HC Deb 17 February 1988 vol 127 cc1083-97 10.28 pm
The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Baker)

I beg to move, That the Order of 1st February be varied by substituting, for paragraphs 1 and 2(1), the following:—

`Committee 1. — (1) The Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on or before 8th March 1988. (2) Proceedings on the Bill at a sitting of the Standing Committee on the said 8th March may continue until Ten p.m., whether or not the House is adjourned before that time, and if the House is adjourned before those proceedings have been brought to a conclusion the Standing Committee shall report the Bill to the House on 9th March.

Report and Third Reading

2. — (1) The proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in four alloted days and shall be brought to a conclusion at Ten o'clock on the last of those days; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 80 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the proceedings on Consideration such part of those days as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.' I shall not detain the House long. We have already had a vigorous debate on the principles of the Government's proposals for ILEA, which have just been approved by a majority of almost 120.

As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House made clear on 1 February, the main timetable motion for the Education Reform Bill was exceptionally generous. It allowed for a total of over 200 hours to be spent discussing the Bill on the Floor of the House and in Standing Committee.

The Government recognise that the amendments that we have tabled to part III of the Bill are substantial. They amount to 25 new clauses, replacing nine existing clauses, with amendments to a further three clauses. We are therefore continuing our generous approach to allocation of time for the Bill by proposing two additional days in Committee and an additional day on Report—which is in addition to the day on the Floor of the House which we have just had—to add to the three on Report which the House has already approved.

The Opposition cannot reasonably complain —although no doubt they will—about the additional time that we are allocating. Before they try to argue that we should be pushing the reform of inner London's education into the distant future by introducing a separate Bill next Session—which I understand some would like—or the one after that, let me remind them that all Governments from time to time have found it necessary to introduce significant amendments to legislation already before the House.

There is, of course, a good Labour precedent for that—the Industry Bill of 1975. I referred to it in moving terms earlier this afternoon, only to discover that, as a civil servant, the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) had drafted the Bill. He must have done that with tremendous enthusiasm, as the Bill was a major measure and there was a major change to it while it was under the guillotine.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

When will the Secretary of State sing a new tune? He keeps telling us how expensive ILEA has been. Will he now tell us what savings he expects to make as a result of the introduction of this piece of legislation?

Mr. Baker

When one has a good tune, one should stick to it. There is, as I say, a good precedent in what the Labour Government did in 1975. As always, we have improved on their practice, because on that occasion they did not table the amendments and new clauses before they moved the guillotine motion. We have done better, by tabling them yesterday.

As a result of the motion, the amount of time that will now be provided for debate on the legislation, on the Floor of the House and in Committee, will exceed 250 hours, which is probably the most generous timetable for 20 or 30 years. I need to take advice from the Clerks on whether it is 20 or 30 years, but this is certainly one of the most generous timetables that the House has ever been given on a major Bill.

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

Can my right hon. Friend say how that amount of time compares with that allocated for the 1944 Act?

Mr. Baker

The amount of time spent debating the 1944 Act was 50 to 60 hours. We shall debate this Bill for four or five times as long as that. The time spent in Committee on all the education legislation introduced since 1979 does not amount to 250 hours, so the House cannot complain that the measure is not being debated fully, either in Committee or on the Floor of the House. We shall also have four days to discuss it on Report.

It is appropriate that the time allocated should be generous, because the Bill contains a major set of reforms that the education service desperately needs. That is why it should get on to the statute book as quickly as possible.

10.32 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

The Secretary of State has explained the extension of time—[Interruption.]—that is to be given to the consideration of the abolition of ILEA by the guillotine motion. It is better than nothing—

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Would it be possible to ask those who do not want to listen to this part of the debate to clear the Chamber?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

I do not think it is right to ask hon. Members to clear the Chamber, but is is right for me to ask them to carry on their conversations in a lower tone of voice so that we can hear the Front Bench.

Mr. Dobson

The arrangement that has been agreed with the Government is certainly an improvement on what was originally intended. But what was originally intended was to introduce a limited number of amendments relating to ILEA—not the proposition to abolish it altogether.

As one of those Members elected to represent people in inner London, I do not believe that the people of inner London, or their children, have got what they deserve from the motion.

The people of inner London and their children were entitled to a separate Bill to consider the abolition of the 118-year-old education authority. They should have been consulted about whether it should be abolished, about the Government's proposals, and about the details of the clauses. They were entitled to advise the Government, if they were prepared to listen, or anyone else, of the likely impact of those proposals and to seek changes. The motion will not give them the opportunity to do that.

The electorates of inner London have not had the chance to vote on the proposition that ILEA should be abolished. No one has a mandate to abolish ILEA. No Tory Member of Parliament put this proposition in his election address. No Tory ILEA member put it to his electorate. No Tory borough council has put it to the borough council electorate. It has never been put to the people of inner London. When the question of the future of ILEA and of its record have been put to the electors, they have always voted to maintain the authority as it is, under the control of the Labour party.

When that fact was put before the House earlier, it provoked the comment from the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) — made from a sedentary position—that they must be mad. That is the basis on which the Government are going forward — that the people of inner London are unfit to decide for themselves the nature and arrangements for education in inner London.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dobson

No, I shall not give way.

Mr. Greenway


Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) has made it clear that he will not give way.

Mr. Greenway

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it not a convention of the House that if one hon. Member attacks another, he gives way to enable that Member to defend himself?

Madam Deputy Speaker

It is a convention, but it is not obligatory for the hon. Member who makes the attack to give way.

Mr. Greenway

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) has misquoted me. I did not say that the people of inner London were mad, full stop. I said that they were mad to vote Labour.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I think that the point has been made.

Mr. Dobson

I will try to get on with my speech because there are a number of hon. Members who represent people in London and who want to take part in the debate. They were kept out of the previous debate by Tories, half of whom represent seats outside inner London, and in some cases outside London altogether. The Tories cannot muster anyone from inner London who is prepared to support the proposition.

The Secretary of State said that he is introducing measures which will remove nine of the Bill's clauses, amend three others, and introduce 25 new clauses, eight of which relate to staff. That latter point is one of the reasons why people in inner London are so perturbed about this proposition. If we had a Conservative Government, they would subscribe to the traditional Conservative proposition that change is always dubious and one should proceed with change only if one can guarantee that, at the other end of the process of change, there will be substantial improvements. That is the bedrock of Conservative philosophy.

The fact is that the Government cannot guarantee any improvement whatever in educational provision in inner London. Indeed, we can almost guarantee that it will worsen. A reason why it is likely to worsen, certainly during the transitional period between now and 1992—two years after the boroughs will take over if the measure is passed—is that the vast proportion of the staff will have to devote most of their time and effort to protecting their jobs and ensuring that those jobs continue to exist.

If what has happened in the Tory reorganisation of the Health Service is anything to go by, the staff will go through a ludicrous stage of having to reapply for the jobs that they are already doing. The education of our children in inner London depends on having staff who are skilled, well trained and enthusiastic and who have a high morale. This process of change is bound to reduce staff morale, so education is bound to suffer as an automatic consequence of the process of change.

We were privileged tonight to listen to the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who made his latest prepared speech in his continuing campaign to be the next leader of the Tory party, but he seems to have sloped off home. We heard all sorts of theories about local government and the problems of the inner cities, but I should like to hear from him, the Secretary of State or any Tory present what improvements they think this measure will bring about for the children, for example, at Argyle junior mixed and infant school in the King's Cross part of my constituency.

The school has 324 children, many of whom come from poor homes, which is shown by the fact that no fewer than 274 of them are entitled to free school meals. Two hundred and fifty-nine of them come from homes where the mother tongue is not English and 63 do not come from anything that any hon. Member would recognise as a home because they live in hotels, bed-and-breakfast accommodation or other hostel accommodation at night. What improvement in the education of those children is likely to result from a period of chaos and change in the education system in inner London?

That is not an isolated case. There are more than 10,000 children living in temporary accommodation and attending ILEA schools.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Who put them there?

Mr. Dobson

I shall tell the hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Member for Henley. He is responsible because his housing measures, when he was Secretary of State for the Environment, created homelessness in London in the first place. If the hon. Gentleman is not satisfied with that, what about the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) who also served in that post and continued to perpetrate the housing policies which have left so many of the people whom I represent homeless? Unless the Government address themselves to the genuine problems of the real children of inner London, not mythical ones invented by themselves and a few Tory protagonists, the parents, children and teachers will treat the Government with contempt.

It is certain that the Government will carry any Division tonight, just as they carried the earlier Division and just as they will manage it in Committee. They have the majority to do so. However, the Government should remember that, even within the best traditions of the Tory party, powerful people have tempered the way in which they have dealt with the poor and the helpless.

Mr. Tony Banks

Not this bunch.

Mr. Dobson

My hon. Friend is correct.

We seek the abandonment of the Government's proposals. If the Government intend to go ahead with a Bill to abolish ILEA, they should at least consult the people of inner London. They should then come forward with a well-argued, properly thought-out Bill, instead of this lousy, botched job, put together in a fortnight.

The creation of 117 years of effort by the teachers, parents and educationists of London deserves better than to be shoved aside as a result of a fortnight's botching by the Department of Education and Science under the leadership—if that is the right word—of the right hon. Member for Mole Valley.

10.45 pm
Sir Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead and Highgate)

Perhaps we can now get back to reality.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) spoke about a large number of pupils of the Argyle school who live in hotels. I should remind him that, according to the latest figures, the London borough of Camden has more than 500 dwellings that have been empty for more than six months. Before the Opposition say that that borough has no money to repair them, I would point out that Camden has rent arrears of more than £5 million. Moreover, Camden has paid out more than £1 million to hotel owners for rooms that were never occupied.

I believe that my right hon. Friend is being too generous in the amount of time that he is allocating for the ILEA abolition clauses. We are dealing with a local education authority and not the 159th member of the United Nations. However, frankly, looking at many of the proceedings of ILEA it would appear that it is a world power instead of an education authority.

It is true that, for more than 50 years, the children of London had a good education authority in the form of the London county council. In those days, it was run by men and women who were dedicated to looking after the interests of children and not flying away with strange theories. The chairman of the county council was wholly non-political and behaved in a respectable manner. It had an outstanding succession of leaders. One of those was the man who was a political opponent of mine for many years, Ike Hayward. Ike Hayward would not have allowed half the present members of ILEA through the back door of county hall, let alone to occupy chairmanships.

Let us hear no more nonsense about the education of London's children. Since the creation of ILEA, those children have had a set of people determined to put their own partisan theories before the children's needs. Most independent experts will acknowledge that. I could not care less whether the politics of ILEA was Tory or Labour. Indeed, I remind the House that it did have a period of Conservative leadership.

I have never believed that there was a need for ILEA. If I have a slight grumble about my colleagues on the Front Bench, it is that they did not get rid of ILEA at the same time as they got rid of the Greater London council. People have said that everyone will be rising up in anger about the Government's decision and that it will be remembered at the next election. In the public meetings in my marginal constituency during the last election campaign, no one even mentioned the defunct GLC. I believe that it is absolutely right that my right hon. Friends have decided to get rid of ILEA by using—

Mr. Dobson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

In a second. I shall be more courteous than the hon. Gentleman was to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway).

Mr. Dobson

The hon. Gentleman says that no one raised the matter of the defunct GLC during the election. At any of the public meetings at the election, unique among all Tories in London, did he suggest to his electorate that he wanted to abolish the GLC?

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

As I have heard others say, "Get it right, Frank." I say firmly that, unlike a large number of my colleagues, I have been on record from the beginning as saying that ILEA should never have been created. I said that when I was in local government, and when I gave evidence to the Herbert commission, and I have never changed my mind on that issue. My constituents know full well where I stood on the GLC and ILEA. They might also wish to know where I stand on the future of Hampstead heath. The sooner it goes to the City of London, the better.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

I should like to continue.

I say firmly that the real problem that we now must face is what the children will go through if demonstrations and strikes take place. Let me not hear from the Labour party that the education of London's children will be damaged by the Bill. The damage has been done over the years by the attitude of the London branch of the National Union of Teachers, the record of which has been abysmal. Those who go out on strike, participate in demonstrations and so on are harming the education of London's children. It is not the Government or the House of Commons—it is those who put their political views ahead of the needs of the children.

Mr. Ashdown

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to speak. He has spoken once already. I think that we have heard quite enough from him for the moment. I believe that —[Interruption.] I was delighted to give way to a Front-Bench London Member, the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). I do not think that we want to hear any more about London's education from the west country.

Those of my colleagues who have put this set of clauses through the House must remember one thing — that there will be a campaign of lying, hypocrisy and double dealing aimed at the people of London. I simply ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State this: what steps will he take to stop ILEA spending the ratepayers' money, as the GLC did, on political campaigns against the measure? He has a responsibility, which I know he will accept, to keep the limited amount of money that is there for London's education, limited because of the extravagance of ILEA. That money should be used on education, not on falsehoods in pamphlets. My right hon. Friend must make it clear that the stories now being put about that adult education, music education and special schools are under threat are a complete—

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

In a moment.

Mr. Bruce

It is important.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

I know it is important, but occasionally one must try to help hon. Members understand things.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State must try to get over the point that we must be certain that the truth is heard by the parents of London. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that he makes it clear beyond peradventure that those three subjects above all else—what I call the non-primary and secondary subjects—will not suffer as a result of the proposals? I do not believe that they will suffer, and my right hon. Friend does not, but the other parties in the House will try to spread those stories. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take that point on board.

10.54 pm
Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)

In introducing his timetable the Secretary of State told us that he is being exceptionally generous in allowing additional time for debate. I beg to differ. The time that he is allocating for major consideration of a major change to a major Bill is grossly insufficient for two reasons. First, it faiis to give parents and other people of inner London sufficient time in which to make their views known and to have their views and opinions taken while the Government draw up the details of the measure.

The Government have no democratic mandate for the proposal. The proposal was announced in public only two weeks ago. We are told that it will pass through all its stages in the course of the next four or five weeks. That is totally insufficient time properly to consult and canvass the views and opinions of parents in my constituency and in all other constituencies in inner London, to make sure that what the Government are doing, or are not doing, is in accordance with their wishes.

Secondly, the advocated timetable is grossly insufficient for consideration of the detailed and complex issues that arise out of the Government's decision to abolish the Inner London education authority. I shall give one or two examples of such considerations, because they affect my constituents and their children. They are weighty matters that should form part of the House's consideration. The next four or five weeks are not sufficient time in which to get them right. Some of them have been touched on, but not in detail, in the course of our earlier discussions today.

First, how will the financing of education in schools in my area be organised after abolition? As my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) mentioned, many boroughs — mine included — gain from the present redistributive mechanism of ILEA funding. Quite rightly and totally justifiably, ILEA has always been a mechanism whereby richer boroughs in the centre of London subsidise education in poorer boroughs. My borough benefits considerably. Its contribution to the ILEA budget is £44 million a year. However, it derives £73 million of benefit from the ILEA budget. That is a £29 million gain for the parents, children and students of Islington from the existence of ILEA.

The Secretary of State told us that there will be an assessment of the social and educational needs of each borough when an assessment is made of what sort of financial mechanism shall be established to redistribute funds among boroughs after abolition. But if the present Government's record of making assessments of need, and their record in relation to local government, with grant-related expenditure assessments are anything to go by, even Conservative-controlled boroughs in London find the grant-related expenditure assessments grossly insufficient to meet people's needs. Will the Government use the same sort of bases for establishing educational need when the Inner London education authority is abolished? We need the answers to those questions before we can properly decide on measures for abolition. So far, the Secretary of State has given us no confidence that such proper mechanisms will be in place.

Secondly, we have to ask the Secretary of State where the secondary school children will go. There has been much talk from Conservative Members about secondary school children. There are insufficient secondary school places within the borough boundaries of Islington to accommodate the needs of all the secondary schoolchildren of Islington. That means that secondary school pupils from Islington will have to be placed in schools outside the Islington area. What mechanisms will be established to enable that to happen? What guarantee do the parents of children in Islington have that they will be able to find a school place of their choice? The Government are in favour of open enrolment and I should like to know how that will operate across borough boundaries once the boroughs, rather than ILEA, will be the education authorities.

The third question to which we need an answer before we can make a final assessment of the package of measures in the Bill is, what will happen to further education establishments? I take as an example the north London college, which is based in my constituency. It provides an extremely good service to the 4,041 students who attend it, of whom only 1,615 come from the borough of Islington. The remaining 2,400 come from a variety of boroughs, mainly from other inner-London education boroughs but some from Barnet, Brent, Enfield and even from Hertfordshire.

Therefore, students at the north London college come from a wide catchment area. Who will finance the north London college? What sort of joint arrangements will be made between the boroughs to ensure the pooling of resources to provide a good quality further education service in each of the 24 further education establishments that exist in the ILEA area? What sort of pooling arrangements will there be for students to ensure that proper choice can be available to them so that they can choose the courses that are most suited to their needs?

The principal of north London college wrote only two days ago to the leader of ILEA expressing her concern about the Government's proposals and stating: Currently there is much co-operation between the 24 FE colleges on curricular and other levels—rationalisation and effective allocation of resources is relatively easy. The tertiary submissions, amended, need to be re-presented on a wider than borough basis. The importance of looking at further education on a cross-borough basis is absolutely crucial. However, at the moment there are no firm proposals from the Government to take account of that point.

The same applies to special education. I have a particular concern with special education, having been for 10 years a governor of Colebrooke school for maladjusted children in my constituency. It is one of the finest special schools — not only in London, but anywhere in the world. It has an outstandingly high reputation, as do the other two special schools that are in my constituency. All three draw pupils from a wide range of areas, not just from within the borough of Islington.

It is not good enough for the Minister of State to say as she did in a passing remark in her summing-up of the debate on the earlier motion, "We shall be looking at the question of special education." Well, I should hope so. However, before we make concrete decisions on what will be in the Bill, we need concrete proposals about safeguarding the future of special education for inner-London children on a cross-borough basis. We have no such concrete proposal from the Government at present. So long as that is the case and so long as we have only another four or five weeks of consideration ahead of us, we can have no confidence that proper arrangements will be made when the Bill leaves the House.

Doubtless the Government will reiterate, as they have done today, as they draw up plans for improvements for schools, for funding the 24 further education colleges properly and for being a world leader in standards for special education, that the Inner London education authority is being profligate and must therefore be disbanded. I beg to differ. Indeed, parents and students in my constituency also beg to differ.

Whenever my constituents have written to me, spoken to me, visited my surgery or attended public meetings on this issue, they have said that they want the Inner London education authority to stay. Of course they have criticisms of ILEA. Every education authority can be criticised on some grounds. However, my constituents see the need for ILEA's strategic cross-borough role and the need for substantial levels of spending in inner London. They recognise the need to preserve the standards that the authority achieves at the moment.

The Government's attitude reminds me of a passage in a Berthold Brecht play: The Government have decided that the people are wrong, and the people must therefore be disbanded. That is precisely the Government's attitude towards the Inner London education authority. The people of inner London, and the people in my constituency do not want ILEA to be disbanded. They do not want the Government's proposals to go forward and they certainly do not want the proposals to be carried out in the unseemly rush of the next four or five weeks, which is all that the motion allows us.

11.6 pm

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) asked what benefits the Education Reform Bill would bring to the children in a particular school in his constituency. It will result in a more successful and cost-effective education system. We have heard about ILEA expenditure. Opposition Members told us that education expenditure in inner London had to be higher because of the problems of London. However, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy figures show that ILEA is a financial juggernaut running out of all control, with a record of profligacy that is unprecedented in the history of local government in this country.

If we examine ILEA expenditure, we find that in every respect it is far greater than the expenditure in outer London boroughs. What justification can ILEA have for energy costs in primary schools that are 50 per cent. higher than those in similar schools in outer London? What justification is there for administrative costs in primary schools in ILEA being 89 per cent. greater than those in similar schools in outer-London boroughs? What justification is there for costs for premises-related staff—whoever they may be—being 95 per cent. greater in ILEA than in outer-London boroughs? What justification is there for the costs for educational support staff in secondary schools in ILEA being 250 per cent. greater than in outer-London boroughs? ILEA's whole record shows that it spends far more money than other education authorities in London.

Some Opposition Members will claim that ILEA's higher expenditure reflects in part inner-London weighting. I have examined the expenditure of the authorities that also pay inner-London weighting, such as Haringey, with which the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) was once associated, and Brent. ILEA's costs are 31 per cent. higher than Brent's, and no one has ever put Brent forward as an example of financial rectitude. ILEA's costs are also 22 per cent. higher than those in Haringey, whose high expenditure is only too well known.

The results are quite appalling. We are being told that ILEA results cannot be compared with those enjoyed by the London borough of Barnet. Of course, supporters of ILEA would not want that comparison, because our results in Barnet are so much better. But shall we compare the results of ILEA with those of areas that might be described as socially deprived, such as Sunderland, Wigan or St. Helen's? Why did only 16.2 per cent. of children leave ILEA schools with five or more O-levels, while in St. Helen's the figure is 22 per cent. and in Wigan it is 29.9 per cent.?

We were told by the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), who has now left the Chamber, that Strathclyde, not ILEA, is the largest education authority in the country. What he could have told us was that Strathclyde produced even worse results than ILEA: 25 per cent. of pupils leave Strathclyde schools with no passes at all.

It is plain that the larger education authorities are not at all successful. In the 16 years in which I was a London borough councillor, I discovered that the borough council was responsive to the needs of the ratepayers and the consumers of its services, and county hall was not. The previous Conservative Government got rid of county hall, and I believe that by getting rid of ILEA the present Government are doing a great deal for education in inner London.

Let us look at ILEA's record with its headmasters. Many left because they became tired of its constant interference with their work. Between 1981 and 1985. 137 head teachers left the service of ILEA, preferring premature retirement to the constant interference of Ms. Frances Morrell. When Lawrie Norcross, one of ILEA's most distinguished headmasters, chose early retirement, he did so simply because he was fed up with the constant interference by its bureaucrats and politicians. He wanted an authority that put results and standards first, but he was working for an authority that put questions of racism and sexism before the results of its children.

During the general election, we heard many Opposition Members talk about the plight of the inner cities. That plight is caused by bad education. If the children of inner London are to have the future that we all want for them, they must have the basis of a decent education. ILEA has failed them. It has failed all the people who live in inner London. We want it abolished so that the children of inner London may have a chance to succeed where they have failed historically.

Labour Members tell us that the inner-London boroughs are not suitable to be education authorities. I have heard the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) make the odd interjection from a sedentary position today, but I have never heard him say that Newham should not be an education authority. I have never heard any London Labour Member say that Barking or Dagenham — which have all the social problems of Tower Hamlets and Hackney—should not be education authorities. If it is right for Newham, if it is right for Barking, if it is—

Mr. Tony Banks

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the London borough of Newham wanted to opt into ILEA?

Mr. Marshall

That shows how misguided it can be. But we have not heard much from Labour spokesmen historically about how Barking or Newham should opt into ILEA.

We have seen other small London boroughs—such as Kingston, which is well known to my hon. Friend the Minister of State—provide a first-rate education service. I believe that the inner-London boroughs as a whole will do jolly well when they provide their own education service and get rid of the constant and unnecessary interference from county hall.

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

Rarely has a Bill been less well thought out, had less consultation and had more of an attempt by the Government to rush it to the statute book. As the Bill has gone through the House, Ministers have learnt much more about education. It is sad that they have been such slow learners. Their learning curve does not fit either the guillotined time or the extra time found by way of the motion.

Anyone who has followed the proceedings in Committee will have seen clear evidence that the Government have chopped and changed and have discovered only as the Bill has proceeded what they are actually proposing. It emerged in Committee just how long it would take for the national curriculum to be in place. It will take at least 10 years, and it will not be until 2010 that pupils will be following the national curriculum for the whole of their time through school.

As for testing, the Secretary of State admitted how much he had learnt about testing in the six months since the general election. The report of the task group on assessment and testing, which I think the Secretary of State accepts, made it quite clear that it will not be possible to have Baker merit awards for seven-year-olds who do well, and it certainly will not be possible for the Boyson detention camps to be used in the summer holidays for those who do badly.

Financial devolution is laudable, but the Secretary of State has not really thought about the need to give staff a reassurance that, when financial devolution comes to schools, their conditions of service will be guaranteed. On the whole question of opted-out schools, the Minister was muddled and confused about whether schools would be able to have collections to pay for extra teachers. Even yesterday, when higher education was discussed in Committee, the Secretary of State seemed considerably confused when trying to reconcile his press handout and his careful weasel words about the concessions that he was making.

Over ILEA, the confusion has been massive. The thrust of the Government's cause is that ILEA is far too expensive. However, we had no information at all from the Government about how much money they will save as a result of the abolition of ILEA. The Secretary of State must tell us on what his financial considerations are based. How much money does he expect to save, and what will he do about the present cross-borough subsidisation? Until he can give some indication of the financial implications of the proposals, it is totally unreasonable to proceed with the legislation. A case built on the argument that the proposals will save money and in which no figures are provided is totally dishonest.

Neither the Secretary of State nor his colleagues have given any answers about what will happen over money transferred from the rich to the poor boroughs. He has not addressed himself to the chaos that will face schools in areas such as Hackney and Lambeth and in other parts of London.

Let us first consider the Education Act 1986. It will change governing bodies so that next autumn there will be new governing bodies. The staff in the schools will have to consider the implications of the national curriculum and of testing. They must start to grapple with the financial management of schools. There might even be a referendum in their schools about opting out.

Imposed on all those matters is the abolition of ILEA. The advisers that schools might turn to for guidance on the national curriculum, testing, financial management or opting out will all be uncertain about their future. For two years the Government will guarantee total upheaval in the schools, yet the whole thrust of the Bill is to improve standards in our schools. I cannot see one jot of evidence that over the next four years any of the promises to improve standards in inner-London schools can be kept. There will be administrative chaos, and parents, staff and pupils will be disillusioned.

The timetable gives no indication of how much time we will need for the Government's proposals on charges. They keep promising that the new clauses on charges will be given to the House, but so far we have not seen them. The Secretary of State says that the Opposition will be pleased with the clauses about charges. I shall be surprised if we are pleased. That is yet one further piece of evidence that the Government have not thought out this legislation before they brought it to the House.

The Government should address themselves to the problems in education, such as the need for youngsters to get off to a good start with good nursery education, which is available to many children in ILEA but not in many other parts of the country. They should have addressed themselves to the problems facing 16 to 19-year-olds, for whom it is financially more attractive to leave school and go on to a YTS course than it is to stay at school to obtain good examination results and benefit from education. Those are the problems that should have been addressed by this legislation.

It is not adequate to offer the House two further days to debate ILEA, and two more days to sort out the mess and muddle in the Bill. It is not only time in the House that is required but time in the country. More important, it is a question of the Government having time to sort out their ideas so that they can come forward with credible proposals. At this stage, the Government should take the Bill away, delete large chunks of it and come back next year with a modest measure that would genuinely improve education standards and not produce chaos in ILEA in the short term and chaos in many of our schools for the next 10 years.

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

I would contest the suggestion that we do not give a generous allocation of time to Opposition Members. In addition to the other debates, we propose a further 16 hours of debate in Committee on the clauses relating to ILEA and a full day on the Floor of the House on Report. We have tabled our amendments in good time to allow full consideration of these matters.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) talked about ILEA's staff fighting to retain their jobs in the next two years. This afternoon, my right hon. Friend made it quite plain that over 80 per cent. of those employed by ILEA will be transferred by order to the employment of borough local education authorities. Many of the remainder will find posts with the new authorities. We are setting up a staff commission to help with this process. It is quite irresponsible of the Opposition to suggest otherwise. Sadly, that has been typical of their unwillingness to face facts.

The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) seems to be completely unaware of the way in which many pupils cross borough boundaries every day in outer London, as do many students attending further education colleges. Nothing will hamper that happening within inner London when the new education authorities are set up. There have been no difficulties in outer London. If anything, it gives greater choice to parents in outer-London boroughs, and I suspect it will have the same effect in inner London.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

As the Bill was first drafted, parents' rights on open enrolment would have applied to all the inner-London education area. Will those rights now simply be limited to the borough in which parents live?

Mrs. Rumbold

It will depend entirely on the locality of the school and whether the criteria that apply to those schools are different from those that exist at present. ILEA uses artificial boundaries and limits on its schools and bands children. That is something that few authorities do. Parents within ILEA will have better choice through open enrolment and there will be less discrimination against parental wishes than at present. Further education colleges will continue to cater for students from all the other boroughs in the same way as further education colleges in outer London and other metropolitan areas. They operate on a system of recruitment from various different boroughs.

The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) asked about the expense of ILEA. He asked how the Government could expect a reduction in expense if ILEA is disbanded and education is run by borough authorities. I should explain that the Conservative boroughs of Wandsworth, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea all provide personal social services to their residents within the grant-related expenditure allocated to them by the Government. They also manage to reflect the extra needs of their inner-London areas. I see no reason why, when the boroughs acquire education as a service, they should not be able to provide efficient and effective education. The boroughs will certainly be much more responsible locally to the needs of the children and to the requirements of the parents. If properly managed, I suggest that the education service could be provided at considerably less expense than currently under the two-tier system operated by ILEA.

It is a very odd argument for Opposition Members to say that it is all right for boroughs in outer London to run education, and it matters not whether those boroughs are Conservative or Labour-controlled, but it would not be suitable for boroughs in inner London to run education. I fail to see the logic of that, in the same way as I fail to see the logic expressed by Liberal and alliance Members who seem to think that people in Richmond are competent to run education but people in Tower Hamlets are not, in spite of the fact that both boroughs are Liberal-controlled.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) was right to point out that a campaign is likely to be mounted against the Government's plans for the disbandment of ILEA and the return of education to the boroughs. Such a campaign would affect all the people who live within inner London. I greatly doubt whether, at the end of the day, it will be much more effective than the millions of pounds which were squandered on the scurrilous campaign run by the Greater London council—

Mr. Tony Banks

I can assure the hon. Lady that, while the campaign will be strident, it will be mounted by the parents of inner London because no parents in inner London support the Government's proposals. Of course, the hon. Lady will ignore them.

Mrs. Rumbold

It will be interesting to see what happens. If ILEA spends money on a campaign to whip up support from the parents, those who will be deprived of the benefits of that money will be the children who are being educated in the Inner London education authority area.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

While the Minister is on the subject, perhaps she will tell us exactly how much money is being spent by the Department of Education and Science on promoting the nonsense proposals to break up ILEA under the guise of so-called information. She is so good at criticising local authorities which are spending money on providing information within the terms of the Local Government Act 1985 that I think Parliament deserves to know—

It being one hour after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Order [1 February].

Question agreed to.

Resolved, That the Order of 1st February be varied by substituting, for paragraphs 1 and 2(1), the following:—

'Committee 1. — (1) The Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on or before 8th March 1988. (2) Proceedings on the Bill at a sitting of the Standing Committee on the said 8th March may continue until Ten p.m., whether or not the House is adjourned before that time, and if the House is adjourned before those proceedings have been brought to a conclusion the Standing Committee shall report the Bill to the House on 9th March.

Report and Third Reading 2. — (1) The proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in four allotted days and shall be brought to a conclusion at Ten o'clock on the last of those days; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 80 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the proceedings on Consideration such part of those days as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.'