HC Deb 21 June 1988 vol 135 cc1066-74
Mr. Norman Hogg

Important matters are raised in amendment No. 30, but in view of the position that we have reached in tonight's business I do not intend to move the amendment. I hope to have it debated in the other place.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I beg to move amendment No. 58, in page 17, line 6, leave out '3' and insert '4'.

Mr. Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 59, 60 and 61.

Mr. Forsyth

The effect of the amendments is to adjust the numbers in consequence of an amendment that the Committee accepted in principle. Therefore, I expect that they will command the support of the whole House.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 59, in page 17, line 9, leave out '3' and insert '4'.

No. 60, in page 17, line 27, leave out '2' and insert '3'.

No. 61, in page 17, line 30, leave out '3' and insert '4'. —[Mr. Michael Forsyth.]

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[Mr. Michael Forsyth.]

10.6 pm

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

I do not think that the Bill should be given a formal Third Reading. It is a devious, sneaky piece of legislation. It purports to be a Bill to decentralise educational power. It takes power away from education authorities and gives more power to teachers and parents. The Government have not thought through the consequences of the Bill. If they have thought them through, their intentions in introducing the Bill are evil and will have a detrimental effect on children's educational opportunities.

I believe firmly in the decentralisation of power, including educational power, but the way in which the Bill pretends to do it is very unsatisfactory. It fails to strike a balance between the powers that may be decentralised to one particular school and the powers that should be vested in the wider area of which that school forms a part.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) has dwelt at considerable length and in some detail on the effect of Government intervention, right up to Downing street level, on the educational opportunities for children in his area. What takes place in Paisley today may take place in many other areas of Scotland next week, next month or next year.

Ever since comprehensive education became a reality in Scotland we have recognised that it is not good enough to look at just one school and its needs in isolation from the rest of the community. That would lead to a growing disparity in children's educational opportunities between one school and another in the same community.

For this Minister to expect the House to give a formal Third Reading to the Bill is a piece of cheek and brass neck. For a Minister with responsibility for education in Scotland who has no mandate whatsoever from the people of Scotland to start preaching to us about the need for decentralisation and accountability is an affront to all the traditions of democratic education in Scotland. He only scraped home by the skin of his teeth in his own constituency and then found himself catapulted into the Scottish Office as Minister for Health, Minister for Education, Minister for Sport, Minister for Art and Minister for this, that and the next thing. In a very devious way, he even went cap in hand to Downing street, behind the back of his own Secretary of State, to persuade the Prime Minister to intervene in Scottish education, about which she knows next to nothing.

There are dangerous tendencies in the Bill. It is a paving Bill for what is politely called down here "opting out", and which could eventually lead not just to schools opting out of local education authority control but to the privatisation of certain schools and a return to selection, fee paying and to everything that is anathema to traditions of democratic education within Scotland.

The late Willie Ross would turn in his grave if he could see his successor as Minister with responsibility for Scottish education. Willie Ross came in for a great deal of criticism during his tenure of office as Secretary of State for Scotland, including some from myself. However, no one can take back from him what he did in the late 1960s— almost a quarter of a century ago—when he brought forward an education revolution, trying to ex tend educational opportunity for generations of children. There are many hon. Members in all quarters of the House now representing Scottish constituencies, and a few Conservative Members representing perhaps even constituencies south of the border, who gained a great deal from the Scottish education revolution of the late 1960s.

In this devious legislation, we are witnessing a first attempt by the Government to bring about a counterrevolution that will be detrimental to children's educational opportunities in Scotland rather than be an extension of them. That is why we should vote against the Bill.

10.12 pm
Mr. Michael J. Martin

Some excellent schools in my constituency have been closed and it is a pity that parents have been compelled to resort to the courts. I hope that the Minister will examine means of allowing parents to make representations to the relevant Ministers when closures are to take place. As the Minister well knows, it is a difficult and expensive process for parents to go to court, and I hope that he will bear that point in mind.

10.13 pm
Mr. Andrew Welsh

Once again the Government have accepted few amendments, and none of major importance. The Bill is fundamentally flawed in that it ignores Scottish traditions and attitudes and clearly intends to introduce alien ideas and practices. The Government would have been better employed building upon the foundations of existing parent-teacher organisations, using existing practices and expertise, and giving greater powers to individuals and organisations within the existing and established Scottish system. Instead, we are presented with an ideologically based Bill, producing an educational Trojan horse which will eventually destroy the harmony and unity of our national education system. Time will tell, but we shall oppose the Bill on Third Reading. We would have preferred legislation designed to defend and advance our nation's education in ways more suited to the Scottish system and Scottish attitudes.

10.14 pm
Mr. Buchan

The Minister's conduct tonight has amply illustrated the Bill's real purpose. Events over the past eight days have underlined its purpose. It is not to extend democracy towards parents in Scottish schools, but to pave the way for the next Bill which will allow opting out.

It is noticeable that the Minister did not reply to my challenge that he had been having meetings with parents in the town of Paisley, which he has so disrupted, in order to develop the concept of them opting out so that Ministers would have a model for the rest of Scotland. We have seen Ministers taking action directly to save one school at the command of the Prime Minister—Paisley grammar—and we have seen them succeeding. A legal action prevented the closure of another school which people wanted to be kept open. We want an answer to some of those questions.

Above all, the Minister can use the two or three minutes remaining to him tonight to tell us whether he will now meet Strathclyde region to try to settle the education crisis in Paisley before we hit the summer holidays. None of the children in the schools in Paisley know where they are going in a month's time, and nor do their parents. Will the Minister answer that? Will he meet the region and try to understand the mess into which he and the Prime Minister have put my town?

10.15 pm
Mr. Malcolm Bruce

As is so often the case with the Government, the Bill represents a basically popular idea that has been corrupted because the Government have failed to take into account the views of the overwhelming majority of people who made representations to them.

No hon. Member would deny the case for giving parents more involvement in the running of a school. The Government are trying to pretend that that is what the Bill is about, despite the fact that they are insisting on a parental majority rather than a partnership. They have rejected the concept of a partnership that parents and teachers have actively sought. That is the fundamental flaw in the Bill. No Conservative Member, even those who have sought to modify the Bill, can escape the fact that it does not represent what Scotttish education is looking for. Indeed, it is a diversion from other more important and higher priorities.

The Conservative party, in its election manifesto, pledged to reform and give extra powers to school councils. There would have been widespread cross-party support if it had done that, but the Bill goes much further and does not seek to create the spirit of partnership which has a long-established tradition within Scottish education.

The final point that is particularly offensive to Opposition Members is that we cannot accept that a Government with only 10 Scottish Members have the right to take the devolved power that we have in the Scottish Office, corrupt it and disrupt our entire education system with ideologies that the Scottish people have convincingly and comprehensively rejected. That is why, although the Bill contains some proposals that could usefully have been implemented to reform schools councils, it represents something that Scottish education did not want, did not ask for and will reject. We shall vote against it.

10.17 pm
Mr. Norman Hogg

The Bill had its genesis on an August morning last year when the Minister made a far-reaching announcement on what he proposed to do with regard to the management of our schools in Scotland. His proposals were rejected because the Scottish people have a deep affection for their system of education and they were not prepared to have it radically altered by a Government that had little authority to govern in Scotland.

The Bill which we are discussing tonight is much changed from that which we debated in Committee. I am pleased that that is the case, but I regret to say that there remains much in the Bill that we find unacceptable. We find it unacceptable that parents are to have a controlling rather than an advisory role on the school board and that there is to be no partnership with the teachers in the sense of their having equal powers.

The Bill gives too much power to the school board over the school budget, over the head teachers' spending plans, and, therefore, over matters of curriculum. It downgrades the prefessional expertise of teachers and is a diversion from the real problems of education over which the Minister presides.

The Bill is a paving measure for opting out, and if the Minister thought that he had a bad time last August when he announced his proposals for school boards, it is nothing like the response that he will get when he brings forward a Bill for opting out later this year.

My right hon. and hon. Friends will, therefore, without doubt and without hesitation, vote against this Bill tonight.

10.20 pm
Mr. Michael Forsyth

The Bill brings to parents in Scotland the same opportunities and rights as parents enjoy elsewhere in the United Kingdom and in almost every other country in Europe. It is a sad reflection on the Opposition that they have opposed it not in principle but by the back door and on every occasion. Once again it is the Conservative party that is extending people's rights in Scotland, and this will be recognised on the doorsteps in the years ahead.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 269, Noes 213.

Divislon No. 372] [10.19 pm
Adley, Robert Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Aitken, Jonathan Carrington, Matthew
Alexander, Richard Carttiss, Michael
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Cartwright, John
Amess, David Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Amos, Alan Chapman, Sydney
Arbuthnot, James Chope, Christopher
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Ashby, David Colvin, Michael
Aspinwall, Jack Conway, Derek
Atkins, Robert Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Atkinson, David Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (MoleValley) Couchman, James
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Cran, James
Baldry, Tony Critchley, Julian
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Batiste, Spencer Curry, David
Bellingham, Henry Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Bendall, Vivian Davis, David (Boothferry)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Day, Stephen
Benyon, W. Devlin, Tim
Bevan, David Gilroy Dickens, Geoffrey
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Dicks, Terry
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Dover, Den
Boscawen, Hon Robert Dunn, Bob
Boswell, Tim Durant, Tony
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Dykes, Hugh
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Eggar, Tim
Bowis, John Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Evennett, David
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Fallon, Michael
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Farr, Sir John
Bright, Graham Favell, Tony
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Fenner, Dame Peggy
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Finsberg, Sir Geotfrey
Browne, John (Winchester) Fookes, Miss Janet
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Forman, Nigel
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Buck, Sir Antony Forth, Eric
Burns, Simon Fox, Sir Marcus
Butcher, John Franks, Cecil
Butler, Chris Freeman, Roger
Butterfill, John French, Douglas
Fry, Peter MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Gale, Roger McLoughlin, Patrick
Gardiner, George McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Garel-Jones, Tristan McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Gill, Christopher Major, Rt Hon John
Goodhart, Sir Philip Malins, Humfrey
Goodlad, Alastair Mans, Keith
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Maples, John
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Marland, Paul
Gow, Ian Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Mates, Michael
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gregory, Conal Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Grist, Ian Miller, Sir Hal
Ground, Patrick Mills, lain
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Moate, Roger
Hampson, Dr Keith Monro, Sir Hector
Hanley, Jeremy Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hannam, John Moore, Rt Hon John
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Morrison, Sir Charles
Harris, David Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Haselhurst, Alan Moynihan, Hon Colin
Hawkins, Christopher Mudd, David
Hayes, Jerry Needham, Richard
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Nelson, Anthony
Hayward, Robert Neubert, Michael
Heathcoat-Amory, David Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Heddle, John Nicholls, Patrick
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hill, James Page, Richard
Hind, Kenneth Paice, James
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Patnick, Irvine
Holt, Richard Patten, Chris (Bath)
Hordern, Sir Peter Pawsey, James
Howard, Michael Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Porter, David (Waveney)
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Portillo, Michael
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Powell, William (Corby)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Price, Sir David
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hunter, Andrew Rathbone, Tim
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Redwood, John
Irvine, Michael Rhodes James, Robert
Jack, Michael Riddick, Graham
Jackson, Robert Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Janman, Tim Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Jessel, Toby Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardilf N) Roe, Mrs Marion
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Rost, Peter
Key, Robert Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Kilfedder, James Ryder, Richard
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Sackville, Hon Tom
Kirkhope, Timothy Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Knapman, Roger Sayeed, Jonathan
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Shaw, David (Dover)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Knowles, Michael Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shelton, William (Streatham)
Lang, Ian Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Latham, Michael Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lawrence, Ivan Shersby, Michael
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Sims, Roger
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lightbown, David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lilley, Peter Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lloyd, Sir lan (Havant) Speller, Tony
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Lord, Michael Stern, Michael
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Stevens, Lewis
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Waller, Gary
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley) Watts, John
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Wheeler, John
Tredinnick, David Widdecombe, Ann
Trippier, David Wood, Timothy
Twinn, Dr Ian
Waddington, Rt Hon David Tellers for the Ayes:
Wakeham, Rt Hon John Mr. David Maclean and Mr. Stephen Dorrell.
Walden, George
Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Abbott, Ms Diane Flynn, Paul
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Allen, Graham Foster, Derek
Anderson, Donald Foulkes, George
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Fyfe, Maria
Armstrong, Hilary Galbraith, Sam
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Galloway, George
Ashton, Joe Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Barron, Kevin George, Bruce
Battle, John Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Beckett, Margaret Godman, Dr Norman A.
Bell, Stuart Golding, Mrs Llin
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Gordon, Mildred
Bermingham, Gerald Gould, Bryan
Bidwell, Sydney Graham, Thomas
Blair, Tony Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Blunkett, David Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Boateng, Paul Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bradley, Keith Grocott, Bruce
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hardy, Peter
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Harman, Ms Harriet
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Haynes, Frank
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Henderson, Doug
Buchan, Norman Hinchliffe, David
Buckley, George J. Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Caborn, Richard Holland, Stuart
Callaghan, Jim Home Robertson, John
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hood, Jimmy
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Howells, Geraint
Clay, Bob Hoyle, Doug
Clelland, David Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cohen, Harry Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Coleman, Donald Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Illsley, Eric
Cousins, Jim Ingram, Adam
Crowther, Stan John, Brynmor
Cryer, Bob Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cummings, John Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Kennedy, Charles
Dalyell, Tam Kirkwood, Archy
Darling, Alistair Lambie, David
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Lamond, James
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Leadbitter, Ted
Dewar, Donald Leighton, Ron
Dixon, Don Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Dobson, Frank Lewis, Terry
Doran, Frank Litherland, Robert
Douglas, Dick Livsey, Richard
Duffy, A. E. P. Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth McAllion, John
Eadie, Alexander McAvoy, Thomas
Eastham, Ken McCartney, Ian
Evans, John (St Helens N) McFall, John
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) McKelvey, William
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) McLeish, Henry
Fatchett, Derek Maclennan, Robert
Faulds, Andrew McTaggart, Bob
Fearn, Ronald Madden, Max
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G' n) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Fisher, Mark Marek, Dr John
Flannery, Martin Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Pike, Peter L.
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Primarolo, Dawn
Martlew, Eric Quin, Ms Joyce
Maxton, John Radice, Giles
Meacher, Michael Randall, Stuart
Meale, Alan Redmond, Martin
Michael, Alun Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Reid, Dr John
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Richardson, Jo
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Robinson, Geoffrey
Moonie, Dr Lewis Rogers, Allan
Morgan, Rhodri Rooker, Jeff
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Rowlands, Ted
Mowlam, Marjorie Ruddock, Joan
Mullin, Chris Salmond, Alex
Murphy, Paul Sedgemore, Brian
Nollist, Dave Sheerman, Barry
O'Brien, William Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
O'Neill, Martin Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Short, Clare
Parry, Robert Skinner, Dennis
Patchett, Terry Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Pendry, Tom Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E) Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Spearing, Nigel Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Steel, Rt Hon David Wigley, Dafydd
Steinberg, Gerry Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Stott, Roger Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Strang, Gavin Wilson, Brian
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Winnick, David
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck) Worthington, Tony
Turner, Dennis Wray, Jimmy
Vaz, Keith Young, David (Bolton SE)
Wall, Pat
Wallace, James Tellers for the Noes:
Walley, Joan Mr. Ray Powell and Mr. Dennis Canavan.
Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Wareing, Robert N.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third times, and passed.