HC Deb 21 April 1986 vol 96 cc35-76 4.19 pm
Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridgeshire, North-East)

I beg to move,

That this House is of the opinion that, in view of the widespread lack of confidence in Her Majesty's Government's education policies, the salary of the Secretary of State for Education and Science should be reduced by £1,000.

Mr. Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

Mr. Freud

I am pleased to see the Secretary of State for Education and Science in his place, though I am sorry to hear through the usual channels that he has decided not to speak in this debate,, I very much hope that he will change his decision, because this is quite specifically a censure motion on what he has done since he has held office.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

In view of the quality of the spokesmen on the alliance Benches this afternoon, the hon. Gentleman should understand that he is lucky indeed that a Minister of State and an Under-Secretary of State are to contribute to the debate. It is great arrogance on the part of the Liberal party to suggest that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should reply to a debate on a motion moved by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud).

Mr. Freud

One is well aware of the sour grapes of ex-Ministers who intervene before hon. Members have had time to begin to make their speeches. I am deeply conscious of the fact that the Secretary of State is in his place, and I am grateful for it. I hope that he will decide before the end of the debate to intervene as this is specifically a debate about his office.

It is sad that when the Opposition allow the alliance to initiate a debate it tends to be on a day when the European elections are taking place, or, as today, on Her Majesty's 60th birthday. That sadness is compounded when a Minister makes a statement and there is a Standing Order No. 10 application, which mean that an important debate will be restricted to a little more than two and a half hours. I shall be briefer than I had intended to be originally so that as many Members as possible may participate in the debate.

The motion follows the arcane rules of the House in that rather than dismissing Ministers we try to reduce their salary as a manifestation of discontent. I should not like it to be thought that in seeking a reduction of £1,000 from the Secretary of State's salary we are 96 per cent. satisfied with his work. If there is to be some justification for the reduction of £1,000, it should be understood that it is the minimum sum that all teachers feel that they should have deservedly added to their salaries and which, thanks to the monetarist policies of the Secretary of State, they are not receiving.

I found the reaction to the motion interesting. The Labour party, whose critical motions we steadily support, met it with silence. It seems that it considers party political isolationism to be more important than national educational needs. I hope that it will vote in favour of the motion as my colleagues and I have steadily voted for its on education. The Labour party and the alliance have been pretty united to date in condemning what is happening in education.

Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South)


Mr. Freud

I shall not give way now. I must get on with my speech.

The Government claim to be beginning to think about starting to consider looking at the possibilities; their amendment lacks any sort of genuine direction. This Government have been seven and a half years in office and it is disappointing that only now are they starting to consider education needs.

If it is thought that the Government are beginning to change their spots, it might be sensible to remind the House that an announcement is in the pipeline—it will be made this week or next week—concerning a £263,000 project to survey parental involvement in primary schools. I am entirely in favour of such a survey, but it is typical of this Administration that they choose to finance a survey when the money could be used to train 1,000 people, to finance a substantial pilot programme or to fund a cost-benefit analysis. However, the Government continue to finance surveys, and there has been survey after survey. I have nothing against the National Foundation for Educational Research, which will carry out the survey. It just continues to be a disappointing way in which to spend substantial sums from the education budget.

We had high hopes in 1979. The right hon. Lady was the first person to become Prime Minister after having been Secretary of State for Education and Science. We had high hopes too when the Secretary of State was appointed. We considered him to have genuine concern for education and our hopes were boosted by his memorable speech at Sheffield, which suggested thought and commitment. Unfortunately, our high hopes have not borne fruit, as everyone involved in education will accept.

I do not believe that it is right to take random statistics and use such figures to frame an indictment of the Secretary of State, but the education budget as a proportion of GDP has fallen from over 13 per cent. in 1974 to just over 10 per cent. now. That is a genuine indictment. The proportion of GDP is the one that is important.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)


Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)


Mr. Freud

I shall not give way. Hon. Members will have time to make their own speeches.

The graduate entrant to the teaching profession was paid £3,714 when this Government came into office and he is paid £6,252 now. A graduate entrant to the police force was paid £3,247 when the Government came into office; he is paid £8,442 now. So the graduate entrant to the police who was paid £500 less than the graduate entering the teaching profession is now paid £2,200 more, and that figure does not take London weighting into account. Nor do the figures take account of the substantial overtime provision for those in the police force. There is virtually no such provision for teachers.

It is right to compare the police force and teachers because as the leader of the Liberal party, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), said, by reducing spending on school books we ensure that more must be spent on law and order. There is a connection between education and hooliganism whether we like it nor not and it is right that that is borne in mind. The relationship between teaching and policing is not merely that of relative pay levels but involves political priorities and synthesis. We are talking about the same children, the same communities and the same democracy. The same money will be spent on educating children or on making good the damage that they do.

The first and most damning charge against the Secretary of State is his lack of leadership. He has failed to fight his corner in Cabinet over resources for education, and he has failed to fulfil the promises that he made in his Sheffield speech. The second charge in the indictment is his incompetence and insensitivity. Let us consider the teachers' dispute and the teachers' request for a 7 per cent. increase. The Secretary of State said that there was no question of the Government giving them that increase but within days of making that statement the Secretary of State voted in support of giving judges and other senior civil servants substantial salary increases on the basis of the recommendations of the Top Salaries Review Body. It was that which infuriated teachers as much as anything else.

Student financial support is another example. The Secretary of State cancelled the inquiry into that support and followed this by abdicating his responsibility to the DHSS, which knows nothing of students and understands nothing of their needs. It has carried out no research into the welfare or support of students and when we ask it questions about availability of student jobs it tells us that no research has been undertaken on that issue. Yet the DHSS now has financial responsibility for student support.

On the subject of incompetence, it is fair to bring up the corporal punishment legislation. If this were not a serious debate, one would say that the Government's attitude smacks of major incompetence. But this might be a good time for the Minister to tell the House of the prospects for introducing that ill-conceived measure which was properly thrown out by the other place.

On the subject of insensitivity, it is proper to refer to school reorganisation and the average delay of 14 months before announcing a verdict. And, even when the verdict is announced, there is no explanation and no recognition of the costs to local authorities when proposals are rejected. Now there is a new trend of rejecting proposals affecting grammar schools, even when, like Stroud, they are supported by local Tories and the schools take between 30 per cent. and 40 per cent. of the catchment.

Another justified charge against the Government concerns the failure to respond to new demands on the service. What prevents the formation of a merged Department of Education and Training, in favour of which both sides of the House have so much to say? By providing financial support for 16 to 19–year-olds—I accept implementation would cost a great deal—we could establish a framework. We know what happened with public lending rights; there was no money to pay authors, but the concept of PLR was right, and it was introduced. I hope that, by the same token, the concept of paying 16 to 19–year-olds to stay in education will be accepted as right. We should not make it financially attractive for 16 to 19–year-olds to sign on the unemployment register rather than remain in education. Perpetuating the 21-hour rule does such great harm, is insensitive and plumb wrong.

My next charge concerns destruction of the partnership—despite the rhetoric of "Better Schools"—between Government, teachers, local education authorities, parents and pupils. Thanks to the Secretary of State, they have been isolated and effectively set against each other by neglect, or perhaps deliberate calculation. The Government have shown that they are either unwilling or unable to work with their partners.

The Secretary of State tells us that he has no power. We say that the power of a good Secretary of State is the power to lead, to inspire and to make the partnership work to create a climate in which partnership can flourish. I am afraid that the Secretary of State has been discredited. In fact the biggest ovation at the conference of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers occurred when a delegate made that point.

The breakdown has two consequences. The most serious is that, although the Secretary of State has a duty to the maintained sector of education, everything he has done has caused the flourishing of the private sector. Every hamfisted intervention, every setting aside of Her Majesty's Inspectorate's strictures has boosted applications to get out of the maintained sector. No matter the cost, people put down the names of their children for education in the private sector. The success of the private schools is bought at the cost of the state schools. They suffer from the teachers' dispute, and the introduction of GCSE and A/S levels. It must be clear to every Government Front Bencher that A/S levels vastly benefit those children who can be educated in the private sector, which has the ability and finance to provide the relevant education which cannot be found at other than the largest comprehensive schools, certainly cannot be provided by those schools in my constituency.

Consequently, there are increasing calls for the abandonment of the partnership. They come from the Right wing of the Conservative party, which prefers to bypass the democratic process with the dishonest rhetoric of freedom of choice which it offers under the shorthand of "vouchers". The calls come also from the centralisers, who argue that the Department of Education and Science should step in where the partnership has failed to deliver. We oppose both moves. Vouchers offer opportunities to a selected few rather than standards for the many. As the Minister of State has said a number of times, they are "practically hopeless".

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Chris Patten)

Nonsense. I said it once.

Mr. Freud

The hon. Gentleman might only have said it once. It has been repeated, and, if I may say so, once is enough.

Centralisation offers no suggestion that the Department of Education and Science would be any better at providing the service. The Department cannot escape the charge of unaccountability. The vouchers idea is a smokescreen to cover the lack of direction and achievement in the past seven years and the lack of valid and convincing responses to Government critics. The idea has nothing to offer. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) has said, there are no gimmicky solutions to the problems of providing better education. It is easy to dream up new schemes, such as Crown schools, or to advocate vouchers, but that is political escapism, designed only to fill a gap in the next election manifesto.

Mr. Marlow

What would the hon. Gentleman do about ILEA?

Mr. Freud

If the hon. Gentleman will wait, I shall tell him exactly what I would do.

The alliance believes in partnership. It is not a case of everything being rosy before 1979 or of plucking dates from the sky and saying, "It went bad then" or "It was good then." I do not believe that simply putting more money in will rectify the problems or that the old partnership is fully adequate to meet today's needs. We in the alliance are uniquely qualified to speak of partnership in education, not just because of our political organisation but because of our roots in local government and belief in people—their rights and abilities.

It is strange that, if there is a crisis in education, nothing is done, but, if there is a crisis in almost any other branch of life, the Government bail us out. In 1978, when there was a major flood in the Fens, central Government said, "Spend 1p of your rate money and we shall give you 75 per cent. of all the extra expenditure." Crises and disasters in education are identified by Her Majesty's Inspectorate, that most professional body. The crises of high truancy, poor achievement, misery among teachers and despair among parents can be solved only by a local education authority. However, if the local education authority spends money alleviating a disaster, it is penalised and fined for doing its job. Rate capping they call it.

Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, North-East)

The hon. Gentleman has raised a serious matter. Does he agree that a problem arises when we have a remote control system operated by the Department of Education and Science in England through local education authorities? If education authorities choose to spend their money on what some of us might think are less essential matters, which are not part of their education duty, it is difficult to say that they do not have enough money to undertake properly activities for which they have a clear statutory duty.

Mr. Freud

I have considerable sympathy with that view. There is no simple answer, but it is wrong for a local authority which does its duty to be painted with the same brush as those local authorities that exceed all normal standards. I am not saying that there is a simple solution. I am saying that there is a virtual breakdown in the partnership which should exist between central and local government, let alone teachers, pupils and parents.

I promised the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) that I would give a brief list of the alliance's priorities in education. We would return more autonomy to local government and we would institute an education ombudswoman, or ombudswoman, who would listen to genuine complaints which, at the moment, have no route whereby they can be heard or brought to the attention of an independent arbiter. We would open access to educational records. We would provide training for parent-governors and, with the devolution of more decision-making, would involve individual schools. That is currently being done in Cambridgeshire where we have tried an independent financial system for schools so that headmasters can make their own decisions. At the moment that may not be totally accepted or work brilliantly but it is an innovation which I think is genuinely appreciated and can be built upon.

We believe strongly in fixed term headships. I think it is right that the head teacher should not be secure until retirement. We believe in having pupil members on governing bodies and we believe that working with parents should be included in initial teacher training. We believe that teacher's pay should be linked to their conditions of service. I know that on that issue I have the consent of the Conservative party, even if I do not have the consent of the Labour party. We should use HMIs not just as inspectors but consultants. What they say and recommend should have more clout than currently. By using central Government money for specific purposes rather than asking the local education authorities to bid for their own money and, above all, by respecting local government, one would renew the partnership which used to exist. Henry Morris, the director of education for Cambridgeshire, said very tellingly in the 1930s that every dictator realises how obstructive to power is local government and every dictator abolishes it.

I do not like what is happening now, with more power going to central Government or the Crown schools being brought in as if, all over this country, we do not have enough schools of proven excellence in the public sector of education.

Mr. Marlow


Mr. Freud

I am coming to the end of my speech.

I would like to put new life into the partnership by putting more stress on community education, which is currently regarded in some Conservative circles as slightly more dangerous than the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I believe that community education can start to meet the legitimate demands of an increasingly aging and leisured society. I saw examples of community education in Coventry the other day where the school is open for 24 hours a day and the cleaners come in late at night. The school is open for further and higher education, for vocational teaching, for games and for meetings, which are able to take place at low rentals. We should involve members of a community in a school, treat people as more mature and responsible and recognise that the value of a service is a consequence of the stake that the people put in it. I have always felt that involvement in all sectors of education was essential to make the public responsible. Even in primary schools, to have the children vote on what sort of sweets they have in the school shop or the location of the telephone box gives them an identity with a school which stops them—

Mr. Sumberg

While the hon. Gentleman is running through the shopping list of alliance policies, will he tell us whether it is correct that the alliance would phase out the assisted places scheme? Will he also confirm that he will attack the charitable status of the independent sector? I would like to make it clear to my electors, who might think about voting for the alliance and whose children attend private and independent schools, exactly what they are voting for.

Mr. Freud

I am pleased to answer the hon. Gentleman. We would certainly phase out the assisted places scheme. It seems absolutely wrong, especially for the Secretary of State for Education and Science, to give up on the education of academically talented children. It is right that there are children of academic ability who should move from one school to another. However, we totally reject the notion that the only schools to which they should move are those in the private sector of education.

The alliance would look at charitable status again. I do not see that there is anything charitable about Eton or Harrow. I think that it is proper to have a yardstick and to give charitable status to institutions which do an element of charitable work. We would say that a school could have charitable status if its shows that it deserves it and shows that it does something for the community which will allow education for those who cannot pay, for example, perhaps a minimum number of scholarships in a school. Certainly it is wrong for the community to suffer a shortage of rate payments and tax payments so that an elitist body can go on being elitist.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)


Mr. Freud

With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, I am sure that he will make his own speech.

I ask the Secretary of State to remember that education should not merely be a consequence of good government but that good government should be a consequence of good education. Currently, we have neither.

4.46 pm
The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Chris Patten)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

welcomes the education policies being pursued by Her Majesty's Government, which are beginning to tackle the urgent need to raise and sustain educational standards at all levels of ability, to create a wider range of opportunities for young people, and to enable the education system to make its full and proper contribution to national life.". I welcome the opportunity for this debate. However, I am not sure that I thought the speech of the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) was worth a grand. He seemed to nail his colours to almost every fence going. I shall return to that shortly. I also welcome the interest which at least some Liberal and Social Democratic Members are taking in education this week. Normally, as the House knows, they leave these matters to the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East who labours manfully on his own. However, with the local elections in prospect and with the growing salience of education as a political issue, the hon. Gentleman finds himself with at least a few of his hon. Friends here to sustain him today, but none of his right hon. Friends. I am sure that he finds that extremely gratifying. It seems to me that it is another example of the potency of Dr. Gallup.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

I am sure that on reflection the hon. Gentleman will concede that that is a wholly bogus point. We cannot produce every single one of our members at every debate any more than he can.

Mr. Patten

We are pleased to see at least some of the hon. Friends of the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East. We are sorry not to see the leader of the Liberal party or the leader of the Social Democratic party.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Where is the Prime Minister?

Mr. Patten

This is the finest hour of the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East. This is the charge of the light brigade. We are sorry not to see here the leaders of the Liberal party or of the Social Democratic party for reasons which I shall seek to adduce shortly.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)


Mr. Patten

I shall give way later.

I should like to concentrate mainly on schools and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State will speak mostly about higher education when he replies to the debate.

I want to take as my text the speech given by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) at Ruskin college in October 1976. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) is nodding. The right hon. Gentleman was the leader of the Government which the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends so assiduously supported. I shall take it as a text for three reasons. First, it set out an admirably bipartisan agenda for the reform of education. Secondly, it launched what the right hon. Gentleman described as the great debate. Thirdly, the present Government have spent the past seven years taking action on a number of the matters that the right hon. Gentleman talked about in that speech. We have turned into reality a number of the aspirations that he referred to then.

I should like to quote three sentences from the Ruskin college speech which, in my judgment, should enable us to sweep aside some of the partisan clutter that normally dominates debates such as this. I fear that those whose only answer to these problems is to call for more money will be disappointed. Expenditure per pupil was 14.5 per cent. lower at that time than it is today. The right hon. Gentleman continued: But that surely cannot be the end of the matter. There is a challenge to us all in these days and a challenge in education is to examine its priorities and to secure as high efficiency as possible by the skilful use of existing resources. That is a salutary reminder—the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East touched on the point and then backed off—that any serious debate on education should contain more than a drab recitation of rival statistics. There is no mechanistic relationship between the level of expenditure on education and the output of our schools. If there were, life would be a great deal easier and the standards set in ILEA schools would be second to none. Nor is there any evidence to relate variations in local education authority expenditure to variations in achievement levels.

On the other hand, I accept that the admirable objectives that we set out in our White Paper "Better Schools"—for example, the hoped-for spread of TVEI from the pilot stage to a wider range of schools—will need more investment per pupil. We have achieved that. We have been investing more per pupil. I am surprised that the Opposition parties rest their arguments on education so much on expenditure levels, although I concede that the Opposition now tend to mix that argument with the sanctimonious argument that we are entirely wrong to add up the cost of their promises—and not only in the case of education. The Opposition suggest that that cost would not be very high and that we could do it all for the cost of the return fare to Brighton.

Resting on spending levels is not a comfortable posture for the Opposition. Let us get the figures out of the way and turn to more serious matters. Expenditure per pupil is now higher than ever. It has risen by about 18 per cent. since the Government came to office. In January 1980 there were 18.7 pupils per teacher; now there are 17.8. Expenditure on books and equipment has risen in real terms by about 8 per cent. per pupil. There has also been a smaller increase in expenditure in real terms on repairs and maintenance. The average real salary of a teacher today is £800 more than it was when Labour left office.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)


Mr. Patten

The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth made his speech at Ruskin college in a year when the value of teachers' pay fell in present-day terms by over £1,000. Those were the high days of inflation under the Labour Government. I suppose that a teacher might have stayed slightly ahead of the game if he had been paid in gold bars or cocoa futures.

The figures do not suggest—and I understate the point—that everyone in education has all the resources he wants. As I go from local education authority to local education authority, that is not my experience. The figures do not demonstrate that we are making the best use of our money. They do not dispose of some of the arguments to which I shall now turn. However, they certainly dispose of the proposition that education is suffering from a ludicrous shortage of resources and that everything could be put right if we simply spent a little more. Those propositions are 18 carat nonsense.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

Will the Minister accept that since 1979 the Government have reduced educational expenditure in real terms by about £2.5 billion? Many economies of scale were made during the 1970s, and it is not reasonable for the Government now to expect economies of contraction too. It costs as much to heat a classroom if there are 20 pupils in it as it does if there are 30.

Mr. Patten

That is a strong argument for getting rid of surplus places—which we are anxious to do as rapidly as possible. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East did not concede that the number of pupils in our schools has fallen by about 12 per cent. in the past six or seven years.

Mr. Dalyell

I have asked the hon. Gentleman about the difficult subject of physics teachers. Has he read the leading article in the New Scientist of 10 April entitled "Money for New Rope" in which it is stated that in a number of schools, below sixth form level, there may well be no physics teachers in the foreseeable future"?

Mr. Patten

I have not read that article, but I will do so. I will take up the hon. Gentleman's point later on.

In his Ruskin speech, the right hon. Gentleman identified a number of educational issues which had to be tackled. He talked about the relationship between parents and education and between the world of work and the world of school. He talked about the curriculum, examinations and teachers. I should like briefly to deal with that agenda.

Our Education Act 1980—I must pay tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Carlisle) who laid many of the foundations on which we have built—did much to increase parental influence on, and involvement in, children's education. The Bill at present in another place, which we hope will shortly come to this House, takes that process a good deal further. I trust that we can rely on the unremitting and unstinting support of the alliance parties in taking that legislation to the statute book, despite reports of recent speeches by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), whose interest in education has not survived until this debate. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was talking for himself or for the alliance. However, he lauded parent power and local autonomy. They were in while, in his view, central control was out. I mean no disrespect to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am sorry that he is not here. In view of his recent interest in education, I would have expected him to be here.

Mr. Alton

Where is the Prime Minister?

Mr. Patten

It is not the Prime Minister's motion.

I must say that I have always found the "power to the people" side of the right hon. Gentleman's personality less convincing than the "power to Dr. Owen" side. The right hon. Gentleman talked about parent power and local automony. Then—the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East exhibited a similar form of schizophrenia—he advocated giving Her Majesty's inspectors the power to recommend school closures, and providing central funds to set up new schools.

As an innocent bystander I think that there is a contradiction in those propositions. They are perhaps, another example of tough and tender out riding. Whatever the conundrums or paradoxes, I am pleased that we can count on the support of the Liberal and Social Democratic parties when we put on the statute book that legislation which takes parent power and parental influence much further.

The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth continued in his famous speech at Ruskin college to consider the relationship between work and education and the relevance of the curricula. The Government have acted on those points. We have established much closer links between education and the business world through schemes such as young enterprise, the school curriculum industry project and the understanding British industry project. We have promoted economic awareness as part of the school curriculum and we have brought non-advanced further education closer together with local industry and the Manpower Services Commission. We have placed more emphasis in schools on the application of knowledge and we have encouraged the growth of craft design and technology. Technical and practical learning have been stimulated through a number of pilot schemes like the technical and vocational education initiative in which 100,000 pupils will be involved at a cost of some £250 million. As I said earlier, we are considering the extension of that project so that all secondary school pupils can benefit from the lessons that we have learned.

As the House will know, the Government have been setting the pace in the use of computers in schools. We have invested almost £40 million in the past five years on information technology.

The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth continued in his speech to discuss curricula. Despite all the difficulties and turmoils, the Government have worked for agreement with teachers and local education authorities about the type of curricula that we should have in our schools which we believe should be broad, balanced, relevant and differentiated. We have also been working for agreement on the different parts of the curricula. We began by publishing our proposals which have been discussed and are now in their final form on the teaching of science for five to 16–year-olds, and we shall shortly be producing—

Mr. Dalyell

What about physics teachers?

Mr. Patten

I shall come to the hon. Gentleman's point in a moment.

We shall shortly be producing proposals on modern languages as part of the curriculum. The Government's main purpose is to try to ensure that 80 to 90 per cent. of our school leavers aged 16 are brought up to and beyond the level now achieved by 50 per cent. of pupils in a range of subjects—that is approximately CSE grade 4.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has shown a great concern for the lower achievers in our schools. The lower achievers' programme aims to discover and spread a curriculum which will interest and involve that worrying minority who are now getting very little from their secondary schooling.

The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth also raised the problems about the examination system. He was specifically concerned about less academic students who remain at school beyond the age of 16. He proposed that there should be more discussion about 16-plus examinations and about other examinations, and he told us that Mrs. Shirley Williams would consider those problems. We have acted. We have introduced or are proposing to introduce A/S levels to broaden the base of the curriculum in sixth forms, and I do not accept what the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East said about that earlier.

The Government have introduced the certificate of prevocational education with the new sixth formers, about whom the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth was concerned, in mind. As the House will know, we are conducting a review of vocational qualifications which will soon reach fruition and this year we are starting the GCSE, which is the most significant reform of 16-plus examinations for 20 years.

We had an opportunity to debate the GCSE last week and all hon. Members who took part in that debate regarded it as useful and constructive. I do not want to traverse in this debate the ground that we covered then. I shall, however, make four brief points. First, the preparations for the GCSE are literally unprecedented. Secondly, we have tried to respond to every legitimate professional concern. For example, we have considered resources and training in that connection. Thirdly, I repeat what I said last week, that postponement for a year is not an option. We could not stand down the boards and groups and require them to produce some makeshift GCE and CSE examinations in 1988 with machinery which, in many cases, has already been dismantled, and at the same time tell them that they must get on with the job of introducing GCSE the following year. A postponement would lead to a protracted delay against a background of chaos. My fourth point is that we are always ready to discuss with teachers associations, examining groups or local authority associations professional concerns about the introduction of the GCSE. We want to ensure that the GCSE examination is the success that it needs and deserves to be.

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

If everything is going as smoothly as the Minister so blandly suggests, why does he believe that the secondary heads and the Parent Teachers Associations are so anxious as to call on him to postpone the examination? Does he realise that that anxiety extends far beyond the teacher organisations and is now so widespread that he cannot blandly dismiss it, as he has tried to do?

Mr. Patten

I was not trying to be bland. If the hon. Gentleman had had the opportunity of listening to our debate last week he could not have accused the Government of blandness. We are anxious to do all that we reasonably can to ensure that the GCSE examination is introduced smoothly. I had the opportunity of addressing the Secondary Heads Association conference yesterday and I have spoken to other professional bodies. I recognise their anxieties and a number of their concerns are related to the last argument I wish to make regarding teachers.

The final piece of the jigsaw concerns teachers. I accept that a fair and sensible deal with the teachers would greatly improve the climate for the introduction of the GCSE. That is behind many of the anxieties expressed at present. If we do not get such a deal, much more than the GCSE will unfortunately be threatened. That underlines the importance of achieving a deal in the summer.

I have said before, and am glad to repeat myself, that without good and highly trained, highly motivated teachers our other objectives for education are as sand in the wind. Because we are concerned about training, we have, with the help of the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, been attempting to improve standards in initial teacher training. We have done much to improve and develop in-service training because we are concerned about better quality teaching. The Government want to see better paid teachers, a better career structure and improved promotion prospects with better rewards for skills in short supply.

In response to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), I believe that until we achieve those objctives it will be extremely difficult to deal with the serious skill shortages that he mentioned. Once we begin to deal with those problems there are many other imaginative and radical proposals that the Government could discuss with industry for dealing with the shortages that have been evident for too many years but are especially acute today.

We must establish a clear link between what teachers are paid and what they are paid to do. Teachers cannot argue on the one hand that it is impossible to define what they do in a contractual sense because it is all a matter of good will and on the other hand argue that that good will can be withdrawn at considerable damage to schools at no cost to themselves, whenever they so wish. The teachers cannot have both those propositions. That is the nub of the argument and the main reason why we have suffered such a wretched year, and that is the issue we cannot run away from. It is ludicrous to suppose that that has only been a problem for the past two years.

We hear a great deal about "back to Houghton". The problem goes back to Houghton and Lord Houghton made that point recently. I cannot quote him directly, but in essence he said that it was not just salary scales that were written on the banner of Houghton. He said that his report, as well as dealing with money, was an attempt to establish and define professionalism. The teachers received the money but we have never managed to achieve the other side of the bargain. That is what we must achieve now.

The past year has been wretched partly because the discussions which were taking place in the autumn of 1984 had the plug pulled on them by the National Union of Teachers. The discussions were held to bring together pay, duties and conditions of service. If those discussions had been successful, we would not have had to endure the turmoil and aggravation of the past 12 months.

ACAS, with the employers and with representatives of the majority of teachers, is now attempting once again to resolve this issue which has been with us for so long. If we are to achieve a deal that is fair to teachers, fair to taxpayers, fair to ratepayers, fair to employers, fair to parents and, above all, fair to children, it must link pay and duties once and for all.

Mr. Marlow

I hope that my hon. Friend is right and that that will come about, to the great satisfaction of the teaching profession, but how will it resolve the problem of inner city schools, especially those under the ILEA, in which a great deal more money is spent per pupil but the results are much worse than elsewhere? What plan has my hon. Friend to deal with that?

Mr. Patten

I emphasise again that the key to education quality and standards everywhere is good teachers. My hon. Friend is being very persuasive, tempting me to take a walk down one or two boulevards into which I perhaps should not stray, not least in the interests of others wishing to take part in the debate. I hope that there will be other opportunities to deal with the point that he raises, as it must be of particular concern to many of us that one of the disadvantages faced by some children in inner city areas is the attitude of a minority of teachers and of some members of the education authorities in those areas.

The agenda set out by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth 10 years ago was extremely sensible and I am delighted that we have been able to act on it. It is perhaps presumptuous to say "we". The main credit for what has been achieved in relation to the curriculum, teacher training, links between industry and education, parent power, examination reform and the drive to raise the quality of education in all schools to the level achieved in the best should undoubtedly go to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who has carried through a major programme of reforms which will work through into higher standards of state education for the next 10 or 20 years. Other changes which have been discussed in the past few weeks may need to be contemplated to ensure that the partnership on which the education system is and continues to be based works as well as we all wish. I am sure that the Opposition will wish to contribute to that discussion.

Today, however, we have to deal with the motion on the Order Paper. In the past few years, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has had to endure more than his share of slings and arrows and has borne those tribulations with more forbearance and civility than most of us could muster. Compared with all that, today's preposterous motion is but a minor irritant. Nevertheless, I am sure that I speak for my right hon. and hon. Friends in saying that I resent its appearance on the Order Paper and invite the House to throw it out.

5.14 pm
Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) on his speech. I am glad that it was made by the hon. Gentleman and not by the leader of the Liberal party as originally advertised. Unlike his leader, the hon. Gentleman has always shown an interest in education matters. However, despite the glorification of local government, he ignored the record of the Liberals in the Isle of Wight and glossed over the split between the Liberals and Social Democrats on loans. It is perhaps a pity that more SDP Members are not present today. Nevertheless, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his speech and assure him that Labour Members will vote for the motion today.

I, too, am disappointed that the Secretary of State will not be answering the debate. Perhaps he is so enthusiastic about cutting public spending as to support a cut in his own salary. Be that as it may, I welcome this opportunity to debate education matters as there is a growing awareness of the vital importance of education not only for individual life chances and self-development but for the survival of this country. As we move towards a knowledge-based economy, it becomes ever clearer that our future will increasingly depend on human capital in terms of the intelligence, information and creativity of our people. It is equally clear that the best way to develop that capital is to invest carefully and effectively in education and training. It is clear, too, that in today's and tomorrow's world the prizes will go not to nations prepared to educate only their elites but to those which give good quality education to all their citizens.

It is therefore all the more disturbing that, according to a number of recent studies, we are less well educated and less well trained than many of our main competitors. Only one third of the work force in Britain holds recognised qualifications equivalent to O-levels, compared with two thirds in West Germany and Japan and almost 80 per cent. in the United States. Britain is also well down the league table in providing education and training opportunities for young people. In 1983, 64 per cent. of the 16 to 18 age group received such provision, compared with 84 per cent. in West Germany, 79 per cent. in the United States and the Netherlands and 73 per cent. in Japan. A much smaller proportion—12 per cent.—of the relevant age group has qualifications at degree level compared with 22 per cent. in the United States and 24 per cent. in Japan. Moreover, the proportion of adults receiving training or enjoying continuing education is much smaller than in a number of other advanced countries. Relatively speaking, Britain is a badly educated and badly trained nation.

Mr. Alan Howarth

Does the hon. Gentleman share my anxiety that in ILEA schools, which are permanently dominated by the Labour party and the National Union of Teachers, pupils with the lowest ability suffer most and achieve the worst examination results?

Mr. Radice

The hon. Gentleman may be unaware that the programme of reform that ILEA is putting through has been welcomed by the Secretary of State. I refer to the Hargreaves report and the follow-up to that, which was directed precisely at below-average and average achievers. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman and I should wait until 8 May for the verdict of the electors on what ILEA has done so far and is planning to do in the future.

It is against the background of relative educational backwardness and what is needed to equip ourselves for the future that we have to judge the Government's performance. The plain truth is that they have a miserable record. It is widely recognised even by members and supporters of the Government that the Conservatives have failed on education. Our schools do not have the level of resources for the job that we are asking them to do. Even the Secretary of State has admitted that teachers are underpaid, as has the Minister of State. For the past few years, Her Majesty's inspectors—the Secretary of State's own advisers—have been warning the Government about the shortage of teachers in key areas, to which reference has been made today, the inadequate supply of books and equipment and the bad state of repair and maintenance of too many of our schools.

The most significant and worrying paragraph in the recent HMI report, paragraph 89, said:

While most LEAs appear to have held or slightly improved the overall levels of their provision for schools, the baselines of some of that provision are such that it seems unlikely that present levels will be sufficient to enable schools to respond successfully to the national and local calls for improvements in pupils' achievements and in the curriculum. Mr. Eric Bolton, the chief inspector of schools, underlined that in a recent speech when he warned that, unless schools receive sufficient resources, the changes that are being demanded cannot be implemented. He went on to say that, while money was not the only answer—I agree with the Minister about that—it is a vital part of the solution. I did not hear that from the Minister today, although I shall quote him when he appears to recognise that money is important.

Mr. Eric Bolton said that the TVEI had shown what could be done when teachers are given adequate resources and time. That is instructive. In his recent speech to the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association conference, the Minister said: The demands on schools are increasing, and there is a need for more resources per pupil and a further limited improvement in the pupil-teacher ratio if they are all to be met. I hope that the Secretary of State will argue for that in Cabinet.

We also have a crisis of morale. We all know that, for more than a year, most children's education has been disrupted in some way, leaving pupils uncertain, parents anxious and teachers demoralised and alienated. Too many of our schools now exist in an atmosphere of crisis, as I know from personal experience.

The Minister referred to the reforms which the Government have heralded, but many have come to nothing while others have petered out in bickering and dispute. It is interesting that the amendment does not boast of the Government's educational achievements but speaks of their "beginning to tackle" educational standards.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

After seven years.

Mr. Radice

Indeed. I accept that educational reform takes time, but that is going too far. Under the Conservatives, the United Kingdom is about the only major Western European country which has cut resources going to higher education. The consequences are well known. Since 1981, 12,000 well qualified students have been turned away from our universities each year and 6,000 jobs have been lost in universities. In the next three years, cuts equivalent to the closure of a medium-sized university every year are to be imposed on the university sector. It is reported that Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer, the chairman of the University Grants Committee, has warned that three universities may have to be closed. I hope that the Minister will comment on that. Perhaps he would care to deny it.

Polytechnics and other institutions of higher education have rightly been praised for their contribution to the provision of more opportunities for quality higher education, yet they face the possibility of a 3 per cent. cut in 1987–88. The National Advisory Body secretariat has told public sector institutions that, if the unit of resource is to be maintained, the institutions will have to exclude more than 9,000 students and close whole departments, including engineering and science departments. The Secretary of State rightly keeps going on about maintaining standards, but he cannot have it both ways. He must provide the money. Despite the lip service which the Government pay to its importance, resources for continuing education have also been reduced significantly.

Bearing in mind the Government's poor record, the crisis in our schools and cuts in higher education, it is hardly surprising that education has become such an important issue. Voters believe that education should have top priority. They want the Government to get a grip on things. Above all, they want a return to calm and stability in schools.

The Government's reaction to mounting popular discontent has hardly been reassuring. It is no exaggeration to say that the Government have been running around in a state bordering on panic. The Prime Minister, apparently oblivious of the fact that the Government have been in power for more than seven years, is reported to have declared that something must be done about education.

The Foreign Secretary, on one of his few sorties into domestic politics, told eager listeners on the "Today" programme: Education is the most important part of the national agenda still calling for action". The Secretary of State for Energy, in one of his messages—as usual, it was in code—implied that more ought to be spent on education. There is, of course, the reactionary tendency. It is not as well represented today as usual, although I see one member of it present. Encouraged by the Prime Minister, it has dusted off several old ideas—yesterday's solutions to today's and tomorrow's problems.

We have been told that the answer to raising standards for all pupils is the introduction of vouchers, despite the Secretary of State's conclusion that they are not practical. A return to direct grant schools has been mentioned, as has more selection and even the introduction of what are apparently called Crown schools, which borrow the prestige of Her Majesty to support selection. I hope that most parents will fail to see what those notions have to do with the education of their children. Indeed, they will find those notions irrelevant.

I have never questioned the Secretary of State's sincerity and integrity. On behalf of the Labour party, I have supported him when I thought that he was right. However, for some time past, I have thought that it would be better for education if he resigned. He has clearly lost the support of parents and of teachers. He has said that he will retire at the end of this Parliament, but there is speculation that he will go in the autumn. I do not believe that, when parents are so concerned, schools are in such crisis and education is a top priority, we can afford a lame duck Secretary of State. We have had the unedifying spectacle of Ministers almost daily putting in applications for the job. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Patten) is never off the screen.

Mr. Alex Fletcher (Edinburgh, Central)

Off the streets, or the screens?

Mr. Radice

I am not sure about the streets. Bearing in mind his electoral prospects in Bath, he is probably on the streets as well. I have seen the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), at whose name the hon. Member for Bath is said to pale according to one newspaper, spending quite a lot of time in the House of Commons recently.

Mr. Fletcher


Mr. Radice

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's name has been mentioned, but many have. Tomorrow, The Guardian is running a punter's guide to the 11 runners so far. Such speculation and rumour is not good for education and the only way in which it can be ended is by the Secretary of State deciding that enough is enough. It would be in the best interests of education if the uncertainty about the Secretary of State's job was rapidly brought to an end. I have therefore to repeat my call for the Secretary of State to resign.

Changing the helmsman alone is not enough. If we are to equip ourselves adequately for the future and to meet the challenge that I have described, which I believe is widely accepted, the Government will have to change their education policy. We shall have to widen educational opportunity, to improve standards and to invest more in education.

The main aim of educational policy should be to open up opportunities for quality education throughout life. Every three and four-year-old should have the chance of a place at a nursery school or in a nursery class. Every child should have the opportunity of being taught in adequately resourced comprehensive, primary and secondary schools, and in classes small enough to allow for individual attention. Every 16–year-old should have the right to two years of high quality education and training with adequate financial support. Every adult should have the right to benefit from a period of education and training, and we ought to open up higher education to a much wider group than ever before.

We must also introduce measures that will address this Government's neglect of quality and standards. This must include smaller classes, particularly for younger children; an adequate supply of books and equipment; well maintained and well ordered schools; access to a broad and balanced curriculum; an assessment system that encourages success rather than highlights failure; a real partnership between home and school; a local ombudsman for parent complaints; and a decently paid, well trained and highly competent teaching profession.

Mr. Chris Patten

How much?

Mr. Radice

How much more does the hon. Gentleman think ought to be spent in order to ensure that the demands on schools are met? He does not say how much.

Mr. Patten


Mr. Radice

The fact is that neither "Better Schools", the White Paper produced by the right hon. Gentleman nor the Minister of State himself has costed his proposals. He is giving the electorate a lot of promises for the future while having failed in the past. If his promises are to be carried out, a substantial amount of extra money will have to be spent on education. We acknowledge that, but the Government are not honest enough to do so.

Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South-West)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Radice

Not at the moment. I should like to comment on the progress of the ACAS talks, because they are important. I hope that they succeed, because, as the Minister said, unless we can settle the teachers question, we shall not get further progress in our schools. I hope that those talks succeed, but if they are to do so it is clear that the NUT—the majority union—will have to be included. I am absolutely certain about that. I am also certain that more resources will have to be provided to back the ACAS talks. If they are not, I do not believe that we shall eventually get a deal.

Mr. Madel

Is it not a fact that the NUT will not agree to the 1985 deal and that it was in a minority? If the hon. Gentleman wants the ACAS talks to succeed, he should urge the NUT to be more reasonable and not to adopt an attitude that will make it run foul not only of the Labour-controlled employers but also of the other unions.

Mr. Radice

The hon. Gentleman probably does not know that I have spent the last four days trying to bring both sides together—[HON. MEMBERS: "It was a failure."] I would not talk about failure on that score, given the mess that the Conservatives have made of this whole teachers question over the last two years, which has disrupted our schools.

Mr. Chris Patten

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for being so generous in giving way. Will he clarify another important point? Is it the view of the Labour party that a deal must include duties as well as pay? I understand that that is part of the Labour party's position north of the border. Is it the Labour party's position south of the border as well?

Mr. Radice

I have said that we must first tackle the pay issue. Once we have done so, I believe that it will be easier to introduce the whole issue of duties—[HON. MEMBERS: "They can be brought together."] That may well be so, but that depends on the amount with which the Secretary of State is prepared to back the deal. If he continues to say that the sum should be only £400 million at the end of the fourth year—which he calls l.2 billion—I doubt whether he will achieve the results that he is looking for.

If opportunity is to be increased and quality improved, we shall need to increase spending on education. I am not ashamed to say that, because education is expensive. Since the Conservative Government came to power, the share of education as a percentage of total public spending has declined from 11.8 per cent. in 1978–79 to 10.8 per cent. in 1985–86. A sign of the Government's priorities is that in 1985–86 we are spending £3.7 billion more on defence than on education, whereas in 1978–79 we were spending £260 million more on education than on defence.

It is true that, despite cuts in educational spending—which the Minister of State has admitted have taken place—and because of a school population which is declining sharply by nearly 1 million, the Government are able to claim that spending per pupil is now significantly higher than in 1979. That is true, but instead of using the leeway of falling rolls to repair the glaring inadequacies of provision and the necessary investment in improved standards which the chief inspector says are so important, the Government have imposed tight restrictions on educational spending. Indeed, under this Government, spending on education has often been thought of as a luxury item which, as with higher education, can be cut without damage to the future. No wonder that the voters are now demanding a higher priority for education!

From now on we should regard spending on education not as a consumption item that can safely be cut but as a prudent, long-term investment without which our future is likely to become increasingly bleak. We should also decide here and now that education should be top priority. It is of vital importance, not only for personal development and improved life chances but also for the future economic and social health of our society.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. There is less than an hour to go before the winding-up speeches begin. I therefore appeal for short contributions.

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

It would seem that the alliance has now discovered education, as it had earlier discovered the environment, and perhaps we might look forward to a considerably better attendance at our debates in future than we have seen in the past. I exclude from that comment the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud). His attendance at our debates is exemplary. Indeed, his attendance is as regular as "All-Bran".

While the conversion of the alliance to education may be a little late, it is, none the less, welcome, and it seemed to be signalled in a recent speech by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) when he said that if the case for investing in higher education is strong, any such favourable treatment has an obligation to ensure greater efficiency in the use of extra resources. That seems to be a long-winded way of saying that the alliance requires value for money in education. There is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, that argument has been advanced by Conservative Members for years.

In the same speech, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say: Universities and polytechnics would set up student aid offices which would receive funds—decided by the institution from the sum of the research and teaching allocations—for various forms of student support on an income-related basis. When one strips away all the jargon one sees that the right hon. Gentleman is calling for some sort of means test for student support. In the same speech he said: this income-related basis could include remission of fees and maintenance grants; it could include subsidies for the interest charges and bank loans arranged through the institution which might even go into the loans itself. I am not certain whether the right hon. Gentleman is arguing for a full-blooded student loan approach, or for some sort of halfway house. It is unfortunate that he and the leader of the Liberal party are not in the House to answer for themselves and to clarify points of this sort. I should like to concentrate on schools.

Mr. Henderson

Was that the same speech in which the right hon. Gentleman advocated what is essentially a free enterprise economy between the universities in competing for students?

Mr. Pawsey

I can tell my hon. Friend that indeed it was. In 1976 the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) introduced what was described as the "great debate on education." Therefore, we can take it on his authority, and he was the Prime Minister at the time, that all was not well with the education system. That has been recognised by Conservative Members in a series of measures introduced by the Government since we came into office in 1979. As was said previously, we now have the best ever pupil-teacher ratio and the highest ever level of per capita spending. As the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) said, that, admittedly, is as a result of falling rolls.

Almost the first act of the incoming Administration in 1979 was to repeal the Education Act 1976 which removed choice from local authorities, attacked grammar schools and sought to introduce comprehensive education. The author of the Education Act 1976 was Shirley Williams who was Secretary of State for Education in a Socialist Government. At that time she seemed to be rather more Socialist than Democrat. It is significant that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) was part of that same Administration. Now the right hon. Gentleman argues for more parental choice. How does he reconcile that newly discovered position with the provisions of the Education Act 1976 which he then supported? It is indeed sad that the right hon. Gentleman is not in the House. I do not say that he is two-faced, but it seems that, once again, the alliance is facing two ways.

Despite the exaggerated rhetoric of Opposition Members, much has been done over the past seven years. Parents now have more choice in selecting schools, and teacher training has been overhauled to ensure that teachers receive a training more relevant to the classroom. On Thursday we debated the introduction of a new examination—the GCSE. It was demanded by teacher unions to replace the CSE and the GCE.

Despite the propaganda, as my hon. Friend the Minister of State said, no previous examination has been so thoroughly prepared. It is not preparation that is lacking but goodwill. The real problem is not lack of syllabuses, lack of training, lack of time or lack of funds, but a lack of goodwill, and that is the problem that we have to face. The reason for that lack of goodwill is not hard to find. Understandably, teachers are worried about pay and conditions, and teachers are to education what the engine is to the car.

We should not forget that my right hon. Friend has secured from the Treasury 1.25 billion of extra funding, not for schools or for books, but for teachers' pay. That money will be available to teachers over four years and when it is accepted will do much to restore teacher morale. However, the four-year time scale is too long and the financial benefit should be concentrated in a shorter period with a higher level of what the insurance companies call "front loading". Hand in hand with those improved and substantial benefits should go real appraisal. Not all teachers should be in the profession and we should make it easier for a small minority of teachers to leave.

Teachers hold the key to improved education and to higher standards, and it is of the utmost importance that we restore the morale of the teaching profession and make it abundantly clear to teachers that what they do is necessary, worth while and most important to society. No one would disagree that the overwhelming majority of teachers do a difficult job and do it well, and that a teacher's job is a great deal more than free periods and long holidays. A teacher's job is stressful and demanding, and, while there may be substantial job satisfaction, that in itself is not enough and a greater appreciation of the teacher's work is necessary. For too long they have been allowed to believe that theirs is almost a second-rate profession that is unsung and unappreciated. That impression must be corrected as a prerequisite to any improvement in education.

The Education Bill that is currently in another place is proof of the importance that the Government attach to education. That Bill will reform governing bodies and allow a greater measure of parental involvement. That should be widely welcomed on both sides of the House and should also be welcomed by parents and members of the teaching profession. The Bill will do a great deal to improve standards and to improve the quality of education, because the majority of parents know best what is right for their own children. More parents on governing bodies will ensure that more time is spent on the core curriculum and less on peripheral subjects, such as peace studies. Parents will call for more discipline in schools and demand the teaching of subjects that are relevant to jobs and to work.

The Bill will require local education authorities to appraise the performance of the teaching force and will make further improvements to in-service training by the provision of special and specific grants for that purpose. All those measures underline the Government's commitment to education. I support the imaginative concept of Crown schools which was unfairly criticised by the Opposition. However, I should like to make one caveat by asking that they become centres for technical studies as well as for the more academic subjects. The Crown schools could be a way forward in concentrating technical and academic talent.

Mr. Beith

Did the hon. Gentleman not listen to the cautionary words by his hon. Friend the Minister of State who said that the argument about defending good grammar schools is largely dead and buried and that no one will bring back the old grammar schools?

Mr. Pawsey

It is nice to welcome the hon. Gentleman to the debate. We are not calling for the return of the old grammar schools. I will settle for the concept offered by my right hon. Friend of Crown schools, provided that they concentrate talent on either technical or academic subjects. Those schools will become centres of excellence and people will accept them as a useful and imaginative step. Some hon. Members have spoken about funding, but more money does not automatically mean better standards. The National Council for Educational Standards published a pamphlet today that deals with a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow). That pamphlet shows that the Inner London education authority examination results are worse than the results in secondary modern schools. It says: Examination results for secondary school pupils in the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) are worse than for pupils at secondary modern schools".

It goes on to say:

MORE MONEY FOR WORSE RESULTS ILEA pupils aged 11 are up to the national average. By 16, their exam results are 30% below the national average even though ILEA spends 40% more per pupil than most councils. On average, O-level passes per pupil in ILEA schools are about 40% below the average for pupils in all schools in England; about 25% below the average for pupils at comprehensive schools in socially deprived areas; about 15% below the average for pupils at secondary modern schools. Those figures are an indictment of the high spending lobby and underline yet again that it is critical for funds to be used effectively.

Value for money is not just a pious hope; it is an absolute necessity. The problem is not so much the lack of funds as the lack of proper application of those funds. More money is not the answer. More money equals greater waste, to the disadvantage of the taxpayer and the children.

The Government want to provide a much wider measure of choice for parents and for children. That choice must not be between just the state sector and the private sector. We want to improve the quality and the standard of state education. That is where the overwhelming majority of children are educated. I know that the present Secretary of State for Education and Science is committed to that ideal. The judgment of history will be to his advantage. The alliance motion is ill-considered and biased and should be thrown out.

5.50 pm
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

If one believed the stuff to which we have just listened, it would indeed be a lyrical world. One could almost set parts of the speech of the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) to music. The amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is she?"] She is probably with the Queen. It is hardly conceivable that the Government could include such bland, offensive effrontery in this amendment. It says that the Government are beginning to tackle the urgent need to raise and sustain educational standards at all levels of ability". That need is all the more urgent after what has happened during the last six and a half years since this Government came to power.

The amendment then says that the Government are beginning to create a wider range of opportunities for young people". How can the Government say that, after what they have done to the youth of this country? Nearly all of them are out of work. Furthermore, student grants have been cut so much that even those dead Benches rose to the attack last year and forced the Secretary of State for Education and Science to alter his plans.

The amendment also says that the Government are beginning to enable the education system to make its full and proper contribution to national life. Ye Gods! When the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth referred to the National Council for Educational Standards, he was referring to the Black Paperites, who have launched on behalf of the Tory party the most dreadful offensive against state education that those of us who spent a lifetime in education have ever seen.

Mr. Pawsey

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Flannery

No, I want to make my speech. I listened to the hon. Gentleman without intervening. He must sit down and be a good boy.

When I mix that amalgam in the Government's amendment with the arrogance of practically every sentence spoken by the Minister of State, it would be childish to expect us to treat it in a civilised way. In the opinion of the Opposition, education begins at birth and it continues until we die. However, there is no recognition of that fact on the Government Benches. The state education service has never known such a sustained and brutal onslaught as it has suffered during the last six and a half years.

It is almost unbelievable that the Government say that they have carried out reforms. The Secretary of State will be remembered in the history of education as having deformed practically everything that has been done for education throughout the years. He has not reformed education. He has succeeded in uniting the teaching profession. It opposes his attack on education, and the struggle continues.

The Government should not believe that the struggle is at an end. Never before in the history of this country has a middle-class group of people been so determined to fight in defence of the education system. Never before has the struggle continued for a year and a half in Scotland, where a resounding victory was won because the Labour authorities stood side by side with the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Parents and children, students and lecturers, teachers and tutors do not know where they stand with this Government and with this Secretary of State. That is why I, who find it hard to say such things, wish, in the name of heaven, that he would go. I hope that he will take with him the rest of the Government, after what they have done to the education system.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science has managed to unify the teaching profession in a way that the Opposition could not do. There is a hiccup in the struggle, but hon. Members should not be fooled. This struggle, the longest in the history of the teaching profession, will continue.

Teachers' wages are pitifully inadequate. They get less after training for four years than a young policeman in uniform gets after three months. What kind of an attitude is that to adopt towards the teaching profession? [HON. MEMBERS: "You have got that wrong."] That is the reality. The teaching profession is embittered and angry. Never before has it been so embittered and angry, and this fact should be laid at the door of the Secretary of State.

The general certificate of secondary education is in jeopardy, due to this Secretary of State and this Government. Teachers have fought for years to unify the general certificate of education and the certificate of secondary education. For years they fought against this Government in an attempt to get rid of them. Finally, the Government capitulated, but then they dealt with the teaching profession in such a way as to rouse it to fight against what is happening to education. Therefore, the Government, not the teachers, are holding up the ambition of teachers and parents that the GCSE should be introduced.

Our schools are unprepared and unpainted, and in many areas they are falling down. Schools are closing not because of the lack of pupils but because they are in such a mess. When the Secretary of State came to Sheffield his only comment about those schools—he said it, Mr. Deputy Speaker, not I—was that they were "crummy". Sheffield will never forgive him for that, never mind his Sheffield speech. He had rate-capped Sheffield. Sheffield could not provide proper schools for its children, but he had the nerve to condemn those schools.

I raised that point with the Secretary of State on more than one occasion during the Select Committee proceedings. He said that Sheffield should make up the difference. I pointed out to him that in the more salubrious areas wealthy parents could provide a great deal of money for the schools and that therefore their capitation allowance is three times greater than that which is provided for schools to which the children of working people go. There is a great deal of unemployment in the areas surrounding those schools.

I asked the Secretary of State about unemployment. I told him that parents who are unemployed do not have money to give the schools. His answer once again—it was a recent answer—was that the local education authority should give them the money. But he has rate-capped Sheffield. He knows that the local education authority cannot make up the money. While, therefore, the children of wealthy parents get all the books and allowances that they need, the vast majority of our children are suffering because of this Government's actions.

The Government have introduced the ethos of the market place into our education system. Monetarism has been introduced into education, as though education can be bought and sold easily by one person at a time who has vouchers. The drive to privatise our schools continues.

Education has moved towards the centre of the political stage because the majority of the British people feel that it is under serious attack. They feel that the attack against state education is so brutal that they must enter the arena and defend an education system that has been built up patiently over hundreds of years. It is now a major electoral issue. At every meeting where we make speeches, or indeed where the Conservatives make speeches, education is now raised.

The situation is bedevilled and the crisis deepened by constant statements by almost anybody on the Tory Benches. The ideas which are put forward by Tory Members are like sparks coming from an ampere. Such ideas persist for a few days but are so backward that they are thrown out. However, no less a person than the Prime Minister brings the ideas back or, if she does not do so, the Minister does. The voucher system has been thrown out by everybody over and over again but, a year ago, the Prime Minister came back and said that she would still like a voucher system. The Minister finally had to admit that, although he liked the voucher system, it was impracticable. However, even after the Minister had said that, the Prime Minister returned once again and said that she would like a voucher system. People therefore realise that elitism is the main aim of the Tory party. The Tory party hates the profound success of our schools under comprehensive education.

Nearly 90 per cent. of our children are taking examinations which, some years ago, they had no chance of passing. The examination results of the vast majority of our children are better than they have ever been in the history of British education. I have heard the attacks on ILEA but the silly figures used mean nothing because ILEA covers an inner-city area with more problems than the general areas of cities. ILEA's starting point in the education of our children is a difficult one. ILEA needs special funds, as do the inner-city areas of the great cities.

What are some of the so-called ideas which have been sparked off by the Prime Minister and the Minister? They have put forward a totally unworkable and discredited voucher scheme. The chairman of the Tory party—a major figure in the advancement of mankind—wants Crown schools. I do not know what Crown schools are or what an uncrowned school is, and I wonder whether the Tories can tell us. Of course they will not. A Crown school is a school which would be centrally funded to become part of excellence. The school, having received more funds than anyone else, could be something to be boasted about. It runs hand in hand with the idea of bringing back direct grant schools and introducing direct grant primary schools. What an idea! All these useless ideas mean nothing but the ethos of the market place. The ideas are so backward that they are unbelievable.

The Tories want to extend the assisted places scheme—another piece of elitism. The education of our children has been curbed by funds being cut, but some of the funds would be stolen from the state system to be given to the Government's nominees in the private system. Money would be taken from the already depleted exchequer of education and handed to people in the private sector who already have plenty of money.

The Government's only object seems to be to get rid of the state education system. They will not be allowed to do so because, standing guard over it, are not only parents who are Labour voters but parents who are Tory and Liberal voters. They all want the system of comprehensive education to continue. They recognise that it has its weaknesses but want them discussed in a proper democratic manner and want the system strengthened, instead of the nonsense introduced by the Government.

The Government's ideas have one thing in common—they are not merely destructive but aimed to strike a blow at the education system from which it will not recover. All these ideas hark back to the bad old days so beloved by the Tory leadership—the so-called Victorian values of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister loves Victorian values. She would love the teachers to return to payment by results from the register which was abolished at the beginning of the century. If she received payment by results from the Cabinet, they would all disappear tonight.

We have to struggle patiently, and fight hard, for good education. Of course, some teachers are not up to the mark, but some hon. Members, some dentists and some engineers are also not up to the mark. That is the reality of life. That cannot be ruled out of order.

The Government also want to pay teachers Victorian wages. They wish to pay as little as they can and yet talk about the quality of education and improvements in education. If money is not forthcoming for the education system, it is idle nonesense to talk of increasing the quality of education. The quality of education demands more money for teachers' wages, more money for books and money to paint the schools. More money is also needed for repairs and to build new schools. It is no good talking about posing money against the teachers. The two go hand in hand. If teachers are paid properly—and they are fighting to be paid properly—we shall not have recourse to Dotheboys hall and Mr. Squeers.

The Government do not want what we are fighting for. They pay for private education for their children. They are not concerned about their children because they are safely ensconced in places into which money is poured—money that is taken from working people.

A large section of the population now see the Government for precisely what they are. The polls show that parents, and the vast majority of LEAs and political parties, will not tolerate what is happening to our education system.

When I heard of the new name coming in to take the place of the Secretary of state when he goes it sounded like the Hammer house of horror. It sounded appalling. I would be shocked beyond measure if the present Minister of State became the Secretary of State. I have heard some of the Minister's speeches and he would be far worse than the present Secretary of State, or indeed previous Secretaries of State. I hope that somewhere on the Conservative Benches there may be someone with some compassion for the children of our country but I doubt it.

The Secretary of State should go, and he should go now. He has wreaked havoc in the education system for long enough. He should not be allowed to do so for another year or 18 months. If the polls are right, I hope you lot go with him.

6.7 pm

Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South-West)

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) has had a good blaze away at the Government and these Benches. I did not hear him say much about the teachers' pay dispute which has dominated the proceedings of the past 12 months, but I should like to say a few words about it.

I welcome the fact that ACAS, at long last, is involved in the dispute. Some of us advocated that ACAS should have been involved last June. At that time, ACAS was ready to intervene with a panel of experts to try to help. If the ACAS panel can steer a way out of the problems, ACAS must then become part of the future pay structure. That new approach will have to be institutionalised, because we cannot go back to the old Burnham system which led us to the present difficulties.

ACAS has said that, as well as the unions, individual teachers and groups of teachers can put their views to the panel. I hope the teachers will not simply rely on their union's point of view. The way is now clear for individual teachers—they said a lot to us as Back-Bench Conservatives about how their dispute should be solved—to put their views to the ACAS panel.

Management allowances should be built into the system of teachers' pay. This would pay them for non-teaching duties. The Government are keen to improve good practice on homework. The blunt truth is that, in many homes, it is impossible for children to do their homework—many should do their homework at school. That would inevitably require supervision and such management duties of teachers could be built into the pay which they would receive.

On 16 January 1986, in an article in The Times about management and improving quality, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State asked: 'Does your firm positively encourage staff to go back to college to keep in front of the technologies". The question that should be asked is, does a school positively encourage teachers to go into industry for a short time to find out more of what industry wants? If we could build into the system a policy whereby it is regular practice for teachers to have a sabbatical in industry it would be another way in which their pay could be improved.

With the fall in inflation, the way ought to be clear for ACAS to obtain a three-year deal on teachers' pay. We do not want an annual row. The present economic conditions would enable us to move towards a three-year pay deal. The future of the education service desperately requires peace and stability in the teaching profession. I cannot think of any organisation better than ACAS to help steer the parties out of the present impasse.

The Government have a very useful legislative power in the Education (Grants and Awards) Act 1984 to strengthen the curriculum in specific subjects. I sometimes wish that the Government would draw more attention to the power that they have wisely taken. With the popularity of TVEI and with certain subjects becoming more popular, the Government may need to extend that power. There is an advantage in that for teachers, and they should seize it. Given the new specific subjects that are more popular, and the existing subjects, such as modern languages, that need to be strengthened, the extra money available through education support grants would have an implication for transfer of manpower. Teachers should not turn down that opportunity.

I share the hope of my hon. Friend the Minister of State that the GCSE will start on schedule. With continuous assessment built into the new system and with the Government's correct emphasis on more practical work, there will be yet another opportunity for teachers. Numbers will have to increase to ensure that the GCSE functions properly. The practical side will also mean more staff. That, therefore, represents an opportunity for teachers, and carries with it expenditure implications that the Government are no doubt aware of. Incidentally, I commend the work of British School Technology in helping local education authorities to overcome staff shortages and to update their equipment and resources cost-effectively. It has been going only 18 months, but I am sure that the Government will continue to support that valuable work.

I turn to the partnership between Government, local education authorities and parents. Much is said about parental involvement but one must first have parental interest in what is going on. It should be the norm that the cost of running each school, with the salaries, books, equipment, heating, lighting and so on, is automatically made available to parents. They should not have to go and get the information. The local education authority should ensure that parents know exactly what is going on. The Government rightly say that they have done much through the Education Act 1980, and have given parents more choice. But that Act should be applied more enthusiastically. If it was, some schools would close because parents would vote with their feet. It still worries me that education authorities do not remind parents sufficiently strongly that under that Act there are choices and an appeal system. If parents were reminded more, some of the problems of falling rolls might be more easily overcome.

Parental interest will start to disappear if there are endless upheavals in the way that the education system is organised. We should have a firmer commitment to improving what we already have. Particular attention should be paid to the growing popularity of sixth-form colleges. That, of course, carries implications for school sixth forms. We must remember, too, the growing problem for schools of educating children when many more of them come from single-parent families. I cannot go into the detail now, but we all know the special problems that that brings.

The Government have pressed for higher standards and greater opportunities, and that carries with it expenditure implications. It is not the other way round. Pressure for more spending comes because the very things that the Government believe in and are doing imply an inevitable increase in expenditure. For example, as standards in schools increase as the Government want, the expenditure implications for science subjects are inevitable. The Government rightly say that the unemployed should use the education service for retraining, but that carries a spending implication. The same is true of adult education.

In Saturday's edition of The Times I noticed two interesting statements. The first says: Ministers are expected to agree to give universities more money to prevent closures. Many of us would heartily agree with that. The article continues: The Government is clearly worried about education spending. Mr. John MacGregor, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told officials last week that education was now one of the top priorities for ministers and the Conservative Party. The clear implication is that it must not be cut further. If the Government continue to get out of things that they should get out of—such as the gas, telephone and motor car industries—they will be free to concentrate on the very things that Governments do best, such as education.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been a good political friend to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the general Cabinet effort to keep state spending reasonable. But in 1986 there should be some reciprocity. Reciprocity from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be of great benefit to the education service.

6.16 pm
Mr. D. E. Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

The hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) and I worked together during the last Parliament on the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, and I know of his commitment to education policy. I hope that the Government listened to his plea for the continuing centrality of public sector education provision. However, I have my doubts about that.

Those of us who have been involved in education and education policy were not surprised when the Minister of State took a text from the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan). Those of us concerned with education policy were dismayed by that famous Ruskin speech. It was the beginning of the instrumentalist approach to education policy. It was the beginning of the narrowing of the curriculum base. It was the beginning of considering education in narrow economistic terms. It was the beginning of the end of the broad-based liberal, humanistic curriculum in our schools. Consequently, as happened so often under that Labour Government, the foundation stones of Thatcherism were laid. Indeed, some of the ideological bases of Thatcherism were laid down by that Government. I say that more in sorrow than in anger, looking at what has happened since.

In this short debate, it is essential to take account of the immediate issues facing us and of the industrial dispute going on in our schools. I hope to do that before the end of my remarks, but first I shall take up the Ruskin approach—if not the Ruskin content—of the Minister of State. We should question the Government's insistence on an employment-led curriculum. The Government argue that in a rapidly changing technological society we need a curriculum that enables pupils to adapt to it. But they also argue that the curriculum must be determined by employers and by the needs of industry on a very short-term assessment of those needs. That is contradictory. Surely a relevant education for a rapidly changing society must be broad-based. The curriculum should emphasise not only the technical skills but the key social skills, as well as an understanding of the very complex nature of our society. That can be provided only through a broad-based curriculum in our schools and through continuing educational provision, for which we have already heard such a strong appeal.

That approach is very different from the reintroduction of the concept of the secondary modern school through MSC intervention in our schools and the TVEI programme, which apparently represent the Government's approach. An emphasis on enterprise culture might be welcomed. But such an emphasis must ensure that all kids understand it and understand that it is not something that involves de-skilling. Indeed, many of us fear that that will be the result of the Government's continuing intervention at the 14-plus level through the restoration of secondary modern education via the back door.

As we look at the Government's intervention we see the need to redress the balance to see relevance—again, one of the Government's key words—in terms of a social relevance, not in terms of blaming the education system for the failures of the British economy, as so many Government spokespersons seem to be doing. The idea that education is the cause of the failures of society is nothing new for those of us who have studied the sociology and history of education. Whenever there is social crisis, the education system is always attacked as the cause of—or at least for not being sufficiently active in solving—that particular crisis.

The speech of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth was a typical example of the castigating of education for the economic and social failures and crisis under his Government.

Mr. Chris Patten

Read it.

Mr. Thomas

I read it carefully and I have read analyses of it and I understand the role of the speech within the education policy of Labourism which was perpetrated by that right hon. Gentleman, and as the beginnings of the surrender of the Labour movement's education policy to Black Paper thinking. I hope that those days are over but there is a continuing argument over an education policy based upon notions of equality and broad curriculum, which we need to deploy. I know that the Minister does not like that because he wants to inherit the mantle of the Black Paperists but there are those of us in the House whose commitment to education is a commitment to a broad-based curriculum, not to an instrumental curriculum, who would accept many of the arguments about the need for an enterprise culture but who would regard that as being part of a broad-based curriculum, not a replacement for it.

In our education debates we need to reiterate the basic values of education policy which my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) put over so forcibly. The approaches of the Schools Council and the "Practical Curriculum" document are still the most relevant—again, I know that is not acceptable to Conservative Members—with an emphasis upon the acquisition of knowledge, skills and practical abilities; the development of qualities of mind, body, spirit, feeling and imagination; the appreciation of human achievement; the acquiring and understanding of social skills, values and beliefs; the preparation of pupils for adult life at home, at work, at leisure and at large as consumers and citizens; and finally, and most importantly, to develop a sense of self-respect and capacity to live as independent self-motivated adults and the ability to function as contributing members of co-operative groups. Those were the aims laid down in the "Practical Curriculum" and quoted in detail in the Warnock report. Those aims apply to the whole of our curriculum and should continue to apply. Those who seek to narrow the curriculum are de-skilling our pupils and narrowing their education and employment opportunities in later life.

When the captains of industry are asked what they need of education policy, that, in my experience, reveals at best an ill-informed approach and at worst a narrow view of the kind of people that they expect to come to them. There is a lack of understanding of the way in which a broad-based education curriculum can contribute to the training of the work force and the skilling of a broader society.

The Minister made the point that a fair and sensible deal for teachers was the key to resolving the present impasse in the education service. He must understand that what the teachers have been involved in, and the NUT in particular, has been an attempt to defend the professional integrity of teaching against the attack on it by the Government, not merely in their ideological attack on the curriculum, to which I have referred, but also in their attack on the professional integrity of teachers through the low pay, and their attack on the very notion of their ability as professionals, which is behind the assessment approach.

The assessment approach is not about good or bad teachers; it is about undermining the professionalism and independence of the teaching profession. So too is the Government's drive to centralise education. I remember well when I first came to the House the bleating from the shire counties against the abolition of the direct grant schools and the spreading of comprehensive education under the previous Labour Government. The policy of comprehensivisation was attacked by the shire counties because it was an intervention in local democracy; an interference with the rights of local authorities. Now we hear the Minister, in Cardiff of all places, making his famous "yob" speech in which he attacked the notion of a local education service and threatened local education authorities with a central state takeover. [HON MEMBERS: "Read it."] Of course I have read it. I read all his utterances avidly. That is typical of the Government's approach, as is their centralist assessment of teachers.

I want to express my anxiety, not just about the Government's approach to the exclusion of the NUT from the ACAS talks, but about the approach of the Labour-controlled authorities. Here again I am afraid that I must say that some of the Labourism which appeared in the speech of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth at Ruskin still survives in some Labour-controlled education authorities. It is appalling that through possible collusion—I do not know through which channels—the Labour-led employers put pressure on ACAS to prevent the NUT from taking part in the current talks. Clearly, without the inclusion of that major trade union in the teaching profession there can be no settlement. That must be recognised by the Labour-controlled authorities, the Government and ACAS. There must be open talks on an open agenda, including the NUT, if there is to be an end to the present dispute.

In reality the dispute continues. Many members of unions other than the NUT are equally alienated, although officially they are supposed to have resumed so-called normal duties, but the deal that ACAS offered in January did not change the low pay of the teaching profession. There was no attempt to bring about relative parity. As long as we have a level of pay that is inadequate given the emphasis we all place on education in our society, there will be no solution to the present dispute. There is more pressure on the teaching service now from all directions. There is more need for in-service training and the development of professional skills. Surely, at this time more than at any other, we need a recognition in the level of pay of the quality of service being provided for our society by teachers.

Therefore, I make a plea to the Labour-led authorities on the Burnham committee to ensure that the NUT is allowed to the table in the talks with ACAS.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

As I understand it, the employers at a meeting today have made proposals for further talks with the NUT on that point.

Mr. Thomas

I am deeply pleased if that is the case and I hope that that reflects a change of heart on the part of the Labour-controlled education authorities.

The dispute that has brought about deep divisions within the teaching profession and the education service during the past one and a half years is a result of the attack on the education service by the Government. There has been a defence of that service by the teaching unions, and I want to pay tribute to the teachers who have defended it. They are defending not only their own professionalism, but the values of education and the sort of values that we need in our education service if we are to maintain a broad-based provision for future society.

6.30 pm
Mr. Alex Fletcher (Edinburgh, Central)

This is the first occasion for some time that I have attended an education debate. There has been a clear contrast between the wholly unfounded accusations of the Opposition, especially the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), and the clear and precise answers and the resolution behind the Government's approach portrayed by my hon. Friend the Minister.

I fully support the amendment standing in the name of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The Government are tackling the long-standing problems in our schools—the curricula, examinations, teacher training and motivation and methods of assessing the performance of teachers. The Minister and Conservative Members must repeat over and over again, to the country at large, the achievements of our Government in education.

I am tempted to talk about some of the achievements in our schools in Scotland, not least the introduction of the standard grade, which is not narrowing the syllabus or the examination possibilities but providing better choice for pupils in line with their ability. Every pupil in Scottish schools will, as part of a compulsory core curriculum, study arithmetic, English and science, and will be assessed according to his ability in each subject.

I wish today to talk especially about higher education and especially about student grants. I well understand the Government's desire to bring the United Kingdom more into line with the systems in other countries. My generation depended almost entirely on parental support and part-time student jobs. Today, our grant system is one of the most generous in the world. However, the expectation of state financial support is also now at its highest in education, as it is in other areas. Most people expect grants to meet the full cost of university and college life. Others believe—and this constantly surprises me—that students should not have to find part-time jobs to make ends meet. With unemployment being so high, it is not difficult for students to claim that there are not many part-time jobs available. However, I believe that that depends on the area. For example, in Edinburgh there are many part-time jobs available for students.

Nevertheless, we cannot simply brush aside those high expectations or, indeed, the Government's obligations that many people, including Conservatives, believe we must continue to meet.

Because of the difficulties with student finance, I recently attended a meeting of the principals of the two universities and the various colleges in Edinburgh. The principals, whose opinions I greatly respect, earnestly believe that many of their students are suffering hardship. As a result of that meeting, I received a letter from the student accommodation service, which the principals had asked it to prepare, referring to student finances. There is not time for me to read much of it to the House, but one interesting part states:

The Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Scotland have indicated that up to 30 per cent. of their student account holders are overdrawn at any one time, and clearly with 25 per cent. to 30 per cent. being overdrawn at any one time the absolute number of students going into debt with the banks over the course of their university career is much greater. The encouraging point is that many students are prepared to incur bank loans or overdrafts to enable them to meet their university obligations. But—and this is the view of the principals—other students, perhaps because of background or home life, do not have the capacity to take advantage of bank financing. The principals believe that the Government should provide a loan scheme to encourage those students, many of whom are suffering serious hardship, to top up their grants with loans.

The students are falling between two stools—the Department of Health and Social Security and the Department of Education and Science. I should like the DES to take on responsibility for all student finance with the DHSS coming out of the act. No matter how closely Departments work, true love departmentally in Whitehall is never so deep that the customers of the service are not likely to suffer to some extent as Departments quite naturally try to reduce their expenditure.

I plead with my right hon and hon. Friends to look again at student financing and to consider bringing forward a scheme, perhaps of mixed grants and loans, so that student finance can be put on a more sound footing than at present. I hope that we can look forward to the day when DHSS support will come out of the system altogether.

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

Before replying to the debate on behalf of the alliance, I wish to declare an interest as an adviser to the Association of University Teachers.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Fletcher) added a Scottish dimension to the debate.

Several of my Scottish hon. Friends have been present during the debate because, of course, the Secretary of State's baleful influence is not confined to England and Wales—it extends into Scotland both directly in relation to higher education and indirectly through the length of time that it took to reach a settlement in Scotland because of the pressures emanating from England and the attempts to hold off a settlement.

There have been a number of valuable and interesting contributions to the debate. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) for his strong support of our criticisms. The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) is somewhat of a wolf in sheep's clothing—he purports to support the Government while all the time urging them to adopt more and more of the sort of Right-wing policies that in the past have been condemned by the Minister.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) made a characteristic and vigorous attack on the Government. I found it unusually difficult to find a point of disagreement with him. The hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South-West (Mr. Madel) underlined the public expenditure needs of education, and made an appropriate reference to the need to spend the money wisely and sensibly. The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Thomas) spoke about the philosophical issues, and it would have been nice to have had more time to reflect upon them, but the debate has been, unfortunately, compressed.

A notable absence in the debate was a contribution from the Secretary of State, who has been present throughout. The right hon. Gentleman is never wanting in courtesy. It is extraordinary that he should have been silenced—I know not by whom. He has set aside time to be present at the debate, but has been stopped from saying anything in defence of himself. I cannot believe that that is his choice, as it would be too much out of character. He has been compelled to silence.

There was a wonderful picture in one of our newspapers showing the way in which he conducted himself during the last election. He attended election meetings, savouring the arguments as he always does, seizing the microphone and setting out among the audience asking them questions and engaging in debate. He was described as looking like a cross between Socrates and Des O'Connor. He would have relished that role today, but he now looks more like Diogenes with the barrel firmly nailed down as someone seeks to prevent him from playing any useful part in our proceedings.

Instead, today we had the contribution of the Minister of State who, interestingly, took as his text of the day not anything said by the Secretary of State but the speech of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan). I think that he was a little frightened of taking anything from the Secretary of State as his text.

When the hon. Gentleman and I were co-operating on literary enterprises, especially the financially unprofitable ones, he said in a book about the Tory case: Education has been at the heart of the political and ideological debate in the last 15 or 20 years. There has been change and confusion, and there are many on the Left, and a few on the libertarian Right, who are keen to see another period of upheaval. This could not possibly be to the advantage of our education system. There are no doubts about to whom he was referring, because he then spoke about those who are more representative of the Liberal than the Tory strain in modern Conservatism, like Sir Keith Joseph That is the type of posture that he has always cultivated.

At present, I think he sees himself hoping to emerge eventually as Secretary of State for Education rather as a sort of Juan Carlos when the generalissimo goes. Having been tutored under the former regime, he comes out with education as safe in his hands as democracy is in the hands of the estimable monarch, whom we look forward to greeting in this country later this week. But he will not be able to keep education safe in his hands. He is really rather like Baby Doc taking over from Papa Doc, already attaching himself, as he did in his Cardiff speech, to some of the more lunatic notions favoured on the Right of his own party, such as Crown schools and central control—the possibility of looking at what is wrong with the education system and taking over the parts that are not going well centrally.

One valuable group of the centrally provided part of the education system is Her Majesty's inspectors of education, but the Government have failed to respond to their steady criticisms of what under-financing is doing to key parts of the education system. I know of no evidence anywhere to suggest that the taking over by the Department of Education and Science of anything currently done by local government would result in any net benefit.

Since my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) concentrated on the schools issue, I will refer to higher education. A series of cuts in higher education began in 1981 when there was the famous trio of measures hitting Aston, Bradford and Salford. The cuts varied between 31 per cent. and 44 per cent. and hit at the very technological area of our higher education system which the Government had claimed to favour improving.

Universities generally have continued to face a 1½ per cent. cut per year in real terms in funding. The chairman of the University Grants Committee has pointed out that the cuts threaten the closure of three or four universities. I understand the trend of his argument. He does not want constant under-funding to result in a general lowering of standards; that is why the stark option of closure is raised. As the Secretary of State said about the proposals of the National Advisory Body, he may also say that in this case the statements are inaccurate—that they are rubbish. How else is the system to respond to the steady reduction in crucial funding? What has happened over recent years is that under-funding of the university sector has led to a slack in student numbers being taken up by the polytechnics, but at the price of a 25 per cent. worsening in the staff-student ratio and a 20 per cent. reduction in financing per student. The Council for National Academic Awards has warned that if this policy continues it will not be able to sustain at acceptable levels the quality of courses it evaluates.

Mr. Henderson


Mr. Beith

I will not give way, as I am restricted in time and have given the Minister an undertaking of the time at which I shall sit down.

It is apparent from the NAB letter that two polytechnics will lose their engineering courses, with Wolverhampton losing all its courses and Sunderland losing its civil engineering course. Two polytechnics will lost their modern language programmes, an area in which we desperately need a more systematically directed kind of teaching to meet the needs of exporting industries and other international areas. Several further education colleges will lose all their advanced work, and many mergers are being requested.

It is a very depressing picture, and at the same time an opportunity is being wasted. A 14 per cent. reduction in demand for higher education is predicted by 1996. An opportunity therefore existed to expand lifelong education and to widen the opportunity of people to get back into education through the higher education system, something which, I understand, industry very much wants. At the same time there has been the demoralising of university teachers, whose salaries are down by 24 per cent. from the 1979 level. The measures on overseas students have cut off from this country many students from the poorest countries who are most in need of our help.

The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Patten) said in 1983 that he thought cuts affecting overseas students had gone too far, yet the situation has worsened. There is also the reduction in the real value of the grant for students. Travel allowances have been cut and the housing benefit and supplementary benefit have been reduced. In the present economic climate, no alternative is available to students to supplement their income, because jobs are simply not available.

The main charges against the Secretary of State are that he has failed to achieve even his own objectives, such as strengthening the numbers of good teachers and removing inadequate teachers from the system, and increasing the emphasis on technology and science. Other goals which the rest of us did not want but which the right hon. Gentleman wanted have also not been achieved, such as the loan system, except by the back door in that case by student overdrafts, a matter referred to by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central. There was also the case for increased parental contribution, on which the Secretary of State was defeated.

So he has not achieved his own objectives. He has failed to provide leadership. I often feel that he thinks he is or wishes he was the Chancellor. If the Chancellor does not impose sufficient cuts on his Budget, the right hon. Gentleman pleads for more cuts, rather than fighting for what the education system needs. He has entirely lost the confidence of all those involved in education, at the levels of higher education, further education, the schools, and the GCSE. The Government's amendment says that the Government are only beginning to address the issues involved, yet they have been in government for seven years.

One thing that can be said about the Secretary of State is that he has never been unwilling to recognise when he has been wrong. In one case, he even said that he had been something of a semi-Socialist because of his consent to levels of public expenditure. He admitted that he was wrong in the direction given on tower blocks and that scale of housing. He admitted that he was wrong over National Health Service reorganisation, when he produced the vast, cumbersome and undemocratic reorganisation that he has been dismantling ever since. It is now time that he admitted that he has been wrong on education. How long must we wait for this? How long must the education system linger under the difficulties that it now faces?

The right hon. Gentleman enjoys a great deal of respect and affection in this House, but it is for his qualities as a debater, polemicist and advancer of ideas, qualities that he has not been allowed to demonstrate today. For those qualities, and not for qualities of leadership or for inspiring confidence in the education system, he is respected in this House. I do not seek to detract in any way from the respect in which he is held, but that is not respect for the special qualities presently required if our education system is to recover.

The hon. Member for Bath was very much out of touch with the real anger that exists about the present state of education. The Secretary of State must recognise that the system needs new confidence and leadership. It is a mark of wisdom to know when the time has come to hand over to someone else. I hope that the Secretary of State will show that wisdom and in the meantime I invite the House to reject the Government's complacent amendment and support our motion.

6.48 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. George Walden)

As my hon. Friend the Minister of State said at the beginning of the debate, the Government welcome this short debate proposed by the alliance. Education is a major Government priority, and we are gratified to see the alliance following us on to this ground, as in so many other areas, albeit in a rather limping, wary and halting way. The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice), with his usual curious emphasis on materialism, accused my right hon. Friend of being a monetarist, but the hon. Member for Durham, North talks of nothing but money. Nothing illustrates so well the decline of interest by the Labour party in educational standards, as the Minister of State so rightly pointed out, as the speech of the hon. Member for Durham, North.

We then had the usual stuff about cuts in higher education, with no mention of the fact that the total number of people in higher education in this country is at a record high, with 80,000 more students now than when we came to office in 1979. No mention at all was made of the age participation index, yet no debate on this subject would be complete without such a reference. Both the API and the qualified participation index are at record levels; both have increased remarkably since the Government came to office. Not surprisingly, the hon. Member for Durham, North also tried to revive last week's dead hare about so-called cuts in polytechnics. We need say no more about that, because a similar hare was set running several months ago when it was said that there would be cuts of either 18,000 or 20,000—perhaps the exact figure does not matter. There are now to be cuts of 10,000. I make it clear that the Government have made no such proposals.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Walden

No, I shall not. I do not have enough time to allow the hon. Gentleman to intervene.

The National Advisory Body committee has not made any such recommendations to the Government.

Fortunately, as relief from all that, we had a typically incisive speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey). My only complaint about his speech is that my hon. Friend failed to draw attention to the more entertaining aspects of the speech of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) in Stirling some time ago. In that speech the right hon. Gentleman referred to Professor Leibenstein, who has developed something called an X-efficiency system. It seems to mean that higher education, as with other parts of education, should seek to do more with less. The right hon. Gentleman had to go as far as Minnesota and Arizona to find examples of that. I suggest that he examines the university and polytechnic system in Britain in the light of the Government's recent record. That system is managing to do much more with the same.

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

With fewer resources.

Mr. Walden

That is the only quibble that I have with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth.

I shall not dwell on the contribution of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). His was a voice from another age, and a rather rancid voice at that. There was all the stage talk about struggle, working people and the rest.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South-West (Mr. Madel), in a typically thoughtful and constructive speech, talked about what he would like to see developed for homework and TVEI. I hope that my hon. Friend will not forget in his talk of teachers' management duties in respect of homework that there is a management duty on parents, which seems fundamental.

The thoughtful remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South-West on TVEI will be taken into account when we are considering extending the lessons of TVEI for all secondary schools. I noted his argument on the economics of education, which was vastly more sophisticated than any of those advanced by Opposition Members.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Fletcher) spoke about student grants in a reasoned contribution. He talked about the high expectations of students, and said that we should be encouraging realistic expectations rather than perpetuating the perhaps over-high expectations of the past. My hon. Friend quoted some evidence of hardship. I am always keen to see this evidence and I hope that he will write giving me the details. Everyone else is writing to me and there is no reason why my hon. Friend should not do so.

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) rounded off the debate for the Liberal party. Having heard his summing up, I am not much wiser than I was at the beginning of the debate. The hon. Gentleman mentioned difficulties in respect of overseas students. I am sure that he has seen the recent figures, which make it clear that the fallback in the number of overseas students is being reversed in the most encouraging way. We are not engaged in a competitive debate on the value of having overseas students in Britain.

I shall make some general remarks about the state of education because much nonsense has been uttered during the debate. Unfortunately, we do not have time in these debates for a more considered discussion of the issues. Some of the latest nonsense concerns universities, and I wish to make the Government's position clear. I have read the speculative article to which some hon. Members have referred. Hon. Members will recall that, in its strategy document, the UGC said that there might be circumstances in which phasing out grant to a certain number of universities might be the least damaging way of solving the problems of the university system. However, the UGC has not made any recommendations to that effect, let alone named individual institutions. The Government naturally keep the funding of universities under review. As is known, the UGC is currently studying how available funds should best be distributed.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Walden

No, I shall not. I do not have time to do so.

I assure the House that any questions affecting the future of universities will be given the closest possible attention by the Government in the light of all relevant circumstances.

Mr. Bennett


Mr. Walden

I shall bring my remarks to an end with a few general observations on the education system. I hope that the whole House will recognise that education is in a state of creative ferment at all levels. It is natural that, at this historical moment, professors, teachers, students and sometimes, for reasons which Opposition Members will understand best of all, children can undergo a difficult period. Let us not forget that the opposite of ferment is stagnation and decline and that we cannot afford complacency in the education system any more than we can contemplate any continued complacency in our economy. In other words, we cannot have a country in which there are high expectations in welfare and low expectations in education.

Despite what some Opposition Members have said about standards, worry about low expectations recurs repeatedly in HMI reports, and that should worry all hon. Members of whatever party affiliation. As I am responsible more for higher education than for schools, I shall give the House some idea of how the problem might affect my sector of the education system.

British higher education is among the best in the world, but I am not sure that we can say the same for our schools, and that has not been said throughout the debate. The following question naturally arises: how long can British higher education remain the best in the world if we do not do something about education standards in our schools, which many Opposition Members as well as my hon. Friends must know are often inadequate? It seems that more regard and more praise should be given to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for initiating what will be seen in future as a historic series of reforms. There is a comprehensive policy of reform at every level of the education system.

Education must be made more relevant to business. At the same time it is most important that the humanities and the arts should continue to be valued in future as they have been in the past. I remind hon. Members that the Government's strategy to secure higher standards covers all subjects, whether they are arts or science subjects. It was put to me recently by an eminent member of a university that it is true that entry into a university science department can be usefully opened to arts graduates as well, so the point has added validity.

I wish to stress the coherence and thorough-going nature of the programme of reforms that has been initiated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. It is designed to bring education closer to industry and to raise standards across the board. I contrast with that the incoherence of the alliance's approach, which has been highlighted in the debate. The alliance wants access to higher education but at the same time it is busy closing grammar schools whenever it is able to do so. These schools would offer access to those most in need of it.

I invite the House to reject this rather shoddy and indecent motion.

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

The House divided: Ayes 145, Noes 242.

Division No. 147] [7 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Hancock, Michael
Alton, David Haynes, Frank
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Heffer, Eric S.
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Barnett, Guy Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Barron, Kevin Howells, Geraint
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Hoyle, Douglas
Beith, A. J. Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Bermingham, Gerald Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Bidwell, Sydney Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Blair, Anthony Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Boyes, Roland Kennedy, Charles
Bray, Dr Jeremy Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Kirkwood, Archy
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Leadbitter, Ted
Buchan, Norman Leighton, Ronald
Caborn, Richard Livsey, Richard
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Campbell-Savours, Dale McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Cartwright, John McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Clarke, Thomas McNamara, Kevin
Clay, Robert McWilliam, John
Clelland, David Gordon Madden, Max
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Marek, Dr John
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Corbett, Robin Maynard, Miss Joan
Corbyn, Jeremy Meacher, Michael
Craigen, J. M. Meadowcroft, Michael
Crowther, Stan Mikardo, Ian
Cunliffe, Lawrence Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Cunningham, Dr John Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Dalyell, Tam O'Brien, William
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) O'Neill, Martin
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Deakins, Eric Park, George
Dixon, Donald Patchett, Terry
Dobson, Frank Pendry, Tom
Dormand, Jack Pike, Peter
Douglas, Dick Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Dubs, Alfred Prescott, John
Duffy, A. E. P. Radice, Giles
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Randall, Stuart
Eadie, Alex Raynsford, Nick
Eastham, Ken Richardson, Ms Jo
Ewing, Harry Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Faulds, Andrew Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Robertson, George
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Rogers, Allan
Fisher, Mark Rooker, J. W.
Flannery, Martin Sedgemore, Brian
Foot, Rt Hon Michael 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.
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Skinner, Dennis
Godman, Dr Norman Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Golding, John Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)
Gould, Bryan Steel, Rt Hon David
Gourlay, Harry Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Stott, Roger
Straw, Jack Weetch, Ken
Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Wigley, Dafydd
Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen) Williams, Rt Hon A.
Thompson, J. (Wansbeck) Winnick, David
Thorne, Stan (Preston) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Tinn, James
Wainwright, R. Tellers for the Ayes:
Wallace, James Sir Russell Johnston and
Wardell, Gareth (Gower) Mr. David Penhaligon.
Wareing, Robert
Adley, Robert Fookes, Miss Janet
Aitken, Jonathan Forman, Nigel
Alexander, Richard Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Amess, David Freeman, Roger
Arnold, Tom Fry, Peter
Ashby, David Gale, Roger
Aspinwall, Jack Galley, Roy
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Garel-Jones, Tristan
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Glyn, Dr Alan
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bellingham, Henry Goodlad, Alastair
Best, Keith Gorst, John
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gower, Sir Raymond
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Greenway, Harry
Blackburn, John Gregory, Conal
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Griffiths, Sir Eldon
Bottomley, Peter Grylls, Michael
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Hampson, Dr Keith
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hargreaves, Kenneth
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Harris, David
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Haselhurst, Alan
Bright, Graham Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Brinton, Tim Hayes, J.
Brooke, Hon Peter Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Heddle, John
Browne, John Henderson, Barry
Bruinvels, Peter Hickmet, Richard
Bryan, Sir Paul Hicks, Robert
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Buck, Sir Antony Hind, Kenneth
Budgen, Nick Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Bulmer, Esmond Holt, Richard
Burt, Alistair Hordern, Sir Peter
Butcher, John Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Butterfill, John Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Jackson, Robert
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Cash, William Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Chapman, Sydney Key, Robert
Chope, Christopher King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Churchill, W. S. Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Knox, David
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Latham, Michael
Clegg, Sir Walter Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Cockeram, Eric Lilley, Peter
Colvin, Michael Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Cranborne, Viscount Lyell, Nicholas
Crouch, David McCrindle, Robert
Currie, Mrs Edwina McCurley, Mrs Anna
Dicks, Terry MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Dover, Den McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Dunn, Robert Madel, David
Durant, Tony Major, John
Dykes, Hugh Malins, Humfrey
Eggar, Tim Malone, Gerald
Eyre, Sir Reginald Marlow, Antony
Fairbairn, Nicholas Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Fallon, Michael Mates, Michael
Farr, Sir John Maude, Hon Francis
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Fletcher, Alexander Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Rathbone, Tim
Mellor, David Renton, Tim
Merchant, Piers Rhodes James, Robert
Meyer, Sir Anthony Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Miscampbell, Norman Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Moate, Roger Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Monro, Sir Hector Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Roe, Mrs Marion
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Rowe, Andrew
Moynihan, Hon C. Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Mudd, David Ryder, Richard
Neale, Gerrard Sackville, Hon Thomas
Needham, Richard Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Nelson, Anthony Sayeed, Jonathan
Neubert, Michael Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Newton, Tony Shelton, William (Streatham)
Norris, Steven Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Onslow, Cranley Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Ottaway, Richard Shersby, Michael
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Silvester, Fred
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Sims, Roger
Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Pattie, Geoffrey Soames, Hon Nicholas
Pawsey, James Speed, Keith
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Speller, Tony
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Spencer, Derek
Powell, William (Corby) Squire, Robin
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Stanbrook, Ivor
Price, Sir David Steen, Anthony
Proctor, K. Harvey Stern, Michael
Raffan, Keith Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Stradling Thomas, Sir John Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Sumberg, David Walden, George
Tapsell, Sir Peter Waller, Gary
Taylor, John (Solihull) Walters, Dennis
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Watson, John
Temple-Morris, Peter Watts, John
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Thompson, Donald (Calder V) Whitfield, John
Thorne, Neil (Ilford S) Whitney, Raymond
Thornton, Malcolm Wolfson, Mark
Thurnham, Peter Wood, Timothy
Townend, John (Bridlington) Woodcock, Michael
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Yeo, Tim
Tracey, Richard Younger, Rt Hon George
Twinn, Dr Ian
van Straubenzee, Sir W. Tellers for the Noes:
Viggers, Peter Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd and
Waddington, David Mr. Peter Lloyd.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

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

Resolved, That this House welcomes the education policies being pursued by Her Majesty's Government, which are beginning to tackle the urgent need to raise and sustain educational standards at all levels of ability, to create a wider range of opportunities for young people, and to enable the educational system to make its full and proper contribution to national life.