HC Deb 04 February 1988 vol 126 cc1174-97 4.18 pm
The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Baker)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement on the organisation of education in inner London.

The Government have consistently maintained that a single education authority for inner London could be justified only if that authority gave the children and students of inner London a good education service at an acceptable cost. ILEA has patently not done that. Its spending is profligate; its service is poor. Between 1981 and 1988, its spending increased from about £700 million to more than £1 billion—while over the same period, its pupil numbers have fallen by 15 per cent. It now spends 52 per cent. more than the outer London boroughs, 45 per cent. more than Manchester, and 83 per cent. more than Birmingham—cities with problems comparable to those of London. That increase in expenditure has in no way been reflected in improved pupil performance, which remains disappointingly low. There is now an urgent need for change.

ILEA's failure is partly a failure of political will, but it is also a product of its unmanageable size. Its administration is cumbersome, excessively costly and too distant from its clients. The Government want to improve standards of education in London and to bring costs under control. We decided that the way to do this was to enable each inner-London council to become the local education authority for its area.

Our proposals are incorporated in part III of the Education Reform Bill. Three boroughs have already stated their intention to apply for LEA status. Other boroughs are known to be considering similar action, but as this positive response to our proposals has emerged, there has been a growing view that our objectives would be better achieved by a single, orderly transfer of education functions in inner London.

The Government have reviewed these developments and have concluded that the time is now right to carry through the logic of their proposals in the interests of better standards and of orderly progress. We therefore propose to table amendments to the Education Reform Bill, while it is before the Standing Committee, to wind up ILEA and to secure the transfer of education responsibilities to local councils from 1 April 1990.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Educational vandalism!

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Baker

We propose that the arrangements for transferring functions should follow closely those established at the time of the abolition of the GLC.

First, a staff commission will be established to facilitate the process of staff transfer. All ILEA teaching and non-teaching staff working at individual schools and colleges will transfer by order to the employment of the council concerned. Where appropriate, detriment or redundancy compensation will be available on the terms applying at the time of the abolition of the GLC.

Secondly, the arrangements for property transfer will be broadly those set out in the Education Reform Bill. It is likely that the London residuary body will be employed to deal with assets which cannot be allocated between boroughs.

Thirdly, the Education Reform Bill already contains certain counter-obstruction safeguards to protect the interests of the local councils which will be assuming education functions. We shall strengthen those safeguards, introducing the same sanctions as were included in the legislation abolishing the Greater London council and the metropolitan county councils.

The Government propose that each local council should be required to publish in 1989, as a basis for local consultation, a development plan, setting out the way in which it proposes to organise the transfer of responsibilities and the service that it would propose to run. The Government will issue statutory guidance on the subjects to be covered by such development plans, which will provide the basis for property and staff transfer orders.

I recognise that some co-operation will be needed between inner London councils for the maintenance of certain aspects of education provision. I hope that in most cases such co-operation will he secured through voluntary arrangements, which might, in certain circumstances, need to take the form of joint education committees, requiring my approval under existing powers. Were it to become necessary, there are also powers under the Education Act 1944 to enable me to require groups of boroughs to establish joint education committees in respect of particular functions.

The Government propose to maintain rigorous pressure to control ILEA's expenditure over the next two years. We attach paramount importance to improving the quality of education received by inner London's children. They and their parents have a right to something better. The Government's proposals set out the basis for a more cost-effective and responsive education service for inner London.

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)

On his way to the Tory leadership, the Secretary of State for Education and Science has just been mugged by two political hooligans, the right hon. Members for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) and for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). Is the Secretary of State aware that this humiliating reversal of the position which he was taking just eight weeks ago has nothing whatever to do with concern for or commitment to the needs of London's children and everything to do with squalid manoeuvring for position inside the Tory party, with London's children—my children—being used as pawns?

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Cabinet of which he was a member concluded just three years ago, in the words of the then Secretary of State for Education and Science, Sir Keith Joseph, that a unitary education service offered the best prospect of meeting the educational needs of inner London, not for the reasons given by the present Secretary of State, but because there is so much movement across borough boundaries by London children and students"?—[Official Report, 3 December 1984; Vol. 69, c. 127.] Has this movement across borough boundaries suddenly stopped in the last eight weeks?

What exactly has changed since the Second Reading of the Education Reform Bill on 1 December, when the Secretary of State described his then proposal to retain ILEA as offering London's children a better deal"? The Minister described ILEA as a model authority". — [Official Report, 1 December 1987; Vol. 123, c. 780–858.] Is there no limit to the Secretary of State's ability to twist and turn?

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Government have no mandate for this wilful and spiteful act, which will bring anxiety, uncertainty and instability to London's education service at a time when what it most needs is stability? Why was this new proposal for breaking up ILEA not included in the Conservative manifesto just eight months ago, if it now has so much to commend it? Was it excluded eight months ago because it was considered and rejected, or because it was seen as so ludicrous and vindictive as not to be worth considering at all? As the Government have no mandate and as none of this was even included in the Queen's Speech, does the Secretary of State accept that it would be constitutionally outrageous and an abuse of the procedure of the House for this to be introduced other than through a new primary Bill?

As the Secretary of State preaches so much about parental choice, will he say where in all this London parents are to have a say? Is the truth that, as Wandsworth Conservative borough council discovered from its own opinion poll of ILEA parents, 84 per cent. were satisfied with the academic achievement of their children's ILEA secondary schools, he has decided to ignore the clearly expressed wishes of London parents to keep ILEA intact?

Will the Secretary of State also confirm that, overwhelmingly, all the responses which he has received to his proposals from parents, teachers and others in London say, "Keep ILEA and do not break it up"? Why does the Secretary of State continually abuse ILEA for its examination achievements when analysis, accepted as accurate by his Department, shows ILEA in the middle of all LEAs, like Oxfordshire, represented by the right hon. Member for Henley, and well above Waltham Forest, when it was Conservative-controlled, represented by the right hon. Member for Chingford?

How does the Secretary of State dare to criticise ILEA's spending per pupil of about £2,000 per head in secondary schools when, under the assisted places scheme, he has decided that expenditure not at £2,000 but at £4,335 per head is an acceptable charge on the public purse for pupils at Westminster school?

Is the Secretary of State aware that it is the view of all London head teachers that, to go down the road which he is suggesting, involves dismantling a system that provides the stability and hope that is lacking in so many other aspects of the life of young people in inner London."? Is he aware that they have warned that breaking up ILEA will spell chaos for the capital's schools."? Is the Secretary of State aware that this disreputable announcement today will be treated with anger and contempt by parents, teachers, governors and all who put the needs of London's children above the sordid internal politics of the Conservative party?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman talked about the constitutional position of making changes in a Bill that is before the House. He will have heard the exchanges that occurred earlier this afternoon between the Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, and the exchanges on Monday. Clearly, more time will have to be found to debate these proposals. The Government accept that.

The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) raised first the question of the manifesto. The principle on which we went to the country in June, and which underlies my education reforms, is the dispersal of responsibility. So it was with ILEA. We wanted to pass responsibility to the inner London boroughs, and we made that absolutely clear during the election campaign. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman quoted my predecessor. The manifesto clearly signalled the end of a unitary education authority in central London. The positive response of borough councils has led us to quicken the pace of devolution. Indeed, the positive response of so many inner-London boroughs means that the debate that we are having today and in the next few weeks would have taken place in about a year's time.

The hon. Gentleman asked also about the review of ILEA. I advise him that many reviews of ILEA have taken place in recent years, but they have not led to an improvement in that authority's performance. ILEA has been on notice since 1981, when my predecessor but one, Lord Carlisle, put it on notice. That was seven years ago to this very day, but little has been done in those seven years.

In 1987 the new leader of ILEA, Neil Fletcher, said: We have achieved little or nothing in educational terms this year". The hon. Member for Blackburn then asked me about parental involvement. However, he knows perfectly well that, when it comes to the transfer of local government powers, it has always been this House which has had to make the decision. Parliament cannot delegate its authority.

If the hon. Gentleman is interested in polls, he will no doubt have seen the recent Harris poll, which showed that nearly one third of parents in inner London would like to send their children to another school. That proportion was higher than the corresponding figures for neighbouring boroughs.

The hon. Gentleman chided me for listening to various voices. I advise him that we have listened to many voices beyond the Conservative party. He will know that the leader in last week's Times Educational Supplement stated that the best way forward would be now to accept the amendment.

I have also read a speech by the noble Lady, Lady Blackstone, who takes the Labour Whip in the other place and who is an expert on education in London. She stated: the Government should have had the courage of its convictions and abolished the Authority instead of this slow attrition". I advise the hon. Gentleman, and his colleagues in the other place, that the Government now have the courage of their convictions and will move to abolition.

Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in eight years of arguing as a Minister inside Government I failed to secure the abolition of ILEA, but that in eight months of arguing outside it seems that I have done so? Will he be kind enough not to draw any conclusions from that? Will he further ignore all the blatherings from the Opposition, which are only an echo of the foolish blatherings and threats that were made when we abolished the Greater London council, which is now dead, gone and forgotten?

Mr. Baker

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) for his wholehearted support for my proposals. I have long known his views on ILEA. They have been expressed to me on several occasions in terms that were rather more blunt than appeared on the Order Paper. However, I am glad that I have his support and look forward to that support being continued in the weeks and months to come when we move ahead with this important measure.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

If ILEA is so bad, in isolated cases, why then has the Secretary of State not used his powers to intervene to put matters right? How can he justify that, except on the basis of a squalid attempt to provide a political excuse for this hasty and brutal dismemberment? If the Secretary of State is worried about Left-wing inefficiency and influence, how can he hand over the schoolchildren lock, stock and barrel to the tender mercies of councils such as Lambeth, Hackney and Southwark?

Mr. Baker

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman recognises that there is concern about many aspects of the education provided. I read most of the reports that are published about inner London by HMI — the hon. Gentleman may read some of them — and all express real concern, especially about secondary education. At one secondary school, for example, the inspectors found that, in the fifth year as a whole, attendance was only 55 per cent., and in one class it was only 46 per cent. When making a survey of science in secondary schools, Her Majesty's inspectors stated: the quality of teaching and learning experience … in over one-tenth of classes visited was unrelievedly bad".

Mr. Straw

What reports are these?

Mr. Baker

These are very recent reports. I shall make them available.

I advise the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) that a great part of the problem is that ILEA is too large and remote. We feel that education will be improved and become more responsive to parents' wishes when it is closer to the local community. The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that that is the principle behind the Education Reform Bill.

I find the hon. Gentleman's attitude strangely illogical, because it is the Liberals in Tower Hamlets who want to run their education service, and presumably the hon. Gentleman does not object to that. Are those Liberals in Tower Hamlets less competent than their fellow Liberals in Richmond?

Mr. Michael Heseltine (Henley)


Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Heseltine.

Mr. Heseltine

May I strongly support today's announcement by my right hon. Friend which will give London schoolchildren a more stable, effective and accountable background for their educational arrangements? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the excess in ILEA's overspending will not be passed to the boroughs under the arrangements that he has in mind?

Will my right hon. Friend accept how deeply I resent the suggestion that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) and I are political hooligans? I believe that my right hon. Friend is renowned the length and breadth of the land for his charm and courtesy. However, if my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State happens to be looking for a couple of likely lads to help him with the administrative arrangements for bringing about these transfers, subject to consultation with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford, we might be able to suggest a couple of names.

Mr. Baker

I thank my right hon. Friend for his support for my proposals. I have known his views on ILEA for a long time, and he has known my views on ILEA. Nobody should underestimate my right hon. Friend's ability to hurl himself through a half-open door.

I shall be setting up a unit in my Department which will negotiate with ILEA and with the London Labour boroughs in the coming weeks and months to ensure an orderly transfer. That is an important function and responsibility for my Department.

On the financial matters about which my right hon. Friend specifically asked, we shall consider carefully what the most appropriate transitional arrangements might be, given that the inner-London boroughs are likely to inherit overspending from ILEA.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

If the Government do not think that the inner-London boroughs are capable of running their own housing services—the Government clearly do not think that they are capable of running a lot of other services as well, hence the necessity to hive them off—and since the Government have either rate-capped or fined most of the London boroughs for overspending, why do they think that education services will be better administered by those so-called inefficient, incompetent and worst boroughs than under the present ILEA?

Will the Secretary of State tell the House, and especially me, since I represent one of the poorest boroughs in London, Tower Hamlets, what arrangements he will make to ensure that ultimately there will be no fewer financial resources available to the poor boroughs of inner London than are available today under the cross-subsidisation of ILEA?

Mr. Baker

On the last point, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look in Hansard tomorrow at the responses I have given my right hon. Friend on the financing of London boroughs after the 1990s. Irrespective of the policy change, the present system of local government finance, under which the wealthy boroughs subsidise the poorer boroughs—London equalisation—will cease in 1990, when the community charge and unified business rate come into operation. Instead, a system of Exchequer grants to local authorities will equalise the differences in the need to spend. The new system will provide a means of ensuring the equitable distribution of resources of local authorities to take account of local and social needs. Clearly, in the determination of those separate needs grants for individual London boroughs, taking into account the educational responsibilities, is very important.

On the general point raised by the right hon. Member, I am a little surprised that Labour Members seem so angry and alarmed at the prospect of Labour-controlled inner-London boroughs running their education. Does not the right hon. Gentleman have more confidence in his party colleagues?

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the central thrust of the Education Reform Bill is to devolve power and responsibility to parents? Does he agree that the abolition of ILEA is well in accordance with that central aim and that ILEA will be forgotten just as quickly as the Greater London Council?

Mr. Baker

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because when I was dealing with the abolition of the GLC I was constantly told that London boroughs could not do it, and that civilised life as we knew it in the capital city would end.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

It has.

Mr. Baker

As for the former chairman of the GLC, I say to him that few people now remember what the GLC actually did. It has left virtually no memorial.

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Government have changed their mind three times in the past four years on the best way to organise London education? What evidence is there that giving education to the boroughs will ensure better education for London children?

Mr. Baker

I would say to the hon. Gentleman, who has followed these matters closely, that when my predecessor, Lord Carlisle, made a statement seven years ago to this very day, he said: The long-term retention of the single education authority for inner London is justified only if the authority shows that it can give the children and students of inner London a good service in all phases of education at an acceptable cost. It is up to ILEA to put its house in order."—[Official Report, 4 February 1981; Vol. 998, c. 296–7.] ILEA has had seven years, and the hon. Gentleman knows, because he has been concerned with this for some time, that it has shown precious little effort to put its house in order. It has said repeatedly that it will be better next year. We believe that the education of the children of London would be improved if it were done at a more local level.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead and Highgate)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the last time education was looked at independently was by a royal commission in October 1960? It came down very firmly against a unitary authority, but certain of the educational intelligentsia were able to bring sufficient pressure on the then Government so that they backtracked. As one who opposed the formation of ILEA from the very beginning, when I was in local government, I welcome the support of my right hon. Friends and their conversion to the cause.

Mr. Baker

I well recall my hon. Friend, who was the Back-Bench spokesman for London matters in the 1960s, advocating this throughout that period. As he will know, I have been a long-term supporter of that. In fact, my pamphlet in 1980 advocated the dispersal of responsibility for education, and our manifesto in June of last year signalled the end of the unitary authority. We are now putting that in hand.

Mr. Spearing

What will the Secretary of State say to those 500,000 people who attend day continuation classes and evening classes in the ILEA area, including those from outside Greater London? Is he aware that 60 per cent. of the pupils of primary schools in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea go outside the borough to secondary schools, based on parental choice? Is he aware that on Tuesday, when in a written question I asked him to set out the numbers of pupils and attendances at colleges in each London borough, his hon. Friend said that the information was not collected centrally? Did the Cabinet take the decision today or previously on information which they did not have, or was that answer incorrect?

Mr. Baker

Since 1980, as the hon. Gentleman knows, when children move from an education authority in one borough to another, the money has followed the child. That has been the position, and it has been done on separate terms for children with special educational needs and other needs.

Mr. Banks

Not within ILEA.

Mr. Baker

No, but from ILEA to outside. It is possible to have exactly the same arrangements. Dealing with the first point the hon. Gentleman raised, on the services of further education and adult education in London, which is very important, I entirely accept that many people outside the inner London area use those services. Many of them are organised on a cross-borough basis, which is one of the reasons why I have set up a unit in my Department to examine with the boroughs and ILEA whether there is a need for any joint education committees.

Sir Rhodes Boyson (Brent, North)

If one is to split up ILEA, it would seem better to split it cleanly at the beginning than to have one, two or three boroughs dropping out one by one, with the authority not knowing what will happen in the next year. It seems to me to be sensible to look at co-operation where the parents want co-operation.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will agree that the Inner London education authority has never attained the same reputation as the former London county council, which was renowned throughout the world. An authority that spends 40 per cent. more in real terms than the average in the rest of the country, with children having 40 per cent. less likelihood of getting five O-levels or CSEs, seems to have a death wish.

Mr. Baker

Certainly ILEA, by any standards, is an extravagant authority. As for the list of exam results quoted by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), even if one accepts the basis for those adjustments, there are considerable reservations on the methodology. The authors of the report said: Limitations on the data used mean that the method should be taken as illustrative of the method of analysis rather than a final judgment on the LEAs concerned. Even if I were to accept the judgment of the LEA concerned, ILEA comes 56th out of 96, but it is No. 1 on expenditure. It has become clear that there is considerable support in many parts of London for an orderly transfer. That has been expressed by people in ILEA, people who are not Conservatives, people who are concerned, and by certain churchmen. I am sure that we are right to take the action.

Mr. Tony Banks

May I tell the Secretary of State that for me he personifies the smile on the face of Fascism in the latter-day Tory party? Will he tell the House, first, how much Government money goes to the Inner London education authority at the moment? Which London boroughs, other than the three Tory boroughs, have signified any interest in opting out of the Inner London education authority? How has he managed to change his mind so remarkably yet again, first on the GLC and now on the Inner London education authority?

Mr. Baker

I appreciate that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) has never got over being the last chairman of the GLC. I recognise that the hon. Member believes that he is the king over the water for the GLC, the last of the Jacobites waiting for the restoration. I believe he has the regalia still in store. He knows better than anyone else that the GLC's performance over the years badly let down the people of London, and ILEA is even worse. It has badly let down far too many London children. I find it extraordinary that a Labour Member representing an outer-London borough which has full education responsibilities should wish to deny the same responsibilities to Labour inner-London boroughs.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that today's ILEA is unrecognisable from the LCC education authority, to which I was appointed as a young teacher 31 years ago? The deterioration in behaviour, work and the attendance of children over those years, and the authority's inability to recruit, as it could 31 years ago, the best teachers in the country—it has difficulty today in recruiting teachers in many schools because of its policies — means that the children of London are getting a very raw deal.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Peter McIntosh, who was a distinguished ILEA chief inspector of physical education for many years, and who chaired the recent committee that looked into sport in London schools following the collapse of sport in London schools —which formerly was very good—wrote to me this week to say, "Harry, will you support the immediate disbandment of ILEA? It is quite the best solution and much better than many others on offer"?

Mr. Baker

The political leaders of ILEA—not its administrative staff—over the years have done a great disservice to education in London by following a series of fads, of which one was to condemn competitive sport. Late in the day, as a result of that committee's report, it changed its policy. That is one reason among many why so many children get a poor deal out of ILEA.

Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)


Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I will take points of order at the end.

Ms. Abbott

The Secretary of State has accused ILEA of letting down the children of inner London. He referred earlier to his plans for equalisation. Is he willing, here and now, to give a commitment that the resources available to individual boroughs under his arrangements will not he less, in real terms or relatively, than the resources available now? Otherwise, although his arrangements may result in an improvement in the quality of education of children in Mayfair, overall his arrangements will result in a decrease in the quality of education for poor children in London, such as those in Hackney, whom I represent; he will be letting down the children of the poor in London.

Mr. Baker

The points that I have already made on the financial arrangements after 1990 are very important. We have made it clear that ILEA is an extravagant authority. We believe that much can be saved in its administrative costs. It has two and half times more administrators than the average LEA. We should like to see —

Mr. Dobson

What about Stubbs?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman from a sedentary position makes a comment about Mr. Stubbs. Various remarks that I completely deplore were made about Mr. Stubbs in the debate on Monday. He has been an outstanding servant of inner London. The trouble is that he has had very poor political direction.

Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich)

I recognise that my right hon. Friend's proposal will bring great benefit to many children in London. Will he in turn recognise that there is grave disquiet in boroughs such Southwark, where people think that it does not have the ability to run an effective education service? Will he assure the House that there will be special assistance and advice to boroughs such as Southwark? Will he also recognise the important work that is being done Londonwide by the adult education institutes, particularly the excellent work of the Mary Ward centre, the City Literary Institute and Morley college?

Mr. Baker

I completely agree with the latter points made by my hon. Friend. These are the very matters that the unit in my Department will be discussing with inner-London authorities and ILEA.

As to the ability of authorities to run education services, many more powers will be in place as a result of the Education Reform Bill, and many more opportunities will be available. First, there will be the national curriculum, which will provide a bulwark of protection against distortion of the curriculum in schools. There will be open enrolment, whereby parents will have a greater chance to choose the school they want their children to attend. There will be financial delegation, whereby headmasters and senior teachers will have more power over their schools. Last, and very important, there will be the opportunity for schools to opt out. All these will be safeguards for the position that my hon. Friend envisages.

Mrs. Rosie Barnes (Greenwich)

The Secretary of State may know that I have been critical of ILEA's performance over recent years, particularly of its levels of bureucracy and its performance at secondary level. But what evidence is there that transferring the education of children such as mine from ILEA to London boroughs will result in an improvement in the quality of education for them? Will the unit consider the needs of children with special needs? They have been extremely well provided for by ILEA, and they may suffer if the centralised provision, which is available only on the larger scale, is withdrawn.

Mr. Baker

The hon. Lady raises a very important point. The great bulk of special education provision in inner London is good—some of it is very good. There have been one or two disappointing reports, but I am glad to say they are the exception. These are the sorts of service for which it is possible that there will be a joint education committee. The transfer of children with special needs from one borough to another is rather more easy because the full cost of education transfers with the child. I assure the hon. Lady that I do not want any diminution in the good provision for special education in London.

Mr. William Shelton (Streatham)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, ever since I was a chief whip on ILEA 20 years ago, I have supported its abolition? However, my conviction was tempered by the fear of what might happen to children in my constituency if education were to be run by Lambeth council. I am reassured by what my right hon. Friend has said, and by the safeguards in the Education Reform Bill.

Will my right hon. Friend keep very much in mind the concern that many of us will have about adult education, the youth service and special needs? Will he consider, for adult education and the new service, transferring the full cost, rather than the national average cost, to the borough accepting people from the other borough? Will he also consider implementing the Thompson report and making the youth service statutory? It would be a good time to do so.

Mr. Baker

My hon. Friend's last point goes rather wider than the measures that we have in hand. I am glad of his support for these measures. He brings a great deal of experience to ILEA matters, having been its chief whip, and I know that over the years he has been particularly concerned about the provision of education in his constituency. I can assure him that the matters that he has raised — adult education, further education and the youth service — will be taken carefully into account during the transfer of education responsibilities.

Mr. Corbyn

Will the Secretary of State accept that many people outside the House will recognise today as a terrible day for education in inner London? He has committed an act of political vandalism against a Labour-controlled authority. He has deliberately starved it of funds ever since he has had the power to do so.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and I have been in touch with our borough council. We found that the net deficit in spending by ILEA, compared with what Islington ratepayers pay, is about £30 million. As the right hon. Gentleman has been unable to answer any specific questions from other hon. Members about how much money will be available for education in the boroughs, will he assure me that there will not be school closures, loss of teachers' jobs, loss of ancillary workers' jobs and sale of school premises when he has committed this act of vandalism?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there will be enormous opposition to this act? Parents, children and employees of the authority realise that they are about to experience the swift destruction of a very good education service.

Mr. Baker

I must ask the hon. Gentleman to look at the various inspectors' reports, including Her Majesty's inspectors' reports and ILEA inspectors' reports, about the standard of education in inner London. He simply cannot have read them. I am surprised at his lack of confidence in the ability of his borough to cope with education. According to the ILEA chief inspector's report about Islington: As the smallest division, DO3 (Islington) enjoys certain advantages: communication is relatively easy and the scale of the division helps to engender a sense of identity. Inspectors and officers work as a close team, and there exists a tradition of innovation and independence. The new responsibilities will be built on that.

Sir Brandon Rhys Williams (Kensington)

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend most sincerely on his decision, which will be very well received in Kensington and which is obviously essential as part of his campaign to improve education standards in London? May I express the hope that politically motivated opposition to his decision will very quickly die down, so that the teachers, the parents and the local authorities concerned can work together in peace to make this reform a success?

Mr. Baker

I very much hope that that will be the spirit over the coming weeks and months. There will clearly be a much more orderly transfer of responsibilities if there is co-operation from the different boroughs — Labour as well as Conservative. I hope that the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) will give a lead by encouraging Labour boroughs and ILEA to co-operate, so that there may be an orderly transfer. I am sure that there will be a relatively short-lived political campaign to preserve ILEA, but I hope that everyone concerned in London politics will appreciate that the measure will go through and that it is important from the point of view of the children that the responsibilities are transferred in a proper and orderly fashion.

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

Before the Secretary of State introduces the proposals which are politically and constitutionally arbitrary and irresponsible, will he arrange for a poll of all electors in ILEA to determine whether he has a mandate? Contrariwise, can it really be right that the future of the education of 270,000 children in ILEA should be determined by the scratching paw of a tabby cat from Henley? Who is in charge of education, her or him?

Mr. Baker

In the general election, the Conservatives did very well by winning two seats in inner London. I have already said that we clearly flagged the end of a unitary education authority for London in our manifesto. We are now implementing that.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the underwhelming welcome from Opposition Members for this proposal may have something to do with the fact that they are members of the party that is responsible for the mess in which ILEA finds itself? Does he agree that there will be a widespread welcome for his statement from everyone concerned about the under-achievements of ILEA? Does he agree that an education authority that produces results whereby under 10 per cent. of children leave school with five or more O-levels and nearly a quarter with no results or achievements on paper has failed the children of inner London?

Mr. Baker

My hon. Friend speaks from direct experience as one of the victors in inner London at the last general election, when he was successful in Wandsworth. The popularity of our proposal to transfer educational responsibilities to Wandsworth was triumphantly vin-dicated in the Wandsworth council by-election when it was made the issue by the Labour party. My hon. Friend is right to be concerned about the level of educational performance because, at the end of the day, that is what it comes down to. The children in inner-London schools deserve better.

Ms. Harriet Harman (Peckham)

Will the Secretary of State withdraw the deceptive and wrong implication that Lady Blackstone is in favour of the break-up of ILEA?

The Secretary of State talks about parent power. Why has he not listened to parents in Southwark? The three hon. Members representing constituencies in Southwark are aware that parents in Southwark who know more and care more about their children than the Secretary of State ever will believe that the best chance to improve their children's education lies with the Inner London education authority. This is not politically motivated opposition to the break-up of ILEA: it is parentally motivated opposition to the break-up of ILEA.

Mr. Baker

I quoted from the words of Lady Blackstone as I read them in The Times Educational Supplement. If she feels that the quotation does not represent her views, no doubt she will make that known. She is quite capable of doing so. I repeat what I said in reply to an earlier question: the transfer of responsibilities between an upper and lower-tier authority has always been the duty and responsibility of this House.

Mr. Matthew Carrington (Fulham)

Is my right hon. Friend aware how welcome the lifting of ILEA's bureaucracy from the backs of parents and teachers in inner London will be to so many people who have struggled in schools—some of which are excellent—to provide a decent education under ILEA? Is he aware that the lifting of ILEA from their backs will enable those schools to provide not only a good education, but a much better education than they provided previously? I was also glad to hear my right hon. Friend's statements about the transition and the arrangements that have been made to cover special schools, adult education and in particular nursery schools, all of which are tributes to London and must continue after abolition.

Mr. Baker

I am glad to hear my hon. Friend's warm support and endorsement. I remind the House that he was another winner in inner London in the general election. I am glad to hear his support for the way in which we intend to handle this matter. We want to do this responsibly and orderly, so that the education services in London are preserved and improved. We believe that they will be improved when responsibility is transferred closer to the parent and the local community.

Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)

Is the Secretary of State aware that I, as a representative of the borough of Lewisham, have received not a single letter from a parent, teacher, parent-teacher organisation or governing body seeking to have the education of children of the borough removed from ILEA and transferred to the borough of Lewisham? I note that hon. Members representing other constituencies in Lewisham are not present in the Chamber—[Interruption.] They are on the Tory side. I urge the Secretary of State to give me his evidence from my constituency to support his proposals. Furthermore, will he answer an earlier question and tell us which local authorities, apart from Tory-controlled authorities, are seeking to have the change brought about?

Mr. Baker

What passes through the hon. Lady's postbag is not a matter for me. In response to the interest about boroughs that wish to take responsibility for education, I can state that three authorities have already decided to do that — Wandsworth, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea. The City of London has also said that it wants to do that.

Mr. Tony Banks

It is not an inner-London authority.

Mr. Baker

It counts, none the less. Those who follow London politics — the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) knows about local government —know perfectly well that the City of London is a local authority for those purposes.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

It has no children.

Mr. Baker

It does have some children.

Tower Hamlets has also clearly expressed a view. Earlier—I would not say that this is the view expressed now—there was considerable interest in some Labour-controlled authorities. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which are they?"] Hon. Members opposite represent those authorities and they must find out which have expressed interest. I predict that, after my statement today, many of those authorities will now become infinitely more interested.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

My right hon. Friend has noted that a list of people apart from the Baroness Blackstone, including Mr. William Stubbs and various officers and ex-officers of ILEA, believe that a one-step devolution is preferable to opting out. The paramount importance now is urgency. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will carefully monitor the fact that London boroughs are making full preparations for a changeover in April 1990?

Mr. Baker

Yes, that is the target date. It is an important date, because it means that the provision of educational responsibility in London will feature prominently in the local government elections of that year, as it ought to.

As regards the time available, we are working on very much the same timetable as was used in 1963 for the establishment from scratch of the outer London boroughs as local education authorities. The dispersal of responsibilities for the GLC was undertaken in a much shorter period of eight months. I am satisfied that there will be enough time for a satisfactory transfer.

Mr. Paul Boateng (Brent, South)

The Secretary of State will be aware of the findings and recommendations of the Swann committee of inquiry into underachievement among Afro-Caribbean and Asian children. He will also be aware in that regard that the Inner London education authority's centre for urban educational studies, the centre for learning resources, and such ILEA-funded organisations as the Afro-Caribbean educational resource project, have done work that has been praised by his own inspectors, and has been emulated by education authorities, Conservative and Labour alike, and indeed studied throughout the world as examples of best practice in this area. Apart from vague generalisations about joint committees, how is this valuable work to be preserved?

Mr. Baker

If there is valuable work carried on by those bodies—and I do not question it for a moment—those are the sorts of things that will be examined by the unit in my Department in its discussions with ILEA and the London Labour boroughs. Could I say to the hon. Gentleman, because I know that he follows these matters very closely, that some interesting educational research has been done in ILEA on the achievement of black Afro-Caribbean children compared with white children. What they discovered—this is of no surprise at all—was that many of the black Afro-Caribbean children were infinitely more motivated to achieve and do better than many of the white children. But what the research also discovered was that their failure to do as well was due to the absence of basic skills. That is ILEA research. It is very important to embed in children, from whatever background they come, the basic skills of literacy and numeracy, at an early age.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

My right hon. Friend has just mentioned 1963. Does he remember that, back in 1963, he was prospective Conservative candidate for Poplar and I was the candidate for Peckham, both of which are in inner London.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

You did not win.

Mr. Jessel

The then Conservative Government, in abolishing the London county council, had intended to set up the inner-London boroughs as education authorities, but there was a strident campaign by teachers—

Mr. Spearing

And parents.

Mr. Jessel

—the Government wavered, and the Inner London education authority was set up, which was disastrous. Can my right hon. Friend give us an assurance that this time, in the event of a strident campaign by teachers, this Conservative Government will not waver?

Mr. Baker

I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. I remember very well fighting alongside him in politics in the 1960s. I remember fighting Poplar in 1964—and, as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) said, it is fair to say that Poplar fought back. I was not elected. But what my hon. Friend says is true and I can assure him that we will resolutely carry through the proposals that I have put to the House today.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

Since ILEA does not receive any Government money at the moment, how much Government subsidy is planned to be given to boroughs such as Lambeth after 1 April 1990? Could the Secretary of State tell us how many Conservative Members of Parliament from Lambeth, Southwark, Greenwich and Lewisham have made representations in favour of the announcement today?

Mr. Baker

I would ask the hon. Gentleman to listen to the representations that have been made during these questions. The funding of all local services in central London will change after 1990, because all boroughs will receive a grant that will be based in large part upon the needs assessment of that particular borough, which 'will include education. The assessment of that is a very important factor in this, and, as I have said, it is the sort of thing that the unit in my Department will be looking into.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

As one who was educated at an LCC comprehensive school and who was a teacher in one, and who has latterly been an opposition Member of ILEA, may I assure my right hon. Friend that many of us are delighted that he has at last grasped the nettle of overspending in ILEA and its poor examination results?

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to a parliamentary answer by his hon. Friend the Minister of State, which showed that ILEA was 84th in the exam league, yet Wigan, which has the same socio-economic problems, came ninth and spent less? Does that not show that it is not merely a question of what an education authority provides, but how it supports teachers in their schools?

Mr. Baker

I agree with my hon. Friend. I am sure that the exam results would be better in the school where he taught if he was still teaching there, but that does not mean to say that we want him to give up being the hon. Member for Pembroke. He brings a great deal of experience to the question, and I confirm what he says.

The analysis of exam results, as those who have looked into the matter will know, needs very careful interpretation. The recommendations of the report of the task group on assessment and testing are that exam results for schools should be reported exactly as they are, as it were — undoctored or unadjusted—because of the methodology in the adjustment. The report also says that, when exam results are published, there should be a report about the socio-economic background of the school. That seems to be reasonable, but the adjustment of examination results and the various methods that have been tried have not won much credit statistically.

Mr. Flannery

Will the Secretary of State accept it from me, coming from a city in the north, that the excellent work of ILEA is deeply admired by local education authorities all over Britain, and especially by my own authority? Will he also accept it from me that that fact is not unlinked to the attack by the Government in the Education Reform Bill on all local education authorities?

I have in my hand the list of assisted places that was given in the written answer on 1 February. For instance, 459 pupils out of 1,200 at public schools in Newcastle-under-Lyme have assisted places at £2,000 each, which is £900,000 of public money. If that figure is multiplied by all the other schools, it means that more than £50 million of public money will go to private education. The figure will go higher and higher with another 126 schools having assisted places. Can we have an answer about that, when the Secretary of State talks about the money that ILEA is properly using for the education of the children of London?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman is a leading member of the National Union of Teachers. I do not believe that anyone who recalls the disruption of schooling that was caused by the teachers' walk-outs of recent memory will take lectures from the NUT or from him about inflicting damage on children.

Mr. Flannery

Answer the question.

Mr. Baker

I certainly will not take lectures about causing havoc to schoolchildren from a representative of a union that next week will disrupt schools in London yet again.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I will call Conservative Members who have been rising because they have a specialised interest in the matter, although they are not London Members.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

May I say to my right hon. Friend how much I welcome his decision? However, a shadow that hangs over it, to my mind. I share some of the anxieties of Opposition Members who represent some of the inner-London boroughs at their competence to run primary education. Can my right hon. Friend assure us that he will look very carefully at the situation of those primary schools which will not be able to opt out and which might have difficulty in obtaining all the resources they need in the very early years of the national curriculum to meet its demands? Will he ensure that some of these Labour boroughs do not destroy their opportunities?

Mr. Baker

My hon. Friend is right to express his concern. We envisage that each London borough will be asked to present a development plan early next year, and that will form the framework and structure. We will examine it together with them. That will be the basis for the transfer of responsibilities. Clearly, we want to be satisfied that a proper structure will be provided. I am optimistic enough to believe that that is what most, indeed all, of the London boroughs will want to do as well.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it has beome increasingly the view of head teachers in London that ILEA has become more cumbersome and distant and too bureaucratic and that his proposals present tremendous opportunities and responsibilities to all those in local communities, including Labour borough councillors? I should have thought they would welcome and seize such opportunities and responsibilities.

I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the unit that will oversee the ease of transition and the necessary collaborative arrangements has seconded to it as advisers some representatives from, say, head teachers or the local authority administrations, so that wider general public support can be given to what he is doing.

Mr. Baker

On my hon. Friend's last point, I will consider what he has said. I do not know whether they will be members of the union. That may not be appropriate. Certainly we want to call upon collective advice and individual experience. My hon. Friend used a word which I was glad to hear — "opportunities". There will be better and growing opportunities as a result of what we have announced today. That is one of the exciting aspects of our proposals.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)

My right hon. Friend's decision is very good news for children. It brings to an end a great deal of uncertainty, but inevitably it will give rise to more uncertainty in the minds of many teachers. Will he do all he can to ensure that not only our teachers' unions and organisations are well informed about the proposals but that individual teachers are approached directly by letter or in some other way so that the campaign of disinformation which is bound to flow from the vested interests can be circumvented?

Mr. Baker

I very much hope that ILEA will not engage in a campaign of disinformation, particularly on staffing. I set out clearly in my statement the provisions on transfer of staff. I hope that the various unions and the staff of ILEA will study them carefully. In shorthand, we are keeping to the same proposals as applied to the dissolution of the GLC. I think that will give considerable reassurance to many teachers in schools and colleges.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

May I say, as a parent whose children are about to start their state education at an inner London school in Lambeth, how warmly I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement? The abolition of ILEA will inevitably mean that schooling will be more cost-effective and more responsive. Many parents will take the opportunity given to them by the Education Reform Bill to ensure that their children who are at state schools in inner London have a decent education, as have children elsewhere in the country.

Mr. Baker

I warmly thank my hon. Friend for saying that. That is the whole purpose of what we are trying to do. We are trying to improve the basic education of children. In the past, far too many have not had a good deal, particularly at secondary level. —[Interruption.] I hear the Minister of State, who is in charge of our campaign on parent governors, expressing the hope that perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) will become a parent governor.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

Is it not clear that, despite the vacuous style of the Secretary State, his statement represents a personal climbdown? I agree with one statement made by the Secretary of State. He was accurate when he said that the statement represented a dispersal of responsibility. That it does—a dispersal of responsibility away from the Secretary of State to his right hon. Friends who made the decision.

Several of the Secretary of State's hon. Friends have welcomed his conversion to the abolition of ILEA. At no stage have the Government or the Secretary of State had a mandate for the proposal. Despite the words of the Secretary of State, there was no reference to the abolition of ILEA in the Conservative party manifesto. There was no proposal for its abolition in the Government's consultative document which was published in the autumn. Certainly there was no proposal for the abolition of ILEA in the Bill published in November and debated in the House on 1 December. If there had been such a proposal, why would there have been a need for the campaign by the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) and 100 other Conservative Back Benchers?

The Secretary of State has to answer the question of where the mandate has come from. He also has to answer the question, what has happened since the Second Reading of the Education Reform Bill, when he pronounced that the proposals in the Bill were good for the education of the children of London? The proposals announced today are totally contrary to those in the Bill. Has the Secretary of State had a conversion or is his previous tenuous hold on political principle now severed?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman should perhaps read the pamphlet that I produced in 1980. I have consistently believed that education in inner London would be better if it was returned to the boroughs. What we signalled in the manifesto was the end of a unitary education authority for central London because that has become so popular, with a number of boroughs indicating support for it. The voices that have grown, not just from the Conservative party but from many other places, indicate that it will be better to have an orderly transfer of education responsibility. I very much hope that the proposal will have the support of the practical, active Labour politicians on the ground in inner London.

5.24 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the decision of the Government to seek to abolish the Inner London education authority. The Secretary of State's statement of intent represents an abuse of power. There has been no consultation whatsoever on the proposal with the people of London who foot the entire bill for the Inner London education authority. It is a classic example of an elective dictatorship at work. It is constitutionally improper and represents an insult to the House of mammoth proportions.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (M r. Fatchett) has said, the Government have no electoral mandate to abolish ILEA. Perhaps the Government have become so arrogant or authoritarian that they no longer have any regard for an election manifesto.

The Government considered abolition of ILEA at the same time as abolition of the Greater London council, but rejected it. They could have included abolition in the Education Reform Bill when it was presented to the House; they did not. On Monday, when we took the decision on the guillotine motion for the Education Reform Bill, an announcement could have been made; it was not. What different factors prevail now that did not exist in 1985, or eight weeks ago when the Education Reform Bill was debated, or last Monday when the guillotine motion was moved?

This is not the first attempt by the Tory party to abolish ILEA. It was considered in 1977, in 1979, in 1980 and between 1983 and 1985. All previous reviews of ILEA have come to the conclusion that it was in the interests of inner-London pupils, teachers and parents to preserve the unitary education authority. The statement by the Secretary of State has nothing to do with the educational needs and interests of Londoners.

Mr. Speaker

One minute more.

Mr. Banks

We believe that it is all part of the squalid, ideological campaign being waged by this noxious Government against Labour-controlled local authorities. For all we know, it is probably part of a leadership battle to establish the successor as leader of the Conservative party when Mama Doc finally stands down.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is riot like the hon. Gentleman to use such phrases.

Mr. Banks

The circumstances are somewhat different today, Mr. Speaker.

The Secretary of State does not have one single principle that he would not willingly trade for personal political advantage. The implications for Londoners and for the boroughs of the abolition of ILEA are too profound to be dealt with other than by a separate Bill which would be discussed on the Floor of the House. Since that is not to happen, it is essential that we have a full debate in the House as soon as possible. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider the application sympathetically.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) seeks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, the decision of the Government to seek to abolish the Inner London education authority. I listened with great concern to what the hon. Gentleman said. I listened also to what the Leader of the Opposition said to the Leader of the House, and again to what the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) said to the Secretary of State. I noted the responses of the Leader of the House and of the Secretary of State. As the hon. Gentleman knows, my duty in assessing a Standing Order No. 20 application is to decide whether it should be given priority over the business set down for today or tomorrow. I regret that I cannot submit his application to the House today.

Mr. Straw

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have given you notice of the point of order, which does not relate to the application under Standing Order No. 20 but is concerned with whether it would be more appropriate for the change of policy announced by the Secretary of State for Education to be introduced by way of a new Bill rather than being spatchcocked into the Education Reform Bill.

I fully understand that you are not responsible for the content of legislation, Mr. Speaker, but you are responsible for the order of the House and for the orderly progress of legislation. On many occasions Ministers introduce amendments and new clauses as Bills are going through the House. However, I do not think that any hon. Member can recall an occasion involving the introduction of a major change of policy into a Bill after that Bill has been the subject of a guillotine motion, with a timetable laid down for its progress in Committee and in the House.

The simple reality is that it will not be possible properly to consider the major issues raised by this new policy within the timetable either in Committee or in the House. Moreover, there would, if this were included in the present Bill, be no chance for the House to have a debate upon the principle, as would be possible in a normal Second Reading debate.

In view of all those circumstances, Mr. Speaker, may I ask you to rule that it would be far more appropriate for the Government to bring this forward by way of a new Bill than to abuse the procedures of the House and truncate consideration of new clauses?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think that I could rule in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests, but I fully accept that the House would expect more time.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

On a similar point to that raised by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), obviously there will be a political debate because the Government are clearly putting their internal political battles ahead of the interests of 270,000 children in inner London. There is an important constitutional point here. We have a fundamental new principle being tacked on to the end of a Bill and it is quite clear from what the Secretary of State has said that this cannot be a matter of one new clause; there will have to be schedules and a considerable number of new clauses.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider the point raised by the hon. Member for Blackburn and what the precedents are for such a fundamental change of policy, and to give your considered view to the House, perhaps next week, on whether the Government have acted with propriety and whether there is a precedent for a separate Bill being brought in.

Mr. Dobson

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not the case that an amendment to a Bill in Committee is not in order if it reverses the principle of the Bill as agreed on Second Reading? Is it not the case that a new clause may not in effect redraft clauses already in the Bill?

We maintain that this is a reversal of the principle of the Bill as agreed on Second Reading, in which case it is unacceptable. The Secretary of State would say that it is a redrafting of clauses already in the Bill. If it is, it appears to us that it is still out of order. But, setting aside the technicalities of "Erskine May", you, Mr. Speaker, as the person in the House principally responsible for maintaining the reputation of the House, from time to time say that certain activity in the House is likely to bring it into disrepute. As members of the Opposition, we can think of nothing more likely to bring the House into disrepute than an effort by the Government totally to reverse their election manifesto commitment on one item seven months after the general election, and as a sideshow in an existing Bill.

We believe that the only way in which the reputation of the House can be preserved and the interests of children, young people and mature students in inner London protected is by having a new Bill. Nothing less will protect the reputation of the House or satisfy the people of inner London whose interests are being denied and damaged today.

Mr. Speaker

Let me take up one point which the hon. Gentleman made. I have no idea what kind of amendments are likely to be moved, or whether amendments are likely to be moved. I can tell the hon. Member that, if amendments were proposed which went beyond the scope of the Bill, they would be out of order. That would, of course, be a matter for the Chairman of the Standing Committee and not for me.

Mr. Flannery

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am a member of the Standing Committee on the Bill, which has already been guillotined, so that we are not having a chance to discuss very large parts of it. To insert into the Bill a huge issue such as this, when it is already a vast Bill—indeed, one of the biggest ever, and we have already spent about 90 hours on it, with more to come—seems to many of us to be completely out of order.

We want it placed on record that this is a very major decision which has apparently been thought out as matters have been running along so as to get rid of ILEA in one fell swoop. We believe that it is sufficiently important to merit a Bill in its own right and not to be inserted in a Bill which has already been guillotined.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I too speak as a member of the Standing Committee on the Bill and also, incidentally, as a parent of children at ILEA schools. I believe that abolition was fully foreseen in the Bill because it is provided in clause 1(1)(v) that ILEA would be completely abolished once eight boroughs had chosen to opt out. Furthermore, members of the Committee have put down amendments to the effect that that trigger should operate after five boroughs have opted out. It is now clear that, on the strength of advice from many worthy figures, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has decided that it is more orderly to abolish ILEA in one step. So I see nothing irregular in the provisions of the Bill.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

I wonder whether you could consider, Mr. Speaker, whether it would be in order for the Government to amend this Bill rather than bring forward another Bill on the basis of the composition of the Committee. The Committee of Selection, acting on behalf of the House, selects hon. Members to serve on a Committee on the basis of the Bill when it comes to Second Reading. On Second Reading, the provisions concerning ILEA were relatively small, and I think it is fair to say that the Committee of Selection took into account its impact on London.

Clearly, if these proposals were to be added at this stage it would be appropriate for the Committee of Selection to reconsider its selection and ensure that there were rather more representatives from inner London on the Standing Committee. I believe that that would produce considerable procedural difficulty, so surely it is right and proper that we should start with a new piece of legislation and not have these proposals added to the present Bill.

Mr. Speaker

We have to have regard to later business, in which a large number of right hon. and hon. Members wish to take part. All these matters are for the discussions which the Leader of the House has said that he will carry on through the usual channels. I cannot answer them.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham)

I wonder whether it would be helpful, Mr. Speaker, if I were to indicate how I see the position.

During the debate on the timetable motion on Monday, I indicated that if there were to be a major change of policy we would look again at the timetable for the rest of the Bill.

We have had an important statement today. I think that the right thing now is for us to have discussions through the usual channels to decide how best to proceed from here. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in the way that he framed his question to me, made what I thought was a constructive suggestion. I shall look at that and see if I can find a solution that is acceptable to all hon. Members of the House.

Mr. Spearing

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You said when you gave your ruling to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) that you would not be prepared to grant a Standing Order No. 20 application today, and I understand the reasons for that. The scope of the Second Reading of the Bill, whatever may have been the technical extent of the short title, included optional, not mandatory, provisions for education in London, which, I remind hon. Members, has been in being since 1870, for the bulk of the children in the area, organised by virtually a single continuing authority.

The Bill in Committee will clearly be changed by the amendments that are to come. The Leader of the House has referred to a certain possibility, but, whatever the technical scope of the Bill—to which you have already referred, Mr. Speaker—a debate on the order which will be before us next week and which is a narrow statutory instrument will not properly deal with the point that has been raised unless the Government make a statement very soon that there will be a separate Bill. If they do not do that, Mr. Speaker, may I revert to the point with which I started concerning a future Standing Order No. 20 application on another day?

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Corbyn

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that you will recognise and agree that the statement made by the Secretary of State this afternoon is of major importance. It envisages a major piece of legislation, and it is not acceptable that such a piece of legislation should be tacked on to the end of a Bill that is timetabled and guillotined in Committee.

Would it not be better if you, Mr. Speaker, now ruled that you would not allow amendments to be tacked on, but insisted that the Government went through the legislative process, as they do for everything else, issued a White Paper on their proposals to break up and destroy ILEA, and then proposed a Bill after consultation on the White Paper, instead of allowing the destruction of education in inner London to be rushed through in a few weeks on an already guillotined Bill?

Mr. Harry Greenway

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are not these points of order rather synthetic? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] However the Bill is framed, the education of children in London's schools and of adults in further education, higher education and other educational institutes in London will continue. The method of organisation is subsidiary to that. The fact that Opposition Members are calling for an emergency debate seems somewhat synthetic. I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will not respond to them.

Mr. Tony Banks

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) would expect me to respond to any point of order that he put to me. I have an obligation to respond to them all.

Mr. Dobson

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Page 556 of "Erskine May" refers to proceedings in passing public Bills and says: An amendment … which would reverse the principle of the bill as agreed to on the second reading is not admissible. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that today's proposition absolutely reverses the principle of part III of the Bill which received a Second Reading. That is one reason why the points of order we are making today are not at all synthetic. We seek your guidance, not necessarily today but certainly in the course of discussions through the usual channels.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I am not sure that it will help, but I shall hear it.

Mr. Gow

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) read out a reference to an amendment. Surely it is not possible for you, Mr. Speaker, to rule upon an amendment before that amendment has been tabled. Even if it were possible for you to rule on an amendment that had not been tabled, the ruling would be given not by you, Mr. Speaker, but by the Chairman of the Standing Committee.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have said that once, and I was about to say it again.

Mr. Tony Banks

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let me take one point of order at a time. If an amendment is proposed in a Standing Committee, it is a matter for the Chairman of the Standing Committee to decide whether that amendment is outside the scope of the Bill.

Mr. Dobson

I understand your ruling, but surely the question of the acceptability of amendments in Committee is a material consideration for the House when deciding what to do about the Government's proposition. It is an attempt to introduce new legislation that totally reverses the propositions that were accepted by the House on Second Reading. We put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that that would be a material consideration for you to bear in mind when considering any future applications under Standing Order No. 20.

Mr. Speaker

I have already dealt with that matter.

Mr. Banks

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Following the Second Reading of the Education Reform Bill, there was a money resolution. I understand that amendments cannot be tabled in Committee that would exceed the limits set out in the money resolution. If the money resolution, as presently designed, is exceeded, would the Government have to come back to the Floor of the House and move a second money resolution, or could it be taken in Committee?

Mr. Speaker

I can do no more than to say, yet again, that if amendments proposed by the Government go beyond the scope of the Bill, they will be out of order, but that would be a matter for the Chairman of the Standing Committee.