HC Deb 01 December 1987 vol 123 cc771-868

Order for Second Reading read.

3.53 pm
The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Baker)

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

Raising the quality of education in our schools is the most important task for this Parliament. Both The Prime Minister and I have made that clear. It was a previous Conservative Prime Minister, Disraeli, who said, speaking in this House in 1874: Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends. The House will know that the programme of reform outlined in the Bill is the most far-reaching since the war.

Our education system has operated over the past 40 years on the basis of the framework laid down by Rab Butler's 1944 Act, which in turn built on the Balfour Act of 1902. We need to inject a new vitality into that system. It has become producer-dominated. It has not proved sensitive to the demands for change that have become ever more urgent over the past 10 years. This Bill will create a new framework, which will raise standards, extend choice and produce a better-educated Britain.

The need for reform is now urgent. All the evidence shows this — international comparisons, the reports of Her Majesty's inspectors and, most recently, the depressing findings on adult illiteracy. It must be a matter of regret for all hon. Members, on both sides of the House, to see the figures issued last week which suggested that 5.5 million of our people—13 per cent, of our population— had difficulty in reading and writing. The Manpower Services Commission also reported that 25 per cent, of the long-term unemployed are functionally illiterate. There is no doubt that people who have problems in such simple communication skills are more likely to be unemployed, and, alas, likely to remain unemployed for longer than those who have the skills. This is something that we should not tolerate in our society today.

Lord Callaghan was alive to this more than 10 years ago when, in his Ruskin college speech, he drew attention to the need for change. But the so-called great debate produced no action. There is now a growing realisation that radical change is necessary. The ground has been prepared by the pioneering work of my two predecessors. My noble Friend Lord Carlisle extended the rights of parents with his 1980 Act, and was strongly attacked for doing so. My noble Friend Lord Joseph focused public attention on the central issue of quality and standards. He brought forward the GCSE, and, in the 1986 Act, substantially increased the role of parent governors. The best way of building upon their work is to give more substance and reality to the principle of the 1944 Act that pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents".

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)

I have listened with care to the Secretary of State's description of his predecessors' records. Will he confirm that Lord Carlisle opposes the idea of opting out and that Lord Joseph opposes the national curriculum, as he did in 1985?

Mr. Baker

I have not heard the views of either of my noble Friends, but I should find it surprising if my noble Friend Lord Carlisle did not wish to extend the rights of parents, as in 1980 he brought to the statute book an Act that substantially increased parents' rights. My noble Friend Lord Joseph has said on many occasions that his ambition and purpose was to raise the basic quality of education. There can be no doubt that, in achieving that, one of our main purposes should be to introduce a national curriculum.

If we are to implement the principle of the 1944 Act that children should be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents we must give consumers of education a central part in decision making. That means freeing schools and colleges to deliver the standards that parents and employers want. It means encouraging the consumer to expect and demand that all educational bodies do the best job possible. In a word, it means choice.

The purpose of the Bill is to secure delegation and to widen choice. We want to see more decision making in the hands of individual schools and colleges. When governing bodies and heads control their own budgets, decisions will be taken at a local level. Schools and colleges will be free to make their own decisions on spending priorities and to develop in their own way. Grant-maintained schools will give parents and governors a new opportunity, should they wish to take it, to run their schools themselves. Grant-maintained schools and local authority-maintained schools will be subject to less control, not more. They will have more freedom, not less.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Baker

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I shall not give way. I generally like to give way, but since about 70 hon. Members wish to speak, it will be in the interests of the House if I give way as little as possible.

Polytechnics and other higher education colleges will be set up as free-standing independent institutions. They, too, will benefit from greater responsibility for managing their own affairs. They, too, will be subject to less control, not more control.

The proposals, taken together, represent a fundamental change in our education system. We set out the Government's policy during the general election. Since the election, the Labour party has sought to repackage its education policies. I am not surprised. So keen is the Labour party to move with the times that the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), is now claiming credit for having invented the national curriculum in a memorandum that he wrote for the Labour party in 1973. He was kind enough to send me a copy. It is interesting and, in some places, a fine piece. He speaks first of a core curriculum, and secondly of tests at 7,11 and 14 years of age. Indeed, he developed that theme, which is so close to his heart, in an article in The Guardianin September. He stated: There is no doubt that parents want some objective yardsticks against which to measure their children's achievement in education. I am staggered that such an outstanding contribution to the Labour party's policy was not acted upon from 1974 to 1979. The Labour party did not even take it up in opposition, for the Leader of the Opposition was then the spokesman for education. Why did he not put forward his colleague's excellent ideas from 1979 to 1983? Clearly he was asleep at the wheel.

Then we have Mr. Neil Fletcher, the Labour leader of the ILEA. He is another strong advocate of change. Indeed, so strong has been support for change along the lines of much of our Bill that Mr. McAvoy, the next general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, has said: We can persuade both Neil Fletcher and Jack Straw of the errors of their ways. After all, they are only good men fallen temporarily among Thatcherites. The Labour party is not alone in claiming credit for the Bill. The Liberal party is now putting it about that it invented financial delegation to head teachers. Well, that is a whopper. But even so, if members of the Liberal party have that illusion, I welcome them on board. Furthermore, the Labour and Liberal parties are now committed to more parental involvement, though they are a bit short on how that will operate.

So I am glad to see the growing consensus for many of the measures in this Bill. The opinion polls also clearly show its popularity with the people who count — the parents. That applies, above all, to the national curriculum, which is the bedrock of our reform proposals.

The first chapter of the Bill is devoted to a national curriculum. I shall quote from clause 1(2) of the Bill. We are proposing a curriculum which

  1. "(a)promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society; and
  2. (b)prepares such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life."
Clause 1 provides the framework and the essential purposes against which the House should measure our proposals.

I want to deal first with the content of the curriculum and with religious education.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that, under the Butler Act— the Education Act 1944 — religious education is compulsory. That is still the case, but it is not specifically stated in the curriculum. Will he make a change to clause 1(2)(a) to deal with that?

Mr. Baker

I confirm that religious education in our schools is secured in statute by the Education Act 1944. This Bill reinforces the position of religious education as a compulsory subject. I reassure my hon. Friend and all hon. Members on that point. Clause 6 places a duty on heads, governors and local education authorities to ensure that religious education is provided. That is an advance upon the 1944 Act. In addition, the complaints procedure for parents who are dissatisfied about the delivery of the national curriculum will apply equally to religious education. That, too, is an advance on existing practice.

Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Baker

I shall give way, but I am keen to press on.

Mr. Duffy

While the Minister is on the subject of religious education, given what was said by the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn), and given that religious education is required for all county schools and is regarded as an essential aspect of core subjects for Church schools, why is it not given representation on the National Curriculum Council and the School Examinations and Assessment Council?

Mr. Baker

I have just answered that point. It already has a statutory position. We are now strengthening its position as a subject that must be taught. Of course, it is taught in church schools. Each denomination will teach it in its own way. In respect of county schools, a local conference usually agrees the content that is to be taught. The churches have not asked for it to be a core or foundation subject. Core or foundation subjects will be determined precisely by secular bodies. I have considerably strengthened the position of religious education as a compulsory subject and ensured that it will have to be taught and delivered.

I refer at this point to collective worship. I have accepted the advice of the Churches on this. I want to reiterate that we remain absolutely committed to a daily act of collective worship, but clause 79 ensures that if a school does not want to hold this first thing in the morning but at some other time during the day, it will be allowed to do so. If it wants a different act of worship for fifth formers from that for 11-year-olds, it will be allowed to organise that. This is the flexibility that the Churches have asked for.

After religious education come the three core subjects of English, maths and science, and the seven other foundation subjects—history, geography, technology in all its aspects, a foreign language in secondary schools, music, art and physical education. In Wales, Welsh will have a firm place in the curriculum. Many of the representations that we have had were concerned that the national curriculum could become a straitjacket. That matter was raised at Question Time today. Let me put such fears at rest. We do not intend to lay down, either on the face of the Bill or in any secondary legislation, the percentage of time to be spent on the different subjects. This will provide an essential flexibility, but it is our belief that it will be difficult, if not impossible, for any school to provide the national curriculum in less than 70 per cent. of the time available. The remaining time will allow schools to offer other subjects — among them home economics, Latin, business studies, careers education, and a range of other subjects.

Some teachers are worried that the national curriculum will prescribe how they go about their professional duties. Again, let me put such fears at rest. We want to build upon the professionalism of the teacher in the classroom—the professionalism of the many fine and dedicated teachers throughout our education system. We do not intend to lay down how lessons should be taught, how timetables should be organised, or which textbooks should be used. The national curriculum will provide scope for imaginative approaches developed by our teachers. For example, I am sure all hon. Members have visited primary schools in their own constituencies and have seen the enormous advance in the teaching of science in primary schools. We wish to continue to encourage that.

In many secondary schools, the technical and vocational education initiative created a block of time for cross-curricular activity or project work—for example, how a business is run. The Bill does not stop or stifle worthwhile activities of that sort.

Another aspect about which concern has been expressed has been our proposals for assessment and testing.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

On the matter of the curriculum, are there any implications for university examining bodies? Will children aged between 11 and 16 years have to study certain subjects? Does it mean that the arrangements for GCSE by university examining boards will also be affected in respect of the subjects that can be offered?

Mr. Baker

I do not think that there will be that knock-on effect. We are establishing the framework of a core curriculum and foundation subjects, and expect children to take those subjects to 16. For the first time, we shall require children to take science and technology, for example, to 16.I have visited some comprehensive schools where that already happens and we expect other schools to follow their lead.

The purpose of the national curriculum is to provide a broad-based and relevant curriculum. The education systems in France and Germany do not narrow and specialise as does ours. They remain broad, and that is the thrust of the national curriculum and of the general certificate of secondary education examination. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's anxieties are well founded.

I was about to speak about assessment and testing. I have set up a task group on assessment and testing which I hope will provide its main report by Christmas. I shall of course publish it. We seek a balanced package of assessment arrangements, including national tests. It has three purposes: first, to tell a parent or teacher what a child knows, is able to do and is able to understand; secondly, to identify problems which need further diagnosis and whether the child needs extra help or more demanding tasks; thirdly, to indicate through the results of assessment the achievements of schools and local education authorities generally. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] I know that that last matter is controversial, but the point in all of this is that parents are entitled to know how their child is doing and how their school is doing. A great deal of testing already takes place in primary schools, for if a child's attainment is not assessed at about the age of 7 and the child is allowed to drift, he or she may never catch up again.

Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Baker

I feel that this must be the last time that I give way.

Mr. Nelson

My right hon. Friend has acknowledged the importance which many people attach to this matter. Although many people agree that the results achieved by a school ought to be known in toto and that the parents of children ought to know their results, is it intended that the results of individuals should be published?

Mr. Baker

No, definitely not. It is not intended that the results showing a child's performance should be published, although they will remain available to the teacher and to the child's parent. Published results will be on a class or school basis. We do not want the discrimination that publishing individual results could produce.

Some people are concerned that our proposals give too much power to the holder of my office. I understand that concern. It would be constitutionally unacceptable for the Secretary of State for Education and Science to write or alter the national curriculum at his will or whim. The Bill provides a series of checks and balances.

The critical clauses 3 and 4, which empower the Secretary of State to make orders about the substance of the national curriculum — attainment targets, programmes of study and the foundation subjects. Those clauses must be read with clause 11, which provides that, before any orders can be made, the Secretary of State must first put proposals to the National Curriculum Council, which will be under a statutory duty to consult widely. It will then give advice—which will be published—to the Secretary of State. He will bring forward draft orders, which are subject to a further period of statutory consultation, and publish any reasons for departure from the council's advice. At the end of that very open, public process, it will be for both Houses of Parliament to decide.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Baker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but I feel that I must proceed.

Mr. Bennett

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Baker

I am sorry, but I must resist the temptation to give way. I have already given way a great deal.

Mr. Bennett

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Baker


The Bill also provides for the establishment of a School Examinations and Assessment Council, which will approve syllabuses and qualifications. I intend to set up both the National Curriculum Council and the School Examinations and Assessment Council in shadow form —subject to the eventual approval of Parliament — so that they can begin the work of developing the substance of the curriculum and assessment arrangements.

Chapter II deals with more open enrolment.

Mr. Bennett

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Baker

With respect, I shall not. I am sorry. The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity later to say what he wishes to say.

The proposal in chapter II is a natural extension of our concern to maximise parental choice. There are some 10,000 appeals every year by parents who do not get their preferred school. To judge by a recent Harris poll, many more parents accept with grim resignation what they are offered. According to a survey, nearly one quarter of parents in London and the home counties would like to send their children to another school, and the proportion is even higher for the ILEA area.

I do not claim that all parents will get their first choice of school under our proposals — there can be no question of elastic walls — but I believe that we can remove some unnecessary barriers to parental satisfaction. At present, many schools have to turn away children because their local authority has decided to spread intakes evenly between popular and less popular schools. This means empty desks in popular schools, which cannot be right.

I hope to bring in the new arrangements for secondary schools in 1989, but I shall consult further about this timetable before I take a firm decision. I intend to work with local authorities for the orderly implementation of these provisions.

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Baker

This is genuinely the last time that I shall give way.

Mrs. Taylor

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, if parental choice operates as he suggests, it may well lead to all black and all white schools, even within one mile of each other? Is this form of segregation in education something that he wishes to encourage?

Mr. Baker

I do not accept the conclusion that the hon. Lady draws. No school, whether grant maintained, financially delegated or local education authority maintained, is allowed to select children on the basis of colour. To do so would be illegal.

There are about one dozen schools in the United Kingdom where 100 per cent, of the children are drawn from ethnic minority communities, and there are a further 250 where about 75 per cent, of children are drawn from ethnic minorities. That has arisen because of the settlement patterns of immigrants coming to our country. Many schools with 75 per cent, ethnic minority children provide excellent education and many white parents are perfectly content to send their children there. I believe that they will continue to do so. Many parents from ethnic minority communities do not want the conclusion which the hon. Lady fears. I do not believe that it will occur.

The clauses on financial delegation in chapter III will give all larger schools in the next few years responsibility for their own budgets. This has been widely welcomed. It is not surprising because many local authorities have already moved a long way down this road. The Government are responding to a healthy trend by prompting all authorities to follow the pioneers.

We intend that every local authority should develop and make public a fair and rational formula for allocating its resources between all of its primary and secondary schools. That formula will have to be based first and foremost on the number and ages of registered pupils at each school, but account could also be taken of other factors because one school costs more than another to run —for example, because of the incidence of pupils with disadvantaged backgrounds, because schools serve remote rural areas or because of differences between types and sizes of school. The initiative will lie firmly with LEAs.

With delegated budgets, governors will be responsible for the selection and dismissal of staff. These powers are closely modelled on those that the governors of voluntary-aided schools now exercise. The Bill will ensure that the professional advice of the chief education officer and his staff will be available to governing bodies in matters of appointment.

There is a need for training to help governors and head teachers to take on these new responsibilities. The Government will be bringing forward proposals on this. I have agreed this week to make a grant to the National Association of Governors and Managers. By giving governors a responsible job to do, we will encourage more people to come forward.

The Government's objective is to have local authority schemes submitted by September 1989.I intend to consult further on this. I want to ensure that no authority drags its feet and that delegated budgets are general practice by the end of this Parliament.

Chapter IV deals with the establishment of grant-maintained schools. Our proposals will allow all secondary schools, and primary schools with more than 300 pupils, to opt out of local authority control and to apply for direct funding. This will widen choice for many parents in the state-maintained sector for whom all too often the only choice is take it or leave it. This wider choice will help to improve standards in all schools, not just those which opt out. The LEAs will want to hold on to their schools and will, therefore, have a far greater incentive to respond to the wishes of parents. For the first time in 80 years they will face competition in the provision of free education, so standards will rise in all schools as we introduce a competitive spirit into the provision of education—and at no extra cost to the consumer.

Meanwhile, let me stress and make clear that these schools will offer free education. They will be funded at the same level as they would have been had they remained under their local authority. There will continue to be an equality of public resourcing.

When it opts out, a grant-maintained school will retain the character that it had and will continue to admit pupils on the same basis. During an exchange at Question Time this afternoon I made clear that in due course these schools will be able to make an application for a major change of character under the procedures that exist under sections 12 and 13 of the Education Act 1980.

Grant-maintained schools will have to agree their admissions arrangements with the Secretary of State and these arrangements will have to be published annually so that parents will know how places will be allocated in the event of over-subscription. Parents who are refused a place for their child can have recourse to a complaints procedure.

The detailed procedures set out in the bill ensure that opting out will be an open, democratic process. If a Church school decides to opt out, I shall give special attention to the views of the trustees and Church authorities. If I approve or the holder of my office approves an application from a Church school, the foundation or trust will continue to own and run the school and to appoint a majority of the governing body. That will preserve the distinctive religious character of Church schools.

Mr. Roger Stott (Wigan)


Mr. Baker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way; I have been generous.

The final clause in part I of the Bill enables the Secretary of State to enter into long-term agreements with the bodies that will run city technology colleges. This is another important element in our plans to create an education system that is better geared to the needs of a rapidly changing world. City technology colleges will increase choice for parents, particularly in the inner cities.

Part II of the Bill implements the policies set out in our White Paper, "Higher Education: Meeting the Challenge'". Our objective is to see more of our young people staying on to get the benefits of further and higher education. When one compares our education system with those in other developed countries such as France, Germany or America, one of the striking features is the low staying-on rate at 16 and 18 years. We intend to improve on that, and have set a target for this Parliament of a further 50,000 students in higher education. I suppose that the students who are marching to the House today are marching to demonstrate their support for this commitment.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)


Mr. Baker

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall not give way any more.

I want to pay tribute to the work that is already in hand to improve the efficiency and quality of our colleges, polytechnics and universities.

The polytechnics and major colleges have come of age, and we propose that they should now become freestanding, statutory corporations, with charitable status. Hon. Members are proud of our polytechnics. They provide a splendid education, and last year there was an increase of over 20 per cent, in the number of first degrees that they gave. Those 48 institutions will transfer automatically from local authority control. Another seven institutions can transfer if their maintaining LEA consents.

In addition, another 24 colleges that are presently funded directly by my Department will join this group. The Bill will increase their autonomy and they, together with the polytechnics, will be funded by the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council. I intend to establish the PCFC in shadow form next spring. I shall also be setting up an Education Assets Board in shadow form. It will start work on the complex task of transferring assets to the polytechnics and colleges.

I wish to reaffirm the Government's support for the Church's continuing role in higher education through the voluntary colleges. I intend to ensure that the PCFC establishes a committee to advise it on issues of direct concern to the voluntary colleges.

The Universities Funding Council will replace the University Grants Committee in line with the main recommendation of Lord Croham's review. The UFC will be asked to establish a Welsh committee along similar lines to the one that it has already been decided should be established for Scotland.

Mr. Tarn Dalyell (Linlithgow)


Mr. Baker

I must resist the temptation to give way to an experienced parliamentarian.

Another part of the Bill that deals with universities is clauses 130 to 136, which end the arrangements for strict tenure in some universities. Those arrangements severely circumscribe the flexibility and responsiveness of universities. The Bill proposes that all universities should be able to appoint new permanent staff without offering them strict tenure. Independent commissioners will revise university charters to give effect to this and to safeguard academic freedom.

Chapter III of part II deals with colleges remaining with local authorities. Like schools, they will have delegated budgets. Their governing bodies will draw at least half of their members from business, commerce and the local community. This will bring in more business men and women, more industrialists and professionals. They are precisely the sort of people we need to ensure that colleges are responsive to employers' needs. I welcome the statement by the director-general of the CBI, who is looking forward to businesses playing an even greater role in education in the future.

Part III of the Bill will allow inner London boroughs freedom to run their own education services. ILEA has been a uniquely extravagant authority, spending far in excess of comparable inner-city authorities. It has 4 per cent, of the children in England in its schools, yet it accounts for 8 per cent, of LEA expenditure. The tragedy is that the money is not being spent in ways that meet the needs of London's children. For example, ILEA has two and a half times as many administrators per child as the national average. Yet it dares to talk about "economies of scale" when the performance of its schools is often dismal. An HMI survey of science in secondary schools in Greenwich concluded that the teaching of science in most of these schools fails … to develop the levels of understanding … Over 50 per cent, of the lessons had some unsatisfactory features. Our proposals will give London's children a better deal. The Bill will allow boroughs to apply to opt out from 1 April 1990, or in subsequent years. I shall need to be satisfied that the borough has a full plan covering every aspect of the education service for its area. I emphasise that no borough can opt out of ILEA without specific parliamentary approval.

Recently that matter was put to an electoral test. Ten days ago there was a by-election in Wandsworth in which the opting proposal on ILEA was the main issue. It was made the main issue by the Labour party and by ILEA, and many of ILEA'S staff campaigned in that by-election. It was the central issue and we won with an increased majority.

Mr. Straw

If the Secretary of State has such confidence in the opinion of the people of London on the break-up of ILEA, why will he not submit these proposals to a referendum of parents in each borough and to the borough elections in 1990?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman should have done better than that. When he was faced with the increased majority of the Conservative candidate in the Southfields ward of the Wandsworth borough council, he immediately said, "It's nothing to do with ILEA; it's all due to Red Ken." The hon. Member for Blackburn cannot blame all the problems of the Labour party on the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone). It was a clear issue. It was put to the people and they decided clearly to vote for our proposals.

The proposals which I have outlined to the House today constitute a major change. I would sum up the Bill's 169 pages in three words — standards, freedom and choice. The purpose of all these measures is to improve the quality of education for all our children and to increase opportunities for our children to go on to colleges, polytechnics and universities because a better educated nation is a more prosperous nation.

I have no doubt that the Opposition parties share our wish to improve standards. But what they fail to understand is that one cannot improve standards without at the same time increasing choice and freedom. The people of this country understand that. They showed their understanding at the general election. The Opposition parties went to the country with a prospectus of no change.

They lost that election. The Conservative party went to the country with a programme of radical reform, and we won. I now invite the House to give effect to the people's choice and to give a Second Reading to the Bill.

4.30 pm
Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)

There is no question more important than the education of the nation's children, but the Bill will severely damage that education. From beginning to end the Bill is based upon a deception. Its very title — "Education Reform Bill" — is a fraud; it should be called the "Education (State Control) Bill". Under the guise of fine phrases like "parental choice" and "decentralisation", the Bill will deny choice and instead centralise power and control over schools, colleges and universities in the hands of the Secretary of State in a manner without parallel in the western world.

Under the guise of arguments for an agreed core curriculum, the Bill will seek to impose a centralised state syllabus. Under the guise of higher standards the Bill will label children as failures at the ages of seven, 11, 14 and 16, impose selection and segregate children by class and by race.

Outside the House, the Secretary of State has had the audacity to describe his Bill as the most important since the Education Act 1944. As the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said, to compare the Bill "with what Rab Butler did would make that great man turn in his grave." — [Official Report, 2July 1987; Vol. 118, c. 670.]

Not for Butler a few crude ideas and gimmicks so poorly prepared that two thirds of the way through the election campaign The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State had to make up the policy as they went along. Not for Butler the contempt for those who might have a different point of view or the mockery of a 10-week consultation period. Butler listened for two years; he learned; he gained agreement. Because of that, his Act has stood the test of time. His lasted; the Secretary of State's will not.

The difference is that Butler was a one-nation Tory, a worthy successor to Benjamin Disraeli, whom the Secretary of State quoted. Butler recognised that it was only through equality of opportunity that talents could flower, that richness and diversity in our national life could occur, that individuals could be fulfilled and that one nation could be created. Butler spoke directly of egalitarianism. It is that which the Secretary of State now wishes to destroy. As he told the Tory party conference: The pursuit of egalitarianism is over. The 1944 Education Act laid the foundation for the achievement of equality of opportunity and, yes, of raising the quality of the nation's education. While that Act did not prescribe this, the policy makers at that stage made one fundamental error — they provided for a segregated system by which some were stamped success but by which most were stamped failure. A large part of the purpose of the Bill is to recreate that segregated and divisive system which affected all a child's years from five to 16. Some of us remember what the 11-plus did to children, with bribes of bicycles, of holidays, of parental love and approval if they passed, and the humiliation and shame which families felt when children failed.

It was out of the revulsion and unfairness of the old segregated system that there came the clamour for the comprehensive school. It was far from being an exclusively Labour idea. No Education Secretary before or since can match the record of The Prime Minister for the number of comprehensive schools which were opened or for the number of grammar schools which were closed during her period of office: 1,059 comprehensive schools were opened and 363 grammar schools were closed.

Ever since the right hon. Lady became Prime Minister, that progress has continued. In 1979, 79 per cent, of pupils were in comprehensive schools. At the end of last year, that proportion had risen to over 85 per cent. It is a mark of the extraordinary success of the comprehensive school that in eight years only two Conservative authorities, Solihull and Redbridge, have sought to reintroduce selection, and both failed because of the weight of parental opposition.

Standards too have risen, as even the Department of Education and Science admits. The 1986 school leavers survey for England said of the period 1977–84: The quality of school leavers has shown modest but steady improvement. The most thorough study of all, commissioned and paid for by the Government and to which my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) referred at Question Time, has confirmed that success. In its report on comprehensives in Scotland, the university of Edinburgh said: comprehensive reorganisation, fully implemented, has raised standards of attainment for children of all social backgrounds. That success has never fitted with the prejudices and fantasies of the Conservative right. So, from The Prime Minister downwards, there has been a constant campaign to instil a sense of distrust of state education and of the competence of the teaching profession. Sometimes the allegations have been pure fabrication. In her Conservative party conference speech on 9 October, The Prime Minister asserted: Children who need to be able to express themselves in clear English are being taught political slogans. Challenged by me by letter to say where this had happened, The Prime Minister has been unable to name a single school—not one—to support that fabrication.

While the Cabinet seeks to denigrate the achievements of our schools, the satisfaction of parents remains high. The Secretary of State quoted opinion polls supporting a core curriculum. Let me quote a Daily TelegraphGallup survey published in early October, which showed that just 18 per cent, of parents were dissatisfied with their children's education, while 76 per cent, were satisfied. There can scarcely be any other service where satisfaction runs at such a high level.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)

Would it not be more honest for the hon. Gentleman, who knows a great deal about the education service, to admit that, although standards have been rising steadily in this country, there has been a growing gap compared with what many of our competitor countries are achieving, particularly in maths and science? Does not he also accept, when he talks about comprehensive schools, that there is no such thing? Does not he agree that, since comprehensivisation, there has been a growing variety of so-called comprehensive schools in age, range and style? Therefore, there is a pressing case for a national curriculum, as he once used to think.

Mr. Straw

We will discuss the national curriculum later.

I draw a distinction in the House, as I have done outside, between a core curriculum, which is flexible and based upon a consensus, and an imposed state syllabus. There is no dubiety about this on our part. My position, and the party's position, has always been clear. The hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson) referred to other countries. Let us talk about West Germany. The difference is that in West Germany education between the ages of 16 and 18 is almost universal; it applies to every child. There is not a single provision in this Bill which will encourage children between the ages of 16 and 18 to stay on at school. As for comparisons with testing, as Her Majesty's inspectorate's report makes clear, there is a world of difference between the diagnostic testing in West Germany, which is teacher-based, and the testing which the Secretary of State has in mind.

There was another revealing set of answers in the Daily TelegraphGallup poll. When parents were asked separately who was responsible for the failings in the system, just 7 per cent, blamed local authorities, while almost seven times as many, 47 per cent., blamed central Government.

The Secretary of State had a great chance with this Bill. He could have built upon the satisfaction of parents, the excellence and innovation, the best practice of so many good local education authorities, Conservative and Labour, and the proposals of the parents' associations. He could justly have earned and gained a reputation as a great reforming Secretary of State.

Instead, it is to the Secretary of State's eternal shame that he has brought forth a Bill that will divide; that will set child against child, class against class, parent against parent, school against school, race against race. Yes, contrary to what the Secretary of State said, the proposals will, among other things, lead to educational apartheid —to racially segregated schools. When that was put to the Under-Secretary of State, the Baroness Hooper, her only response was to say that if we ended with a segregated system, "so be it".

What should have been in the Bill? Universal nursery education should have been in it, for a start. I will give a prize of a free copy of Rab Butler's autobiography to any Conservative Member who can tell me who said: The value of nursery education"—

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

The Prime Minister.

Mr. Straw

The hon. Gentleman has got the prize. The value of nursery education in promoting the social development of young children has long been acknowledged. In addition we now know that, given sympathetic and skilled supervision, children may also make great educational progress before the age of five … Progress of this kind gives any child a sound basis for his subsequent education. That was what The Prime Minister said in her 1972 White Paper. We agreed with her then in her promise to make nursery education available for all without charge … to those children of three and four whose parents wish them to benefit from it. We put that in our manifesto in 1987; the Conservative party left it out.

The Government call this Bill reform, yet in all its 169 pages there is not a single line to give effect to that pledge to universal nursery education. The very children who need nursery education most, and who in Tory areas receive it least, are those who are also not favoured at the other end of the compulsory school system.

Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South)

What did the hon. Gentleman and his party do for nursery education between 1974 and 1979?

Mr. Straw

We expanded it. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the figures, he will see that even under this Government Labour authorities have increased nursery education, while many Conservative authorities have cut it.

Where in the Bill are the arrangements, as I said in answer to the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West, for making it the norm to provide education as well as training for those between the ages of 16 and 18? Where are the arrangements which recognise the intense financial pressures on many families to get their children to leave school at 16 to take any job that they can? Where are the arrangements for establishing educational opportunities for that one third of the population who never had them —the one third aged over 50 who left school before the Butler Act came into force? They depend on adult and continuing education, yet no sector has been more severely affected by Government cuts than that one.

Ministers must know nothing of the system that they now wish to destroy if they do not know about the immense strides that have been made in many schools to involve parents day by day. Yes, we accept that a good deal more needs to be done. That is why my predecessor as education spokesman, my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice), spelled out months before the Secretary of State even mentioned the word our proposals for raising standards and for the real involvement of all parents; for a guaranteed and agreed common core curriculum; for termly school reports, incorporating clear assessments of effort and performance; for the right to a proper interview with teachers; for clear homework schedules; and for an education ombudsman. There is the widest support for those ideas, but virtually none of them appears in the Bill.

I give just one small example of how skin-deep is the Secretary of State's commitment to parental involvement. For the first time this summer, there were annual parents' and governors' meetings. Some were well attended; most were not. I wrote to the Secretary of State to propose that he should establish, with the local authority associations, a study to identify the best practice of good authorities to see how we could encourage more parents to attend such meetings and to make that study widely available. The Secretary of State refused.

The Bill, in short, is a wasted opportunity, which will waste the opportunities of the nation's young. The Secretary of State's rhetoric this afternoon has been about parental choice and variety, but the Bill is not about parents and pupils, but about power—the Secretary of State's power. The Bill contains 175 new powers in the hands of the Secretary of State; powers which portray a frightening degree of secondary legislation and bureaucracy for years ahead"; powers which would set the curriculum in stone for twenty years or more I quote from the very temple of Right-wing Toryism— the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Nor will our further and higher education institutions escape from the heavy hand. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) will deal in more detail with those proposals when he winds up the debate. Our further education colleges are, as we heard from the Secretary of State, to be handed over to compliant Conservative business men, and the universities are to be subject to the direct control of the Secretary of State. Academic tenure is to be abolished and no safeguards for academic freedom are written into the Bill.

Behind the massive transfer of central power lies an obsessive vendetta against the rights of local communities and their elected representatives to run their own schools and colleges in the way which suits their own areas best. It is an obsession because, too often, the electors at local polls have either failed to vote Conservative or have voted for the wrong kind of Conservative, such as the chairman of a good Conservative education authority who described the Bill as the product of inexperienced zealots. Had it not been for the determination of local communities to resist the Government, our education service would now be in wreckage. It is a mark of the Government's commitment to education that they have cut what they have been willing to spend on the education of the nation's children by 20 per cent. in real terms in the past eight years. Education spending has risen despite the Government, not because of them. It has risen only because of decisions of local councils rejecting the Government's policies and plans. The Government should hang their head in shame on their education record these past eight years.

Nowhere is the vendetta against local communities more stark, more crude, than in respect of the Inner London education authority. A recent report on local education authority performance puts ILEA among the most cost-effective of education authorities, given its intake. It is no good the Secretary of State complaining about ILEA's expenditure. Three years ago he took central powers to control ILEA's budget and manpower. ILEA'S work to improve the quality of secondary, primary and special education and the involvement of parents has been acclaimed across the country. But throughout the past eight years, ILEA has had to do its work against the Government's unremitting hostility. Four times in eight years the Conservative party has sought ways to abolish ILEA, but each time—from the report of Lord Marshall to the decision of the Cabinet only two years ago—they have had to accept that ILEA should remain intact.

The charge of consistency is not one which can easily be laid at the Secretary of State's door. From his passionate support for the continuation of the GLC through to his passionate support for its abolition; from his passionate support for the leadership battle of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) to his passionate support for the Thatcherite nonsense in the Bill; from his statements during the election that only a few schools would opt out to his statements now that there is no difference between him and the Prime Minister, no one could ever accuse the Secretary of State of placing principle before the main chance. That even applies to his proposals for ILEA.

Seven years ago, the Secretary of State chaired a committee on the future of London's education. The options were laid out in a report and were numbered one, two and three and six. Option six was to allow individual boroughs to opt out of ILEA—the Secretary of State's very proposal today. Option six was the one then rejected by the Secretary of State, who said: Some boroughs may be willing to assume responsibility and ILEA would then become a rump of power-deprived boroughs … In addition, since it is unlikely that economy of scale could be achieved in a partial ILEA, there may be an increase in administrative costs. That is what the Secretary of State said eight years ago.

Perhaps the Secretary of State would now like to tell us why different considerations apply today. I offer him this chance to intervene.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

It is because the whole principle of funding of local authorities will be changed from April 1990. We will no longer have the redistributive effect of the special schemes for the Inner London education authority as now, nor the redistribution of the rate support grant in London. What will happen is that, post-1990, each individual London borough, like every other borough and local authority in the country, will receive three grants: the basic grant of the national business rate, the standard rate and the needs grant. That means that the redistribution which is done under the present system will be carried out not under local authority control but by central Government. That makes it possible to allow the London boroughs to opt out. I am quite sure that it will not only be the Conservative boroughs that decide to opt out. Some of the other boroughs may well want to opt out too.

Mr. Straw

I am very grateful to the Secretary of State for that explanation. If only he could have seen the faces behind him as he tried to get himself out of the hole. He did not want to deny that there could still be a rump of poorer, deprived boroughs which under his proposals would receive even fewer resources than they do under the existing financial arrangements.

The Secretary of State's powers of advocacy for his case in favour of opting out are such that he has failed even to persuade his own supporters in Surrey. It is Surrey county council which has said of these proposals that education provision will be fragmented in the name of educational choice and that opting out could well be to the disadvantage of a far greater number of children for whom the authority would remain responsible". It is Conservatives in the Prime Minister's own Barnet who believe that these proposals will end with a system loaded against maintained schools in an indefensibly inequitable manner". The Bow Group can scarcely be described as being on the wet wing of the party, since its supporters include the Secretary of State for Foreign, and Commonwealth Affairs and, in the old days, the Secretary of State for Education and Science. It is the Bow Group which has criticised the "blinkered reasoning" of this Bill and which has called for it to be "shelved".

Variety, initiative and enterprise can only come if different people are allowed to do different things. Rab Butler recognised that when, on Second Reading of his Bill, he said: the variety and scope of the provisions must depend on local initiative".—[Official Report,19 January 1944; Vol. 396, c. 209.] It is that local initiative which the Bill will destroy and, with it, effective parental choice and variety in the provision of education. Opting out will be a fraud. Yes, schools will be able to opt out of locally led education, but they will opt not into independence but into state control of a direct and authoritarian kind. The Secretary of State will have direct control of these schools, including the power to close them. The local authority will have no power, only the duty to pay for them.

The proposed balloting procedures, under which a simple majority of parents voting can determine the future of a school, will be unbelievably divisive. What a contrast there is here between this casual and slipshod procedure and those that this Government introduced, for example, in respect of the closed shop. Justifying the rule that a closed shop had to be agreed by 80 per cent, of those eligible, or 85 per cent, of those voting, the then Minister for Employment, now the Government Chief Whip, said that the closed shop had to have the overwhelming support of the work force because of the immense importance for individual rights". — [Official Report, Standing Committee G, 30 March 1982; c. 775.] But is not a decision about the future funding and character of a school of immense importance to individual rights of parents, children, teachers and the wider community not just today but in the future? What double standards about democracy this Government show.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the difference between a ballot on the closed shop and a ballot to opt out is that on the first it is to opt into servitude and on the second to opt into freedom?

Mr. Straw

That is just a very silly point. In both cases, the decision of a majority will affect the rights of a minority. In the case of the closed shop, it was considered that the majority had to be so great as almost to encompass the minority; in this case, 51 per cent, of parents voting—fewer even than the majority of total parents—may determine the future of the school for all children. I do not call that democracy.

Open admissions are another part of the fraud of this Bill, one which shows how the introduction of the market will damage opportunity and choice. Yes, a few schools will profit by this change, but many will be damaged and some will become educationally bankrupt, trapped in a vortex of fewer pupils, less money, fewer teachers, less choice, while still having to provide education for those children who remain. What local education authorities have to do, against a background of quixotic changes in the reputation of schools and the roller-coaster of pupil numbers, is to plan so as to ensure, as nearly as possible, that each child is treated as fairly as the next. This Bill will undermine that ability to plan and to be fair, and in doing so will destroy the opportunity and choice of a great many children.

Mr. Barron

In September 1988, my third child will be going along to the local comprehensive school, while each one of the children, along with all those of 12 to 16 years of age in the community where I live, will all have an equal opportunity to go on to further education. Are not this Government and this Bill likely to bring back the days that I myself remember in the 1950s, when at 11 years of age, having failed a test, I was given a second-class education in that community?

Mr. Straw

They will indeed, because, as the Secretary of State has said here, part of the purpose of the Bill is to reintroduce selection and to change comprehensives back into selective schools.

The proposals for so-called financial decentralisation contained in the Bill illustrate another part of its deceit.

The Secretary of State has quoted me outside as supporting the idea. I have been right to say that many Labour local education authorities have pioneered sensible financial devolution in education as in other spheres—and so they have, ILEA among them. But the Secretary of State deceives no one but himself if he thinks that at any stage we have supported the proposals in this Bill.

The local education authorities are indissolubly linked with local initiative, with different areas doing things differently. These proposals remove that local initiative and, irony of ironies, the Secretary of State takes clause after clause of central powers to impose his own schemes, regardless of local opinion, to impose per capita funding and to force schools — the teachers, parents and governors—to decide whether they keep a much-needed teacher, buy some books or decorate a classroom. That is not financial devolution, it is a mechanism to force on schools decisions about cuts that the Government have not the guts to make for themselves.

Over all this, there will be the so-called national curriculum. The Secretary of State referred to my views about the national curriculum, and I have supported the idea of a flexible core curriculum rather longer than the Government have. The national curriculum has been one of the Prime Minister's many U-turns—only two years ago she endorsed emphatic rejection of a national curriculum in the White Paper, "Better Schools". Even the Secretary of State did not leak his disagreement at the time. My party called at the general election for a flexible but clear core curriculum agreed at national level. Therein lies the difference. What we seek is flexibility, a framework; what the Government have been prescribing — at least until this afternoon — is some kind of straitjacket. What we seek is a national core curriculum; what we are to get is a state syllabus.

In making the case for a national curriculum, the Secretary of State in his consultative document said that it should apply to all children. But it will not do so. It will apply by law to the children in the state sector of education only. It will not apply by law to fee-paying schools. Will the Secretary of State tell me why this state curriculum should apply by law to the finest comprehensives in the land but not to the worst of the fee-paying schools? Will he tell me why this state curriculum should apply by law to my children but not to his?

At the centre of this straitjacket of the state syllabus are the proposals for testing children at 11, 14, 16 and now, in the words of the Secretary of State, at seven or thereabouts. Just as in the past the Secretary of State has tried to insinuate that parents have no choice in schools, he also insinuates that no testing takes place in schools. In this, he displays considerable ignorance. The first time that he has ever admitted that the daily round of teaching involves the testing and assessment of individual children was in his speech today. I know of no school which does not also use more formal and more regular tests to assess a child's progress. As I have said outside the House, parents have a right to know how their child is getting on against some broadly agreed national picture of how a child should be getting on.

There is a world of difference between testing and assessment to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of individual children and having the resources to do something about them, and testing which sets child against child, which tells them only how to compete against their peers and which labels them as successes or failures at age 11, 14, 16 or seven.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Straw


That will be the consequence of publishing class-by-class lists at the ages of seven, 11,14 and 16.

The Secretary of State has denied that those tests will be competitive, but they must be because they play a central part in the hidden agenda of the proposals, which will not reform education, but will deform the system to recreate a system based upon selection.

We do not need to muse about where the proposals will lead. We have the words of the proposals' authors, the Hillgate group, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the "no turning back group" of Conservative Back Benchers who want to replace the right to a free education with a giro or a voucher to help pay towards some part of children's education while parents have to pay towards the rest. The proposals for per capita funding, for open admissions and for opting out will take us straight down that road. The authors want an unregulated market in education.

Education, like health, is a public good which, by its nature, is scarce because the demand for it will always exceed supply. It will always be rationed in some way. In the past, that rationing has taken place by need, by a partnership between central Government broadly determining the overall share of national wealth to be accorded it and local communities determining its local allocation. That system of allocation by need is now to be turned on its head. For need, we must read wealth.

The Bill is a fraud, based upon prejudice and ignorance. Virtually the only thing that the Cabinet knows about the state system of education is how to opt out of it. Cabinet Ministers have been doing that for years. As the Mail on Sundayreported last week: none of Mrs. Thatcher's Cabinet sends his children to state schools". So sensitive are Ministers to that fact, that the Mail on Sundayalso told us that now all is to change. In case the Secretary of State's Cabinet colleagues are not aware of it, according to the Mail on Sunday,the Secretary of State has said that he now expects Cabinet Ministers to send their children to the new schools". At last Cabinet Ministers will opt in, but only to the schools that opt out.

What an inadvertently revealing admission that is. Does the Secretary of State realise the full implications of what he has said — that there has not been one local authority school in the country, not a comprehensive in Surrey, Harrow or Barnet or even a grammar school good enough for the education of Cabinet Ministers' children? Now everything will be OK for the sons and daughters of Cabinet Ministers, as the Secretary of State admitted in an interview and admitted again in the House today that opted-out schools will after all be able to change their character, to select and to become exclusive, and in doing so will be able to keep out the undesirables, the special needs children and those with educational handicap. Indeed, if Baroness Hooper has her way, they will be able to keep out the blacks as well.

For how else could those opted-out schools make themselves suitable for the children of this Cabinet? How else could they make themselves sufficiently different from the existing local authority schools which Ministers so despise? [HON.MEMBERS: "Shame".] If it is a shame, it is a shame on Baroness Hooper. She said that, not the Opposition.

Section 1 of.Rab Butler's great Education Act 1944 places a duty on the Secretary of State to promote the education of the people of England and Wales … and to secure … a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area. That section will not be amended by the Bill. By this Bill, the Secretary of State will fail in his duty under the 1944 Act in every particular.

The Secretary of State bears a great responsibility on his shoulders for the education of this nation's children, for the provision of equality of opportunity, for ensuring that every child can reach his potential, for securing a skilled and articulate citizenry in the interests of both our economy and our democracy. By his speech this afternoon and by this Bill, the Secretary of State has shown that he is incapable and unwilling to measure up to those responsibilities. In place of Rab Butler's one nation, the Bill will create two nations in education. The only consensus or agreement that the Bill has achieved is the consensus against it from the Churches, Conservative councillors, governors, teachers and above all from parents and the children so precious to them. Yes, every parent wants a system that will better their child's chances, but they will not get that with this Bill.

The Bill will damage educational standards. It will level down, not up. It will reduce opportunity, choice and variety for the majority of our children, and it will undermine local democracy. It will make the Secretary of State the commissar of educational control throughout the breadth of the country. We shall fight the Bill in the House and in the country and we shall vote against it in the Lobby tonight.

5.4 pm

Mr. Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)

This is a massive Bill of immense importance both to the future of today's children and the future of this country, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science explained when he began his speech by quoting Disraeli and his one-nation philosophy. Disraeli was followed by Balfour and Butler in creating our educational system. Throughout they were motivated by the doctrine of one nation. I very much hoped that my right hon. Friend would continue that philosophy in the changes that he wants to make in bringing the education system up to date. However, the procedures that have been followed in bringing the Bill before the House do not encourage one in that belief.

Mr. Marlow

There was an election.

Mr. Heath

My hon. Friend says that there was an election, and indeed there was, but whatever doctrine on the mandate that one likes to hold—and they are many and varied — that does not justify any Government failing to provide a proper opportunity for Parliament and in particular the House of Commons to discuss Bills. [Interruption.]There is no point in my hon. Friends chanting in that manner and grinning about it. This is a serious matter. Mr. Speaker has announced that 70 hon. Members want to speak in the debate and there is less than four hours in which they can do that. That cannot be anything other than a caricature of parliamentary government. My hon. Friends should be ashamed. If their constituents hear about this, they will tell them so. Because the Opposition are incompetent, ill-led, ineffective and unable to get an extra day's debate out of the Government, that is no reason why hon. Members on the Government side should be limited in time. [Interruption.]There is no point in the Leader of the Opposition laughing about this. It is a tribute to his ineffectiveness that he cannot get an extra day. His predecessors would have been ashamed of themselves for putting the Labour party in a position in which they could not debate the Bill properly.

There has been inadequate consultation over the summer and the Bill was published only seven working days ago. Organisations, especially the universities, have written to hon. Members to say that they are incapable of providing criticism of the Bill because there has not been time to consider or discuss it. That shows a lamentable respect for education and, I regret to say, for Parliament. Moreover, that allows another place every opportunity to say that the major issues were not fully debated in the House of Commons and therefore the Lords can take the matter in hand. Indeed, those who have discussed it on television have already taken that view. That is lamentable.

The background to the Education Act 1944 has been mentioned. I want to emphasise a point in relation to what will happen under the Bill. Rab Butler and Chuter Ede created a triumvirate for parity of esteem — grammar schools, technical schools and secondary moderns. That enabled clever technicians to go to a good technical school as well as those who were less able. The clever academics could go to a good grammar school and those who were clever at general things could go to a secondary modern school. The point was that in each type of school pupils with considerable mental ability attended beside those who were not thus gifted.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Heath

No, there is no time for interventions.

The point was that the clever and the less clever would be together in the same school and one would lead the other. The danger is that under the new system the clever will go to one school, leaving the other schools with the less clever.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

indicated dissent

Mr. Heath

I know that my right hon. Friend denies that, but he is wrong. The fact is that so much of a school, whether academic or sporting, depends on the leadership of those who are best at those pastimes. If the better children leave one school for another, which is what will happen under his system, that will be to the detriment of the children as a whole. That is the connection between the change from the Butler system and what will happen under this system.

The Butler system was changed because, in the years after the war, the Labour Government did not have the resources to give the technical schools and secondary modern schools the ability to reach parity of esteem with grammar schools. That led to the pressure for comprehensive schools and is why they developed during the 1960s and 1970s. They did away with the idea that children were going to a school of a higher status than other schools.

The important question is what is required in education today and what is necessary to achieve it. I am sick to death of education in this country being knocked in the way that it is, largely for political purposes, and of teachers being constantly hammered. The great majority of our teachers are good and devoted people as I have found in my constituency and my home area. However, they are now completely demoralised because of the treatment that they have received.

The inspectorate of the Education Department is also demoralised because no notice is taken of what it says. On its inquiries into ILEA, has not the inspectorate said that it should continue? However, its view has been ignored. The morale of the inspectorate is low, as is that of the headmasters who find that their views are not even solicited. Indeed, they will now be laboured with the financial control of schools. Anybody would think that they wanted that, but they do not.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Heath

No, I shall not give way because there is not sufficient time.

Anybody would think that headmasters were begging for the opportunity to run the finances of their schools. However, they are not, not for one moment.

Mr. Howarth


Mr. Heath

No, I shall not give way. I have not got the time to give way. If my right hon. Friend had given us two days for the debate, we could have had proper exchanges.

Neither are the governors asking for the power to run the finances of schools. The great majority of education authorities run their financial arrangements satisfactorily. That raises another point about ILEA. If the rich boroughs opt out, undoubtedly the poorer boroughs will suffer. There cannot be any alternative. Why should the poorer areas of inner London suffer because the richer ones can opt out? That is against the entire trend of Conservative education policy over much of this century.

Where there are poor and inadequate teachers, we must find a way to improve them. That means improving the qualifications of teachers on entry into the profession. That is what needs to be tackled. If it is necessary to have assessment of teachers later in life, we should do so, but that does not need the complete reconstruction of the entire educational system.

I shall deal now with some specific points in the Bill.

Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Heath

No, I am enjoying myself too much to give way.

There has long been an argument for having a national curriculum, but it must be flexible. The Secretary of State has moved in that direction, but he still has the power to dictate the national curriculum down to individual books. My right hon. Friend may smile, but one day, whether we like it not, a Labour Member may be in my right hon. Friend's place. Will he enjoy this situation so much then, when a Labour Minister inherits all the powers that the Secretary of State is taking unto himself? The Secretary of State has taken more powers under the Bill than any other member of the Cabinet — more than my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for Social Services. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is taking more direct power and that is why the universities are terrified. We all know what happens today to people who hold differing views from those held in Government circles. Academics can see quite clearly what will happen to them if they express their real views.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Robert Jackson)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Heath

My hon. Friend may shake his head. He is connected with the universities and knows full well why academics have not spoken out about what is required of the universities. They are afraid that they will lose their jobs.

The success of the national curriculum attainment tests will depend on how they are carried out. If they result in children being told that they are a pass or a fail they will be disastrous. If a child of seven has to go around with a "fail" tag on him for the rest of his life, the damage will be enormous. The Secretary of State must show the teaching profession and parents that his attainment tests will not lead to such judgments. Although many of my hon. Friends would like to see things go that way, I think that it would be fatal.

Parental choice in the Bill is largely a confidence trick. I say that quite openly. My right hon. Friend has quoted public opinion polls. About 93 per cent, of parents stated in a Gallup poll that they always got the school of their choice. What happens to the other 7 per cent, if the school of their first choice is full?

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West)

They are not physically full.

Mr. Heath

In my constituency they are physically full.

Mr. McLoughlin

They are not physically full in mine.

Mr. Heath

Many schools are physically full.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

If my right hon. Friend comes to my constituency, I shall show him some that are not.

Mr. Heath

I turn now to the schools of my hon. Friends behind me. Why are they evened out? The Secretary of State knows full well that that happens for economic purposes to enable the local educational authority to run schools in which there are insufficient children and to fill all the schools. The schools are balanced out.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

For bureaucratic purposes.

Mr. Heath

That is the biased view of my hon. Friend. However, that happens for economic reasons. We shall reach the stage at which it is possible to fill one school and close down another because that will be the inevitable consequence.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

Will my right hon. Friend give way just once?

Mr. Heath

No, I shall not give way.

Obviously, a school cannot be closed down immediately, but the time will come when it must be closed down. The majority of complaints in my constituency are not about teachers or the local education authority but about the closures of good schools simply because the numbers have fallen, but that is inevitable.

When my right hon. Friend says that the Bill will give parents greater choice, it can only give them greater choice if a school opts out, and, having opted out, changes the pupils whom it takes in. That is the only way in which there can be greater choice than they have at the moment, because there cannot be greater choice at the moment because the facilities are not there.

That is why the voucher attempt was abandoned. It was quite obvious that the local education authority could not say to parents, "Yes, of course, you can have the school of your choice because we shall enlarge it and take them all." That was nonsense. Parental choice is in grave danger of turning out to be a confidence trick. Parents will not find that their choice has been increased. Indeed, 93 per cent, of them say that they get the school of their choice as it is. Very well then, there is no argument for opting out.

Let us now consider the question of parent power. It is completely unrealistic. Again, the great majority of parents do not want to run the schools to which their children will be sent.

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Heath

We have already heard that only 8 per cent, of parents attend the meetings—

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Will my right hon. Friend give way? He cannot be so undemocratic.

Mr. Heath

If the hon. Lady had been democratic enough to force the Leader of the House to give us two days for this debate I would happily give way. [Laughter.]Parent power—

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman


Mr. Heath

Parent power is just a political slogan. It has no real meaning for today's educational system.

I wish to deal with the vital question of opting out, because it destroys the system that was built up by Disraeli, Balfour and Butler. One of my hon. Friends on the Benches behind me said in an intervention that opting out represents the choice between freedom and not opting out. That implies that to remain in a local education authority is a form of tyranny. [HON. MEMBER: "It is."] Well, there it is. That reveals the real attitude of some of my hon. Friends behind me.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

Look at Brent,.

Mr. Heath

I hear the cry, "Look at Brent" and that gets us to the point. We are going through the whole of this process because of the madness of Brent, Haringey and two or three others out of more than 100 education authorities. That is what it is all about. What will happen as a consequence? We shall see that schools will opt out. The next development will be that those schools can choose whom they take. They will not take from their areas, but will take the bright pupils wherever they find them. The next stage will be, "Yes, you can charge fees for doing that." We will move right away from our educational system to a fee-paying system of independent schools of choice.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

indicated dissent.

Mr. Heath

Well, the Secretary of State may shake his head, but he knows perfectly well that that is the philosophy behind the whole process. It is immensely damaging to the educational system of this country. It will be divisive and it will be fatal to the education of a large number of our children.

Mr. Marlow

This is a mischievous speech intended to be damaging to the Government.

Mr. Heath

When the Bill is in Committee, I ask my right hon. Friend to consider very seriously the large number of points that will be raised because they are serious.

The extent of the Secretary of State's power will be overwhelming. Within the parliamentary system, no Secretary of State should ever be allowed to hold such a degree of power. He should surrender that power. There is no confidence in the claim that all the processes of consultation that the Secretary of State has mentioned will be effective or that the Secretary of State will take any notice of them.

Opting out should be dropped completely. It will undermine the whole of the basic educational system of this country. The proposition of dictating to the universities what they should do, how they should do it and what will happen to their staff must also go.

There is so much to be done and the Secretary of State could create a record for himself akin to that of Balfour and Butler. He will not do it this way. I beg my right hon. Friend to look at his predecessors and follow the line, both practical and philosophical, taken by them.

5.23 pm
Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

I should like to congratulate the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) on his extremely penetrating speech. It was not received with universal welcome on the Conservative Benches, but it was extremely welcome to the Opposition and indeed to the country as a whole, because he was speaking up for the education system.

I should also like to congratulate my successor, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), on his very fine speech. He is doing an excellent job not only for the Labour party, but for all those parents who are deeply concerned about what is happening to education under this Government.

The Secretary of State often compares his Bill, in a self-congratulatory manner, to the Education Act 1944. Let us make that comparison. In 1944 there was a national consensus about what was needed to be done in education. There was a generally held view that educational opportunities needed to be widened. There had been authoritative official reports that illustrated both the need and the way ahead. R. A. Butler, ably supported by his Labour understudy, Chuter Ede, as the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup has reminded us, was able to build on those reports and on the national consensus to provide secondary education for all. That was the background to the 1944 Act.

Certainly, in 1987, there is a widely shared view that educational standards need to be raised. Eleven years ago, the Labour Prime Minister, James Callaghan, in his famous Ruskin speech, expressed his concern that pupils were leaving school without a proper grounding in literacy and numeracy. He therefore called for a debate on education and especially whether—as he believed—there was a need for a core or national curriculum. So much for the charge that Labour has jumped on the curriculum bandwagon. We started it rolling.

A glance at the Department of Education and Science background papers for the 1977 regional education conferences illustrate the themes that we are still discussing in 1987. The headings ran: The school curriculum from 5 to 16. The assessment of standards. The education and training of teachers. School and working life. Before the election, when I was chief education spokesman for the Labour party, I always made clear my party's commitment to raising standards. For example, I welcomed the Sheffield speech of Sir Keith Joseph, the then Secretary of State for Education. I said that we would give him our full support.

In 1985, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and I launched a policy statement called "A charter for pupils and parents". That spelled out our plans for raising standards. In September 1986 I published a Fabian pamphlet entitled "Equality and Quality". That argued the case for a common core curriculum — yes, before the Government did—improved teacher performance and closer home-school links; that is extremely important for raising educational standards. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn has also pointed out that, in February 1987, I published a charter for parents' rights to underwrite good quality education for all.

On a number of occasions my successor, the hon. Member for Blackburn, has eloquently stressed our commitment and his commitment to quality, standards and performance in education. He is absolutely right. Of course it is true that, over the past decade, educational standards have risen significantly at all levels. So much for those who knock comprehensives and, as the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup rightly said, so much for those who knock teachers. In evidence I quote DES statistics on examination results for the past decade.

However, from a number of studies we are aware that many children are not fulfilling their full potential at school. We know that, in similar areas with similar levels of funding, some schools are performing considerably better than others. As a result of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research's report findings, we are aware that pupils in other countries are achieving higher standards, especially in mathematics, than pupils in this country. So, if we are to survive and prosper in the 21st century, the raising of educational standards for all must be a top national priority. We can all agree about that.

We can all also agree—at any rate most of us can— on the case for a national core curriculum. If the Bill contained only clauses on the curriculum, we would welcome it. Of course there would be arguments about what should be in it, about flexibility and about how it was to be controlled. In this context, as in that of higher education, the Secretary of State has revealed himself in his true colours—as a centraliser and an authoritarian.

But sadly, unlike the 1944 Act, the Bill also contains highly controversial proposals that have been almost universally rejected. The Secretary of State cannot claim a mandate for the opt-out proposals. He knows perfectly well that the main reason why the Tories ran behind us on education during the election was those proposals. He knows that all the public opinion polls show that there is no majority support for opt-out proposals.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

The hon. Gentleman referred to public support, and he was right. The opinion poll published in The Daily Telegraphon 7 October showed that no fewer than 66 per cent, of parents opposed the opt-out proposals.

Mr. Radice

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for getting the figures precisely right. I am also grateful for his help during the general election, when we pinned down the Secretary of State on the opt-out proposals and showed that he made them up as he went along.

Despite the Secretary of State's fine words, and in contrast to the 1944 Act, the Government are not proceeding on the basis of consensus, particularly on the opt-out proposals. The Government do not believe in real consultation, or they would have taken the consultation process and what people said to them seriously. They have not done that, and they have not been concerned to take people with them. They are trying to get this controversial piece of legislation through in the first session of Parliament as quickly as they can. That is their legislative strategy.

The political strategy behind the opt-out proposals was mapped out clearly in an interview with the Prime Minister in The Independenton 14 September. She clearly hopes that the opt-out proposals will appeal to voters in the same way as the sale of council houses did in her first and second terms. To put it in her language, she wants to create a society in which those who want to get out of the socialist queue approach should be able to do it". Clearly the Prime Minister has never liked the idea that everyone should have a fair turn, because she is so used to barging her way through to the front.

She believes that most schools will opt out: It is meant to be as big a revolution as the one million transfer from the public sector into owner-occupation". But if most schools—or a large minority of them—opt out, there will be a two-tier state school system, with the opt-out schools as the elite establishments and the remaining schools as the inferior, sink schools. Inevitably, there will also be a return to selection, as the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup pointed out.

To give her her due, the Prime Minister accepts that. She positively revels in the idea of a return to selection. To her, the golden days were those of grammar schools and the 11 -plus. She always forgets about the other schools — the secondary moderns—to which those who failed the 11 -plus went. She forgets the heartache, the division and the sheer waste of talent which report after report to this Parliament revealed. She forgets that what this nation needs is not only an education system that prepares the elite but one that provides a good education for the whole nation. That is what we should be aiming for.

What does the Secretary of State think? Of course, he is influenced by the Prime Minister and the Conservative Right. I do not blame him: he is an ambitious politician. I want to give the Secretary of State the benefit of the doubt, and at least give him credit for political acumen. He is far more aware of the dangers of a mass exodus from the local authority system than is his leader. That is why there were those differences of opinion during the general election.

I remember that a radio programme that I shared with him was delayed for half an hour while the Secretary of State communicated with the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), who relayed to him what the Prime Minister had said during her press conference. The Secretary of State grew paler and paler as he spoke to the right hon. Member for Chingford on the telephone. It was very embarrassing for the Secretary of State, and I felt extremely sorry for him.

The right hon. Gentleman continues to play down the opt-out proposals. It is significant, for example, that the opt-out proposals barely got a mention in the Tory party political broadcast last week. We heard about the national curriculum and about testing, but not about opt-out. The Secretary of State presents it as a safety valve, a check on the performance of local education authorities and a legitimate extension of choice. If that were all there was to it, perhaps we could dismiss the proposals as irrelevant. My fear is that they are likely to be used in a way that will be highly destructive to the education system and harmful to our main goal—raising educational standards for all.

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

Does the hon. Gentleman know whether the proportion of places in universities that is given to blue-collar workers' children today as compared with 1926 is more, less or about the same?

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman said that there had been a rise in standards over the past decade. Has he done his research to establish how largely the independent schools have contributed to that rise in standards in terms of examination results?

Mr. Radice

I am talking about exam results from state schools, and it is clear that the proportion of children achieving examination success at all levels has increased. The Secretary of State's predecessor used to admit that freely to me, so I am surprised that the Minister has raised the point.

As to universities, I should have thought that the Minister, who went to a polytechnic himself, would have remembered that the polytechnics have been invented. Taking polytechnics and universities together, a higher proportion of working class children go into higher education now than at the date to which he referred.

I return to the opt-out proposals. I want to consider the schools that are likely to be prime candidates for opt-out. First, there are the schools that are told by local education authorities that they will have to close because of falling rolls. The Audit Commission has already warned the Secretary of State that the proposals for open enrolment, combined with the opt-out proposals, will seriously slow down the process of school rationalisation and add to costs. We have heard nothing about that from the Secretary of State, so it is likely that less popular — perhaps even less good—schools will be able to survive through opt-out.

Then there are the grammar schools. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn pointed out, everyone knows that the Prime Minister, when Secretary of State for Education and Science, was the champion closer of grammar schools—and for good reason. Some were too small, or were no longer providing an effective or broad enough education. When the right hon. Lady was Secretary of State, most education authorities were Conservative-controlled, and when they applied to close grammar schools, she agreed and gave them the go-ahead. Under opt-out, the grammar schools will have an escape route.

Then, there are the secondary schools that are confronted with the tertiary scheme. The Secretary of State has made it clear that, at a time of falling rolls, a tertiary system is the best means of maintaining the curriculum and raising standards. I agree. Now, however, a school that is faced with the closure of its sixth form will immediately agitate for opt-out. So the opt-out proposals are likely to mean delay, muddle, uncertainty and extra cost. They will certainly not widen choice in any meaningful sense, or assist in the introduction of a national curriculum, or help to raise standards across the board.

A less controversial Bill without the opt-out proposals, one that concentrated, as it should, on raising standards, could well have performed the same constructive role and function in the 1990s as the Butler Bill performed for the future over 40 years ago. The result of this Bill is likely to be very different. We are likely to get parents divided against parents, parents divided against teachers and parents and teachers divided against governing bodies. Most important, children will once again be divided into sheep and goats. A great opportunity to raise standards across the board, with the wholehearted co-operation of parents, teachers and local education authorities, will have been thrown away. Under this Government, Britain will once again have missed the education boat.

5.40 pm
Mrs. Maureen Hicks (WolverHampton, North-East)

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me in this popular debate to make my maiden speech on one of the most significant education Bills that we have seen this century. In my opinion and in the opinion of many parents, it is long overdue. I come to the House as a proud ambassador for the west midlands in general and for Wolverhampton, North-East in particular. I am the first Conservative Member in 40 years to represent the interests of Wolverhampton, North-East and I feel highly honoured. I pay tribute to my constituents for the faith that they have put in me.

I cannot claim to be the first female Member for the constituency. My predecessor, Mrs. Renee Short, dedicated herself to the interests of the constituency since 1964. It is a reflection of the high regard in which I know she is held in the House that Members of all parties speak of her with warmth and affection and with special reference to her position as Chairman of the Select Committee on Social Services since 1980. She was Chairman of that Committee and of its predecessor Committee for the past 21 years.

My constituency is ideally located in the heart of England. It is at the centre of the motorway network system and the M54 connects my constituency to the rest of the world. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that our superb location is a powerful magnet that has attracted some of the world's leading industrialists. We have such leading companies in the aerospace industry as Lucas, Dowty and Marston Palmer—to name but a few—and one of the world's leading tyre manufacturers, Goodyear, which offers local employment to 4,000 people.

It gives me great pleasure to report to the House that the scars of the recession in the traditional black country industrial heartland of the United Kingdom are fading. We are on to a winning combination, with unemployment coming down and the Wolves football team going up. Eight years ago we had empty order books and redundancies, but now both small and large companies report a healthy optimism based on full order books and the creation of new jobs. The problem to which we now have to address ourselves is of skill shortages to fill the vacancies.

I cannot think of a more appropriate location than Wolverhampton for one of the first of a pilot network of 20 city technology colleges that are proposed in the Bill. I am delighted that Wolverhampton has been selected for one of those colleges. That college will attract 11 to 18-year-old boys and girls of all abilities and will foster in them a pro-industrial culture specialising in science and technology. It will equip them with the very skills that will take us into the 21st century. The college will bring education and industry much closer; for too long they have worked in isolation.

We have a duty to match our pupils to the jobs that are available and to recognise where the demand is greatest. We must encourage more pupils to stay on at school after the age of 16 and, above all, we have a duty to reduce the possibility of unemployment for all our school leavers. The future prosperity of my region depends on our ability to compete with the rest of the world. The ultimate success of people in the workplace depends on the foundations that are laid for them in our schools in the most formative 11 years between the ages of five and 16. Casualties of our system are too easily identified among the ranks of the long-term unemployed for whom we are now offering numeracy and literacy courses in our community programme that will help them into work.

It is precisely because we have so many horrific instances of foundations not being laid and that fact not being spotted until children are 16, by which time it is too late, that I welcome the Government's guts and determination to get to the grass roots of our education system and to provide a much needed framework. In the Bill we are addressing ourselves to the realistic problems that have been worrying parents for years. How can we stand back and justify the continuation of a system in which only one in eight of our fifth formers are currently studying the core subjects of science, English, mathematics and technology?

I do not support the Bill's proposals—good as they are — out of some innocent loyalty to my party. I support them because I cannot think of another time in my life when a Bill more clearly reflected the direction in which I want to see our schools progress. In my lifetime I want to see a school system that is tailormade, not for the top 27 per cent, who will leave with five O-levels-plus, but for the needs of 100 per cent, of our pupils. Under that system, private education should never need to be a choice.

I want an education for all our children whatever their colour or creed, wherever they live, whatever their ability and no matter what the location of the school. I would not want it on my conscience as I was about to retire in the year 2016 to read, as I did last week, that a Government adult literacy and basic skills unit survey of all the children born in one week during 1958 and who are now aged 29, showed that not only could 300,000 of them not read or write, but that one quarter of the 6 million surveyed had problems with reading, writing, spelling and simple arithmetic and that that had never been identified in the 11 years between the ages of five and 16. The survey also showed that they had received no specialist help. That is a disgrace.

We have to give parents the guarantee that, when their children leave school, irrespective of the number of passes they may or may not have, each child has fulfilled his or her full academic potential and has developed the necessary social graces and moral values to enable the children to integrate well into the community in which they will live as adults.

I have no doubt that my aspirations for our education system may well have been influenced by my private sector experience of management with a leading high street retail company. That company is so easily identified by its success that it does not need me to advertise it in the House. It can boast of stores located throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. As any of its customers know, whatever the location of the store— whether north or south, inner city or market town — when the customer goes in he is guaranteed a choice of quality goods served by well-trained staff in a disciplined environment under the supervision of strong management. Why should not parents, who in great part pay for state education, be guaranteed the same in our schools, irrespective of location? They should have the choice of quality education, provided by well-trained teachers in a happy, disciplined environment, under the strong supervision of a capable head.

It would be wrong for us as a Government not to recognise, as I do, that much of the ultimate success of our proposals when they are implemented will depend on the strength of leadership in our schools. We must pay more attention in future to assessing would-be head teachers for their management potential, and training them in the relevant management skills. To assume that a first-class teacher has the makings of a good head is like assuming that a first-rate surgeon would make a good hospital administrator.

Our success depends on restoring professionalism to teaching to attract and retain high calibre teachers, initially selected and trained to high standards, and subsequently retrained and assessed throughout their teaching career, to ensure that they are constantly adapting to the ever-changing demands of the modern world in which we live. For the sake of our children, we cannot tolerate circumstances in which teachers are seen to have a job for life, irrespective of their suitability for teaching jobs. That is not fair on the good teachers who have to prop up their less capable colleagues. A recent HMI survey showed that one third of teachers assessed were not considered adequate, and we must address ourselves to the problem.

I speak with strength of feeling on the need for reform, not out of some uninformed whim but as one who had many opportunities for close observation years ago, as a secondary teacher in the inner cities and the country; in management, as an assistant education officer; as a school governor in junior and secondary schools; as a councillor; but, most of all, as a mother. For too long, parents and schools have been working in isolation when there should be a continuing partnership throughout a child's school life. That may well account for so many parents' lack of responsibility for their children's actions.

Too often, parents have been denied a choice of school. They have not known what their children are learning, and are unable to assess how well they are doing. How often have hon. Members in the Chamber today been asked, "How is your child doing at school?", and been unable to give an honest and informed answer? A few minutes reassurance on occasional open evenings is a poor substitute for assessment tests, which we are now proposing for children at the ages of seven, 11 and 14, to determine their strengths and weaknesses.

To recognise the successes in our school system but to ignore the failings, and to take no action for fear of change, would be to abdicate our responsibility as a Government. By addressing ourselves to the task of raising standards and increasing parental choice, I hope that we can bring about a knock-on effect on the social problems so prevalent in our education system. How can we genuinely defend the present position, in which truancy is increasing, discipline is worsening and violent attacks on teachers are commonplace?

Too often, problems of boredom and apathy among teenage pupils reflect a low expectation of their achievement, and an inability to cope with the basic skills in their earlier education. If it is radical to want to reduce the incidence of such problems—as I do—to want to offer all our children the opportunity of a better education, and to want to set our head teachers, governors and parents free from the constraints of local authority bureaucracy if they so wish, I make no apologies for being radical. Only short-sighted minority vested-interest groups would want to stand in the way of what I interpret as the true meaning of the word "progress". If to look for higher expectations among all our pupils labels me one of the new authoritarians, I must tell the House that many parents out there share my sentiments and demand change.

I was trained as a teacher in the so-called "progressive" sixties, and I remember them only too well. However, I have never succumbed to the "progressive" doctrine in which authority is frowned on, competition is a dirty word and even "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" — my son's favourite book—is considered racist. Opposition Members might have us believe that they have a monopoly interest in state education. However, I believe that it is precisely because I received the best state education going in a secondary school that I had the motivation to earn myself a place in this House today. That reinforces my determination that our children should be given the same opportunity.

5.56 pm
Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

The House will have listened to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Hicks) with interest. I congratulate her on her maiden speech. As she rightly said, she has been a teacher and has also been on a board of governors, and it would be wrong for me to say that I feel only depression that she has concluded that schools can be run in the same way, and are the same in all other respects, as Marks and Spencer. I hope that she will be disabused of that notion. Nevertheless, her speech was well delivered and concisely expressed. I am sure that it will be read widely in her constituency, and will be of some interest to the House as well.

Choice, improved standards and the removal of politics from education are the three aims of the Bill as stated by the Secretary of State, and they are aims with which we entirely agree. Governments, however—particularly the present Government — should not be judged by their rhetoric. The question before us now is whether the Bill will achieve those aims. The resounding answer, as expressed by the thousands of responses to the consultation paper, is no. While there is no doubt that the Bill will provide choice for some, for many it will provide only a new form of entrapment.

What choice will there be for the poorer family who have no transport and must send their children to the local sink school, whence all the middle-class have fled to the so-called better school over the hill? What choice will there be for pupils whose individual ability cannot be met, because the studies that they wish to follow are not included in the Secretary of State's imposed state curriculum? What choice will there be for local communities who wish to establish a tertiary college but are unable to do so because the opting-out proposals prevent any sensible rearrangement of education in their area? What choice will there be for the handicapped child whose special educational needs merit only four miserable lines in this monstrous Bill, when local education authorities will be prevented by the opting-out proposals from integrating those special needs into education? The claim that the Bill will provide more choice for all is fraudulent and bogus.

The Government's second claim is that the Bill will raise standards. Some of its proposals many assist in that direction. However, standards in our schools can never be properly raised unless we are prepared to put more of our national resources into education. One in three of our schools is in need of substantial repair, one in four of the roofs leak, one in five schools has outside lavatories and far too many are vastly overcrowded—all matters which Her Majesty's inspectorate has said were having a damaging impact on education.

Purely institutional changes and changes to the mechanisms by which we run our schools will not achieve raised standards unless we can find the political will to put more resources into education. The Government have absolutely no intention of doing that. They will keep the percentage of our national resource that is invested in education as low as it has always been since they came to power.

Mr. Baldry


Mr. Ashdown

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I must make it clear that for reasons of time it will have to be the last time I give way.

Mr. Baldry

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman read the 1986 annual report of the inspectors. It said that better teaching, better training and better management of resources were needed to raise standards rather than more resources. Simply to treat every problem as if it requires more resources is facile, is it not?

Mr. Ashdown

I did not say that all the problem required was more resources. I accept the need for institutional change, as the hon. Gentleman will understand if he listens a little longer. However, that alone cannot change standards. If I may direct the hon. Gentleman back to the 1986 report, he will see a catalogue of the extent to which a lack of decent buildings and equipment has inhibited the proper delivery of education. That point is powerfully expressed in the report. Perhaps he would like to read it again.

On the matter of resources, things will get worse as a result of the Bill. The proposals will require extra costs and a huge new layer of bureaucracy to administer them. Conservative Members need not take my word for that. The Audit Commission, in its response to the Government's proposals, said that the proposals would result in a reduction in efficiency … duplication of effort and a situation where if education standards are not to suffer … the Government will need to devote greater resources to education … to achieve acceptable standards. We know that the Government will not devote more resources or more money to education, so where will those extra resources come from? There is only one source. They will come from the fixed education budget that we already have. The price of imposing the Tory party's narrow ideology on every school and every pupil in Britain will be further decay of our school buildings, further deficiencies in school equipment and a further decline in the provision of school books.

Another Government claim is that the proposals will somehow remove party political interference, such as we have seen in Brent, from the running of our schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. Education has occasionally suffered from interference from extreme Left-wing town halls, but it will in future be subject to detailed day-to-day control from Whitehall. Indeed, far from removing politics from education, the proposals will ensure that the incubus of party politics is planted at the heart of every school, in the governing bodies themselves.

For proof of that, we need look no further than the words of the Prime Minister. It was she, followed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who told Tory activists at the Tory conference that their first job was to go out and work as hard as they could to ensure that "their people" were in control of governing bodies. Since then a document has been issued by Conservative Central Office entitled "Local Government Campaigning". It details the militant style tactics that should be followed by Conservatives in order to infiltrate majorities on to governing bodies.

The document says: Recent legislation has made the job of finding Conservative school governors more important than ever… you should encourage Conservative parents to apply to be school governors … and encourage Conservatives to attend meetings to ensure that 'our candidates' are appointed". What can that mean except that the Government wish to use this legislation to impose their ideology on the education system from the top, while insinuating it from the bottom by infiltrating Conservative majorities on to the governing bodies of every school? The inevitable consequence—

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ashdown

I made it clear that I would give way once and I have done so. For reasons of time, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me.

The inevitable consequence will be that many of our schools and many of our school governing bodies will become just another cockpit for the sort of confrontational politics that have blighted everywhere else in the nation. That is what the Government see as taking political interference out of our educational system! The truth is that the Bill will achieve none of the aims that the Government's propaganda claims for it.

Of course, the public aims of the Bill are not the whole story. There are hidden, malign threads running through the Bill. There is a concealed agenda containing the real intentions behind the Secretary of State's bland prose and careful propaganda.

The first of those threads is the further prosecution of his personal vendetta against local government. We should not forget that the man who brings forward this legislation is also the author of the poll tax. This was the hand which, in order to satisfy the Prime Minister's vengeance, abolished whole tiers of local government only a few years ago. This Bill comes from the same stable, is aimed at the same target and is designed for the same purpose. It is designed to destroy local government by sucking out its power and drawing all that power into the centre.

The Bill represents a massive concentration of control in the hands of the Secretary of State. He will have 170 new powers by which to dictate, impose or force his will on every school, every governing body and, if necessary, on every pupil in Britain. We are totally opposed to such powers being in the hands of any Government, let alone a Right-wing Government such as this one.

As Conservative Members file into the Lobby to vote these powers into the hands of the Secretary of State, they should have a care. The powers may not always be in the hands of their party. What would happen if we were to swop a blue Ken for a red Ken? What if the powers they will vote to the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) should end up in the hands of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone)? Would they feel as happy and smug about it then?

As long ago as the 1924–29 Tory Government, a Tory Minister, Lord Percy, said that he would not encourage control of the curriculum because nothing could be worse than to encourage a conception that teachers are servants of Government in the same way that civil servants are, and therefore must teach in their schools precisely what any future Labour Government may tell them to teach". Those are wise words. They are words that Conservative Members would be wise to heed. We believe that the centralised control of education vested in this Bill will not just be bad for education but will be dangerous for democracy as well.

Another secret item on the Government's agenda is the unscrupulous, undercover and unacceptable reintroduction of selective education. Of course, the Secretary of State does not admit as much, but his junior Ministers and the Prime Minister herself have been somewhat more frank and blunt. The effect of the opting-out proposals, the fact that they are irreversible and the ease with which a school's character can be changed will inevitably and inexorably take us back to the bad old days of selection. They will take us back to the days of a divided education system and the discarding of children at the age of 11. In fact, under this Bill children will be discarded not only at 11 but at seven, 14 and 16 as well.

The next secret intension behind the Bill is that it will produce an education system that is wooden, inflexible and totally without vision. It will produce an education system which is narrow and infused with the ideology of the Government of the day when Britain needs a system that is flexible, broadly based and constantly developing to meet the future. The proposed education system will level pupils down to the tests, whereas we should be raising them up to the limit of their abilities. It will produce an education system that will run the risk of turning schools, once again, into narrow factories churning out raw material for industry, when they should be institutions to enhance individuals for the whole of society.

I shall deal with the key proposals presented in the Bill. My party has always been in favour of a core curriculum. Indeed, it was my colleague, Shirley Williams, then the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who first mentioned the core curriculum as something we should follow. However, we seek a core curriculum built on the consensus and partnership of those involved in education. Instead, the Bill gives us a state curriculum in which teachers are seen not as partners but as servants to do the will of the Government of the day. We seek a curriculum flexible enough to meet local needs and accommodate innovation. The Bill gives us an inflexible curriculum in the hands of the Secretary of State and capable of being changed only through the processes of Parliament.

It is worth adding that the faith of the Secretary of State in his own convictions does not even extend to his sending his own children to the state schools on which he is to impose the curriculum. If the curriculum is good enough to impose on other people's children, why is it not good enough to impose on the independent sector, too? That is the question that he must answer.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Where did Shirley Williams go?

Mr. Ashdown

I do not understand the hon. Gentleman's point.

The Secretary of State seeks to impose his proposals on everyone else's children but not on the schools to which his own children go. Why should independent schools fall outside the scope of the proposals?

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle (Lincoln)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ashdown

I have already given way twice.

Mr. Carlisle


Mr. Speaker

Order. About 60 right hon. and hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. Interventions take time.

Mr. Ashdown

What we object to most about the proposals is that they give enormous power to the Secretary of State. He will have the power to decide individual programmes of study, to impose methods of assessment and to dictate the subjects that are to be taught. Given this Government's record, I would rather appoint King Herod to look after the Save The Children Fund than give the Government extra powers to control education.

The Government's proposals governing the admission of pupils are more unworkable than dangerous. They take no account of the new purposes to which buildings have been put — the establishment of computer rooms and laboratories—or to the space that will have to be found to institute them. The admission proposals will be seen as irrelevant. Moreover, they must result in larger and larger secondary schools, although the Government and everyone else say that we should move towards smaller and smaller schools. Above all, we shall want to know how the Government will ensure that the less well-off with no access to transport can take advantage of the open enrolment proposals — or are they to be left out as usual, even if there is no other choice but the local state schools?

Frankly, the Government intend nothing less than the full-scale nationalisation of higher education. That is strange, coming as it does from a party that constantly tells us that it wants to get Government off our backs. Furthermore, the proposals on higher education contain ludicrous contradictions. With one hand, the Government give a welcome new autonomy to polytechnics while with the other they impose a bureaucratic straitjacket of funding so tight that it allows no freedom of manoeuvre whatever. There can be only one reason for that—their desire to control the numbers in further and higher education which can only damage Britain's future. We need more rather than fewer pupils going into further and higher education.

On the Inner London education authority proposals, it is the Government's brazen cheek that amazes me. They have changed their mind about what to do with ILEA no fewer than three times in the past five years. Four years ago, the Secretary of State decided that proposals such as those now before the House would be damaging and would bring into being a rump of poorer deprived boroughs. He tried to explain why he had changed his mind. If he is free to change his mind, why will he not allow ILEA boroughs freedom ever to do the same? Why has he told them that, once they have made their choice, they can never go back? The Secretary of State tells us that he is doing all this for the parents, so why will he not allow boroughs to vote to return to ILEA if they wish to do so? The answer is that he wants to impose his will. He is not really interested in the views of parents or others.

I find one aspect of the ILEA proposals most revealing. The Secretary of State has always had the power to tackle the problems of London education should he wish to do so, but he has never chosen to use those powers. There can be only one reason for that: his first concern has never been for the education of London or for the future of the pupils who suffer in its schools. He has sacrificed those priorities so that he can make his political point and introduce these dangerous and unworkable proposals.

The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) made some powerful points about grant-maintained schools. The proposals governing such schools are the most pernicious and damaging in the Bill. Perhaps most important of all is the fact that the proposals in their present form will simply prevent any local education authority from planning for the future, because any school that it wishes to bring within its planning proposals can simply opt out at any time. As a consequence, local education authorities will be unable to manage overall education resources for the benefit of their area. They will be unable to rationalise resources to provide greater efficiency. They will be blocked from creating more tertiary colleges and inhibited from integrating special needs. The proposals are deeply damaging.

We accept that education needs reform, not because we swallow the Government's black propaganda about the failures of the present system but because change is essential to meet the needs of our children and of the generations yet to come. An education Bill could achieve so much, but this Bill achieves none of it. We could make a commitment to put more resources into education.

Instead, the Government will continue to underfund our schools while loading more burdens on to them. We could create new mechanisms to provide individual choice in schools so that students can pursue their particular abilities. Instead, the Government force parents to make one-off choices between schools, all too frequently at the expense of those left behind. We could be treating parents as partners in the education of their children. Instead, the Government seek to use parents as a power base for their politics.

We shall vote against the Bill for two reasons: first, it wastes a precious opportunity to reform our education system; and, secondly, it will destroy opportunities for many of the nation's children.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. May I appeal to hon. Members to make brief contributions? I have no authority to impose a 10-minute limit on speeches, but if right hon. and hon. Members limited themselves to 10 minutes, many more of them could be called.

6.18 pm
Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford)

In view of the injunction to keep speeches short, I shall not follow the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) through his speech, which was, if I may say so, a brilliant collection of 1960s buzz words and phrases. It illustrated why there is a deep doctrinal split between the two halves of what was once the alliance. When the hon. Gentleman said that there were two reasons why he would vote against the Bill I thought that one of them was the Liberal reason and the other was the SDP reason.

I welcome the Bill and support it in virtually every respect. No doubt some amendments will be made during the Bill's passage through Parliament. Unless the drafting of Bills has improved greatly since I left the Government, I expect that there will be many Government amendments. I have no doubt that this will not be the last Education Reform Bill of the decade. It is almost inevitable that another Bill will be required to take the reforms forward.

I do not wish to pick a quarrel with my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), but he should not worry too much about criticisms relating to autocracy or shortness of time on the Bill. It is within all our recollections that the Counter-Inflation (Temporary Provisions) Bill 1972 — that is, the control of prices and wages by central diktat of Government— was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup and was given a Second Reading on 8 November 1972.

The debate finished at 10 o'clock that night. It was then guillotined. The Bill had three days in Committee, and was read the Third time on 20 November. That is fairly brisk progress for a Bill that not only was not in the party's manifesto but was specifically excluded from it by a pledge in that manifesto. I should not worry too much about any comments about one nation from the man who was the Prime Minister when this country was plunged into the three-day week and when the party and the country were almost irrevocably split.

I refer now to the other Opposition. I agree with my right hon. Friend; it is not a terribly effective Opposition. Their problem is that, having no policies of their own, they have simply got to oppose for the sake of opposition. That springs essentially from an extremely unhealthy master and servant relationship between the producer trade unions and their agents, the Labour party. We shall hear nothing from the official Opposition about the interest of the consumer and everything about the interest of the producer.

I have one hope about the Bill's progress through the House. In an attempt to show value for money, the official Opposition will insist on having about 80 hours' debate on clauses 1 to 3 or thereabouts in Committee, and then force a guillotine.

Mr. Straw

That is not true.

Mr. Tebbit

The hon. Gentleman says that it is not true. I hope that it is not true. I hope that he will seek to get a deal with the Government tonight on the time that will be spent in Committee, so that there can be proper discussion throughout the proceedings. If he wants a guillotine to show his paymasters that he has a bloody neck, I am sure that we can give him a guillotine by arrangement.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett


Mr. Tebbit

I am terribly sorry: for the same reasons that other hon. Members have given, I cannot give way.

My right hon. Friend was fortunate to become Secretary of State when the consensus was beginning to emerge from many years of discussion within Government about such contentious matters as the the future of ILEA. I have never changed sides in that matter. From the beginning, I was in favour of abolition, and I am extremely proud that my colleagues have now come around to that view.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

The right hon. Gentleman would abolish education altogether —for us.

Mr. Tebbit

I notice, Mr. Speaker, that I am under attack from the intellectual wing of the Labour party.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will want to pay tribute to the influence of our colleague, my noble Friend Lord Joseph, which brought us to these conclusions. Equally, I am sure that my noble Friend Lord Joseph, would want to pay tribute to the political skills of the Secretary of State, who has crystallised many long debates into legislation that has been brought before the House.

I have made the point that I want to keep my remarks brief. My right hon. Friend made the case for the Bill extremely well. I shall not try to gild each petal of the lily, but there are some points and criticisms—a little advice, perhaps a reservation or two and some encouragement that I shall offer to him. I strongly welcome his proposals for colleges of further education to be more fully opted out and to operate commercially. The experience of many of them as contractors to the managers of YTS schemes brought them into the habit of competing for business and attuned them to the market. That has been an extremely good thing for them and is widely welcomed by principals of the FE colleges that have taken part.

A mixture of grants, attached firmly to students, and, perhaps, vouchers would do more than anything else to help colleges of further education to supply skilled and motivated people to join the work force of this country and to take our economic development forward so that we can spend more money where necessary to improve our education services even further.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will also encourage experiments in offering universities, polytechnics, and colleges of technology the chance to tender competitively for work in training students to first degree level in what are now largely taught subjects., such as many engineering subjects. Again, that would introduce the market and some discipline into universities in a way that would be extremely welcome and would open a few more windows into ivory towers and accustom people to the idea that there is another way, other than the traditional way, of measuring success and attainment.

Like many Opposition Members, I have long thought that a national curriculum would be welcome. It is an excellent concept. However, my right hon. Friend must beware that that concept is not wrecked by the paternalists and bureaucrats in the Department of Education and Science. He has to tread a narrow path between the danger of the national curriculum becoming set in concrete, as some hon. Members have suggested, and becoming just a matter of fudge and therefore totally ineffective. He is right to have a core curriculum — that is fine — but I counsel him not to overdo it.

Perhaps this Christmas, when my right hon. Friend is at home with his own children and looks at the Christmas tree, I am sure that he will agree that, although he can be responsible for the tree itself and the main parts of its decoration, he does not have precisely to position every little decoration on it. I recommend that he take the same view about the curriculum.

Enough consumer choice will encourage the professionalism among schoolteachers, and certainly among the best teachers, needed to produce the curricula that will please parents and do well for children. The best teachers will then inspire lesser teachers to follow their example. I counsel my right hon. Friend to avoid the twin dangers of concrete on one side and fudge on the other.

I counsel him also to be absolutely firm on testing. He must stand firm on pupils' attainment levels. Of course., resistance to testing comes not from pupils and parents but from teachers. It is a fear of quality control. A mark of producer-driven industry is resistance to quality control. Of course that is against consumers' interests. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) was wrong. He talked about these being tests of kids. No, they are not, as was implied by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Hicks) whose maiden speech I greatly enjoyed. Of course parents say, "I want to know how my child is doing at school." But the tests; will establish something else. They will tell how my child's; teachers are doing. That is why they are being resisted, and being particularly resisted by the agents of producer industries.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will not unduly rely on the role of school governors.

Mr. Spearing


Mr. Tebbitt

I am sorry, but I really must not give way.

It is a Socialist concept that consumers must manage production to get a fair deal. If I may take the liberty of paraphrasing him, that is essentially what my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said.

Mr. Heath

Not in that case.

Mr. Tebbitt

In that case, I have a difference with my right hon. Friend again. I try to find common ground where I can. The concept of customers having to manage in order to get a decent deal was the concept which prevented the co-operative movement from ever being able to compete with Sainsburys or Tescos in the high street. It is essentially a Socialist concept which gave us consumer councils to try to control nationalised industries in the interests of consumers, and that failed too.

Mr. Ashdown

So we got a privatised British Telecom —and that was better?

Mr. Tebbit

I will not go into that, because I have a particular interest and the House does not welcome those with an interest making the case, but I would be glad to take the hon. Gentleman outside and give him a lecture about it. Rational, normal people do not want to manage their local supermarket or local branch of Marks and Spencer to get decent service. Boards of governors will always risk being filled with non-representative activists or ineffective people who do very little.

I thought the hon. Member for Yeovil had a pretty good cheek in quoting from a Conservative publication. He must have read the sort of stuff that comes from the Association of Liberal Councillors, its accounts of dirty tricks which have to be played and the way in which politics should be taken everywhere. He is probably familiar with its account of dirty tricks being played against his partners at the moment. My right hon. Friend should not rely just on the governors to opt schools out, but should himself consider taking positive powers to opt schools out to ensure that consumer choice is widely spread more quickly.

The Bill is a great reform Bill, in line with others of the past eight years. That is why the opposition comes from the same entrenched interests, some even from the Government as well as from the Opposition. The unions and their bag carriers in the Labour party claim that parents do not want choice, that they are not capable of exercising choice and that they like what they get today. Let us wait and see, because that is the story they gave us when we proposed selling council houses. They said that council tenants did not want to be home owners, they were not sufficiently responsible, if they became home owners they would neglect their homes, and, in any case, it would make all the others worse. That is exactly the same argument they gave us against reform of the trade unions, when they said that trade unionists did not want to ballot to elect their leaders or to decide whether or not to go on strike and anyway, if they were allowed ballots they would only elect extremists and would be on strike all the time.

In other words, they said, "Don't trust the people." That has been a familiar strain for a long time, as far back as when my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup ended resale price maintenance. The reactionaries, paternalists and producer interests said that shoppers were incapable of recognising value for money and that they liked fixed prices, not competition.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

They were on the Government side.

Mr. Tebbit

Indeed, many were on the Government side, but that was the Conservative party that was, not the Conservative party that is. I pay great tribute to my right hon. Friend for his role in starting the era of change in the Tory party from the defender of the producer to the defender of the consumer. The same reactionaries today oppose income tax cuts. They say that wage earners are unfit to decide their own priorities and need a nanny state to tell them not only where they can live, who their trade union leaders are and which school their children must go to, but how they should spend their wage packet.

The Bill extends choice and responsibility. Of course some will choose badly or irresponsibly, but that cannot and must not be used as an excuse to deny choice and responsibility to the great majority. Today only the wealthy have choice in education, and that must change. We accept that people have the common sense and maturity to form political parties and select party candidates—with one or two exceptions in the Labour party, where it is now denied to them—to vote for the local authorities which will become the LEAs and to vote for Members of Parliament.

The opposition to the Bill arises from the mistrust of people's ability to manage their affairs and make choices. Perhaps the Labour party has reason to believe that it should doubt the wisdom of the people after the treatment it has had in the past 10 years, but that does not apply to Government Members. We trust the people and believe that they are the best defenders of their own interests. That is why I support the Bill.

6.36 pm
Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

It is as if the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) is the true begetter of the Bill. He referred to the doctrinal spirit on the alliance Benches, but earlier he observed the so-evident split between the Treasury Bench and the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). He went for the jugular of his former Prime Minister, in typical splitting image manner, being extremely rude to him, and then was at his chintzy best with his Christmas tree image. I shall treasure the look of the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) at the side of the right hon. Member for Chingford as he made his speech.

I declare my sponsorship by the National Union of Teachers. The Secretary of State for Education and Science delivered a low-key, silken speech, but he took a very heavy mauling from the former Prime Minister. When last did a former Prime Minister describe a major Bill of his own party on Second Reading as a confidence trick? Has that ever taken place?

Mr. Stott

His former PPS.

Mr. Jones

The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup has the steel, and he brought the House alive today.

When the Government have finished their political business, the education service, like other public services, will be hanging like a gutted rabbit outside the poulterer's shop. It is repugnant to hear the Cabinet's Second Reading proposals, while en masse Cabinet Members are sending their sons and daughters to elitist public schools.

The Bill is a reform opportunity for the better-off, not for the under-privileged. It is an opportunity for the highly motivated middle-class parents of Sussex, Kent or Hampshire and for the cathedral towns and university enclaves, perhaps summed up by saying that the Bill is for sleek, middle England. The Bill cannot hope to end the divisions between north and south. It heavily underlines the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

It is worth looking at the Bill in the context of mass unemployment, the sale of the nation's assets, the export of capital and the rundown of our welfare state—all the worries of our communities. Will the Bill help beleaguered black communities in rotting city centres or the jobless in the steel closure townships of Wales and north Britain? It will not help the stricken shipbuilding areas of the north-east, where unemployment is at its worst. It will not help to cope with the dereliction of the old cotton empire in the north-west of England.

Regrettably, the unimaginable and God given has happened—since 1979, the God-given reserves of North sea oil have not been used by the Conservative Administration to construct a confident state school system. We must remember that the Government have held office since 1979 and had the benefit of the revenue from North sea oil. Since 1979, the Conservative Administration have failed our youngsters.

We must consider the reality. Many parents are at their wits' end about the prospects for the education of their children. They are desperate for investment; they want repairs and extensions to their schools; they want classrooms, halls and corridors decorated; they want equipment repaired and replaced and they want better and new textbooks. Anyone who believes that that is an exaggeration need only read the reports of Her Majesty's inspectorate for England and Wales. It is a worrying catalogue, even though it is couched in diplomatic language. It is a condemnation of the stewardship of the Conservative Administration.

I met a group of youngsters at a high school in Queensferry in my constituency about a fortnight ago. I realised that, although I represent a constituency with high unemployment, I had underestimated its impact on the lives of those youngsters. Even at the tender age of 15, they were worried about the difficulties of obtaining proper paid jobs. There was somebody in each of their families who was jobless, and it was encroaching on their young lives at school.

Teachers are demoralised; the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup effectively demonstrated that. They are angry and worried about job security. They feel that they have been misrepresented by Ministers, and have become vulnerable as changes advance. What I find worrying, as a former class teacher and a former Education Minister, is the growing divide between the head teacher and his staff, between the head's study and the common room, as the Government have successively imposed their will on the teaching profession. That is not good for our children, and the Bill exacerbates this worrying problem.

The Government are stupid in not realising that, if teachers are not happy, they cannot give of their best for our youngsters. The Government have declared war on the teaching profession and they will pay bitterly for that.

Administrators consider the Bill to be an immense advance in the Secretary of State's powers. In future years, their capacity to help and advise schools in working-class areas will diminish to the point of futility.

I must tell the Secretary of State that the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Wales, and I suspect in England, is worried about some aspects of the Bill. I ask him and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales to meet the Archbishop of Wales and his bishops from the Roman Catholic church to discuss their fears.

The Secretary of State quoted Disraeli and referred to Balfour and R. A. Butler. The advance to full citizenship of ordinary people in Britain has been by post-war reforms and by free and universal education provision. Mr. Gladstone said that we had better educate our masses, Mr. Butler codified the requirements — age, ability and aptitude—and Mr. Attlee delivered the new service.

I think that the Bill will be unworkable. The current position is unsatisfactory and the Bill will make it worse. The Secretary of State made the best of a bad Bill by his clever presentation. However, I accuse him of placing his ambition to succeed the Prime Minister before his duty to the nation's school service. I further accuse him of setting parents against teachers. He is starving the service of adequate funds, sufficient teachers and sufficient equipment. What we need to prepare our school service for the difficulties of the next century is a healer at the helm, not a divider.

We want a ministerial statesman, not a partisan. By the Bill, the Government are throwing away the chance of educational advance based on a national unity of purpose. Our 21st century future will be weakened by the grave defects of the Bill. This is an unjust Bill; the Secretary of State should be ashamed of presenting it, and it must be stopped.

6.46 pm
Mr. Alan Amos (Hexham)

It is an honour and a privilege to be a member of the greatest Parliament in the world, and in particular to represent the Hexham constituency. It is a daunting task to follow in the footsteps of Mr. Geoffrey Rippon, who achieved preeminence in each of his three chosen professions — in politics as a senior Cabinet Minister, in the law as a Queen's counsel and in business as a company chairman. That is the mark of a man of rare talent. I hope that I can achieve equal success in my one chosen profession of politics.

The Hexham constituency must be the most stunningly beautiful seat in the country, containing the most hospitable and generous of people. It is 1,000 square miles that is rich in history and diverse in its activities, including farming, forestry and factories.

The north traditionally breeds tough Members of Parliament who have stamina — with the distances involved, that is necessarily so. Although my constituents are warm and welcoming people, they will not be pushed around and will defend their interests. At this very moment my village of Gilsland is fighting off an annexation attempt by Cumbria. Next year, we shall successfully celebrate the 600th anniversary of the battle of Otterburn.

Our engineering skills built the eighth wonder of the world — Hadrian's wall. Admittedly, some of the workers may have been unwilling in their task, but my constituents are canny and shrewd enough to know a good investment when they see one.

As for agriculture, I can assure the House that the farmers are friendly, the people are proud, the cattle are content and the sheep are satisfied. With regard to industry, we have the best and the famous, and have firms that are not to be sneezed at: Kimberley Clarke makes Kleenex; Crown Paints are at Haltwhistle; Espagna International is in Hexham; and Killfrost constantly wins Queen's awards for industry.

If it is leisure that one is looking for in the constituency, there is Hexham abbey, Kielder Water, Northumberland national park, the beauty of Byrness, cultivated Corbridge and the excitement of the Allenheads project. If one wants something a little more mysterious — I am sure that some hon. Members may — there is the Allendale tar barrelling festival, which happens on new year's day. Yet so successful have we been in attracting new enterprises to the area that, from Prudhoe to Ponteland and from Haltwhistle to Haydon Bridge, we need bypasses; I hope the Government will take note. Incidentally, we also need the dualling of the A69 west of Hexham.

My sincere belief in the spirit of enterprise leads me to urge the House to support the Bill. Providing that there is the safety net of a welfare state to help people in real and genuine need, peace and prosperity can best be achieved through a policy of equality of opportunity in an endeavour to build a meritocracy, a society in which everyone has a real chance to make of their lives what they will, regardless of who or what they are. Let us not seek, therefore, after the illusion of equality of achievement, for that is the one thing which both the United States and the Soviet Union agree is misguided.

We are all too familiar with the cycle of deprivation or the poverty trap. The best and perhaps only way in which individuals and groups can escape from their disadvantages of birth is through a system of free state education which provides every child with an appropriate and stimulating curriculum, together with a means to ensure that his or her potential is realised. I look forward to the day when the independent sector contracts considerably because parents have so much confidence in state schools that they no longer want or need to send their children to private schools.

The Bill deserves the support of the House because it is a radical and reforming measure which boldly and imaginatively creates a dynamic framework to take our education system fully into the 21st century by properly identifying and doing something about the nation's needs. We are looking not only at what is taught but at how it is being taught. The Bill will ensure that we have a well educated, adaptable, mobile and tolerant work force and society. Our economy, social customs and lifestyles are undergoing a massive transformation. Therefore, we simply do not have the option as to whether or not our education system should experience similar forces. It must. Rather than just reacting to events, the system should harness and channel this great social and economic revolution.

I find it predictable and therefore so very depressing that, while so many vested interests pay lip service to the need for change and say that they believe in the national curriculum and in decision-making being taken down to the most local level, we then face criticism when we introduce these very proposals. Yet we are not offered any constructive alternatives. My local education authority and the schools in Northumberland are justly praised for many of their innovations and for undertaking so many exciting initiatives in curriculum development. Our proposals will encourage further positive developments.

Let us be honest; there is a national problem. As a teacher for eight years in a state school I always found it a tragic waste to see so many youngsters being needlessly and pointlessly dragged through watered down academic courses in which they had no interest and for which they had little aptitude or ability. Their innate skills and interests were being wasted. I found that tragic. Therefore, we are right to challenge the status quo.

Mass comprehensivisation — and I taught in a comprehensive school—has not proved the panacea to bring about higher standards. If it were, we would not be discussing this Bill. Last week's report from the adult literacy and basic skills unit showed that 6 million adults have basic problems with reading, writing, spelling and simple arithmetic, all at a time when society demands an increasingly highly qualified work force.

The unthinking hostility towards assessment and testing is misguided. Unless children are provided with targets to work towards and then tested to see how far their targets have been achieved, how can we ever know whether pupils and schools are realising their potential? It is not a question of pass or fail but rather of assessing what a child has achieved in relation to what he or she could have achieved. For example, how do we know that the schools with the best examination results have not become complacent?

When I was chairman of Enfield education committee, where I was on good terms with the chief officers, I was always being told, "Alan, this policy is impossible." My reply unfailingly was, "Right; go ahead and do it." So the impossible was done time and time again. For example, we published our examination results before we were obliged to do so. All the predicted disasters of league tables did not materialise. In fact, the main result was a determination by all schools to improve their performance. The point was that parents had a right to that information. Whether or not they used it was entirely up to them, but they had the right to it.

In our burgeoning enterprise culture, we are building a land of liberty and opportunity. But the extent of liberty depends on a knowledge of what there is and of what more is possible, and opportunity is only possible if people are encouraged to take advantage of the possibilities of improvement without the hindrances of those social engineers who wish to prevent the dynamism of diversity. That is why the House should back the concept of open enrolment. Why should the choice of parents be artificially curtailed? Who are the people who say that they know best?

Open enrolment and city technology colleges will give millions of people an escape route from the deprivation of many neighbourhood comprehensives. It is the height of arrogance for some people to assume that working class parents are not as interested in their children's education as are middle class parents. Six years ago when I was advocating for Enfield the very policies now in the Bill, I was told that they were impossible. That fact alone gives me enormous reason to believe that they will be a great success, like all the other impossibilities.

Let us again challenge the stodgy thinking head on, this time on the right of schools to opt out. If a majority of parents and governors are so dissatisfied with the quality of education in their school, who has the right to stop them seeking a way to improve standards?

One strength of the Bill is that so much of it rests on the principle of popular choice. It will be up to the people themselves to decide whether their school is to opt out of LEA control and whether schools should expand or contract. Nobody need fear our proposals. Far from it —people should see them as a golden opportunity to be grasped which will make the classroom more relevant to the world of work. Therefore, I proclaim that the days of the trendy lefty establishment are numbered, and that the people are taking over at last.

6.55 pm
Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Amos) on his maiden speech. The wit, confidence and interesting detail with which he described his constituency and the local customs show that he will add colour and interest to our future debates.

As someone who has taught for over 30 years, I wish to speak about the real world in schools and in the classrooms. Over a long teaching career I have seen fashions come and fashions go. With each swing of the pendulum zealots tend to throw out the baby with the bathwater, much to the detriment of the children for whom those years may be their sole education.

At the moment, it seems to be fashionable to attack and throw out the concept of child-centred education. That is a concept for which our primary schools are justly famous. Visitors come from all over the world to see what we are doing and how our child-centred education operates. Child-centred education is linked with continous assessment.

Years ago, I taught 45 children in a class. We tested them with exams and placed them in each subject and in all subjects overall. That was fine for those who came in the first three, but disastrous for those who came near the bottom. Hon. Members will remember from their own childhood that those who came in the first three were always the same. That kind of testing did great damage. It is much harder for teachers to carry out continous assessment.

Today's teachers—I thank the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) for his kind remarks about teachers — are competent, devoted, and hardworking. They care about the children they teach and. they know each child thoroughly. Child-centred education with continuous assessment enables each child to reach his or her full potential. The children are happy, and children who are happy learn well, while children who are unhappy with a bad self-image do not.

All civilised people want children with special needs to be integrated into ordinary schools. Child-centred education enables that to be done, provided the schools are not starved of resources—an important factor.

The Minister talked about parents' right to know how their children are getting on. Parents of children whose teachers engage in continuous assessment are given a good picture on open day of how their children are getting on. In the old grammar school, the teacher would often sit there with a book full of marks, but was not too sure to which child those marks referred. That testing did not do much good when parents asked to know how their child was getting on but got a bit of waffle instead.

Conservative Members have a misplaced faith in testing. Testing is not teaching, and time spent in testing and keeping account of it detracts from the available contact time with the children. Therefore, one must be sure that such testing is valid.

Is the testing objective? Multiple choice tests are fairly objective, but essay-type tests, such as at O and A-level, can only be marked subjectively. I do not want to go into the correlation between A-level results and eventual achievement at university, but it is a total failure.

I want to talk about my experience of teaching children in the days of the 11-plus because experience is a good measure. In those days as a young teacher I used to ask children—perhaps not very imaginatively—to write an essay entitled "Myself when they first came to the school. This was a quick way to find out something about them. The essays were always the same or similar—"I broke my arm; I was in hospital; I had my tonsils out; my nan died; my cat was run over." There was always a series of disasters which ended with "I failed the 11-plus."

This means that I was faced with a class of depressed children who, at the age of 11, were convinced that they were failures, whose self-image was destroyed, and, what is more, many of whose parents were convinced that their children were failures. And that was even worse because then they had no one but the teacher to try to build up their confidence. Sometimes it took years to restore the self-image of such children and sometimes it could not be done at all. Children whose self-image is bad do not achieve their potential or learn well. The 11-plus was a vicious examination.

I remember once in a restaurant a well-dressed, well-spoken, pleasant young man coming up to me and saying, "Mrs. Gordon, I used to go to the school where you taught, but you will not remember me because you taught the 'A' stream and I was a 'C'." I never felt so guilty as in that moment when that young man, who had made something of his life and had done well, was back there in the C stream as soon as he saw me. The cruelty of that system and the knowledge that I was part of it determined me to fight against it ever being reintroduced.

We are now being asked to extend that cruelty to younger and younger children. Public testing at the age of seven means that the teacher must cast a beady eye on five-year-olds to see whether they will pass the 7-plus. No; that is something that we must fight. That only gives choice to the early starters who are a small minority. At least 75 per cent, will be left out of that system and the cruelty that it perpetrates cannot be denied.

I have always believed that the creation of the small outer London education authorities was a mistake. I worked for the old London county council, which was replaced by ILEA. I worked for Brent and I worked for 12 years for Barnet. Hon. Members may be surprised to know that Brent and Barnet were not very different. Those small authorities could not give the facilities, the opportunities or the help to the teachers and the children that a larger authority, which could rationalise its resources, could give. The further fragmentation of education authorities will be disastrous.

Since I have been in Parliament, which is not very long, I have received letters from constituents for and against every new Bill that is proposed. I have not received a single letter in favour of the opting-out proposal. I have had petitions and letters from governors, parent-teacher associations and individuals, all against that proposal. All feel that it will be a disaster for the children in Tower Hamlets, and I feel it, too. I hope that the Tower Hamlets council will not make the mistake of taking the choice that will be offered to them by this dreadful Bill.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms. Gordon

I do not think so. It would not be fair to those 60 hon. Members who still want to speak, and I want to come to a conclusion.

Teachers have been antagonised and maligned by the Government. The idea of adding the equivalent of five working days to their year fails to recognise the fact that almost every teacher I know has given 10 times that amount of extra work voluntarily without being asked, and it is a slur on and an insult to the teaching profession.

What is really behind the Bill? The Government have antagonised teachers and now they will antagonise parents and governors. The Bill is not a revolutionary improvement in education but will put the clock back. It is a return to elitism. It will lead inevitably to the creation of sink schools and will undermine the good work that has been done by comprehensive schools in raising standards.

The Bill will create great disappointment in many parents who have been fooled into believing that it will be easier for them to send their children to their preferred school. The majority of parents now get the preferred school, but the Bill will mean that, instead of parents choosing schools, schools will choose the parents. Behind the Bill there is the sinister shadow of vouchers. If vouchers are ever introduced, those who have money to add to the vouchers will get a good education for their children; the rest of the children will get a voucher education which will create sink schools, starved of resources—a low level of education for children who are destined for the dole.

I do not like this Bill. I hope that education authorities will not fall into its trap, and I hope that something can be done to save our children from the torments of the examinations it suggests.

7.9 pm

Mr. Michael Heseltine (Henley)

I begin by saying how impressed I—and, I am sure, the whole House—have been by the two excellent maiden speeches on the Government side to which we have listened today. As is customary, we heard much about the constituencies my hon. Friends represent and we found the descriptions interesting. But what will have impressed everyone was the conspicuous eloquence of those who have had first-hand experience of the subject about which they speak. They had obviously excelled at their jobs as teachers, and they brought their experience to the House in their contributions to this debate. We shall remember what they have said and will look forward to future contributions from them. We hope that they will do as well on wider subjects as they have on education.

There is a real and well-rehearsed controversy that surrounds every attempt of central Government to influence or direct the affairs of local authorities. There is a proper constitutional debate about whether powers should be left to local people to determine or whether responsibilities should be assumed by Secretaries of State; but in practice all of us who have seen this conflict waged in various spheres over the past 10 or 20 years know very well that the constitutional niceties of the issue are always set out on one side and that Governments are, quite rightly, determined to have their way where they accept a proper responsibility for the provision of a service.

This case is no exception. We are dealing with a mandate given to this Government and the determination of the Secretary of State to bring about a fundamental reform in the provision of education. Of course, all those who object will say that there has been insufficient consultation and inadequate time, although they will then spend a great deal of time explaining why they thought of many of the ideas in this Bill and why various earlier Governments or parties had consultation documents or great debates in another era, and how much of what we are doing has been under discussion for as long as one can conveniently remember.

So I urge my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State —who needs no encouragement—to stand his ground and to proceed with this legislation, controversial though it undoubtedly is. The reality is that we needed controversy in education long ago and that what my right hon. Friend is now attempting to do is not a matter for regret, except in the sense that it is long overdue. The debate about the quality of educational provision in this country and its inadequacy when compared with that of our European neighbours has gone on for a hundred years. One of the features of our failure to deal with the problem is that Government have remained detached while carrying all the responsibility. They have lacked the ability to produce results. It is this problem that the debate on the present Bill is intended to resolve.

Let us have no illusions about the scale of the reforms which my right hon. Friend has addressed. He is pointing to a less comfortable world and it will, in that sense, be more difficult, more arduous and more demanding for those who go through the educational process. He addresses these problems because he knows that if he is not prepared to insist that children are equipped to the standards of the modern world, they will miss out on the opportunities of that world, and he is determined that this shall not happen. At every stage, therefore, from childhood to adulthood and in every part of the education process, individuals will have to carry a greater responsibility for their own performance.

Instead of a system which seeks to obscure everyone's ability for fear that the less able will lose out, we shall have a much franker and more stimulating environment where success is recognised and measured. Instead of hiding the examination results of all schools so that no one can point to indifferent results, we shall see schools competing to persuade parents that the standards of individual schools are the highest available. Teachers will be judged against the background of facts that relate to their school and their performance. The more generalised, the more cosy and the less accountable days are over, in education as in many other aspects of British performance.

Many teachers will welcome a clarification of the standards that they are expected to achieve and will respond with pride in their ability to achieve them. No one should see these proposals as being against the interests of teachers. We all know — and the Secretary of State is right to point it out—of the dedication of many in that profession, and we certainly know that those who are today charged with teaching our children are the generation of teachers upon whom we are totally dependent for the performance of our children as they grow up. They are the teachers whom we have; we must be proud of them and support them, although it is perfectly legitimate for Government to expect them to measure up to the highest standards available.

We also know that these proposals will shift the emphasis of the debate away from those who only talk about standards in favour of those who want to prove that they can achieve standards. Those who will gain most from this process are not the most talented children because they will come through whatever the system: they have a natural ability to win and they will win. The people who will prove to be the greatest beneficiaries of what we are discussing here tonight are those forgotten children of whom nothing is expected and who achieve little.

Regular testing — we are talking only about core testing in English, maths and science—is not designed to propel those children into obscurity at the back of the form. That is precisely what the present system does. The low attainer in our present system rapidly becomes the no attainer. Regular testing will have the opposite effect, as those children who are at the bottom of the pile will, as a consequence of the special tests to be applied, expect to receive special remedial tuition to bring them up to the standards below which they would otherwise fall. It is these children who are the natural recruits to the queues of the long-term unemployed. These are the people who stand to gain most from personal testing which prevents them from getting into that situation in the first place.

We have heard a lot from Opposition Members about the standards in the inner cities following the introduction of comprehensive education. What those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have forgotten is that, as they set out to end social division by abolishing grammar and secondary modern schools and introducing and imposing comprehensive education, what they actually did by their social engineering was to extend the geographical separation and division of people in our society, because the inner-city comprehensive was so decisively separated from the suburban comprehensive that a whole generation of those who could afford to choose—including large numbers of people who used to vote for the Labour party —went to the suburbs and the new housing estates; and the effect on those left behind was catastrophic. It is the addressing of this problem that is at the heart of the matter.

In commending the thrust of this legislation, I want to urge my right hon. Friend to look again at two specific parts of the Bill. I do this not from any hesitation in supporting what my right hon. Friend seeks to achieve but from precisely the opposite stance. My concern arises from the voluntary nature of some of the proposals. I must say to him—he will understand the spirit in which I say it— that his characteristic tolerance and generosity may indeed overwhelm his best intentions if he pursues the voluntary route.

Mr. Flannery

You are killing us.

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Gentleman has been dead from the neck up for years.

The first proposal which I would like to discuss with my right hon. Friend is that of opting out. No one pretends — certainly not my right hon. Friend — that he can foresee the pace at which individual decisions to opt out will be made. Without contradiction, it is obvious that in many parts of the country the right to opt out will coincide with a substantial fall in the number of children in our schools. The number of children of secondary school age will have fallen by 1,100,000 between 1979 and 1990. Between 1990 and the end of the century, under a quarter of that dramatic drop of more than 1 million children will have been restored. When we consider the regional variations and specifically the balance within the urban community in the regions, we realise that there is a spiral of educational decline that adds a dramatic additional dimension to the urban problem already affecting many of the less privileged parts of the community.

To manage that scale of reduction and achieve value for money in the education programme, it must follow that very significant reductions in the number of schools must take place. The worst outcome would be to run our educational system within buildings that are only half or two thirds used. That is not only the worst way to raise the quality of education, but, as the Audit Commission has said, it perpetuates an annual waste of the best part of £750 million because we are not getting value for money out of the existing educational budget. No hon. Member of whatever party can afford to ignore wasted expenditure of the tune of £750 million a year if he is seeking to improve educational standards.

The responsibility for proposing reorganisation lies exclusively with local education authorities. It is predictable that any proposed closure within such a reorganisation is likely to precipitate a local popular demand to opt out for the schools that are threatened with closure. Where excess capacity is built into the system, the Secretary of State will no more want to pay the bills for that excess capacity than the local education authority. Expectations will have been raised and indeed possibly encouraged by local politicians anxious to divert attention from what they know must happen by suggesting that somehow or other my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will have a pot of gold to keep the school in existence. When my right hon. Friend faces a choice between frustrating a rationalisation or saying no to parents who want to opt out, he will find himself disappointing people and conceivably incurring political odium for doing so.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has no powers to put forward any positive rationalisation proposals of his own. He is in danger of having to accept indifferent rationalisation proposals and having to turn down unacceptable opt-out proposals. He may not wish to wait until after rationalisation before approving an opt-out. I do not suggest that he separates the two procedures by insisting that there is a rationalisation before opt-out. I suggest that my right hon. Friend protects himself from a situation in which his essentially negative powers leave him having to refuse requests from local parents while being able to do no more than accept, reject or tinker at the margin with the rationalisation proposals of local education authorities. I stress that my right hon. Friend's power of modification is only at the margin of the proposals put to him by education authorities. I believe that that is a fundamental weakness which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would be wise to address.

I urge my right hon. Friend to make himself a positive party to the rationalisation process. The Department of Education and Science should be able to submit its rationalisation plans alongside those of the local education authority and the Secretary of State should be able to submit both plans to a form of local consultation to be determined, as now, by the Secretary of State. Such a proposal is new in education, but is not unprecedented, as anyone familiar with planning or transportation politics must realise. Central Governments put forward proposals and sometimes they put forward competing proposals. There are inquiries, inspectors' reports and the Secretary of State then determines.

A further advantage of the proposal is that it would force local education authorities which were being dilatory in putting forward reorganisation plans — for fear, perhaps, that they would precipitate the very opt-out problems that they wish to avoid—to accept that they have no choice but to get on with the urgent task of rationalising the provision of education to meet the much lower demand created by the changing population.

It will be argued that that is further centralism. I do not want to deny that, because in a sense that is so. I do not see anything inherently unacceptable in such a proposition. I believe that the concept that the Secretary of State should be responsible for the standards of education in this country, but that he should be denied the tools to do the job effectively, is fundamentally flawed. The essence of the legislation is that central Government are taking powers to reform education. Government have the right to do that. They are reforming education not to concentrate power on themselves, but to shift power out into the hands of the heads, governors and parents involved. That is a process of decentralising power and educational opportunities, but it may need the positive role of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He should consider taking that role.

My second and even more substantial concern lies with the Government's proposals for the Inner London education authority. I must ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to bear with me, as he has heard my views on this subject many times. When I persuaded the Cabinet to get rid of the Greater London council and the metropolitan councils it was my one regret that we could not carry that very much required reform through by removing ILEA at the same time.

I simply do not understand how the metropolitan districts of the north-west, the north-east, Yorkshire, the west midlands and the outer London boroughs can be considered perfectly able to provide a local authority education service and yet in the inner London boroughs that service must be carried out by an educational dinosaur of historic proportions. If ILEA's costs were lower and its standards were higher, I could understand the arguments, but no one can begin to base a case on either of those assumptions because the evidence does not exist.

It used to be said that the complexity of the further education system in central London precluded a break-up of ILEA. Now, quite rightly, the Secretary of State has blown that argument out of the water by giving the polytechnics their independence. What was deemed impossible, is now almost miraculously possible. However, having rightly determined to break the log jam, the Government have replaced that with what I perceive to be the next worst solution. The concept is that ILEA should be allowed to wither on the vine and that those boroughs that want to opt out should be free to do so while those that remain should be clustered around in some ever-dimishing political laager.

I understand the argument for voluntarism that lies behind such an approach. I believe that the case against ILEA is so overwhelming that such an approach is an appropriate and legitimate decision for Government to take. The cause of effective education and the pursuit of better value for money in the centre of the capital city should be the prime consideration, not how we allow the rundown of ILEA to take place.

The case was at its most extreme during the by-election fought in Wandsworth a few days ago. It proved to be a triumphant result for the Conservative party. We are all aware that there will be more by-elections. Does it really make sense for the education policy of such a borough to live under the political uncertainty of one by-election after another which in the end—as we are all aware—will be much more a reflection of the national Government's standing than about the local issues involved?

I realise that some boroughs will opt out quickly and, frankly. Which of us would not in their position? However, as some go, the management problems of ILEA will increase. Its overheads will be spread over a narrower base, its best staff will look elsewhere and its recruitment problems will intensify. One could take the narrow view that that is the responsibility and the bad luck of ILEA because it should do its job better. However, it is not enough for the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who is responsible for the standards in the classrooms, to take that narrow view about ILEA. He should see the effect that such a procedure would have on the quality of education as its affects children. That intensifies the argument for addressing the issue.

In the commercial world, no company could properly adopt a policy of allowing an inefficient part of its business simply to drift into terminal decline. There is only one proper approach — to mend or to end. As the Government show no intention and do not seek the power to mend, the only proper approach is to end ILEA.

If we do not do so, we must recognise the effect of the projected poll tax on those constituencies that are covered by ILEA. I do not want to discuss the merits of the poll tax proposals today, but this is the day to recognise the devastating impact on local government finance of allowing ILEA to survive. The Government's own figures for over-spending in the inner-London boroughs show that in the lowest-spending boroughs, such as Kensington and Westminster, the ILEA precept accounts for more than their entire overspend. Of course those boroughs will opt out. However, the London boroughs that are controlled by Opposition parties are much less likely to do so. In four out of the six Opposition boroughs, ILEA's overspend accounts for more than half the entire overspend. Those boroughs have no real power to act on that at the moment.

If the Government really believe that they will win the argument that poll tax levels are ILEA's fault in the constituencies of inner London, they can argue for the voluntary approach. However, I should much prefer to avoid the risk. Even at what I realise is a late hour in the legislative process, I urge my right hon. Friend to think again and to take the simple decision to bring ILEA to an end properly and efficiently. He should do that now, in this Bill, in the early years of this Parliament. That will save money, improve education and avoid one of the most predictable and potentially damaging issues of the next election.

7.32 pm
Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley)

The Bill has already been presented as a successor to the great Education Acts of 1870,1902 and 1944. On one count, that claim is probably justified because a major reforming education Act is due, if not already overdue. However, as the basis of a new education Act, the Bill fails on two counts to match the credentials of its predecessors. First and foremost, it fails because those earlier Acts were constructive in purpose and unifying in their application. It is evident in many ways that what the Secretary of State is now proposing is fundamentally destructive and divisive.

Secondly, and in the longer term probably more seriously, the Bill fails because it is without the shared commitment of those interests which have an established and valued part in a service that is vital to the present and future well-being of the country.

That shared commitment or partnership, to use a term that has been used at different times and in other places by the Secretary of State, is conspicuously lacking. However, that was painstakingly built to provide the foundation of the Butler Act. That shared commitment or partnership is lacking for want of consultation and because of imposition. No doubt the Secretary of State will tell us that he has consulted extensively and that, in any case, he is under no obligation to do so.

We should consider the speciousness of those claims. In the flush of his post-June enthusiasm, and on a largely unsuspecting education service, a flood of so-called consultation documents descended. Consultation was thus initiated at virtually the moment when schools and the House of Commons had closed for the long summer recess. Insufficient copies of the consultation documents were supplied to those with a legitimate interest in their proposals and therefore a reason to comment on them; and on a time scale that was ludicrously short given the issues involved and the scant thought that was evidently given to them in the Department of Education and Science papers.

On the last point about time scale, the House may care to reflect on the scale and the length of the consultation process required of local education authorities by the Secretary of State on proposals affecting a single school. It is extensive, elaborate, and takes many months even when done with maximum expedition and effectiveness, and then has to be followed by a statutory period for objections to be made. Bearing in mind that the Secretary of State's proposals affect all the statutory sector of education in England and Wales, it might be thought that it merits rather more than the two months that he afforded for comment on them.

Of course, since he has no duty to consult, the right hon. Gentleman fails to see the wisdom of doing so or at least doing so effectively. The wisdom of genuine consultation is that it provides the opportunity for the thoughts and views of others to be offered, and even adopted. From that process can, and sometimes does, come refinement and improvement of original propositions, benefiting from a wider experience and expertise. Equally important, come those qualities of constructiveness and unification, so conspicuously lacking in the proposed legislation. In the end, if the Secretary of State is so convinced he has the right of all the arguments, and the issues in his Bill, why should he fear a properly structured consultation process?

In the context of previous education Acts, which were major elements of national regeneration, it is therefore worth reflecting on why it is that, besides local education authorities, the Anglican and Catholic Churches; moderate Tory opinion, within and outside LEAs; the Manpower Services Commission; professional organisations, as well as teacher unions; parents' organisations; and many other bodies, and individuals, have all expressed considerable concern. Although that concern has been about time, and the process in relation to consultation, it has been most strongly felt about the substance of what is proposed.

The problem with this, and why such deep concern is so widely felt, is the inherent conflict running through the various proposals now being made, and in relation to other Government policies. This conflict lies between the extremes of rampant consumerism, cellophane-wrapped as increased delegation, greater choice and improved quality, and the need for system-wide coherence and planning of provision to achieve the Audit Commission's three E's of economy, efficiency and effectiveness, as well as the socially necessary fourth E of equality—equality, that is, of provision and opportunity.

Let me give some simple illustrations of this conflict arising from the changes proposed. Government policy currently requires LEAs to rationalise school provision, and remove surplus places but, in future, schools will be able to admit virtually without restriction, or to opt out.

To date, on Department of Education and Science targets and figures, local education authorities have removed surpluses, very successfully. A major factor in dealing with falling rolls has been redeployment policies, that have been agreed with teachers. Such policies will be inoperable in the future, and redundancy will become the only option for some teachers. Indeed, one of the main worries in my area is that teachers to whom I speak, who are good teachers with five or six years of service remaining, have said to me, "If the proposals go through, I will take early retirement." That would be a disaster because excellent teachers who have spent a lifetime in the profession educating our young children have now said that they will leave the profession.

I know one teacher very well — I have admired her work for many years—and she is one of those teachers who I thought would have to be literally dragged out of the education service when she reached retirement age. She had got five excellent, effective years to go. However, if this Bill sees its way through the House and is translated into legislation, I am afraid that it will be our loss and her gain because she will be free of the constraints that the Secretary of State has placed upon the education service in the past few years. He is ma king heavier weather of the education service with this Bill.

I am greatly concerned that LEAs could be taken before employment tribunals for a grievance that they have not caused and could not prevent. Again, power is being taken away from local authorities, but responsibility is being left with them. The LEAs will retain the responsibility of employer, but there will be severe restrictions placed upon their powers to appoint, dismiss, discipline or promote teachers. That will cause great problems.

The LEAs will face rising unit costs as they will lose the opportunity to effect economies of scale with authority-wide purchasing contracts. Indeed, what is worse, they will lose that opportunity if schools opt out in the proportion referred to by the Prime Minister. Indeed, the House is aware that the Prime Minister is far more ambitious regarding the opt-out proposals than the Secretary of State.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

Nobody is more ambitious than the Secretary of State.

Mr. Lewis

My hon. Friend is talking about a different matter, but I agree.

Given the predictable continuation of Government policy to reduce local authority budgets, the ability of LEAs to sustain schools that remain in the locally provided system will be even more difficult. What will happen then to standards, parental choice, equal opportunities and parity of esteem?

Earlier I referred to the cellophane wrapping that is dressing up rampant consumerism. I said that this Bill represents a narrow, self-defeating philosophy that puts human needs and individual worth in second place behind competitive materialism. Part of that wrapping is represented by the cynical overkill of greater parental choice and power. I ask the House, better still the Secretary of State: where is the true evidence to show what parents want? I suspect that, at present, most LEAs are able to demonstrate that, in their areas, more than 90 per cent, of parents obtain their first preference of school for their children.

Equally, the first-hand experience of elected members of LEAs from all parties—now supported by research evidence—shows that parents have no compelling wish to run schools. Parents are interested in their children's education, not the exercise of constitutional power. That interest leads them to seek a greater understanding of, and involvement in, the process of education and to seek opportunities for working alongside teachers.

Mr. David Young (Bolton, South-East)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in his area and mine, the legislation will drive out the dedicated teachers who run the schools and will leave parent governors to deal with often inadequate staff because professionalism as such will be thrown into the waste paper basket?

Mr. Lewis

My hon. Friend is my Member of Parliament, but I must say that I do not believe that there are that many bad teachers in the area which we represent and in which we live. However, I believe that my hon. Friend has picked up what I said earlier: the good dedicated career teachers who have few years left in the education service will be the ones who go. That will leave the Government with the problems to which my hon. Friend has referred.

I have said that involvement in the process of education and the opportunity for working alongside teachers will be denied to parents if this Bill becomes law. Most of all and quite properly, parents are concerned to see that their children have the best opportunities and achieve the best possible standards. The Government's proposals fail to demonstrate, clearly and convincingly, how those real wishes of parents will be met.

The Government readily invent their own wishes for parents and they seek to meet them by a set of contrivances built on a series of false premises. They conveniently ignore evidence contrary to their preconceptions and prejudices. That is equally evident in the Government's curriculum proposals.

I shall skip some of my speech because I am conscious that many hon. Members want to speak. The Bill contains elements that provide a basis on which a constructive and unifying reform of our national education system could be undertaken. However, it is the specific proposals that give effect to those broad concepts that will cause dissent and disruption. Those specific proposals contain the true agenda of the proposed legislation.

The proposals will fragment the education service. They will inhibit, if not prevent, LEAs from providing a public service organised on a planned, coherent and equitable base, because, in their error and blindness, the Government insist that market forces provide a better basis for a public service than partnership between community, locally elected representatives and the professionals that they employ. It may well be that that partnership needs reconstructing and redefining — in those terms, reform is probably necessary. However the unavoidable and all too evident fact that remains is that the proposals described in the Bill have, in truth, little to do with reforming education or national regeneration. They have everything to do with the vindictive vendetta that the Government are conducting against public services and locally elected authorities.

7.47 pm
Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

This has been a remarkable debate—one of the most remarkable that I have ever had the good fortune to sit through. So far, three Privy Councillors have addressed the House and three more are like to do so before we vote.

I believe that the hon. Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) took far too gloomy a view of the Bill. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman displayed a degree of selectivity that would be envied by anyone taking the 11-plus or 12-plus. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw)—I am sorry that he is not in the Chamber — suggested in an article in the Sunday Timeslast weekend that the word "local" was acceptable only if it prefixed the word "authority". He should remember, when he talks about power and education, that this Bill gives more power to schools and provides a better education for the nation's children. The hon. Gentleman should remember that the word "local" applies not only to authorities but to schools and parents.

If the education provided by LEAs was of such quality, the hon. Member for Blackburn should ask why the former leader of the Labour party, James Callaghan, started the great debate on education at Ruskin College back in 1976. That point was well made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in his opening speech today.

I suspect that the real justification for this Bill comes from a set of statistics published last week, which showed that 6 million of our fellow countrymen cannot read, write or do simple arithmetic after 11 years of compulsory education. When the hon. Member for Blackburn talks about a lust for power and a vendetta against local government, he should recall that such rhetoric will not help our children to read. We want good, sound education, and the Bill will ensure that.

Mr. Hind


Mr. Pawsey

I shall not give way. Many other hon. Members wish to speak.

I come to the part of the Bill that deals with schools. To maximise the Bill's effects, we need the co-operation of the teaching force. I have said before, and I repeat it now, that the majority of teachers in this country are dedicated to their profession and to the children in their charge. That is why I welcomed the 16.4 per cent, increase in pay that was awarded to teachers this year. It shows two things —how far teachers' pay had slipped behind; and how much we were determined to do about it. We recognise the value and importance of the teacher force in the United Kingdom. I am anxious that the Bill should be received by teachers with an open mind, and that any lingering misgivings that may be left over from previous disagreements should be put on one side in the interests of the nation's children in teachers' charge. Those are the criteria against which the Bill should be judged.

It has been suggested that there is no necessity for the radical reforms in the Bill, and that all that was required was an increase of resources. Would that that were true. Despite what the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) said, since 1979 we have increased the level of resources in England by 11 per cent, to £7.8 billion, and spending per pupil is up by a massive 31 per cent.

More resources do not necessarily equal better education. One has only to look at ILEA to see the truth of that. Radical reform is necessary; the Government have a responsibility to the nation. They would be failing in their duty if they did not try to reform education. As some education authorities seem incapable of improving the education service, Government must. The additional powers that Government are taking at the centre are balanced by the additional powers that are being given to parents. The combination of parents and Government will ensure that the Bill meets the educational challenge.

I welcome first the fact that the national curriculum will not be hewn on tablets of stone, but will be rather more flexible than was first envisaged. The time allotted to the foundation subjects will not be laid down by statute, and it will be for individual schools to decide how much is spent on each of them, with the safeguard of assessment and tests at the ages of seven, 11, 14 and 16. If a child begins to fall behind, that will be recognised early so that appropriate action can be taken to ensure that the child's work improves and that he keeps pace with his peers. Incidentally, those benchmarks will also be a useful reference for parents. Surely parents, too, have a right to know just how well their child is doing in school?

The second provision to which I want to refer is that of open enrolment, which goes back to my earlier point about giving added responsibility to parents. In the main, parents know best what is right for their children. They have a great deal more common sense than they are sometimes given credit for, and by means of HMI reports and school prospectuses they already know which school in their locality provides the level of education that is appropriate to their son or daughter. The Bill merely extends that right and choice. One of the more annoying features of LEA control has been the way in which authorities have deliberately prevented good, popular schools from accepting more children. That stumbling block will be removed and schools, within certain limits, will be called on to take children up to their 1979 level.

My third point concerns financial delegation to schools, which represents a movement of power from LEAs to heads, governors and parents. It ensures that power and responsibility is shared. Instead of a chief education officer and his fellow bureaucrats at shire hall deciding policy, as is often the case, the responsibility for school policy will be placed in the hands of individual schools. They will be allocated a budget and be able to decide their own priorities. That will make schools much more accountable to parents and local communities, and will ensure a better use of resources.

I ask my right hon. Friend to note three areas of concern. First, heads should receive better training for the job that they will be called upon to do. I ask my right hon. Friend to re-examine the staff college concept. Heads require additional training to assist them in the running of schools. Secondly, larger schools should consider — perhaps with an adjoining school—the appointment of a bursar who can handle the day-to-day administration. Thirdly, governors should be better trained to have better knowledge of their powers and duties.

My final point has to do with the introduction of grant-maintained schools. I think that few schools will wish to take advantage of that option. But if great numbers of schools decide to leave the present system, that would be a massive vote of no confidence in what is now being provided. If a system is so bad that large numbers wish to leave it, it must surely be better for our children's education that they do so. That is the justification for the Bill. If a school opts out, it will provide a benchmark against which schools that remain in the system can be judged.

The Bill is radical. It represents major and necessary reform. It would have been relatively easy for my right hon. and hon. Friends to introduce a series of cosmetic measures that were designed merely to paper over the education cracks. That would have been safe, but certainly not sound; safe, but grossly inadequate. It is a tribute to my right hon. and hon. Friends that they have deliberately not sought an easy or uncontroversial way forward. Instead, they have gone for great reform, which will be to the substantial advantage of the nation's children for the rest of this century and into the years beyond.

7.58 pm
Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

I disagree strongly with the analysis of the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey). This is not a major reformist Bill. In the history of educational administration it will be seen as crudely revisionist and instrumentalist.

The history of educational reform has been neglected in this debate. Pupils were subjected to tests in reading, writing and arithmetic that were administered by HMI. That was the first centralist innovation in education policy, in 1862. Those of us who were taught our history of education in the university of Wales — and who remember it—realise that we are witnessing a return not only to Victorian values, but to the same type of authoritarian approach to pupils and children as existed in those days. We are only waiting for the Secretary of State to announce that he is deducting 2s.8d. from the grant to each school for each pupil failing the test, fully to institute the payment by results method, which was abolished in 1895. However, its centralist regulations continued until 1936 and was finally abolished in the 1944 Act. We can see quite clearly in the history of education administration how centralisation and decentralisation vie with each other.

All the criticisms in education history of the payment by results policy apply to this Bill. They demean education and reduce it to a cramming exercise and to the recall capacity of pupils. They circumscribe the professional activity of teachers and constrain initiative and the curriculum is narrowed. The policy was aptly described by Gordon Kirk in his recent book on the core curriculum. He said that it introduced a state-controlled curriculum and was the deliberate use of political power to mould the minds of the young". That is how this revisionist measure will be understood in future.

I also blame the Labour party for initiating the so-called great debate in 1976. I am also critical of the approach to the so-called national curriculum endorsed by the official Opposition. We believe in a decentralised education policy and that curriculum development is a matter of partnership between the Welsh Office or the Department of Education and Science, the local education authorities, the Welsh Joint Education Committee and the successor body to the Schools Council that the Government had to invent after they destroyed the valuable work of that council.

In the major document that the Schools Council produced on the whole matter of the curriculum, it said: each school should have the fullest measure of responsibility for its own curriculum and teaching methods, based on the needs of its own pupils and evolved by its own staff". That sums up what curriculum development should be about. That is why we are completely opposed to the whole notion of a core curriculum and the imposition of a central curriculum. As the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and other hon. Members have said, the centralisation by the Government is a long way from the "secret garden" of the curriculum described by the former Tory Education Minister, David Eccles. It is a central prescription for forms of knowledge from the Government. The prescription is narrow, not just in the sense of the centralisation imposed by the Bill, but in the naming of school subjects in a piece of legislation — a bizarre innovation—and also in terms of the approach to the curriculum.

The definition of subjects runs contrary to all the approaches that have been followed in curriculum development over the past 30 years. The whole notion that one can divide and package the curriculum into subjects cuts out the trans-curriculum approach that has been so useful in schools. It also goes entirely against all the major reports that have studied the subject area. In that context one thinks of "A language for life" and the Bullock report, which stressed the importance of language development across the curriculum. One thinks also of Cockcroft and "Mathematics Counts" which stressed the importance of numerical skills across the curriculum or the learning of science across the curriculum and the cognitive and the affective skills of pupils as they are defined in education study. These are cross-curricular skills that have to be developed and the notion of a package subject runs contrary to that.

Her Majesty's inspectorate has shown that in the development in primary schools of, for example, science teaching it is the understanding of technology and science on a cross-curricular basis that provides the best attainment for pupils. As it is conceived, the national curriculum threatens a reduction in the standards of mathematics and literacy, because it may well lead to the isolation of these so-called subjects from the rest of the curriculum. That is why we need to be able to see the relevance for pupils of the so-called subjects to the rest of their social skills and their social life. That is why I stress to the Secretary of State that he should abandon this subject approach and take the much more rational modular approach to the content of his curriculum. That modular approach takes in the kind of jargon that was once used by HMI in its reports in the 1970s and early 1980s, before HMI was got at as part of the centralisation process of the education policy that the Government are pursuing.

We need to look at ways of approaching the curriculum that recognise diversity in the schools and which gives the opportunity for pupils to develop their skills across the curriculum. It can be seen quite clearly from studies produced by, for example, the Welsh Joint Examining Board, that the standards of student performance are improved where one has a modular approach. It also seems to be clear from the attainment by female pupils that they more easily adapt to the short-term modules in the curriculum.

It is much more easy to adopt to vocational experience when one has a modular approach rather than a subject-based approach. I stress to the Government that they need to review their whole approach in order to prevent a narrowing of the curriculum. When one reads HMI advice over the last 10 years, one sees a recommendation that there should be a reduction in the number of examinable subjects, and that we should not have the notion of subject-based knowledge being proliferated within the curriculum.

We should look for areas of experience that include the personal and social development of pupils. That is the kind of thing that cannot be prescribed in a subject-based core curriculum. Surely social skills are just as important for the industralist—the Conservatives support the interests of the industralist—as are the notions of narrow subjects. There is also a danger that some of the gains that have been made in vocational education, particularly on the training and vocational education initiative, may be undermined by this approach of a subject-led core curriculum.

Not only do we need to look at the general needs of pupils, but we need to look at pupils who have special education needs. What has been achieved for pupils with special education needs in terms of integration into the curriculum and into schools is endangered by this kind of prescribed so-called national curriculum. It will be a residual curriculum that will be available for pupils if the measures are pressed forward. As I have said, the same thing applies to attempts to ensure gender equality in the education system in the provision of courses that are attractive to female pupils as well as to male pupils.

The other approach that is undermined by this subject-led curriculum is the commitment that is apparently in the rhetoric of the Government but never in the practice, to education for a multi-cultural society. We have had the "Education for All" study under the chairmanship of Lord Swann. That has been neglected by the Government and this approach of a subject-based curriculum will prevent the sort of innovations in multicultural education that we require.

Finally, I turn to Wales. This curriculum is called a national curriculum. But whose national curriculum is it? Apparently it is a national curriculum for England, although from looking at the submissions from the English LEA's one can see very little demand for it. I can tell the Secretary of State for Education and Science in England and the Minister of State with responsibility for education in Wales that there is no demand whatever for the provisions of this Bill—either the opt-out provision or the so-called national curriculum provision — by the LEAs in Wales.

This is an English national curriculum that is not wanted by English people and it is to be imposed on Wales. That is clearly shown when we look at the complexity that has arisen when the Government have tried to deal with Welsh in the core curriculum. They have invented a new building called the Welsh-speaking school and in the legislation they are attempting to impose a centralised solution on the linguistic diversity in Wales. I make it quite clear that we reject that centralist Welsh language core curriculum. The diversity of linguistic provision should be provided by the local education authorities responding sensitively to the needs of their areas.

It is nonsense for the Government to invent a Curriculum Council for Wales while not providing Wales with a schools examination and assessment council. If the whole point of the curriculum is to set up a structure of knowledge that is to be assessed, surely it makes sense to assess through a separate schools examination and assessment council for Wales, which would operate alongside the Curriculum Council. I welcome what slipped into the Secretary of State's speech about the creation of a sub-committee of the new Universities Funding Council covering Wales. We have been campaigning on this issue for a long time and there will be a great welcome in the educational establishment and the university of Wales for this proposal.

There is no polytechnics and colleges funding council for Wales and that points to the anomalous position of the Welsh education system. It is high time that the Secretary of State—albeit he originally hailed from Newport— divested himself of his responsibility for the whole of post-16 education in Wales. Indeed, he should divest himself of his responsibilities for the whole of Welsh education and they should be devolved to the current holder of the office of Secretary of State for Wales. The Bill is not relevant to Welsh education, and we shall seek to remove its application to Wales. I hope that we can also remove the Bill from the statute book, to ensure that education in England returns to the mainstream—

The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. Wyn Roberts)

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he would prefer Welsh not to be in the core curriculum for Wales, or not to be a foundation subject in Wales? Will he make himself clear?

Dr. Thomas

I have already made it clear that I do not endorse the notion of a core curriculum. The linguistic diversity of Wales is, I believe, best catered for by local education authorities, supported by the Welsh Joint Education Committee and other central initiatives. When the Minister examines the position during the Committee stage, I am sure that he will see exactly what the position is.

I apologise for the length of my speech, Madam Deputy Speaker; it was caused by the Minister's intervention.

8.10 pm
Mr. Michael Alison (Selby)

A number of speakers from both sides of the House have touched on the interests of the Churches in the Bill. In my capacity as the Second Church Estates Commissioner, I should like to convey briefly to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State both plaudits and one or two anxieties and queries raised with me by the Church of England board of education. As my right hon. Friend fully realises, many maintained schools are voluntary schools, the ownership of which lies with trustees, and the Church of England features prominently in that regard.

I welcome the Bill. I begin by thanking my right hon. Friend, on behalf of the Church authorities, for clause 1(2), with its outstandingly bold and uninhibited formulation calling for the promotion of the spiritual, moral and cultural development of children at school. That has done much to reassure many of those outside Parliament who, in their early responses to the consultation papers, feared that certain aspects of a broad and balanced curriculum were not sufficiently emphasised. As it stands, clause 1(2) appears to be stronger than the well-known section in the Education Act 1944 which defined the purposes of the statutory system of education. That is to be warmly welcomed.

I am also grateful for the assurances that my right hon. Friend has given to those who have made representations to him in the cause of religious education. I hope that he will consider giving specific expression to those assurances by finding a way of strengthening still further the references to religious education in the Bill, along lines which could be adjusted in detail in Committee.

I say that because, having congratulaed my right hon. Friend on strengthening certain aspects of the 1944 Act in the Bill, I must express some regret at what appears to be an area of weaker formulation. For example, it is a pity that, by appearing rather late in chapter V, which deals with miscellaneous items, the clause on school worship — clause 79 — is separated from any reference to religious education as such. Incidentally, reference earlier in the Bill to religious education is modest enough, tucked away as it is in a "sub-subsection" — clause 6(l)(c).However, I am content to regard its modest size as akin to that of the proverbial mustard seed, capable of astonishing powers of accommodation.

Section 25 of the 1944 Act set an important precedent by linking religious instruction and worship under the general heading of religious education. I believe that there are good educational grounds for keeping to that earlier arrangement, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider reuniting elements that seem to have been unnecessarily divorced.

I feel that greater clarification is needed of the position of religious education and worship in the proposed grant-maintained schools. Chapter IV is a complex and densely drafted part of the Bill, and I know that advisers to the General Synod board of education believe that amendments will be required in the course of the Bill's progress. I understand that the board is seeking to discuss certain aspects of this part of the Bill with the Department of Education and Science and the Charity Commissioners, and will be writing in the near future to identify the practice areas of concern in the hope that certain amendments can be agreed.

In that connection, it is important that the protection that was afforded to denominational voluntary aided schools in the 1944 Act is carried over and preserved in the Bill in respect of a voluntary school that becomes a grant-maintained school. I know that my right hon. Friend has given assurances on the matter, but I understand that the General Synod board feels that changes are still needed. There are also many questions about the applicability of agreed syllabuses to former county and controlled schools that become grant maintained.

Let me turn briefly to a narrower but no less urgent point. It is well known that the assets of voluntary schools within the maintained system are considerable, and are held upon charitable trusts subject to Charity Commission jurisdiction. If any such schools become grant-maintained, the charitable trust continues. However, the Bill as drafted is far from satisfactory in the arrangements set out for liquidating the assets of a closed grant-maintained school that originated as a voluntary school. The board of education fears that insufficient regard is paid to trustees in the arrangements outlined in chapter IV.

In the case of the Church of England, that applies particularly to diocesan education committees. They have, after all, a status accorded by secondary legislation in the shape of the Diocesan Education Committee Measure 1955, and also in the trusteeship provision of the Education Act 1973.I hope that my right hon. Friend will agree to continuing exchanges between the relevant officials in the course of clarification and, ultimately, adequate clarity and fairness in the Bill.

The Bill is an instrument of exciting and far-reaching reform. Let it never be said that the Church of England — a Church of the Reformation — is laggard when it comes to supporting worthwhile reform, and the attempt to extend parental choice in education is one of the boldest and novel innovations proposed in the Bill. Few people, I imagine, would wish to oppose the object of maximising parental choice. I certainly do not; nor does the Church of England, offering as it does a choice in education.

However, as that objective is so desirable, we must try to make the means to it infallible—or, at least, as close to infallible as possible. The Church of England board of education believes that there are grounds for worrying about the precise arrangement proposed for parental ballot in chapter IV of the Bill.

Fears have also been expressed in some Church circles about the possible impact of any widespread establishment of grant-maintained schools on remaining LEA services for LEA-maintained schools. I also feel that the Bill could, with advantage, be clearer about the arrangements under which grant-maintained schools admit pupils, given the arrangements in chapter II applying to county and voluntary schools.

It might be helpful for chapter II to contain some mention of the School Premises Regulations 1981, to make it clear that the imposition of the 1979 standard number will not jeopardise any desirable improvement to the premises that are carried out to meet the requirements of those regulations. However, that is a Committee point— and an appropriate point at which to conclude my remarks.

I wish the Bill every success. I hope that my right hon. Friend will agree to allow a continuing dialogue with the Church authorities as the Bill proceeds through Committee and we come to the later provisions.

8.19 pm
Mr. Andrew Smith (Oxford, East)

As the debate proceeds it becomes ever clearer that the Bill has nothing to do with choice, freedom, standards or any of the rhetoric we have heard from Conservative Members but has everything to do with the application of a toxic mixture of free market ideas and centralism to our education system.

I wish that the right hon. Members concerned were present to hear me say this, but it is interesting to see how far the divisions have opened up among the Conservative Members in the different positions people are taking. There are divisions not only among those who modestly support the Bill but between those who oppose the Bill.

For example, the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) wants more of the toxic mixture. He wants more centralism and more central urgent action as a way of tackling the free market damage of the Bill. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) wants to draw back from the application of free market ideas and centralism. The spectacle of Conservative Members baying at their former leader and Prime Minister was an unattractive aspect of the Conservative party and it makes one wonder where Conservative Members have been educated.

Conservative Members have used the issue of standards in the crudest possible way as a smokescreen for the Government's real motives, which arise from a petulant vendetta against local authorities and the Government's well-documented suspicion of the diversity and innovation that Rab Butler saw as a positive and integral part of the Education Act 1944. It has been said many times that the Government know the price of everything and the value of nothing. This Bill, I am afraid, is just one more disastrous example of their indulgence of competition in everything, except in free ideas. What we see before us is a highly centralist measure.

My hon. Friends have already exposed the fraudulence of the claims about parental choice. They have exposed the damage that open enrolment and opting out would cause. Instead of bringing in this damaging Bill, the Government should be ensuring that the best local education strategies, which are very good and are currently being applied in many counties and metropolitan areas, are applied more generally. They ought to be requiring local authorities to show what progress they have made in raising education standards and extending opportunities. They ought to be developing external validation of the policies and progress of individual schools and making the resources available to enable schools and teachers to get on with their job.

I say that the Government ought to be doing those things, but I know one reason why they are not. They do not have a clue what is happening over that broad area of education. Lectures on education standards from Conservative Members are insufferable at the best of times, but the credibility of the Secretary of State would be considerably enhanced if he knew how local authorities were performing. In the past nine years, no team of civil servants, inspectors or Ministers has bothered to visit Oxfordshire, my local education authority area, to review as a whole the authority's education plans and achievements. Can Conservative Members think of any successful organisation anywhere else that would ignore what was going on in the local areas? If Conservative Members are really interested in raising standards, they should be monitoring and improving the good practice in many local education authorities, such as Oxfordshire.

Survey after survey has shown that parents and non-parents fully appreciate the importance of those points and want to see more resources invested in our schools. However, because that does not agree with the Conservative party's ideological preconceptions of public expenditure, a deaf ear is turned to the pleas of parents for more books, equipment and investment in our schools.

The power placed in the hands of the Secretary of State in this Bill is truly frightening. It centralises and politicises what is taught in schools and is incompatible with notions of genuine parental choice or locally sensitive and democratic planning. It is clear that the Government have, as in so many other areas of their policies, abandoned any attempt to proceed through consultation, rational persuasion or partnership with those on the ground, be they head teachers, parent governors, teaching staff or councillors, who will have to put the proposals into effect if by any mischance the Bill becomes law. The best we can hope for is that those good people with their good record of work will succeed in damage limitation and rescue the Government from the consequences of their crass mismanagement, even if the more sensible members of the Tory party do not.

I am particularly worried that a principal casualty of all this will be the especially important stage of education between 16 and 19 years old. If the Bill is passed, it will at best frustrate and at worst block rational planning of provision at that level and stop progress to tertiary colleges, because opting out, as some hon. Members have said, would be most attractive where secondary schools face problems of falling rolls and pursue grant-maintained status as a means of avoiding reorganisation or closure. The ensuing chaos would not only set back progress to higher standards at that level of education but would hinder the attainment of the numbers of suitably qualified entrants to higher education, which I should have thought that all of us in the House would want to see, for the sake of our country's future.

On the matter of higher education, one of the most pernicious clauses in this thoroughly pernicious Bill is clause 94, which empowers the Secretary of State to make grants to the funding councils subject to such conditions as he may determine. That imposes a statutory requirement on the funding councils to comply with any directions given to them by the Secretary of State. Taken together with the power in clauses 92 and 93, it amounts to direct control of the activities of polytechnics and universities by the Secretary of State. Whatever protests the academic institutions may make, they would be powerless in law to resist the Secretary of State. That is dangerous, draconian and wholly incompatible with the principles of academic freedom that all of us in the House should be pledged to uphold.

One may ask whether the university and polytechnic funding councils will offer some protection or operate as a buffer between academic institutions and the power of the state. No, they will not, because each power they exercise is entirely dependent upon the Secretary of State's judgment. Remember they must comply with "any directions" that he gives them. They are appointed by him and can be dismissed by him. People with integrity and independence will be discouraged from serving on them. They would be mere pawns of the Secretary of State, rubber-stamping the Government's line.

I know that the Secretary of State has offered assurances that the funding councils will be able to advise him on the needs of the universities and polytechnics. However, the absence of any such obligation in the Bill renders the Secretary of State's words utterly unconvincing. Why should it not be a clear duty for the funding councils to report on the needs of the institutions? Could it be that the Secretary of State is afraid of what they will tell him if they were obliged by law to undertake that important task? I fear so. As it stands, the Bill means that advisory bodies will become mere transmission belts.

As chairman of the governors of Oxford polytechnic, I am interested in the Bill's practical implications for polytechnics. The transitional arrangements to which the Secretary of State referred give rise to all sorts of worries and fears about what will happen if polytechnics are led to opt out of the local authority framework. The Secretary of State promises £9 million. However, if that sum is divided between the institutions, it works out at only £85,000 per polytechnic, which will come nowhere near to covering the costs of computing, equipment, specialist staff and the financial administration input that will be needed not only on vesting day but ahead of vesting day if the transition is not to be a fiasco.

The polytechnics need assurances from the Secretary of State that the Treasury will not operate the financial arrangements in a limited way. At the moment, our polytechnics can carry forward overspending or underspending on any particular budget head from one year to the next. There is no mad rush to spend up on the last day of the financial year. We seek an assurance that the flexibility that the polytechnics have gained under local authority control will not be lost if the Bill goes through and the transition takes place.

One can draw only one conclusion about the rational planning and management of further and higher education. It would have been far better if the Government had followed the advice of their own report "Management for a Purpose" and established corporate status within the local authority framework. The Government paid £350,000 for that report and they have thrown it in the waste paper basket. That would have had the overwhelming advantage of facilitating the sensible coordination and planning of further adult and continuing education as well as bringing all the schools within the local authority framework.

The Bill puts much of value at risk for no discernible benefit other than the advancement of the Government's vicious vendetta against local democracy and local authorities. That is the central theme of the Bill, which gives the Secretary of State unprecedented statutory powers to intervene in and interfere with the running of education at every point. Whatever the Secretary of State says in his rhetoric about freedom and choice, the Bill represents rampant centralisation. It places in the hands of the central state authorities powers that seem all too likely to result in untold damage being inflicted on education and on our children and young people.

There is no sense of balance in the Bill and no sense that academic and professional judgments or local voters' choices are to count for anything. The Bill is centralist and stuffed full of impracticalities and half-baked ideas. It would serve our children and our country badly, and it must be defeated.

8.33 pm
Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

Brevity seems to be the core curriculum for the debate, so I shall be as brief as possible on a couple of aspects of the Bill rather than doing the usual tour d'horizon of the education scene.

Before I came to this place as the Member for Battersea I served for a term as education chairman in the London borough of Kingston. During that time, we were able to introduce an experiment on financial delegation. Although I did not stay long enough to see the benefits of that come to fruition, I have been back since to check up on the results. I was impressed to find that one school has been redecorated and has refitted its science laboratory on the basis of savings from heating, lighting and so on. That is a small example of what financial delegation can do. It is clear that without such experiments and without the expansion of such experiments, there is no incentive to save. Even if the incentive had been there and the school had made the effort, the savings would not have benefited the school but merely have come back into the central pot. That is an important reason why the financial delegation provisions are greatly to be welcomed.

I wish to discuss, slightly less briefly, but not for too long, the question of the Inner London education authority. I listened carefully to the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). If my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is tempted to buy his line, I shall buy it too. The abolition of ILEA would be to the general benefit of mankind — particularly mankind in inner London.

Let me put that in a local context. ILEA is a heavy-spending authority and a heavily under-achieving authority. It is bottom of the league and bottom of the class. ILEA as a whole is bad enough, but my division is worse. In ILEA we are not named, we have divisions. My borough of Wandsworth is division 10 of ILEA. Division 10's results are below average even for ILEA, which is itself bottom of the national league. It is not surprising—

Mr. Straw

Which league is the hon. Gentleman referring to? The Sheffield university study of local education authorities put ILEA 56th out of 104 authorities.

Mr. Bowis

I am talking in terms of academic results and results as seen by local parents.

There are two exceptions in division 10, both of which are Church schools and I receive many letters from parents seeking to get their children into those voluntary-aided schools. In division 10, 25 per cent, of children go into band 1 secondary schools and 52 per cent, go to band 2 schools. We are below average in terms of the number of pupils needing free school meals and the number who are not fluent in English, so we are not a particularly disadvantaged area. Our results should be a bit above average, yet only 17 per cent, of our pupils are entered for five or more O-levels and only 9 per cent, leave school with five or more O-levels or CSE grade 1 passes, compared with 15 per cent, for ILEA as a whole and 24 per cent, for the national average.

Let us put the figures another way. The national average for children leaving with no exam passes is 9–9 per cent; in ILEA the figure is 22 per cent. That is why our division and many other divisions of ILEA want to make the change. Above all, it is to improve standards that Wandsworth wants to run its own schools for its own people. If we can get the opting-out system going and establish a national curriculum, we shall begin to make sense of our education.

The Audit Commission poll showed considerable dissatisfaction with local schools and with value for money in education. There was three times as much dissatisfaction in the ILEA area. The dissatisfaction relates more to secondary than to primary schools but it is there for both. People are more dissatisfied with education than with any other service anywhere in the country, with the exception of inner-London council housing. Furthermore, local employers complain that they cannot find adequately educated school leavers to fill jobs. We must find ways of improving our education system to solve that problem, with its implications for employment as a whole.

The only place in which ILEA'S results stack up against the national average is not a school in division 10 or in divisions 1 to 9 but Wolverstone hall boarding school, which was on television recently. The school is run by a former master from Westminster school and its costs are somewhat more expensive than those of Eton, but that is the fault of management costs and not the school itself. Instead of seeking to reduce the management costs of such a school, ILEA seeks to close it. That sums up ILEA'S ethos.

Wandsworth's track record in local government suggests that we could and would pare down administrative costs, but, more important, we would increase the real extra spending at the sharp end of the service — that is, the chalk face. Boroughs such as Wandsworth, which run their own education systems, would be more sensitive to the needs of the local community—the community of children, parents and employers. There would not be just six representatives from our part of London trying to make their voices heard in county hall, but 61 local councillors, all involved in education, sensitive to local opinion, taking political decisions and listening.

There are many scare stories going around ILEA at the moment, not least in respect of adult education. I get letter after letter from people saying what a shame it is that Wandsworth is going to take over adult education. Adult education will be abolished. I received a letter from a student asking whether I was aware that adult education tutors were distributing notepaper and pens and giving them the text to write to me and others. One needs to be aware that scare stories are going around. The reality is in the pledge from our local council leader in Wandsworth that adult education will certainly have high priority. The reality also exists in the Secretary of State's guarantee. He would not accept an opting-out scheme that did not cater adequately for adult education. The same applies to all the other facilities about which people are concerned.

It may be that when boroughs opt out, they will not go it totally alone. Two or three boroughs may share facilities, and that will be for the benefit of all. It is true that there will be greater co-operation within boroughs. There will be dual use of facilities such as halls, sports grounds, libraries, and so on.

Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East)


Mr. Bowis

I shall not give way. I am bringing my remarks to a close so that more hon. Members can speak. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I shall give way another time, but I am told that we are looking for brevity.

The answer is to let boroughs run their own schools. As has been said, we had a bye-election, which more than tested that point. The Labour party spent the entire by-election talking about it. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) was seen more often in Southfields than in this Chamber. He dashed around all over the place. At the end of the day, when the votes were counted, the hon. Gentleman came, he saw, and we doubled our majority. That is the message that we should give with the Bill. Let us give it.

8.42 pm
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

I welcome the opportunity to take part in the debate. We on this Bench have often been welcomed back to the House but it is amazing how, when it comes to that which appears to be business for Great Britain, we are left out, despite the fact that the Under-Secretary for Northern Ireland who deals with education has actually said that he will introduce an order under the Bill. That will occur under the iniquitous system whereby we cannot debate or amend legislation.

I was interested in the comments of the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison), the Second Church Estates Commissioner, about the religious and moral emphasis of the Bill. It is amazing how the myth that parents have choice is still perpetuated. For example, in Northern Ireland, when parents objected to the problem relating to school textbooks, they were stonewalled right along the line because of the Northern Ireland council that sets such books. That attitude will prevail right down the line with this Bill.

People have been led to believe that there will be choice, but, when it comes to the coal face, there will be no real choice. In fact, when the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) spoke, I suspected that at least some people on the Opposition side thought that the only choice would come about as a result of vandalism. Apparently, that has happened during the right hon. Gentleman's new incarnation and has opened the field for competition. I suspect that that problem may face us in connection with education, which some believe will be changed by the vandalism of this Bill.

I welcome the Bill in so far as it extends to Great Britain, but I emphasise that circumstances that justify action to improve standards in Great Britain may not apply to Northern Ireland. If hon. Members care to examine the statistics that were given to me by the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) on 9 November and by the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science on 16 November, they will discover that, whereas the pupil-teacher ratio in England is 17.6 per cent., in Belfast it is 17 per cent. That is not a big difference. The pass rate for those who leave with more than one A-level is 14 per cent, in England and 23.6 per cent, in Northern Ireland. We in Northern Ireland do not want reformation that will lower the standards that have been maintained over the years.

I sympathise with the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). He paid tribute to teachers generally. I support that, but there is no way that school government or management committees can know the teachers' teaching qualities, especially those who apply for first appointment. After appointment, it is difficult to remove bad teachers. Having been on a local management committee for 19 years, I have discovered that we are not allowed to know teachers' gradings. We might know everything else, but not that. I suspect that the Bill will not make any difference in that respect. I disagree with the hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup when he said that the Secretary of State for Education and Science is the most powerful man in the Government. The most powerful man in the Government is the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Even when we ask questions of the Attorney-General, we are sidetracked to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

There is concern in the university in my constituency. I do not share the delight that was expressed by the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas), who welcomed the advent of a sub-committee to deal with funding. Our experience in Northern Ireland in the University Grants Committee make one decision, the Department of Education in Northern Ireland makes another, and, at times, neither is right.

8.47 pm
Sir Rhodes Boyson (Brent, North)

I am aware of the need for brevity, so I shall not refer to any other part of the Bill apart from that which deals with schooling, and I shall do so briefly. I welcome many of the Bill's provisions.

Increased parental choice and open enrolment, to which other hon. Members have referred, are vital. We believe, unlike certain Opposition Members, that parents can choose better than local government advisers. By being able to choose, they will enhance their understanding of the system and have a pride in what they do. The more parental choice there is, the better schools and families we shall have. If the family—the parents and children—agree with the school that they attend, there will be unity within the whole.

Similarly, I agree with the delegation of funds to be performed by schools. A school that can meet together under its head and decide where to spend its money will be a better school. Money will be better spent. It will be spent not where a local authority thinks that it should be spent or where the Government think that it should be spent. Schools know the local circumstances, and money will go much further if there is delegation of that type.

I agree also with the break-up of ILEA. The old London county council was one of the finest local education authorities in the world. When I first came to London it was highly respected, but unfortunately ILEA never took the same stance as that taken by the LCC, nor had the dignity of the LCC. I believe that the breaking down of education from ILEA to boroughs will be better. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) that, instead of boroughs dropping out one by one, it may be a good idea to deal with them in a fell swoop so that they can go out together. We cannot have boroughs dropping out of ILEA each year, like a jigsaw puzzle which falls to bits and can never be put back together again. That suggestion should be borne in mind.

Further improvement could be made on one or two points. I am glad that the common curriculum will be more flexible. I believe in a core curriculum—not a common curriculum — which has a minimum requirement of English, mathematics and other subjects which all children can do. I do not like the specification that all children, from the most able to the least able, should do the same number of lessons on the same curriculum. That is the ultimate egalitarian comprehensive curriculum which I do not want. I am pleased that more flexibility is coming in.

I follow what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) on religious education. I realise that religious education is provided for at the beginning of the Bill, but I should like to see it as a foundation or core subject. I believe that man's knowledge of his place in the universe and the purpose of his life is more important even than English and maths. These days we have more moral than political problems, and many political problems would go away if we could solve the moral problems. I should like to see RE as a foundation or core subject.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that no school will operate at its best unless and until religious education is properly handled, well taught and at the centre of school life?

Sir Rhodes Boyson

I have great respect for my hon. Friend, who is a neighbour and is the first hon. Member I met outside the House because he taught at the school at which I was head in the east end of London. I will not say that a school led by agnostics with agnostic staff could not be a good school, but in most cases a school will be better if it has religious unity and feeling.

We should settle for all time the amount of money given to voluntary aided schools. There were the old battles— I do not remember them, but we have all read of them —of the liberal attitude of the Liberal party in putting Government funds into non-denominational schools. Government funding is 85 per cent, now—a rise from 75 per cent, since I have been in the House. As voluntary aided schools are already funded by grants, they should be given 100 per cent, funding for building costs. The parents pay their rates and taxes like everybody else, and since parental contributions enhance voluntary aided schools, the time has come for the Government to fund building costs 100 per cent., like everybody else.

I hope all secondary schools opt out, if parents want to.

I would like to see schools in my constituency opt out. Primary schools may opt out only if they have more than 300 pupils, but small village schools may wish to opt out. When I was a Minister, delegation after delegation made representations for the preservation of village schools.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Hear, hear.

Sir Rhodes Boyson

I hear that call from afar.

Delegations regularly see Ministers on this subject. Village schools should be given the same amount of money per pupil as all other schools in the local authority, and they can top it up with funds from the annual bazaar, or whatever else they raise money from. The Government should say, "Look, you can have your money per head as always, but the rest is up to you." That would make them responsible in the village for what they are doing.

All primary schools should be able to opt out. That would solve for all time the battle about the continuance of primary schools. I went to a small village school in Lancashire, so village schools obviously matter to me.

I hope that we are careful not to centralise too much. I do not want power to go from local authorities to Government; I want it to go to schools, particularly to parents. Schools should not be run like co-operative societies; parents want to choose. The signs are that, as has already happened, there will be more liberalisation of the common curriculum. Hon. Members on the Committee on the Bill, before the Third Reading, should test everything in Committee. It is not that the Government Members do not trust Opposition Members—some nice people are in the Opposition — but we should be prepared if there were some cataclysm and the Labour party came to power. No Government should give more power to themselves than they would be prepared to give to an alternative Government.

8.56 pm
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson); I have done so many times.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science, when he opened the debate, more than once used the expression, "all our children". I think he meant "all the nation's children", because all the children he was talking about have nothing to do with the state education system; it is all our children who have to do with the state education system.

The so-called Education Reform Bill is an attack on state education, because it has been so successful that for some reason a vendetta has been waged against it and an attempt has been made to privatise education. It is a blatant attack on education and an attempt to open the door to privatisation through vouchers and so on. It will mean the end of equal and free educational opportunities for all our children.

The Bill will bring schools into the jungle of the market place. That is the mentality behind it. The Bill is also an attack on local democracy, which has served us well and has been built up patiently through the years. It reveals the hatred of the Tory leadership for freely elected national representatives. I can remember many occasions in the Chamber when Conservative Members boasted that they were the defenders of local democracy, and I believed them. The Tory party has now been revealed to have changed its opinion and is the great attacker of local democracy. It wishes to substitute centralisation for local democracy.

The right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) engaged in a tortuous argument that centralisation was really the diffusion of democracy, in some curious alchemical way that he thought out for himself, when we all know that the Bill will lead to centralisation and will deliberately break up the long-established traditional relationship between parents, teachers and local education authorities. The Bill comprises 169 pages of clumsily constructed but clearly intended menace to one of the finest and most admired state education systems, and possibly the first in the world. The intended victims are 96 per cent, of our children — all of our children, except those in the private sector. The private sector is immune from this legislation.

We shall be condemned to ask for more money for our children—we can obtain about £1,000 for each child— yet the education of Tory Members' children will cost about £6,000 or £7,000. Conservative Members condemn us for trying to obtain more money. The beneficiaries, therefore, will be a small elitist group, but Tory Members loathe the tremendous success of the democratic comprehensive system. It has borne fruit and has weaknesses, but we are trying to rectify them as best we can. Every normal growing pain of the system has been put under the microscope and magnified beyond belief. The kept and venal press, which is owned by the Tories for the Tories, has attacked every democratic advance with brutal determination. That is the reality of the education system that is now under attack. [Laughter.]Tory Members may laugh, but that is the hard reality of the matter.

The pitiful level of funding for our ordinary children is made to appear too much. HMI will shortly be under attack. Its report was held back until after the election because the Government knew what was in it. Meanwhile, the funding of the private sector is blurred and concealed. More and more Tory parents are seeing through this iniquitous Bill and seeing, with increasing clarity, that their children will suffer. Many of them know that their children have done well out of comprehensive education and from the abolition of the 11-plus. How can anyone, in all conscience, pretend, as the Secretary of State does, that he is interested in higher standards, when his every action will result in lowering standards?

The future of public education in Britain is at stake. Opting out is the backbone of the Act and it will come under attack in the other place as well as from people throughout the country. If opting out is smashed, the back of the Bill will be broken, no matter how many other vicious measures there are in it.

Plans for grant-maintained schools will not increase choice for the majority of parents and will not improve standards. It will profoundly damage the maintained education service. In many areas it will play into the hands of an unrepresentative pressure group in a fundamentally undemocratic way. Instead of using the democratic process to change the way that the local authority manages, if it disagrees with it, a group of governors and parents, by a simple majority and with only a minority of parents involved, can take the school out of the system without regard for the interests of pupils, parents and teachers, and with no debate about it.

I question whether parents want the responsibility of running schools. They have never demanded it before, but it has suddenly appeared from nowhere. It will place an appalling burden on lay people — most of whom are fully committed elsewhere, have other major demands on their time and may have only a short-term interest in the school.

It is rumoured that the Government will probably offer incentives to opt out. The Prime Minister seems to differ with the Secretary of State about how many schools will opt out. If a large number of schools decide to opt out —the Secretary of State reputedly thinks that there will be only a few—the Department will become a huge and growing bureaucracy, similar to an educational Pentagon.

I am sure that other speakers will deal with the appalling problems created by the Bill, but as I have been asked to conclude, I shall say that practically every organisation in the educational world is against the Bill. I am convinced that most of the people of Britain are against it. It is a hopeless Bill and in time it will be seen as a reactionary and useless piece of legislation.

9.2 pm

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)

The forces of reaction have been hard at work opposing this legislation. Conservative Members were tempted by the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith), who invited Members who thought that they had anything constructive to contribute about his education authority to say so. The Select Committee visited Oxford, East during the last Parliament and discovered chaos. We found a hung education authority, where its chairman rotated at every meeting. There was different political control at every meeting, so I do not know why the hon. Gentleman is proud of it.

We had to listen to the spokesman for the Liberal party, the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown). I apologise for speaking in his absence, but he will be able to get his own back tomorrow night as I read in my local paper that he is addressing a meeting in my constituency on the future of political priorities in this country. He said that there will be fewer students, which will damage the country's prospects, yet we heard from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that there will be an additional 50,000 British students in polytechnics as a result of the Government's policies.

The hon. Member for Yeovil said that we were swallowing the black propaganda of the Government about the failure of the present system. We are now swallowing black propaganda, and I shall demonstrate why. The hon. Gentleman represents the interests of the Liberal party. He speaks so fast that no one will be able to hear him, so he is able to get away with it. However, some of his points came across and I think that they should be answered.

The Bill has not had a long debate. We are told that the Butler Bill had many days of debate in the Chamber, but it did not have a fraction of the public interest that has surrounded this debate. It has run for 10 years, since Lord Callaghan's Ruskin college speech. The much maligned consultation has raised the level of debate above hot air and into detailed discussion about where we are going, away from the political rhetoric.

As a former teacher and as a parent, I am keen to understand the implications of the Bill. I have been sensitive to the worries and objections of some of the teaching professions — not least because I declare an interest as a consultant to the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association, my professional association for 20 years. I assure the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. M. Smyth) that the interests of teachers over the water are not neglected by that association, and that the House takes an interest in education in the Province.

Whenever I travelled overseas with the Select Committee on Education, Science and the Arts in the last Parliament, I was impressed by the need to put our education system in an international perspective. I believe that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) would agree, because he accompanied me to West Germany to study education. A missing ingredient in the great debate has been an international perspective. It has hardly been mentioned in today's debate.

There is an international perspective, partly for historical reasons because of our inextricable links with so many lands, and partly because of the pre-eminent importance of international trade. In financial services and manufacturing we must be able to compete. We worry about import penetration. We have to fight back against those countries which are apparently much more successful. I am an optimist, not a pessimist, and I believe that we can expand our industrial base again, but it depends on knowing one's enemy. Internationally our education standards effect cultural diplomacy, the British interest overseas and overseas students.

There is genuine concern about the Bill, but there is also a great deal of inertia in educational establishments. A good many vested interests oppose the legislation. Is it political dogma that is driving the Government? I think not. The evidence is overwhelming that we must act quickly. In some areas such as local financial management we are lagging 10 years behind other democracies, whether Socialist-controlled or not. In Australia, Canada, the United States and West Germany we find that even under Socialist control there is far more interest in local financial management. They have moved away from the cult of egalitarianism in education towards the importance of resourcing the needs of individual students in the interest of fulfilment of those students and in the interest of national progress.

When it comes to international economic performance, the evidence on where we stand is staggeringly depressing. I pay tribute to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research for the painstaking work it has carried out over many years, which was referred to earlier by the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice). He painted only one side of the picture; I hope to be allowed to paint the other side.

In a recent paper by Hilary Steedman, to be published shortly, it emerges that in France young people seeking vocational qualifications in the mechanical and electrical industries must first attain the basic school leaving certificate. About half of all French school leavers achieve that. It requires a pass in three core subjects, French, mathematics and history with geography, plus standard passes in seven other subjects — that is, passes in 10 subjects. The standard of the written subjects is close to our old CSE grade 1 or 2. That is far above the average attainment for our school leavers, which is CSE grade 4.

In both mechanical and electrical engineering France trains between two and a half and three times as many qualified craftsmen and technicians as Britain to standards which are often higher than equivalent qualifications here. In Britain there are no signs that the vast numbers of YTS trainees have helped to increase the numbers attaining craftsmen's qualifications.

But France lags behind Germany and Japan. All three countries produce two to three times as many qualified craftsmen and technicians per head of the work force as Britain. In one specific subject, mathematics, the difference between English and German achievement is an English lag behind Germany of about two years of schooling. The German average for the lower half of their ability range is close to the average for all English pupils. In other words, the German system has raised the average attainment of its weakest 50 per cent, to that of the English average.

There was worse news from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in the February review. The high technical quality and reliability of Japanese manufactures raises questions about how their training and education are better. Industrial progress and higher productivity obviously depend on many things, but basically, in Japan, it is the result of better foundation courses — Japanese pupils' attainments in science and mathematics are higher than ours — and those higher standards make possible more advanced vocational preparation.

The Japanese curriculum is more centralised than ours, but can we really afford the fourth-rate consequences of the current curriculum fudge? Of course we cannot. The new partnership in the Bill will spread power to the rim of the wheel, which has always been my right hon. Friend's objective since he first raised the issue, rather than have it stuck in the spokes.

The Bill will give parents an important new role and an important new partnership, and I welcome it. Many hon. Members will want to make other points and no doubt they can do so in Committee. If we fail to give the Bill its Second Reading tonight, we shall have wasted a great opportunity.

9.10 pm
Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

Those hon. Members who attended education debates in the last Parliament will have been struck immediately by the fact that the attendance throughout today's debate has been considerably greater than it was then. For those of us who are deeply interested in education, it is good to see so much interest and so many hon. Members wanting to speak. It may well be that hon. Members differ fundamentally but, nevertheless, education is back in its rightful place at the top of the political agenda.

It gives me great pleasure to say that we have had two excellent maiden speeches this evening. I offer my congratulations to the hon. Members for Hexham (Mr. Amos) and for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Hicks). The hon. Member for Hexham showed a great deal of confidence and it was good to see that he had such a keen knowledge of and interest in his constituency. I would disagree with him quite sharply on one or two of the education points that he made and one or two of the conclusions that he drew, but, nevertheless, I look forward to his future contributions to our education debate.

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East paid a warm tribute to her predecessor which will be well received by Labour Members. We miss Mrs. Short. She was a great contributor to debates such as this and to many other activities within the Labour party and the House. Therefore the hon. Lady's comments were particularly apposite.

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East also commented on the skill shortage, and we agree with what she said about that. She displayed great knowledge of the employment and education scene, but, again, as with the hon. Member for Hexham, we would disagree fundamentally with her prescription and analysis. Nevertheless it was pleasing to hear two such maiden speeches in an education debate.

That was the pleasant side of the debate. However, there has also been an unpleasant spectacle here this afternoon. We have seen the Tory party at its atavistic, unpleasant worst, displaying a degree of thuggery towards its former leader and a former Prime Minister of Britain that is disgraceful for a mature political party. It may well be that the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) disagrees with much that is said from the Conservative Benches these days. He may well disagree with a lot that is done in the name of the Conservative party now, but he clearly has a right to say it without being intimidated. Some of the intimidating behaviour on the Conservative Benches was a blow to the name and traditions of the House and was clearly an attempt to prevent the right hon. Gentleman speaking in the way that he wished, as he has the right to do.

Mr. Pawsey

Where is he now?

Mr. Fatchett

The hon. Gentleman always falls into the first available elephant trap. He displays the sort of behaviour about which I was talking and which I have already criticised.

Mr. Pawsey

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fatchett

No, not at this stage. I will give way when we reach some education issues.

That the Conservative party is fundamentally divided on this issue was obvious not only from the comments made by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup today and by the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) last week, but from a series of speeches today. It was very interesting to hear the right hon. Member for Chingford, (Mr. Tebbit) expressing some reservations and doubts about the national curriculum. If those doubts creep that far, the Conservative party and the Secretary of State have very big problems indeed.

What has been reflected in this debate is what Conservative local authorities up and down the country have been telling the Government during the consultation period. A list of those authorities controlled by the Conservative party which are wholly or largely opposed to the proposals represents the heartland of Conservatism: the Prime Minister's Barnet, Hertfordshire, Dorset, East Sussex, Havering, Hereford and Worcester, Suffolk, Solihull, Essex, Kent, Kingston, Norfolk, Surrey and Northumberland. All those authorities and many other Tory authorities have fundamental objections to the provisions of this Bill. Not only is Conservative opinion in education against this Bill, so is every national organisation of parents and of teachers; so are the Churches; any body that knows about education and educational practice is against this Bill in principle and in detail.

Mr. Tracey


Mr. Fatchett

No, I will not give way.

That leads to another factor which has characterised this debate. The Secretary of State finds himself in a unique position. He is isolated in his party from all those involved in educational practice; all those Conservatives in local government who know about education disagree with him. On the other hand we have the Right-wing zealots of the Conservative party who do not trust him and do not know how far he wants to go. So he finds himself in this unique position, condemned on the one hand and not trusted on the other.

Mr. Pawsey

Wait until we vote.

Mr. Fatchett

When the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said that he wanted to hear about one-nation Conservatism, he spoke to a large extent for his party in local government. He also said, rightly, that it is ideology, the ideology of the market, that dominates this Bill. I thought that it would be useful to have a look at the definition of Conservatism. I went and found somebody who is the architect of the thinking that underpins much of the Bill, Roger Scruton. He said that he would define Conservatism as faith in arrangements that are known and tested". When it comes to education, he does not have that same faith in the arrangements that are known and tested. But the truth about this Bill is that the proposals before us are not known, are not tested and are taking us into waters that are uncharted and dangerous for our children.

When the Government lo, ok for approval of some of their assumptions and prejudices, they fail to find it in the educational establishment and among those who know about education. Let us take testing. We have been told time and again from the Government Benches that testing is easy. There is a facile assumption, giving rise to much of the rhetoric about ease of testing. In reality, tests are not easy to devise. Educationists, have spent years trying to come up with tests, arguing about objectivity and bias. What do we get from the Government? Three months for experts to come up with tests. Yet those responsible for tests are saying that it cannot be done.

Mr. John Maples (Lewisham, West)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. On this question of testing, if the Government proposal to introduce assessment at seven, 11 and 14 is such a bad idea, what does the hon. Gentleman think of ILEA'S recent proposal to test children for reading at seven, 11 and 13?

Mr. Fatchett

We have struggled all through this debate to distinguish, for those on the Government Benches, between diagnostic testing and competitive testing. I will return to that point later. The point that I was making is that Conservatism depends on faith in arrangements that are known and tested.

We have heard no answer from the Government Benches during the debate to the question, "Why this jump to arrangements that are unknown and untested?" I looked at a submission from north Yorkshire county council, which is not one of the Left-wing authorities to which Conservative rhetoric sometimes refers. The council put two points to the Secretary of State which have not been answered so far. First, it asked in what particular respects the service provided in north Yorkshire by the local authority is so lacking as to justify the measures proposed in the Education Reform Bill. There has been no answer for north Yorkshire or for any other authorities. Much more importantly, the council asked in what respects the measures are likely to improve the position in north Yorkshire. Again there were no answers in the debate because there are no answers.

If the Government are serious about looking for answers in the procedures in this House, they have the opportunity tonight to vote for the motion

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fatchett

I will give way in a few moments.

The Government can vote in favour of the motion and agree to submit the proposals to a Special Standing Committee so that they can be examined.

The right hon. Member for Chingford said that he wanted more time for debate. If he wants more time for debate and more discussion about the detailed proposals on the national curriculum, why does he not join us in the Lobby and vote for the motion to commit the Bill to a Special Standing Committee?

Mr. Tebbit

To start with, I do not recollect actually saying that. That is one good reason why I will not join the hon. Gentlemen in the Lobby. Another reason is that the Opposition have no idea what to do about education policy. They even swapped their spokesman because one was no good and they had to bring in another. They have no policy—[Interruption.]They have nothing to offer. They persist in claiming that testing is impossible, when it is possible. They insist on saying that they oppose the core curriculum and that they are in favour of it. In fact, they are in a complete muddle. They do not admit that education is not satisfying the parents and they have no way of satisfying parents and they do not want to make any progress. That is why—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. Mr. Fatchett.

Mr. Fatchett

All hon. Members will realise that I made a mistake in giving way to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fatchett

I will give way to the hon. Lady in a moment. Giving way to the right hon. Gentleman only allowed me to learn of the depths to which he can descend on occasions.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Give way.

Mr. Fatchett

I will finish my comments about the special procedure and then give way.

We have the opportunity to vote so that the House can go into detail on many of the points that have caused anxiety among Conservative Members. I ask right hon. and hon. Members to support us in the Lobby so that hon. Members and educational experts can have the time to put their case to us.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, eventually. The point about the Bill is that many schools, such as those in my area, are good and already follow procedures such as those set down in the Bill. The Secretary of State and the Conservative party are trying to raise standards in the inner-city authorities such as ILEA to those standards that already appertain in Lancashire in Wyre.

Mr. Fatchett

I am delighted that the hon. Lady supports the education provision in Labour-controlled Lancashire with such enthusiasm and I hope that she will continue to do that.

There has been constant criticism of the education system from Conservative Members tonight. Every time Conservative Members have an opportunity in the House or in public they denigrate what happens in education. They give no facts, just prejudice and assertion. That is why they always end up in a position of ambivalence and hostility towards the system. That is why the Secretary of State said that there are more youngsters in higher education, but in the next breath said that the education system is flawed. That logic is flawed, which is why every year the Government issue press releases from the Department of Education and Science to say that more youngsters are passing O and A-levels, but in the next press release or the next speech, they criticise the education system. Their logic is flawed.

The greatest obscenity of all from the Government is that time after time they trade statistics which suggest that they have invested in our children's education. However, they have tried to avoid investing in our children's education. It has been Labour-controlled local authorities, supported by the ratepayers and voted for by the ratepayers, but penalised by the Government, that have continued to invest in our children's education. That is the reality. The Conservative Benches are Benches of shame when one is talking about investment in children's education.

In his opening speech the Secretary of State said that the Bill is about freedom, choice and improving standards. However, there is absolutely no evidence to support any of those assertions. On the contrary, the Bill will centralise, divide and lower standards. It will centralise because the Secretary of State will take 175 new powers. If a Labour Government took 175 new powers, I suspect that all Fleet street and the media would say that that was a law of dictatorship. However, all that now happens is that the Secretary of State smiles happily as the new powers are assumed.

There is no surprise in the fact that he does not worry about that because last year the same Secretary of State took from 400,000 teachers the basic democratic right to negotiate with their employers. Therefore, he is not a man who worries too much about fundamental rights. We are now paying the price of the decision that he took 12 months ago. When the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said that he was fed up with teachers being hammered, he was absolutely right because at all levels in the education system, teachers have been hammered by the Government and their propaganda for eight years. The fact that they have continued to perform is a great credit to them, but no credit to the Government.

Even the right hon. Member for Chingford has some hesitations about the national curriculum, which my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) called the "state curriculum". That is what it is, because it is not open to consultation with parents or teachers about the detailed syllabus. That will be determined by a parliamentary process that will allow little discussion or consultation, even here. We all know what happens in this place with orders. We cannot table amendments or even have discussions because we shall have only a late-night debate. That is the way in which our children's syllabuses for all subjects will be determined.

Dr. Hampson


Mr. Fatchett

I shall give way in a moment.

To say that that process will avoid centralisation is a great risk because it avoids the truth and the reality of the process. Syllabuses are open to political values and interpretation. The Government will not only prescribe what will be taught but, through the syllabus, what will be thought in the future. They are taking power over not only the teachers, but the minds of our children through what will go in the national curriculum.

Dr. Hampson

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Surely he has not forgotten the views about a national curriculum of his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition when he was the shadow education spokesman? He also seems to have forgotten the speech that was made by Lord Callaghan at Ruskin college, which started the great debate that began all of this. More importantly, he seems to have forgotten the report of Her Majesty's inspectorate 10 years ago, under a Labour Government, which proposed that four fifths of school time should be devoted to a national curriculum, exactly as has been proposed in this Bill. Has he forgotten that that happened under his party's Government?

Mr. Fatchett

I believe that our children need a flexible core curriculum. What they have in front of them is a core curriculum that is virtually all core and no fruit. We need a curriculum for schools that will provide that fruit. What we have got and what we are giving to our children is a prescriptive education without reference to individual children's learning difficulties or ability.

Higher education has not featured much in today's debate. Higher education will be subject to a further degree of centralisation. Our polytechnics will be taken out of local control and nationalised. They will be given to and controlled by the DES. Our universities will also be put under the control of the DES as a result of the new funding system. The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals made the point simply when it said: This Bill would create a new bureaucratic machinery subservient to direct and detailed ministerial intervention. This is strangely at odds with the Government's declared intention to foster university autonomy and runs counter to its expressed belief that organisations respond best if they are given responsibility implicit in freedom. The Government are centralising higher education and, on top of that, they are bringing in the absurdity of the contracting system. The absurdity of that system was much better expressed by Lord Beloff in the other place when he said: The idea that you can contract with universities in the way in which one business contracts with another for a supply of widgets is an absurdity which could only have emanated from the deepest recesses of bureaucratic Whitehall. I have been trying to imagine the kind of contracts which universities might enter into. One occurs to me which might have been suitable for the University of Cambridge. The Department of Education and Science proposes to supply certain equipment; to wit, one apple tree, Grannie Smith for preference. The University of Cambridge in return undertakes that within a period of 18 months or less, making allowances for statutory holidays, a member of its staff, one Mr. Newton, will invent gravitation." — [Official Report, House of Lords, 30 June 1987; Vol. 488, c. 164.] That is the nature and the absurdity of the contract system. It is an absurdity that will direct choice, control freedom in our universities and restrict the range of disciplines and subjects that are taught. It might also have been useful if the Bill had made some reference not just to academic tenure, but to academic freedom. This Government have talked about academic freedom in other contexts. Why does the Bill make no reference to it?

The Bill will divide and lower standards. It will divide because, within our school system, the grant-maintained schools will inevitably become selective, fee-paying schools. The Government deny that, but I believe that that is clear enough if one looks at the city technology colleges already in existence or those planned. When it comes to the selection of a second or third science or the second or third language, the parents will be charged for that subject. That is the way the grant-maintained schools will work.

The idea of testing will also be divisive. From what we have heard tonight it is clear the Government's intention is to compare class against class, school against school. Once that is done, the only purpose of testing is to make it competitive so that children are divided at the ages of seven, 11 and 14 into successes or failures. By doing that standards are lowered because children will be taught to pass and not taught to expand and fulfil their abilities.

The Government have missed an opportunity. There was an alternative agenda that could have been put before the nation: an alternative agenda that talked about expanding nursery education for all our youngsters aged three or four; an agenda that talked about providing adequate resources for books, for GCSE subjects, for school buildings and for tackling the teaching shortage in some subjects; an agenda that talked about developing and resourcing diagnostic testing. Such an agenda spoke of combined and greater school and parent involvement, and about tackling the disgracefully low staying-on rate of 16-year-olds. It talked about providing coherent and valuable provision for post 16-year-olds. It spoke about broadening the access to higher education and ending the iniquitous divide between universities and polytechnics. It is a programme for investment in education to build and extend what is good, thereby providing greater opportunity and higher standards. That is what the Government should have done; sadly, they have chosen a course determined by ideological blindness. As a result, our children, their education and our future will suffer. That is why I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against the Bill tonight.

9.35 pm
The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold)

I join the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) in saying that this has been a most interesting debate, with many contributors speaking on a subject that the Government regard as one of the highest priorities for discussion by the House. I also join him in congratulating the two excellent maiden speakers whom we had the privilege of hearing this evening. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Hicks) spoke fluently and with excellent content. She spoke of her constituency with warmth and understanding, and I am sure that her new constituents will have every reason to be proud to have her representing them in the House. We shall certainly do our best to make her desire for a city technology college come to pass in her constituency. As she rightly said, as a teacher and parent she represents the views of many people in this country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Amos) is obviously a worthy successor to our noble Friend, Lord Rippon. I am not ashamed to admit that his speech reflected my own views on the importance of the maintained sector of education. I agree with his comments about testing, and I believe that he acted well as a chairman of an education committee when he was a councillor in Enfield. He was right to say that there is an arrogant paternalism about people who say that only certain sorts of people are fit to make choices for their children. All parents, from whatever social and financial circumstances they come, have a right to make such choices for their children. My hon. Friend was correct to draw that to the attention of the House.

I wish to clarify three points with which we intend to deal during the Bill's progress. First, we have informed the leader of the Inner London education authority today about the London Institute. We intend to table an additional criterion in Committee with the effect that institutions which, on 1 November 1985, had more than 2,500 advanced further education students — regardless of percentage—shall be included for transfer to the new sector. That will bring the London Institute into the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council.

Secondly, subject to the outcome of our consultation on the document that was issued 13 November, the Secretary of State will add a clause to limit the power to award United Kingdom degrees to certain specified bodies. I believe that Opposition Members will share our views on that. Thirdly, the period that we allowed for comment on charging ended only yesterday, and responses are still coming in. In the light of those, we shall consider how best the law may be clarified to preserve present practice, and any necessary revisions will then be introduced while the Bill is in Committee.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

In 1981, six long years ago, the Government pledged to legislate for special needs in further education, once the legal basis for further education had been clarified. Why has that pledge to young people with disabilities been broken by the Government? Why is not the Secretary of State legislating to meet those special needs at this time?

Mrs. Rumbold

I am sure that the Committee will discuss that matter. I shall now go on to the substance of the debate. The Opposition have tried their best to establish that the Bill is a centralising measure. We have heard about the 175 powers that my right hon. Friend is supposedly taking. Their point betrays their failure to read and to understand the Bill's provisions. The point that they make is essentially trivial. Many of the powers given to the Secretary of State in the Bill are explicitly fashioned to enable him to push responsibility down to the local level beyond the town hall to the schools and colleges. They are devolutionary powers. That is the purpose and the effect of the provisions for financial delegation, more open enrolment, grant-maintained schools and polytechnics.

Ms. Hilary Armstrong (Durham, North-West)

Can the Minister tell us how long on average it takes the Secretary of State to respond to things such as school closure proposals? The real fear is that the Bill gives him powers to delay. Local people need to know who they can talk to and they must be able to do that quickly. The Secretary of State's record is not good.

Mrs. Rumbold

I am given to understand that on average it takes six months from the notice of publication. Delegations come to see my right hon. Friend.

The Bill provides more choice and more freedom. The proposals mean less control, not more, and that was not the case to anything like the same extent in the Education Act 1944, which has been extensively quoted during the debate. It gave over 100 powers to the Minister at the time. It is the Opposition who insist on clinging to the notion of centralisation. They cannot tolerate real choice for parents and real responsibility for schools and colleges, because those things offend against their bureaucratic notions of planning.

Mr. George Howarth

In answer to a question, the Minister said that Knowsley borough council had said that it wanted a city technology college. One member of that authority made a statement to that effect, but neither the education committee of the borough council nor the full council has made any such approach to the Government. Will the Minister withdraw what she said?

Mrs. Rumbold

The approach from Knowsley was in the form of an open letter on 17 November 1986 to the Secretary of State for Education and Science and it was from the chairman of Knowsley education committee, Councillor Nolan. The letter opposed the idea of a city technology initiative as proposed by the Government, but it invited the Secretary of State to set up a CTC in conjunction with the local education authority. The CTC would be based on an existing school and would be for pupils who were economically and culturally disadvantaged. It would be a joint DES-LEA school. I understand that officials on both sides have met to discuss this and further progress may well be made in future.

There have been many speeches in the debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) made an eloquent speech. He was right to say that all that we have heard from the Opposition was about their power to oppose and not their power to suggest. We shall certainly take careful note of my right hon. Friend's wise points about the job that confronts the colleges of further education. I am reminded that when I made my maiden speech he was sitting on the Government Front Bench and we were talking about the youth training scheme. I am grateful to him for drawing to our attention the important job that the colleges of further education will have to do.

We also note my right hon. Friend's concern about the national curriculum. I noted with some amusement the points that he made about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Christmas tree. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would not wish to put every present upon the Christmas tree, because last year his daughter placed on the Christmas tree for him a beautiful present. It was a plastic tulip. We watched him blow it up for a few days but, fortunately for all of us, he relegated it to another office. I do not think that the officials were very happy about that.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) made some important points. He spoke about long-overdue reforms in education and said that our reforms have great clarity of purpose. My right hon. Friend is entirely right to say that many teachers will welcome the opportunity offered by our reforms, sharing with us the excitement of achieving high standards in our schools. Let me pay tribute to those many teachers, up and down the country, who share our view that much needs to be done in education, and who will work with a will to achieve the improvements and lever up standards, which my right hon. Friend rightly wants.

My right hon. Friend was also right to point out that there are many low attainers, who happen to be the losers in our present system. He is right: we should take note of that. I was also interested that he wanted my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to take rather stronger powers to ensure that schools were rationalised, and that money was not extravagantly spent on schools with surplus places. I also have some sympathy with the point that he made about the abolition of ILEA. Other right hon. and hon. Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford made the same point.

Our proposals allow for the abolition of the ILEA if it shrinks to the point at which it ceases to make sense. However, the Government's aim is to improve both the quality and the cost-effectiveness of education in inner London. That would not be achieved at this stage by imposing educational responsibilities on unwilling boroughs.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) rightly reminded the hon. Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) that the word "local" does not only refer to authorities; it also refers to schools, communities and the people who live in those communities. Those people are frequently parents, and send their children to local schools.

I was grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) for his constructive comments about voluntary schools and religious education and I undertake to look carefully at the detailed points that he raised. We certainly intend to put right one point that he identified: we shall take steps in Committee to apply the law on collective worship and religious education directly to grant-maintained schools in particular. I shall also look carefully in Committee at the provisions concerned with winding up assets in former voluntary schools to ensure a clear and fair arrangement. I hope that my right hon. Friend will find those answers reassuring.

The hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) touched on academic freedom, and I listened carefully to what he said. He referred to clause 131, which requires the commissioners to ensure that each university and college has proper procedures for applicants. The Bill also gives university employees recourse to the court, which they are now denied. In those ways, the Bill increases the protection of academic freedom rather than diminishing it.

The power of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to give directions to both the Universities Funding Council and the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council follows a well-established precedent of the research councils, and no one has ever seen it as a threat to academic freedom.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

I have been listening carefully, and waiting for the Minister to reach the topic of academic freedom. If I have understood her correctly, she has said that academic freedom will be protected through recourse to the courts. I do not think that that will satisfy the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, which is very perturbed at the absence of a clause in the Bill to protect academic freedom. That was promised repeatedly by the Secretary of State before the publication of the Bill.

Mrs. Rum bold

The hon. Lady may not be aware that the statutes must be approved by the Privy Council. That is, and always has been, a great protection of academic freedom.

I think that I should tell the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. M. Smyth) that the system in Northern Ireland already offers the rest of the United Kingdom a great deal in terms of expertise, curriculum development and successful outcome. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is keeping in close touch with the progress of this Bill. The Bill is restricted to England, Wales, and, in certain areas of higher education, to Scotland. The provisions relating to tenure can be extended to Northern Ireland by Order in Council but education legislation in Northern Ireland is usually modelled on that applying in Britain. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be interested in that note.

We all welcome the views of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) on parental choice. We know how strongly he feels about that. I was glad to hear him say that he welcomes financial delegation. As a former head teacher, he will know how important it is to have contact with schools in those terms.

We warmly welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) to the House. I welcome him particularly as he held a position that I formerly held, as chairman of the education committee in the royal borough of Kingston upon Thames. He spoke about financial delegation. I am glad that since my time in Kingston we have moved to financial delegation. I was also glad to hear my hon. Friend's views on ILEA. The figures he quoted were disgraceful in terms of the deprivation of the children in Wandsworth. We hope that that borough will take education unto itself in order to improve the standards for the children and parents within that area.

My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) drew to our attention the international perspective. It is extremely important that that sort of perspective should be reintroduced into the House because we wish to hear more about those points in relation to how our own children should be set standards.

Opposition Members have spent this evening and many days, nights and hours opposing this Bill. They have written many articles about it and excited many people, together with some of their friends within the unions and some of those who live within the close circle of the education community, into opposing this Bill. Like many people, this morning I awoke to the dulcet tones of the great triumvirate; Mr. Jarvis, Mr. Snape and Mr. Hart. All those people sing the same song. They have been around for a number of years. I knew them all in my former incarnation in the local education authority.

It is not just this Government that those people have been seeking to oppose. When I first met them I was in local government and the Secretary of State for Education and Science was the unlamented Mrs. Williams. She is known to the House for one of the most crucial acts of vandalism that any of us have experienced. It was Mrs. Williams who applied the abolition of direct grant schools and introduced the idea of abolishing grammar schools altogether.

I have to tell the House that it was bitterly spiteful to take that sort of action. It was spiteful against the very children whom Opposition Members are supposed to support. It was spiteful against the very children who, by their own skills and abilities, went into schools and gained an opportunity to go on to higher education or to university. That was a scandalous thing to do. We did not have to put grammar schools, back because, mercifully, people such as me managed to resist the hon. Lady when she was trying to take grammar schools out of the system. We managed to preserve our grammar schools.

When the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) was still dancing the light fantastic with Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, the Conservative authorities up and down the country were fearful to take action other than to go comprehensive because they had been threatened by the bully boys of the Labour Government that if they ever regained power they would stop the capital allocations to authorities with grammar schools. Therefore, people were frightened that the children in those schools would be acted against by a spiteful Government.

We were told that nobody likes our idea of a national curriculum. Opposition Members say, "Of course we would have one, but it would not be like yours." I have heard that somewhere before — usually in the playground of a school. It is the typical yah-boo attitude of people who know a good thing when they see it and are only furious that they did not get there first.

We hear that no one wants open enrolment. Opposition Members do not say as much, but they mean that they do not want open enrolment. They say, "Why should this nasty Government deprive us of the opportunity to push people around and tell them where to send their children?" A recent poll showed that 24 per cent. of people in England would prefer to send their children to other schools. In London, which is run by that model authority, ILEA, 35 per cent. of people wanted something different. The Opposition say that we should allow that unsatisfactory state of affairs to continue.

Rab Butler said when introducing the 1944 Act: In the new attitude to secondary education we have two main objectives. The first is that, so far as possible, provision of various types of education should be accessible to all, whatever their social and financial circumstances". The House will note "various types of education". Rab Butler continued: There is no desire to level down; there is only a desire to bring everybody, ever upwards."—[Official Report, 19 January 1944; Vol. 396, c. 222.] All of us subscribe to that, except, it seems, the Opposition, who condemn our proposals to offer grant-maintained status to schools.

Is it so hard for Opposition Members to believe that somewhere out there parents, governors and teachers may want to exercise freedom of choice? I can understand why those who have enjoyed the authority of monopoly are confounded when choice leads to healthy competition for them. Perhaps that is what is needed to spur Opposition Members on to provide what my noble Friend Lord Joseph wanted when he was Secretary of State. He wanted an education that was relevant, broad, balanced and differentiated. Until now, no one has succeeded in achieving that ambition.

The Bill offers parents and governors the opportunity to make decisions and schools the opportunity to seek different status. How many hon. Members who believe in freedom and democracy would really vote against such a proposal? How many Opposition Members will vote against the provision to give parents the opportunity to decide for themselves? How many of them will put their hands on their hearts and say, "We shall vote to prevent people from making choice and having freedom."?

Our proposals will enable steps to be taken towards levering up standards. They will offer individual institutions responsibility for making their own decisions. They will allow people to choose from a range of schools and colleges in the maintained sector on the basis of sound information and without the intervention of authorities, which Opposition Members seek.

If we allow the measures to blossom, our maintained education system—free for the children of this country —will blossom for the benefit of today's children and tomorrow's children. I want every child to have the opportunity to go to the school that his or her parents have chosen and to be able to change schools if his or her parents wish it. I want all that to be offered within our maintained sector of education.

If any doubt remains in Opposition Members' minds, let me remind them of something that they do not wish to hear. The proposals are not being sprung on an unsuspecting electorate. The electorate knew about them, discussed them, read about them, thought about them and on 11 June voted resoundingly for the Conservative party, which is why we have been so well represented during this debate on the Education Reform Bill, which I hope all hon. Members will support tonight.

Question put:

The House divided:Ayes 348 Noes 241.

Division No. 88] [10 pm
Adley, Robert Cran, James
Aitken, Jonathan Critchley, Julian
Alexander, Richard Currie, Mrs Edwina
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Curry, David
Allason, Rupert Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Amess, David Davis, David (Boothferry)
Amos, Alan Day, Stephen
Arbuthnot, James Devlin, Tim
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Dickens, Geoffrey
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Dicks, Terry
Ashby, David Dorrell, Stephen
Aspinwall, Jack Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Atkins, Robert Dover, Den
Atkinson, David Dunn, Bob
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Durant, Tony
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Dykes, Hugh
Baldry, Tony Eggar, Tim
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Emery, Sir Peter
Batiste, Spencer Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Evennett, David
Bellingham, Henry Fairbairn, Nicholas
Bendall, Vivian Fallon, Michael
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Farr, Sir John
Benyon, W. Favell, Tony
Bevan, David Gilroy Fenner, Dame Peggy
Biffen, Rt Hon John Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Fookes, Miss Janet
Body, Sir Richard Forman, Nigel
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Boswell, Tim Forth, Eric
Bottomley, Peter Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Fox, Sir Marcus
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Freeman, Roger
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) French, Douglas
Bowis, John Fry, Peter
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Gale, Roger
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Gardiner, George
Brazier, Julian Garel-Jones, Tristan
Bright, Graham Gill, Christopher
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Brooke, Hon Peter Glyn, Dr Alan
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Goodhart, Sir Philip
Browne, John (Winchester) Goodlad, Alastair
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Buck, Sir Antony Gow, Ian
Budgen, Nicholas Gower, Sir Raymond
Burns, Simon Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Burt, Alistair Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Butcher, John Greenway, John (Rydale)
Butler, Chris Gregory, Conal
Butterfill, John Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Grist, Ian
Carrington, Matthew Ground, Patrick
Carttiss, Michael Grylls, Michael
Cash, William Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Chapman, Sydney Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Chope, Christopher Hampson, Dr Keith
Churchill, Mr Hanley, Jeremy
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hannam, John
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Colvin, Michael Harris, David
Conway, Derek Haselhurst, Alan
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hawkins, Christopher
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hayes, Jerry
Cope, John Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Cormack, Patrick Hayward, Robert
Couchman, James Heathcoat-Amory, David
Heddle, John Moate, Roger
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Monro, Sir Hector
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Morrison, Hon C. (Devizos)
Hind, Kenneth Morrison, Hon P (Chester)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Moss, Malcolm
Holt, Richard Moynihan, Hon C.
Hordern, Sir Peter Mudd, David
Howard, Michael Neale, Gerrard
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Needham, Richard
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Nelson, Anthony
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Neubert, Michael
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Newton, Tony
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Nicholls, Patrick
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Onslow, Cranley
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Oppenheim, Phillip
Irvine, Michael Page, Richard
Irving, Charles Paice, James
Jack, Michael Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Jackson, Robert Patnick, Irvine
Janman, Timothy Patten, Chris (Bath)
Jessel, Toby Patten, John (Oxford W)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Pawsey, James
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Porter, David (Waveney)
Key, Robert Portillo, Michael
King, Roger (Bham N'thfield) Powell, William (Corby)
Kirkhope, Timothy Price, Sir David
Knapman, Roger Raffan, Keith
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Knowles, Michael Rathbone, Tim
Knox, David Redwood, John
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Renton, Tim
Lang, Ian Rhodes James, Robert
Latham, Michael Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Lawrence, Ivan Riddick, Graham
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lee, John (Pendle) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Lightbown, David Roe, Mrs Marion
Lilley, Peter Rossi, Sir Hugh
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Rowe, Andrew
Lord, Michael Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Ryder, Richard
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Sackville, Hon Tom
McCrindle, Robert Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Macfarlane, Neil Scott, Nicholas
MacGregor, John Shaw, David (Dover)
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Maclean, David Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
McLoughlin, Patrick Shelton, William (Streatham)
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Madel, David Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Major, Rt Hon John Shersby, Michael
Malins, Humfrey Skeet, Sir Trevor
Mans, Keith Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Maples, John Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Marland, Paul Soames, Hon Nicholas
Marlow, Tony Speed, Keith
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Speller, Tony
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mates, Michael Squire, Robin
Maude, Hon Francis Stanbrook, Ivor
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Steen, Anthony
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stern, Michael
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Stevens, Lewis
Mellor, David Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Miller, Hal Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
Mills, Iain Stokes, John
Miscampbell, Norman Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Sumberg, David
Summerson, Hugo Walden, George
Tapsell, Sir Peter Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Waller, Gary
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Walters, Dennis
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Ward, John
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Temple-Morris, Peter Warren, Kenneth
Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret Watts, John
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley) Wheeler, John
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Whitney, Ray
Thorne, Neil Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Thornton, Malcolm Wiggin, Jerry
Thurnham, Peter Wilkinson, John
Townend, John (Bridlington) Wilshire, David
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Tracey, Richard Winterton, Nicholas
Tredinnick, David Wolfson, Mark
Trippier, David Wood, Timothy
Trotter, Neville Woodcock, Mike
Twinn, Dr Ian Yeo, Tim
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Young, Sir George (Acton)
Viggers, Peter
Waddington, Rt Hon David Tellers for the Ayes:
Wakeham, Rt Hon John Mr. Robert Boscawen and Mr. Peter Lloyd.
Waldegrave, Hon William
Abbott, Ms Diane Crowther, Stan
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Cryer, Bob
Allen, Graham Cummings, J.
Alton, David Cunliffe, Lawrence
Anderson, Donald Cunningham, Dr John
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Dalyell, Tam
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Darling, Alastair
Ashdown, Paddy Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Ashton, Joe Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Dewar, Donald
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Dixon, Don
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Dobson, Frank
Barron, Kevin Doran, Frank
Battle, John Douglas, Dick
Beckett, Margaret Duffy, A. E. P.
Beith, A. J. Dunnachie, James
Bell, Stuart Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Eadie, Alexander
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Eastham, Ken
Bermingham, Gerald Evans, John (St Helens N)
Bidwell, Sydney Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Blair, Tony Fatchett, Derek
Boateng, Paul Faulds, Andrew
Boyes, Roland Fearn, Ronald
Bradley, Keith Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Fisher, Mark
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Flannery, Martin
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Flynn, Paul
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Buchan, Norman Foster, Derek
Buckley, George Fraser, John
Caborn, Richard Fyfe, Mrs Maria
Callaghan, Jim Galbraith, Samuel
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) George, Bruce
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Godman, Dr Norman A.
Canavan, Dennis Gordon, Ms Mildred
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Gould, Bryan
Cartwright, John Graham, Thomas
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clay, Bob Grocott, Bruce
Clelland, David Hardy, Peter
Cohen, Harry Harman, Ms Harriet
Coleman, Donald Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Heffer, Eric S.
Corbett, Robin Henderson, Douglas
Corbyn, Jeremy Hinchliffe, David
Cousins, Jim Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Cox, Tom Holland, Stuart
Home Robertson, John Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Hood, James O'Brien, William
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) O'Neill, Martin
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Howells, Geraint Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Hoyle, Doug Parry, Robert
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Patchett, Terry
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Pendry, Tom
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Pike, Peter
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hume, John Prescott, John
Illsley, Eric Primarolo, Ms Dawn
Ingram, Adam Quin, Ms Joyce
Janner, Greville Radice, Giles
John, Brynmor Randall, Stuart
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Redmond, Martin
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Reid, John
Kennedy, Charles Richardson, Ms Jo
Kilfedder, James Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Robertson, George
Kirkwood, Archy Robinson, Geoffrey
Lamond, James Rogers, Allan
Leadbitter, Ted Rooker, Jeff
Leighton, Ron Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles) Rowlands, Ted
Lewis, Terry Ruddock, Ms Joan
Litherland, Robert Salmond, Alex
Livingstone, Ken Sedgemore, Brian
Livsey, Richard Sheerman, Barry
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Loyden, Eddie Short, Clare
McAllion, John Skinner, Dennis
McAvoy, Tom Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McCartney, Ian Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Macdonald, Calum Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
McFall, John Soley, Clive
McGrady, E. K. Spearing, Nigel
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Steel, Rt Hon David
McKelvey, William Steinberg, Gerald
McLeish, Henry Stott, Roger
Maclennan, Robert Strang, Gavin
McNamara, Kevin Straw, Jack
Madden, Max Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Mallon, Seamus Thomas, Dafydd Elis
Marek, Dr John Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Turner, Dennis
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Vaz, Keith
Martin, Michael (Springburn) Wall, Pat
Martlew, Eric Wallace, James
Maxton, John Walley, Ms Joan
Meacher, Michael Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Meale, Alan Wareing, Robert N.
Michael, Alun Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Wigley, Dafydd
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Williams, Rt Hon A. J.
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Wilson, Brian
Moonie, Dr Lewis Winnick, David
Morgan, Rhodri Wise, Mrs Audrey
Morley, Elliott Worthington, Anthony
Morris, Rt Hon A (W'shawe) Wray, James
Morris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Mowlam, Mrs Marjorie
Mullin, Chris Tellers for the Noes:
Murphy, Paul Mr. Frank Haynes and Mrs. Llin Golding.
Nellist, Dave

Question accordingly agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put,

That the Bill be committed to a Special Standing Committee.—[Mr.Straw.]

The House divided:—Ayes 245,Noes 348.

Divislon No. 89] [10.16 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Fearn, Ronald
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Allen, Graham Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Alton, David Fisher, Mark
Anderson, Donald Flannery, Martin
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Flynn, Paul
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Ashdown, Paddy Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Foster, Derek
Ashton, Joe Fraser, John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Fyfe, Mrs Maria
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Galbraith, Samuel
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Barron, Kevin Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Battle, John George, Bruce
Beckett, Margaret Godman, Dr Norman A.
Beggs, Roy Gordon, Ms Mildred
Beith, A. J. Gould, Bryan
Bell, Stuart Graham, Thomas
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bermingham, Gerald Grocott, Bruce
Bidwell, Sydney Hardy, Peter
Blair, Tony Harman, Ms Harriet
Boateng, Paul Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Boyes, Roland Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Bradley, Keith Heffer, Eric S.
Bray, Dr Jeremy Henderson, Douglas
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Hinchliffe, David
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Holland, Stuart
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Home Robertson, John
Buchan, Norman Hood, James
Buckley, George Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Caborn, Richard Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Callaghan, Jim Howells, Geraint
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hoyle, Doug
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Canavan, Dennis Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cartwright, John Hume, John
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Illsley, Eric
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Ingram, Adam
Clay, Bob Janner, Greville
Clelland, David John, Brynmor
Cohen, Harry Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Coleman, Donald Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Kennedy, Charles
Corbett, Robin Kilfedder, James
Corbyn, Jeremy Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Cousins, Jim Kirkwood, Archy
Cox, Tom Lamond, James
Crowther, Stan Leadbitter, Ted
Cryer, Bob Leighton, Ron
Cummings, J. Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Lewis, Terry
Cunningham, Dr John Litherland, Robert
Dalyell, Tam Livingstone, Ken
Darling, Alastair Livsey, Richard
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) McAllion, John
Dewar, Donald McAvoy, Tom
Dixon, Don McCartney, Ian
Dobson, Frank McCrea, Rev William
Doran, Frank Macdonald, Calum
Douglas, Dick McFall, John
Duffy, A. E. P. McGrady, E. K.
Dunnachie, James McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth McKelvey, William
Eadie, Alexander McLeish, Henry
Eastham, Ken Maclennan, Robert
Evans, John (St Helens N) McNamara, Kevin
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Madden, Max
Fatchett, Derek Mahon, Mrs Alice
Faulds, Andrew Mallon, Seamus
Marek, Dr John Rowlands, Ted
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Ruddock, Ms Joan
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Salrnond, Alex
Martin, Michael (Springburn) Sedgemore, Brian
Martlew, Eric Sheerman, Barry
Maxton, John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Meacher, Michael Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Meale, Alan Short, Clare
Michael, Alun Skinner, Dennis
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Mitchell, Austin (t Grimsby) Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Soley, Clive
Moonie, Dr Lewis Spearing, Nigel
Morgan, Rhodri Steel, Rt Hon David
Morley, Elliott Steinberg, Gerald
Morris, Rt Hon A (W'shawe) Stott, Roger
Morris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon) Strang, Gavin
Mowlam, Mrs Marjorie Straw, Jack
Mullin, Chris Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Murphy, Paul Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Nellist, Dave Thomas, Dafydd Elis
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
O'Brien, William Turner, Dennis
O'Neill, Martin Vaz, Keith
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Parry, Robert Wall, Pat
Patchett, Terry Wallace, James
Pendry, Tom Walley, Ms Joan
Pike, Peter Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Wareing, Robert N.
Prescott, John Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Primarolo, Ms Dawn Wigley, Dafydd
Quin, Ms Joyce Williams, Rt Hon A. J.
Radice, Giles Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then,
Randall, Stuart Wilson, Brian
Redmond, Martin Winnick, David
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Wise, Mrs Audrey
Reid, John Worthington, Anthony
Richardson, Ms Jo Wray, James
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Robertson, George
Robinson, Geoffrey Tellers for the Ayes:
Rogers, Allan Mr. Frank Haynes and Mrs. Llin Golding.
Rooker, Jeff
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Adley, Robert Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Aitken, Jonathan Bowis, John
Alexander, Richard Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Allason, Rupert Brazier, Julian
Amess, David Bright, Graham
Amos, Alan Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Arbuthnot, James Brooke, Hon Peter
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Browne, John (Winchester)
Ashby, David Bruce, lan (Dorset South)
Aspinwall, Jack Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Atkins, Robert Buck, Sir Antony
Atkinson, David Budgen, Nicholas
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Burns, Simon
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Burt, Alistair
Baldry, Tony Butcher, John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Butler, Chris
Batiste, Spencer Butterfill, John
Bellingham, Henry Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Bendall, Vivian Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Carrington, Matthew
Benyon, W. Carttiss, Michael
Bevan, David Gilroy Cash, William
Biffen, Rt Hon John Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Body, Sir Richard Chapman, Sydney
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Chope, Christopher
Boswell, Tim Churchill, Mr
Bottomley, Peter Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Colvin, Michael Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Conway, Derek Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hind, Kenneth
Cope, John Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Cormack, Patrick Holt, Richard
Couchman, James Hordern, Sir Peter
Cran, James Howard, Michael
Critchley, Julian Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Curry, David Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Day, Stephen Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Devlin, Tim Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Dickens, Geoffrey Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Dicks, Terry Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Dorrell, Stephen Irvine, Michael
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Irving, Charles
Dover, Den Jack, Michael
Dunn, Bob Jackson, Robert
Durant, Tony Janman, Timothy
Dykes, Hugh Jessel, Toby
Eggar, Tim Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Emery, Sir Peter Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Evennett, David Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Fairbairn, Nicholas Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Fallon, Michael Key, Robert
Farr, Sir John King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Favell, Tony Kirkhope, Timothy
Fenner, Dame Peggy Knapman, Roger
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Fookes, Miss Janet Knowles, Michael
Forman, Nigel Knox, David
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Forth, Eric Lang, Ian
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Latham, Michael
Fox, Sir Marcus Lawrence, Ivan
Freeman, Roger Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
French, Douglas Lee, John (Pendle)
Fry, Peter Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor gh)
Gale, Roger Lightbown, David
Gardiner, George Lilley, Peter
Garel-Jones, Tristan Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Gill, Christopher Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Lord, Michael
Glyn, Dr Alan Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Goodhart, Sir Philip Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Goodlad, Alastair McCrindle, Robert
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Macfarlane, Neil
Gorman, Mrs Teresa MacGregor, John
Gow, Ian MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Gower, Sir Raymond Maclean, David
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) McLoughlin, Patrick
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Greenway, John (Rydale) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Gregory, Conal Madel, David
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E') Major, Rt Hon John
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Malins, Humfrey
Grist, Ian Mans, Keith
Ground, Patrick Maples, John
Grylls, Michael Marland, Paul
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Marlow, Tony
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Hampson, Dr Keith Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Hanley, Jeremy Mates, Michael
Hannam, John Maude, Hon Francis
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Harris, David Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Haselhurst, Alan Mellor, David
Hawkins, Christopher Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hayes, Jerry Miller, Hal
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Mills, Iain
Hayward, Robert Miscampbell, Norman
Heathcoat-Amory, David Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Heddle, John Moate, Roger
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Monro, Sir Hector
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Redwood, John
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Renton, Tim
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Rhodes James, Robert
Morrison, Hon P (Chester) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Moss, Malcolm Riddick, Graham
Moynihan, Hon C. Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Mudd, David Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Neale, Gerrard Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Needham, Richard Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Nelson, Anthony Roe, Mrs Marion
Neubert, Michael Rossi, Sir Hugh
Newton, Tony Rowe, Andrew
Nicholls, Patrick Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Ryder, Richard
Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W) Sackville, Hon Tom
Onslow, Cranley Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Oppenheim, Phillip Scott, Nicholas
Page, Richard Shaw, David (Dover)
Paice, James Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Patnick, Irvine Shelton, William (Streatham)
Patten, Chris (Bath) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Patten, John (Oxford W) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoftrey Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Pawsey, James Shersby, Michael
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Skeet, Sir Trevor
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Porter, David (Waveney) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Portillo, Michael Soames, Hon Nicholas
Powell, William (Corby) Speed, Keith
Price, Sir David Speller, Tony
Raffan, Keith Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Rathbone, Tim Squire, Robin
Stanbrook, Ivor Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Steen, Anthony Viggers, Peter
Stern, Michael Waddington, Rt Hon David
Stevens, Lewis Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Waldegrave, Hon William
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Walden, George
Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N) Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Stokes, John Waller, Gary
Stradling Thomas, Sir John Walters, Dennis
Sumberg, David Ward, John
Summerson, Hugo Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Tapsell, Sir Peter Warren, Kenneth
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Watts, John
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Wheeler, John
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Whitney, Ray
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Temple-Morris, Peter Wiggin, Jerry
Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret Wilkinson, John
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley) Wilshire, David
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Thorne, Neil Winterton, Nicholas
Thornton, Malcolm Wolfson, Mark
Thurnham, Peter Wood, Timothy
Townend, John (Bridlington) Woodcock, Mike
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Yeo, Tim
Tracey, Richard Young, Sir George (Acton)
Tredinnick, David
Trippier, David Tellers for the Ayes:
Trotter, Neville Mr. Robert Boscawen and Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd.
Twinn, Dr Ian

Question accordingly negatived.

Bill accordingly committed to a Standing Committee.