HC Deb 18 July 1988 vol 137 cc816-48

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 1, line 17, leave out from "them" to "with" in line 18 and insert by this Chapter with respect to religious education, religious worship and the National Curriculum".

Read a Second time.

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)

I beg to move amendment (a) to the proposed Lords amendment, after "by" insert 'an Order made by the Secretary of State under'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment (b) to the proposed Lords amendment, after 'education', insert 'and'.

Amendment (c) to the proposed Lords amendment, after 'worship', insert 'in respect of each local authority area'. Lords amendment No. 2, in clause 2, page 2, line 2, leave out from beginning to "in" in line 6 and insert.

'(b) for the purpose of introducing any form of selection by ability at the school; or

(c) or the purpose of introducing any fees for educational provisions at the school, beyond that provided for under sections 95 to 100 below'.

Lords amendments Nos. 227, 476, 480 and 557.

Mr. Straw

Amendment (a) and the linked amendments provide that the arrangements written into the Bill for religious education and worship in each local authority area will come into effect by order by the Secretary of State as he becomes satisfied about them.

We have just under two hours in which to debate a crucial part of our public and national life. When religious education and worship were last discussed in the House on 23 March, I said: I accept the importance of religious worship and education in schools". I went on to say: We can have no understanding of our history and culture unless we understand that we have a Christian tradition."—[Official Report, 23 March 1988; Vol. 130, c. 418.] I was expressing my personal view. This issue cannot and never should be a party issue. The Opposition have already made it clear that there is no Whip and that Opposition Members are free to vote as their consciences dictates.

I also said that we would do well to remember that one part of the United Kingdom—Northern Ireland—has a capacity for great religious tension and strife. That point was underlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot). I said that we must remember how easily religious division can turn into tribal destructiveness; that there was a fine and delicate balance between the two.

In the Education Act 1944 Rab Butler did two things that guaranteed him a place in our history. First, the Act established a system of free education based upon principles of equality of opportunity. Secondly, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent said, the Act secured a settlement in the great and divisive argument about the role of the Church and religion in schools. It may be trite to say that the 1944 settlement has stood the test of time, but it has. That is the considered view of the Opposition and it has also been the considered view of the Government. In the 1985 White Paper, "Better Schools", Lord Joseph, then Secretary of State for Education and Science, said: the Government has no plans to propose changes in the provisions of the Education Act 1944 relating to religious education and collective worship in schools, provisions which have stood the test of time. I hope that we shall see the Secretary of State in his place to hear this important debate. The consultative document, published last July, said that the Secretary of State has no plans, therefore, to propose changes in what the law requires in respect of religious education. Speaking for the Government in the House of Lords in February this year, the Earl of Arran said: That schools in this country have successfully provided religious education and worship for many years is, I think, a testimony not only to the success of the Education Act but also to the tolerance and understanding of the British people in overcoming the barriers of different faiths and denominations. He went to to say—a point that I shall put to the Secretary of State in this debate: Evidence from Her Majesty's Inspectors shows very clearly that, generally, Christianity is still at the core of religious education in our schools … We would not wish to see a situation where children in maintained schools are divided into separate acts of worship for different religious groups."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 26 February 1988; Vol. 493, c. 1483–85.] That was the considered view of the Government and of the Secretary of State earlier this year. It was also a view that was repeated by the Secretary of State in our very good and constructive debate in the House on 23 March. He said: The 1944 Act got the balance right."—[Official Report, 23 March 1988; Vol. 130, c. 422.] I agree with that, and the whole House agrees with that.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to describe some modest amendments to the structure of the 1944 settlement. He said that religious education should be defined statutorily before the core and foundation subjects. He said that he would wish to strengthen the arrangements for a locally agreed syllabus. My clear recollection and reading of his remarks in that debate is that he proposed no significant changes to the structure of religious worship in schools. That arrangement was acceptable to both sides of the House and there were no Divisions on that occasion.

In the same debate the view was expressed that a requirement that teaching and worship should be Christian should be written into the Bill. A separate view was expressed that not only that concept but, more specifically, the notion of the scriptures should be written into the Bill. On 23 March, the Secretary of State resisted that proposition. I believe that he was correct to do so then and that the House would be right to do so tonight.

We are a multi-cultural multi-faith, multi-religious and multi-denominational community, and we were even before the arrival of Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities in this country. Although the debate about the inclusion of the word "Christian" within a legal framework for religious education in a country with a Christian tradition may seem casuistical, the decision whether to incude those words raises profound issues of tolerance and questions about how we treat people who have different faiths from our own. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] I hear some hon. Members saying "Rubbish". It is those who take one view and seek to rubbish the views of others who have been the cause of religious strife arid intolerance in this country, which some of us thought we had dealt with in 1944 and again on 23 March. I hope that we do not hear any more such abuse of one view by people with another view during the debate.

When discussing such a sensitive issue, we should judge what should become law not by what is suitable for ourselves but by what is suitable for others, who may disagree with us. Those of us who regularly go to church know that we are in a minority. Those of us who take our children to church know that we are in an even smaller minority. We may regret that, but it is the truth. We must be careful about imposing our approach to family life and religion upon others. I think that that was the view taken by the Secretary of State on 23 March. It was certainly the view taken by the House of Lords in Committee on 3 May.

The Lord Bishop of London, with the support of the Government and the Opposition, sought to write into law the arrangement in respect of religious education that the Secretary of State had described on 23 March. Baroness Hooper said: I am glad to be able to say that they"— the amendments— have our wholehearted support. I know also that they have the full support of the leaders of the Catholic and Methodist Churches. Today we have heard that they have the support of the noble Lord the Chief Rabbi. I am sure that the Committee will agree that his ecumenical unanimity is a most welcome development."—[Official Report. House of Lords, 3 May 1988; Vol. 496, c. 431.] Unfortunately, that was not the end of the matter. Baroness Cox and Lord Thorneycroft were entitled to their view. It is now a matter of public record that they decided that they wished the word Christian to be written into the Bill as a requirement in respect of religious 'education and worship. We know that they had the support of Professor Brian Griffiths and the Prime Minister. Baroness Cox is entitled to her view. She at least has the merit of having been consistent in this matter, although many hon. Members may find Lord Thorneycroft's latter-day conversion on the issue of religious education and worship strange. Days were spent on this issue as Baroness Cox and Lord Thorneycroft sought to impose what I regard as an intolerant structure in the law and prescribe that worship should be Christian.

I respect their views but they have failed to respect the views of other people, including people of the Christian faith. They have failed to take into account those of no faith, those of other faiths and those who may have begun to have doubts about their faith.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

I have known for many years that the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) is most sincere in what he says. Is he aware, however, that he is taking an extremely dangerous line? Such arguments have almost led to the eclipse of religious education in schools. The argument that one should not teach Christianity for fear of offending people of other faiths has meant that there has been almost no Christian religious education in schools.

Mr. Straw

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I say that that is a complete perversion of the position that I have taken. It shows the danger of intolerance in this respect. I said at the outset, and I say again, that I accept the importance of religious worship and education in schools. I made that point clearly on 23 March as well. It does not raise a difficulty for me, because I am a Christian and I raise my children in the Christian tradition. The problem for those of us who wish for a tolerant society is how far we impose our views on other people. Some of us should think about that carefully. I also said then: We can have no understanding of our history and culture unless we understand that we have a Christian tradition."—[Official Report, 23 March 1988; Vol. 130, c. 418.] I accept that, broadly, included in religious education and worship ought to be an acknowledgement that we are a Christian country. The question is how far we write that into the law and when we do so, how we deal with people of other faiths—Jewish, Moslem or Hindu—or of no faith at all.

I do not accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) that Christianity has departed from religious education and worship in our schools. That is not my experience with my children in an ILEA school and it is not the experience of Her Majesty's Ministers. I quote again the Earl of Arran, speaking on behalf of the Government on 26 February. He said: Evidence from Her Majesty's Inspectors shows very clearly that, generally, Christianity is still at the core of general education in our schools."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 26 February 1988; Vol. 493, c. 1485.] It is no good the hon. Member for Ealing, North saying that my views are dangerous, because those views were accepted by the House on 23 March. There is some ambiguity in the law, but there has to be because there is a fine balance between securing a curriculum which reflects our country's Christian tradition and going overboard and seeking to impose that on people who do not have that faith. On 23 March, the Secretary of State arrived at the correct balance and we already know—and I can give quotations in support of this—that the structure that has been agreed in the other place, and on which we are now having a short debate, is unsettling and destabilising to the 1944 settlement.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Does my hon. Friend remember that in Committee, when this narrow approach was put forward by the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs), I pointed out that we are a multi-faith society and that the narrow approach that he was suggesting would antagonise those of other faiths—Hindus, Moslems and so on—who in time would need their own schools? To his credit, the Secretary of State also opposed that narrow position. He did not use the language that I have used, because he was speaking to his own people, but he did not agree with it, and I see that he is not rising to say that he agrees with it now.

Mr. Straw

That is true. Both the Secretary of State and the Minister of State supported the approach that we are now taking.

Mr. Simon Coombs (Wyre Forest)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the provisions of the Education Act 1944 were such as to lead to the possible interpretation both that the standing advisory conference on further education should not contain any non-Christian beliefs and that the religious education curriculum should not contain any non-religious beliefs either? Specifically, Lords amendments Nos. 10 and 11 strengthen non-Christian religious education and the act of collective worship in schools for non-Christians.

Mr. Straw

I am not arguing about the strengthening of the role or the composition of the standing advisory council on religious education in each area—not the standing advisory conference on further education. I have already said that we support the arrangements that the Secretary of State flagged out when he spoke on 23 March. Our concern is about the Baroness Cox arrangements, which were forced on the other place, to write into the Bill that teaching should be Christian. That imposes a duty that many people who have to teach religious education in schools do not want of adjudicating and invigilating on exceptions area by area, class by class and pupil by pupil. I refer the hon. Gentleman to Lords amendment No. 15. Unfortunately, what was agreed—in this House after a sensible debate, in Committee, and, on 3 May, in the other place—was not the end of the matter. For days and weeks, Baroness Cox and Lord Thorneycroft waged a guerrilla campaign in the other place with the full support of the Prime Minister.

The final outcome is not as unsatisfactory as it might have been, and I pay tribute to the Bishop of London and peers on both sides who did their best to retrieve the situation. However, it is still unsatisfactory, and that needs to be made clear. A sign of that is that no one who was involved in putting together that compromise—for that is what it was—and to whom I have spoken has told me that that is a structure that they would wish. However, that is the best that they could get away with in the face of pressure from Lord Thorneycroft, Baroness Cox and those behind her.

5.15 pm

A subject as sensitive as this—the structure of religious education and worship that the country has to follow—should not be consequential on a deal struck in an unelected Chamber by people whom I regard as being over-zealous in their approach to religious education, to put it at its lowest. It should be unacceptable for such a change in the structure to be written into the Bill without any possibility of amendment in this House. We shall not even have the opportunity to vote amendment by amendment on what was decided in the other place. The House could approve of some of those amendments, but we wish to vote against some others. All the amendments are to be put by the Chair at one go, at 6.45, and we have literally to take it or leave it.

I have explained why the compromise is unsatisfactory. Lords amendment No. 10 says that religious worship should be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character. Lords amendment No. 15 says that the standing advisory councils should be given powers to allow exemptions of a school, class or group of pupils. The previous system was a little ambiguous, but it worked well. I have already quoted the view of the Earl of Arran in the other place. He quoted Her Majesty's inspectors. A week ago, we learnt from The Guardian that a report on religious education and worship by the inspectorate has apparently got lost or been suppressed. I offer the Secretary of State a chance to intervene to tell us what has happened to that report. Why was it not published? Why did the House not have the benefit of seeing whatever it said—good, bad or indifferent?

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

The hon. Gentleman knows the constitutional proprieties. It is entirely up to the senior chief inspector to decide which report is published, at what time it is to be published and the content of the report. I do not interfere in that.

Mr. Straw

I know the proprieties, but surely it is possible for the Secretary of State to send a minute to the senior chief inspector to ask that the report be published. Could not the Secretary of State have asked for that?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman should appreciate that one of the great strengths of our system is that the inspectorate is independent. It can report on anything that it wishes in the school system. It can report on any school or on any curriculum activity. Ministers of the day do not interfere. That is the established position. They are Her Majesty's inspectors.

Mr. Straw

I understand the proprieties, but we are all grown up lads and lasses here. I also understand that the history of the publication of the annual HMI report on the quality of education, over the past seven years, shows that the date has been directly related to whether there has been a general election in the offing. Ministers have some control over the publication of such reports. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson), the Under-Secretary, is giving us a rum smile. We should have had that report. The Secretary of State's explanation is not satisfactory.

The previous evidence, according to those who had bothered to look at it, was that the old system was satisfactory and had stood the test of time. It was a little ambiguous, but we need ambiguity if tolerance is to be preserved. The new arrangement, forced into the Bill without any adequate discussion in the House, may well be a recipe for local conflict. That is one reason why the arrangements in amendment (a)—I hope that the Secretary of State agrees that amendment (a) is acceptable—should be introduced by order, area by area, and after a long gestation period.

We are also deeply unhappy about the whole structure of this aspect of the Bill. If it was not appropriate to write "Christian" into the Bill in 1944, when the country was overwhelmingly Christian, it is surely even less appropriate to do so today.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Surely that remark is not terribly profound. In 1944 it was taken for granted that this was a Christian society. There have been many changes since then and if we wish to acknowledge that this is a Christian society and that our civilisation is based on Christianity, it is necessary to write it into the Bill.

Mr. Straw

On the contrary, we should not confuse churches and schools. Children should be brought up to recognise that we have a Christian tradition in this country and to recognise the importance and power of faith, but Christianity and individual churches will survive in this country only on the basis of what they do, not what they write into the law for schools to do. That is a profound difference. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent referred to the desperate trouble caused in England in 1944. What does the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) think that 1688 was about? It was about resolving a great religious conflict that had torn the country apart for two centuries.

Subsequently, in 1944, there was an understanding of the need to be careful and to provide some ambiguity in the law to prevent religious intolerance breaking out aga:in. That view was accepted in the House just three months ago. What has changed, apart from the pressures that have been brought to bear by Downing street and Baroness Cox in the other place?

Mr. Spearing

Would my hon. Friend include the years 1900 to 1906 in his comments? At that time, people went to prison for refusing to pay rates and there was considerable community disruption as a result. Does he further agree that, contrary to what the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), whom I respect, said, under the amendments, all non-church and non-voluntary schools will produce Christianity as a state religion? Those who do not attend voluntary schools, where the Church of England may make what arrangements it likes, will now be subject to a regime to which they were not subject under the 1944 Act.

Mr. Straw

My hon. Friend is right, and I hope that the House will take note of his comments, as his devotion as a Methodist is well known.

Mr. Conal Gregory (York)

By agreeing with his hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), does the hon. Gentleman not confirm that the Labour party wants disestablishment or denationalisation of the Church? I should like to hear what evidence Opposition Front-Bench Members have to show that there is any conformity with the 1944 Act, because, in York, that is certainly not the case. No school there currently complies with the Act.

Mr. Straw

First, I stress that I am speaking personally. The Labour party has no policy on this issue. We regard it as a matter of conscience. I hope that the Conservative party does, too, if there is any spirit of tolerance left in that party. Secondly, the comments of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Gregory) are confounded by what Her Majesty's inspectors said, which was quoted with approval by the Earl of Arran in February. Thirdly, if there is a lack of conformity in this area, that could be dealt with perfectly adequately through the arrangements agreed by this House on 23 March to strengthen the standing advisory council. The Secretary of State accepted that view.

Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath)

Will my hon. Friend remind the hon. Member for York (Mr. Gregory) that he is incorrect in his comments about the Labour party? Will he remind him that the Church in Wales, which is part of the Anglican communion, is already disestablished? The problem does not, therefore, arise.

Mr. Straw

I regard that as an inappropriate and unfortunate change. It has already unsettled and caused concern to Moslems. The National Moslem Education Council, meeting after the House of Lords had concluded its deliberations on 9 July, expressed concern about the changes made there and about what it described as a serious situation. It also expressed strong feelings about the need for other changes to be written into the Bill, which will not now be written into the Bill, if those changes were to go ahead.

We should certainly take note of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales because it has the job of delivering this part of the law. It takes the view that this is not the appropriate way to proceed. When it was asked to comment on the Secretary of State's consultative paper last July, it said that it would be better to leave the 1944 settlement where it was. Mr. Brian Gates, chairman of the council, has authorised me to quote him as saying: We are apprehensive about amendment (15) which makes specific requirements for Christian collective worship". The council is also concerned about the standing advisory council's duty to invigilate and adjudicate upon applications to opt out.

This afternoon, we are asked to abandon a major plank of the 1944 settlement. When the House of Lords was considering the matter, it spent weeks on it. We are asked to secure that abandonment in less than two hours. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South expressing equal concern about that, whatever his personal views on the issue.

Mr. Cormack

I did not vote for the guillotine.

Mr. Straw

Such major and important changes should be made only after lengthy and careful deliberation. None of that has been possible here. For that reason alone, whatever hon. Members' views on the merits of the issue, we should reject the amendments from the other place and revert to a system that has, as the Secretary of State said less than three months ago, stood the test of time. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will join me in the Lobbies tonight.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

I ask the House not to pass the amendment, but I appreciate that it has been moved to initiate a debate on this important group of amendments. I wish to explain the Government's view on the matter and where we stand now that the Bill and the amendments have come back from the other place.

Some hon. Members may recall that, in my Third Reading speech three months ago, I said that I could not recall a previous debate on religious education in my 20 years in the House. The fact that we have a second debate during the passage of the Bill shows the importance that hon. Members attach to the matter, and I welcome that.

The general inattention given to religious education and worship in past years has contributed to their decline in schools. The provisions contained in the Bill constitute a major step in reversing that decline and in ensuring that religious education and worship have a real value and meaning in schools.

Mr. Spearing

The Government cannot do it by law.

Mr. Baker

The 1944 Act did not seek to do it by law.

The amendments included in the Bill in another place have their roots in two separate, though linked, concerns. The first is to ensure that religious education is established as a central element in the basic curriculum of all maintained schools. The second is to secure that proper regard is paid to our nation's Christian heritage and traditions, in the content of both religious education and collective worship.

I strongly resist the implication of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) that that leads to a degree of intolerance. There are many safeguards in the amendment that ensure against intolerance. No. hon. Members would support the intolerant imposition of one faith or one denomination in our schools or society.

5.30 pm

The Government have sought all along to ensure that religious education is not devalued or marginalised as a result of our proposals for the national curriculum. Measures were therefore introduced in the Bill from the outset to strengthen the position of religious education. The hon. Member for Blackburn implied that this had happened rather late in the day, but he was generous enough to recognise when the Bill was originally introduced as well as in Committee and on Report that we have sought to strengthen the position of religious education, placing an obligation on head teachers, local education authorities and governing bodies to ensure that it takes place. Following discussions with Church leaders, a famous agreement was reached earlier this year on a package of further strengthening measures, which I was able to announce to the House on Third Reading, and hon. Members were as one in welcoming the changes agreed. The changes, which were introduced into the Bill in another place by the Bishop of London, placed religious education firmly alongside the core and other foundation subjects but, in effect as primus inter pares. Religious education will thus be part of the basic curriculum for all pupils, alongside the national curriculum.

To oversee the provision of religious education in schools, the amendments provide for standing advisory councils for religious education to be compulsory in all local education authorities. Some already exist, having been set up following the 1944 Act, but some have fallen into disuse. Authorities will be required to review their agreed syllabuses for religious education when asked to do so by their standing advisory council. The amendments ensure that within the broad statutory framework the content of religious education will be determined locally. I emphasise that there is no question of imposition of religious education by the Government or from the centre. The amendments also preserve the existing local agreed syllabus arrangements which the churches and the Government value and wish to retain. It is important that these matters have been satisfactorily resolved with the agreement of all concerned. The House should be in no doubt that the Government now intend to ensure that the new statutory provisions are properly adhered to.

With regard to the Christian content of religious education and collective worship, the remaining amendments introduced in another place have addressed the nature both of religious education and of collective worship. Here I acknowledge that the debate has moved on. These are questions which raise fundamental issues of conscience and I fully recognise that hon. Members in all parts of the House will have strongly held views and will wish to vote as they see fit on these matters. Nevertheless, it is important to set out the Government's position. Our position is quite clear. We fully support the amendments introduced into the Bill by the Bishop of London. I have had extensive consultations with him in the past few months as well as with representatives of other faiths and religions in this country. In our view, the amendments confirm the intention of the 1944 Act in recognising the rightful place of Christianity within the religious education provided in schools.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

How extensive were the consultations with teachers, and is the Secretary of State satisfied that there are sufficient teachers to carry out the provisions? Will he explain the implications for the many agnostics and atheists who have been happy to carry out the religious education requirements of the 1944 Act but who are uncertain whether they are to be excluded from this area of education in the future?

Mr. Baker

It is difficult for an agnostic or an atheist to instruct children in religious education. I find that an extraordinary proposition, as an atheist does not believe in any kind of theistic philosophy.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

I was present at a meeting of the Council of Christians and Jews at which senior rabbis expressed considerable concern about the proposals. Will my right hon. Friend say more about his consultations with representatives of other faiths and reassure Members such as myself who wish to support the Lords amendments?

Mr. Baker

I will come to that in a moment. So far, I have explained how the Bishop of London acted not just as spokesman for the Church of England but, in effect, as negotiator for the Catholic and Methodist churches and the Jewish faith as well as those who speak for the Moslem faith in this country. The proposals agreed in another place reflect the agreement of all those areas of the Christian communion and other denominations. I therefore assure the House and my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) that the amendments emerge from a long process of negotiation.

As the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) said earlier, when Rab Butler introduced the 1944 legislation it was essentially a religious settlement which he had taken a great deal of time to negotiate with Archbishop Temple and others in the preceding two years. That is clear not just from the Act but from the memoirs of Rab himself and others who have written about that Act. It was implicit in the 1944 Act that religious education meant Christian education because at that time the only other religion represented in this country in any numbers was the Jewish religion. That is no longer the case, and many other faiths are devoutly held and strongly supported in this country.

As I have said, there was strong pressure from many individuals and groups for greater definition of the Christian content of religious education. Interestingly, the official Labour spokesman in the other House, Lord Morton of Shuna, did not vote against any of the amendments on Christian collective worship and Christian religious education. He said : My Lords, we from this Front Bench support the amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate and congratulate him on achieving what I would regard as an almost impossible task of realising, in the main, a consensus."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 7 July 1988; Vol. 499, c. 435.] I do not wish to make any political point about this.

Mr. Straw

The House of Lords had weeks of debate on this highly sensitive issue. We are being asked to agree the changes with only an hour and 10 minutes left to debate them. Does the Secretary of State regard that as satisfactory?

Mr. Baker

These matters have been well bruited about and well debated. They have been well covered in the press and in the general reporting of what happened in the House of Lords.

I repeat that many individuals and groups were pressing for a clearer definition of religious education and collective worship. Speaking on behalf of the Anglican Church, but with the agreement of the Catholic and Methodist Churches—I met representatives of both—and of representatives of the Jewish and Moslem faiths, the Bishop of London was able to reach a series of agreements. Negotiations were complex and difficult and in my many meetings with bishops of the Church of England and the Catholic Church in the past few months I have been constantly reminded that bishops move diagonally. Nevertheless, in all the discussions and debates I tried to find a way through those very difficult negotiations, and I believe that the outcome is satisfactory.

Many people felt that the Christian element in worship and religious education had been watered down and in some cases had virtually disappeared. Yet our society has developed historically within a Christian background. That faith was brought to these islands by Saint Augustine and has woven its way through our history. It is the weft and warp of our country and any understanding of our country without an understanding of that background is poor and inadequate. For example, as many hon. Members pointed out in the debate in March, it has had a profound effect on the development of our language and on the moral and social development of our country.

Certainly, fewer people now attend church and formally observe Christian traditions than was the case in 1944, as the hon. Member for Blackburn stated, but many who are not regularly practising Christians still turn to the church at solemn and important moments of their family lives, such as birth, marriage and death. Moreover, the Christian festivals of Christmas, Easter and Whitsun for many people have a meaning above that of merely another national holiday. Whether or not children come from a Christian background, it is right that they should receive a good understanding of the nation's Christian heritage and tradition. That point was made strongly by the Chief Rabbi in another place. At the same time, however, the amendments make very specific provision for agreed religious education syllabuses to take account of the teaching and practices of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain.

The amendments specify that collective worship should be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character. But they also allow for the majority of schools to take account of the family background of pupils in deciding on the nature of such worship. The amendments also provide for schools in which Christian worship would be inappropriate. In such cases it will be open to the head teacher to apply to the standing advisory council to relieve the school of the duty to provide worship that is wholly or mainly Christian. I recognise that in some schools Christian worship would not be appropriate, and it is right that the Bill should acknowledge this.

The Bill also now re-enacts the provisions of the Education Act 1944 in ensuring that all parents will have a right to withdraw their children from religious education or collective worship should they so wish. There is no concept or intention that a specific type of worship or religious education should be thrust down the throats of children when they or their parents do not want it. There will be nothing to stop schools allowing or helping to arrange separate religious education or acts of worship according to different faiths or denominations in circumstances where children are withdrawn. That practice is quite common in many schools.

These provisions constitute a considerable improvement to the Bill as it left the House. As I have said, they are the results of detailed consultation by the Bishop of London, and he is to be complimented on his efforts.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)


Mr. Baker

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way. I should like to conclude my speech.

The bishop has gone to great lengths to seek the views of others with a direct interest, including not only the leaders of different faiths and religious denominations, but the local authority and teacher associations as well as parents' and governors' organisations. The amendments allow for flexibility in dealing with different local circumstances. I am confident that they will continue to encourage truly collective worship in schools, which the Government believe to be of such importance in maintaining harmony and bringing the school and pupils together. At the same time the amendments take full account of the needs and aspirations of different faiths. I hope that the House will recognise that the amendments are the product of very careful consideration in order to meet a variety of concerns, and that they will be of long-term benefit to schools and to society as a whole.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to be called immediately after the Minister because one factual matter must be correct. In view of the speed with which events have moved, perhaps I have misunderstood the matter. I do not dissent from the objectives outlined in the Secretary of State's speech. He spoke frequently about consultations by the noble prelate the Bishop of London. I hope that he will be precise about the parts of the amendments about which those extensive consultations have taken place. My understanding is that the consultations were about the non-controversial amendments that we discussed on Third Reading, especially those about the status and nature of religious education within the curriculum.

I understand that the consultations did not apply to the more controversial clauses, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) spoke, about writing in "mainly Christian" and "Christian", both of which terms were absent from the 1944 Act. Perhaps the Secretary of State will now tell the House about the degree of consultation in which the noble prelate and his friends participated other than with people such as Baroness Cox who introduced earlier amendments.

As I ascertained in a point of order, we are invited to take a single vote on both sets of amendments. I strongly support the retention of religious education in the compulsory curriculum of schools, but I dissent from the other amendments produced by the noble prelate. Perhaps the Secretary of State will now enlighten us about which set of amendments received very full consultation.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

They all did.

Mr. Spearing

The Secretary of State assures the House that they all did. I find that almost impossible to believe, because the final version of amendments Nos. 8 to 16, to which I take exception, were not available in printed form until after Third Reading in the other place. I spoke only this week to the secretary of the Christian Education Movement and asked whether he had seen them. He had not. This morning I spoke to religious education officers in my local education authority and they had not seen them. They know the broad thrust and outline because they have seen them in the newspapers.

There has not been the time for negotiation and consultation on amendments Nos. 8 to 16 that there has been for amendment No. 2. If the Secretary of State wishes to say anything about that I shall gladly give way. Otherwise I shall move on, having made a fundamental and crucial point.

The difference between the Opposition and Conservative Members is fairly narrow. I must declare an interest which I never thought I would have to declare in the House. For 40 years I have been a member of the Congregational, now the United Reformed, Church. I attempt to be a practising Christian in every respect. For 14 years I was a religious education teacher, at least part time, as well as teaching other subjects in a London secondary school. Therefore, I start from the same start line as the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) and my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn. I hope that I am a practising Christian and that I shall develop in that way throughout my life. I have something in common with at least some Conservative Members.

5.45 pm

We are being asked to replace words in the 1944 Act that, up to a point, have stood the test of time with more specific words. Times are changing and we need to be reminded of our heritage and the extent to which religious belief has influenced and shaped this place and certainly our nation, its constitution and some of its public ways and benefits. Therefore, I understand the intention and appreciate the aims, but I disagree on the way in which this is to be done. Conservative Members wish it to be enshrined in law.

I intervened during the speech of the Secretary of State to say that the Minister cannot use law to reverse the decline in religious education. I did not mean that such an intention could not be put on the statute book. Of course that can be done. Religious education was put on the statute book as the only compulsory subject, but it has been done shockingly badly. In that respect I attack my own Christian churches. They had a special place by law and did not discharge their stewardship and responsibility. As I have said, I did my bit to help.

After consultation, the 1944 Act offered some innate flexibility. I understand the aspirations of Conservative Members, but changing that Act will not achieve what they want. One of the reasons for that is that religious education is different from other subjects. Religion cannot be taught. It is caught and not taught and is qualitative and not quantitative. It is an offering, not something that is injected or taken.

I understand and share the great wish that we should return to some of the moral imperatives that made this country what it was. Some of the moral imperatives in our public life could do with a little more attention. I do not want to be party political about that, although I could be. Whether one can do that by compulsorily injecting religion into the bloodstream of people is questionable. The injection may result in inoculating people against the very thing that one wishes to offer. As religious education teachers will know, we often come up against people who have been badly taught religious education and are impervious even to a religious view of life, let alone any specific denominational view.

We cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility by taking the law into our hands. We have not provided for proper religious education even under the 1944 Act. I do not understand how we can do so with this measure. The Bishop of London acknowledged that everything depended on the job being carried out, and the necessary people are not available to implement the provisions that are set out in the 1944 Act. How are we to get the necessary people to carry out the provisions that we are discussing?

The problems that will be involved in implementation may wreck the objective that the Secretary of State has outlined. We are bringing definitions of Christianity into law—what is "mainly Christian"? We know that there have been court cases on issues related to religious education, and there will be more. We have before us seven pages of legal complexity, and these will provide a feast for lawyers.

Headmasters, especially in Newham, are battling to try to create corporate toleration in a sea of social and religious problems. Schools should have the chance to inculcate a degree of tolerance, understanding and unity. That chance should continue to be open to schools in the retention of the act of corporate worship, and among the other things in which I was involved in my teaching career was conducting and arranging religious assemblies. I know that it is a difficult task.

If the Bill is enacted it will lead to division, especially in multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-religious areas. It is true that under the 1944 Act, Jewish children in secondary schools can be separated from Christians. They have their assemblies at different times, for example. There has been pragmatism and understanding. We are now to proceed by law. I have spoken to teaching advisers, who have told me that there is alarm among head teachers about the additional problems that they will face. There is enough competition between members of different ethnic backgrounds as it is, and introducing legal requirements for assemblies and religious education may well exacerbate the problems. There are great risks. For that reason alone, I suggest that these provisions should not be written into the Bill.

Definitions of Christianity can vary greatly. I do not believe that there has been sufficient consultation with those who will have to do the job, despite the Secretary of State's assurances. It is wrong in principle for any hon. Member to agree to the amendments in the absence of proper consultation with those who will be involved. We are being invited to pass the amendments lock, stock and barrel. I am much in favour of amendment No. 2, but I disagree strongly with the views behind amendments Nos. 6 to 18. As you said in your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall not have an opportunity in the Lobby to express my support of one amendment and my disapproval of others. It is all or nothing. I shall have to vote in the Aye Lobby because I am opposed to certain of the amendments and not because I am against compulsory religious education. In Newham and in other multi-cultural areas throughout the country, we shall be in danger of exacerbating existing problems.

In 1659, the then Chaplain to this place wrote a prayer. I believe that that Christian prayer has been read on every occasion that the House has sat since that date. Hon. Members who attend Prayers will know its words. It asks for wisdom from above to direct and guide us in all our consultations". Our consultations are not confined to those that take place here and in another place. They include consultation with those whom we represent and those who will have to do the work that will result from the provisions that we are now discussing. The prayer continues: the publick wealth, peace and tranquillity of the Realm and the uniting and knitting together of the hearts of all persons and states within the same". I am sorry to say that, in my judgment, the amendments will not achieve that. Therefore, we should not agree with the Lords amendment.

Mr. Michael Alison (Selby)

I suspect that the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and I have a good deal in common in this area, although we may have differences in others. I disagree, however, with a significant part of his argument for rejecting writing Christianity into the Bill. He said that it would demoralise and do nothing to raise the standards, motivation, zeal and numbers of those committed to teaching Christianity by example, lifestyle and expertise.

Without sounding too partisan, I make my point by using the analogy of what is happening in the Labour party. If the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer) succeed in becoming the leader and deputy leader of the Labour party, it will be because it is believed that the projection of clear and distinctive Socialist policies will encourage enthusiasm and abandon or torpedo the apathy that is currently the enemy of the Labour party. We believe that exactly the same principle applies in restoring Christianity to the centrality of the Bill. It will encourage and mobilise. It will give hope to those who are presently dormant and apathetic, who are waiting for a clear trumpet note to be sounded. The writing of Christianity into the Bill will do exactly that.

Mr. Anderson

If the right hon. Gentleman continues with that line, he may deter many of us who are determined to vote for the amendments.

Mr. Alison

I said deliberately that I would use an analogy. The hon. Gentleman is well enough educated to know what an analogy means and when one fails to amount to demonstrable proof.

I hope that the House will see fit to endorse the amendments. They are related to education, not indoctrination. They make ample provision for the teaching and practices of other principal religions which are represented in Great Britain. They uphold the traditional rights of parents to withdraw their children from religious education or worship. They have gained support from the Chief Rabbi, among others, as well as individual Moslems who are concerned with religious education. They accord with the wishes and aspirations of the great mass of British parents, both past and present. For all its secularism today, Britain remains, in my view, a Christian society. In T. S. Eliot's oft quoted words: A society has not ceased to be Christian until it has become positively something else. The 1983 survey of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys concluded that the number of children in state schools whose country of origin disposed them to have a non-Christian cultural heritage was a little under 4 per cent. The comprehensive Bible Society-Gallup Poll survey of 1986 yielded the fact that 85 per cent. of the population liked to think of itself as Christian. I remind the House that the distinguished historian, Lord Blake, has written of the Christian religion as follows: It is quite impossible to understand its political and cultural developments unless one understands the nature of religion which under changing forms and differing institutions permeated the consciousness of men and women, conditioned their ideas, shaped their politics and inspired so much of their culture. I conclude by reminding my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of a by-way of scripture that I fear will become tediously well trodden in the context of the Butler Act of 1944 and the Baker Act of 1988. There is a famous Old Testament story in Genesis, chapter 40, about Joseph in Egypt. Joseph was able to interpret the dreams of the Pharoah's chief butler and chief baker. One of them was lifted up to his former glory, while the other was lifted up on the gallows. I need not tell this well-educated House whether the butler or the baker was placed on the gallows. If any hon. Member does not know, that demonstrates the need for a greater emphasis to be placed on religious education.

Suffice to say that I believe that the name of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be lifted up with esteem and gratitude for the courage, sympathy and dedication with which he has helped to negotiate and bring to fruition one of the most fundamental and significant improvements in the provision of education—above all, in religious education—in this country that we have seen for many centuries. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on what he has achieved and hope very much that the House will endorse the amendment.

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Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

In the beginning, before God created heaven and earth, there was chaos and confusion. This Bill will have the same effect because it has not had the careful consideration that it requires to deal with religious education, which is one of the most sensitive issues.

I am grateful for the opportunity to address the House because I believe that I am the only person here from a minority religion—[Interruption]—at least, the only such hon. Member who intends to take part in the debate. I remember with great hurt, my suffering as a child, through having to take part in Christian assemblies in Canada during the war. I remember the fear that I felt as Easter approached each year. My school mates, who were normally on very good terms with me, accused me of having personally killed Christ. I remember how I loathed, feared and resented having to take part in those assemblies.

I fully appreciate that in the great and respected Christian tradition of this country, it is an enormous privilege for the grandson of four Jewish immigrants to represent a constituency in which there are practically no Jewish people, but where there is a majority of Christians, many of whom are non-practising, and a considerable minority of Hindus, Moslems and Sikhs. People are good enough to accept me for what I am and to allow me to attend their school assemblies, for what they are. I pay tribute to the teachers in so many of the multi-ethnic, multi-faith schools who try to make the children feel at home, whatever their religion. Some of the children greet me with Hebrew songs when I visit them.

Others submit Hindu children to Christian practices. I have always believed that that was wrong. It is true that people can opt out. It is also true that, two generations back, Jewish people did not know their rights, did not necessarily speak the English language, and often did not exercise their rights. I am ill at ease about the opting-out principle that permeates this legislation.

It was right for Lord Campbell of Alloway to seek to include an amendment to ensure that religious education, Christian or otherwise, shall promote respect, understanding and tolerance for those who adhere to other faiths". I am sorry that that has been excluded. I am not encouraged by the statement that a circular will be issued by the Department which will confirm the intention. I have no faith in circulars.

Much mention has been made of my dear and respected friend and leader, Lord Jakobovits, the Chief Rabbi. It will not come as a complete surprise to hon. Members, who have heard that there are one or two dissenting voices within the Christian faith and some difficulty even in defining Christianity, to realise that possibly there are occasional difficulties in other faiths as not all accept everything that their leaders say. However, Lord Jakobovits was very careful to say: when I originally read the proposed new amendments in cold print, I was greatly perplexed, confused and in part considerably worried. But, having now listened to the exegesis of the right reverend Prelate, and particularly also the interpretations given by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and others, I feel immensely relieved and indeed, encouraged."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 7 July 1988; Vol. 499, c. 440.] I hope that I will not be considered disloyal to my noble Friend the Chief Rabbi if I state that I do not feel that same sense of encouragement and relief. I believe in the printed word. As a lawyer and Queen's counsel I know to my cost and pleasure that courts interpret not what is said in exegesis by a noble Prelate, Baroness or Lord, but what is written into statute. I do not believe that what it is now proposed to write into statute provides the proper basis for what is now a multi-religious society, whatever polls referred to in this House may show.

In the country overall, the polls may be correct. However, Britain is spotted and dappled with areas of religious minority interest. I speak not simply as a member of the Jewish faith, but as an hon. Member who proudly represents constituents of all faiths. I believe that the needs and interests of the newer religions should have the greatest attention paid to them in the Bill. That attention is lacking.

I pay tribute to the goodwill and intentions of the Secretary of State and his colleagues on this issue. I know that these provisions are not intended to do an unkindness. I appreciate that one of the glories of this great tradition of Christianity in this country is respect for the smaller religions and minority groups. I respectfully submit that they are not properly dealt with in the Bill. That is why I shall vote for the Opposition amendment and against the Lords amendment.

Mr. Gregory

The section dealing with morning assembly and religious education is one of the most important aspects of the Bill.

We do not today find the majority of schools following the tenet of the Education Act 1944, but teachers should appreciate that Britain is fundamentally a Christian country, as was said so eloquently by my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison).

Parents and guardians expect a Christian ethic to be specifically manifested on a daily basis in the collective act of worship and less frequently in a programme of religious education. All young people should have the opportunity to learn the fundamental principles of the Christian faith. If they come from a religious background which finds it impossible to accept that at school, the Bill clearly allows them to opt out. It may surpise some people to learn that, sad to say, these clauses are required. Clearly we have moved a long way from the standards set following the Education Act 1944 which are not being upheld in many schools.

I was so concerned about that fact that I carried out a survey of schools in York funded by the local authority. Of those which responded, only one secondary school and 12 out of 26 primary schools held a daily collective act of worship. Clearly there is a case for much more inquiry by school governors and for monitoring by Her Majesty's Inspectorate.

In a city with a strong Christian ethic and little evidence of other faiths, it is incredible that children, even of primary school age, can be confused by a syllabus that seeks to compare different religions before a good grounding has been given in Christianity. Yet that is the experience even in York primary schools. Some even deny visits by Christian ministers.

Ms. Hilary Armstrong (Durham, North-West)

Does the hon. Member accept that one of the difficulties of delivering the Education Act 1944 is the shortage of available teachers and resources? It is a major source of concern to religious education teachers that we are passing legislation that is totally unworkable. The resources are not available, and they are unhappy about this legislation.

Mr. Gregory

I do not accept either of those tenets. Resources do not need to take the form of the most ultra-modern videos, and suchlike. If any school cannot provide teachers with a genuinely strong Christian background—and I have yet to find one that cannot—there are visiting ministers who, on a denominational basis, will be very happy to provide support.

Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)


Mr. Gregory

I must move on, because of the hour. I know that a number of hon. Members wish to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I hope that the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) will understand.

The problems that I have mentioned are not confined to York. The law on collective acts of worship and religious education is not being complied with in Newcastle, on Tyneside, in Doncaster, and in many parts of southern England. With the passing of this Bill, it will be essential for the Secretary of State to issue a circular, to which the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) has referred, spelling out the terms and spirit of the Act in relation to both morning assembly and religious education. I hope that there will be an opportunity for my right hon. Friend to refer to that aspect, because there has been confusion in the past. With the passing of the Bill, we shall have clarity and certainty. Schools, and the vast majority of teachers, will accept and welcome that.

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

I spoke in the 23 March debate which related specifically to the place and status of religious education. As the Secretary of State has reminded us, the debate has since moved on. Even in that earlier debate, anxiety was expressed by both sides of the House about violation of the Education Act 1944. The House has just heard from the hon. Member for York (Mr. Gregory) why there was concern. Worry was also expressed on 23 March about the content of religious education and about worship at particular schools, or where the multi-faith approach has been adopted to the extent that all faiths are trivialised, as was observed by the Chief Rabbi in another place.

There has also been consequential concern about the need to protect the integrity of Christianity and of other world religions. As a result—and it seems that this needs to be repeated, in view of what has passed in this debate—discussions have taken place with representatives of all the major Christian churches, representatives of other faiths, those representing local authorities, teachers' unions, parents' and governors' organisations, and educational organisations such as the Religious Education Council.

6.15 pm

The Bishop of London reported in another place that he and his colleagues received widespread support; none whom he and they consulted wishes to oppose the amendment. While affirming clearly the place of Christianity, the changes in the agreed syllabus provide for a flexibility of emphasis in areas where the vast majority of pupils are from other faiths. Similar provisions are made for worship. However, where the occasion requires—for example, in a school in which the family tradition is predominantly Moslem—the act of worship can draw on that tradition. The advice of the standing advisory councils and the use of the complaints procedure must be available in that respect. All that has been confirmed by the Secretary of State, but it is necessary again to place it on the record.

I cannot see where the charge of imposition made by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) arises. His dissent falls into three categories. First, he is concerned about any disturbance of the 1944 Act. Secondly, he is concerned that the churches are being allowed to make their failure to reach the parents a reason for the statutory right to access to their children. Thirdly he is concerned about other faiths held, notably, by ethnic minorities.

I do not believe that those are valid objections. What went wrong after the Education Act 1944 was that the churches did not involve themselves in the teaching of religion in schools. That attitude is changing and there is a greater confidence among the churches today, and they will now take a positive lead. As the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) reminded us, we are now dealing with a fundamentally changed situation. Recently, our religious life has been enriched by those outside the Judeo-Christian religion. West Indian children, of course, have a Christian cultual tradition. The parents of children of the Hindu and Moslem faiths expect their religion to be transmitted in the home, and are content for their children to learn in school about the religion of the host country.

Over the weekend, I consulted yet again with the Moslem ethnic community's leader in the east end of Sheffield. He reminded me that nothing more insults him and his colleagues in their deep religious faith than the teaching of bits of alternative religions with no feeling for the depth of conviction of the faith of their adherents. We have—dare I say it?—an excellent relationship, and it is based largely on strongly held convictions on both sides. They do not reject the view that the story of Christianity should be told to their children, because they believe that their children cannot understand the nature of our country unless they are told that story. They join us in acknowledging that—as was said by the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison)—no one can understand our heritage in art, music and literature without having a deep knowledge of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Few if any of us believe that children can grow up with a genuine sense of moral purpose without a grounding in religion. However, I believe that in this country, the basic values of the Christian religion should also be known and taught. Morality, detached from its theological or philosophical foundations, would be no more than a series of arbitrary commands, with little claim on the allegiance of the heart or the mind. Furthermore, our parliamentary democracy owes everything to the teachings of the New Testament and to the Christian interpretation of the value of the individual.

We also built a welfare state on the basis that we are each other's keepers and that we are members of a family. That also comes out of the New Testament. The children of today are the beneficiaries of a society created by people who held such values. Our democracy, our institutions and our freedom are dependent on Christian insights. Therefore, it goes beyond morality, but we can see how moral education has traditionally been associated with religious education. As all my hon. Friends know, there is no such thing as a value-free education. There is no such thing as neutral education. Even state schools are expected to transmit the religious and moral values that are accepted by the nation. Those values constitute the common possession of society. They are the basis of civilised life within our community.

I go further. As I indicated on 23 March, I believe in the right of parents to have their children educated in their faith. That means more than being taught about their religion. It entails inculcation of a unified system of beliefs and values that shape behaviour and things great and small. That is my view.

I cannot see how the Lords amendments can possibly be regarded as evidence of a new move in the direction of Christian exclusivism. It is evidence, rather, of the seriousness with which many teachers of religious education now want to take a fresh look at the Judeo-Christian traditions that have contributed so richly to our western cultural heritage. It is evidence also of an increasing willingness to try to be clear about what Christianity is. It is evidence that most parents in this country want their children to be educated in the Christian tradition. The law grants them that right, and we are called upon tonight to see that it is observed honestly and efficiently. I therefore support the amendments.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

I shall be brief, because many hon. Members wish to speak. Let me add that no hon. Member who has spoken so far has not spoken with absolute honesty and conviction, whatever the views expressed.

I think that many people believe that the structure and the strength of this country have been built up on an Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Christian society and its beliefs, and are greatly concerned that moral and ethical standards have declined and are still declining. If that decline is to be stopped, I believe that it can be limited only by a stronger return to religious structure. If we are indeed a Christian country, we should have the faith to do everything in our power to encourage that to be taught to our young people in schools. Surely it is right that they should understand the ethical structure of Christianity and the moral obligations that form the basis of a civilised society, and those, I believe, are best taught through some form of religious education.

We are not attempting to suggest that Christianity should be universal; the amendments make specific allowances for members of other faiths to opt out of any of the Christian structures set out in them. Nevertheless, I do not believe that ethnic communities who come here to benefit from all that we have should expect their faith or social structure to change what has been the greatness of our own society—although that does not mean that we must stop them believing what they want to believe.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett


Sir Peter Emery

I will not give way, because many hon. Members wish to speak.

The amendments spell that out. They urge that education should turn more to what I have been talking about than it has in the past. If, as has been suggested, there is a shortage of teachers, it is because we have not been urging that on the profession under the 1944 Act, as I believe Butler expected. The provision of the Act has been weakened. We need to strengthen it, and the amendments set out to do that. They will fulfil the wish of most parents, and for that reason they need the support of every hon. Member.

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

I think that I am the first non-believer to speak in the debate. This may be a good day for the Christians, but it is a bad day for the sense and sensibilities of the rest of us. It is extraordinary that a new religious settlement should have been reached in haste and in dark corners between an unacceptable bishop and an unelectable peer. The result is impoverished, impractical and unprincipled amendments which ought to be assigned to the dustbin of ideology gone wrong.

We are being asked to enshrine in legislation unworkable and unrealisable pontifical nonsense which will cause chaos in our schools, dismay among pupils and divisions between all. Worse, I fear that we may inadvertently be introducing a charter for fundamentalists, bigots and zealots that will unleash forces of Byronic darkness in our schools. Perhaps I could tell the hon. Members a little more about Byronic darkness in a moment.

I do not want to be unkind, but I believe that our message to the Lords in general and the Bishop of London in particular can be summed up in the words of Coleridge, who said: He who begins by loving Christianity better than Truth will proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity, and end by loving himself better than all. Coleridge, I am sure, would have said that the amendments had been produced by a bad bishop and a bad peer. I cannot say that, because it is unparliamentary.

Let me make it clear that I am not attacking Christianity per se, and that I am not sure that I agree with either Frank Harris or Balfour in their famous discussion about religion. I am sure that all hon. Members who have read Margot Asquith's biography of Balfour will recall the conversation. Frank Harris said: "The fact is, Mr. Balfour, all the faults of the age come from Christianity and journalism", to which Balfour replied delphically: "Christianity, of course, Mr. Harris, but why journalism?"

In my view, for Parliament to assert the primacy of the Christian faith in the teaching in our schools is a morally, intellectually and metaphysically bankrupt exercise. For rabbis and imams to have to go to some standing council to ask for their own daily act of worship—even as other religions, and indeed secularism, are rising in this country while their own religion declines—shows the arrogance of the Christian establishment. It also shows how the religions fail daily to inspire the people who back them and who cannot manage without compulsory ritual. For Parliament to insist on the teaching of Christianity in what will inevitably be a crowded curriculum—putting it above learning that involves knowledge, understanding and awareness of the physical, mental and material world, and at the expense of science, logic, truth and the development of the imaginative faculties—shows just how easily in the modern world we can retreat inside ourselves, our guilt and our helplessness.

The idea that a school can preach racial harmony at the same time as allowing two or three segregrated acts of worship to take place daily seems so foolhardy that it could only come from people who hear voices from the other world. As I watched the Secretary of State introduce the amendments, I was reminded of Parson Richards, a character in one of Shelley's ballads. Like the Secretary of State, Parson Richards is suave, well heeled and well fed. His greatest love was feeding his hound. He had also sired a bastard son. The mother of the child takes up the story: Priest, consider that God who created us Meant this for a world of love— Remember the story of Lazarus You preach to the people of—… And yet I cannot imagine how we Can call him just and good, When he sends a wretched woman like me To a man like you for food. Oh God! This poor dear child did I At thy command bear and cherish— Thou bads't us increase and multiply, And our tyrants bid us perish! I am sure that the Secretary of State understands the metaphor. Let me ask him a simple question: what shall it profit a mother if under the Education Reform Bill she understands all the gods and loses her own body and son?

If I were God—and, in the words of the negro spiritualist, if there has got to be a God, then why not me?—I would make sure that the Secretary of State expurgated his sins in the after life, and that his colleagues did the same, for all the suffering that they have caused in this life.

When the other place debated these clauses, three journalists rushed into Westminster Hall and said to me that they were perturbed because Members of the other place and of this House were not prepared to stand up to the unwarranted claims that the bishops were making for the young minds of pupils. My reply was that we should consider Churchill's famous statement that we are all Socialists now, but in the modern world we are all cowards now and only too ready to accept the tyranny of the religions. It is a sure sign that we live in a country whose culture is in irreversible decline.

6.30 pm

The public know that a fair number of Members of Parliament are charlatans. They know the depths of hypocrisy to which Members of Parliament are prepared to descend and that often we preach morals that we do not practise, but they have a right to expect that on important matters of principle hon. Members should speak to the truth of their understanding and feelings. The public have a right to expect hon. Members not to give way to zealots and fanatics who demand the potential to bring darkness, even nemesis, into our schools. Byron wrote: I had a dream, which was not all a dream. The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars Did wander darkling in the eternal space, Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air; Morn came, and went—and came, and brought no day, And men forgot their passions in the dread Of this their desolation; and all hearts Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light: … And the clouds perished: Darkness had no need of aid from them— She was the universe. We have no right to introduce darkness into our schools.

Mr. Cormack

Methinks that the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) doth protest too much. One thing that he has certainly developed in an obviously most fascinating education is his imaginative faculty. I look forward to the anthology of verse that he will produce as a rejoinder to that recently produced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I suspect, though, that it will be less positive in its progress and a little more destructive in its impact.

I strongly agree with two points made by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). I deplore the fact that we are debating this extremely important subject under a guillotine and I hope that every hon. Member will regard the vote as a free vote. I personally regard every vote as a free vote. I received my little document saying that my attendance was essential, and I am here, but tonight I shall have absolutely no hesitation in supporting my right hon. Friend. What he said was just, right and fair and the alternations made to the Bill in another place were positive and sensible.

We have to recognise that the Education Act 1944 has not worked properly, and I speak as one who was a schoolmaster. In far too many schools the daily act of worship has been perfunctory, if it has been held at all. Far too often, non-believers have been given the job of inculcating religion. In the previous debate I pointed out to my right hon. Friend that I believe that, as far as possible, the teaching of religion should be restricted to those who believe in the religion that they are teaching. The law has been more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Now that we are looking for the first time for almost half a century at the content and direction of our education system it is right to consider what should be written into this Education Reform Bill. It is also right to recognise without arrogance and intolerance that we live in a society that has been moulded, as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) said in a brave and positive speech, by the Judeo-Christian civilisation. Many people never go near a church, but most of them recognise that inheritance. I will give just one example. In a village in my constituency, where I happened to be church warden, we had to raise a lot of money for the church. We were out one Sunday and found that some 85 per cent. of the inhabitants of the village gave something towards their church, for they recognised what it stood for, even though many of them rarely, if ever, darkened its doors.

The law cannot impose morality or a religious faith but it can recognise the bedrock of society. If we pass these amendments, that is all that we shall be doing.

I fully understand and sympathise with the points made by the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner). One of the things that I am most pleased to have done in this House, together with him, is to found the all-party committee for the release of Soviet Jewry. We have worked together and we respect each other. I think we understand our respective points of view, but I am bound to say to him that I believe that the Chief Rabbi is right and that he is wrong. I can hardly be accused of great deviation from the joint cause that we espouse if I say that. The Chief Rabbi has recognised some great and profound truths. He has become one of the moral leaders of this nation, to whom we all look up, and I rejoice in his elevation to another place, of which he will be one of the most valuable Members and recognised as such in years to come.

Christianity should, above all, teach tolerance. The second of the great commandments exhorts us to love our neighbours as ourselves. Those who have come to this country to settle or who have been born in this country into another faith have nothing to fear from the amendment or from Christianity that is properly practised and properly taught. There will always be bigots, zealots, charlatans and rogues, but we have a duty to recognise one of the fundamental truths of our society: that we are the inheritors of a great tradition that has been moulded by a great religion. The amendment recognises that fact. It does no more. Those who do not espouse the Christian religion have nothing to fear from the amendments that I hope we shall pass this evening.

Mr. Paul Boateng (Brent, South)

The real division in our society is not between Christians and non-Christians but between those who have faith and those who have not. The real division in our society is not between Hindus and Christians, Moslems and Christians and Sikhs and Christians but between those who need a place for the spirit. We should create in our schools a place for the spirit.

My fear about what lies implicity and explicitly behind the speeches of those hon. Members who support the Lords amendment is the suggestion that the balance of the Education Act 1944 has been removed because of demographic changes. That view is fundamentally false. The real changes that have altered the balance of the 1944 Act have nothing to do with race or demography but everything to do with the rising tide of secularism and materialism. We in this place should be seeking to carve out a place within the curriculum that recognises that fact.

The question is how best to do that. Do we do that by raising to a special position of prominence the faith to which I happen to adhere—the Christian religion—or do we recognise the real division that exists now between the faithless and the faithful, and say that we need to draw on the multiplicity of religious traditions that exists in our society? We should draw on the Hindu religion, the religion of the Sikhs and on Islam to enrich the spiritual body of our nation. Our challenge is to devise legislation to do just that.

I listened with a certain amount of trepidation to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) that those who come new to this country have in some way to adapt to our "tradition." The reverse is true. We should recognise not simply the historical fact that when people from this country went to India they did not for one moment abandon Christianity; they took Christianity there. We should also recognise that we can draw on the Hindus, the Sikhs and the Moslems to enrich our spiritual pool. We should face that challenge, but I fear that the Lords amendments do not do that.

However, we are doing something that we may live to regret. The law will create a scenario in which people will be able to opt out of that spiritual pool. We shall lose the Hindus, the Sikhs and the Moslems and the contributions that they make, with us, as Christians, to carving out that place for the spirit that can be so attractive—we know and believe that it can be attractive because we are people of faith—to people who at the moment travail without faith, have nothing to cling to and, as a result, are exposed to the moral buffeting to which so many of our people are subjected.

Our choice is whether or not we enrich that spiritual pool. I hope that the House will make a choice for the spirit and reject the materialism, the secularism and, above all, the division that underlies the Lords amendments.

Mr. Kenneth Baker


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. Does the Secretary of State have the leave of the House to speak again?

Hon. Members


Mr. Baker

I must say how much I agree with the initial comment of the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng). I believe that it is very important to open up to children the spiritual dimension of life. Education is not just about the mental and physical development of a child. Children going through the education process should be aware of the spiritual dimension. I say at once that it does not necessarily have to be Christian.

However, I disagree with the hon. Gentleman's comments on the amendments. The amendments seek, first, to ensure that religious education is re-established and taught. Many people feel that since 1944 it has weakened. They also strengthen the Christian background and the Christian tradition. My hon. Friends the Members for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) have stressed how important that is to the framework of this country.

One cannot live in this country without being aware of that. That point was made very clearly in the comments of the Chief Rabbi in the other place. He was quoting another rabbi when he said: 'From schools that had confidence in their Christianity, I learnt an answering pride in my Jewishness; and I discovered that those who best appreciate other faiths are those who treasure their own.'"—[Official Report, House of Lords, 3 May 1988; Vol. 496, c. 420.] That spirit infuses through the amendments moved by the Bishop of London in the other place.

The amendments contain nothing intolerant. There is no imposition; there is scope for those who do not believe at all or who wish to believe in other faiths. We believe that there must be a bedrock in the basic teaching of Christianity in our schools, in both religious education and worship, because in that way our society is strengthened in a tolerant, humane and spiritual way.

Mr. Straw

The issue before the House this evening concerns tolerance. We have to remember that within the memory of all right hon. and hon. Members there have been periods of great intolerance, not only against Hindus, Moslems or those of no faith, but against the Catholics, the Methodists and the Non-conformists.

We do not dissent from much that has been said on both sides of the House about the aim. We object to the method and to the way in which we are being forced to vote on a block of amendments without discrimination. We object to the structure written into the Act—a structure we all know the Secretary of State opposed on 23 March. I believe that, in his heart, the Secretary of State opposes it still, as do other Ministers, as it is an unworkable and unacceptable structure.

I commend amendment (a) to the House. Then we shall be forced to vote against the whole block of amendments, although we support some of them.

It being a quarter to Seven o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order this day, to put the Question already proposed from the Chair.

The House divided: Ayes 138, Noes 362.

Division No. 417] [6.45 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Bidwell, Sydney
Allen, Graham Blair, Tony
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Boateng, Paul
Armstrong, Hilary Boyes, Roland
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Bradley, Keith
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Bray, Dr Jeremy
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Battle, John Buchan, Norman
Beckett, Margaret Caborn, Richard
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Callaghan, Jim
Canavan, Dennis McKelvey, William
Cartwright, John McLeish, Henry
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) McTaggart, Bob
Clay, Bob McWilliam, John
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Madden, Max
Cohen, Harry Mahon, Mrs Alice
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Marek, Dr John
Corbett, Robin Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Corbyn, Jeremy Martlew, Eric
Cousins, Jim Maxton, John
Cryer, Bob Meacher, Michael
Cunningham, Dr John Meale, Alan
Dalyell, Tam Michael, Alun
Darling, Alistair Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Dewar, Donald Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Dixon, Don Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Dobson, Frank Morgan, Rhodri
Dunnachie, Jimmy Morley, Elliott
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Mullin, Chris
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Nellist, Dave
Fatchett, Derek Parry, Robert
Faulds, Andrew Patchett, Terry
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Fisher, Mark Primarolo, Dawn
Flannery, Martin Quin, Ms Joyce
Flynn, Paul Radice, Giles
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Redmond, Martin
Foster, Derek Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Foulkes, George Richardson, Jo
Fraser, John Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Galbraith, Sam Robertson, George
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Robinson, Geoffrey
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Rogers, Allan
George, Bruce Rooker, Jeff
Gordon, Mildred Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Gould, Bryan Ruddock, Joan
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Sedgemore, Brian
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Skinner, Dennis
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Haynes, Frank Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Hinchliffe, David Soley, Clive
Holland, Stuart Spearing, Nigel
Hood, Jimmy Steinberg, Gerry
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Strang, Gavin
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Straw, Jack
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Turner, Dennis
Illsley, Eric Vaz, Keith
Janner, Greville Wall, Pat
John, Brynmor Walley, Joan
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Wareing, Robert N.
Lambie, David Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Leighton, Ron Wilson, Brian
Litherland, Robert Wise, Mrs Audrey
Loyden, Eddie
McAllion, John Tellers for the Ayes:
McAvoy, Thomas Mr. Ken Eastham and Mrs. Llin Golding.
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Adley, Robert Batiste, Spencer
Alexander, Richard Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bellingham, Henry
Allason, Rupert Bendall, Vivian
Alton, David Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Amos, Alan Benyon, W.
Anderson, Donald Bevan, David Gilroy
Arbuthnot, James Biffen, Rt Hon John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Biggs-Davison, Sir John
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Blackburn, Dr John G.
Ashby, David Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Atkins, Robert Body, Sir Richard
Atkinson, David Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Boswell, Tim
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Baldry, Tony Bowden, A (Brighton Kpto'n)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Bowis, John Franks, Cecil
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Freeman, Roger
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard French, Douglas
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Fry, Peter
Brazier, Julian Gale, Roger
Bright, Graham Gardiner, George
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Gill, Christopher
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Browne, John (Winchester) Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Goodlad, Alastair
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Buck, Sir Antony Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Buckley, George J. Gorst, John
Burns, Simon Gow, Ian
Burt, Alistair Gower, Sir Raymond
Butcher, John Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Butler, Chris Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Butterfill, John Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Gregory, Conal
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Grist, Ian
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Grocott, Bruce
Carrington, Matthew Ground, Patrick
Carttiss, Michael Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Cash, William Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hampson, Dr Keith
Chapman, Sydney Hanley, Jeremy
Chope, Christopher Hannam, John
Churchill, Mr Hardy, Peter
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Harris, David
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hawkins, Christopher
Coleman, Donald Hayes, Jerry
Colvin, Michael Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Conway, Derek Hayward, Robert
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Heddle, John
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Cope, Rt Hon John Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Cormack, Patrick Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Couchman, James Hill, James
Cran, James Hind, Kenneth
Critchley, Julian Holt, Richard
Cummings, John Hordern, Sir Peter
Cunliffe, Lawrence Howard, Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Curry, David Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Day, Stephen Hunter, Andrew
Devlin, Tim Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Dickens, Geoffrey Irvine, Michael
Dicks, Terry Jack, Michael
Dorrell, Stephen Jackson, Robert
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Janman, Tim
Dover, Den Jessel, Toby
Duffy, A. E. P. Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dunn, Bob Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Durant, Tony Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Dykes, Hugh Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Emery, Sir Peter Kennedy, Charles
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Key, Robert
Evennett, David King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Kirkhope, Timothy
Fallon, Michael Knapman, Roger
Farr, Sir John Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Favell, Tony Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Fearn, Ronald Knowles, Michael
Fenner, Dame Peggy Knox, David
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lamond, James
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lang, Ian
Forman, Nigel Latham, Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lawrence, Ivan
Forth, Eric Lee, John (Pendle)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fox, Sir Marcus Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Roe, Mrs Marion
Lightbown, David Rossi, Sir Hugh
Lilley, Peter Rost, Peter
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Rowe, Andrew
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Rowlands, Ted
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Lord, Michael Ryder, Richard
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Sackville, Hon Tom
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Sainsbury, Hon Tim
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Sayeed, Jonathan
Maclean, David Scott, Nicholas
McLoughlin, Patrick Shaw, David (Dover)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
McNamara, Kevin Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Madel, David Shelton, William (Streatham)
Major, Rt Hon John Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Malins, Humfrey Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Mans, Keith Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Maples, John Shersby, Michael
Marland, Paul Sims, Roger
Marlow, Tony Skeet, Sir Trevor
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Speed, Keith
Mates, Michael Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Maude, Hon Francis Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Squire, Robin
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stanbrook, Ivor
Meyer, Sir Anthony Stanley, Rt Hon John
Miller, Sir Hal Steen, Anthony
Mills, Iain Stern, Michael
Miscampbell, Norman Stevens, Lewis
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Moate, Roger Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
Monro, Sir Hector Stokes, Sir John
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Moore, Rt Hon John Sumberg, David
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Summerson, Hugo
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Morrison, Sir Charles Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Moss, Malcolm Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Moynihan, Hon Colin Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Mudd, David Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Murphy, Paul Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Neale, Gerrard Temple-Morris, Peter
Needham, Richard Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Nelson, Anthony Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Neubert, Michael Thorne, Neil
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Thornton, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick Thurnham, Peter
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Tracey, Richard
Oppenheim, Phillip Tredinnick, David
Page, Richard Trippier, David
Paice, James Trotter, Neville
Patnick, Irvine Twinn, Dr Ian
Patten, Chris (Bath) Viggers, Peter
Patten, John (Oxford W) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Pawsey, James Waldegrave, Hon William
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Walden, George
Pike, Peter L. Wallace, James
Porter, David (Waveney) Waller, Gary
Portillo, Michael Walters, Sir Dennis
Powell, William (Corby) Ward, John
Price, Sir David Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Warren, Kenneth
Randall, Stuart Watts, John
Rathbone, Tim Wells, Bowen
Renton, Tim Wheeler, John
Rhodes James, Robert Widdecombe, Ann
Riddick, Graham Wiggin, Jerry
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Wigley, Dafydd
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Wilkinson, John
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann Young, Sir George (Acton)
Winterton, Nicholas Younger, Rt Hon George
Wolfson, Mark
Wood, Timothy Tellers for the Noes:
Woodcock, Mike Mr. Robert Boscawen and Mr Tristan Garel-Jones
Yeo, Tim

Question accordingly negatived.

Question proposed, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.—[Mr. Kenneth Baker.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The Question is, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Straw

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you explain whether we are voting just on Lords amendment No. 1, or on the whole block?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Let me clarify the position for the House. I have put the Question on Lords amendment No. 1. Once we have disposed of that, in accordance with the motion approved earlier by the House, I shall put the Question on all the outstanding Lords amendments in the group. For the sake of clarity, I will put the Question again.

Question agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 1 agreed to.

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at that hour.

Question put forthwith,

That this House doth agree with the Lords in all the remaining Lords amendments:—

The House divided: Ayes 372, Noes 108.

Division No. 418] [7 pm
Adley, Robert Brazier, Julian
Alexander, Richard Bright, Graham
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Allason, Rupert Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Alton, David Browne, John (Winchester)
Amos, Alan Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Anderson, Donald Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Arbuthnot, James Buck, Sir Antony
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Buckley, George J.
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Burns, Simon
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Burt, Alistair
Ashby, David Butcher, John
Atkins, Robert Butler, Chris
Atkinson, David Butterfill, John
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Baldry, Tony Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Batiste, Spencer Carrington, Matthew
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Carttiss, Michael
Bellingham, Henry Cash, William
Bendall, Vivian Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Benyon, W. Chapman, Sydney
Bevan, David Gilroy Chope, Christopher
Biffen, Rt Hon John Churchill, Mr
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Body, Sir Richard Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Coleman, Donald
Boswell, Tim Colvin, Michael
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Conway, Derek
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Bowis, John Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Cope, Rt Hon John
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Cormack, Patrick
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Couchman, James
Cousins, Jim Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Cran, James Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Critchley, Julian Hill, James
Cummings, John Hind, Kenneth
Cunliffe, Lawrence Holt, Richard
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hordern, Sir Peter
Curry, David Howard, Michael
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Day, Stephen Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Devlin, Tim Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Dickens, Geoffrey Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Dicks, Terry Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Dorrell, Stephen Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Hunter, Andrew
Dover, Den Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Duffy, A. E. P. Irvine, Michael
Dunn, Bob Jack, Michael
Durant, Tony Jackson, Robert
Dykes, Hugh Janman, Tim
Emery, Sir Peter Jessel, Toby
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Evennett, David Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Fallon, Michael Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Farr, Sir John Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Favell, Tony Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Fearn, Ronald Kennedy, Charles
Fenner, Dame Peggy Key, Robert
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) King, Roger (B'ham N'thlield)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Kirkhope, Timothy
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Knapman, Roger
Flynn, Paul Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Forman, Nigel Knowles, Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Knox, David
Forth, Eric Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Fox, Sir Marcus Lang, Ian
Franks, Cecil Latham, Michael
Freeman, Roger Lawrence, Ivan
French, Douglas Lee, John (Pendle)
Fry, Peter Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fyfe, Maria Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Gale, Roger Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Gardiner, George Lightbown, David
Gill, Christopher Lilley, Peter
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Golding, Mrs Llin Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Goodhart, Sir Philip Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Goodlad, Alastair Lord, Michael
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Gorman, Mrs Teresa McAvoy, Thomas
Gorst, John Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Gow, Ian McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Gower, Sir Raymond MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Maclean, David
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) McLoughlin, Patrick
Greenway, John (Ryedale) McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Gregory, Conal McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) McNamara, Kevin
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Madel, David
Grist, Ian Major, Rt Hon John
Grocott, Bruce Malins, Humfrey
Ground, Patrick Mans, Keith
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Maples, John
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Marland, Paul
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Marlow, Tony
Hampson, Dr Keith Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Hanley, Jeremy Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Hannam, John Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Hardy, Peter Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Mates, Michael
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Maude, Hon Francis
Harris, David Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Hawkins, Christopher Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Hayes, Jerry Meale, Alan
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hayward, Robert Miller, Sir Hal
Heathcoat-Amory, David Mills, Iain
Heddle, John Miscampbell, Norman
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Sims, Roger
Moate, Roger Skeet, Sir Trevor
Monro, Sir Hector Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Moore, Rt Hon John Soames, Hon Nicholas
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Speed, Keith
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Morrison, Sir Charles Squire, Robin
Moss, Malcolm Stanbrook, Ivor
Moynihan, Hon Colin Steen, Anthony
Mudd, David Stern, Michael
Murphy, Paul Stevens, Lewis
Neale, Gerrard Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Needham, Richard Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Nelson, Anthony Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
Neubert, Michael Stokes, Sir John
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Nicholls, Patrick Sumberg, David
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Summerson, Hugo
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Oppenheim, Phillip Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Page, Richard Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Paice, James Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Parry, Robert Temple-Morris, Peter
Patnick, Irvine Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Patten, Chris (Bath) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Patten, John (Oxford W) Thorne, Neil
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thornton, Malcolm
Pawsey, James Thurnham, Peter
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Townend, John (Bridlington)
Pike, Peter L. Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Porter, David (Waveney) Tracey, Richard
Portillo, Michael Tredinnick, David
Powell, William (Corby) Trippier, David
Price, Sir David Trotter, Neville
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Twinn, Dr Ian
Randall, Stuart Viggers, Peter
Rathbone, Tim Waddington, Rt Hon David
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Reid, Dr John Waldegrave, Hon William
Renton, Tim Walden, George
Rhodes James, Robert Wallace, James
Riddick, Graham Waller, Gary
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Walters, Sir Dennis
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Ward, John
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Warren, Kenneth
Roe, Mrs Marion Watts, John
Rossi, Sir Hugh Wells, Bowen
Rost, Peter Wheeler, John
Rowe, Andrew Widdecombe, Ann
Rowlands, Ted Wiggin, Jerry
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Wigley, Dafydd
Ryder, Richard Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Sackville, Hon Tom Wilshire, David
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Winterton, Mrs Ann
Sayeed, Jonathan Winterton, Nicholas
Scott, Nicholas Wolfson, Mark
Shaw, David (Dover) Wood, Timothy
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Woodcock, Mike
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Yeo, Tim
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Young, Sir George (Acton)
Shelton, William (Streatham) Younger, Rt Hon George
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Tellers for the Ayes:
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Shersby, Michael Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.
Armstrong, Hilary Boyes, Roland
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Bradley, Keith
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Buchan, Norman
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Caborn, Richard
Battle, John Callaghan, Jim
Beckett, Margaret Canavan, Dennis
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Cartwright, John
Bidwell, Sydney Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Boateng, Paul Clay, Bob
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Mahon, Mrs Alice
Cohen, Harry Marek, Dr John
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Corbett, Robin Martlew, Eric
Corbyn, Jeremy Maxton, John
Cryer, Bob Meacher, Michael
Cunningham, Dr John Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Dalyell, Tam Morgan, Rhodri
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Morley, Elliott
Dewar, Donald Mullin, Chris
Dixon, Don Nellist, Dave
Dobson, Frank Patchett, Terry
Dunnachie, Jimmy Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Eastham, Ken Prescott, John
Evans, John (St Helens N) Primarolo, Dawn
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Quin, Ms Joyce
Fatchett, Derek Radice, Giles
Faulds, Andrew Redmond, Martin
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Richardson, Jo
Fisher, Mark Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Robinson, Geoffrey
Foster, Derek Rogers, Allan
Foulkes, George Rooker, Jeff
Fraser, John Ruddock, Joan
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Sedgemore, Brian
George, Bruce Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Gordon, Mildred Skinner, Dennis
Gould, Bryan Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Soley, Clive
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Spearing, Nigel
Haynes, Frank Steinberg, Gerry
Hinchliffe, David Strang, Gavin
Holland, Stuart Straw, Jack
Hood, Jimmy Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Turner, Dennis
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Wall, Pat
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Walley, Joan
Illsley, Eric Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Janner, Greville Wareing, Robert N.
John, Brynmor Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Lambie, David Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Leighton, Ron Wise, Mrs Audrey
Litherland, Robert
Loyden, Eddie Tellers for the Noes:
McWilliam, John Mr. Graham Allen and Mr. Martin Flannery.
Madden, Max

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 2, 3, 8 to 16, 147 to 186, 227, 476, 480 and 557 agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 4 to 6 agreed to.

Mr. Spearing

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you confirm that the vote related not to Lords amendment No. 1 but to at least two major issues and more than 14 amendments, which were grouped in one Question?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is not for me to judge the importance of the matter which the House has just decided. If the hon. Member is in any doubt, perhaps I should explain that the House has just voted on Lords amendments Nos. 2 to 6 inclusive, 8 to 16 inclusive, 147 to 186 inclusive, 227, 476, 480 and 557.I hope that that helps the hon. Member.

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