§ Order for Second Reading read.4.13 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Government, in formulating the proposals within the Bill and their broad education policy, were motivated by three major considerations.
The first was the necessity of ensuring that the Scottish educational tradition, which still has a continuing relevance and significance to youngsters in Scotland, is fully taken into account in any developments in our policy and in any changes that are proposed.
Secondly, I believe that the view is widely held throughout education in Scotland that it is no longer tolerable that parents in Scotland—indeed, Scotland is alone in western Europe in this respect—should play an almost insignificant part in the education process that affects their children. Almost everyone in education has expressed the view that the existing arrangements in Scotland are inadequate, that the existing school councils have not lived up to the expectations of those who introduced them and that greater parental involvement is necessary. That is the second premise on which our proposals were based.
Thirdly, and equally important, the extent to which parents in any community with regard to any school should assume executive or advisory responsibilities over that school should be determined by the parents themselves and not by the Government or by the local authority. If we believe in the principle of parental involvement, clearly it is inappropriate for the Government or for local authorities to determine the extent to which parents should be able, permitted or empowered to take into account the responsibilities that they wish to enjoy.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)
I apologise for intervening so early in the Secretary of State's speech, but he is a lawyer and a man gifted in words. He referred to executive responsibility intervention by parents. Will he define exactly what he means by "executive responsibility"?
§ Mr. Rifkind
Parents on school boards and councils should not be restricted to a purely advisory role. They should not say simply what they would like to happen. In certain areas of activity involving the school, parents or the school board should have the right to take decisions. They should be involved in the decisions rather than merely in advising others as to what those decisions should be. That is what I mean by executive responsibility as opposed to a purely advisory role.
When examining our proposals, it is obviously appropriate to start by considering the school councils set up in recent years, and the extent to which they can be said to meet the legitimate aspirations of parents and the requirements that are appropriate in the modern world.
31 Few hon. Members would dispute that the school councils have become relatively meaningless. Individual school councils in certain parts of Scotland are excellent, and I pay tribute to them. Sadly, they are relatively few and insignificant in the overall education structure in Scotland.
Many secondary and primary schools in Scotland do not have a school council. In many cases, such as in the Strathclyde region, a single school council exists for a grouping of schools comprising several secondary schools and a selection of feeder primary schools. That has not proved a satisfactory situation. School councils, where they exist, for the most part have insignificant powers and a purely advisory role. It is perhaps not surprising that relatively few parents of real ability have been drawn to serving on many of those school councils, because people of ability wish to play a useful role and not to be seen simply as an ornamental appendage to the function of the education authority.
There are those who argue that at present there is insufficient demand by parents to be involved in school councils. If I am allowed, I should like to refer the House to the splendid remark made in a comparable situation by the late Lord Palmerston. He said, "If I am told that people are unfit for constitutional government, then 1 say the best way to make them fit is to give it to them." Unless we give parents the opportunity meaningfully to be involved in the administration of the schools which their children attend, it is hardly surprising that they express little interest in the present school council arrangements.
Therefore, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Educational Institute of Scotland, the Scottish Parent-Teacher Council and pretty well the whole representative body of educational opinion accepts that the status quo is not satisfactory and it is necessary to replace it with something more meaningful that gives parents a real involvement in the schools which their children attend. I do not think that that general principle would divide the House any more than it would divide those who are interested in Scottish education.
Against that background, the Government introduced proposals for the establishment of school boards. As the House will be aware, there has been a major consultation exercise and the Government received a large number of responses as a result of which we made a number of very important changes to our original proposals. Those changes were made in a number of areas and especially in three major categories.
First, we accepted the logic that, if it is our view that parents should determine the overall responsibilities of an individual school council, it was inappropriate to allow the Secretary of State a power by general order to increase the minimum powers which all the school boards would have—that it should be for parents to decide rather than that there should be an increase throughout Scotland, irrespective of parents' wishes in any individual community.
Secondly, we accepted the basic argument of many parents that if we allowed any increase in the powers of school boards to be determined purely by the parents on those boards, an unrepresentative group pf parents might facilitate a major increase in the responsibilities of school boards without the support of the parental community as a whole. Consequently, we have introduced a major 32 change into the Bill. It ensures that if a school board wishes to increase its functions and responsibilities but does not have the support of the education authority, it cannot appeal to the Secretary of State unless it holds a ballot of the parents and is then able to demonstrate that it enjoys the support of the parents in the local community for the increase in the powers that is sought.
§ Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)
I have written to the right hon. and learned Member regarding the schools that are earmarked for closure in my constituency. Will it be too late for the schools to which I referred him to take advantage of this legislation?
§ Mr. Rifkind
The hon. Gentleman is concerned about the proposed closure of certain schools in his constituency. He appreciates that the Secretary of State's powers to prevent closure will be based on the regulations that have been tabled. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent an education authority from seeking to close an individual school. If the hon. Gentleman were to table amendments to the Bill, he might find that he has some allies. We look forward to hearing his views. I have no doubt that they will carry weight with his colleagues and with the House as a whole.
I was referring to the changes that we have made as a result of the consultation exercise. The third major change is clarification of the role of school boards. We have never intended to interfere with the professional judgment of teachers. Parents have an important and a significant role to play on school boards, but they should not supplant teachers in the exercise of their professional judgment. Much that goes on within schools can properly be determined only by those in the teaching profession. However, there are many administrative and ancillary educational matters in which parents should be involved. All those who have the best interests of education at heart should be willing to acknowledge that fact.
It would be appropriate for me to anticipate the question that I suspect may be put to me about opting out and its implications. I confirm that opting out by Scottish schools is not provided for in the Bill. The Government have made it clear that they do not intend to introduce amendments to the Bill to provide for such a power. If the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) were to persuade us otherwise, we might have to reconsider the matter, but in the absence of such an initiative that is our view and we intend to keep to it.
The Government's position was spelt out by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), in the Scottish Grand Committee. He said:We have always made it clear that if there is evidence of real and substantial demand for opting out, we would not stand in the way.That remains our view. In the weeks and months to come we shall have to assess the interest of Scottish parents in the possible right of opting out.
§ Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)
I thank the Secretary of State both for giving way and for having written the script for us. He has anticipated our questions and has also provided us with ammunition by referring to the meeting of the Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh. Does he recall that the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) referred to the fact that in the private sector that is so much admired by the Government 33 parents exercise their preference by the cheque book? What safeguards are the Government willing to write into the legislation to ensure that those who are being educated in the public sector and whose parents are in a favoured position because they have bank accounts and cheque books do not exercise a similar influence as the parents of children who are being educated privately? What safeguards will there be to ensure that gifts cannot be given and that contributions rather than fees are not made? What safeguards will there be to guarantee that the cheque book choice cannot be applied in the public sector?
§ Mr. Rifkind
The hon. Gentleman appreciates that the power of parents in the private sector is their ability at any time to withdraw their children from a school if they are dissatisfied with it and send them to another school. Parents in the private sector have a power that is not available to parents in the public sector. They can choose which school their children attend. If the Opposition believe that parents in the private sector are privileged, their objective should be to extend that privilege, so far as possible, to the public sector. We want the vast majority of parents to have the kind of choice that parents in the private sector take for granted.
The Bill makes it quite clear that it would not be open to a school board to decide whether fees should be paid in a local authority school. That power is not available to a school board. It cannot change the character of the school. The school will remain a local authority school, with the major considerations that determine the character of that school continuing to be determined by the education authority.
We responded significantly and substantially to the various comments that were made during the consultation process. There was a favourable response to it. There is a wide degree of consensus that the Government's proposals are worthy of support and deserve to be endorsed by the House.
§ Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central)
The Secretary of State referred to opting out. What evidence is there in Scotland of a demand by people for the power to opt out? The Glasgow Herald reported last month that the Secretary of State would introduce the Bill, that the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) would table an amendment and that the Secretary of State had been told by the Prime Minister that he must accept it as it allows for opting out. It is most important that the Secretary of State should clear up that point now.
§ Mr. Rifkind
If the hon. Member is so concerned about that issue, he might at least have read what the Government said a couple of weeks ago. We made it abundantly clear that the Bill in its present form or during its passage through the House will not be altered by the Government's acceptance of amendments that would introduce the right to opt out. We have also made it clear that we do not rule out such a power in the future. I repeat the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling:We have always made it clear that if there is evidence of real and substantial demand for opting out, we would not stand in the way."—[Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee, 21 March 1988; c. 37.]
§ Mr. Sam Galbraith (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)
What would the Secretary of State accept as real and substantial evidence of support for opting out? That will clearly be important in the future.
§ Mr. Rifkind
I shall respond to that question in general terms, but not in specific terms. As I have made clear, the Government have no proposals for opting out in this Bill, and would not be inclined to accept any amendment put forward for that purpose. There is therefore no need for me to respond as the hon. Gentleman has suggested. Let me, however, reply to the more general aspect of his question.
As I have said, along with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, we shall naturally be interested to see the extent of demand for the right to opt out. The hon. Member for Springburn asked me a few moments ago for a reassurance that his constituents may exercise such a right if the Bill is given a Third Reading. If such a question is put to me by a Labour Member, it is not unreasonable to assume that others in Scotland—perhaps a significant number—may have a similar interest. Already many parents have expressed such an interest, and we have received letters at the Scottish Office asking for that power. But it is early days for us to assess the extent of the interest.
§ Mr. Henry McLeish (Fife, Central)
Is the Secretary of State aware of the Prime Minister's interest in the matter? Following his change of heart, has he consulted her recently, and, if so, is she happy about it?
§ Mr. Rifkind
I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have not changed my mind. My views are those expressed by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on 21 March, and I was happy that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, when in Scotland, expressed exactly the same views. The hon. Gentleman may recall that, when asked by the BBC whether she could confirm that opting out of local authority control would now go ahead in Scotland, ray right hon. Friend responded:No, I cannot confirm that it will definitely go ahead.She went on to say:the first thing we had to do was to see that every school has a school board. Then we have to take further soundings to see if sufficient people would like to have opting out as an option. No one is compelling anyone to do anything.My right hon. Friend's view is exactly the same as that expressed by my hon. Friend on 21 March—and by me—and, indeed, on successive occasions in recent months.
I am not certain whether the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) would have preferred me to give a different answer, but that happens to be the position.
§ Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)
Would not the Secretary of State express some regret to the electorate in Scotland? During the general election campaign, he gave a firm assurance that the proposals for opting out were no part of the proposals for Scotland, and during this Parliament—until the next election—applied only to England and Wales. Does he not feel that he misled the people of Scotland during the campaign?
§ Mr. Rifkind
No. I was very careful in what I said during the election period, and indeed since then. I am very conscious of the need to ensure that the position is properly defined. Throughout the debate on these matters, I have said that the Bill will not contain proposals for opting out, which it does not; that we do not intend to table amendments to the Bill which would provide for such a power, which we do not; arid that we leave open whether opting out may be introduced in future. I have always made clear, in the election period and since, that given that we do not have a history of school boards or governors in 35 Scotland of the kind that we are now creating, the first stage must be their creation. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and others have said, we must then gauge whether there is a demand for a further power.
I emphasise that the mere introduction of such a power does not in itself mean that that power will be implemented. As Opposition Members will be the first to acknowledge, if they are convinced that no parents in Scotland will be interested in the right of opting out, it must be asked what they are worried about. Who do they believe would exercise such a power? If they believe that no one would do so, why are they getting into such a tizzy about whether the provision should be introduced?
§ Mr. Rifkind
I shall happily give way in a moment, but it would be interesting if whoever I give way to at least tried to explain why the Opposition are concerned about a power that they believe no one will wish to use.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)
To explain why we are worried, may I give the instance of a particular school where the majority of parents come from outside the catchment area and, indeed, the town itself'? They may choose to opt out while keeping the school in another area which is not even the catchment area. That is why we are worried.
§ Mr. Rifkind
The hon. Gentleman seems to be expressing concern that a school that finds that its views are totally rejected by the education authority may decide that the interests of the local community could be better served by a different form of administration. He is saying, therefore, that he believes that there would be a demand for such a power.
I repeat that either hon. Members believe that there is no interest in such a power, or they believe that there is and wish that there was not. Whichever is the case, I hope that we need not be detained much longer on the matter, because it is not in the Bill, and will not be. If it is in a future Bill, hon. Members will have an enormous amount of time to consider it.
It appears that Opposition Members can find nothing of which to disapprove in the current Bill, and therefore wish to spend as much time as possible seeking the Government's views on what might be in future legislation but is not now before the House, was not announced in the Queen's Speech and will not be subject to an amendment.
§ Mr. Michael Fallon (Darlington)
Is it not rather extraordinary, therefore, that Labour Members have tabled an amendment accusing my right hon. and learned Friend of paying only lip service to the need for genuine involvement? If they really wanted even more genuine involvement, would he not expect them to table an amendment in Standing Committee for opting out?
§ Mr. Rifkind
It appears that the hon. Member for Springburn may do so—unless he is drafted into the chairmanship of the Committee. My hon. Friend is quite right: I shall come to that point later.
I am equally intrigued about why we are accused of paying only lip service to parental involvement, and we all wait with eager anticipation for the various powers that the Opposition want to be introduced into the Bill—which 36 the Government, in their timidity, have forgotten to put forward. If we are patient for a few minutes, that information may be vouchsafed to us.
§ Mr. Darling
Can the Secretary of State confirm, for the avoidance of doubt, that no opting-out provisions will be accepted by the Government during the passage of the Bill, and that if opting out is to come in the future it will be through fresh legislation being introduced to that effect?
If that is correct, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm that the exchange of memoranda between his private staff and those of the Prime Minister will be set aside and will be of no effect, as will the amendment to be tabled by his tame friend on the Back Benches?
§ Mr. Rifkind
I must say to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) that, if this afternoon's debate has achieved nothing else, it has at least made the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) a much better informed Member of the House. Although the first 15 times that we said what he asked us to say did not make an impact on his consciousness, it appears that on the 16th occasion I am able to confirm what he has put to me in a way that he has been able to understand. We can now move on to other matters.
I said that the Government had made a number of important changes to the original proposals. Consequently, the matters currently before us have been seen to be widely acceptable. For example, the Scottish Parent-Teacher Council has said:These proposals should no longer be regarded as an attack on teachers' professionalism, but an opportunity for parents to provide a much-needed formal input to their children's schools".The general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland said that the Government deservedcredit for responding to public opinion".The Times Educational Supplement said that the Government were "Truly a listening Government". That is of great significance.
It is against that background that we must express some puzzlement about the Opposition amendment. In their amendment they say that they decline to give a Second Reading to a Bill thatpays only lip service to the genuine need to encourage parental involvement in Scotland's schools".We understand that the Opposition are entirely in favour of the principle of parental involvement but are against the practice of it as represented by the Bill. I see that the hon. Member for Fife, Central is nodding vigorously in agreement. I have to warn the Opposition that they are in great danger of becoming Liberals if they are against the practice but in favour of the principle.
§ Mr. Rifkind
I know that. However, I claim the privileges of the House in making such an accusation. I realise the full seriousness of it and I am sure that the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) will wish to use his opportunity in replying to the debate to issue a scathing renunciation of any such suggestion.
In all seriousness, we are entitled to question the curious paradox whereby the Opposition maintain that there is little real interest in parental executive responsibility while, at the same time, they believe that the introduction and implementation of a Bill such as this would have a devastating effect on Scottish education.
37 Labour Members are really concerned that, as on many previous occasions, when the Government introduce new opportunities, they create an interest which many people do not expect to see. For example, when we introduced the parents' charter many Labour Members asked us why we did so and what demand there had been for it from parents in Scotland. We were told that that demand was a figment of the Government's imagination and that everyone was perfectly content with the current arrangements used by education authorities. However, we have found that, since the introduction of the charter, more than 117,000 parents in Scotland have effectively exercised their right under it. When we introduced regulations involving certain schools deemed to be closed, we were asked what interest there was and we were told that it was a figment of the Government's imagination. Since then we have received 3,000 letters in the Scottish Office congratulating the Government on introducing the regulations.
When we introduced the tenants' rights legislation we were asked what interest there was among tenants for buying their own homes. We were told that it was a figment of the Government's imagination. However, in Scotland, well over 100,000 tenants have purchased their own homes. Throughout the United Kingdom we have introduced privatisation and we have found that 8 million new shareholders have been created as a result of public interest. That is what the Opposition are really afraid of. The real question is not the level of demand now but whether by creating new opportunities the Government will receive a response from parents that will break up the cosy relationship among so many administrators who wish to exclude parents from any real involvement in the schools that their children attend. The view held by too many in the educational Socialist establishment is that schools are too important to be left to parents.
§ Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)
Did the right hon. and learned Gentleman see the report a couple of weeks ago in The Independent, which looked at the practice of the parents' charter rather than the principle of it? It looked at the way that it operates in Dundee and at the Harris academy in Dundee where the school population has been swollen to almost 2,000 while other schools in the city have only 500 or 600 pupils. The effect of that is that the teachers at Harris academy recommend that parents in Dundee do not send their children to that school because they will not receive a decent education because there are too many pupils. That is the practice of the charter. The principle is acceptable, but there are problems in the way in which it operates in cities such as Dundee. It is harming educational opportunities for children, not increasing them, and the Secretary of State should be aware of that.
§ Mr. Rifkind
On the contrary, I am aware that certain schools appear to be thought of by parents as more able to provide the education that they want for their children. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) and his education authority should be asking why that is the case and what they can do to improve the other schools so as to make them as popular with parents.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)
My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that in Dundee there has, historically, been a number of schools, Harris academy being one of them, that parents desperately want their children to attend. There is nothing new about that. If the 38 hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) is suggesting that that is a recent phenomenon, he must be new to Dundee.
§ Mr. Rifkind
There is perhaps a genuine difference of attitude in these matters. The Conservative party takes he view, as do most parents, that if there are good schools and schools that are considered to be not so good—
§ Mr. Rifkind
Yes. That is exactly what one does. The best way of identifying the schools that are responding to what parents wish is to allow the parents to have a considerable influence on the school that their child attends.
§ Mr. Galbraith
Does the Secretary of State agree that the parents' charter certainly has problems? He has received representations from parents of children at Lenzie academy, in my constituency, which is a so-called magnet school. Those parents have been to seen him about the problems that the charter has produced for that school causing it to bulge at the seams and suffer a deterioration in the education offered to its pupils. Does the Secretary of State agree with that?
§ Mr. Rifkind
If the charter is bringing about a deterioration in the education provided by the school, presumably parents in future will be less interested in sending their children there. Parents are interested in the quality of education. As the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) knows, the way in which the parents' charter operates is that all the children who live within the catchment area have the first claim on attending the school. If places are available when local children have been accommodated, children from other localities may be considered. That is the obligation under which the charter operates.
§ Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)
Did my right hon. and learned Friend hear the intervention from the spokesman for the Social and Liberal Democrats, the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce)? When talking about parental involvement and parental choice, the hon. Gentleman said that snob value was involved. Is it not an interesting outline of his party's policy if it believes that parental choice in education is made on snob value?
§ Mr. Rifkind
It is indicative not just of the view of the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) but of the basic prejudice of Opposition Members. They believe that if parents choose to send their children to a school that is not the local catchment area school, they can be motivated only by snobbish considerations—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) made that very accusation about Paisley grammar school. [Interruption.] He said it, not today but on a previous occasion. That is what I recollect him saying.
§ Mr. Bruce
Does the Secretary of State accept that in the case of schools such as Harris academy and Aberdeen grammar parents are not making a choice on the academic record of the school? I am not saying that they are bad schools, but they are often not the best schools in the 39 locality. The consequence of the choice is that even when the schools are overcrowded or, in the case of Aberdeen grammar, when a quarter of it has been burnt down, parents still want their children to attend, whereas other schools can accommodate them and give them a better education. We should address ourselves to the problem of ensuring that all schools provide the same standard of education.
§ Mr. Rifkind
I ask the hon. Gentleman what criteria he would use in regard to his own family when deciding what school they should attend. Would he not try to reach a judgment as to which school would be best for the education that he wishes for his children? If he expects to have that right for himself, why is he so anxious to withdraw it from other parents who might exercise slightly different criteria?
§ Mr. Rifkind
I have given way many times. This is a debate rather than a question and answer session. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for sitting down. He obviously believes that my answers meet his requirements.
I should now refer to the provisions of the Bill. That is a customary thing to do on occasions such as this. The provisions of the Bill are clearly expressed and the Bill deals with the single subject of school boards. Our intention is to produce a free-standing Act as far as possible so that those who have to work with the Act, particularly parents and community members of boards, will not find unnecessary legal complications.
It may be helpful if I cover the main points of the Bill now. The first six clauses set up the new system of school boards, provide for the procedures for election and co-option and establish the fundamental procedural rules for board business. There will be a board for almost every primary, secondary and special school in Scotland. For small schools that could not support a board there is an exemption procedure. In such cases, parents and pupils at the school will have the right to information and to make representations to the school and to the education authority as if they were members of a board.
All boards will have parents, staff and co-opted members who will be drawn from the local community. There will be a majority of parent members on each board. That is fundamental to our purpose. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) commented on that in a debate in the Scottish Grand Committee. He questioned what he called theassumption that the school is somehow a mix of conflicting interests to be regarded as a power struggle."—[Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee, 21 March 1988; c. 13.]
Of course, there are diverse interests and those of parents have been too muted in the past. The school board as we propose it will be the only place in the system where parents have a guaranteed voice. Boards exist for parents. So basic is that to our conception that we have provided in the Bill that if enough parents cannot be found to form a board that school will not have one.
The Bill also gives the Secretary of State power to set the precise number of members for boards in schools of different sizes or types. We intend to make regulations providing for different sizes of boards for schools, depending on the number of pupils at the school. In most 40 cases, the range will be from seven board members, four of whom will be parents, to 13 board members, seven of whom will be parents. We shall provide details of our intentions for the Standing Committee and we shall discuss our proposals for regulations with education authorities and other interested parties before they are made.
The fundamental requirements for the election of board members are set out in schedule 1, which also requires education authorities to prepare detailed schemes for election procedures locally for approval by the Secretary of State. Once again, we will discuss these measures with education authorities and others, and issue guidance that will help authorities to produce sensible schemes while leaving room for appropriate local variations.
We have given particular attention to the concerns expressed during the consultative process about election proceedures. The Bill requires a secret ballot with provision for postal voting for parent members. There will be an opportunity for parental candidates to circulate information about themselves. Half of the parent members will leave office every two years. These provisions, coupled with the requirement that the board should report to and be answerable to parents at open meetings, will ensure that the boards are accountable and representative.
§ Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)
Will the Secretary of State advise the House what assessment has been made of the costing of such elections?
§ Mr. Rifkind
I cannot give a figure for the elections, but the overall provisions of the Bill will represent a tiny fraction—probably less than 0.5 per cent.—of local authority education expenditure. We have indicated that if education authorities wish to argue for account to be taken of that we will listen carefully to their representations about it. I remind the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) that some savings will be derived from the ending of school councils. A few education authorities already have similar introductory schemes.
§ Dr. Lewis Moonie (Kirkcaldy)
The Secretary of State's figure of 0.5 per cent. is interesting. It suggests that an authority such as that in Fife where I come from will be spending £500,000 a year to service this amount.
§ Mr. Rifkind
The estimated figure of £5 million for the whole of Scotland is not just for elections, but for all the functions of school boards, and the costs associated with them. I am aware that COSLA has made a higher estimate, but it does not appear to have taken account of savings on the ending of school councils. There are presumably administration and travel expenses in connection with the operation of school councils in various parts of Scotland. Because of those factors, there will be savings to the authorities.
§ Mr. Darling
I served on three school councils over six years, as well as being a member of the education committee in Lothian region. Administrative savings will be minimal. In the case of Lothian, it withdrew all the backing under the Conservative regime. These school boards will cost money. If the scheme is going to work properly, along the lines of the Bill, and if the boards are to be serviced properly and given information, that will cost substantially more than the right hon. and learned Gentleman thinks.
§ Mr. Douglas
This is not a partisan point, but we have all received a letter from Dumfries and Galloway regional council which says that, from the estimates produced for that region, in September 1987, a more realistic estimate for the whole of Scotland would be nearer £20 million. How does the right hon. and learned Gentleman reply to that?
§ Mr. Rifkind
We shall need to examine the exact basis on which the figures were produced. We believe that they are unnecessarily excessive, and will not be the appropriate ones.
Clauses 8 to 14 give the boards their basic functions, responsibilities and powers. Principally these provisions give boards rights to information and to make representations about the running of their schools. This is a cardinal feature of the Bill. One point on which there seems to have been no dispute is that parents need much more information about the educational process in schools. This is in the interests of the process itself. It makes for better education.
Parents have a right and a need to be thoroughly informed about all aspects of the running of the school. They have an obvious interest in teaching methods and the curriculum. There is ample evidence from correspondence that I receive, as no doubt do other hon. Members, of a keen interest in the details of financial provisions for schools.
The boards are also given rights to involvement in the appointment of senior staff at their schools. These provisions give a coherent national structure to such appointments for the first time. The detail of the provisions is given in schedule 2, which attempts to extend and develop existing best practice in different regions across Scotland.
We also believe it is right that boards should have the scope to take on more responsibility for their schools. As they become familiar with what is involved in running a school, some boards will very likely want to take a greater hand in it themselves. We see no reason why they should not do so within reasonable limits. Equally we do not see any need to force the pace. We expect that there will be a natural evolution. Accordingly, clauses 15 and 16 and schedule 3 deal with the delegation of additional functions to boards. Broadly speaking, additional functions may be delegated either by agreement between the board and its authority, or by the board seeking the approval of the Secretary of State, if its authority does not agree to delegation. However, before appealing to the Secretary of State, the board must have the support of the majority of parents in a ballot on the principle of proposed delegation.
The House may be interested in the sort of functions that a board might obtain if it had the approval of parents as a whole. I can give examples, which are not meant to be an exhaustive list. It could seek powers over the responsibility for selecting staff below the level of assistant head teacher. It could seek responsibility for charging for the use of school premises out of hours, or for maintenance of school premises. It could seek responsibility for discipline and school rules, and for associated matters, and for determining the format of reports to parents. Most importantly, a board could seek the responsibility, if it so wished, for all matters covered by the running cost budget 42 for a school. Clearly that power would give a board the kind of overall responsibility for finance that is permissible under the Bill. In each of those cases, it would arise only where the school board wished to exercise such powers. If the education authority disagreed the board would need the direct endorsement of the parents as a whole
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
What thought has been given by the Scottish Office to a situation where a member of the senior staff may feel that his career has been injured and therefore gets involved in legal proceedings? Will the make-up of school boards not change in their very nature? As the Secretary of State knows very well, legal proceedings can continue for a long time. What thought has been given to this sort of endless legal wrangling that may happen from time to time? Has the Scottish Office considered that point?
§ Mr. Rifkind
That matter does not arise because, as the Bill makes clear, questions of employment or dismissal of a member of the teaching staff remain the responsibility of the education authority rather than the school board. Such a problem is resolved in that way.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Can the Minister clarify precisely what the relations are between the senior staff and the school boards to which he has referred?
§ Mr. Rifkind
If the hon. Gentleman reads the Bill, he will find that the role of school boards will be to share in the appointment of the head teacher, the deputy or assistant head teacher, and to have a potential veto on the contents of the short leet. Appointment would not be the responsibility of the school board, but provided for in the manner set out in the Bill.
§ Mr. Rifkind
There will be many opportunities for hon. Gentlemen to make their views known this evening a nd during the Committee stage.
It is significant that during my remarks hon. Members opposite have been primarily concerned not with the principle of the Bill but with a series of details. Hon. Gentlemen have been perfectly proper in raising many of these details, yet one is bound to ask, in the light of that approach, why they are seeking to decline to give a Second Reading to the Bill.
As we are now well aware, the Bill has been endorsed by the Scottish Parent-Teacher Council. Indeed, on 8 April it wrote to hon. Members saying that the council welcomed the broad content and aims of the proposals. They reiterate that they are broadly in agreement with the provisions of the Bill.
We know that the Educational Institute of Scotland and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities expressed considerable agreement with the proposals that have emerged from the consultative process. I recollect that the presentation by the hon. Gentleman's own party said as follows. I quote from the response of the Scottish council of the Labour party to the consultation document. In the light of what I am about to read, it is extraordinary that hon. Gentlemen appear to intend to divide the House at 10 o'clock this evening. It says:The Labour Party strongly supports the increasing involvement of parents in the education of their children." It then goes on, later in the document, to explain,43because we are committed to develop the full education potential of all children in Scotland, and the school councils provide an excellent mechanism for involving parents in the democratic control of their children's education.It goes on:However, although the establishment of school councils has been a major step in the right direction, much more needs to be done"—these are the views of the Labour party—in order that they might reach their full potential. We must ensure, for instance, that parent participation is genuine rather than token".
It then says:While teachers"—this is the best part in the light of hon. Members' opposition to this Bill—and other professionals have a valuable role to play in councils, they should not have the controlling interests.In other words, the parents should have real executive powers when it comes to matters of this kind.
But perhaps I have discovered the real reason why Opposition Members will divide the House this evening. It is quite clear, even before the hon. Member for Garscadden has said a word, because he has already given the public his view on the Bill now before the House. He claimed in the Glasgow Herald of 19 January that the consultative process has been so complete thatLabour might have to propose changes to the Bill to ensure a greater role for parents.Now we know the real explanation. It is the Government's timidity that has upset and infuriated the Labour party. Labour Members will divide the House because we have not gone far enough. Nor was this just the view of the hon. Member for Springburn; it turns out that he was speaking on behalf of his colleagues as a whole. He believes that this Bill is timid and inadequate, a small step for mankind but a very weak step when it comes to the need of parents.
So I am willing to listen with every intention of responding constructively to all the amendments that we will get from the hon. Member for Garscadden to extend the role of parents under this Bill, to the many increased powers for school boards that Opposition Members doubtless wish to put before the House and the Committee. If that is the basis on which the hon. Member wishes to divide the House, perhaps he does speak for Scottish parents. If not, he certainly does not.
§ 5.1 pm
§ Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which pays only lip service to the genuine need to encourage parental involvement in Scotland's schools, will divide parents and teachers, has been rejected by educational opinion and has now been revealed as a paving measure for alien and irrelevant plans to allow schools to opt out of the public sector, which can only damage the proud and distinctive educational tradition in Scotland.
As the Secretary of State has pointed out, we had a debate on Scottish education on 21 March in the Scottish Grand Committee. The Secretary of State did not speak on that occasion. He has done so this evening, not, I think, with very great profit for the debate. But I concede that he has clearly enjoyed himself, and I am never one to disapprove of enjoyment. I am not enough of a Presbyterian for that.
44 Three weeks ago the debate centred largely on the Bill that we are discussing tonight, but, of course, a great deal has happened since then. Perhaps I can start by clearing that out of the way. The publication of certain correspondence between the private office of the Prime Minister and the private office of the Secretary of State was important because it made it clear that this Bill no longer stands alone: it is apparently envisaged as a staging post to some strange brand of fundamentalism, some educational theory, which I at least thought extinct. What became clear from that correspondence—and the Secretary of State has danced around the point—is that further legislation is contemplated which is likely to contain provision for schools to opt out of the local authority system. It revealed a squalid little plot which was spelt out in some detail, although one would not have thought so from the speech that the Secretary of State has just made. The opting out was presented not as some sort of possibility but as a decision that had been taken.
We were told—I quote from the Glasgow Herald of 30 March—The Prime Minister agrees, too, that the Government's future policy should be spelled out in response to the Amendment which Allan Stewart is expected to put down to this session's School Boards (Scotland) Bill. Your Secretary of State will no doubt wish to ensure that Mr. Stewart does indeed table a suitable amendment which could prompt the Secretary of State's statement about future policy.Your Secretary of State will no doubt ensureis an invitation apparently not to be gainsaid. It sounds like Queen Victoria addressing a recalcitrant lady-in-waiting: any backsliding would leave the lady anything but amused. It is a case of "the Prime Minister expects and the Secretary of State accepts." It is a case, I am afraid, of the right and learned Gentleman swallowing his pride and the Prime Minister's theories.
It would be a tragedy—and I say this to the Secretary of State in considered terms—if Scottish education were put at risk because the Prime Minister insisted in involving herself in areas of policy about which she has neither knowledge nor sympathy. At one level it is very easy to see the Prime Minister's correspondence as the actions of a busybody, but the danger is that she has the power to damage and to destroy. If these plans were to go ahead in the way advertised in that correspondence, I believe that there would be damage to and destruction of our educational traditions.
Since the news broke, the public relations machine has been in full cry, and we have seen evidence of it in the speech written for the Secretary of State for this debate. The facts have been re-presented and re-interpreted to blur and distort what is happening. We really want some answers. We have had a partial answer, but I want to make sure that we know exactly what the Secretary of State's mind is. We would also like to know whether, on this occasion, he jumped or was pushed. What is the Government's final position?
The Secretary of State's first line of defence, as I understand it, is to ask why we are all getting excited about the Prime Minister's letters because there is no change of policy, and this has always been his position from the very beginning. I quote again, since it seems to be a respectable authority—the Minister used it himself—from the Glasgow Herald of 1 April:Scottish Secretary Mr. Malcolm Rifkind summoned journalists to his headquarters in London"—an interesting turn of phrase— 45to tell them there was 'total harmony' between himself, the Prime Minister and the Scottish Education Minister".
It is indeed a pretty picture. I am perfectly prepared to believe that there is harmony between the Scottish Education Minister and the Prime Minister. I must confess that I had thought better of the Secretary of State—but I am constantly reviewing my opinion of him as time goes on. In any event, there is alleged to be total harmony. I do not believe it. I believe that there is an element of deception in the suggestion that at no time have the Government argued a different case. I quote from the opting-out statement that the Secretary of State produced through the Scottish information office on 31 March 1988. We are told:The Government has also made clear, all along, that we do not rule out provision for opting-out in the future.
I must confess that I had not appreciated that. If they made it clear all along, they did not make it clear to me, to my colleagues, to the Scottish press or to Scottish public opinion—and that is quite clear from the reaction to the publication of the Prime Minister's correspondence. From the very first press conference in August 1987 to launch the discussion document, both the Scottish papers which report it in detail, the Glasgow Herald and The Scotsman, made the specific point that the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), made it clear that opting out was not on the agenda. While it may almost have stuck in the hon. Member's gullet, given his views, we took it as an honest statement of the Government's policy; so it is rather discreditable that we now discover a very different situation.
The exchanges at Question Time and in the Scottish Grand Committee on 21 March did nothing to remove our misapprehension. Of course, the hon. Member for Stirling said that opting out would go back on the agenda only if there was "real and substantial" evidence of support, and, if there was, they would not stand in its way. There is an example of leadership—they would not stand in its way. But it is a position that is totally incompatible with the conspiracy with the Prime Minister, where a decision had been taken and where there were even quite complicated arrangements to unveil it when the time seemed appropriate. It is dishonest to suggest that the public position could be equated with what was being said in private until those documents were leaked, and I do not think that it reflects any credit on the Secretary of State that he should try and maintain an untenable position in this way. He should have some respect for his reputation.
I want to find out from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary—I accept that on this occasion it will be the second fiddle who will reply, but no doubt he can speak for the Government—exactly what the position is. Again, I take the Secretary of State's statement of 31 March, when he said:The current position is that the Scottish Education Department, at my request, is considering what would be required if such a provision was to be considered appropriate in a future Bill. Whether such a provision will be made will be determined in the light of such evidence as may be forthcoming of an interest in a right of opting-out amongst Scottish parents and others with an interest in education.
That might seem to be a satisfactory state of affairs, except that it makes it perfectly clear that, rather than waiting for a demand, which I believe would never have come, and then not standing in its way, the Scottish Office, on the Secretary of State's instructions, is now looking at how this proposition can be formulated and put in 46 statutory form. It is not, it seems to me, a situation that we can allow to rest, and it is certainly one which requires some further elucidation.
I emphasise the fact that, even if that is the present situation, it is totally incompatible with what the Prime Minister said in her letter to the Secretary of State's office in March, which, I remind the House, was as follows:The Prime Minister is glad that your Secretary of State is now going to develop, for inclusion in next session's Scottish Education Bill, a scheme whereby schools in Scotland can opt out of local authority control.There is no question there of the possible legislative form in case at some future date it might possibly happen. It is quite clear in that letter that the Prime Minister is accepting and agreeing and congratulating the Secretary of State on his, no doubt, cave-in on this issue. It appears on the face of that correspondence that the decision has been taken.
The Prime Minister then went on to talk about the amendment of the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) that the Secretary of State would ensure went down and how the fait accompli would then be announced. It is dishonest for the Secretary of State, if that correspondence means anything in common English, to put together this smokescreen which he is now producing and behind which he is sheltering, because he knows that there is no broad stratum of public opinion in Scotland in favour of this proposal. There may be individuals and there may be special circumstances, but there is no broad stratum of opinion in favour of this proposition. I believe that it ought now to be killed stone dead by Ministers and everyone else.
I ask the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, when he replies, to address himself specifically to the question whether the decision, which was clearly contained in the Prime Minister's correspondence, has now been rescinded. Is the Scottish Office now saying that there is no decision, and will it hold to that? [Interruption.] I am being encouraged by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), perfectly fairly. to invite the Secretary of State to intervene and say whether the quite clear arrangement contained in the Prime Minister's correspondence has now been abandoned. Perhaps he could say that quite categorically.—[AN HON. MEMBER: "Come on, answer."] The Secretary of State will not rise. Perhaps during the course of the rest of this debate he and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary will consider that question and give us an answer.
I also ask the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to say a word or two about how he assesses the support for this proposition at the stage at which he is thinking of legislation, because that is extraordinarily important. It is doubly important in view of the extraordinary argument that the Secretary of State advanced in connection with the school boards which are to be set up under the legislation that we are considering. He said, with approval, that he endorsed the views of Lord Palmerston. The Palmerston principle—very appropriately, given the views of the Government generally—is apparently considered a good rule for Scottish education. Lord Palmerston, I must say, would be absolutely astonished.
§ Mr. Dewar
No, not a Gatling gun; a gunboat, as the Secretary of State may remember.
47 The Palmerston principle is something that we may joke about, but it is not funny in the context of the opting out argument, because the Palmerston principle, enunciated with approval by the Secretary of State, is that if people do not want something, one gives it to them anyway. If that is going to be the ruling principle, what is the value of all these assurances, over which the Parliamentary Under-Secretary is sniggering, about public consultation and support on this issue? I have been left with the impression over this whole sorry and unhappy story that the Secretary of State is no longer master in Dover house and no longer sets the tone for Scottish education policy generally. It is not a good thing and it is something that he should consider with some care.
I noticed in the correspondence, as reported in the papers, that it was said that the Prime Ministerwould like to talk to your Secretary of State about all this after Easter.I do not know whether those talks have taken place, but, if they have, we shall want to know what happened. We expect a very early announcement that on this occasion the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been able to stand up to the Prime Minister and scupper the whole crazy scheme. It is something that I believe to be very important.
§ Mr. Bill Walker
The hon. Gentleman has made much of the Prime Minister's interest and said that in his opinion she has little knowledge of Scotland. Perhaps he could advise the House how that equates with the position of the leader of his party, who obviously thinks that the Himalayas are in Scotland.
§ Mr. Dewar
I doubt it, but the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) is no doubt entitled to his delusions. He will be one of a very good crop.
I do not think that it is right to say that the Prime Minister takes an interest in Scottish education. That is a remarkable euphemism; indeed, it is the prize euphemism of the week.
It is important that the Secretary of State takes these matters seriously. I notice that in an article on 1 April in the Glasgow Herald, Mr. Geoffrey Parkhouse, in reviewing the right hon. and learned Gentleman's career, described him asThe brilliant … schoolboy, the accomplished advocate, the assiduous ministerial technician".This was all high praise in a certain sense, but it is interesting that there was nothing about principle or conviction. When one is looking at education policy, a little bit of principle, a little bit of conviction and perhaps even a little bit of backbone in dealing with the Prime Minister would be very welcome indeed.
Six years ago—I concede that it is not immediate—the right hon. and learned Gentleman very becomingly said that he was ambitious,but in a wholly pleasant and delightful way.The Secretary of State was talking about rosy delusions in his speech. I think that that really takes the biscuit and I would merely enter my dissent and pass on. Maybe the problem with the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that ambition, however pleasant and delightful, is the key. I would like to see some respect for Scottish educational tradition and a willingness to stand up against the vandalism which I think is revealed in the Prime Minister's correspondence.
48 Turning now to the Bill—these matters are very closely related, for reasons that I will now explain—looking at all the talk about consultation, which is supposed to be the safeguard on the opting-out provision, and considering the school boards' history, I believe that we are entitled to express a good deal of cynicism. The plans were set out, there was a volley of criticism, there was unanimous condemnation from educational, public and parental opinion. Yet, implausible though it may seem to you, Madam Deputy Speaker—or perhaps that is dragging you in in a way that I should not—implausible as it may seem to many people, the Scottish Office team turned up as reasonable men. They announced that consultation, if it was not to become the mark of the Administration, was at least going to be the strategy of the moment.
It always had about it the smack of expediency, and, of course, what we got very quickly was the retreat that is now included in the present legislation. Early on there were signs of regression and the incurable recidivism of the hon. Member for Stirling on educational matters. That has been confirmed by the threat of opting out which is now presented to us. It is prophetic that The Scotsman, in a leader on 13 August 1987 on the proposals in the original discussion document, said:If implemented in their present form, they will bring the Scottish system to the beginning of the road on which its English counterpart has already started and which ends with individual establishments being able to opt out of the state structure.The leader went on to comment upon the social division which lay at the heart of that scheme.
We must try to take the whole argument seriously, despite the laughter on the Government Front Bench. We must recognise that opting out, for example, would damage Scottish education, fragment provision and make it more difficult to give opportunity to all children across the educational and social range. It may be quoted against me as a concession, but I have no doubt that the Conservative party may be able to instance well organised and probably fairly prosperous groups who might be tempted by the option, but the tragedy is that it opens the door to selection and reinforces social and educational division. It is dishonest to keep it on the statute book and to pretend that it will lie dormant because it is unpopular. Government policy or circumstance can create conditions where the option of last resort becomes attractive for small, unrepresentative groupings, despite the impact on other children and on provision for other schools in the area. We have a duty to stand against that.
The Bill, as drafted, is unsatisfactory. The Secretary of State conceded that no one dissents from the need for more parental involvement in schools and for parents to take an interest, to show concern and to be able to influence educational matters. I do not believe that the Bill achieves that in a sensible and balanced fashion. The Minister may say that in that case we should nod it through on Second Reading and reform it in Committee. Harsh experience has taught us that that would be a vain chase. In any event, the Bill is fundamentally misconceived in many important ways. I will instance one or two, although clearly much will have to be kept for Committee, if the Bill gets a Second Reading.
We are concerned about the built-in parental majority; that is not to make an anti-parent point. I was interested to hear the Secretary of State concede that there was a certain conflict of interest in a school which was built on 49 the assumption that one interest should be put in a dominating position, with its word prevailing. I do not believe that anyone should have a controlling interest or that it is proper to think about a conflict of concern or interest. There should be a partnership of pupils, parents and community, which is not represented in the arrangements that we are considering.
There seems to be a power play approach which is seen in the arrangements for the appointment of head teachers. On the appointment committee 50 per cent. of the members will be from the local education authority and 50 per cent. from the school board, but from the parents only and not from the community or any other element represented on the board. Under schedule 2(11), the right to add to or subtract from the short list will be confined to the parents on the school board. To their great credit, the vast majority of the parents to whom I have spoken and who have responded to the discussion paper do not want that to he built in and would support our reservations.
Expenditure on books and material, which is covered by clause 9, is very important for curriculum development within a school, Again, most people would not want the strange conditions in which the head teacher proposes and the board approves, but both must have regard to the advice offered by the local education authority. It seems to be a funny way of ensuring—I quote the Government' pamphlet—that the initiative on expenditure … lies with professional staff".In a narrow, semantic sense I do not think that initiative should he used in that way. It will be a recipe for conflict and difficulty, and I am not sure that the Government have got that right either.
On the delegation orders, as I said in the Scottish Grand Committee, if there is a disagreement, where the local education authority has not given consent and the matter goes to the Secretary of State, schedule 3(12) says:he shall, after considering the views of the education authority and of the School Board, unless he is satisfied that the delegation requested would prejudice the good running of the school, direct the education authority concerned to make forthwith a delegation order".It is a narrow and weighted consideration. It makes it extremely difficult to listen to the advice offered by the local education authority, although there is a statutory duty to consult. Again, it is symptomatic of the way in which the scheme has been put together.
I shall want to read the Secretary of State's speech with care, but I was anything but reassured by the examples of power given by the Secretary of State which might be sought under delegation orders. He suggested the running cost budget of the school and its control and the appointment of staff under the grade of assistant head teacher. That sounds to me very much like the ceiling proposals being smuggled in by the back door, using machinery that is weighted to create exactly that situation and to put in place a series of proposals from which the Government have, nominally only, been driven by the weight of public anger. Again, we are entitled to make the point that we will return to it.
In the Government's own words:Boards are not intended to usurp the position of the headteacher … The boards will enhance the authority of headteachers … The fact that headteachers will not vote on their boards is intended to reflect their special status".That is sophistry. Their special status is to make sure that they have no vote and therefore, presumably, less influence. The Government document continues: 50in an extreme case, a headteacher might need to distance: him or herself from a board decision which was professionally objectionable.What decision does the hon. Member for Stirling envisage which is professionally objectionable and from which a headmaster might want to distance himself? Is that a sensible way of going about the business of introducing proper and controlled parental influence?
§ Mr. Rifkind
Before the hon. Gentleman criticises the Government for not proposing that head teachers should have the right to vote on school boards, he might like at least to consult the representations made by the two head teacher associations for primary and secondary schools. If he did, he would find that they made clear their view that they did not want a right to vote, for reasons which the Government accepted.
§ Mr. Dewar
That is a fair point, and that opinion must be taken seriously. I would not for a moment deny that. We have received a wide range of recommendations on this and other points. If we were to carry out a head count, I think that it would come out on our side. Certainly I give the Secretary of State my word that, despite the hypocrisy of the language which I have just read out, I am prepared to consider those representations carefully, although I do not think that they have reached me. Of course, they should be considered and weighed in the balance.
§ Mr. Dalyell
May I ask my hon. Friend's forgiveness for interrupting him? I do not normally interrupt the Opposition Front Bench. I tried to get the reaction of the Educational Institute of Scotland, and particularly its lawyers, to the Secretary of State's answer on the legal position of head teachers. Is it not clear that teachers may be involved legally in relation to the boards, whether the Government like it or not? In some circumstances, teachers may come for redress.
§ Mr. Dewar
I would have to examine that point carefully. The Secretary of State probably has one fair argument, which is that the employing authority under the Bill will remain the local education authority, although it is unfortunate that the education authority will be liable for what the school board, which it does not control and influence, does and it will have to carry the legal can for the board's actions. That is an unsafe, unsound and unsatisfactory legal position.
No doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) will have realised that if we were to go down the road of opting out, the position would immediately change because the board of the opted-out school would become the employing authority. The position then would be exactly as my hon. Friend fears.
I will not make much of it at this stage, but the financial implications are much more serious than the £5 million about which the Secretary of State talked. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West, I got a letter from Mrs. Elizabeth Smith, who chairs the education committee of Dumfries and Galloway regional council and is, I hope, a friend of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro). It is her view that £20 million is a much more realistic figure. I hope that the hon. Member for Dumfries will reflect on that if he serves—and I joke—on the Committee that examines the Bill.
What we have here is an unbalanced system. Of course, the objective is desirable, but the means are wrong and the House should take that into account. It is also an unstable 51 system. Clause 15 describes what cannot be the subject of delegation orders, which looks fine until one listens to the Secretary of State giving his examples and suggestions of what might come under that heading. If we go down the road of opting out we shall have a Government who smash their own safeguards as they build a new educational world in "her" image—which no one in Scotland wants.
I am not ashamed to say, and do not apologise for saying, that it would not be right to give a Second Reading to a Bill that is so fundamentally flawed. Indeed, we have made that clear. It is based on a dangerous heresy: that education is merely a commodity to be bought and sold in the market. As has already been mentioned in an intervention, there was a revealing passage in the Scottish Grand Committee on 21 March. I understand the ingenuity of the argument. The Minister is saying that the middle, upper and prosperous classes can use their cheque books to opt out and buy educational privilege and this is an attempt to extend that privilege to other people. I understand but reject that argument. The phrase was used with such venom by the Minister that it is clear that he is very thirled to the concept of a market for education. If people do not like the model they should move on and fragment the system, going for short-term and sometimes, I fear, selfish options, irrespective of their effect on educational opportunity for other children in the community. I am sure that the exercise of preference by the cheque book is symptomatic of that approach and lies behind the way in which the Bill has been drawn up.
Let us have choice, but not through the cheque book; let us recognise that we must move away from that narrow and offensive vision. Education is not a matter of purchasing power of any sort, nor is it a commercial transaction; it is a partnership between teachers, pupils, parents and the community—common interests co-operating in a common cause. People such as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, who now calls the tune in the Scottish Office, are the enemies of this common cause and ultimately the enemies of what is in the interests of the vast majority of children in our communities. The Tory approach is fundamentally misconceived, unpopular and unwanted.
§ Mr. Rifkind
The hon. Gentleman is, I think, in the middle of his peroration, so I am grateful to him for allowing me to interrupt. He knows that the Scottish Parent-Teacher Council has welcomed the Bill. It is the most representative body of Scottish parents. We know that the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Educational Institute of Scotland and others have said that they accept and welcome the idea of a school board for each school in Scotland. The Opposition have said that they are in favour of school boards. They think there should be not only lip service to parental involvement, but a real role for parents.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the points he has raised, albeit important, are essentially matters of detail for Committee? He has not yet explained how he can justify voting against the principle of the Bill, which is that each school in Scotland should have a school board consisting of parents, teachers and co-opted members. Is he against that? If not, why is he against the Bill?
§ Mr. Dewar
We have repeatedly made it clear that we are in favour of reform. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is correct to say that the present school councils have not lived up to expectations or operated in a way that is seen as satisfactory. I endorse some things in the Bill, such as the idea of having a body involving parents that is based upon an individual school, rather than the groupings of the old system. That is a move in the right direction.
If the Government withdraw the Bill and bring forward, after consultation— [Interruption.] The Bill is fundamentally flawed. The Secretary of State is smiling disingenuously in a vain attempt to make himself human. He is asking me to believe that he will approach the Committee stage with an open mind and listen to public and educational opinion, and accept the amendments that people want. I would certainly be interested in considering that proposition, but that is not the position.
I do the right hon. and learned Gentleman the credit of thinking that he is labouring under a genuine misunderstanding. If he thinks that the EIS—I take one organisation with which I have had a great deal of contact over the past week or two—wants the Bill to be given a Second Reading, he is in cloud-cuckoo-land— [Interruption.] That is not what motivates me. The Secretary of State asks me to pay attention to the views of the head teachers' associations. Yet, when I say that I pay some attention to the biggest teachers' union in Scotland, he laughs at me. He should think before doing that sort of thing.
There is no support for the Bill, because it edges back towards what was wholly unacceptable. The Secretary of State will recall that there were 7,600 representations on his original discussion paper. Fifty-nine per cent. were analysed in some detail and the proposals were endorsed by marginally more than 1 per cent. of those who bothered to respond. With reservations, 3.4 per cent. agreed with them; 88 per cent. condemned, disagreed with or dissented from them. Parental sources provided 70 per cent. of the example—only 11 per cent. were teachers. If the Secretary of State wants to argue the case of popular consent, therefore, it is entirely on our side.
I must end, because the Front Benches have been in possession of the debate for too long. There has been a resounding vote of no confidence in the original proposals and in these proposals and in the approach behind them. We were recently favoured with a quotation from an impeccable source, uttered during the Scottish Grand Committee debate. It is a serious description of Conservative education policy:The job of Scottish Education Minister has been rightly described as the poisoned chalice of Scottish politics. My hon. Friend has wisely not drunk of it, but has hurled it across the room and told the waiter that his job is now open to competitive tender."— [Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee, 21 March 1988; c. 19.]
That is a tremendous statement on Scottish education policy under this Government, made in a speech by the hon. Member for Eastwood, who is now laughing in an embarrassed way. I am happy to accept that it is a fair comment from a believer. After all, the hon. Gentleman is the cutting edge of the new vandalism, the Prime Minister's chosen vehicle for bringing the bad news from Eastwood to the people of Scotland. If that is what education is about, we are right, to answer the Secretary of State's question, to vote against the Bill because, as we say in the amendment, it will 53divide parents and teachers, has been rejected by educational opinion and has now been revealed as a paving measure for alien and irrelevant plans to allow schools to opt out of the public sector.Every one of those words is justified by what has been said in the debate and by what has happened in the past few months. We do not need the eccentricities of the hon. Member for Eastwood; we need only look at what Ministers are saying and doing to find every possible justification for being in the No Lobby tonight.
§ Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (Kincardine and Deeside)
I confess that I was left thoroughly puzzled by the speech by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and some of the questions asked by Opposition Members in the course of the debate.
The hon. Member for Garscadden ended by referring to the EIS and the analysis of the representations that were received as a result of the thorough consultation process that took place on the Bill. Everyone has admitted that consultation on the original proposals was thorough. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the analysis of the response to the consultation process referred to the consultation paper. One would think from what he said that no changes had taken place. The Bill before us is completely different from the original proposals, and I welcome that.
I am puzzled by what the hon. Gentleman said and even more puzzled about two aspects of his amendment. The amendmentdeclines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which pays only lip service to the genuine need to encourage parental involvement".The hon. Gentleman's criticisms of the Bill are that we are going too far in terms of parental involvement and would make it too effective. He has said nothing about his alternatives or about a better form of parental involvement which he thinks is necessary if the objectives are to be achieved. It is not the Government but the hon. Gentleman and his party who are paying lip service to parental involvement.
The third point on which I am genuinely puzzled relates to the attitude of the Opposition to opt out. I share the hon. Gentleman's views about opt-out in Scotland and have made that abundantly clear on many occasions. I agree that there has been confusion. I have been confused by the letters that have been bandied about. I am prepared to rest on what my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister has said. He has made clear that opting out is not part of the Bill. My right hon. and learned Friend certainly made clear to me, and no doubt the Minister who is winding up will confirm, that it is quite clearly the Government's intention during discussion of the Bill to reject approaches about opting out. My right hon. and learned Friend was right to try to clarify that.
To spend so much of the debate on the question of opting out is quite simply a smokescreen by the Opposition. We should concentrate on the debate in hand and look forward to the Committee stage. The Bill is about greater and more effective parental involvement and my right hon. and learned Friend is certainly paying more than lip service to that. I am much more confused about the Opposition's reasons for opposing the Bill than about some of the other matters that I will raise.
The original proposals put forward in August contained great inherent dangers to the education system 54 in Scotland and to our schools, not just in education terms but in simple management terms. The original proposals contained an entirely mixed management system for our schools with education authorities on the one hand and boards dominated by parents on the other. They would have shared different executive functions and the most crucial individual executive function, that of the head teacher, was lost somewhere in the middle. In terms of simple management and executive authority and accountability the original proposals were inherently unsound. I welcome my right hon. arid learned Friend's proposals because they are fundamentally different from those that were made originally. I welcome the modifications now contained in the Bill.
My right hon. and learned Friend was perhaps a little ungracious in his lack of tribute to those areas of Scotland where school councils have worked well. He acknowledged that in some limited cases and in areas such as Grampian they have worked fairly well as a general system and not just as a good council standing out against others. I support the Bill because it builds on the present system of school councils that work well rather than grafting on a system containing the kind of dangers that I mentioned.
Equally one must acknowledge that even where school councils have worked fairly well I know of a sense of frustration on the part of some members of such councils. Sometimes an education authority or a head teacher has felt that they were not able to participate as much as they would like in the affairs of a school. That applies more strongly in areas where education authorities did not encourage the setting up of school councils or did not allow them to be effective. The Bill meets that criticism. I welcome the principle of the Bill.
The hon. Member for Garscadden raised points about the Bill that are Committee points. He did the same thing during the debate on the Housing (Scotland) Bill. I should like to probe some of the matters that he raised but, as I have said, they are Committee points and do not give any fundamental or sound reason for opposing the Bill in principle.
I should like to pose one or two questions to the Minister who will be winding up and I hope that he will answer them. I should like him to say a little more about the role of the school boards and their relationship to the existing college councils. Where community schools and college councils exist we have seen much greater integration of our secondary school education system and community education in the areas served by such secondary schools. We have some community schools in Grampian and the college council system has worked well. Parents, teachers and those who serve on the councils are generally happy with the way that they have worked, but there is genuine anxiety about how integration of the new boards system will fit in with community education generally and with community schools in particular. We want more clarification and reassurance on that.
My second point is one that I made in my submission on the consultation paper. We have to look much more closely at some form of co-ordination between the different boards of primary schools that are feeding to the same secondary school. We must keep a very close link between the secondary school and the primary schools that are feeding to it. If we believe in parental involvement, we must ensure that there is some co-ordination between the boards of those primary schools and the board of the secondary school to which the primary schools feed.
55 My third point is a small one. In some rural areas where schools may qualify, because of numbers on the roll, to have a school board, there may well be a desire for two or three small schools to come together under a joint school board. That could be effective in terms of future parental support and could evolve to the stage where schools had their own board. Perhaps the Minister can tell me whether there will be opportunities for primary schools that are geographically next door to each other to have a joint board.
My last specific question before turning to general points is about costs. I very much share the cynicism expressed about whether the actual cost figures for running the school boards are correct. I want the school boards to be effective, and if they are to be effective there will he administrative costs. That matter must be probed further. When the Minister replies perhaps he will give an undertaking that, if it looks as if this will cost more than anticipated, resources will be forthcoming, but not at the expense of other items on the existing school budget. It would be a shame if that happened.
Finally, I should like to turn to the general aspect of the atmosphere of uncertainty and confusion about opting out. Earlier I made my position clear. Opting out is not appropriate and does not fit in with the development and the historical background of Scottish education. If strong desires for opting out develop in future, they will have to be considered on their merits. My right hon. and learned Friend has said that if this arises it will be debated as a separate issue. For that reason we are wrong to debate it in the Bill.
My right hon. and learned Friend must realise that, over the past few years, Scottish schools have been through one of the most traumatic periods in their existence. We must not forget the upset and the breakdown in relationships between parents, teachers, education authorities and the Government which have left real scars on the school system in Scotland. At the same time, under the Government, we have seen some real advances in education in Scottish schools, for example, the new curriculum and examination system. We must not forget the burden that that places on teachers, education authorities and pupils. We do a disservice to education in Scotland and to the children whom we serve in our schools if we try to impose too many changes too swiftly over too short a time.
In that context, I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to be careful in proceeding, even if there is pressure in respect of such matters as opting out. We need now, more than ever, to consolidate the good improvements made in our system and to have a chance for parents, teachers and education authorities to settle down and get on with the job of teaching. In that way, we shall best serve the interests of education and of the young people in Scotland today and in the future.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)
I am delighted to be called so early to speak in the debate, first, because one can be listened to and, secondly, because some of the sharpness of the argument has to a large extent been located in my area of Paisley.
56 I was pleased to listen to the speech of the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), as we are old sparring partners and he is possibly the last respected member of the Conservative party in Scotland. He is certainly one of the few who have neither been bribed nor cowed by the Prime Minister and, therefore, we listen to him with a certain respect.
I wish to make two points to the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside. First, when he says that he regrets the absence of community school involvement and that we should try to change that, he does not understand the purpose of these school boards. Community school involvement is specifically and deliberately missing. These are specifically school boards with a majority of parents of existing pupils, though making policy for the parents of future children, while the community itself is deliberately excluded. That has implications for all schools in every community and specifically for community schools. Community schools have been one of the great developments in Scottish education and they will suffer as a result of the Bill.
Secondly, the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside misunderstands the purpose and structure of the Bill when he says that he would like to see two or three schools getting together to form a joint school board. This is no longer an advisory grouping. It is not a development of parental or parent-teacher involvement. The Bill aims to create a structure of elected parents who will exercise executive and management functions in a school. There is no question of nice, friendly joint school boards considering education policies in a larger area. If the right hon. Gentleman objects to joint boards being missing and if he now understands that that is the nature of the Bill, I hope that he will join us in the Lobby tonight to oppose the Bill.
Specific problems arise from the Bill, for example, in respect of clause 9(2)(a). That clause contains an extraordinary proposition for teachers and headmasters whose legal duty is to teach and develop schools to their best ability, yet we are told that the headmastershall from time to time make proposals to the School Board as to how the funds provided under this section should be spent".That refers to the purchase of books and other teaching materials. The clause goes on to say that the headmastershall not spend funds on any proposal unless it is approved by the Board.
Under those provisions, therefore, the board of parents, without the direct involvement of teaching the children and knowing which books, educational techniques and materials are required, and without envisaging curriculum problems, shall determine book by book and article by article what the headmaster may purchase.
I hope that the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside will realise that the functions of the board differ from the concept of an aid or adjunct to involving parents in their children's education. It supersedes the role of headmasters in an executive and educational form. That is why we resist the measure and believe that it has nothing to do with proper parental involvement.
Some fun was made of the Labour party's policy in respect of this matter. I have done a great deal of work on the Labour party's education policy in the past, and community and parental involvement has always been an important part of that policy. The Government's proposals go against the grain of past Scottish education 57 policy in respect of parental involvement. The Government are trying to impose an alien structure on Scottish education policy, as the Prime Minister has done throughout our nation over the last few years, in place of the parent-teacher association, which has often been weak in the past and should be strengthened. We must pull out of the dominie attitude still existing among some Scottish teachers. Parent-teacher associations should be strengthened and developed.
The Government are seeking to downgrade the role of the individual teacher and parent. They are seeking not wider and more continual parental involvement, but a structure of parental representatives which will manage. That is a different matter. We should get rid of that option. Labour's education policy seeks to involve parents, teachers, the community and the child. There is none of that in the Bill. It is concerned only with the structure of management. As has been said, it should be seen as a paving Bill for the Government's real intention—the right to opt out.
I know that my hon. Friends may be fed up with my referring to schools in Paisley and particularly to Paisley grammar school, but that is central to the argument. The conspiracy between the Prime Minister and the Scottish Office was exposed in the Glasgow Herald. Ministers are no longer being asked to consider, but are being ordered by the Prime Minister, to ensure that the amendment of the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) is tabled. The Prime Minister says, "Prod him. Make sure it happens." That is what is being imposed upon us.
That in turn stems from an earlier conspiracy exposed in The Sunday Times and involving the editor of The Sunday Times, the hon. Member for Eastwood and the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland with responsibility for education, whose behaviour in all this has been despicable. I have just discovered that there was another element in this conspiracy, a familiar figure described in the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette asformer MP, solicitor Gerry Malone".
It was said that hewill also be present to speak to and advise the parents on the next step for them".
That man claimed to he a Member of Parliament, but he was really a Whip. This is a case of the Rake's progress or the Whip's progress. He left the House and is now taking part in this squalid conspiracy to save a school.
I understand why the editor of The Sunday Times should do this. He was an old boy and he wanted to come back and boast, "How I 'tapped' Maggie." That was the headline in the Paisley Daily Express on 30 January. The article continued, quoting Andrew Neil, the editor of The Sunday Times:In my job I get to meet a number of people who are senior figures in all political parties. I used people I know in Downing Street to bring the matter to the Prime Minister's attention.… She must have had words with Rifkind at the Scottish Office.
As The Sunday Times states,He got the message.
It is worth reminding ourselves about what has happened when additional elements like Gerry Malone creep into these matters. We are sorry to see him mixed up in this. He played a more honourable role in the Tory Whips' Office. I never thought that I would ever be able to say that.
I must insist that the proposed amendment to be introduced by the hon. Member for Eastwood is all about 58 Paisley grammar. Conservative Members are very indiscreet in their conspiracies. One of the Tories' problems is that they are so arrogant in their custom of ruling that they do not conceal their conspiracies very well.
The hon. Member for Eastwood sent me a letter in which he exposes the nature of the conspiracy. I complained that he was interfering with my kids, parents and constituents. I said that he was interfering from his constituency. He wrote:I am in receipt of your letter … I must emphasise that I have been very rigorous throughout in making it clear that I was representing my constituents, of whom there is a significant number.I am glad to know that the hon. Gentleman has a significant number of constituents. I presume that he means that he has a significant number of children of constituents in schools in my constituency. We resent our schools being dictated to from outside our town. The hon. Member for Eastwood continues in his letter:Indeed, the whole issue focuses on my constituents since they are by definition Parents Charter pupils who are being deliberately discriminated against.I would have thought that the pupils in my constituency and in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North (Mr. Adams) were being discriminated against because of the abuse of the parental charter as more than half the children in Paisley grammar come from outside the town and the catchment area.
From what I have described about Paisley you will understand, Madam Deputy Speaker, why we are worried about the opting-out proposals. The hon. Member for Eastwood is concerned about saving Paisley grammar in the opting-out proposals so that, with a majority of parents in his constituency outside the Paisley catchment area, he can determine the nature of a school in our town. That is why we object to the Bill.
If the hon. Member for Eastwood succeeds in his opting-out proposal, will those parents who are to be made responsible for the management of the school be entitled to determine a school's entry policy? If so, there will be an alien school in Paisley. Will that happen? When the hon. Member for Eastwood tables his amendment in Committee, will it include a section stating whether parents will determine which pupils will or will not enter a school? We await a reply from the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood)
The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) will have to wait for the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Buchan
That is another reason why we should reject the Bill. The best thing to do with a Bill if we do not trust amendments which might be tabled in Committee is to reject it. We should reject it because it paves the way for opting out. We should reject it also because we do not know how far the amendment to be tabled by the hon. Member for Eastwood will go, and we do not trust the hon. Gentleman on education any more than we trust the Minister on education.
The Government claim that we are against parental choice. We are not. I am in favour of intelligent parental choice. The trouble is that parental choice has not been based on educational purposes or on particular needs, it has been based, on the whole, on the cachet of a particular school. That is apparently happening in Dundee, affecting 2,000 pupils in one school. The inevitable effect is the draining off of another school. A similar thing is happening in Paisley. The newest school building in 59 Paisley, the one school whose future is still under threat despite yesterday's decision, is the only school where disabled pupils can be taught alongside non-disabled pupils because it has the proper facilities, including ramps and lifts, to cope with wheelchair pupils. No other school in the west of Scotland and certainly not in Paisley has such facilities.
We are opposed to the Bill because it will allow the consideration of amendments such as that proposed by the hon. Member for Eastwood. Ministers have rejected some of the voting figures in connection with the proposals in the Bill. However, those figures were massive, with only 1 per cent. in favour of the proposals and 88 per cent. against—even if the vote was taken on earlier proposals. However, the results show a massive rejection of the general propositions.
The arguments for the proposals were equally interesting. There was universal agreement on greater parental involvement with schools and almost total rejection of the proposed means of implementation. The Government have brought in means of implementation to pretend that they are in favour of greater parental involvement in schools. They have reversed the decision. The parents have seen through that and rejected it.
The results of the vote show that parents want involvement, participation and partnership in running schools. They are against having an executive or management role. That view has not changed and the 88 per cent. against the proposals remains solid. The results also show that parents are keenly interested in the welfare of their children. They want parents and teachers to be partners. They trust teachers, but not other parents, to look after their children. That is very important. They see the teacher as an objective provider of their children's education, not as an interested parent. Incidentally, teachers have been trained. We should not forget that and we must listen to them.
We want a partnership of parents, teachers and the community. The widespread feeling is that the proposals are a costly and simplistic approach to a very complex problem. The majority of people believed that it was a mistake to try to produce a rigid system for the whole country. There was also a widespread suspicion that the consultation was a sham and that the Minister intended to go ahead anyway. By God, we have a perceptive population in Scotland. I could not have presented my opposition to the proposals any better after all my years of teaching. The people have got it right.
The proposed amendment has been made for Paisley. Because of the new regulations, fiddled and brought through by the conspiracy, the schools proposals from the region will have to be sent to the Secretary of State. I must be honest and state that I do not agree with the proposals. There should have been four non-denominational schools in Paisley, not three. I welcome the fact that there are two denominational schools. However, the lack of a fourth non-denominational school will cause some concern in the other sector and we shall have to face up to that.
I believe that not having four non-denominational schools was a mistake because the Government will impose four and the fourth will be Paisley grammar. Strathclyde region has been trying to deal with the problems of the distortion and abuse of parental choice to 60 save the best school building in Paisley with the facilities that I have described. With this "wicked Government"—to quote the Bishop of Durham—Strathclyde region may have played into the Government's hands.
I hope that the Government will respond to the request from the convenor of Strathclyde region and meet representatives to discuss the proposals instead of acting in a draconian way—as most of us fear that they will—to produce some solution.
My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North and I have been considering these problems in the interests of the parents, schools and children. We have not been considering the kind of solution proposed by the hon. Member for Eastwood, who claims that he is interested not in the children in Eastwood, but in children who opt to go elsewhere. He claims that those children are the problem and that we must ignore the other kids, even those in his constituency. He claims that the whole problem involves the kids who opt out of his area and that the whole issue focuses on his constituents. The claim made by the hon. Member for Eastwood is not true. The problem does not focus on all his constituents; it focuses only on that powerful minority who choose to send their children to our school.
§ Mr. Allan Stewart
Of course the whole issue focused on my constituents at Paisley grammar, for one reason, if for no other: no proposals in Strathclyde region currently involve the closure of schools within the Eastwood constituency.
§ Mr. Buchan
The hon. Gentleman might have brought forward proposals to save the schools in Paisley, rather than endangering them. He might have brought forward proposals to try to ensure that his schools hold pupils rather than export them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North and I have properly faced that problem. We still agree that we would have preferred a four and two situation, but we have not achieved that. We do not believe that it is impossible in an urban area to prevent the misuse by certain parents of parental choice.
How then do we square the democracy of parental choice with preserving comprehensive education in the town? The answer is to form a schools council for Paisley. It should be taken from the four non-denominational schools and its remit would be to try to develop comprehensive education within Paisley while allowing parental choice.
Parents would be able to ask what a school specialised in and the headmaster would, for example, be able to advise on the right school for a person who was keen on languages. In other words, the schools council would co-operate to make sure that parental choice was not merely exploited to the extent that a school's capacity reached 105 per cent. Such a schools council could also allow curriculum exchange between schools, so that choice could be made according to the curriculum, individual interest, and, perhaps, community interest. Parental choice could be exercised, but exercised intelligently in co-operation with teachers, headmasters and parents in Paisley.
The Government should meet Strathclyde council and discuss the situation in Paisley and the decisions that would have to be made and come forward with proposals 61 that will enable a four and two solution, while still allowing parental choice, and which would put the needs of the children of Paisley first.
If the hon. Member for Eastwood is concerned with the education of his children, he should concentrate on the schools in his area and make sure that they come up to scratch and meet needs, instead of ignoring them as he is at the moment. He is concerned with the small minority of powerful parents who can be served elsewhere.
This is a bad Bill. It is a wicked Bill in its own right. It should be opposed for what it presages and for what it already contains
§ Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)
I do not intend to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) about his local school problems. However, my right hon. and hon. Friends must be astonished at the Labour party's opposition to the Bill. The Opposition spend their time talking about their enthusiasm for parental involvement but then try to find some way round the corner to vote against the Bill. Even more astonishing is the fact that, despite the tremendous opposition of the Labour party and the three-line Whip, there has rarely been more than a third of the Labour party present during the debate.
This is an important Bill. I welcome it, not so much for what it may do, but for its repercussions and its effect on future legislation in Scotland. It will rightly be discussed in detail in Committee and it may well set the tone and structure of Scottish education for the remainder of the century. We must make every endeavour to get it right in Committee.
I have always welcomed parental involvement in schools. It is usually a huge success. However, I still wait to he convinced that the willing parents who give tremendous support to their parent-teacher association will also come forward, week by week, in an executive function.
The Scottish Parent-Teacher Council welcomes the Bill, as I do, but I have not yet had a flood of letters from parents showing equal enthusiasm for serving on boards. However, I am sure that, when things are explained to them and they understand the opportunity that they are being given, that will change.
I am not one who believes in sudden change. In education we should move by evolution. By and large, that is what has happened over the past 120 years. We are particularly proud of Scottish education's international reputation, but there are still some aspects on which we remain disappointed.
For my sins—it seems to be an ever-diminishing circle—I was a Minister with responsibility for education in the 1970s. Our problems then were a shortage of teachers and adequate buildings. The jargon at the time was "pupil-teacher ratios" and "roofs over heads". We and subsequent Governments expanded the colleges of education and built flat out within our financial limitations. That policy was carried on by the previous Labour Government. Now we have plenty of teachers—
§ Mr. Dalyell
I recall that the hon. Gentleman was a most helpful Minister. Will he reflect on the letter on the question of costs that has been sent, very courteously, to all of us by Elizabeth Smith? Does the hon. Gentleman, 62 with his experience, think that the Government are right to put the cost at £5 million, or that Mrs. Smith is right in putting it at £20 million?
§ Sir Hector Monro
The hon. Gentleman has leapt in long before I intended to deal with the matter of costs and the letter from Mrs. Smith, who is an exceptionally fine chairman of our education authority. However, I shall deal with the matter now. Certainly I share Mrs. Smith's concern. The Bill says in its preamble that costs will be very small. Yet Dumfries and Galloway have done some accurate costing and they insist that there will be about 135 school boards, allowing for a few amalgamations of the small schools, and they cannot see how the cost will be less than £600,000 a year. There is only about £4,000 a board and if one accepts that there will be substantial administrative, travelling and election costs, with teachers having to take time off work during the day, the Government must have grossly underestimated the total cost.
I have seen the costings, and if Dumfries and Gallo way are accurate in putting them at £600,000 a year the overall figure of £20 million may be reasonably accurate. I do not want to consider the matter in percentage terms of the total overall cost of the education budget for Scotland, which is enormous, including, as it does, teachers' salaries and so on, but the direct cost on each education authority must be substantial. I ask my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State to look at this matter much more carefully before the Committee stage. If the boards are to carry out their work effectively—if we are to have boards they must be effective—their cost has been under-estimated. I hope that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) realises from those comments that I share his concern about costs.
We now have plenty of teachers and our buildings are in much better shape. However, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) said, we have been going through a fairly traumatic period with curriculum change, the red book, the technical and vocational education initiative, and so on.
Way back in the 1970s there was the Munn and Dunning report and now we are translating that into action, and rightly so, always giving quality of education the top priority. I am glad that we have swung to a more practical form of education so that the pupils of today will be a much more effective and skilled work force of tomorrow.
The 1980 legislation brought forward valuable developments—parental choice and the parents' charter. It was not as effective as I would have liked in rural areas. Time and again we have run into the problem of rural transport. We cannot send children to the schools that the parents wish because the transport is not available. That is another aspect which I hope we shall have the opportunity to discuss in Committee.
I believe that the assisted places scheme was a first class move by the Government, but I said at the time, and I have said once or twice since, that it was a pity that the Secretary of State renounced his right to be involved in school closures except in particular rural areas or for denominational schools. He had an overall independent view to balance between the parents and the education 63 authorities such as now seems to be important in regard to Paisley. I believe that setting the balance was often very effective in school closures through the usual system.
We have undergone periods of immense change and disharmony over teachers' salaries and other related aspects. Great credit is due to my right hon. and learned Friend for the way in which he managed to conclude the very difficult dispute over teachers' salaries. This year, we are back to a period of consultation, the White Paper, the Government's conclusions, and now legislation. I pay tremendous credit to my right hon. and learned Friend for listening to the advice on the White Paper that came from all parts of Scotland and from a tremendous cross-section of educational opinion. That is why there have been so many changes from the original White Paper to what is now in the Bill. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, perhaps it really would help if Opposition Members criticised the Bill and not the White Paper that was published last August.
I believe that the Dumfries and Galloway education authority gave an excellent response to the White Paper. It was positive and helpful and indicated that it wanted to move forward far from the ceiling and nearer the floor. That became the jargon expression of last autumn. It is pleased about the Bill in the form in which it seeks a Second Reading today. I said at the time of the White Paper that I would not have been able to support the ceiling proposals. That is why I am glad that we are now discussing much more simple proposals which I have already welcomed in my opening remarks.
We must think carefully about the pace at which we proceed in education development generally. I believe that we are going through a period of educational indigestion at present and that most authorities and teachers want time to think, to develop and to achieve really practical results through all that has changed in the past 10 or 15 years. That can be achieved only through a period of settled policy rather than by the introduction of too much legislation in future. They want to concentrate on the three Rs, discipline and development of character.
I should like more emphasis to be placed on sport and recreation which is very important in character development. That has been lacking in the past two or three years as teachers have not been enthusiastic about working on Saturdays and taking school teams away and so on. I believe that the youngsters in this country want more opportunity to participate in all forms of outward-bound recreation.
We want parental involvement, but there is a world of difference between the work of a parent-teacher association and the regular executive responsibilities envisaged by the Bill. I want to put to my hon. and learned Friend the issue of responsibility. I was first elected a councillor almost too long ago to welcome the thought. As a past councillor, I view the responsibility of an elected councillor in a different colour from those who have not had that experience. Whatever the percentage of a poll in any local council election, a councillor is elected by a majority decision. He or she has the right to play a part in the policy of the education committee and the full council. It is most important that that should not be jeopardised by the views of a school board. After all, the councillors are responsible for expenditure and, from next year, the 64 community charge. They must not be responsible for carrying out the overall education Acts without the power to see that it happens.
In Committee, we will very carefully examine how we can reconcile throw-away words such as consultation, management, policy, and executive decision between the board and the local authority. One can envisage boards making decisions in direct contravention of local authority policy. The Bill states that they must "have regard" to local authority policy, but that is open to all sorts of interpretation. That, too, is an extremely important Committee point.
We must be absolutely certain that we give the community as much opportunity as possible to be involved. By that I mean also the churches. I have always felt that the Catholic Church and therefore Catholic schools must have a particular place in Scottish education and I do not wish to see that diminished in the Bill or in Scottish education generally. I also believe that we underestimate the immense good will and consultation now taking place between education authorities and schools, parents and pupils.
Recently there was a first class example in Dumfries and Galloway. A few years ago a network group was set up—I am afraid that many of us anticipated that it would not be a success—which included Lockerbie academy, Moffat academy and Langholm academy. Over the past 12 months, Langholm and Moffat realised that it was not a success and the parents put forward a very strong case for full secondary status as sixth-year secondary schools. They held meetings with the education authority, and now the authority rightly has decided that there should be three full sixth-year secondary schools. That shows that consultation does work between the authorities and the schools in the areas that they represent. I give great credit to Mrs. Smith, who has been mentioned several times during today's debate, for her constructive approach.
§ Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)
Given the important reservations that he has expressed today about the proposals, may we conclude that the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) will be voting against the Second Reading this evening?
§ Sir Hector Monro
That is an extraordinary conclusion. Obviously the hon. Member was not present when I began my speech by giving the most warm welcome to the principle of the Bill.
I spoke about costs in some detail in answer to the hon. Member for Linlithgow. I wish to make two final points. The first concerns funds. In the consultation document, my right hon. Friend made it clear that the Bill excluded powers to levy charges and of course that stems from the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. I feel that it should be put in the Bill for the sake of clarification. It is much easier for important issues to be included in clause 18 rather than left out because they are included in another Bill that is now a few years out of date.
Finally, I come to the issue of opting out. Opposition Members have made a tremendous to-do about it. I do not know how often my right hon. and learned Friend has to explain in detail exactly what he meant, how it is not in the Bill, it is not going to be in the Bill and if it is ever brought into operation it would have to be after the most detailed consultation with school boards. We are not setting up school boards until the summer of 1989, so they will have 65 another year to think about it after that. It will be a long time before opting out can be contemplated. I made it clear throughout the winter, and I do so again now, that I am not in favour of opting out.
There is a very good education structure in Scotland. If certain schools opt out, it will have an impact on all schools, particularly schools for the mentally handicapped and other special schools. If schools are allowed to opt out, those that remain in the public sector will suffer.
I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's proposals. They will result in parents becoming more and more involved in the education of their children. Parents will be able to ensure that their children have the quality of education that they deserve. Apart from the Committee points that I have mentioned, about which I have certain reservations, I warmly welcome the proposals.
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)
The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) and the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) have said why they intend to support the Bill. Their line is, perhaps, predictable, and I think that I could have written their speeches for them. Their point is that the original proposals were very controversial, but, because of the representations of many people, including their own, they believe that the Bill is now in pretty fine shape and commands the support of Scottish parents. I have to tell both of them that that is not so.
The Minister will refer ad nauseam in his reply to the fact that parents have said that they want to be more involved in the running of schools, but parents have said time and time again that what they want is reform of the school and college council system. Parents were promised such a reform by the Government at the general election. They do not want to take over responsibility for running the schools, but that is what the Government are seeking to impose upon them. The hon. Member for Dumfries and the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside know that to be the case, but they are seeking to protect their position.
Throughout the consultation process the conduct of Scottish Office Ministers has aroused widespread suspicion. People realise now, if they did not realise it before, that the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) has proved that he is as ideological as any Marxist and that he is as committed to getting his way as any revolutionary, although he has corrupted his mentor, Adam Smith, who would not recognise the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of his views.
During the general election campaign, the Secretary of State denied that the Government would propose opting out. He maintained that the proposal was to reform school councils. I support that proposal, and I remind the Secretary of State of the letter that he wrote to me on 29 May 1987, just a few days before the general election. He said:If you wish to understand Scottish Conservative policy you would find it helpful to read our Scottish Manifesto and not the English one".
I would say the reverse is the truth.This would ensure that you did not make yourself look foolish by attacking policies that are not being proposed.
Our Manifesto for Scotland promises that: 66 'We will improve the management of schools, increase local autonomy and give parents and other local interests a more important role in the running of their schools.' I could not disagree. The Secretary of State continued:'To achieve these ends, we will initiate a major reform of school councils so that they will be equipped in co-operation with headmasters and teachers to assume advisory and executive responsibilities in the running of their schools.'The Secretary of State commented:I am sure that the electors in Gordon would be interested to know which of these policies is opposed by you.The answer is, none of them. The Secretary of State then said:They will note the Manifesto for Scotland does not refer to 'opting out'; and that, contrary to your assertion, we have made no such proposal for Scotland.The Secretary of State for Scotland wanted the people of Scotland to vote on that basis. Even on those words he got a message that suggested that he did not have resounding support in Scotland. To suggest that what we shall vote on tonight bears any resemblance to what the Government proposed during the general election campaign is to mislead the House to a considerable degree.
I do not propose to dwell on the opting-out argument. I accept the Secretary of State's assurance that the Bill is not about opting out, but there are a few relevant points that I wish to make. For most of Scotland, the idea of opting out is alien and unwelcome. Comprehensive education in Scotland had grown up naturally and in most cases it works extremely well. People in my constituency are concerned about the fact that the Government might be thinking about creating a system that will lead to unnecessary division and conflict where none now exists. For the Secretary of State to suggest—perhaps he was quoting Alan Massie in the Scottish edition of The Sunday Times last Sunday—that if there is no demand for opting out there will be no problem if it is introduced is deliberately to misunderstand the opting-out process. If' a school board is taken over by a self-interested, privileged clique, it might stir up a campaign for opting out, and if that clique pushed it to a vote there would be winners and losers. The fact that the majority won would not stop the minority from losing and not getting what it wanted. That is particularly absurd in a rural area, where the nearest school might be 20 miles away. The idea of opting out is unworkable, just as the parents' charter is effectively unworkable in many rural areas.
It is worth noting the selective nature of the Government's argument. Let me take the case of Jordanhill college school. I, together with many other hon. Members, have received many representations about it. The parents wanted to opt in to the Strathclyde regional council system, not to opt out as they have now been encouraged to do as a "guinea pig" for the Government's testing of the water. That school was caught between a Labour-controlled region that would not accept it and a Tory Government who were determined to use it as a guinea pig. The parents' wishes did not triumph at the end of the day, so I do not think that we should take lectures from the Government about wishing to take on board what parents want.
Opting out is the first step to introducing selection and the creation of grammar schools. The Prime Minister, who is the product of a grammar school and who ought to be an awful warning to us all, is known to favour the reintroduction of grammar schools, but outside cities in 67 Scotland they never existed. It is no wonder, therefore, that she is seen to be out of touch with the wishes and aspirations of the people of Scotland. That is why my constituents tell me in increasing numbers that "We dinna want yon wifie" interfering in Scottish affairs.
Parents continue to express concern about the Bill, and I shall deal with those concerns in the remainder of my speech. Many people will welcome in principle the basic approach of clauses 10 to 17. They require the provision of policy statements, annual reports and more financial information to parents and schools. I stress, nevertheless, that that welcome development could be achieved by means of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, if necessary with minor amending legislation to enforce it. This Bill is not required to introduce that welcome development.
I have already said that the Secretary of State for Scotland's expressed concern about parents' views is touching, but it is inconsistent. The Secretary of State wants parents to agree with his ideology. During the lifetime of the last Parliament, parents campaigned over a period of two years to persuade him to meet and negotiate with the teachers to ensure a fair settlement of pay and conditions and an end to the dispute, but he was not interested and he did not respond to their wishes. He dragged out the dispute unnecessarily for two years. The final settlement that he produced was based largely on proposals put forward by me, along with my colleagues and with alliance councillors in Scotland, two years before—when he was appointed—he finally decided that he could bring forward very similar proposals which could have prevented the dispute in the first place. That is the corruption of his view.
Let me respond to the gratuitous insult handed out by the Secretary of State when he described the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) as sounding like a Liberal—the implication being that he believed in the principle, but could not support the practice. I should have thought, first of all, that that was a very good summation of the Secretary of State's position on the issue of Scottish home rule. Secondly, he has shown rather less consistency, conviction or ideal on principle since he stopped being a Liberal than during the brief period when he was a member of the party. He has also demonstrated considerably less decisiveness since then. That is not an invitation: we do not wish to be associated with him!
In the last Parliament, the Secretary of State's then colleague Mr. Gerald Malone refused to address a meeting of 1,200 parents at Aberdeen grammar school during the teachers' dispute, because it would have involved sharing a platform with a member of the Educational Institute of Scotland. That is how keen he was to consult parents on their views. The parents of Aberdeen made it clear what they thought of that when they had the chance.
In our view, education should be a partnership between the education authority and teachers on the one hand, and between parents, pupils and the community on the other. That is one of the reasons for our belief that no one group should be able to outvote the other on decisions affecting education. While we would still prefer reformed school councils, we feel that if school boards are set up or strengthened, they should consist of equal representation from both sides, the parents providing the largest group 68 and probably the chair, but not providing the controlling interest. I also consider it important to make provision for pupils to be represented, because there is much talk in the House about parents being the consumers of education, whereas the actual consumers are the children. At the ages of 15, 16 and 17 they have something to say that is relevant and should be listened to.
I heard what the Secretary of State had to say about head teachers' views on being denied the vote, but I still consider it comparable to denying the managing director a vote on the board. If the head teacher has both to propose and to implement policy, it is reasonable that he should have a hand in determining it. That, I believe, is still the majority opinion. It is also felt that the local regional councillor should be able to attend and speak on any school board in his area. No one is suggesting that he should be a member of them all, or could attend them all; he should, however, have the right to do so. After all, he is the elected representative of the local education authority.
I feel that it is right to propose a board for every school, and we think that that should have been promoted for school councils. I agree, however, with the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside that steps should be taken to ensure that the feeder primary schools and the community interests are represented, although I share reservations about why in some cases they have been excluded.
Many parental anxieties about who will come forward to stand for a school board will not easily go away. A number of the best people will be unable, owing to various other commitments, to take a full part. Many will wish to go on to a board more to promote the interests of their own children than to promote the wider interests of the school at large. That might pervert the intentions, especially when they have that degree of control. A small group or clique, whether politically or personally motivated, could shift the priorities of a school very quickly to favour a more vocal or more able minority against the wishes of the majority. That is the sort of concern that has been expressed to me, and is contained in a file inches thick.
The power to raise funds, while desirable because existing parent-teacher associations have that power, is nevertheless a dangerous development if it goes too far. The Minister knows perfectly well that a school board operating in a wealthy area will raise much more than one operating in a poor area. For that to become the basis of resource allocation would be a very unfair development.
The counter to that—of which the Minister should be aware—is that it would not be unreasonable for a local authority, if that did happen, to suggest cutting its allocation to the school in question and redistributing it to more needy schools. That would be divisive, and I feel that a ceiling should be set.
The Government have entirely failed to prove their case that the Bill represents the real aspirations of parents in Scotland. They have tried to argue that it does, but have been unable to produce clear evidence. All the representations that I am receiving still suggest that parents are extremely sceptical and dubious about the Government's motivations. In my view, the Bill remains a politically motivated diversion to prevent our noticing that Scottish education continues to be underfunded. It says nothing about nursery provision, which is patchy in the extreme; about class sizes; about school closures; about 69 resources for curriculum development. It says nothing about developing adult education, or about providing the time and resources for in-service teacher training.
Those are the issues that really concern people in education, and the Government know it. But here we are discussing a Bill that has nothing to do with the real, crucial, central issues in Scottish education. It is a diversion to try to take the heat off. It does not even tell us how parents can be involved nationally in the development of thinking about education. Why can we not have an advisory committee that involves parents and teachers, and ensures that it is not only the narrow minds in the Adam Smith Institute that formulate the future of Scottish education policy. That particularly applies to those who have opted out of the education process in the state sector in Scotland, and have the cheek to tell us how our children should be educated according to their political priorities.
I believe that the overwhelming majority of parents in Scotland have no confidence in the Tories' education policy. They believe that the Bill does not represent the real aspirations of parents to be involved and consulted, and that it is damaging and divisive. We shall therefore vote against it.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)
Mr. Deputy Speaker is certain—not just sure—that what I have to say is relevant. The first reason for that is that I can assure the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) that I attended state schools, and so did my children, who left not long ago. My experience, therefore, can be described as current. I can also assure the hon. Gentleman that I have never been a member of the Liberal party, although I was twice asked to join.
It is interesting that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) objected to the interest taken by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in Scottish education. He seemed to think that there was something wrong about that. I intervened to ask him whether the Leader of the Opposition was taking an interest in Scotland, and whether he was aware that the Himalayas were not in Scotland. He looked nonplussed. It was obvious that he had not heard, or listened to, the interview in which the Leader of the Opposition took part with Kirsty Wark on the BBC, when he said that he had not mentioned the problems of the environment in the Himalayas.
When asked about matters affecting Scotland, as I recollect, another area that the right hon. Gentleman did not mention was devolution. Devolution is passing power down to the people, which is exactly what will happen if the Bill proceeds through both Houses, as I am sure that it will. When it becomes law, we shall devolve power to the people who matter—the parents of the children concerned.
Often, when we talk about schools, the last people about whom we speak, and often think, are the children. Yet the purpose of the schools is to serve only the children. We would not require schools if there were no children. [Laughter.] Opposition Members find that humorous. They often miss the fundamental and important matters because they become too involved in peripheral areas. 70 That is not surprising. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) is not present. He described the Scottish Office as a peripheral Department. He said:There is a need for awareness on the part of Ministers in peripheral Departments such as the Welsh and Scottish Offices".—[Official Report, Standing Committee D. 10 March 1988; c. 46.]That is the thought of a Scottish Labour Back-Bench Member.
We now know that the Leader of the Opposition believes that the Himalayas have some connection with Scotland, and we understand that the hon. Member for Motherwell, South believes that the Scottish Office is a peripheral Department. In some ways, that tells us why the Opposition are approaching the problem in the way that they are. There is no doubt that we have to view our schools in the light of recent events. One cannot ignore the stress that existed within the system during and after the teachers' strike. There is no doubt that that put enormous stresses and strains on the system and that it affected many children. In fact, one of my children was affected by the strike and it affected the children of many other hon. Members. If we are honest, we will agree that we have to find a better way of managing, running and controlling our schools because we do not want to go through that again.
§ Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)
I am always interested in industrial relations matters. Can the hon. Gentleman say what aspect of the Bill would have avoided the problems that arose during the teachers' dispute?
§ Mr. Walker
The answer is effective communications. The hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) and I have both been involved in industrial relations. We have both been executives and officials in trade unions and I have been a director of personnel, so I know something about the other side as well. I can assure the hon. Gentleman—he must know this if he wants to get into industrial relations—that as often as not matters such as that can be resolved by more effective communication at local level. Some schools did not go on strike because at local level they did not wish to do so. Very often the way to avoid mass disruption is to have more effective communication at local level.
There is no doubt that if the school boards are operated effectively they will improve communication between the customers—in this case parents and children—and the teachers. Those people have a common aim and object and if they can be made to work more efficiently[Interruption.] I do not find this at all amusing. The hon. Gentleman representing the Labour party on Scottish education seems to find this amusing. I find that disturbing. The matter is serious. We have to accept that the stress that arose during the teachers' strike might have been substantially avoided had there been better feedback, more effective communication and more effective ways of finding out what was going on at the chalk face.
It is true that the changes that have been introduced in the curriculum and in examinations are a move in the right direction. However, they have brought about an additional workload. Whenever there is an additional workload, it is important that communications within any organisation are effective. Communication is a two-way thing.
Sadly, the schools councils, which could have played an effective role in communication, were found not to be as 71 effective as many of us would have wished. Indeed, I could probably sum up the feeling of the House by saying that they were a disappointment. One would have hoped that the system, as it was structured, would have provided more effective parental influence within schools. I know that within some schools in my constituency the schools councils work very well. However, I am aware that schools councils do not exist in some schools, never mind work. The reason why they do not exist in some schools is that from the outset they were considered to be a non-job. They did not have the statutory backing that would provide them with the means to bring about beneficial changes within schools. Indeed, it was felt that they were not productive in terms of the time put into them. That is sad, and it explains why we need school boards.
The current position facing us in Scotland cannot be ignored. There are problems facing education authorities. For instance, there is the decline in school rolls and there is population movement, which means that in some beautiful school buildings there are insufficient children to fill the places available. There is also the historical ingredient. Some schools have a good reputation and parents want their children to attend such schools. Those schools are described as popular. As I said earlier, I believe that the Liberals see that as snob value. There may be something in that; I do not know.
I know something of the Harris academy, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion). Incidentally, that academy is not in his constituency but in the constituency of Dundee, West. The Harris academy has always been a popular school. In the days of secondary modern schools, secondary schools and academies, the Harris was one of the popular schools in Dundee and children travelled not just from within the catchment area but from the east end of the city, which is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Dundee, East. I am sure that children probably still do that.
§ Mr. Walker
I understand that. However, it happens because the school has a good reputation. The Morgan academy also has a splendid reputation, as did the Grove academy. The hon. Member for Dundee, East will be aware that the Grove academy in Broughty Ferry did not have adequate facilities in the way of buildings and so on. Therefore, the changes in population movement meant that the school was not big enough. That was one of the difficulties.—[Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) wish to intervene? I cannot hear what he is saying.
§ Dr. Moonie
I object to what the hon. Member said about Grove academy. I attended that school for five years and the facilities were excellent and quite adequate for the number of pupils in that part of the town.
§ Mr. Walker
The hon. Gentleman will know that a large school has been built just outside Broughty Ferry. I am sure that he is not the only former Grove academy pupil in the House.
I repeat what I said: the Grove academy, Harris academy and Morgan academy were all good schools. In addition, there were schools for Catholic children. Those 72 schools were popular because of their reputation. If the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy is not proud of his old school, he should be.
I shall now turn to the reasons why we should support the Bill. I was trying to sketch in the background as to why we are in the position we are in today. It is essential to understand that. As I have said, there were problems brought about by the change in the population, the change in the age structures and the movement of children so that some schools were left with many vacant places. In Dundee there is 40 per cent. over-capacity. One reason why there are objections to children going to the Harris academy is that there is 40 per cent. over-capacity in other parts of the city. The problem of overcapacity is that the cost of maintaining it is substantially felt in rural areas. They find themselves short of funds because schools in the city of Dundee are soaking in the funds towards rent, heating and lighting for places that are not occupied.
I believe that part of the problem is that local authorities—the elected officials and councillors—have found it very difficult to find solutions. There are examples in Strathclyde. I am not going to second-guess what should be done there because I do not know enough about the details and it would be impertinent for me to suggest solutions, but I should prefer to leave to parents the choice of school for their children. That is why the parents' charter was such a wise legislative introduction. I used the powers within the parents' charter. My children attended schools in Perth because there were problems at the local school in Blairgowrie. The problem was that their father was the local Member of Parliament. All hon. Members may face this difficulty over their children's education.
Perth city was not in my constituency any longer, so it was possible for me to send my children to another school where they were not affected by the aggravation they suffered because I am their father. [Interruption] If hon. Gentleman find that amusing, I hope that they are never in a situation where a minority party resorts to very devious tactics, including abusing children—my daughters—and that is all on the record. That is why they were moved. Their father happened to be in a different political party. That is one of the real issues facing many parents who are Members of Parliament.
I notice the smiles on the faces of hon. Gentlemen who can afford and have been to private schools. I expect that they do not find it quite as difficult as I did. I did not have the opportunity to go to a private school, so I know very little about that.
I turn now to this important Bill. We need school boards because we have not been able to find the right mixture of communication within education where parents are able to communicate effectively and bring about changes within schools that are important for their children.
We have made some moves in the right direction as a result of the parents' charter, but that in itself was not enough. One of the reasons why parents took their children away from a school and put them into another was that they were unable to influence the situation within a school that was perhaps in the catchment areas where they were required to send their children. The school council did not perhaps exist, or if it did it was not able to do the job effectively.
The school boards that are envisaged in the Bill will change that, which can only be for the better. It is interesting that the Scottish Parent-Teacher Council 73 welcomes the publication of the Bill. As its vice chairman, Harry Smith, has said, accountability and communications are dominant themes throughout the Bill. That is exactly what I said to the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) after his intervention—that the Bill will improve communications and accountability. SPTC welcomes the emphasis on accountability of education authorities to school boards. That matter was addressed earlier by several Opposition Members who thought there was something wrong with an education authority being accountable in some way to school boards.
The boards will represent the interests of the children, who are the parties that matter in this situation. It is important that education authorities reflect properly and accurately the wishes of parents in their area, and the accountability of school boards to education authorities and to all parents in the school. That is what the SPTC says.
That is why I believe that every hon. Member should be prepared to support the principle of the Bill. Everyone says that he wants to see more parental involvement and parents having more say. The differences are in detail rather than principle. I welcome the fact that there will be opportunities, within the Bill, for parents to assume much more power, if they wish. I also welcome the fact that consultations between parents and members of school boards in total and the education authority are an integral and essential part of the concept of accountability.
§ Mr. Norman Hogg
The hon. Gentleman refers to school councils and welcomes the development of powers for school boards. Is this a new Conservative principle? If so, why does that not apply to local authorities? The Conservatives have consistently taken away powers from local authorities, whereas in this case they are saying that education will benefit from additional powers. To which principle does the Conservative party subscribe?
§ Mr. Walker
I can answer that because I come from a large rural constituency. The hon. Gentleman must be aware that those representing such constituencies find that Highland schools are far from centres of decision making. That centre is Dundee in this case. The communities feel as remote from Dundee as they do from London. They want to see more decisions taken locally. They have always had a co-operative machinery of working locally. There is no question, as anyone with experience of Highland rural areas knows, but that the small local communities have much more community spirit than is the case in the large cities. However, the cities tend to dominate. I have already drawn attention to the 40 per cent. overcapacity in Dundee schools, which is having an adverse affect on expenditure on the Highland rural schools in my constituency. They cannot get enough money because it is being spent in Dundee. Difficult decisions have yet to be taken and Strathclyde authority is facing up to them. I recognise that. But I shall not second-guess them on the appropriate solution, because it would be wrong for me to suggest it.
I believe that with school boards in existence, and the required consultation, and the methods by which parents can choose schools for their children more effectively under a combination of the parents' charter and school boards, we may move away from a situation where the Harris academy is the magnet school in Dundee. That was much to the consternation of the hon. Member for Dundee, East.
74 I believe that school boards have an essential role to play. When one reads the Bill, one wonders why we have not had boards before. Why has it taken us so long to see the obvious? We can involve parents in education much more directly and give them more accountability and responsibility. That can only be beneficial for the schools, the children and the teachers.
The teachers, too, do not want to work in isolation. They would love to have much more parental interest in their schools. Certainly in my constituency, where I have spoken to many teachers, they all say the same thing. They wish that parents were much more involved. The Bill will bring the opportunity for them to be involved. That is why I see no reason why any hon. Member should vote against the Bill.
§ 7.9 pm
§ Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)
Bearing in mind the many serious problems in my constituency, what benefits will the Bill bring it, and will the Bill resolve existing problems in Springburn's schools? Perhaps I can highlight some of the problems about which I have writ ten to the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary. I have put down parliamentary questions and usually the reply is that the matter is the responsibility of Strathclyde. I have also tried to get Adjournment debates and have been told that they cannot be considered because the subject is not a ministerial responsibility.
Yet every day when I open the newspapers or watch television or listen to debates here the Secretary of State and particularly the Under-Secretary seem to be discussing the education affairs of Strathclyde. It seems strange to me that I cannot get answers—the Under-Secretary will confirm that he has received a great many letters from my constituents about various problems—yet he can go on television and talk about the problems of Strathclyde. Springburn is in Strathclyde. Why can I not have answers about the very serious problems in my constituency?
Elmvale school, a primary school, has been earmarked for closure in spite of the fact that new building is due to take place in the area. In addition, a housing estate has been cleared and the Under-Secretary's colleague responsible for housing has stated that he is prepared to see Government money go into that estate—the Fernbank scheme—to turn it into one of the "Quality street" areas that have been discussed in connection with Glasgow.
I welcome all types of housing in my constituency from both the public and the private sector—although there does not seem to be much from the public sector coming our way. If housing is built and families come in, they will need schools. It would be shameful if this school were to be closed and then in a few years' time we had young couples with children wanting a primary school. I would ask the Minister, when he replies to the debate, to tell us whether this Bill will do anything to help that situation.
Up the road from the Elmvale school is the Colston secondary school. Because of the high unemployment in the area, many adults are coming back to that school to sit alongside the present pupils in an attempt to get their O-levels and highers and have a better qualification for jobs which do not exactly grow on trees in that area. In Rosemount, in the Garngad area and the Roystonhill area, a very deprived area, nursery facilities are just not available. Rather than close the school here, I do not see why we should not make the empty classrooms available for children under five, of whom there are many.
75 I have asked questions and made comments—I hope that the Minister bears this in mind—about a primary school known as St. Rock's. Because of Strathclyde's road building programme and with the encouragement of the Government, if this school closes, the little children who now attend it, some of them only four and a half years of age, will have to negotiate the main Townhead interchange, which includes the M8 motorway. Those who use that motorway in their cars sometimes take their lives in their hands, yet young children may have to negotiate that motorway, the underpasses and the rest. This is not a good thing for children and it is only reasonable that parents should argue for the retention of this school.
Another school that I should like to mention and about which there has been a great deal of activity from the parents is a first-class primary school with an excellent academic record and atmosphere. We have heard Government Members talk about co-operation between teachers and parents: one could not find a better atmosphere in that respect than at St. Bede's primary school. It is open plan and, as a result, disabled children attend it at present. There has been a good deal of discussion about integration for the disabled rather than separation: it exists in St. Bede's primary school.
The interesting thing about that school that I would like to put on record is that an official from the Glasgow area of Strathclyde said that she saw no point in closing the school because the surplus classrooms, of which there were not many, could be used for under-fives and nursery facilities. That was an official from Strathclyde. When the parents pursued that avenue, the official clammed up. She was told by her superiors to say nothing further.
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce
I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman because I am interested in the development of nursery facilities. Would it not be appropriate for the Minister to tell her, given that he is somewhat under the influence of the Prime Minister, that when, many years ago, she promised that every child wanting nursery education should have it, we in Scotland would welcome delivery of that promise rather than of a promise that nobody wants?
§ Mr. Martin
I agree with the hon. Member. I know that the Under-Secretary carries a great deal of influence in Downing street and may be able to get that message across.
I have it on good authority from the parents at St. Bede's that the Strathclyde official was told that, because of the pressure and because of the activities of parents in trying to keep the school open, she must keep out of it and say no more about nursery school education.
I understand the plight of a local authority if it is forced to close schools because of population difficulties, but if an official comes up with an idea like this, why tell him or her to be quiet and say nothing further? It will not inspire confidence in the local authority. It does not help the parents. It creates a suspicion that, no matter what they campaign for, somehow or other the authority will step in and override their wishes.
I do not like to criticise a Labour authority but I feel entitled to criticise fairly when I feel that an injustice is being perpetrated in my constituency. One of the many complaints that I have about Strathclyde is that parents 76 and elected members were told that there would be consultation, that there would be what were known as area review committees. It has been put to me that Strathclyde was not required by statute to have them. That is fair enough. But I know from my industrial relations experience that if a boss need not consult but does consult, he must accept the result of such consultations. There is no point in telling people that they will be consulted and that they will be given a fair trial but when it is all over they will be executed anyway, but that is what seems to have happened with the area review committees.
For months, parents went to evening meetings. They gave evidence to these committees, excellent evidence. Many of them sat for hours in the planning department, finding out how many houses would be built in the coming five years in their area so that they could produce good, solid evidence.
The area review committee accepted that many of the schools due for the chop were to be kept open. That was their recommendation, and what happened? The region met in Seamill, on the Ayrshire coast, and within a weekend all the work that had been done by the review committees and the parents was thrown out. I was told that, because some of the area review committees bottled out, someone else would have to make the decision for them. I think that that is shameful and the worst type of public relations.
We are talking about parent power. Had the parents in my area in Strathclyde, and in Paisley as well, not demonstrated outside Strathclyde house, gone to their Members of Parliament and their councillors and attended public meetings, the padlock would certainly have been on the gates in a number of schools in my constituency. The situation would have been worse than the present situation, which is bad enough.
The leader of Strathclyde region wrote to a parent in my constituency who took her disabled child to Strathclyde house to keep an appointment that he did not think that she was doing the right thing by her disabled child and that she was using him. It is shameful that such a letter should have gone to my constituent, Mrs. McDade, who is a dedicated mother. All she wants is to make sure that her disabled child gets the same chance as any other child and is able to go to a local school. For him it will not be a case of going a mile and a half or two miles along the road; it will be 13 miles, because he will have to travel to the other end of the city. It is shameful that letters of that kind should be sent to parents who are fighting for a decent chance for their children.
I do not think that the Scottish Office, and particularly the Minister, come out of this well. The Minister went on television and said that there was no way that Paisley grammar school, Our Lady and St. Francis or Notre Dame would be closed down. When the interviewer pressed him, he said that there was going to be a parliamentary order, which went before the House not so long ago. The Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure said that it was, in effect, illegal.
I do not begrudge these schools being saved just because I am failing to get my own school saved, but I feel that it is wrong for the Minister to defend some schools when many parents in other parts of Strathclyde cannot get an answer through their Members of Parliament and are told that it is a matter for Strathclyde. What is wrong with Colston? Why cannot Colston get the same attention as Our Lady and St. Francis? I do not begrudge Our Lady 77 and St. Francis being kept open, but when the Minister visited that school he should have taken a wee drive up the London road into the heart of Bridgeton, the east end of Glasgow, where the poorest of the poor live. Yet they have an excellent school, St. Mungo's academy. There is a danger—the Glasgow hierarchy have spoken about this—that, if Our Lady and St. Francis is kept open, St. Mungo's, which has a great reputation and was founded for the children in the east end of Glasgow when state education was not available, could be lost.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Forsyth)
Could I just point out to the hon. Gentleman that I visited Our Lady and St. Francis in the early part of the summer, before there was any proposal for a closure from Strathclyde?
Furthermore, on the basis of the information that has been made available to me, Our Lady and St. Francis would not fall within the scope of the regulations which were laid before the House because the percentage occupancy would be below the 80 per cent. figure.
§ Mr. Martin
It is interesting that the Minister should say that, but he gave the clear impression that he was putting up a fight for Our Lady and St. Francis to the exclusion of other schools. If he is now saying something different, I hope that the parents of the pupils of Our Lady and St. Francis take note of what he has to say. But I still make the point that Strathclyde—I am more critical of Strathclyde on this issue than any other Labour Member—has to look at the overall position, whereas the Minister has taken the comfortable position of highlighting one or two schools. One school being saved can be the death of another.
§ Mr. Buchan
Does my hon. Friend agree with me that we would welcome a commitment from the Government to meet Strathclyde region now before coming to a hurried decision about any of these matters? Would that not be helpful to everybody?
§ Mr. Martin
I agree with my hon. Friend. Had that happened earlier, it would have saved me from being in the awkward position that I am in at the moment. I would have been happy to see Ministers and the leaders of Strathclyde region getting together on this issue. I believe that, if Strathclyde had had more resources from Government, that would have eased the situation. The handling of the situation is to be criticised and the Government deserve some criticism. My hon. Friend is right that perhaps the two parties should get together.
The thing that worries me is that almost every major industry in my constituency has been lost and there has been little in the way of initiatives from the Government. Other areas have enterprise zones and all the rest of it, but not Springburn. The only help for children under the age of 16 in my area is a decent education. I want the people responsible to make sure that they are provided with a decent education.
I know the difficulty that my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) has with regard to Paisley grammar, the so-called magnet school. Like the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), on principle I sent my children to the local catchment area comprehensive school, and as there was a year between them, they were in the same intake. Quite frankly, I regretted that decision, because it was a bad school and left a lot to be 78 desired. But once children are in a school they do not want to leave, because their friends are there. There were a lot of problems in that school.
I would tackle the magnet schools in the following way. If there was evidence that one school was attracting a lot of pupils, I would look at the surrounding schools and find out why parents were voting with their feet. They are not always voting for the so-called snob value. I know that Notre Dame and Our Lady and St. Francis have a nice ring to them, but if parents are walking past schools to go to the magnet schools I want to know what the problem is. Is it the teachers? I know that teachers are well trained and have all the qualifications, but there are bad teachers just as there are bad engineers and bad people in all the professions—including bad MPs. That is the way that I would tackle a magnet school.
I do not think that it is a good idea to put a padlock on the door when the magnet schools are bulging at the seams, because the problem could be solved by getting the children to go to other schools. That creates a great deal of resentment.
The position about school boards may be the same as with tenants' associations, parent-teacher associations and community councils. It is the stalwarts who are left to run the organisations. There will be a big turnout at a meeting of a tenants' association when there is to be a rent rise or when the lift in a block of multi-storey flats breaks down. But for the day-to-day work of the association, the organisers are lucky if there are half a dozen people at meetings.
We are talking about direct elections to school boards. The Minister will recall that, when Wheatley brought in the reorganisation of local government, he said that community councils should be elected directly. In the early days, there was much interest. I was the returning officer for an adjoining ward in Maryhill and there was a big turnout. Now the same community council can hardly get a quorum because of the lack of interest. That aspect of school boards worries me.
Reference has been made to the fact that someone ma .y be on a school board because he wants to make sure that his child is well looked after at school. We know that, in parent-teacher associations, the people who are most interested are the parents of children starting off on their O-levels and their highers. When the children have passed their examinations, there is a new intake of parents in the PTA. The Minister should realise that the same problem will arise with school boards.
I reiterate that Strathclyde and the Minister should get together to resolve the problems of proposed school closures in my constituency and to make sure that children get a decent education.
§ Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood)
The House will, as always, have listened with great respect to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin). Obviously it is not for me to comment on the points which he made about his constituency, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister and the Opposition Front Bench will pay attention to what the hon. Gentleman said about parental choice and magnet schools. All afternoon we have been hearing from other Opposition Members that parents choose particular schools solely because of their snob value. In my experience, that is nonsense.
79 Before turning to the main theme of the debate, I want to deal with one or two other points. My hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) was a little unfair to the Leader of the Opposition. The background to the quote about the Himalayas is that the Leader of the Opposition made a 50-minute speech to the Scottish Labour party conference and did not once mention devolution. The right hon. Gentleman is to be congratulated on, and credited with, getting some of the priorities about Scottish matters properly into prospective.
The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) referred to me many times in relation to Paisley grammar school, which is not in my constituency; the House should appreciate that it is not in his constituency either. It is in the constituency of—
§ Mr. Buchan
Paisley is divided into Paisley, North and Paisley, South. The catchment area runs across both constituencies. I am affected by everything that happens in Paisley, North. I was also speaking for my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North (Mr. Adams). The hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) should not equate my position with his. With respect, his constituency is not within Paisley.
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman is getting a bit touchy. All I was doing was making the point that Paisley grammar school is not in his constituency. Of course, I know that it is close to Paisley.
Today the hon. Member clarified the position in important respects in relation to what he and the hon. Member for Paisley, North (Mr. Adams) believe. As I understand their position, they do not agree with Strathclyde's proposal for three non-denominational schools in Paisley, but they do not want the Government to have power to affect that decision. As I also understand it—I shall happily give way to the hon. Member for Paisley, South if I am wrong—he and his hon. Friend want four non-denominational schools in Paisley but one of them would not be Paisley grammar school. I think that is what the hon. Gentleman was saying.
§ Mr. Buchan
I want Paisley grammar and Merksworth to be merged. We have got the best building in Merksworth and they should be merged. That seems to be manifest.
§ Mr. Stewart
Of course, the majority of parents of children at Paisley grammar do not want Merksworth. That is the whole point of the debate.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside, (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) and others have said, the amendment on the Order Paper in the names of the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues is curious. It criticises the proposals in the Bill because they only paylip service to the genuine need to encourage parental involvement".So the Labour party is saying that the Bill does not go far enough and that there should be greater powers laid down in legislation for parental involvement. The Labour party wants to increase the legislative provision for parental involvement. That is not the theme of what we have heard from Opposition Members. Every one of the criticisms of the Bill by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) was in precisely the opposite direction. He wants fewer parents on school boards. He is concerned 80 about the powers to involve parents in consultations on books and other facilities referred to in clause 9. He is concerned about the delegation of further powers.
The hon. Member for Paisley, South, who has slipped out of the Chamber for a moment, made a long speech explaining Labour party policy. As I understood, the Labour party is in favour of parental involvement. That is all he said, minute after minute after minute. There were no specific proposals. One has to conclude from the debate that it is the Labour party which is only paying lip service to the whole principle of parental involvement.
The second part of the Opposition amendment is that they are opposed to the Bill because it is a paving measure for opting out. This is probably the first time that an Opposition have opposed a Bill because they are opposed to something which is not in the Bill—a rather unusual position for the Opposition to take. The idea that the Bill is a paving measure for opting out is mistaken. The two concepts can be related in structural terms but they are significantly different. School boards are essentially about parental involvement. Opting out is essentially about parental choice. There is a relationship between the two but school boards are not a prerequisite for opting out.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Can the hon. Gentleman help the House? Did the Prime Minister or any senior official at Downing street talk to the hon. Gentleman about the proposed amendment which was mentioned in the letter? Was it discussed with him?
§ Mr. Stewart
I can tell the hon. Gentleman the precise position. I do not think that there has been any secret over a long period that I am in favour of the House considering opting out. It is well known that I wrote to the Prime Minister on behalf of constituents about Paisley grammar school. After the decision had been announced by the Government I wrote again to Ministers saying that I was delighted with the new regulations but proposed to pursue the idea of tabling an amendment or new clause on opting out. I never discussed the matter personally with the Prime Minister or anyone else in Downing street. There are all sorts of allegations about conspiracies, but my position has been clear for a long time to anyone interested in it.
We already have opting out in Scotland, so it is not alien or new or unwanted. We have it in the form of the Jordanhill school, to which the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) referred. He rightly said that the parents at Jordanhill school wanted to opt in to the regional authority, but the regional authority—I do not blame Strathclyde for it, given the position it was in—said it did not want Jordanhill school. So the parents took the next route, which was opting out. The route may have been different but the result was the same. Notre Dame school would be in precisely the same position—it wanted to remain as a regional authority school, but the authority does not want the school. So if, in future, there were opting out, pupils of Notre Dame would be in essentially the same position as those of Jordanhill. I hope that the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) will make the Labour party's position clear on this. If the Opposition are wholly opposed to opting out, they are saying that a Labour Government would close Jordanhill school—the inevitable result of adopting that position.
81 Opposition Members have made great play of believing that there is no demand for opting out. If there is none, or if it is minimal, as the hon. Member for Garscadden said it was, why are they so worried about it?
§ Mrs. Margaret Ewing
To follow the hon. Gentleman's argument to its logical conclusion, if he is basing it on the use of evidence, why do not he and his hon. Friends accept the clear evidence of support for devolution of powers for Scotland, including powers to run the education system?
§ Mr. Stewart
Tempted as I am to use this opportunity to explain my view of devolution at enormous length, I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you would swiftly rule me out of order if I did so.
The essential point about opting out is that it gives people a choice. Nothing will happen unless they want it to happen—unless the Scots want it to happen.
I want to comment on the criticism of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that has been voiced in the debate. We constantly hear from Opposition Members that she does not care about Scotland and is not interested in it. Then when it becomes clear that she is interested and involved in a particular issue she is accused of gross interference with the Secretary of State. Opposition Members cannot have it both ways.
The debate has also shown that Opposition Members are confused about the original proposals and the proposals as amended. The Government are to be congratulated because the consultation process was clearly real and clearly mattered, and the proof is that the proposals were changed, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside said, in a number of significant ways.
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce
The hon. Gentleman said that school boards were about parental involvement. The Government's proposals are about parental control—a majority of parents in control. Is it not clear that the representations from parents have shown that they do not want that? They want involvement, not control.
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman made that allegation and said in his speech that he was receiving many representations from parents who were opposed to the Bill, and I do not dispute his description of his mail bag. But it is significant that the Scottish Parent-Teacher Council said, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North mentioned:we can now reiterate that we are broadly in agreement with the provisions of the Bill.So if members of the council were hon. Members they would vote to give the Bill a Second Reading. That does not mean that they agree with all its details. The organisation speaks on behalf of about 500 parent-teacher groups throughout Scotland. I attended one of its conferences one Saturday morning in Glasgow and the impression I received from everyone there was that they were in favour of the Bill and would make detailed representations on it. I know of no evidence to suggest that that is not the broad view of parents and those involved in education in Scotland.
There were reservations about the original proposals—about the Secretary of State's powers to enforce the pace of change, about school boards perhaps being unrepresentative and about the involvement and professional judgment of teachers. All those categories of concern have been met by the changes that have been outlined by my 82 right hon. and learned Friend. The original power of general order has been removed. Further powers have been inserted in the Bill to ensure that a school board can seek to acquire extra powers only if it can show broad parental support. That means that the reservations about unrepresentative groups were met. It is clear that the school board will have no involvement in determining curricular matters, which are for the professional judgment of teachers.
The revised proposals command widespread support and are sensible, and I have no doubt that the result will be more effective parental involvement in school education in Scotland, to the benefit of all.
§ Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)
This is, in many ways, a strange debate, because the proposal before us is so small-scale and innocuous that one wonders why it excites so much attention. Compared with other parts of the world, there is no doubt that Scotland has little parental involvement in education. It is agreed on the Left and the Right of the political spectrum that there has not been adequate parental involvement in Scottish education. It is strange that I have heard no one adequately challenge the use of the term "parental involvement". Is it not ludicrous that we have been talking about a minimum of four and a maximum of seven people being involved in a school, and calling that parental involvement?
This Bill is not about parental involvement; it is about an added tier of management in schools, not necessarily acting as a massive stimulus to parental involvement. Unfortunately, as the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) said, throughout the autumn, winter and spring, discussion of this Bill, which concerns school boards, has been the dominant issue in Scottish education. It is not the dominant issue in Scottish education. The dominant issues are resources, crumbling school buildings and the need for a genuine partnership between the Government and the local authorities. The dominant, issues also include nursery education and, quite clearly, in an unexamined way, the Under-Secretary of State has cancelled a long-standing review into nursery education. That was because if the value of nursery education had been reviewed, that would have involved resources. However, we are not discussing that, nor are we discussing education throughout life.
Something happening in my constituency has more to do with parental involvement than has the Bill. It is about the involvement of adults in education. In the secondary schools in my constituency, about 700 parents have returned to school. They are parents and they have now entered into a real partnership in serious education. That is not the sort of education that we are discussing.
Why has the Bill excited such fervour? It is because the motive of the Government is to pave the way for opting out proposals. That cannot be denied. I listened to the Secretary of State and watched the face of the Under-Secretary of State and I know which of them is telling the truth. When the Under-Secretary of State was talking about opting out, every now and then he forgot himself and exhibited genuine enthusiasm for opting out. That is where he is trying to drive the Scottish education system. If that is so, let us have it honestly.
Parental choice is a key concept and we are all in favour of it, except where one person's choice is the denial of another's freedom. That is the borderline that we must 83 define. In some circumstances, people exercising their choice will damage the education system of other people. Sometimes we cannot have an unfettered choice. If all the citizens of Dundee wanted to send their children to Harris academy, some of them would have to be refused, because it would be crazy to have the other schools lying empty. That would be a waste of public resources.
Sometimes the motivation that seems to lie behind parental choice is about creating enclaves of better-off people who are fleeing from low-status populations. That occurs in some cases. People can use the mechanism of property prices and gain control of a school. In that way they can say that they will not be infected by people that they do not like and can get that sort of cachet for a school. We have proof of that in Paisley. Undoubtedly the best buildings, resources and playing fields are available in Paisley grammar school. I understand that the education authority could tell Paisley grammar school that it could move lock, stock and barrel, that it could take the rector, staff and pupils and put them into Merksworth high school and call it Paisley grammar school. Would Paisley grammar school buy that? No, it would not, because it would have to mix with Ferguslie park.
The school would be setting up an enclave of separate and privileged pupils. Many people would want to be in that enclave and a means would have to be found of choosing the pupils to attend that school. That could be done in a number of ways. It could be done by catchment areas, but that might let in some unfortunate people. It could be done by ability, by going back to testing, or by fees. We must face that. We had opting out before. I am not speaking about Jordanhill school. When the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) spoke about that, he forgot to mention that the Government were in a hole over that school. It was just before the election and they had fading hopes that they could regain Glasgow, Hillhead. Therefore, it was not a decision in principle.
We have had grant-aided schools before. In 1968, Scotland had 29 graint-aided schools, 27 of which charged fees and selected their own pupils. Seventy per cent. of the pupils had an IQ of over 110 and 80 per cent. were from social classes 1 and 2 and virtually none was from social classes 4 and 5. That is what opting out is about. It is about creaming off and selecting. Under an opting-out system, the Government would ensure that their grant-aided schools were better funded and more generously treated than other schools, and the Government would still put the hems on the local education authorities.
The way that the Secretary of State has behaved on opting out has demeaned his office. A massive reason for having a Secretary of State for Scotland is that there is something culturally valuable and distinctive about having a separate education system. I can say that because I have experience of both systems. The Secretary of State should tell powerful people that they cannot transplant the opting-out proposals from one place to another and that the separate traditions must be respected.
It is striking that there has been no justification from the Secretary of State and there will be no justification from the Under-Secretary of State for the proposals that arise and draw strength from Scottish traditions. We are in a constitutionally dangerous position. It is not just that there are 50 Labour Members and only 10 Tory Members 84 representing Scotland, but that a minority Government, on issues such as the curriculum and assessment or the opting-out proposals, are under the thumb of the Prime Minister. People will become cynical about whether the Secretary of State is safeguarding the Scottish education system.
One of the most important traditions in Scotland, and certainly the one that most impressed me in its education system, is that there is the spirit of what James Scotland in his book on Scottish education called militant democracy, caring about those who are at the bottom of the heap. It is saying that in the education system one must think about such people first. I should like to use an 1817 quote from a historian. It is one that could not be used about the English system:The attention which has been paid to the education of the lower orders"—that is not my phrase—of the Scottish nation has been proverbial over Europe for several centuries past.That is very important but totally lacking in the spirit of the Bill.
The sad thing is that opting out hangs over the Bill. It is totally legitimate for us to say that we know what the Under-Secretary of State is up to. This is a paving measure, a step on the road to opting out. He must say from which Scottish tradition he draws his sense of custodianship of the Scottish education system. Some simple things need to be done. No one will mourn the passing of school councils. As a former representative in Strathclyde, I know that we quickly realised that we had made the wrong decision about school councils in terms of having groups of secondary schools and their feeder primaries.
Strathclyde council would have loved to have a school council for every school, but—it is interesting to note that the real cost of £20 million is now coming out—we could never have gone to the Secretary of State, with the grip that he has tried to impose on the education system, and said that we intended to spend an extra £10 million next year on creating extra administrators to run the new school councils system. How could we have done that, especially when the Government would have said that they would claw back the money and that we would pay three times as much—in other words, £30 million?
§ Mr. Dalyell
If that question had been put in my constituency or anywhere in Lothian, the quick riposte would have been, "What about the school drains, the walls that are cracking, the ceilings that are peeling and the windows that are boarded up at Queensferry high school? What about some basic maintenance?"
§ Mr. Worthington
I could not agree more. It is a massive job setting up school boards for 1,200 schools, although the number is falling. There is no doubt that we should have been encouraging the teaching profession to be much less protective. A secure profession involves other people. It is not frightened by other people's involvement. When I was with Strathclyde council, we were talking about some degree of financial devolution to schools, because some of the procedures by which books were ordered were labyrinthine and should have been stopped. There is much that we can encourage, but we should not reduce the ability of the education authority.
§ Mr. Michael Forsyth
I am fascinated by the hon. Gentleman's argument that Strathclyde council could not 85 do anything because the Government would not let it spend the money. Why is it that, as soon as our consultative paper was published last summer, both Strathclyde and Central region councils fell over themselves to produce proposals to have school councils for individual schools and produced leaflets explaining how they were going to do this, when they had had the power to do so since 1975? Are they not at least open to the accusation that, seeing that the Government had identified a popular measure and under the pressure of our consultative paper, they should have reacted?
§ Mr. Worthington
The council's first proposal to change its school councils proposals was in the 1986 regional manifesto. Work had been going on. That proposal surfaced before the Under-Secretary of State put forward his proposals. In fighting the 1986 election, we were clear about that proposal—it is written down; indeed, I wrote it—but we had to reform the system of school councils.
However, we must not lessen the ability of the education authority to act in a strategic way. There have been some considerable steps forward in recent years by the local education authorities which, because of their size, can now think in terms of broad development of policy. Under opting-out proposals, the danger is that those authorities would be operating rump schools.
I wish to make a point which has not been mentioned but is of great significance. I am not putting this point in a party political way. It is a problem that the education authorities and the Secretary of State need to tackle—non-attendance at school. Under the original proposals, non-attendance was to be tackled by the school boards. I am relieved that the problem will not be tackled by the new school boards because that would tend to get in the way. One has to face the fact that the major function of all school councils, certainly those with which I was involved, was to consider the problem of non-attendance at school.
The way in which non-attendance at school is dealt with in Scotland is diabolical. If it is of any benefit to anybody, it is of benefit to the truant. I hope that the Secretary of State will be willing to open up this issue and have discussions with local education authorities as to how it would be possible to get all the relevant agencies round the table and discuss matters more sensibly.
In conclusion, we are all in favour of parental involvement, but the Bill is not about parental involvement. All the research of recent years has shown that the parent is the key factor in the school and in supporting the child. However, if we obtain such parental involvement, schools will have to operate differently. They will have to be resourced differently. Links between home and school will be different from what they are at present. That is the kind of parental involvement that Opposition Members wish to see. Parental involvement that involves four to seven parents in a school attending meetings is a charade for involvement.
§ 8.5 pm
§ Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)
I listened with great fascination to the speech of the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), but the tradition that he defines as being relevant to the Scottish psyche and the Scottish approach to education is perhaps in itself indicative of why the people of Scotland voted in a particular way at the last general election. Many of the overall strategies and philosophies of the Government are 86 not acceptable to the people of Scotland because they do not show the caring face about which we in Scotland are deeply concerned.
I have also listened with interest to other speeches. Unfortunately, I had to miss one or two speeches because I had to return to Standing Committee D where a vote was taking place, but I heard the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) speak on the issue of opting out. I find his argument difficult to follow. He spoke about the validity of evidence in supporting his arguments, but no survey has been conducted in Scotland which shows that there is substantial support for opting out. There are no statistics to support that argument.
It does not seem to me to be appropriate that, because of one or two cases in specific parts of the country, we are now faced with the possibility of local diktats bringing forward national legislation. I do not see that, because there are particular problems affecting the constituency of the hon. Member for Eastwood, his argument should be followed through in every other part of Scotland. Using a specific argument to support a general case is surely something that we in this House should avoid.
Like the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie, I believe that the Bill is most inappropriate at this stage. People in my constituency do not rush up to me and talk about school boards or about opting out. When they talk about education problems, they are more interested in the curriculum and assessment issues that are not being dealt with in the Bill. They are more concerned about whether money will be made available for school building programmes. For example, phase 5 of the Milne's high school, Fochabers, may not be completed as early as possible because of financial restrictions. That leaves the school with a split site, which we do not want.
I speak for head teachers in primary schools. They are having to teach about three of four days a week, and yet, if they had an extra two pupils in their schools, an extra teacher would be allocated. As yet we have had no sign from the Scottish Office as to when the staffing reviews will be published. Such anomalies can be eradicated to enable my head teachers to do the work that they so wish to do within their schools. There is a variety of education issues which abound in Scotland at present and to which the Bill has no, or very little, relevance.
When we discussed education in the Scottish Grand Committee last month, I argued that Scotland needed an opportunity to consider the broad spectrum of education issues and to draw up a national strategy for our education system. There is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of many hon. Members and of those directly involved in education that the Scottish education system has been suffering as a result of underfunding and under-resourcing under the Government. The sooner that we can consider how best to advance Scottish education, the better. It is very unfortunate that we do not have a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs as we could have examined the education system in Scotland in great detail to ensure that policies are enacted to the benefit of all pupils throughout Scotland.
Everyone believes in parental involvement in schools. It is rather like being in favour of love and peace; no one in his right mind would be against them. However, the Bill is not about parental involvement in the sense that we understand it.
Reference has been made to the fact that other European countries have systems of parental involvement 87 that are much better than ours. I have analysed those systems in the European Community to discover whether the proposals in the Bill compare favourably with the systems in other countries. There are elements of similarity in the proposals in the Bill and the systems elsewhere. However, no executive powers like those in Denmark will be granted to the councils under this Bill. There are many other differences which reveal that there will not be the kind of parental involvement that the Minister suggests.
§ Mr. Michael Forsyth
I want to correct the hon. Lady. As I recall, she tabled a parliamentary question about the visit to Denmark, although I may be wrong about that. Far from having no executive powers, the powers granted to school boards in Denmark, which consist entirely of parent representatives, go so far as to give them the power to approve the school timetable and the textbooks used in the school. We have excluded those matters from the Bill. Therefore, she is right to state that our proposed system differs from that in Denmark. The Danish system goes a great deal further and when the BBC interviewed trade unionists, teachers, parents and others in every walk of life with an interest in education it could not find anyone to speak against the Danish system.
§ Mrs. Ewing
I tabled a parliamentary question about the Danish visit to establish the visit's costs. It was interesting to note that the costs would have covered at least one major capitation fee for a large school in Scotland.
Having read the document prepared by the European Commission, I understand that many of the powers in the Government's proposals are not included in the Danish example and are not listed in the delegated powers contained as possible roles for school boards in the Bill.
My basic concern about the proposals is that they will lead to a very bureaucratic system of administration and involvement. When we consider the way in which the elections must be conducted, the suggested number of meetings, the amount of paper work involved and the co-options on to the school boards should any vacancies arise, we realise that a variety of bureaucratic administration will exist. However, the Government have told us that they want to streamline bureaucracy and eradicate it. Yet we are imposing a very bureaucratic approach to parental involvement on a hard-pressed education system.
Subsections (4) and (5) of clause 17 mean that hundreds of school boards could knock at the doors of local authorities demanding information and the local authorities will come under pressure. The demand will have to be serviced by the education authorities, and that will lead to additional pressures on local authorities.
I have always believed that the Government would develop school councils rather than establish a totally new system. The Minister might be interested to know that some time ago, in my dim and distant past in 1974, before I entered the House, I served on a school council in Stirling at St. Modan's school. We tried to anticipate the proposals for school councils and tried to make them work. The central region responded very effectively to the Macbeth report in 1980 and to the consultative document in 1984. It is strange that the consultation document was issued by the Government in the last Parliament in 1984, yet no 88 attempt was made to reform school councils, or to give them additional powers to build on what was already effective. As the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) and the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) stressed, school councils have worked very effectively in the Grampian region.
§ Mr. Salmond
Is my hon. Friend aware that, when she was serving assiduously on the school council in Stirling, the Minister was serving on a student representative council in St. Andrew's? The ideas he proposed in that body are just as bizarre as today's proposals.
§ Mrs. Ewing
I am aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) attended the same university as the Minister. I suggest that the Minister's experience at St. Andrew's would have encouraged him to adopt a flexible approach to Scottish education because he switched courses midstream and benefited from the flexible system in Scotland.
The hon. Member for Eastwood and the former Member for Argyll and Bute, Mr. John MacKay, did not have the stamina, dedication or commitment to bring forward reforms which would have been widely acceptable. If we analyse what has been said about school boards and parental involvement, we find that all the organisations and parents tell us that they want the school council system expanded, developed and given additional powers, using what already exists as a foundation rather than replacing it with the Government's bureaucratic approach.
Various statistics have been bandied around about the costs of the proposals, ranging from £20 million to £5 million from the Treasury Bench. There seems to be a great deal of vagueness about the costings. I have already referred to the elections and the duplication of ballot papers, which will have to be posted to every parent because one paper should not go to two parents in one household and each should be entitled to a single letter. Each board will have a clerk. If the clerk is not appointed internally, the clerk will have to be paid. If boards meet during the day, will appropriate cover be offered for teachers who have to attend board meetings? Will additional staff be appointed to fill the vacancies? If meetings are held in the evening, will teachers be expected, as part of their contract, to attend? Will any compensation be offered to them in the form of time off in lieu or additional payments?
Travelling and subsistence allowances are to be paid to board members. If we are to pay such allowances, why not consider the payment of attendance allowances? If meetings are held during the day, why not pay financial loss allowances in the way that we pay councillors? If people are to be effective, we must cast the net as wide as possible and consider the financial implications in the Bill. I suspect that the Scottish Office has not done its arithmetic effectively on this matter.
I want to emphasise my fears about dividing the teaching profession from the parents. That becomes most obvious when we consider the Bill's implications for head teachers. I am not claiming that all head teachers are perfect or ideal, nor would I say that all hon. Members or anyone else were perfect or ideal. However, head teachers have reached their positions after years of training and experience and invariably because of widespread support from fellow members of the profession. They should 89 therefore be listened to with great care. However, the implications of clauses 5, 9 and 10 for head teachers are that the Government are pushing extremely heavy responsibilities and duties on the shoulders of our head teachers, but are not giving them back any additional powers.
§ Mr. Buchan
We must also consider the proposal for the appointment of the headmaster in which there is a veto by deleting one leet and adding another. There will be competition for the appointment of headmasters. God help me if I had ever applied in such a position.
§ Mrs. Ewing
The hon. Gentleman has made a valid point that I was going to cover. I endorse his concern about the system of appointments of head teachers as that is affected by the proposals in the Bill.
How on earth are busy head teachers—there are far too few women head teachers in Scotland, but perhaps that is a matter for another debate—to find additional time to meet the responsibilities and duties being placed upon them? They are being asked to give advice to the school hoards, to submit spending plans to the boards—and they cannot proceed with any spending plans unless they are approved by the boards—and to issue policy statements on curriculum assessment, discipline rules and school uniform. A variety of pressures are being placed on our head teachers, but they receive nothing in return.
I am deeply concerned about head teachers not being able to spend their budgets without the approval of the board. I was a principal teacher of remedial education and I remember filling in all the requisition forms. I was trained as a specialist in that subject and I doubt whether many people would have understood the nature of the equipment and books that I requested. However, they were vital for the children in my class. It will be extremely difficult for many parents to understand why particular requisitions are being made. If we are reaching the stage where a board can control a school's per capita budget, we are moving quickly to external control of the curriculum and the privatisation of the Scottish education system as we understand it.
Those are a few of the many points that have led me to my decision to vote against the Bill. I have heard nothing from Conservative Members to persuade me to reconsider my decision.
I am sure that many amendments will be made to the Bill in Committee. As usual, the English Conservative majority will come trooping through the Lobby, heavy footed, to vote down the aspirations of the Scottish people. But I hope that all those hon. Members who have emphasised the need for consultation and the fact that no one need fear consultation will support the motion in the name of the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), if we are fortunate enough to have a Division on it. If the Bill were committed to a Special Standing Committee, it would enable hon. Members to request oral evidence and it would offer a genuine opportunity for consultation with Scottish education establishments, parent-teacher organisations and parent-teacher councils. All those organisations could be invited to address the Committee and, at the end of the day, if their views were listened to we might emerge with a different set of proposals from those in the Bill.
§ Mr. Michael Fallon (Darlington)
If my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State needed any further support for the Bill, he must have been somewhat encouraged by the speech made by the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington). We were told that the Bill was not really necessary because Strathclyde was just getting there. If, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you believe that, by some pure coincidence, Strathclyde was just discovering the need for parental involvement at the time that my right hon. and hon. Friends were considering extending that involvement as a matter of policy in Scotland, you will probably also believe that it was a sheer coincidence that the Inner London education authority suddenly discovered the need for excellence at the same time that the boroughs were being given the power to opt out of that authority.
As a Scot with an English constituency, I warmly welcome the Bill because I do not want to see Scotland denied any of the advantages that we already have in England. Most of the provisions in this legislation were enacted in this House in the Education (No. 2) Act 1986. They are already coming into force in England and have already been warmly welcomed here. Certainly in my constituency parents are excited by and involved in the various elections and the new opportunities that are being extended, not by the Education Reform Bill but by the 1986 Act that is already on the statute book which allows them to play a much greater part in the management of their schools.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will not take it amiss when I say that this is hardly a radical Bill. Indeed, it is hard to see how any hon. Member on either side of the House—I must exempt the Scottish National party because it always seems to adopt the most curious position on Scottish affairs—can possibly object to the Bill on Second Reading. The steps already taken in Scotland by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State to extend parental choice of school and to provide more information about schools are incomplete without giving parents the power and ability to act on that wide choice and greater information and that power and ability are summed up in the words "parental involvement".
I readily concede, as has been argued, that there are great strengths in the present Scottish education system. It has some attractive features when compared with the English education system. But that strength depends on its heavily centralised nature, and in those local authority areas where political control rarely varies, over the years that strength has become a weakness. In fact, the system has become fossilised. It has become almost Soviet in its direction and uniformity, because there is a huge lacuna at its heart, and that lacuna is the absence of the involvement of parents in the running of their schools.
The new board proposed in the Bill will complete and underpin the degree of parental involvement in the new system that will make teachers and teaching more accountable and will, for the first time, give Scottish parents a proper influence and control in the running of their schools, what is taught in schools, and what is learnt in schools.
How could anybody possibly object to the principle of such a Bill? They could do so on two counts and we did not hear either of them from the hon. Member for Glasgow, 91 Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). First, he could have argued that parents do not want such involvement. He was careful not to argue that. It is clearly nonsense. The 1986 Act for England has already demonstrated that once parents are given the opportunity to be more involved, to stand for election and have a greater say in the running of their schools, they leap to that opportunity, particularly where the involvement is real, where real decisions have to be taken and real issues have to be faced. The evidence put forward by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State already demonstrates that to be the case in Scotland where there are issues to be faced. Where issues such as Paisley emerge, parents do not hang back and are ready to be involved. My right hon. and learned Friend gave some interesting and substantial evidence of the extent to which parents already want to be involved.
Secondly, the hon. Member for Garscadden could have argued that parents do not need to be involved; that the present system involves them thoroughly. He did not argue that either. It is his own policy to come forward with some form of strengthened school council. If he was satisfied with the present system he would not be arguing for a stronger system of school councils. The Scottish Labour party's position on this issue is extraordinary. It claims to support the principle of greater parental involvement in schools, yet it will vote against the Bill on Second Reading tonight. It claims to be in favour of parental involvement, but all the objections raised by the hon. Member for Garscadden would have meant either fewer parents on school boards or less power for those who are on school boards.
Finally, the amendment tabled by the Labour party seeks to claim that the Bill does not go far enough. However, it has not even bothered to pretend that its version of strengthened school councils is in any way a stronger substitute for what is in the Bill.
If the Labour party really believed in state education in Scotland, if it really supported public sector education, it would support, not oppose, the Bill tonight. By involving parents to a much greater extent than ever before in the state education system, the Bill extends into the state system the same advantages that other people can purchase outside the state system through their cheque books. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State was right to use that phrase.
The Bill gives to the state system the advantages of higher standards and better performance that come through the exercise of choice and the supply of information to consumers. It gives those advantages to those who cannot afford to buy outside the system. That is where the argument about the Harris academy raised earlier was very relevant.
I know something about the Harris academy, as the children from my village went to the Harris academy. Inevitably, once those choices are extended to parents, the Harris academy will become an ever more popular school. However, the Bill is not about what is to happen to the Harris academy. The Bill is about how we can create more Harris academies. Once we start extending to parents real rights of choice that are not purchased through a cheque book, by buying a house in the catchment area, or by moving into middle-class areas of affluence, once we get a real choice for parents whether or not they have money to 92 purchase it as richer people do, we shall get parents all over the town saying, "Why can't my school be a little bit more like the Harris academy? Why can't the schools in our neighbourhood have the same standards? If my kid can't get into the Harris, why can't he go to a local school that is just as good?" Then the engine of consumer choice will begin to rev up, and parents will get more involved and start to demand more from the system.
What bedevils the education system north and south of the border is not simply the level of achievement, which is worrying enough when we compare the Scottish and English systems with the French and German systems; it is the level of expectation. It is not that children do not achieve as much as they should; it is that parents no longer expect them to do so. Parents will not expect them to do so unless they are involved to a much greater extent than hitherto.
The Bill, plus the previous extension of choice and power within the education system, represents the paperless cheque book. It enfranchises Scottish parents to a much greater extent than ever before. It gives them real power, real information about schools and the ability to choose between them. If they are dissatisfied, and if they are concerned about the way in which a school is run, it gives them the ability and the means to be involved in the management of that school and to play a part in taking key decisions.
Therefore, I find the attitude of the Scottish Labour party wholly ambiguous. It is inconsistent with their so-called primary commitment to devolution. Time and again we are told that the Labour party wants power for the people of Scotland. When we ask them what power they want for the people of Scotland they talk about bureaucracy, more layers of government and an assembly at Edinburgh. Yet every time that my right hon. and learned Friend proposes a measure of real power for the Scottish people, Labour Members go into the Lobby and vote against us. When he proposes real power for the parents of children at Paisley grammar school they oppose us. When he proposes real choice for the users of the Scottish transport group they also oppose us. When he proposes real power and real choice for the users and retailers of Scottish electricity again they oppose us.
§ Mr. Fallon
When my right hon. and learned Friend proposes real power of choice and decision-making for council house tenants they oppose us. Finally, now when my right hon. and learned Friend comes to the House and proposes real power to the parents of all Scottish schoolchildren, Opposition Members object again. I hope that this time, having decided to vote against the Bill tonight, they will at least do us the decency of supporting their own amendment in Committee, and, where they feel that the Bill does not go far enough, coming forward with amendments to strengthen it.
§ Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)
The hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) said that he knew something about the Harris academy in Dundee. He also said that the purpose of the Bill was to look at ways in which we could create more Harris academies throughout Scotland. By that remark, he revealed his ignorance about what is really 93 going on at the Harris academy. If he spoke to teachers at the Harris academy, they would admit to him that they are openly telling parents in Dundee not to send their children to that school because it is likely to damage their educational opportunities. They will be placed in overcrowded classes in annexes where the teachers are under pressure and cannot give children the attention that they get in other schools in Dundee. That is the practical remedy that the Conservative party is holding out to the people of Scotland through this legislation tonight.
The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) addressed the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) and asked him why, as it became clear in the debate tonight that the Government would not stand in the way of any demand in Scotland for the opportunity to opt out from the state system, they have not taken the same position in regard to a Scottish assembly. There is an overwhelming demand for a Scottish assembly, yet the Government are standing in the way of that demand and refusing to concede to the Scottish people that which they want.
The remarks of the Secretary of State for Scotland in opening the debate were outrageous. It was a gratuitous insult to those who serve on school councils throughout Scotland for the Secretary of State to say that people of ability did not become involved in school councils in Scotland and that people of the second order gave up their time to take part in school councils. I know from personal experience when 1 served as a parent representative on my school council and as an elected representative as a regional councillor that the ability of the parents who took part in school councils was well above the standard of ability I have seen on the Conservative Benches since I arrived here almost a year ago.
Next Sunday, there is what is described as a unique event in Scottish publishing, with the launch by the Sunday Mail newspaper of a comprehensive history of Scotland to be published in 52 weekly parts. Part one has already been sent to Scottish hon. Members. I hope they have taken the opportunity to read it as it contains an excellent introduction by Sir Alwyn Williams, principal and vice chancellor of Glasgow university, in which he attributes the distinctiveness of the Scottish way of life to our education system of historic merit. He very properly points out that the Scottish education system was imported originally, not from England but from the mainland of Europe. The hon. Member for Darlington might take note of that, as he honestly admitted that the idea behind the Bill came from England and was alien to the whole Scottish education tradition.
Sir Alwyn also pointed out that Scottish education now ranks among Scotland's greatest all-time exports, having been successfully transplanted around the world and that, unlike England, its great success has stemmed from a broadly based secondary school curriculum which turns out very well-versed Scottish men and women. That is obvious from the Opposition Benches, if not from the Government Benches.
Sir Alwyn concludes that the best way to safeguard Scotland's cultural heritage is to preserve its education system intact. The university of Glasgow is very fortunate in having a principal with such a perceptive insight into the great strengths and merits in the Scottish education system.
Scotland is very unfortunate in having a Minister responsible for education who neither understands nor cares for the merits of the education system for which he 94 is legally responsible. The intentions of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland with responsibility for education have never been very difficult to fathom. They are malign rather than benign. They certainly do not include, as he claimed in an article he wrote especially for the Dundee Courier, the formation of a real partnership between parents, head teachers and school staff. If those were his intentions, then his proposals for creating a parent majority on school boards would not have been persisted with right through from the consultation process to the Bill that we are debating tonight.
The Secretary of State for Scotland declared the parental majority to be fundamental to the purpose of the Bill. Without parental majorities, school boards would not even be allowed to exist. Yet that very proposal cannot be anything other than divisive between parents, teachers and education authorities.
In its response to his consultation document, the Church of Scotland's education committee told the Minister precisely that. It could not have made it any clearer. It said that it could riot accept the proposal that the parent group should have an absolute majority and that if a partnership of concerned bodies was envisaged, a parent majority was not acceptable. The Church of Scotland's education committee wanted parents to constitute a maximum of 50 per cent. on any school board. The majority of the almost 8,000 respondents to the consultation process came out against the proposal for parent majority on school boards. Even the 1980 Macbeth report on schools councils, for which this Government asked, recommended that there should be a balance of teachers and parents on school boards. It is only the Minister with responsibility for education in Scotland who wants an imbalance between teachers and parents and who wants to create an imbalance in favour of parents. That is no small matter, because it goes to the core of what school boards, as envisaged by the Government, are about. They want to have control over schooling in Scotland.
The Secretary of State for Scotland and his friends argue on the surface that they wish to give power to parents, but beneath the surface their purpose is much more insidious. Mr. Fred Forrester of the Educational Institute of Scotland was one of the first to sense what that purpose is: to take away from or seriously to weaken the powers of elected education authorities to control the level of education provision throughout their area—for example, the power to direct special help and additional expenditure to deprived areas—and in its place to substitute what looks like parent power at school board level but what in reality are increased powers for the Secretary of State for Scotland, who can then more easily control the activities of thousands of separated and fledgling school boards than he can control powerful, elected bodies such as education authorities. As Mr. Forrester so aptly put it, for "parent power" under this Bill read "paternalism"—read more centralised and authoritarian control over another important aspect of our lives, our education system. That is the real reason why the Secretary of State has chosen to ignore the majority of respondents to the consultation process that stated their opposition to an absolute parental majority on the new school boards.
However, the consultation process had the very worthwhile effect of making the Secretary of State climb down from the more extreme ceiling powers that he originally advocated. However, the Bill leaves an opening 95 through which many of the same proposals can be resurrected. The Secretary of State referred to this taking place by means of a process that he described as natural evolution. The right of individual boards to ballot parents against an authority's refusal to delegate powers means that individual schools will have the means by which they can gain control of the school's recurring budget and of staff appointments below senior staff level—the very powers that were so overwhelmingly rejected in the consultation process.
The intention behind this provision is manifestly clear: to allow, in the long run, for the opting out process that is so loved by the Prime Minister and that has been so overwhelmingly rejected by majority opinion in Scotland.
The Government recognise that within individual schools there exist many potential majorities that will vote to take over the ceiling powers and that, in the long run, will vote against the wishes of the minority in that school to take it out of the education system. It may be that this Bill does not technically allow for opting out, but it is a half-way house towards opting out. I take as an example the trade union legislation that was introduced not in one Bill but in a series of Bills. I foresee that the opting-out process will become a reality, not perhaps in this Bill but in the next Bill or in the one after that. It is a step-by-step process by which the Government hope to gain by stealth what they are frightened to impose on the Scottish people publicly.
Clause 10 requires education authorities to provide information to school boards, including policy statements on the curriculum and the assessment of pupils, as well as information on the level of attainment of pupils. That paves the way for the Government's curriculum and assessment policies that were announced at the end of last year, with nationally agreed guidelines and national tests in English and mathematics. They also include new guidelines for the curriculum.
Grove academy was mentioned earlier by the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker). Grove academy school council—the school lies within my constituency—wrote to me recently about the changes in Scottish education provision, and in particular about the proposed curriculum changes. It pointed out that it did not accept the general thrust of the new curriculum and assessment proposals. In its view, some of them are positively harmful to the educational interests of the pupils and destructive to the established Scottish approach to curriculum and assessment matters. It pointed also to the lack of education research to support the Government's confident assertions and general statements. It deplored the priority that is given to some subjects at the expense of more aesthetic subjects which will be neglected under the Government's proposals. It regretted the damage that will be done to the broad and balanced curriculum for which Scottish schools are noted. In particular, it registered its opposition to the kind of information that will be made available, for which clause 10 calls. I quote directly from the letter that the academy sent to me and to the Secretary of State for Scotland. It said:The requirement that head teachers should issue statements on attainment levels should be abandoned as harmful to schools, pupils and teachers. Such statements read 96 out of context could produce totally erroneous impressions of the educational achievements of schools and mislead both parents and the general public.The view of those who will be affected by the Bill is that it is harmful, erroneous and misleading, yet the Government intend to persist with it because they are determined to pursue their policy of favouring some schools at the expense of others.
The Grove academy school council is typical of school councils across Scotland. It does not want the divisive, destructive, class-ridden measures that are the hallmark of this Bill and of the philosophy that lies behind it. The Scottish people have rejected that philosophy time and time again. They rejected that policy less than a year ago at the ballot box by a ratio of 3:1. They voted overwhelmingly against the kind of measures for which this Government stand. They do not want parents to be set against teachers through the medium of the new school boards. They do not want schools to be set against other schools, as will happen under this Bill. They do not want educational effort and expenditure to be wasted on massive shake-ups. Far from advancing the educational interests of all pupils in Scotland, that serves merely to advance the interests of a few pupils at the expense of the majority. The Government, education authorities and Members of Parliament should listen to what parents and pupils want from the school system and the Government should act on what parents say to them. What they are saying could not be clearer. In the words of the parents of the Grove academy school council,Resources should be spent on improving the staff ratios and providing enhanced facilities for the schools.Resources should not be wasted, as the Bill intends, on sowing division and dissatisfaction among school communities. School councils have fought a magnificent fight against the successive attacks on education in Scotland that have been mounted by this Government. Their powers and role need to be strengthened, but not in a way that brings them into conflict with other interested groups in education, or into conflict with teachers and other staff, or into conflict with elected councillors who represent the community at large.
The way forward is through co-operation between all the groups that are interested in Scottish education. We do not want opting out of our Scottish school system. We want genuine opting in by everyone—by concerned parents, teachers, communities, education authorities and central Government—to make sure that our schools work well for all our pupils, not just for some of our pupils, which is the main purpose of the Bill. That is why hon. Members with a real interest in Scottish education will join us in the Lobby to vote against the Bill.
§ Dr Lewis Moonie (Kirkcaldy)
This has been a fascinating debate, particularly for the speeches of Conservative Members. Unanimity on this side of the House is to be expected when Scottish business is being discussed. I was amazed by the number of veiled criticisms by Conservative Members, although they desperately tried at the same time to justify their support for the Government.
I am reminded as much as anything else of the warring factions in the Lebanon, which are united only in their dislike of Israel and their hatred of each other. One can see sitting on the Conservative Benches the Sunnis, the 97 traditionalists from Kincardine and Deeside and Dumfries voicing their traditionalist views about our excellent Scottish education system, behind the Shi'ites on the Front Bench wanting to tear up the tradition. We even have a solitary Druze, from North Tayside, who unfortunately has deserted us.
We have heard a fairly instructive—if not constructive—debate from the Conservative Benches. There was an interesting aside from the Minister. Opening the debate, he talked—I believe that he was speaking ironically—about schools being too important to be left to parents. That is the nub of this evening's argument. Schools are too important an institution to be left merely to parents, or to the staff within them, to decide what should go on inside them.
The real question to which we should turn our minds is the role of the modern school in its community. Its role is not only to educate children, although obviously that remains the primary purpose. It is to serve as a focus for learning and recreation for everyone in the community. That applies equally to a large town school—with its extensive playing fields and facilities such as swimming pools, large gynmasia and games halls—and to a small rural school, which may be the only focus for any community activity in areas that contain no other available hall or meeting place.
The school, then, serves a much wider function. In the course of a year, it may be used by far more people with no direct connection with it as a basic learning institution for their children than merely those involved in education, whether primary or secondary. We ought to focus on the role of the school in the community, and that is my main reason for opposing the Bill.
There are grounds for saying that parents should have a greater say in what goes on in their children's education. I favour that. The Government, indeed, have been taken to the European Court more than once purely to establish that parents have philosophical and moral rights over the way in which their children are educated. Those rights would not, of course, be abrogated by the formation of a school board or any such body. If a parent has the temerity to disagree, that parent will still have the right for his or her view to prevail over those of the school board. That is an important facet of the argument.
We all benefit from good schools, not just the parents who are fortunate enough to see their children pass through them at some point. It should not, therefore, be only a tiny number of parents who have control over a school's activities. Make no mistake: only a small number will become directly involved, in terms both of the small number which it is proposed will serve on the boards, and the small number who will take an interest in what is going on.
I can envisage the procedure laid out for us in the schedules. There will be secret ballots; that is fine. On other occasions, parents will be informed through the medium of a note for children to take home. We can see it, can we not? "Here is a note from the teacher"—and it goes into the school bag. I have seen that several times with both my children. Three weeks later, when I happen to be looking through the bag for something else, out drops the note, and I discover that there was a meeting last week. That is not the most reliable medium for transmitting information about the school.
98 If that does not happen, what will? Will it all be done by post? How many posts are we talking about in Scotland?
§ Dr. Moonie
Just a moment: I am enjoying myself
There are 30,000 or 40,000. That is taking account of the councillors who may be involved. But if we consider all the parents who will send out material in the post, the estimate of £20 million may well prove greatly inadequate in postage alone.
§ Mr. Bennett
There is a simple solution to the problem of school-home communication. It is a system that I used to operate when I was a schoolmaster. The children are given a tear-off slip which they must bring back to school signed by the parents, saying that they have seen it. The teacher then chases up those who have not brought back the slip.
§ Dr. Moonie
The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett), whose views on many things I respect—but not, alas, those that he expresses tonight—has obviously never heard of forgery. I assure him that it is widespread in our experience when tear-off slips are involved, particularly in relation to any disciplinary procedure. I assure hon. Members that that frequently happens, despite the disparaging look from the Minister.
I should like to see more democratic control of local services. I should like more tenants to be involved in the management of housing schemes, and the repairs and services with which they are provided. We have seen examples in many areas, both in England and Scotland—usually under Labour administrations—in which that has proved a resounding success. Like many members of my party, I favour local control of other institutions, such as the police, who again have escaped democratic control. Why should education—or health—be any different? We see no signs of democracy being extended to the Health Service in Scotland. All the board members will continue to be appointed by the Secretary of State. It is amazing how singularly unsuccessful he has been in finding members to promote his point of view. That may be a marker for the future of schools as well.
Many important points in the Bill cause me concern, particularly the power over the use of schools outwith school hours. In my own experience—and that of many others who have served on regional councils and education committees—when we have been involved in the community use of schools, there has often been a conflict between the traditionalists within the school involved in education and those of us who wish the provisions to be widened to include the whole community. That conflict could well be exacerbated by the Bill.
The Bill contains many inadequacies, but I intend to concentrate on only one or two, as I know that other hon. Members wish to speak. The problem of books and materials, for instance, is not that parents should have more control over, or say in, what the head teacher buys; it is that the head teacher has not enough money to spend on books and materials in the first place. That is directly the fault of the Minister and his colleagues, and their attack on the funding of local services over the past few years. It is the fault not of the councils, but of the Government who have failed to provide adequately for the community.
99 Again, information in reports will be linked with the appalling proposals that we have heard, which have yet to find any support except from Conservative Front Benchers. That applies to the testing of children in schools and the construction of league tables stating that one school is better than another, while ignoring the fact that such information is meaningless without any proper psychological, social or economic analysis of the schools concerned. I have mentioned the use of premises, and the conflict involved. Are the people who use them out of hours—hundreds of individuals, and scores of clubs and other organisations—any less entitled to a say in how the schools are organised? Of course they are not.
As we have said, there are aspects that we would like extended, in which parents could be constructively involved: for example, in setting up a school disciplinary policy, and the policy on school uniforms. Those things are not covered by the Bill. In relatively minor areas such as that, parents could be constructively involved.
The ethos of the school should reflect the wishes of the people in the area and not just the parents who happen to send their children to the school. To confine the elections for a school board—if we are to have elected school boards—to parents is to weaken the system. It involves too small a percentage of the electorate and it involves horrendous difficulties in identification.
In some schools in my constituency we calculate that 15 per cent. to 20 per cent. of children come from one-parent families. That does not mean that the other parent has ceased to exist but that they are living somewhere else. Surely they are still entitled to a say in their child's education. How will such people be identified? We are talking about a great number of people. It will be difficult to ensure that they are identified and the provisions in the Bill on identification will be difficult to carry out.
I believe that the proposals give head teachers and a handful of parents inordinate control over schools. I do not believe that they are democratic. I do not believe that they form the best way forward for Scottish education and I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will join us in opposing them.
§ Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)
As a Welsh Member of Parliament, I am delighted to take part in a debate on Scottish legislation, because as taxpayers my constituents pay towards the Scottish education system as they do towards the English and Welsh system. This is a United Kingdom Parliament and it is right that hon. Members from all parts of the country should take part in the debate. I spent most of my professional life in education, so I am pleased to comment on the Bill. I have been a schoolmaster, a local authority education officer and a local authority education committee member.
Although the English and Welsh system differs from the Scottish system, the process of education in Scotland is the same as in England and Wales. Therefore, I welcome the Bill as a modest step forward. I see Opposition Members shaking their heads. The process of teaching children is the same in Scotland as in England and Wales. The system is different, but they do not teach children in Scotland any differently from the way in which children are taught in 100 England and Wales. That is the crux of the matter. If hon. Members had listened they would have heard me refer tothe process of education".This is a modest Bill. It comes as a surprise to English and Welsh Members that Scotland appears to have been in a time warp on governing bodies. Governing bodies have been in existence in English and Welsh schools for many years and have worked extremely well. The system has given a measure of devolution to schools and a measure of power to parents. It should be enjoyed by Scottish parents as well.
This is a small mouse of a Bill. It is the first step towards shifting the power in education from the producers to the consumers. I welcome that. Parental choice means that schools will no longer be able to ignore the wishes of parents. The common sense that most parents have when it comes to the education of their children is something that we should value, and we should ensure that schools use it. So many of the trendy educational ideas of the past 40 years would not have taken place had the professionals listened to parents in the first place. Therefore, I welcome the fact that Scotland is to have governing bodies, and that there will be a role for parents.
Standards and quality cannot be as high in a system in which parents do not have any influence as they are in one in which parents do have some say. Parents are concerned about standards and quality, and if they are to be on governing bodies they will be able to ask questions about how the school is performing. That cannot be anything but good.
The Bill is, as I have said, a modest Bill. Clause 17 on page 11 deals with financial delegation. I was amazed to see that a school board will be entitled to make representations to an education authority concerning the statements required for the purposes of the running costs of the school. That is a modest measure and it is far behind what is embodied in the Education Refom Bill. It is a first step.
In clause 15 I was amazed to see how limited the powers of school governing bodies will be in comparison with those in English and Welsh schools. There is a long list in clause 15(2), running from (a) to (g), of things that a school governing body in Scotland may not do. Therefore, there is some substance to the criticism of Opposition Members that the Bill does not go far enough. I agree with that. However, in that case I would be interested to know why Opposition Members are not following up the point of principle by supporting the Bill and seeking to amend it in Committee.
The speeches from Opposition Members have not opposed the principle of the Bill. In the debate so far, even from the Front Bench spokesmen, we have heard no speeches about the principle of the Bill. That is what a Second Reading should be about. In fact, I took a note of the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). He stood up at 5.1 pm. By 5.18 pm, he had not mentioned the contents of the Bill. We had 17 minutes on opting out, which is not mentioned in the Bill. At 5.18 pm, 15 hon. Members were present. That is a measure of the opposition to the Bill, when 15 out of 50 Opposition Members are present.
§ Mr. Bennett
The hon. Gentleman asks about the Scottish Tories. During speeches by Front Bench 101 spokesmen from both sides of the House, four of the five Conservative Back Benchers were present. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn)) is ill in hospital and cannot be present, but every other hon. Member is here. On the Opposition side, 12 Labour Members were present to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Garscadden. That is how much they oppose the Bill. The 50 Scottish Labour Members of Parliament are supposed to be fighting on the beaches for Scottish legislation.
§ Mr. Bennett
The Minister says that hon. Gentlemen were on the beach. They may well have been. They certainly were not in the Chamber during the hon. Member for Garscadden's speech.
At 5.18 pm precisely, the hon. Member for Garscadden started to deal with the Bill. But that was only for 30 seconds and he continued to refer to opting out. At 5.21 pm, he was back on the Bill—I noticed that the hon. Gentleman is opting out now. He continued until 5.30 and then, having given the Bill nine minutes of his study, he returned to the subject of opting out until 5.38 pm. That is a measure of the paucity of argument by Opposition Members. In a speech lasting 37 minutes, the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland found nine minutes to speak on the Bill.
But that is not surprising when one reads comments by Opposition Members concerning parental devolution. They seem to be confused about whether they are in favour of that. The hon. Member for Garscadden, who has now left us and opted out, said in The Scotsman on 13 August 1987:The Labour party strongly supports the principle of democratic control.It accepts thatthere is a case for rethinking many assumptions about education. Schools should not be a closed world where children arc handed over to the professionals.I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman.
Unfortunately, that view has not been followed by the Labour party in Scotland. Where it is in power, there has been a very different set of assumptions and behaviour. For example, taking the Strathclyde region and the closure of Paisley grammar school, more than 10,000 letters of objection to its closure have been written. Councillor Gray, the leader of Strathclyde regional council, has said about parental involvement in the decision about Paisley grammar school:The aggressive stance of parents over the controversial review of schools provision in Paisley is insulting, insensitive and quite intolerable.That is what the Labour party in power really believes about parental involvement and parents' views. The party does not believe, when it comes down to it, in giving parents a say.
Therefore, the Labour party has tabled this weasel amendment. Hon. Gentlemen could not bring themselves to oppose the Bill outright on Second Reading. They could not find anything to oppose in this modest Bill, so they say that the Bill only pays lip service to the genuine need for parental involvement in Scottish schools. Yet, where they are in power and there is an opportunity for parents to protest, as they have done in Paisley, the Labour party is not interested. It does not want to know. It is interesting to see the difference between the reality of Labour power and what appears on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)
While my hon. Friend is on the subject of the Opposition amendment, does he get any encouragement from the fact that the Opposition believe that the measure, however humble, is a small step in the direction of allowing schools to opt out? Does he hope that our hon. and right hon. Friends on the Front Bench will be prepared to take these small steps with us?
§ Mr. Bennett
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) anticipates some remarks I shall make in a moment. I am sure that the Minister will also take note of what my hon. Friend has said.
The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), who is not here, spoke on behalf of what I believe was called last week the Social and Liberal Democratic party. I apologise for missing the hon. Gentleman's speech, due to a prior engagement, but I was here for his earlier intervention, when he accused parents who want choice of choosing schools on the basis of "snob value". It is an interesting illustration of how the Liberal party, or whatever it is now called, views parental choice. What has happened to the Liberal party's values of pluralism, diversity, choice in education—all the things that the former Liberal party stood for? What has happened to the great Liberal traditions?
It is very interesting to look back to the philosophy of the Liberal party in the 19th century, to the true Liberals, to John Stuart Mill, that great Scotsman, who said, in his essay "On Liberty"—
§ Mr. Dalyell
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You have an excellent reputation for bringing hon. Members to order. There are four Scots Members who wish to speak. Is going back to a treatise by Mill relevant to the present discussion?
§ Mr. Bennett
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is very relevant, because I am showing that the Liberal party's opposition to this Bill is at total variance with everything that it has stood for during the past 200 years. It just shows how the Liberal party has prostituted its own principles recently. I was just going to quote from "On Liberty" to show that John Stuart Mill, the 19th-century Liberal Member of Parliament, set out clearly the principles of his party when he said:That the whole or any large part of the education of the people should be in State hands, I go as far as anyone in depreciating. All that has been said of the importance of individuality of character, and diversity of opinions and modes of conduct, involves, as of the same unspeakable importance, diversity of education.
What surprises me is the way in which the Liberal party, every time a Bill comes before the House to give parents more choice or to extend diversity in education, votes against it, as it did on direct grant schools some years ago.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire talks about opting out. I regret that it is not in this Bill. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for education in Scotland, whose principles on this subject are well known, whom I have known since we were undergraduates and whose view on the central issue of parental control is well known to us, will succeed in ensuring that next year a Bill on opting out comes before the House. It is clear that if parents want to opt out, they 103 will vote for it when given the opportunity. If, as Opposition Members say, they do not want to opt out, they will not vote for it. But they should at least have the opportunity to make the choice.
Opting out would also create a third force in education, create another strand of education between the state-maintained sector of the local educational authorities and the private sector, a third force which will give yet another opportunity for diversification and experimentation. That is something that all of us who are concerned about education will welcome.
§ Mr. Forth
Does my hon. Friend agree with me that it would be completely in accord with arguments often made by Opposition Members about devolution of power and decision-making if we were to devolve power and decision-making to parents in schools? Is he as much at a loss as I am as to why Opposition Members can oppose the excellent principle of devolution in schools, yet apparently propose it for Scotland as a whole? How does he resolve that apparent contradiction?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I very much hope that the hon. Gentleman will not take up that challenge, but will confine his remarks to the Bill before the House.
§ Mr. Bennett
I take your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the conundrum posed by my hon. Friend reminds me of the character in "Alice Through the Looking-Glass" who says,When I use a word . . . it means just what I choose it to mean".
The Bill is a modest first step on the road to improving parental choice. I look forward to further legislation from the Scottish Office in line with the legislation which has been put forward for England and Wales.
§ Mr. Henry McLeish (Fife, Central)
I want to make only brief reference to the contribution of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett): it combined richly ignorance and arrogance. I sincerely hope that the hon. Member was a better teacher in his school than he is a student of Scottish education. It clearly highlights the contempt in which the Government hold Scottish education that we have had to listen to such speeches not only from the Government Back Benches but from the Government Front Bench.
The debate has been overshadowed by two ideological developments in the last few weeks. First, there was the cheque-book-choice statement made by the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) in a recent debate in Scotland on education, which was in many ways an expose of Government thinking in relation not only to the private sector but, I believe, to what they would like to see in the public sector in the months and years ahead. Secondly, there was the extraordinary exchange of letters between the Secretary of State for Scotland's office and the Prime Minister. The credit-card curriculum was put on the agenda for the first time. An important debate on Scottish affairs, Scottish education and the future of Scottish children has been overshadowed by the ideological adventures of the hon. Member for Stirling, aided and abetted by the arch-ideologue at No. 10.
104 Clearly Opposition Members are interested in extending parental choice. There is a consensus in Scotland among teachers, parents, pupils, education authorities, teaching unions and the Labour party that parental involvement should be extended. The essential weakness of the Government's argument is that they confuse school boards with extended parental choice. Our argument, put simply, is this. If there is a consensus within Scotland on the need to extend parental involvement in our schools, is that not the best basis on which to build? But this Government will have none of that; co-operation and consensus must always give way to conflict. So. instead of taking what is a very sensible consensus and developing it, they are putting forward school boards as the panacea for further parental involvement in Scottish schools.
It is also important to put on the record the fact that nobody on the Government Benches will praise the quality of Scottish education. It is an outrage and a disgrace that those on the Government Front Bench are unwilling to recognise that Scottish education is offering, and will continue to offer, some of the best quality education to be found in Europe. It is that which is now under threat, not only from the imposition of school boards but from the cuts, the haranguing of teachers, and the prolonging of the strike by the Government. All these factors have contributed to the very delicate situation in Scottish education and Scottish schools.
When looking at the Bill, we have to consider the hidden agenda. Clearly two major attacks are taking place. The hon. Member for Stirling can laugh, and that may exhaust his capabilities on this subject, but this is a major attack on professional competence in schools and on local democracy in the sense of regional councils being able to work with parents to determine the future of their education programmes. It comes back to the ideological confusion that exists in the Government's mind. Why on earth can they not allow the consensus in Scotland to develop incrementally over the next two or three years so that we can take the best school councils and allow them to prosper and take the best management committees and community schools and let them develop? And why can we not, in primary schools and elsewhere, provide a suitable framework within which local democracy and parental involvement can flourish and we can see the emergence of many of the things which have been raised in this debate but which will not emerge because of the imposition of the Government's school board proposals?
If something positive is required from the Opposition, may I say that I believe that we need legislation to extend the rights of parents as individuals to have greater access and information and much greater involvement in the work going on in schools. I am a parent of a girl of 12 and a boy of 14, and they have been given the best education possible within the Fife school system. I do not want to sack staff, appoint staff or decide the number of pencils, rulers and rubbers in a class; I am more interested in my own children. That is the essence of parental involvement—ensuring that one looks after the interests of one's own children and that the school environment is constructive, sensitive, and sympathetic to their individual needs and also to the type of educational philosophies and theories that the EIS, teachers and education authorities are dealing with very ably in Scotland.
The Bill is a mess. It is bigoted and bizarre and will contribute nothing to the welfare of children or of schools; 105 indeed, it will ensure that there will be a battle over the next two or three years when sensible, constructive policies could have been built on consensus. I hope that many Government Back Benchers will see the sense of our arguments and will come with us into the Division Lobby to defeat a thoroughly bad Bill.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
First, I wish to ask why priority has not been given to the real problem of Scottish education, such as the maintenance of schools. In my constituency, as in many others, academies are falling apart for want of simple maintenance. That for many of us is the first priority.
My second question concerns the cost of the proposals. Is it £5 million or is it, as the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) and Mrs. Smith of Dumfries and Galloway have said, £20 million? Dumfries has worked out its sums but it is far from clear whether the Scottish Office has done anything of the kind.
Thirdly, will the Minister in his reply to the debate say something more about the legal position? Throughout the debate and in the Bill it has become clearer and clearer that school boards will have some say in the appointment of headmasters and, therefore, surely in dismissals and staff negotiations. Once this is introduced into the equation there are legal problems. Perhaps he did not have time, but in his opening remarks the Secretary of State did not explain the real worries of many teachers about the legal implications of being employed not by a local authority but by an employer who does not have the full power of an employer because the school board will have some power in the matter. I see my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan), who was Secretary of State, nodding. Anyone who has gone through the Scottish education system can easily understand the problems that will arise.
Finally, I refer to an answer which I received this afternoon to the following question:To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is now taking to safeguard the confidentiality of information in his Department, in the light of the unauthorised disclosure of correspondence on opting-out of the educational system between No. 10 Downing street and his office; and if he will make a statement.The Secretary of State replied:The measures taken in the Scottish Office to protect official information are in accordance with standards laid down for application throughout Government Departments. The circumstances of the unauthorised disclosure of recent correspondence between the Prime Minister's office and my own are being investigated.With what success are they being investigated because some of us think that Ministers know very well how this occurred? May we hear just a little more about the role of No. 10 Downing street in all this?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) for giving me the opportunity to speak.
§ Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)
Today's debate has been dominated and influenced to some extent by issues which are not in the Bill. We have admitted that all through the debate. Latterly I thought that the debate fell apart a little because of a failure of the Government Whips, who dragooned in to speak two of the worst speakers in the House, the hon. Member for 106 Pembroke (Mr. Bennett), who does not know where Paisley is, and the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon), who went on about choice, except of course the choice of the electorate in Scotland at the general election, which he did not mention. I am sure that the electors of Pembroke and of Darlington will be interested to read the speeches about Scottish education and will ask themselves what sort of bargain they have got. There may be some in Pembroke who will think that Desmond Donnelly would have been a better choice than the hon. Member for Pembroke.
§ Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)
Will my hon. Friend allow me to put the record straight? The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) is not from Pembroke; he is from London and merely represents Pembroke.
§ Mr. Hogg
It was a reference to the English, which is perfectly respectable in a Scottish debate.
The extraordinary and amazing exchange of correspondence between the Cabinet Office and the Scottish Office has also featured strongly in the debate. I was surprised that the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) did not take the opportunity to tell us that he would not be pressing his amendment in Committee in view of all that has been said by the Government Front Bench. Perhaps he might clarify the position now, but I should have thought that after having heard the Secretary of State for Scotland, whom the hon. Gentleman faithfully served at one time, he would be willing not to press his amendment for opting out. We shall find that out in Committee.
Hon. Members have mentioned the plans for testing and the curriculum, which no one wants or asked for. I thought that the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) made some useful comments about that. We also heard a great deal about the Minister's involvement in school closures, not for educational ends but to serve to bolster the fading fortunes of the Tory party in Scotland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) spoke with great commitment and conviction on behalf of his constituents, and we welcome that. My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) properly stated the case for the schools in Paisley and drew the correct conclusion on how best to proceed. The best way to proceed is not for the Minister to play politics with children's education in Paisley.
The real agenda for education is probably best defined in the Education Reform Bill, to which the hon. Member for Pembroke referred. That, plus the preference for cheque-book education, which the Parliamentary Under-Secretary has tried to make respectable, is what the Government are about. The debate was certainly strongly influenced by that hidden agenda and manifesto.
The Tory party's education policies in Scotland now stand exposed. The leak in the newspapers has left the Secretary of State looking a somewhat battered figure, as he is pushed from pillar to post by the Prime Minister and senior civil servants at the Scottish Office. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary was described by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) as being second fiddle at the Scottish Office. I have 107 always thought of him as being the first violin, orchestrating events in the Department. Nothing that we have heard today has persuaded us that that is not so.
The starting point when evaluating any education legislation must be: does it enhance the quality of education provision in any way? The answer in this case must surely be no. Underneath its claim to increase parent power the Bill is designed further to advance the views of the Tory party and is consistent with more Thatcherism, not less, as we have been promised by the Secretary of State. Despite what he says, it will help to de-professionalise—if that is a word—education, with the powers that it proposes. There is little doubt that the reintroduction of the word "board", which disappeared from school life 60 years ago in Scotland, is wholly consistent with the adherence to Victorian ideas of management and values.
The Bill will set parents against teachers and is about paving the way for the opting out of schools. We believe that, and I think that the Prime Minister believes it because she seemed to suggest it in her interview on Scottish television. There is little of education value in the Bill, but that is not surprising because it is a means to an end. It helps to explain why the Bill is devoid of merit and why education considerations seem to have taken a back seat.
We all remember the original proposals that were produced in August. They were so badly worked out that they brought down on the head of the Minister the criticism of everyone concerned with education. According to the Educational Institute of Scotland's analysis of the school board consultation, only 1 per cent. of returns were in favour and 95 per cent. of parents were opposed. That was a case of parents exercising their right of choice. The Government and the Minister lost the argument and the Minister then brought forward the Bill.
Some of the more ridiculous suggestions in the original proposals are still in the Bill, or at least there is a hint of them that worries us. That is certainly true in respect of senior appointments in the schools. There is no consent to that proposal and as far as I can see it leaves in place the veto that we are worried about. It does nothing to persuade me that the Government are not intent on shifting the appointment of head teachers and senior staff from the education authorities and into the hands of school boards. There was unanimous opposition to the original proposal. Of course it was different, but none the less the Government seem to be pressing on with a similar proposal in the Bill.
There is no doubt that the Government's proposals for a parental majority on the boards does not find consent among parents. Indeed, Strathclyde School Councils' Parents Federation called it divisive and likely to drive a wedge between parents and teachers. That same sentiment was expressed by the Church of Scotland in its submission to the Government and the Association of Directors of Education expressed the same sentiment. As far as we can gather, the whole of Scotland's concerned education establishment, if its members will forgive me for calling it that, has made it quite clear that it is not in favour of parents having a majority on these boards. Neither is the Opposition. We take the view that there should be a partnership between parents, teachers, the education authorities and the community. Anything else is to give power to a vested interest in a situation where that is not 108 appropriate. I hope that in Committee the Minister will carefully consider our submissions and amendments to deal with that.
Parents certainly want to be involved. We have never denied that and are strongly in favour of it. The 1986 regional elections in Strathclyde, the largest education authority in the country, were fought on a manifesto that promised one school council for each school. We do not dissent from the proposal for one school board for each school. The suggestion that somehow or other we have only now formulated ideas for promoting parental interest is quite wrong. Any reference to the published manifesto for the 1986 regional elections in Strathclyde will prove that to be the case.
When he is winding up the Minister must clarify the matter of cost. Under the Bill about 32,000 people in Scotland will be able to draw expenses against the budgets of regional education authorities. We are talking about electing 32,000 people to serve on school boards and that will cost a great deal of money. The suggestion that it will cost only £5 million makes me wonder what kind of arithmetic is taught in the Adam Smith Institute. It does not seem to me to require a great grasp of arithmetic to come to the conclusion that the £20 million spoken of by the Dumfries and Galloway education authority is much nearer the mark. I would far rather listen to the cautious Conservatives of Dumfries and Galloway than the more radical elements which have found their way into this House. When the Minister winds up, I hope that he will address the question of cost and will tell us plainly just what is involved in that regard.
I take the view that the Bill is not a response to a particular Scottish demand because there is no particular Scottish problem. Parents have access to education authorities. They have access to the schools in Scotland through the existing school councils and, where those are less active—I accept that, in many parts of the country, they have not proved to be a success, and that the system requires examination—they have access through parent-teacher associations, open days, parents' evenings and all the other events in which many of us become involved as local Members of Parliament. School councils in that context appear to have been conveniently forgotten, along with the Macbeth report, which aimed at reforming them and increasing parental involvement. I am surprised that we have heard so little about that today. Surely that would be a far better basis for introducing real parent power, which we all accept has to come, and the time is opportune to introduce it. We do not believe that Scottish parents will consent to the use of this measure to achieve another objective.
I found it quite amazing that, in the exchange of letters between the Prime Minister's Private Office and the Private Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland, we were told that we would be having an education Bill next year which would present proposals for opting out. We were even told what the name of the Bill would be. As a Member of Parliament, I find it amazing that senior civil servants can exchange letters of that kind and tell the Executive how to behave, when we are trailing along behind not knowing what is going on behind the scenes.
That is not good enough. It is consistent with the Government's commitment to secrecy. They do not like telling people what is going on. That is why we know that what is being proposed here is a fraud. That was certainly 109 confirmed by the reply that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) brought to the attention of the House a few minutes ago.
I have no hesitation this evening on calling on my right hon. and hon. Friends to decline to give the Bill a Second Reading. In view of the rather infantile and silly debating techniques deployed by the hon. Member for Darlington and his foolish hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke, we shall now discuss the money resolution. In the words of the reasoned amendment, the Billpays only lip service to the genuine need to encourage parental involvement.It is divisive. It has been rejected by educational opinion. It destroys the distinctive qualities and traditions of Scottish education and I call upon my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote for our reasoned amendment, to vote against the Second Reading, to vote for the Liberal amendment and to vote on the money resolution.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Forsyth)
I am somewhat bemused by the Labour party's position on this matter tonight. The Opposition amendment criticises the Bill on the basis that itpays only lip service to the genuine need to encourage parental involvement in Scotland's schools, will divide parents and teachersandhas been rejected by educational opinion.
Yet, when our proposals enshrined in the Bill were announced in January, the leader of the Educational Institute of Scotland, John Pollock, speaking on Radio 4, said:the changes in the revised proposals, transformed the Boards into a workable idea which will help develop a constructive partnership between parents and teachers . . . the Government has been overwhelmed by the public response.
§ Mr. Forsyth
I can tell the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) that we have not heard a single argument from Opposition Members tonight showing that the Bill does nothing other than implement the proposals that we promised to make.
The Scottish Consumer Council represents consumers in Scotland. Its verdict is contained in a letter to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland dated 8 April, which states:My colleagues are most impressed not only by the contents of the School Boards (Scotland) Bill which follow closely and in impressive detail the proposals announced in January but also by the way the legislation is drafted. It is a model of clarity and coherence. More than any other legislation that comes to mind, it conveys to the reader a clear picture of how the new system will work.That may account for why we have not heard a single speech which has done other than refer to what is not in the Bill or made passing reference to it and there has been no contribution from any Opposition Member to justify the Opposition's decision to vote against the Second Reading.
§ Mr. Forsyth
The hon. Gentleman's problem is that he appears to take the view of the Scottish Consumer Council selectively. I merely use the council to endorse its view that our original proposals which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) welcomed as a major climbdown by the Government and a victory for public opinion in Scotland should be included in the Bill.
In response to claims made tonight about lip service, I must state that the Government have done something for parents instead of paying lip service to parental involvement in schools. The whole thrust of our education policy since we took office has been directed towards giving parents a better deal from the services which most of them use and for which most of them pay as ratepayers and taxpayers.
Our earlier measures were directed towards improving the range of choice for parents through the parents' charter legislation and the assisted places scheme. However, there has been a widely recognised unmet need for a much better two-day flow of communication between parents and schools. If we had done nothing to reform the school council system, no doubt we would have been roundly criticised. The proposals that we published for consultation last August have changed the ground for debate. The proposals caused the EIS in its response to admit:The role of parents in Scottish education is one of the areas in which the Scottish educational system is not pre-eminent and indeed lags behind the systems of other countries.The proposals drew a set of counter-proposals from COSLA, starting with the proposition that every school should have a school council, including schools with fewer than 100 pupils. If we had not brought the proposals forward or if we had put forward proposals such as those put forward by COSLA, the Opposition would have opposed them, claiming that they were too difficult, too troublesome and expensive.
It is high time that Opposition Members turned their attention to the interests of parents as consumers and recognised that the education establishment has been patronising parents for far too long. Parents have a right to choose what they judge is best for their children. We know that parents are well able to tell a good school from a bad one when making their choice.
The Bill seeks to release the latent interest of parents in the schools attended by their children because any responsible parent wants to see his children's school improved. That can only be to the good of the system. The Bill provides a straightforward and workable framework within which parents can exert a beneficial pressure on the system. It is also a framework in which a genuine partnership between parents and teachers can be formed.
§ Mr. Forsyth
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to make some progress, I shall give way.
The Bill will require parents to learn a lot about what teachers are trying to achieve for their children and it will require teachers to formulate their own aims arid objectives in clear terms and to put them across persuasively. It should be a salutary experience for both parties.
Opposition Members may bluster and fulminate because that is what they think they are supposed to do, but in their hearts they know that when this measure is on 111 the statute book everybody concerned with education—local authorities, teachers and parents—will want to get on and make a success of the boards to the great benefit of everyone in Scottish education.
The hon. Member for Garscadden spent 17 minutes of his speech discussing opting out, which is not included in the Bill. Indeed, he went so far as to accuse me of being dishonest in what I had had to say on opting out. As long ago as last summer we were making it clear that we would not rule out opting out in the long run.
The hon. Gentleman has said in this debate that there is no support in Scotland for opting out. If there is no support for opting out in Scotland, why is he so afraid of it? The hon. Gentleman said that opting out would damage Scottish education. How could opting out damage Scottish education if no one was interested in it, if no one was going to opt out?
§ Mr. Forsyth
Most of the hon. Gentleman's speech was not about the Bill.
The amendment, to which the hon. Gentleman's name is added, criticises the Bill for paying only lip service. It says that it does not go far enough. Yet every point that the hon. Gentleman made in criticism of the Bill was designed to reduce parental influence and parental rights. He said that there should be no parental majority and yet the whole purpose of the Bill is to give parents a forum in education, which they have been denied for too long. He said that parents should not have a right to confirm the head teacher's capitation proposals. Yet in January he welcomed our proposals, enshrined in the Bill, which provide exactly that. He was against ballots of parents. Where a majority of parents were in favour of taking additional delegated powers, he was against those delegated powers being given.
The lip service comes from the Opposition. They say that they are in favour of parental involvement provided that parents have no influence or power and the power remains in the hands of the producers in education.
§ Mr. McLeish
I am a politician and a parent. These proposals will do nothing for me as a parent because, apart from the ideological adventures of the exercise, as a parent, I would rather have legislative rights for information on and access to a range of activities relating to the school. I do not want to run the school. What will these board proposals do for me?
§ Mr. Forsyth
If the hon. Gentleman takes the trouble to read the Bill, he will find that under clause 12 the school boards will have a duty to provide exactly that sort of information. Fortunately for Scottish education, most parents do not take the view that they are interested only in their own children's education.
The hon. Member for Garscadden said that parents only would be involved in appointments. If he studies the Bill, he will find that that is incorrect. Teacher members of the school boards will not be involved in appointments, but parents and co-opted members will be. It would be singularly inappropriate for members of staff to be involved in appointments of staff in the same school.
The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) talked about cheque books, which had all the Opposition 112 Members jumping up and down. They need to recognise that the system which they defend in voting against the Bill tonight is a system where choice is limited to those who can afford to pay twice—once through taxation, and once through their cheque books. The Bill is about providing choice and the opportunity to influence what happens in schools for those who have no cheque books and cannot afford to pay twice. Labour Members are opposed to that because they wish those people to remain under the thumb and under the control of Labour-controlled local authorities.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) asked why the Opposition will vote against the Bill tonight. In a slip, the hon. Member for Garscadden gave away the answer when he said that the Educational Institute of Scotland does not want the Bill to receive a Second Reading. When he was pressed, he said that the problem with the Bill was not that it was going too far, but that it was going the wrong way.
Yet in January, when we announced the proposals, the hon. Member for Garscadden, in an interview on BBC television, said:Well, I'm delighted that they have retreated—in some disorder I may say so, and it's a tremendous victory for the teachers, for the parents and I think for Scottish public opinion. We said in the very beginning that Michael Forsyth had hijacked some very sensible discussions about how we strengthened parent participation in the life of a school and I think we've been totally justified by the fact that most of these proposals have now been dropped in a somewhat embarrassed fashion.It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman made such a proud boast, yet he is not prepared to vote for the Bill.
§ Mr. Forsyth
No. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to get on. There were a couple of serious points made by hon. Members during the debate.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) asked what would be the position of feeder primary schools being able to operate in conjunction with secondary schools. There is no provision in the Bill, but there is nothing to prevent umbrella organisations from being set up or for small schools to come together to discuss matters of mutual interest.
The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) complained that there was nothing in the Bill to strengthen parental involvement in schools and the parent-teacher associations. Clause 12 places a specific duty on school boards to provide for the formation of parent-teacher associations, and indeed to provide them with information.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries and the hon. Members for Garscadden, for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg), and for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) all asked about the question of costs. I pay tribute to the submissions made by Dumfries and Galloway as part of the consultation exercise, and to the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth who said that he preferred their judgment to mine. Dumfries and Galloway announced that it is to establish a pilot scheme setting up school boards ahead of the legislation, so I agree with its judgment. The costs estimate which Dumfries and Galloway produced appeared to ignore a number of factors. We have made an estimate of £5 million as the net cost after savings from abolishing school councils. Many authorities are having to develop financial information on 113 a school-by-school basis anyway and that was included in COSLA's estimates of costs. The fact that delegated functions will not be available to all boards at the outset but will happen at the board's own pace makes it extremely difficult to come to a conclusion on costs.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries was also worried about the question of charging. May I assure him that the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 makes it unlawful for any charges to be made for the provision of education, but, if it will help my hon. Friend, may I say that I take his point about clarity and I shall be perfectly happy to look again at the matter in Committee.
The role of councillors is in no way eroded by the establishment of school boards because education authorities will still be responsible for strategic planning in their areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) made the point that the devolution that matters in Scotland is the devolution of power. This clevolution of power will be real; it will be devolution to parents of matters that concern their own schools.
The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) said that he did not want the Prime Minister to interfere in Scottish affairs. He did not support our regulations on school closures, but it is a bit rich of him to tell the House that he does not want the Prime Minister to interfere. It is also a bit rich of him not to support the regulations when the leader of the alliance on Strathclyde regional council has written to me pleading that we should use the regulations to save Notre Dame school.
The hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth quoted the Educational Institute of Scotland survey that claims that 95 per cent. of the responses to the consultation exercise oppose our plans, but what he did not say was that, even when somebody said, "I very much welcome the proposals but I am not very happy about this particular aspect", it was counted as opposition. On that basis, the hon. Member has been misled by the EIS, which has listed as opponents of the package people who were making constructive contributions to the debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) made a perfectly proper distinction between the purpose of this Bill and that of opting out. As he said, the Bill is about parental involvement. Opting out is about extending parental choice. The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) torpedoed the whole of the Opposition's case when he said that he thinks that the Bill is so small in scale that he wonders why it is attracting so much attention. My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) pointed out that the English experience has been that where parents are offered real power and responsibility in schools they take that opportunity and become involved.
The Bill is a major step towards redressing the balance in education—
§ Mr. Forsyth
—between the real needs of pupils and parents and the convenience of education authority administrators, trade union interests and teachers' organisations.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) knows better than to try to intervene when it is clear that the Minister is not giving way.
§ Mr. Forsyth
This Bill is a major step towards creating a responsive, sound and productive education service.
§ Mr. Forsyth
It will provide an opportunity for parents to help to shape the schools that they use to educate their children.
§ Mr. Forsyth
Both schools and children will be the better for it. The Bill gives effect to principles and—
§ Mr. Forsyth
The hon. Gentleman thinks that he is still at the Labour party conference.
These are firm and positive proposals. The Government have identified a vital issue and have brought forward clear plans to deal with it. What have we heard from the Opposition? They have reiterated the tired views of a defensive education establishment. They have produced airy statements about the rights of individual parents. They have tried to create anxiety about provisions that are not and will not be in the Bill.
The truth is that the Opposition have no alternative policy to offer. They know that the involvement of the people who use the service and decide how it should be provided and run is both right and sensible but, like the authorities and teacher associations to which they are in thrall, they are afraid of change. The key to the provisions in the Bill is the need to make the education service more responsive to those who use it—to pupils, parents and employers. That means making the system more open, producing more information and looking more critically at what is provided. That is in all our interests. I ask the House to support the Bill.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:
§ The House divided: Ayes 203, Noes 260.
|Division No. 249]||[9.59 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Bray, Dr Jeremy|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)|
|Allen, Graham||Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E.)|
|Alton, David||Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Buchan, Norman|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Buckley, George J.|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Caborn, Richard|
|Ashton, Joe||Callaghan, Jim|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)|
|Barron, Kevin||Campbell-Savours, D. N.|
|Battle, John||Canavan, Dennis|
|Beckett, Margaret||Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)|
|Beith, A. J.||Clark, Dr David (S Shields)|
|Bell, Stuart||Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Clay, Bob|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Clelland, David|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Clwyd, Mrs Ann|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Cohen, Harry|
|Blair, Tony||Cook, Robin (Livingston)|
|Boyes, Roland||Corbett, Robin|
|Bradley, Keith||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Cousins, Jim||McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)|
|Cox, Tom||McKelvey, William|
|Crowther, Stan||McLeish, Henry|
|Cryer, Bob||McTaggart, Bob|
|Cummings, John||McWilliam, John|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Madden, Max|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Marek, Dr John|
|Darling, Alistair||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Dewar, Donald||Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)|
|Dixon, Don||Martlew, Eric|
|Dobson, Frank||Maxton, John|
|Doran, Frank||Meacher, Michael|
|Douglas, Dick||Meale, Alan|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Michael, Alun|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth||Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)|
|Eadie, Alexander||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Eastham, Ken||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Fatchett, Derek||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Fearn, Ronald||Morley, Elliott|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)||Mowlam, Marjorie|
|Fisher, Mark||Mullin, Chris|
|Flannery, Martin||Murphy, Paul|
|Flynn, Paul||Nellist, Dave|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Foster, Derek||O'Brien, William|
|Fraser, John||O'Neill, Martin|
|Galbraith, Sam||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Galloway, George||Patchett, Terry|
|Garrett, John (Norwich South)||Pendry, Tom|
|George, Bruce||Pike, Peter L.|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Prescott, John|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Radice, Giles|
|Gould, Bryan||Randall, Stuart|
|Graham, Thomas||Redmond, Martin|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Grocott, Bruce||Reid, Dr John|
|Hardy, Peter||Richardson, Jo|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Robertson, George|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Rogers, Allan|
|Henderson, Doug||Rooker, Jeff|
|Hinchliffe, David||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Holland, Stuart||Ruddock, Joan|
|Home Robertson, John||Salmond, Alex|
|Hood, Jimmy||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Sheerman, Barry|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Hoyle, Doug||Short, Clare|
|Hughes, John (Coventry NE)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Illsley, Eric||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|Janner, Greville||Snape, Peter|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Soley, Clive|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Stott, Roger|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Strang, Gavin|
|Lambie, David||Straw, Jack|
|Lamond, James||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Turner, Dennis|
|Leighton, Ron||Vaz, Keith|
|Lewis, Terry||Wall, Pat|
|Litherland, Robert||Wallace, James|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Walley, Joan|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|McAllion, John||Wareing, Robert N.|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|McCartney, Ian||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Macdonald, Calum A.||Williams, Alan W, (Carm'then)|
|McFall, John||Wilson, Brian|
|Winnick, David||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Worthington, Tony||Mr. Frank Haynes and|
|Young, David (Bolton SE)||Mr. Nigel Griffiths.|
|Adley, Robert||Dover, Den|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Dunn, Bob|
|Alexander, Richard||Durant, Tony|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Eggar, Tim|
|Allason, Rupert||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Amess, David||Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)|
|Amos, Alan||Evennett, David|
|Arbuthnot, James||Fallon, Michael|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Farr, Sir John|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Favell, Tony|
|Ashby, David||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Atkins, Robert||Forman, Nigel|
|Atkinson, David||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Forth, Eric|
|Baldry, Tony||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Fox, Sir Marcus|
|Batiste, Spencer||Franks, Cecil|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Fry, Peter|
|Bellingham, Henry||Gale, Roger|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Benyon, W.||Gill, Christopher|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Gow, Ian|
|Boswell, Tim||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Bottomley, Peter||Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Bowis, John||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Gregory, Conal|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Grist, Ian|
|Brazier, Julian||Ground, Patrick|
|Bright, Graham||Grylls, Michael|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Hannam,John|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Burns, Simon||Harris, David|
|Butcher, John||Hawkins, Christopher|
|Butler, Chris||Hayes, Jerry|
|Butterfill, John||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Hayward, Robert|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Carrington, Matthew||Heddle, John|
|Carttiss, Michael||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Cash, William||Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Hind, Kenneth|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Chope, Christopher||Holt, Richard|
|Churchill, Mr||Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Colvin, Michael||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Conway, Derek||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Jack, Michael|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jackson, Robert|
|Couchman, James||Janman, Tim|
|Cran, James||Jessel, Toby|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Day, Stephen||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Devlin, Tim||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Key, Robert|
|Dicks, Terry||Kilfedder, James|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Knapman, Roger|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Knowles, Michael|
|Knox, David||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Lang, Ian||Sims, Roger|
|Latham, Michael||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Speller, Tony|
|Lightbown, David||Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)|
|Lilley, Peter||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Squire, Robin|
|Lord, Michael||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|McCrindle, Robert||Stern, Michael|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Stevens, Lewis|
|Malins, Humfrey||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Mans, Keith||Stokes, John|
|Mates, Michael||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Sumberg, David|
|Miller, Hal||Summerson, Hugo|
|Mills, lain||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Morrison, Hon Sir Charles||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Neale, Gerrard||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Nelson, Anthony||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Neubert, Michael||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Tracey, Richard|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Tredinnick, David|
|Page, Richard||Trotter, Neville|
|Paice, James||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Patten, Chris (Bath)||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Patten, John (Oxford W)||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Pawsey, James||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Walden, George|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Portillo, Michael||Waller, Gary|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Ward, John|
|Price, Sir David||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Raffan, Keith||Warren, Kenneth|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Wells, Bowen|
|Rathbone, Tim||Wheeler, John|
|Redwood, John||Whitney, Ray|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Riddick, Graham||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Wilshire, David|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Wolfson, Mark|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Wood, Timothy|
|Rowe, Andrew||Woodcock, Mike|
|Ryder, Richard||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Tellers for the noes:|
|Scott, Nicholas||Mr. Alan Howarth and|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Mr. David Maclean|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 60 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading), and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question put,
§ That th Bill be committed to a Special Standing Committee.—[Mr. Bruce.]
§ The House divided: Ayes 198, Noes 254.120
|Division No. 250]||[10.14pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Ashton, Joe|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Banks, Tony (Newham NW)|
|Allen, Graham||Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)|
|Alton, David||Barron, Kevin|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Battle, John|
|Armstron, Hilary||Beckett, Margaret|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Beith, A. J.|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Bell, Stuart|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Home Robertson, John|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nfn & R'dish)||Hood, Jimmy|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Blair, Tony||Hoyle, Doug|
|Boyes, Roland||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Bradley, Keith||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Illsley, Eric|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Janner, Greville|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Buchan, Norman||Lambie, David|
|Buckley, George J.||Lamond, James|
|Caborn, Richard||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Callaghan, Jim||Leighton, Ron|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Lewis, Terry|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Litherland, Robert|
|Canavan, Dennis||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||McAllion, John|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Clay, Bob||McCartney, Ian|
|Clelland, David||Macdonald, Calum A.|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||McFall, John|
|Cohen, Harry||McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)|
|Corbett, Robin||McKelvey, William|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||McLeish, Henry|
|Cousins, Jim||McWilliam, John|
|Cox, Tom||Madden, Max|
|Crowther, Stan||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Cryer, Bob||Marek, Dr John|
|Cummings, John||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Martlew, Eric|
|Darling, Alistair||Maxton, John|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Meacher, Michael|
|Dewar, Donald||Meale, Alan|
|Dicks, Terry||Michael, Alun|
|Dixon, Don||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Dobson, Frank||Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Dover, Den||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Dunn, Bob||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth||Morley, Elliott|
|Eadie, Alexander||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Eastham, Ken||Mowlam, Marjorie|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)||Mullin, Chris|
|Fatchett, Derek||Murphy, Paul|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Nellist, Dave|
|Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Fisher, Mark||O'Brien, William|
|Flannery, Martin||O'Neill, Martin|
|Flynn, Paul||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||F'atchett, Terry|
|Foster, Derek||Pendry, Tom|
|Fraser, John||Pike, Peter L.|
|Galbraith, Sam||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Galloway, George||Prescott, John|
|Garrett, John (Norwich South)||Radice, Giles|
|George, Bruce||Randall, Stuart|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Redmond, Martin|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Reid, Dr John|
|Gould, Bryan||Richardson, Jo|
|Graham, Thomas||Robertson, George|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Rogers, Allan|
|Grocott, Bruce||Rooker, Jeff|
|Hardy, Peter||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Rowlands, Ted|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Ruddock, Joan|
|Haynes, Frank||Salmond, Alex|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Henderson, Doug||Sheerman, Barry|
|Hinchliffe, David||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Short, Clare|
|Holland, Stuart||Skinner, Dennis|
|Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)||Warden, Gareth (Gower)|
|Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Snape, Peter||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Soley, Clive||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Spearing, Nigel||Wilson, Brian|
|Stott, Roger||Winnick, David|
|Strang, Gavin||Worthington, Tony|
|Straw, Jack||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Turner, Dennis||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Vaz, Keith||Mr. James Wallace and|
|Wall, Pat||Mr. Archy Kirk wood.|
|Adley, Robert||Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Colvin, Michael|
|Alexander, Richard||Conway, Derek|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)|
|Allason, Rupert||Coombs, Simon (Swindon)|
|Amess, David||Cormack, Patrick|
|Amos, Alan||Couchman, James|
|Arbuthnot, James||Cran, James|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)|
|Ashby, David||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Day, Stephen|
|Atkins, Robert||Devlin, Tim|
|Atkinson, David||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Dicks, Terry|
|Baldry, Tony||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Batiste, Spencer||Dover, Den|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Dunn, Bob|
|Bellingham, Henry||Durant, Tony|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Eggar, Tim|
|Benyon, W.||Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Evennett, David|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Fallon, Michael|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Farr, Sir John|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Favell, Tony|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Boswell, Tim||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Bottomley, Peter||Forman, Nigel|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Bowis, John||Forth, Eric|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Franks, Cecil|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Fry, Peter|
|Brazier, Julian||Gale, Roger|
|Bright, Graham||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Gill, Christopher|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Gow, Ian|
|Burns, Simon||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Burt, Alistair||Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)|
|Butcher, John||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Butler, Chris||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Butterfill, John||Gregory, Conal|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Grist, Ian|
|Carrington, Matthew||Ground, Patrick|
|Carttiss, Michael||Grylls, Michael|
|Cash, William||Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hannam, John|
|Chope, Christopher||Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')|
|Churchill, Mr||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Harris, David|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Hayes, Jerry||Rathbone, Tim|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Redwood, John|
|Hayward, Robert||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Riddick, Graham|
|Heddle, John||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Hind, Kenneth||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Rowe, Andrew|
|Holt, Richard||Ryder, Richard|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Hunt, David (Wirral W)||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Sims, Roger|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Jack, Michael||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Jackson, Robert||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Janman, Tim||Speller, Tony|
|Jessel, Toby||Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Squire, Robin|
|Jones, Robert B (Herts W)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Stern, Michael|
|Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine||Stevens, Lewis|
|Key, Robert||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Kilfedder, James||Stokes, John|
|Knapman, Roger||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Knowles, Michael||Sumberg, David|
|Knox, David||Summerson, Hugo|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Lang, Ian||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Latham, Michael||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Lightbown, David||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Lilley, Peter||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Lord, Michael||Tracey, Richard|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Tredinnick, David|
|Malins, Humfrey||Trotter, Neville|
|Mans, Keith||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Mates, Michael||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Miller, Hal||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Mills, lain||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Walden, George|
|Morrison, Hon Sir Charles||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Neale, Gerrard||Waller, Gary|
|Nelson, Anthony||Ward, John|
|Neubert, Michael||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Warren, Kenneth|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Wells, Bowen|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Wheeler, John|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Whitney, Ray|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Page, Richard||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Paice, James||Wilshire, David|
|Patten, Chris (Bath)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Patten, John (Oxford W)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Pawsey, James||Wolfson, Mark|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Wood, Timothy|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Woodcock, Mike|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Price, Sir David||Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd and|
|Raffan, Keith||Mr. David Maclean.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ 1Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).