, Malcolm McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Buchan, Norman McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Budgen, Nick McKelvey, William
Caborn, Richard Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Campbell, Ian Maclennan, Robert
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) McNamara, Kevin
Cartwright, John McTaggart, Robert
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Madden, Max
Clarke, Thomas Malins, Humfrey
Clay, Robert Marek, Dr John
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Maxton, John
Cohen, Harry Meacher, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Meadowcroft, Michael
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Michie, William
Corbett, Robin Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Cowans, Harry Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Crowther, Stan Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Nellist, David
Dalyell, Tam Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) O'Brien, William
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Deakins, Eric Park, George
Dewar, Donald Patchett, Terry
Dixon, Donald Pendry, Tom
Dobson, Frank Penhaligon, David
Dormand, Jack Pike, Peter
Douglas, Dick Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Dubs, Alfred Prescott, John
Duffy, A. E. P. Proctor, K. Harvey
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Radice, Giles
Eadie, Alex Randall, Stuart
Eastham, Ken Redmond, M.
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Richardson, Ms Jo
Fatchett, Derek Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Faulds, Andrew Robertson, George
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Rogers, Allan
Fisher, Mark Rowlands, Ted
Flannery, Martin Sedgemore, Brian
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Sheerman, Barry
Forrester, John Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Foster, Derek Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Foulkes, George Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Freud, Clement Silkin, Rt Hon J.
George, Bruce Silvester, Fred
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Skinner, Dennis
Golding, John Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Gould, Bryan Snape, Peter
Gourlay, Harry Soley, Clive
Grist, Ian Spearing, Nigel
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Stott, Roger
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Strang, Gavin
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Straw, Jack
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Taylor, Rt Hon John David
Haynes, Frank Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Heffer, Eric S. Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Home Robertson, John Tinn, James
Howells, Geraint Torney, Tom
Hoyle, Douglas Wallace, James
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Wareing, Robert
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Weetch, Ken
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Welsh, Michael
White, James
Wiggin, Jerry Tellers for the Noes:
Williams, Rt Hon A. Mr. John McWilliam and
Winnick, David Mr. Ray Powell.
Young, David (Bolton SE)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 42 (Committal of Bills).

  2. c117