HC Deb 21 June 1988 vol 135 cc993-1017

`The identification and monitoring of the additional expenditure reasonably required for the establishment and continuing support of school boards will be the subject of separate and ongoing consultation with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. —[Mr. Norman Hogg.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

5 pm

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I expect that the speeches by Opposition Front Bench Members today will be brief, but that will not understate the case that we shall make on a number of important matters that we considered in Committee, not least the question of expenditure, which exercised the Committee to some extent because of the considerable difference of opinion between the Under-Secretary of State and Opposition Members.

New clause 1 is a direct consequence of our debate in Committee. It would ensure that extra expenditure required for boards would be subject to separate and ongoing consultation with COSLA. That appears to be appropriate, because COSLA is the recognised body which speaks for Scottish local government and is the collective voice of Scotland's education authorities, as has been recognised for some time. I and my hon. Friends believe that COSLA is best able to undertake separate and continuing identification and monitoring of additional expenditure reasonably required for school boards.

The financial memorandum to the Bill states that the cost is likely to be very small. The Minister went so far as to say that even that cost would be offset by savings arising from the abolition of schools councils. I do not wish to rehearse all the arguments made in Committee, but the information that is now to hand amply demonstrates that the Minister's view on that matter is erroneous and his estimate that school boards will cost the Exchequer and, ultimately, local authorities some £5 million is wrong.

The Minister rejected all the well-documented arguments advanced by Dumfries and Galloway regional council. I am pleased to see the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) here, because, in Committee, he eloquently argued the Dumfries and Galloway case that the cost of school boards to that authority would be some £600,000 which, in terms of the whole of Scotland, would mean a cost of some £20 million.

The Minister did not accept that case. He argued that Dumfries and Galloway regional council was overstating costs such as travelling expenses and suggested that there were unjustifiable extra staff costs. However, from the information now to hand, it appears to be the Minister who has misunderstood the situation and is understating the costs in every area of the boards' anticipated activities.

What COSLA is now saying appears to destroy the arguments advanced by the Minister in Committee. First, COSLA estimates that the outturn cost of running schools councils is £700,000. Secondly, it makes its assessment of the full costs of the boards in much detail and on clearly defined assumptions. For instance, it assumes that extra functions will not be delegated by the authorities to the boards. It says that it has proceeded on the basis of the cost of the boards' activities alone; in other words, minimum costs.

It is also assumed that board members will claim travel allowances on the basis of 21.3p per mile, which is the rate prescribed under section 46 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. That expenditure was specifically endorsed by the Minister in Committee. The total estimate, including the costs of staffing and financial information support, elections, training, staff replacement, advertising and janitorial overtime adds up to approximately £17.2 million or £5,682 per school.

If the Minister tells us that COSLA has got its figures wrong, he will have to be every bit as specific as COSLA has been in arriving at the figures that I have put to the House. It will not be good enough just to rely on the arguments that the Minister arrayed in Committee. He will have to do considerably better than that.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

The hon. Gentleman will recall that, in Committee, we discussed the estimate produced by Dumfries and Galloway regional council. Does he acknowledge that COSLA, in carrying out its further estimate, has taken into account and accepted many of my criticisms of the estimates made by Dumfries and Galloway?

Mr. Hogg

I am receiving all sorts of advice from my hon. Friends, but I shall not engage in an argument with the Minister over that point. I accept some of what he says, but, none the less, we have before us a detailed statement from COSLA, dated 16 June 1988, which was circulated to all Scottish Members. If the Minister responds to the question of whose figures are right, he will have to challenge the basis on which COSLA has arrived at its figures.

I have considered carefully what COSLA has said about delegated functions, school board meetings, committee meetings and appointment of committees, as well as about the general support required for the operation of those committees and have concluded that it has been conservative in its considerations. It has not overstated its case. It relies on the experience of its officials and of the education authority officials in Scotland. When we take that into account, we must conclude that COSLA is making a reasonable estimate of the costs.

It is important that the people of Scotland should know that they are being asked to find additional expenditure from the education budget of some £17.2 million. They never sought to have that expenditure imposed on them, because they never made any demand for the kind of school boards that the Minister proposes. I conclude, therefore, that it is unreasonable expenditure which we should not be making. I would not choose to spend £17.2 million in that way, but would direct my attention to other education priorities.

I realise that the Minister does not accept my figure of £17.2 million and is instead persuaded that the school boards will cost considerably less. [Interruption] My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) says that the Minister will tell us exactly why. I hope that he does and I am looking forward to his speeches. I listened to them attentively in Committee. Some were better than others. Some fell away in the middle and others ended rather dramatically. He even ended them occasionally by saying that he would go away and look at a matter. It is too late to look at this particular item and I hope that he will tell me that new clause 1 is so reasonable and appropriate, in that it places a responsibility on COSLA as the correct and appropriate body to do the job that we envisage for Scottish local government, that it is the right and proper course for him to accept it. I am confident that he will do so.

Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood)

It will probably alarm the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) to hear me say that I have a great deal of sympathy with some of the points that he made. We have all received from COSLA the figures about which he spoke. I have some comments to make about those figures, but as I do not have the expertise that is available to my hon. Friend the Minister, it is preferable to listen to what he has to say. However, one point that I shall put to him is that there is a slightly different but acceptable method of meeting the concern of COSLA. The hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth was right to say that the Bill puts new duties on Scottish local authorities for which the authorities have not asked. Therefore, there is a strong case for considering a specific grant for this expenditure.

In Committee my hon. Friend the Minister did not accept the proposition of a specific grant on the ground that in general terms COSLA has been opposed to that in the past. That is true and there is a general argument that specific grants limit a local authority's discretion in allocating total expenditure to different heads. However, a specific duty is being placed on education authorities and much of the expenditure is not at their discretion. Some matters are at their discretion, such as the number of representatives that they send to meetings, but much of the other expenditure—for example, on elections, and the number of meetings of school councils—is in a sense demand-led and not under the control of the education authority. Because there is a specific statutory duty and because much of the expenditure is not under the control of the local authority, there is in principle a strong case for making this expenditure the subject of specific grant. I appreciate the arguments that my hon. Friend the Minister put against that in Committee, but I hope that he will reconsider.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

While I do not think that the new clause is entirely felicitously worded, its contention is valid. I hope that the Minister will not be drawn into an argument about what the costs are likely to be because I think we can all agree that whatever they are they will be additional to any costs that are currently incurred. An argument about how exactly they will turn out is not important. It is important that the Minister is introducing legislation that will increase costs to local authorities that are already stretched in this area.

The Minister is entitled to say that his ideology allows him to introduce the Bill and that Parliament should vote on it. Most local authorities will be bitterly resentful, and rightly so, if they are told afterwards that they have to find the money out of their general pool to pay for the Minister's ideology. They will be subject to threats of rate capping or cuts in the rate support grant if they are unable to contain themselves within budget. It would be appropriate if the consultation were about securing proper and adequate funding.

The Government are in an extraordinary position. In the last two years they have introduced two pieces of legislation specifically for Scotland and have stomped the country preaching about the need for local authorities to cut their functions, interventions, costs and expenditure. Yet the Government have introduced two of the most expensive pieces of legislation that any local authority has ever had to face. One is the introduction of school boards involving thousands of new people who will have to be serviced. The Bill provides for that servicing.

5.15 pm
Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (Kincardine and Deeside)

Is the hon. Gentleman against school boards?

Mr. Bruce

That is an extraordinary intervention. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I would be in favour of school boards if they were a partnership. [Interruption] The Minister should allow me to finish. I would be in favour of school boards and the powers presented in the Bill if they were introduced in a spirit of partnership between parents, teachers and pupils. I am not in favour of school boards in which parents have a majority that they did not seek and do not want. I shall speak about that later. The right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) would serve his electors better if he was prepared to represent that view which, as he knows, is the view of parents in his constituency.

The Minister is entitled to introduce a Bill in which he believes, but it will involve local authorities in costs. They are hard pressed and their resources are stretched, particularly in education. Local authorities are entitled to say what our constituents are generally saying, which is that they do not want the Bill as it stands or the proposed powers. If the Government want them, they must be prepared to pay for them rather than taking resources from other areas of education to provide for the Bill's implementation. The new clause is designed to cover that.

The Government are introducing the most expensive alternative form of raising revenue for local authorities that it is possible to devise. They expect local authorities to recruit extra people, to take on extra computing facilities and to incur extra costs to collect a tax that may produce no more—and probably less—revenue in net terms. The Government tell the people that the Bill is about efficiency and about reducing the cost of administration, but it specifically increases costs and does not increase efficiency and democratic accountability.

I do not think that the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) would go to the stake over the wording in his new clause. However, the principle of local authorities being asked to implement the Bill and to lake on the cost is wrong. They should be fully reimbursed for implementing the Bill and should at least be fully consulted about its implications. That is all that the new clause asks, and my colleagues and I support it.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I was astounded by the speech of the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) because he spoke against the principle of school boards. I would have understood the hon. Gentleman's stance if he had spoken against the original consultation paper. To hear him speak one would think that nothing has taken place since then, whereas we have seen an enormous number of modifications and changes in the Bill. I am still unhappy about one or two parts of the Bill but its general thrust is right. We want to see greater participation by parents in schools. I can tell the hon. Member for Gordon that since the changes in the Bill the representations that I have had in my constituency have not been about its principle, which is what the hon. Gentleman spoke about.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), I have a good deal of sympathy for the new clause. That sympathy is not based on the assertion by the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) who said that he did not reckon the spending of more than £5 million was worth while. It is worth spending some more money if that leads to better participation, more involvement and more interest by parents in the running of our schools. That will apply especially if some further improvements can successfully be made before the Bill leaves Parliament.

I, too, remain unpersuaded by my hon. Friend that the figures that he originally gave for what the school boards will cost will prove adequate. We have added some more activities for the boards and I hope that we shall be successful in increasing the size of teacher involvement on them. I have consistently said that that was necessary. I freely acknowledge that some of these changes will involve costs that are additional to those that my hon. Friend envisaged when drafting the Bill. All the evidence that I have seen from regional education authorities—from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) and from Grampian—and the COSLA seems to show that the costs are likely to be higher than those outlined in the financial memorandum to the Bill and thus far given by my hon. Friend the Minister. I am sure that since the Bill was drafted my hon. Friend has taken a fresh look at the finances involved.

I do not want the school boards to be unsuccessful because of lack of resources. This is a good initiative. Let us make sure that it works and has the necessary resources. I agree that some local authorities and regional councils did not support the schools councils and do not want the school boards. Even so, I think they are a good and worthwhile development. As some of those authorities are uncertain about the value of this proposal, it is wrong that they should have to find money from other resources for the running of the boards beyond the amounts that my hon. Friend has earmarked for that.

I ask my hon. Friend to re-examine this matter and I look forward to hearing what he has to say. He and I want the boards to have enough money and to work. Let us not launch the new initiative short of funds and resources, thereby making it less likely to be successful.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

I had hoped that we would hear a breakdown of the £5 million figure from the Government so that we could contrast it with COSLA's £17 million—but that has not been given so far. We live in hope that we shall hear one in the next hour or so.

I want to pick out some points from the COSLA paper. It assumes that the school boards will meet, on average, six times a year, which does not seem unreasonable, given that schools may face crises of various kinds that might necessitate their meeting far more often. COSLA reasonably presumes that one education authority rep would attend three meetings of a school board a year on average. That, too, hardly seems excessive. Indeed, it would be reasonable to expect some reps to attend all six meetings—or more, if there were more.

COSLA assumes that the cost of running the service of clerks to the board will be £4.70 an hour, including national insurance, which seems hardly unreasonable—unless the Government intend to privatise the service and let some extremely underpaid clerk from a jobcentre do the job. Perhaps that is what they have in mind.

COSLA points out that the staffing costs cover providing professional advice and information support services—local education and finance staff—and the costs of attendance at board and committee meetings, but do not include the manpower costs of training. In other spheres of local government activity they would be included. Does the Minister think that this is a fair account of the true costs of running the service? In areas such as building and works it would not be considered so.

The Minister has promised us figures; I hope he will not delay in letting us have them, so that we can know the Government's real intentions.

Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

The hon. Members for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) and for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) started from the wrong premise, that there have been swingeing cuts in local government expenditure. That, as we all know, is wholly untrue. Everyone knows that there is far more local government expenditure now than ever before—[Interruption.] Everyone except Opposition Members, that is. There have, however, been cuts in the grossly inflated budgets of councils that thought they could spend the world—in which case Ministers have had to call them to order. Good housekeeping is as important in 1988 as it has been for 100 years or more. Opposition Members do not understand facts like that.

The hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) was kind enough to mention my involvement with the new clause in Standing Committee. The costs are important. My hon. Friend the Minister has been most helpful and constructive in meeting the chairman of my education committee and her colleagues. They feel that the Bill has made constructive progress in Committee. So pleased are they with it that they have already set up six pilot school board schemes, which will go into action in August. There will probably be a seventh by the end of this week. That shows how a reasonable education authority has seen the importance of the Minister's policy, has taken a constructive interest in the Bill throughout its passage—and before, by commenting on the consultative papers—and has demonstrated how a local authority should handle this sort of issue in the interests of the parents, pupils and teachers in its area. That is all good news.

I thank my hon. Friend for the trouble he has taken to meet the representations of my education authority. Of course, he has not accepted every point that I raised in Committee, but he has accepted a significant number of them. I welcome the concessions that the Minister has tabled as amendments. Has he had second thoughts about the overall costs to local authorities? In Committee, we differed about the amount that Dumfries and Galloway had worked out for its school boards as compared with the computerised sum that was worked out for the whole of Scotland. There was an enormous difference between my authority's and his Department's estimates of the costs. Whatever the costs are—£1 million, £5 million or £15 million—the education authorities want to know that they will be covered within their overall grant from the Scottish Office and that the costs will not come out of existing funds that are earmarked for other purposes.

I echo the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith): if we are to set up the boards we should not ruin them by a shortage of funds. We must be wholehearted about this and make sure that costs, travelling expenses and so on are allowed for. As my hon. Friend knows, I believe that the proposed boards are marginally too small, and I should like a four or five-person increase in the size of boards that look after 1.000-pupil schools. I hope my hon. Friend will say a little more about costs, which worry local authorities. I say that as one who represents a local authority that is taking a constructive line on this and welcomes the Minister's proposals.

5.30 pm
Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)

Unlike the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), I object first to the boards, both in principle and in form, and secondly to the amount of expenditure that it is intended will be provided for them. It is nonsense to say that it does not matter whether that expenditure is £1 or £1 million, because any money spent on the boards could be used for other purposes and to provide badly needed resources in Scotland.

Grave issues are involved in terms of the form of the boards and the expenditure. It is not sufficient for the Minister to point out that in the past he has had to correct one or two minor errors in the estimates made by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, because minor mistakes made in the past by someone else do not justify the Minister making a major mistake now.

Our first objection is that any expenditure should be levied on boards which have been set up under the apparent guise of extending choice. We are all for choice, provided that it is real and not theoretical. However, we contend that expenditure is being planned for boards which do not substantially increase the choice of the vast majority of parents. Secondly, the boards could be taken over by unrepresentative groups. As the Minister knows, the boards will have the power to veto all senior appointments. Possible embarrassments and disruptive tendencies could arise from the formation of the boards. The power to raise funds could be interpreted by some as the power to levy charges.

We have raised these objections before, but they become more forceful when it is intended to spend money on the formation and implementation of some of the boards. That could be overcome if the Minister could point to any desire, evidence or empirical facts to suggest that there is a demand among the population in general for such expenditure on school boards.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

Perhaps I can assist the hon. Gentleman. We are debating the costs of establishing bodies that will involve parents in schools. As the hon. Gentleman asks for evidence, may I take it that he is opposed to the proposal of Strathclyde regional council that there should be one school council per school, which would be every bit as expensive in terms of administrative support? I should have thought that that gives the hon. Gentleman the evidence he wants. I am sorry that he obviously does not support the authority's proposition.

Dr. Reid

It would no doubt be extremely interesting to discuss the proposals for participation which are being put forward by almost everyone but the Minister. He will forgive me if I point out that the subject of today's debate is his plans. All the empirical evidence on those plans suggests that the overwhelming bulk of the population in Scotland oppose them. The overwhelming majority of parents, who are supposed to benefit from the boards which are being foisted on them, are opposed in principle and in practice to the form of the participation that the Minister suggests. Therefore, it is our contention that expenditure on such boards is also opposed by the vast majority of parents

. We have also raised a point about the apparent discrepancy in the amount of expenditure. That is important because it obviously matters whether the difference between the Minister's estimates and those of COSLA is £1 million, £5 million or £50 million because the money that is being pushed in that direction could be well and better employed in other ways in Scotland.

We contend, as does COSLA, that the Government propose to spend just under £18 million on the proposed school boards. Predictably, the Scottish Office estimate is that the overall cost of the school boards will be about £5 million. I have no doubt that the Minister will surprise us at the end of the debate by admitting that he has perhaps been a bit wrong here and there, and by coming up with a revised figure and suggesting, spontaneously and not as if it was planned in advance, that we might compete with the new figure and distribute it in the form of specific grants, something which he has been trying to impose throughout the Committee stage but which has been rejected. However, by courtesy of a few planted comments from his Back-Bench colleagues, the issue has been raised again today.

There is such a major discrepancy between what COSLA maintains as being the cost of the school boards and the Minister's estimates that he must offer us not an overall global sum, but a detailed breakdown of the costs that lie behind the estimate which he will then ask us to accept. The unit costs of each school board can be anything from £5,000 to £6,000 for central support costs and basic administration.

I commend COSLA's briefing to the Minister. We do not claim—and it is not claimed—that every sum in it is absolutely correct to the nearest penny. As the Minister has said, there have been one or two modifications in the past. However, as I have already said, it is not good enough for the Minister simply to point out minor aberrations in the past, because that will not justify a major aberration on his part today.

If the Bill is to be steamrollered through the House in its present inadequate state, it is incumbent on the Government to adopt a more realistic attitude to the financing of the boards. The Government should realise the implications and be willing to support the reasonable costs which will inevitably be incurred if the school boards are foisted on unwilling parents, teachers and communities.

It is obvious that local authorities, and especially COSLA, must be involved in the ongoing consultation about expenditure, first, to monitor the expenditure, secondly, to ensure fairness both to the boards—if the Government insist that they should be set up—and to the regional authorities, and, thirdly, to ensure that in future there will be some independent verification of the costs of running the boards and of the legitimacy of the benefits derived from such costs.

I hope that even at this late stage the Minister will have a rethink. In fairness to the boards that the Government wish to be established, to the authorities which will have a major role to play in education and in overseeing the boards, to the public, who are seeing money being spent on a project that they did not want in the first place, and to Parliament, which wants an independent estimate and survey of how much is being spent, I hope that the Government will accept the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg).

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

The hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) was at least honest and told the House that he was against the setting up of the boards in principle. We respect his honesty.

I advise the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) that I have never listened to such humbug in my life. It was a repetition of some of the humbug that we have heard from him previously. He was speaking against the principle of setting up the boards. However, he knows that the people in his constituency, and certainly, as far as I can ascertain, the people in the areas north of the Tay—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Gordon was only too happy to talk about the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith). Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will recognise that it is a fact that north of the Tay, and certainly in Tayside, North—I trust that the hon. Gentleman will not try to tell me what is going on in Tayside, North—[Interruption.] I have listened to humour from Opposition Members in previous Parliaments. We see different faces now on the Opposition Benches from those in previous Parliaments.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

There are more and more of us each time.

Mr. Walker

Opposition Members come and Opposition Members go. We are here——

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)


Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman is a new boy. He should sit down. When he has earned his spurs, he can stand up. After all, we know that one problem that we face in relation to school boards, and other matters, is the fact that the Scottish National party depends on lies for its message. As I keep telling the House, it puts out lies in my constituency. However, its lies will be found out. When hon. Members interfere in my constituency, I can only conclude that they are concerned about their own weak position.

Mr. Andrew Welsh


Mr. Walker

Yes, I give way to the hon. Gentleman, who has been interfering in my constituency.

Mr. Welsh

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman says that, because he could not be more wrong. I do not interfere if I can help it—certainly not to my knowledge —in the constituencies of other hon. Members. In relation to the particular instance that he mentioned, one of my constituents is a member of the organisation which sought an interview with the Minister. The hon. Member is very good at publicly threatening to sue people, but he never delivers. Instead of making big noises, I invite him to do something for a change.

Mr. Walker

I assure the hon. Gentleman that when he knows me better he will know that I fight on grounds of my choosing—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman should listen carefully. First, he was interfering in my constituency, whether or not he has a constituent who wants to be a member of a committee, because the whole matter relates to my constituency and to my constituency only. I shall see the hon. Gentleman at a time and place of my choosing, and not when he chooses.

There is no question but that in Tayside, North parents wish to become much more involved in schools. They are looking forward to the Bill becoming an Act so that they can become part of the school board system. They are very keen on that because they recognise that the Government have introduced prudent, sensible and caring policies which this Bill represents. The Government have also devolved powers to people in so many of the Acts that have been passed. The school boards will devolve power to the parents and that will help the running of our schools.

Parents have a direct interest in what happens in schools. In the country areas people are certainly very interested and concerned to be much more directly involved in what is happening. That is part of the community spirit in country areas.—[Interruption.] I can speak for country areas because by constituency contains 2,000 sq miles of Scottish countryside. People in country areas have always been much more interested in community activities and will welcome the opportunity to be part of the operation of the school boards when they are introduced.

I have read new clause 1 very carefully and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will reject it. Of all the bodies with which one would want to have ongoing consultations, COSLA would be the last. Having read some of the material from COSLA recently—[Interruption.] This is my advice to my hon. Friend the Minister and he can accept or reject it. I certainly would not accept new clause 1.

The Minister should give us a commitment that the Government will set up the boards and that the cost of running the boards is justified because we believe that they are good for Scottish education. There should be a commitment that the bill will be met. We do not want the Government to set up a consultation process that will produce a constant running battle and running sore. After all, we know that the Opposition are against school boards in principle. If the Opposition are against them in principle, they will argue against them all the time.

Mr. Andrew Welsh

The juvenile tendency wing of the Tory party is a very difficult act to follow, but it is an easy act not to emulate.

I am concerned about the proposals for school boards. They look like yet another example of the process whereby central Government create extra burdens, responsibilities and financial outgoings for local authorities, yet do not give them the resources to meet those extra burdens and outgoings. We have seen that so often in legislation—for example, in raising the school leaving age and passing Act after Act placing extra burdens on local authorities, but failing to provide resources to meet the burdens. I believe that the school boards are another example of that.

New clause 1 seeks to give COSLA a national monitoring and co-ordinating role on behalf of its members. That is exactly COSLA's role. It can provide a national picture because it has representatives from all over Scotland who can see what will happen when the school boards are implemented. COSLA has the machinery and expertise to provide a national picture of how the disparate local school boards are operating.

I know of no mechanism for an annual conference of school boards or a way for the boards to share experience or ideas. As a national group, local authorities should have some means of monitoring nationally the costs of school boards, and the ability to make representations to the Government on the basis of that monitoring and the information received. COSLA could carry out that national co-ordinating and monitoring, especially as the regions and island councils are responsible for education and will be carrying the financial burdens and responsibility to pay out the money to implement this legislation.

We are still entitled to ask how much the changes will cost. There is an amazing disparity between COSLA's estimates and those of the Government. COSLA estimates that it will cost £17.9 million to set up the school boards while the Government's estimate is only £5 million. There is a difference of tens of millions of pounds in the calculations. Will the Minister tell us on what the Government base their calculations? Education authorities are being asked to find money from their existing very stretched budgets to fund the new legislation. That is unfair on local authorities.

As COSLA has produced its financial calculations in detail, it is incumbent on the Government to do the same. COSLA has detailed its assumptions about the number and length of meetings. What are the Government's assumptions? COSLA has detailed its calculations about education authority input, the number of school board members, travel costs, annual average mileages and payments to clerks. Will the Government detail their figures so that the House can decide which set of figures is accurate and what the real burden will be on local authorities?

COSLA's members will have to bear the costs of the legislation. They have clearly done their homework. What calculations have the Government carried out? The Government are imposing the burdens in the legislation. What calculations have they carried out to compare with COSLA's? We and COSLA are entitled to know the figures and I hope that the Minister will address COSLA's figures in detail.

I support new clause 1 because I believe that COSLA cannot be ignored as the Government are intent on ignoring it. COSLA is a national governmental organisation and it will have a positive contribution to make in the implementation of the Bill when it becomes an Act. I hope that new clause I will be accepted and that, instead of ignoring COSLA, the Government will treat it with the seriousness that it deserves in implementing the legislation.

5.45 pm
Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

The right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) is not alone in being unpersuaded by the Minister's figure of £5 million as the cost for implementing the school boards system. It would be difficult to imagine any Scot who would be persuaded by that figure with the possible exception of the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), who is persuaded by anything that his Government Front Bench colleagues tell him.

Mr. Sam Galbraith (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)

And he still has not been promoted.

Mr. McAllion

As my hon. Friend says, he still does not get promoted.

I warn hon. Members to be very wary of the intervention made by the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart). He said that he had a great deal of sympathy with the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld (Mr. Hogg). My first reaction to that was that I had not been listening properly to my hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Eastwood argued in favour of specific grants and I then knew why he had made his intervention. In Committee the Minister spent a great deal of time trying to persuade Committee members to accept that the expenditure for school boards that we were demanding should be provided in the form of specific grant so that the Minister could then hit us with the phrase that he used in Committee: COSLA has fought tooth and nail against specific grants for specific activities in local government. It has argued that specific grants undermine local democracy, that the money should be provided as a rate support grant and that it should not be tagged to school boards."—[Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 26 April 1988; c. 99.] The hon. Member for Eastwood intervened because he was trying to draw Opposition Members into arguing on behalf of specific grants so that his hon. Friend the Minister could shoot those arguments to pieces in terms of COSLA's policies. We must be very wary of the intervention of the hon. Member for Eastwood.

I very much support the concept in new clause 1.

Mr. Allan Stewart

The hon. Gentleman should not see a deep conspiracy in every speech that I make. Does he agree that, while he has described COSLA's general policy, for which there are good reasons, there are specific grants? Does he also agree that if there were a specific grant, it would meet the point that the Opposition are making because it would be bound to be subject to detailed consultation?

Mr. McAllion

The hon. Gentleman fails to tell other hon. Members listening to the debate that the point about specific grants is that they are directly under the control of central Government. That is why COSLA is very wary of expenditure in the form of specific grants. COSLA's experience of central Government in education over the past 10 years is that they have continually cut the money available to local authorities to spend on education. That is why COSLA does not want a specific grant to fund expenditure on school boards. It wants that to be part of the rate support grant, but not so that it may be lost among other items up for discussion. That is why the new clause calls for support for school boards and for continuing consultation with COSLA to identify the additional expenditure that will be necessary through the rate support grant system to fund the school boards.

I draw the Minister's attention to the necessity of continuing consultation with COSLA about the probable expense of school boards. Tayside regional council was asked to provide details of the financial and manpower implications of setting up the boards, and its answer obviously forms part of COSLA's submission to various hon. Members. The council could not provide an exact figure because there were far too many imponderables. No precise figure can be put on the cost of school boards until they have been set up. We do not know the amount of financial and other information that will have to be made available to them. The Bill states that education authorities shall provide such information as the Board may from time to time reasonably request. That is open-ended and authorities will not know what the school boards will ask them to provide or what the costs will be for providing that information. The Bill also states that the head teacher must seek the approval of boards for per capita expenditure.

A school board will not merely wish to know the per capita expenditure in its particular school—it will want to compare its figures with those of other schools in the area. Information will have to be supplied to every school board—and there will be more than 200 in Tayside—about per capita expenditure in all schools. That has enormous cost implications for education authorities. A structure should be established for local authorities to negotiate with the Government about the continuing costs of the school boards.

We debated the cost of the election arrangements in Committee. The Minister started from the premise that the ballot papers could be sent home with the children after school. It soon became clear to him that that simply would not work. In some areas children might be approached and asked for the ballot papers, or they might simply lose them. There will have to be a postal ballot of all parents in each school, and the costs will be enormous. However, at this stage the education authorities cannot even estimate them.

There is a similar problem with the appointments committee because a school board will be involved in a vetting process at the short-list stage for head teacher, deputy head teacher and assistant head teacher. Education authorities do not know the cost implications of that. The same is true about the remuneration for clerks to the school boards, as it is also true about the running costs. How often will school boards meet, at what time will they meet and what sort of funding will be required to support those meetings?

What about compensation to staff? The head teacher and other teachers will have to give up school time to attend school boards and new staff will have to be appointed to fill the gaps left in the timetables. No education authority can precisely estimate the full costs of implementing the school boards system. Tayside thinks that it will run into seven figures—more than £1 million. Yet the current cost of school councils is only £600 each. More than 200 school boards will be set up in Tayside and, as COSLA says, the cost is likely to be in excess of £5,000 per school board. That gives some idea of the seriousness of the problem, especially on a national scale.

The Government's figures are unrealistic and it is essential that the Minister takes the criticisms on board. He should accept new clause 1 because it would set up a mechanism that would enable the school boards system to be implemented successfully rather than being a dismal failure, which would cause even more frustration in and destruction of our school system than has already been caused during nine years of this Government.

Mr. Henry McLeish (Fife, Central)

I support new clause 1. Most hon. Members will agree that, apart from the discordant note struck by the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), there is a consensus on the need to match the role of school boards with resources. That is an important point to establish.

I am concerned about costs because there cannot be effective parental participation on the cheap. Perhaps the Minister wants to aspire to that, implement school boards for ideological reasons and then walk away from the reality of the costs. I hope that when he replies to this brief debate he will challenge my assertion and convince the House that he means business on the costs of supporting school boards.

While many Opposition Members have grave misgivings about school boards, there is a genuine interest in parental participation. I certainly do not have a vested interest in the destruction of school boards, once they have been implemented, simply because of a lack of funds. If the Government are investing politically in the development of school boards, it is incumbent upon the Minister to tell the House tonight that adequate resources will be available.

My confidence was not reinforced by some of the Minister's replies in Committee to questions about school boards, their role and how the mechanisms of funding would work. He was challenged about support services for what, in Scotland, is called the clerking of the boards. That is an essential function because without proper administration many boards will be unable to do the effective work required.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will know that this afternoon the House heard a statement about the extension of VAT to building for commercial uses and various other things. During that statement, the Minister told the House—perhaps inadvertently—that that was based on a directive that the House had approved in 1977. In fact, the directive was debated by the House on a take note motion——

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. The hon. Gentleman is continuing a debate on an earlier statement. What is the point of order for the Chair?

Mr. Marlow

The Minister put forward proposals on the basis that the House had approved the original document. The House has not approved it—it took note of the original document. Therefore, the basis on which we discussed it today was erroneous.

I do not believe that it is the Minister's fault, but it would be both right and appropriate for the Government to make some explanation of the misapprehension under which the House labours at the moment. It is an important issue and large sums of money are at stake——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has made his point and put it on the record. It is not a point of order and it has nothing to do with this debate. He must find other ways, as I am sure he will, of pursuing the matter.

Mr. Norman Hogg

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have made it clear that it was not a point of order.

Mr. Hogg

My point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that the advice that you have just given to the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), who raised a bogus point, was absolutely right. However, those of us who represent Scottish constituencies are most anxious to prosecute the proceedings of the Bill in an orderly manner because it is important to the people of Scotland. It does not help when hon. Members representing English constituencies make a nonsense of our proceedings. That is not acceptable to the Opposition Front Bench—nor, I believe, is it acceptable to the House.

Mr. McLeish

The intervention by the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) requires no comment from me, although I feel that it was an abuse of the House. Indeed, the Scots on the Opposition Benches have just heard our Front Bench spokesman making that point.

I was probing the question of support costs for the proper functions of school boards. The Minister was asked in Committee about how the costs could be contained, and he made a fairly remarkable statement. When pressed on how the committee of administration would function, the Minister suggested that one of the school board members should take the minutes. I found that quite incredible. We are talking about a major innovation in education in Scotland. The Minister is laughing, but we are used to that. We treat education in Scotland with respect, unlike the contempt which oozes from Ministers at every possible opportunity. When pressed on important items of costs, the Minister was quite happy to run away from them and throw out some political snippet as to how local authorities in Scotland could contain the costs.

6 pm

Mr. Bill Walker

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that in Committee a number of hon. Members were interested in the point that he is now making? It emerged that it was being suggested that the members of the school boards—and I cited my own constituency where I know that lawyers, dentists, doctors and others hoped to be members of the proposed boards—would be only too happy to take on the duties of being secretary.

Mr. McLeish

I enjoyed greatly that intervention, because it summed up more adequately than I could, amateurism versus the professionalism that Scottish education has exhibited over the years. Bankers, dentists, retired people, probably some generals will be brought back from the colonies to man the school boards—an excellent contribution to the future quality of school boards.

To highlight two or three issues which give cause for concern, I shall refer to the excellent COSLA paper which was produced as a briefing. First, no one would dispute the fact that at this stage it is impossible to identify the amount of expenditure required for the boards to function. We seek to ensure that the Government take seriously the fact that a large amount of new expenditure will be needed, and consequently the Government will have to say to the local authorities and the representatives of the education unions that if reasonable costs are put forward for such a venture they are willing to support those costs.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman referred to the position I took in Committee about clerks, which was that clerks should not necessarily be local authority employees. As he also referred to the COSLA briefing document, will he comment on the fact that the COSLA estimate of the costs of providing the clerks' services are in line with what I told the Committee, that is, that it does not make the assumption that they should be local authority employees? I wonder whether his criticism and derision that has been directed at me is also directed at COSLA.

Mr. McLeish

I would never withdraw any derision that I aimed at the Minister because I believe sincerely that the Minister's attitude towards Scottish education is, in the main, highly negative and destructive, so I shall not take any instructions from him about my interest in and my contribution to the welfare of Scottish education.

We have identified the first point: the Government are willing the end but are unwilling to consider the means of delivery. My second point has been made, but it needs to be stressed. Scottish education authorities are facing massive constraints on their expenditure at present. There is no way in which they can make up the substantial shortfall between what the Government provide for school boards and what is necessary for the proper, effective functioning of those boards. I hope that the Government will take that seriously.

The local authority in my constituency, Fife regional council, an excellent education authority which puts excellence first, will be faced with a possible bill of about £1.2 million for implementing the school boards. Whether it is £1.5 million or £500,000, it is a very significant sum of money, and £1.2 million would represent I per cent. of its total gross expenditure on education. My concern is that the spending possibly of £1.2 million by 200 schools requires the Government honestly to reassure the House this evening that if such costs are incurred they will be met by the Government. School boards were their idea, and clearly, if they want them to be successful, Fife regional authority, and other education authorities, must have a reimbursement of costs, because most education authorities will look positively at the legislation when it is on the statute book. Will the Minister, in his reply, make that absolutely clear? Whether we are talking about £5 million or £19.5 million is irrelevant. It is the principle of whether the new boards can function effectively if the Government walk away from their responsibilities for the expenditure.

Finally, specific grants have been mentioned. Our concern is that the Bill paves the way for opting out in future. If we accept specific grants, that will be another attack on local education authorities because it will increasingly centralise decision making and direct funding to education. That is not wanted by the education authorities, the education unions, or by the Opposition. It will be a further nail in the coffin of publicly provided education in Scotland. I hope that, apart from providing reassurance about funding, the Minister will reject specific grants which would bypass education authorities and create the hostility that is so prevalent in education and that the Opposition wish to dampen down.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I am slightly puzzled by the hon. Gentleman's remarks about specific grants. New clause 1 provides that the establishment and continuing support of school boards will be the subject of separate and ongoing consultation with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. The new clause does not specify who the Opposition wish to consult with COSLA. I find it hard to believe that they meant the Government, because, clearly, there are already consultations between the Government and COSLA about local authority spending and the rate support grant. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) from a sedentary position says, "Separate". That is the point which I wish to draw to the attention of the House. If the funding of school boards is to be subject to separate consultation and to be labelled as separate from the rate support grant, by any test of the meaning of specific grants—which my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) was calling for—that would be a specific grant, because it would be subject to separate negotiations and would have a separate purpose.

I realise why the Opposition are determined not to embrace specific grants. It has nothing to do with opting out; it is because it is COSLA's policy to reject the notion of specific grants. I am all the more puzzled because on Second Reading and throughout the Committee proceedings I gave specific and clear undertakings that the cost of school boards would be taken into account in the rate support negotiations, that we did not wish this initiative in any way to be impoverished, and that we would provide the resources which were required to make the school boards function. I am at a loss to understand why the Opposition are asking the House to support the new clause.

Mr. McLeish

Perhaps the briefing that the Minister has received has not been as good as it would have been if this were a Government new clause. It is clear that new clause 1 is about the volume of expenditure being separately discussed between various parties. The Minister knows that specific grant allocation is about the mechanism of the delivery of the finance. He should not confuse the two issues. He is doing that. Will he not accept that new clause 1 means that the volume should be discussed? Specific grants go much further than anything in new clause 1.

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman has a funny idea of what is a specific grant. A specific grant is a grant which is given for a specific purpose. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that in the rate support grant discussion account should be taken of school boards and that they should be subject to negotiation, I have already given that undertaking. Even now, as we speak, that process has begun and negotiations are taking place between COSLA and the Scottish Office on the appropriate level of support provided within the rate support grant settlement to meet the cost of the school boards, in anticipation of the House giving the Bill its consent. The hon. Gentleman is chasing an illusion and, having heard his account of what a specific grant is, I can better understand how we have reached this position.

Mr. McAllion

The Minister has said in Committee and on Report that he will take account of the requirements for funding implementation of the school boards system. That is very different from saying that he will guarantee that the Government will fund the costs, whatever they are, as they become apparent through consultation between himself and COSLA. Will the hon. Gentleman guarantee that, when the costs become obvious to him and local authorities, the Government will fund them and not leave it to local authorities to find the money from among their other revenue expenditure?

Mr. Forsyth

There are several judgmental qualifications in the hon. Gentleman's question. As part of the negotiations, the cost of school boards will be fully taken into account, but I am not prepared to give COSLA a blank cheque whereby whatever it says the costs will be becomes the amount provided. If that were the basis on which we funded local government, there would be no need for negotiations and we would be back in the position faced in 1978, when Labour was in government. I am getting tired of repeated questioning on whether the school boards will be funded in this way. I shall carefully consider the suggestion by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood that we should consider a specific grant for this purpose. In the meantime, I am prepared to operate on the basis of negotiations with COSLA, taking full account of the costs that it wishes to take on board.

The hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) pressed me to look at COSLA's estimate, and I have done so carefully. In Committee, I said that we thought that the cost would be about £5 million. I acknowledge that COSLA, unlike the hon. Gentleman, has found a saving of about £700,000 from the abolition of school councils, which is on the basis of a comparable figure to ours, putting our estimate at £5.7 million in total.

COSLA's figures are a little questionable. I acknowledge that the Opposition have been generous enough to accept many of the arguments which I put in criticism of the Dumfries and Galloway estimates. I believe, from memory, that COSLA's estimates have changed from £12 million to £15 million to £20 million, and now the estimate is down to £17.6 million. There has been a degree of movement by COSLA——

Mr. Galbraith


Mr. Forsyth

I am happy to be flexible. Whether we are talking about £5 million or £10 million as a proportion of the total expenditure in education, we are dealing with very small sums.

Mr. McLeish

One per cent.

Mr. Forsyth

Less than 1 per cent., and, by our estimate, rather more than the equivalent cost of two extra pupils in an average secondary school.

It is difficult to understand how boards with only basic powers—the basis of COSLA's estimate—meeting six times a year are likely to need more than £3.5 million of computer hardware and how it is possible that each board will consume £1,200 of stationery and telephone calls in a year. The estimate for training, at £2.4 million, is a ballpark figure for which no basis is given. It is a little difficult to understand, given the Government's undertaking that we shall fund training centrally. COSLA's global estimate includes nearly £1.8 million for staff replacement costs. As I pointed out in Committee, we have already arranged for that aspect of the impact of school boards to be accommodated within the new staffing standards, which we aim to publish, in line with our undertakings, before the end of the current school year. There is no need for that to be included in the estimate. When one strips away even those more dubious assumptions, we are talking perhaps about an estimate that lies between £5 million and £10 million, rather than £17 million. As I have said repeatedly, we are not absolutely thralled to the idea of £5 million. The negotiating machinery exists and, by now, COSLA should know how to use it.

6.15 pm

After a good Committee stage, when a number of positive suggestions were put forward which I was happy to accept, I am dismayed that the Opposition should claim to support the Bill's principle but criticise the financial implications when the Government seek to put it into effect. In an intervention, I said that Strathclyde region had a stance, as part of the Labour party's policy, of one school per council. It is difficult to understand how a school council for every school, with the additional powers that Labour proposes, would be significantly cheaper than the school boards, with the limited powers which are the basis of COSLA's assumption.

Mr. Norman Hogg

We are not attempting to argue costs on that basis. We are simply saying that there should be a separate monitoring apparatus within the structure—COSLA—because we are far from persuaded about the Minister's estimates, which are now between £5 million and £10 million.

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman must not put words into my mouth. By taking out the more obvious items that should not be included, we are arguing about between £5 million and £10 million. I am not saying that my estimate is £10 million—far from it. I am saying that it is a matter for negotiation. I accept what the hon. Gentleman states in all honesty is his position, but that was not the position taken by the hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) or some of his other colleagues, who clearly argued against the principle of the Bill and said that this was not a proper use of funds.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East was at pains to emphasise the costs of providing the reports, statements and other information that the Bill will entitle a board to receive and request. That was another example of the kind of objection to the Bill's principle about which I am trying to persuade the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth. The Opposition appear to be arguing for a restriction on a board's access to information, whereas the Scottish Labour party claims that parents are interested in that access. Labour Members find themselves in a curious position.

Mr. McAllion

By referring to the additional information that would have to be referred to school boards, I was making a point about the cost to the education authority of supplying that information. The Minister did not take that into account. He does not make sufficient sums available to allow education authorities to provide the information required by school boards.

Mr. Forsyth

I have repeatedly given undertakings that those costs will be met through the rate support grant. The hon. Gentleman must accept what we say. That undertaking will be met. The Opposition's insistence on not accepting it leaves me entitled to take the view, that basically they oppose the principle of the Bill and seek to argue against it.

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

Does the Minister realise that the rate support grant will meet up to only 52 per cent. of the costs and that ratepayers will have to find vast sums to subsidise the system? That will be a massive burden on taxpayers and ratepayers in Strathclyde, which is a huge authority. The Minister's proposals will cost a lot of money. Will he comment?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman needs to take account of the effect of having school boards where the people who see how the money is being spent in the schools can form judgments. My view is that the proposal is likely to make significant savings and create within the education system a body of people who can police it more effectively than councillors, albeit with the best of motives, who are remote from what is happening on the ground. The hon. Gentleman needs to put that point in the balance.

I was asked about the rate support grant. I am sure that, like me, the hon. Gentleman will be delighted that this year the Government's allocation for education has been increased by no less than 9 per cent., which is well ahead of inflation and provides ample scope for absorbing a number of initiatives.

Mr. Graham

That is irrelevant.

Mr. Forsyth

I thought that the hon. Gentleman was worried about the basis of expenditure. I should have thought that he would be delighted that the Government have been able to increase expenditure on education by no less than 32 per cent. in real terms since 1979.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) rightly expressed her worry about the provision of adequate training for members of school boards. I assure her that a comprehensive package is being prepared, which will include a variety of training material and information for board members and which will be funded centrally. We are also working on training for head teachers, whose management role will include working with the boards. That training will include material on their new relationships, so I think that the hon. Lady can rest assured.

Mrs. Fyfe

I accept the Minister's assurance on those aspects of training. However, I was referring to the background training costs for professionals who will be required to service the committee. That cost will have to be included in an account of the true cost of running such boards.

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Lady has made a separate point, which will undoubtedly be taken into account. Certainly we have borne it in mind in our estimates. It will be open to the boards to decide where to purchase additional training. We shall provide them with a budget for that purpose. Some enterprising local authorities may even be able to produce training packages which are competitive and those authorities may make a profit on the exercise. The boards themselves will test what is appropriate material, exercising their own discretion in the market place.

Mrs. Fyfe

I am anxious that the Minister has forgotten the undertaking that he gave to me earlier when I intervened to ask for a breakdown of the Government's own figure, which was then £5 million. I am interested to hear the breakdown if the figure is as much as £10 million.

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Lady asked me to give a breakdown of our estimate of £5 million. That sum was made up as follows: £250,000 for elections, £286,000 for members' travel allowances, £554,624 for training, £3,360,000 for administrative support and £559,376 for miscellaneous purposes. I hope that I have helped the hon. Lady.

Mrs. Fyfe

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it really permissible that the Government's figures should be gabbled at us at enormous speed? We should have the figures on a sheet of paper before us so that we can make a proper study of the proposals.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

They will be published in Hansard tomorrow.

Mr. Forsyth

I am sure that the hon. Lady will wish to study them and to question me again. I shall be happy to answer any points she may wish to raise.

My hon. Friends made a number of points. May I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) how much I appreciate the help that we have had from Dumfries and Galloway and the remarks he made about the Scottish Office and its ability to work with that council.

Some hon. Members are concerned about the costs and believe that the Government do not have their estimates right. We have provided funding to help the pilot study to operate in Dumfries and Galloway and we shall be considering carefully the experience there. Part of that experience will enable us to form an assessment of the likely costs that will arise and of which we shall take account. It will also enable us to test some of the training material and to form a view before the legislation comes into effect. We are profoundly grateful to the chairman of the education committee and the director of education for the co-operation and help that they have given us.

The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) advised me not to analyse the COSLA estimates. That was good advice but I was unable to take it, following the strictures of other hon. Members. He asserted that local authorities were stretched in their education budgets. That is untrue, because we have provided substantial extra resources—nearly one third. The hon. Gentleman said that he would favour providing the funds if the school boards were a partnership. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries was right to point out that the hon. Gentleman wanted it both ways; he was arguing in favour of the principle and against the practice, which is a position often taken by his party.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) pointed out that I had given undertakings in Committee that would add to costs. I acknowledge that, but they will provide for a more effective school board system and I can assure him that there is no question of the Government seeking to pare the resources for school boards with the result that they fail or do not operate as effectively as possible.

We believe that the school boards will improve our schools fundamentally by bringing parents, school staff and the wider local community into closer involvement. Those benefits cannot be quantified easily. Nevertheless, they will be significant and enduring. We are not arguing for school boards at any price. The cost nationally will be modest—as I said, at the most a fraction of 1 per cent. of current local authority spending on education. I therefore urge the House to reject the new clause.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 209, Noes 278.

Division No. 370] [6.26 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Allen, Graham Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Alton, David Fisher, Mark
Anderson, Donald Flannery, Martin
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Flynn, Paul
Armstrong, Hilary Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Foster, Derek
Ashton, Joe Foulkes, George
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Fraser, John
Barron, Kevin Fyfe, Maria
Battle, John Galbraith, Sam
Beckett, Margaret Galloway, George
Bell, Stuart Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Bidwell, Sydney Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Blair, Tony Godman, Dr Norman A.
Blunkett, David Golding, Mrs Llin
Boateng, Paul Gordon, Mildred
Boyes, Roland Gould, Bryan
Bradley, Keith Graham, Thomas
Bray, Dr Jeremy Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Grirfiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Grocott, Bruce
Buchan, Norman Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Buckley, George J. Haynes, Frank
Caborn, Richard Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Callaghan, Jim Heffer, Eric S.
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Henderson, Doug
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Hinchliffe, David
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Canavan, Dennis Holland, Stuart
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Home Robertson, John
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hood, Jimmy
Clay, Bob Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Clelland, David Howells, Geraint
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hoyle, Doug
Cohen, Harry Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Coleman, Donald Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Illsley, Eric
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Janner, Greville
Corbyn, Jeremy John, Brynmor
Cousins, Jim Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Crowther, Stan Kennedy, Charles
Cryer, Bob Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Cummings, John Kirkwood, Archy
Cunliffe, Lawrence 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 McCartney, Ian
Eastham, Ken McKelvey, William
Evans, John (St Helens N) McLeish, Henry
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) McTaggart, Bob
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Madden, Max
Fatchett, Derek Mahon, Mrs Alice
Faulds, Andrew Marek, Dr John
Fearn, Ronald Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Ruddock, Joan
Martin, Michael J, (Springburn) Salmond, Alex
Martlew, Eric Sedgemore, Brian
Maxton, John Sheerman, Barry
Meacher, Michael Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Meale, Alan Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Michael, Alun Short, Clare
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Skinner, Dennis
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Spearing, Nigel
Morgan, Rhodri Steinberg, Gerry
Morley, Elliott Stott, Roger
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Strang, Gavin
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Straw, Jack
Mowlam, Marjorie Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mullin, Chris Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Murphy, Paul Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Nellist, Dave Turner, Dennis
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Vaz, Keith
O'Brien, William Wall, Pat
O'Neill, Martin Wallace, James
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Walley, Joan
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Parry, Robert Wareing, Robert N.
Patchett, Terry Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Pendry, Tom Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Pike, Peter L. Wigley, Dafydd
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Primarolo, Dawn Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Quin, Ms Joyce Wilson, Brian
Radice, Giles Winnick, David
Randall, Stuart Wise, Mrs Audrey
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Worthington, Tony
Reid, Dr John Wray, Jimmy
Richardson, Jo Young, David (Bolton SE)
Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Rogers, Allan Tellers for the Ayes:
Rooker, Jeff Mr. John McFall and Mr. Martin Redmond.
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Adley, Robert Browne, John (Winchester)
Aitken, Jonathan Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Alexander, Richard Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Buck, Sir Antony
Amess, David Budgen, Nicholas
Amos, Alan Burns, Simon
Arbuthnot, James Butcher, John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Butler, Chris
Ashby, David Butterfill, John
Aspinwall, Jack Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Atkins, Robert Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Atkinson, David Carrington, Matthew
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Carttiss, Michael
Baldry, Tony Chapman, Sydney
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Chope, Christopher
Batiste, Spencer Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Bendall, Vivian Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Benyon, W. Colvin, Michael
Bevan, David Gilroy Conway, Derek
Biffen, Rt Hon John Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Body, Sir Richard Cope, Rt Hon John
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Couchman, James
Boscawen, Hon Robert Cran, James
Boswell, Tim Critchley, Julian
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Currie, Mrs Edwina
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Curry, David
Bowis, John Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Davis, David (Boothferry)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Day, Stephen
Brazier, Julian Devlin, Tim
Bright, Graham Dickens, Geoffrey
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Dicks, Terry
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Dorrell, Stephen
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Dover, Den Kilfedder, James
Dunn, Bob King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Durant, Tony Kirkhope, Timothy
Dykes, Hugh Knapman, Roger
Eggar, Tim Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Evennett, David Knowles, Michael
Fallon, Michael Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Farr, Sir John Lang, Ian
Favell, Tony Latham, Michael
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lawrence, Ivan
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fookes, Miss Janet Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Forman, Nigel Lilley, Peter
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Forth, Eric Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Fox, Sir Marcus Lord, Michael
Franks, Cecil Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Freeman, Roger Lyell, Sir Nicholas
French, Douglas McCrindle, Robert
Fry, Peter Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Gale, Roger MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Gardiner, George McLoughlin, Patrick
Garel-Jones, Tristan McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Gill, Christopher McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Major, Rt Hon John
Goodlad, Alastair Malins, Humfrey
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Maples, John
Gorst, John Marland, Paul
Gow, Ian Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Mates, Michael
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Gregory, Conal Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E') Meyer, Sir Anthony
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Miller, Sir Hal
Grist, Ian Mills, Iain
Ground, Patrick Miscampbell, Norman
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
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 Moynihan, Hon Colin
Haselhurst, Alan Mudd, David
Hawkins, Christopher Neale, Gerrard
Hayes, Jerry Nelson, Anthony
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Neubert, Michael
Hayward, Robert Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Heathcoat-Amory, David Nicholls, Patrick
Heddle, John Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hill, James Oppenheim, Phillip
Hind, Kenneth Page, Richard
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Paice, James
Holt, Richard Patnick, Irvine
Hordern, Sir Peter Patten, Chris (Bath)
Howard, Michael Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Pawsey, James
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Porter, David (Waveney)
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) 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
Irving, Charles Riddick, Graham
Jack, Michael Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Janman, Tim Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Jessel, Toby Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Roe, Mrs Marion
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rost, Peter
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Rowe, Andrew
Key, Robert Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Ryder, Richard Thorne, Neil
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Thornton, Malcolm
Sayeed, Jonathan Twinn, Dr Ian
Shaw, David (Dover) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Shelton, William (Streatham) Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Waller, Gary
Shepherd, Colin (Heroford) Walters, Sir Dennis
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Ward, John
Shersby, Michael Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Sims, Roger Warren, Kenneth
Skeet, Sir Trevor Watts, John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wells, Bowen
Soames, Hon Nicholas Wheeler, John
Speller, Tony Widdecombe, Ann
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Wiggin, Jerry
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Wilshire, David
Steen, Anthony Winterton, Mrs Ann
Stern, Michael Winterton, Nicholas
Stevens, Lewis Wood, Timothy
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Tellers for the Noes:
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. David Maclean.
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

Question accordingly negatived.

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