HC Deb 28 March 1988 vol 130 cc798-832

Amendments made: No. 432, in page 203, line 18, at end insert— '1963 c. 33. The London Government Act 1963. Section 32(7).' No. 433, in page 207, leave out lines 36 and 37.

No. 119, in page 207, line 45, at end insert— '1974 c. 7. The Local Government Act 1974. Section 8(2) and (3).'.[Mr. Kenneth Baker.]

Order for Third Reading read.[Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.]

7.57 pm
Mr. Kenneth Baker

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The Education Reform Bill is a landmark in our education system. Future historians will see the Bill as the turning point, when the country moved forward from a long debate on education to a programme of action to improve the education system— action to improve the quality of education in our schools, colleges, polytechnics and universities; action to raise the standards achieved by pupils and students; action to extend freedom of choice and to enhance the position of parents. It is right, therefore, that the House has now debated the Bill for over 200 hours on the Floor and in Committee. That massive allocation of time marks the significance of the Government's proposals. When it comes back from the House of Lords, it is likely to be the most debated Bill since 1945—

Mr. Straw

It feels like it.

Mr. Baker

I feel as fresh as a daisy. Although I am now moving the Third Reading, I should be happy to move the Second Reading again, but that would give the hon. Gentleman too much of an opportunity.

Since becoming Secretary of State in May 1986, I have visited many excellent schools and been very impressed by the work being done, often in difficult circumstances, by teachers in schools and colleges throughout the country. But too often they have been isolated examples of excellence. Too many of our pupils achieve less than they could and should and less than their counterparts in foreign countries. Nine out of 10 16-year-olds in West Germany get a hauptschule certificate covering German, maths, a foreign language and two other subjects. Fewer than four out of 10 English school leavers attain the equivalent qualification— the certificate of secondary education, grade 4 — in English, maths, a foreign language and one other subject.

As a country, we have been letting too many of our children down. The brightest do not suffer—they can survive — but not all of them are fully stretched and challenged. Too many of the average and below-average are not stretched; they get bored and bunk off as quickly as they can. They do not return. Legislation alone cannot put this right. What it can do is create a framework which focuses the creativity of our professional teachers and taps into the energies and commitment of parents, employers and local communities.

I want to inject into the education service a clear sense of purpose and direction. I know that the expertise, energy and enthusiasm are all there, and I want to release those forces. The central purpose of the Bill is to recreate the excitement and urgency and to channel the enthusiasm that has gradually ebbed away since the passing of R A Butler's great 1944 Education Act.

The central reform in the Bill is the national curriculum. The 1944 Act does not give parents any clear idea of what they should expect their children to get out of 11 years of compulsory education. But that carefree attitude to content is now a thing of the past and the change has occurred over 10 years. There is a wide measure of agreement that the time has come to introduce a basic school curriculum. Religious education — first among equals—and English, maths and science will be at the centre. In addition, all pupils will study seven other foundation subjects. The Bill does not lay down the amount of time to be spent on those basic subjects. Schools will be able to offer other subjects.

A great deal of contingency work is going ahead so that we can get moving on introducing the core curriculum subjects in primary schools in September 1989. Parents will also know that their children's achievements will be fairly assessed, in a way which helps teachers to get the best out of their pupils and gives parents clear information about what their children know and can do and how well they are progressing.

There are two final but central points that I should like to make about the national curriculum.

First, it will not be the Baker curriculum. I would find it constitutionally unacceptable for the holder of my office to impose his own national curriculum. The Bill builds in the essential checks and balances. Only after the most thorough statutory consultation, centring upon the National Curriculum Council and after the House has approved them, will the new arrangements be introduced into the schools.

Secondly, the national curriculum now embodies a new religious settlement, which assures religious education of its central position in schools without detracting from the proper local arrangements for agreeing religious education syllabuses. I should like to pay tribute to the Church leaders — the Bishop of London for the Church of England, the Bishop of Leeds for the Roman Catholic Church and Mr. Brown of the Methodists— for their help in constructing this new settlement.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Will the Secretary of State explain whether he has overcome the requirements of the Prime Minister as outlined in that letter?

Mr. Baker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will study the Black report, which we have debated endlessly. We welcome the broad framework of the report because it establishes a system of assessment and testing at seven, 11, 14 and 16—pencil and paper testing—and the reporting of the results of that assessment and testing so that parents can judge. What the Prime Minister and others are concerned about—I expressed concern about this matter in Committee—is that the system must not become so complex that it becomes burdensome and cannot be introduced. We must be aware of the costs of such a system. The document is now out for consultation and I am sure that all the many interested parties throughout the country will be commenting on it.

With regard to financial delegation, the significance of this part of the Bill for the future of the education service has been highlighted by a shift in terminology. Increasingly, we hear about the local management of schools. I welcome that; it is better than financial delegation.

The Bill pushes responsibility down the line—to the school, the headteachers and the governors. They will work to get best value out of the resources delegated to them.

Since the Bill was published, the House has had the benefit of an excellent report from Coopers and Lybrand on this subject. That report gives the lie to the allegation that the Bill will sideline the local education authority. As the report says, the role of the LEA will be fundamentally altered but we think"— that is Coopers and Lybrand— that the proposals will produce considerable benefit in that they will enable LEAs to focus more attention on questions of major importance without being distracted by having to pay attention to points of detail. Exactly. Getting involved in decisions that are best taken by those on the spot is a distraction. What is more, it is an annoyance to heads and governors. They will now be able to get on with the job of managing the schools. The LEAs will be able to move out of detailed involvement into strategic management, and that must be right.

Historians who read our debates on these two subjects in Committee will—I hope this is a comfort to the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) — see the severe difficulty in which the Opposition found themselves. The Opposition recognise that our proposals for a national curriculum and local management of schools have been very broadly welcomed, within and beyond the education service. I was speaking to the Secondary Heads Association in Reading last Friday night, and it is clear that the secondary heads and primary heads are looking forward to the prospect of local management of schools. The Opposition, therefore, were reduced to sniping at matters of relative detail. They did not divide the Committee on the clauses in question. Could there be any clearer proof that the Bill points the way forward, that it is the Government's policies which form the agenda, and that it is our philosophy of education which commands the stage?

The other key strand woven into the various chapters of the Education Reform Bill is freedom of choice. The provisions for more open enrolment will extend choice, opening the doors of good schools to more parents. The bizarre spectacle of empty desks at popular schools will become a thing of the past.

The Bill will provide wider choice by introducing two new types of school. The city technology college will provide free education for parents who want to give their children a technologically biased education, in colleges with direct financial backing from industry and commerce. The first college will open this September in Solihull; the next in Nottingham in 1989 and more are in the pipeline. The CTC model will add to and enrich the variety of educational provision available in England and Wales.

Grant-maintained schools push the principle of choice further. The Bill gives parents and governors a new opportunity. They will be able to take over the running of their schools, free of the local education authority.

It was interesting that on more open enrolment, city technology colleges and grant-maintained schools, the Opposition divided the Committee. That was quite right, because here is the great divide between us. The Government are for choice, freedom, variety, diversity; pushing individual responsibility to its limits. The Opposition are for planning, allocation and decision-making on behalf of parents. We believe that parents know best and we want them to be able to apply that knowledge. Their right to opt out — it will be their choice; I emphasis that there will be no compulsion—will close the chapter of "take it or leave it" which has crept into local authority-provided schools in this country.

The grant-maintained school means the introduction of competition—with no charge to the customer—into a publicly provided service. Competition for custom, for pupils, is the best self-regulating mechanism for higher standards all round. Those who foresee a divide opening up between successful and "sink" schools ignore the dynamic nature of competition. The LEAs will have to respond to competition and to parental pressure. That can only be good for all parents, whether they exercise their choice to opt out or to stay in.

Mr. Ashdown

Parents, in so far as they have expressed their views through the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations and numerous polls, believe that this will not provide more choice but will put them in a position in which the fortunate will have chosen schools and the rest will be trapped.

Mr. Baker

I have just answered that question; I do not believe that that is true. The Liberal party has had some difficulty in addressing this problem. It is in favour of choice, but not very much : in favour of freedom, but not very much. I can go on repeating that for ever. It encapsulates what passes for political philosophy in the mind of the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown). He must make up his own mind—

Mr. Ashdown

Sing us another tune.

Mr. Baker

I do not think the hon. Gentleman would like to hear me sing it. He and his party must decide whether they believe in trusting the individual. Traditionally, the Liberals always did. We shall see which line the hon. Gentleman will take when it comes to the leadership contest in his party.

The percipient historian will also look at source material other than our Official Reports. Other primary material is revealing about the sea change under way. May I therefore recommend to future historians The Guardian of 23 March. There they will find the honest, forward-looking vision of the hon. Member for Blackburn. As we have two of the campaign managers for the other side of the Labour party here tonight—the hon. Members for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) and for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) — I wonder whether they will agree with what the hon. Member for Blackburn said in this important article — [Interruption.] I urge hon. Gentlemen to he calm; this is frightfully good stuff.

A nation of consumers enjoying relatively high living standards becomes literally much more choosy, much more interested in choice and variety. That is the Brian Gould version of socialism.

The aspirations of choice are now spreading from consumer goods to public service and rightly so. That is what we are providing — consumer choice through more open enrolment, CTCs and grant-maintained schools. We are witnessing a fundamental shift in attitudes and the knee-jerk opposition to those three things will look increasingly quaint with the years—

Mr. Straw

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Baker

The world has moved on; the hon. Member for Blackburn knows it and his problem is that many of his colleagues do not.

Mr. Straw

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his commentary on my article. Will he go on and quote the next part, in which I praised the idea of locally delivered, democratically decided local services, which he will destroy?

Mr. Baker

On the contrary, there is a major role for local authorities as a result of our changes. They will have to decide the amount of money raised locally to provide the services. I praise the hon. Gentleman for his far-seeing vision. I am waiting for his hon. Friends the Members for Bradford, South and for Hackney, South and Shoreditch to rise and say that they agree with him right down the line, but they are both silent—

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

As the Secretary of State invites an intervention, I can hardly resist. He seems mesmerised by leadership contests. Is that because his recent showing has rendered him out of the race in his contest and he will be campaign manager for someone else in the Tory party when it takes place?

Mr. Baker

Such thoughts are absent from my mind. I rather enjoy fly-fishing and the fish rose. The hon. Gentleman said nothing about the issue, however; once again, he and his hon. Friend remain silent. The Gangway represents the great gulf between the hon. Member for Blackburn and his hon. Friends sitting below it. I see that the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) is sitting in the Gangway; he must be the floating voter, and we should like to know which way he will go.

I turn now to the provisions for higher education. The Bill marks a new chapter for higher education. We have set an ambitious national target of one in five of 18 to 21-year-olds going into higher education by the turn of the century. The Bill provides the framework to achieve that.

We are setting the polytechnics free of local authority control. Twenty-nine institutions with 181,000 students are responsible for more than half the growth in student numbers since 1979. All hon. Members will agree that that is a credit to the country. They are 21-years-old this year; they have come of age. I am sure that they, and the other major colleges, will prosper under the new Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council.

The universities, too, will have a new funding council —the Universities Funding Council. I was pleased that the universities and the Government were able to work together to clarify the Bill to make quite clear the proper arms-length relationship between Government and the institutions of higher education. Working together, we have been able to make sure that the Bill reflects the Government's original and consistent objective: a most careful limit on the scope for Government involvement in the affairs of independent institutions.

The freedom of the academy is secure. We shall continue to discuss with the universities their request — there is a paradox in this—that the same Government that they do not wish to interfere in their affairs should offer them some means of protecting the freedom of academics from other academics. I am sure that, with the same goodwill that marked our discussions on the first issue, we shall be able to find a way forward on this one, too.

Mr. Dalyell

No Scot was allowed on the Committee —understandably. However, thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and a number of others, there was an hour's debate on Wednesday night on the problems of Scottish universities. Did the Secretary of State learn anything from that debate? I have no constituency interest, but Aberdeen and Dundee have a desperate problem. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any cause for hope?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman raises the central issue with which I have already dealt. I am often asked to intervene in the cause of universities, but holders of my office have always traditionally held that we do not intervene in the daily running of, or allocation of funds to, universities. The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. We have changed the Bill to ensure that the holder of my office does not intervene and the Universities Funding Council makes these decisions. The hon. Gentleman must decide whether I or the UFC should decide such matters. We believe that it should be the UFC and that Ministers should not intervene, because if they could intervene in such matters they could also intervene in all sorts of other ways to direct funding according to their whim and in favour of particular subjects. The House should not give my office that power.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)

All Conservative Members welcome what the Secretary of State has said about his powers in higher education and we all hope he will be able to deliver what he has promised on academic freedom. When they have independence, the funding councils must be brought together from each side of the boundary divide. We do not want independence that shoots off on diverging tramlines rather than joining in one coherent organised system.

Mr. Baker

The immediate task is to ensure that the Polytechnic and Colleges Funding Council, which is a new body for which we have already appointed the chairman — Sir Ronald Dearing — and chief executive — Mr. William Stubbs—moves into operation and fulfils the important function of dealing with the 80 to 90 funding institutions, some of which are polytechnics and others colleges of higher education. The council will have its work cut out to ensure that it gets a proper control and allocation system going. It is right to have two funding councils. If something different develops in the future, that is something for the future.

One of the most encouraging things—this does not divide the parties—is that we are all committed to the expansion of higher education in our country. In the past seven years there has been a substantial expansion —180,000 more students. We have set the ambitious target of 50,000 more in the lifetime of this Parliament and one in five 18 to 21-year-olds by the end of the century. That will require a great deal of dedication and effort by the universities, polytechnics and colleges.

We are also keen that the further education colleges — the unsung providers for hundreds of thousands of students of so many courses meeting employers' needs—should benefit from the breath of freedom. They too will have their budgets delegated to them and, with greater representation for business men and women on their governing bodies, I am in no doubt that they will become even more responsive to the needs of their local communities.

I shall now come to ILEA. For too long schools in inner London, particularly secondary schools, have been producing poor results at high cost. I do not want to repeat the earlier debate. For too long we have waited for ILEA to reform itself. That reform is for ever just about to happen but it never comes. The Government have worked from the principle that local people will get a better service from their local council than from the remote and bureaucratic ILEA. The positive response to our original proposals has led us to enshrine in the Bill the principle of devolution of education responsibilities to every borough.

Taken with the other measures in the Bill, I believe that parents in London can be confident that the boroughs will provide an effective education service. All the boroughs should now get on with preparations for 1990.

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Baker

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way. He may catch Mr. Speaker's eye later.

The spur of competition between boroughs — from schools which opt out — is the best mechanism for a flourishing education service. It will work better than administrative planning from county hall. That is good news for pupils, parents, teachers and employers of inner London.

As a student of history, I tend to recoil from instant history, but on ILEA I am prepared to hazard a prophecy. My judgment is that ILEA will be missed by Londoners. They will miss it as much as they miss the unlamented and already forgotten GLC.

This is a major piece of legislation and is built to last. It has been subjected to careful scrutiny. The Government have listened carefully to constructive criticism, and the record shows our considered responses to deeply felt concerns about certain aspects of our proposals. I am glad that we have been able to look at the difficult and important issue of pupils with special needs. I am also glad to have been able to reach a settlement with the universities and the Churches—an academic and clerical concordat. In one important respect the Bill remains the Bill we introduced on 20 November last year : we have not abandoned any of the principles on which the Government were elected in June.

The Bill is a charter for better education. It will release and focus the energies of head teachers, their staff and governors. It will increase parental involvement and choice. I commend it to the House.

8.22 pm
Mr. Straw

I want to begin this final debate on at least this part of the Bill by thanking my hon. Friends on the Front Bench who served with me on the Committee. I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown). No one can doubt his assiduity and his commitment to what he believes in, and I pay tribute to him for the way in which he fought against the Bill.

The Secretary of State spoke about the great Butler Act. For the first time that Act provided for some equality of opportunity in education. It provided for education to be available to all on the basis of need and not on the basis of wealth. The Labour party implemented the 1944 Act and, with the help of many people outside our party, including many people in the Conservative party, we improved upon it in the 1950s, the 1960s and the 1970s with the development of comprehensive schools. When she was Secretary of State for Education, the Prime Minister closed more grammar schools and secured the opening of more comprehensives than any Secretary of State before or since. We have to thank her for that.

Comprehensive schools cater for 85 per cent. of children in the maintained state sector. The comprehensive system has been an outstanding success, especially where it has been allowed to work properly. A study by Edinburgh university paid for by the Scottish Education Department made clear that in Scotland in many boroughs and counties controlled by Conservatives or by Labour or with no overall control comprehensive education is alive and working and is far better than the system that went before it.

It is a testament to the success of comprehensivisation that no Tory authority has been able to turn back the clock. Only two have tried, Solihull and Redbridge, but both failed.

It is because the Secretary of State and the Right wing of the Tory party know about the resilience of the idea of comprehensives and know that it has worked that they have not had the guts to attack the idea head on. They do not have the guts to say that what they really want and what they seek through the Bill is the reintroduction of selection. They want to see the classification of children from an early age into some as successes but a great many as failures. They want to see the reinforcement of class of divisions by which the few get a decent education while the rest receive a monocultural training. That is the reality. The Government wish to reintroduce selection by the back door and to recreate educational divisions. Opting out and open admissions have been deliberately designed to disrupt and divide the state provision of education.

Mr. Flannery

Does my hon. Friend agree that the vast majority of Tory voters would struggle against the reintroduction of the 11-plus? Their children do not want it.

Mr. Straw

That is exactly the experience in Redbridge and Solihull, both of which are Tory areas and both of which rejected plans by Right wingers in the Conservative party. The Prime Minister has said that she wants to see a return to Victorian values, and the country is getting that with a vengeance in the Bill. The spirit of Gradgrind lives and is to be found in many pages of the Bill.

The Bill is unlikely ever to improve education. If it was, we would enthusiastically support the whole of it. Instead, it may damage standards and reduce opportunity and choice. The Secretary of State and the Prime Minister preach parent power. We had another example of that in the debate when we heard about power to the people. There is a most extraordinary contradiction between the Secretary of State's rhetoric and the reality.

When we first got the Bill on 20 November we discovered that there were 175 new powers of central control contained in its 147 clauses. Today the Bill has grown by a third. Fifty-one clauses have been added with the result that the powers of central control have more than doubled. The Bill now contains 366 powers of central control, examples of which are contained on virtually every page. Not one clause has been inserted without a new power. The Bill has become a monster out of control. That is not only because of the Secretary of State's dangerous centralising tendencies, but results more from a failure to think the Bill through, to take the time that Rab Butler took to consider his measures, and to consult widely.

If there is one criticism that we and many others make of the Secretary of State it is that he is hyperactive. He never goes into matters in any depth but bolts from one issue to another. We have seen him in Committee studying pristine pages of notes on clauses or the Black report and have noted his marks of surprise when he realised what he was reading.

I have followed with close interest the Secretary of State's career. We discovered earlier the distress that I was caused by the discovery that he is now Mr. Two Per Cent. I was intrigued to find in the reference books that there are 10 blank years between the time in 1958 when he finished his period as an artillery instructor to the Libyan army and 28 March 1968, 20 years ago today, when he entered this House. I have not been able to fill in all the gaps. I have filled in one of them, because he worked for a time as an assistant to the chief executive of the tailors Aquascutum.

The most significent part of the Secretary of State's biographical details was omitted from all the great reference works, because he worked for a time as a consultant to Avon cosmetics. That taught him to smile. I would not have minded if he had worked as a consultant to Brylcreem, because single handedly he has been keeping Brylcreem alive. He wears it not only on his head but on his lips. That is the clue to his whole political approach because he believes that everything, however ugly or unacceptable, can always be disguised by cosmetics. He has two problems. The first is that the cosmetics mask has come off. The more we have examined the Bill, the less we have liked it, just as the more the public have examined it, the less they have liked it. The second is that he has fallen into a major marketing error that he should have learned about when he worked for Avon and Aquascutum. It is that anybody who tries to market two brands at the same time will confuse the public. That is his problem because the Tory party has been trying to flog the Baker brand and the Thatcher brand. Unless there is a clear brand image, it is not possible to convince the consumers about the validity or efficacy of the product. We all know the Secretary of State's problem.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

The hon. Gentleman should tell us about the Labour party.

Mr. Straw

The right hon. Gentleman asks me to tell him about the Labour party. I am dealing with his problems and the Bill. One of the few problems that he shares with Butler is dealing with the Conservative party. I looked in Rab Butler's biography at the reference to the Conservative party conference. He said: We have started the autumn with the Conservative Conference. I attended the whole of yesterday and found myself more out of sympathy with Conservative principles than I have been for some time, although the tendency has been growing. The audience would have been a credit to the Zoo or wild regions of the globe were they populated by mouldy and unattractive fauna. No ray of enlightenment shone on a single face except for the shining pate of Sir Henry Page Croft, who has the merit of looking fairly well washed. The Secretary of State still has to put up with the zoo of the Conservative party, but the problem has got worse because the inmates of the zoo have got out and taken control of the party and the headquarters. They have left the Secretary of State, almost literally, up a tree.

There are parts of the Bill — those on the national curriculum and testing—which could be made to work were the Secretary of State seriously to seek agreement from every educational interest. There has been some support for the principle of an agreed national curriculum, but not for the principle of an imposed national syllabus which applies only to some children. There has been some agreement that there should be regular testing of children so that the parents, and the child if old enough, can discover how it is getting on, for diagnostic testing, but not for the kind of competitive testing that sets child against child and class against class—a system that is in the mind of the Prime Minister and may be in the mind of the Secretary of State.

Leaving these aside, the public have a great deal to fear from this Bill, especially from the free market nonsense of the Bill by which children become commodities to be left at the mercy of the market. The Secretary of State referred to the fact that we have spent 200 hours in Committee and on the Floor of the House discussing this Bill, during the course of which 2,004 amendments have been moved—probably another post-war record. By no means all our efforts have been in vain. The Government have had to make 113 concessions, some large and some small, as we have exposed varying holes in the Bill. The time scale that the Secretary of State had in mind has changed. It will be years before testing, the national curriculum and local financial management come into force. One thing which is certain is that it will be many years after the Secretary of State has left his present office, whether that is for higher office or no office at all.

There have been important concessions on special education and on the universities, but much remains in the Bill which is offensive, authoritarian and unworkable. The greatest charge that we make is of wasted opportunities. We proposed, in terms no different from the commitment that the Prime Minister gave in 1972 in her White Paper, that there should be nursery education for every child who needed it. That was rejected by the Government, to their eternal shame. We proposed major reforms of education for 16 to 19-year-olds which would open up access to opportunities, and that was rejected. We proposed a report on education maintenance allowances, and that was rejected. We made proposals for the integration of education and training, and they were rejected. We made proposals to raise the morale and standing of teachers and instead teachers have to put up with continuing abuse from the Secretary of State and a failure to understand the great contribution that the overwhelming majority of them make to the education of our children.

The Bill places in the hands of the Conservative Secretary of State powers over schools, teachers, local authorities, colleges, polytechnics and universities, powers over what is taught and thought and powers over children, students and the very people whom he was supposed to free—the parents. All these powers have been imposed in the name of freedom and choice. The ideology of this Bill offends the one-nation Conservatism of Rab Butler as much as it offends the rest of our people. It is a desperate, wasted opportunity which is likely to fail to improve standards of education, create real choice of opportunity or repair the damage and neglect of the past nine years. We shall oppose it in the Lobbies tonight.

8.34 pm
Mr. Raison

I begin by congratulating my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the extraordinary skill and geniality with which he has conducted the passage of the Bill. He has run rings round the Opposition, but he has also shown a flexibility that has been both wise and constructive. We all know the examples. The way in which he has responded to the concerns of the churches and the universities are two notable examples. On top of that geniality and skill is the fact that the Bill contains several important advances for education. There is most agreement about a national curriculum, on which there have been major gains. I was one of those who was reluctant to come round to the idea of a national curriculum. It was quite alien to all that we used to talk about, but the anxiety about the quality of our education, which has spread over the years, justified that.

I am sorry that I did not have the chance to persuade my right hon. Friend that history should be one of the top four subjects—

Dr. Hampson

British history.

Mr. Raison

Preferably British history —but but I hope that that will be pursued in the other place. What we have on the curriculum and testing is of real value. Testing has to be about finding out what the child, the class, the teachers and the school are capable of. Whether one calls it diagnostic or not, I do not particularly mind. Testing is a question not just of producing league tables but of making education more effective, to the benefit of the children, whom the whole thing is about.

The widening of choice and financial delegation must be right, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the transfer of polytechnics. This is not a reproach to the local authorities. They have done the job of parents remarkably well and deserve to be proud of the fact that their children have now grown up and moved on to the adult stages where the universities are to be found. They will continue to make a major contribution to education.

There are still important things to be done in the legislative process, but, more particularly, in the stage which follows that—when the Bill is translated into action. Something must be done about ILEA, which has already been discussed today. It is important to recognise that many of the people working for ILEA work hard in difficult circumstances. While ILEA's policies have gone astray with the lunacies that are there, I cannot forget that in our schools, including secondary schools, there are people who respond to a tough job with a great deal of conscientiousness.

I am sure that, in the period to come, we shall recognise that and everything that we do will be seen as constructive. The point that we need to keep the museums and music classes, which are such a good feature of London, has been adequately made, and I have no doubt about that. It is evident that the process of preparing and implementing the development plan will require great sensitivity. I was encouraged by the response of my hon. Friend the Minister of State when she was talking about the possibility of getting authorities to act together. We have to think about grouped authorities, joint boards, informal mechanisms and co-operation. All those things may need to be filled out more fully in the other place, although my hon. Friend made a good start this afternoon.

Furthermore, there should be a clearly designated Minister for ILEA during this difficult period to come —somebody who can give leadership and pay the enormous amount of attention that will be required during the period when the development plans are formulated and then translated into action.

There is still something to be done in two particular sectors. The first is universities. We now have a much better situation than when the Bill started. Universities are pleased with the way in which things have gone. However, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will take the last step in guaranteeing academic freedom—a subject that was debated in the House a few days ago. It would not cost anything and it is possible to find a formula for it, so I hope that we shall see that in the other place.

We must dispel the doubts about grant-maintained schools that some of us had when the whole process began. Essentially, we are talking about the fear that the schools which do not opt out, and which get left behind, could become a demoralised rump. Nothing is further from my right hon. Friend's mind, but it will require enormous care and attention in future when decisions are made about opting out to ensure that we think about the interests not only of those schools opting out, but of those schools that do not opt out, as they are equally important.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend and his fellow Ministers on the Bill. What is being done is enormously worth while and I look forward to the completion of this great epic.

8.40 pm
Mr. Ashdown

I hope that the Secretary of State will listen carefully to his right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) on the question of opted-out schools.

There is a paradox about the Bill. Although everyone must support the Government's aims, the means that they have chosen have been regarded by almost every respected voice in education — whether parents, teachers, educationists or academics — as deeply damaging. Although the Government rightly identify the problems to be addressed in education, the solutions that they put forward in the Bill will be more damaging than the problems that they seek to correct.

That is why I and many other people regard the Bill as probably the most dangerous Bill brought forward by any Government for the last 20 or 30 years. The damage that it will do to our education system and to the future of our children will be felt for years to come. Perhaps even more important, it is a potential threat to the nature of pluralism in our democracy.

The Secretary of State tells us that the Bill has been debated for longer than any other Bill in Committee. It has been debated for about 200 hours. That is not because it is a good Bill, but because it is a bad Bill. We have had to bring forward amendment after amendment, and the Government have had to accept many of those and draft many of their own. They have persistently failed to explain their purpose or put forward their arguments in a convincing way. The Bill was constructed on the back of a fag packet during the last general election. It was hastily conceived and ill-thought out when it was brought to the House. It was botched up and patched up in Committee, and we pass it incomplete, in many areas largely undebated and ramshackle, to the House of Lords.

The Bill is built, as no other of which I know, on what I can only describe as Orwellian newspeak. The Secretary of State tells us that he is offering choice, but, in reality, he is offering choice only for the few and the privileged at the expense of those left behind. He tells us that the Bill is about freedom, but it achieves that by putting more power to control, direct and insist on uniformity in the hands of the Secretary of State.

There is something Marxist about the Secretary of State's arguments, because, time and again, he has said, "I must have all the power in my hands so that it can he allowed to wither away." This is determinism. It says, "We will take the power, but it will all wither away and we will hand it out again." That has never happened and it will not happen under this Bill. The power vested in the hands of the Secretary of State will be carefully preserved, used and handed on to his successors. It will fall into the hands of people other than members of the Conservative party.

The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), in a debate on academic freedom the other day, said that one of the problems was that the Secretary of State did not have tenure and that that did not allow him to be as free as he might like to be. One of the problems is that the Government believe they have tenure and that they will never be removed and, therefore, that the powers will never fall into other people's hands. That is the basis for the arrogance behind the Bill.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

I do not subscribe to the idea that anyone should have tenure, least of all Ministers. I find the hon. Gentleman's proposition extraordinary. Is he saying that Karl Marx would favour more open enrolment in schools and prefer the elective system for governors that we are going to have? Is he saying that Karl Marx would favour opting out of schools and the choice of individuals exercised wherever they are in the education system? The hon. Gentleman has not thought through any coherent philosophy for the Liberal party.

Mr. Ashdown


Mr. Baker

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. He is giving way to me. He must learn his place. He is confused.

It is a travesty to say that we are being centralist. We are dispersing power. The hon. Gentleman does not trust the people who disperse power to him.

Mr. Ashdown

Marx and Lenin would have agreed that one takes 182 new powers to give freedom to the people. That is what the Secretary of State claims. His rhetoric about using those powers to give freedom will be seen to be as hollow and as sham as those made by people in the state-controlled countries of eastern Europe. It is always done in the name of freedom, just as the Secretary of State is doing this in the name of freedom. He knows perfectly well that the basis of that movement has always been, "Give us the power and we will hand it back," but it has never happened and it will not happen now.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)


Mr. Ashdown

The hon. Gentleman must forgive me if I do not give way. The Secretary of State told me that he was making an intervention, but it turned out be a mini speech.

The Bill has been founded on ideology rather than good sense and has been informed throughout by a sense of vindictiveness against teachers, local government, local education authorities, ILEA and all those tribal enemies of the Conservative party. That is what underpins the Bill. Those three items on the hidden agenda that we identified on Second Reading have shown up more nakedly in Committee than I would ever have imagined possible. The secret aims of the Bill are to diminish the power of local government, to centralise the power over education in the hands of the Secretary of State and to reinforce privilege in our education system.

I have spoken of the damage that the Bill will do to education in the future, but that is not the only reason why I oppose the Bill. I repeat the words of the hon. Member for Blackburn, who said that one of the reasons for opposing the Bill is the immense lost opportunity that it presents. It calls itself an Education Reform Bill. How can it be an Education Reform Bill when it does not even address the question of pre-school education, despite the fact that everybody agrees that advancing towards more pre-school education is essential for our education needs in the future? How can it be an Education Reform Bill when it does not put an extra penny into education, despite the fact that education is so desperately underresourced? How can it be an Education Reform Bill when it does nothing positive about the role of teachers in education, despite the fact that teachers have been demoralised and discredited persistently by the Government? How can it be an Education Reform Bill when it does nothing to increase the participation in higher and further education, despite the fact that Britain has a disgracefully low record in participation in both those areas? How can it be called an Education Reform Bill when it does nothing about adult education, despite the fact that in the future we shall need to see an expanded adult education system in Britain?

We need an Education Reform Bill that will provide more flexibility. This Bill will provide a straitjacket and cut out innovation in the curriculum. We need an Education Reform Bill that will provide more choice within the system. This Bill will provide choice only between institutions in a way that damages families and disrupts the education communities. We need an Education Reform Bill that will bring together education and training in a single, cohesive, co-ordinated system. This Bill builds barriers and separates education and training from each other in a way that will be damaging in the future.

So much could be done by the Bill, but it does none of that. We should be constructing an education system which is flexible for the future. This Bill reconstructs the old inflexibilities and injustices of the past. The Bill provides for central control by the Government. It will plant party politics in the heart of every school and every governing body on the issue of opting out. It will be a charter for activists in the future.

What is most damaging is that we will have a system that is increasingly divided—a divided education system serving an increasingly divided country. As a result of the Bill we shall have schools for the chosen and schools for the trapped. We shall see choice for the privileged and "like it or lump it" for the rest. We shall have freedom for the few, and state conformity for the remainder. This is a bad and dangerous Bill. It is dangerous not just for our education system, but for the health of democracy and for the future of our children.

8.49 pm
Mr. Madel

I believe that this welcome Bill should be seen in parallel with the huge changes in the examination system that will result with the birth of the GCSE in about seven weeks' time.

I believe that there are two important links between the Bill as it now is and the new exam system. Parents will want to perceive that the attainment tests of children at specified ages are helping those children and are relevant to their eventual examinations at GCSE. Second, the Bill and the new examination system have considerable staffing implications not just for the teachers, but for the examining staff, secretarial staff and back-up staff. Without such staff the Bill and the new examination system will not work in harmony.

I welcome what my right hon. Friend has done with regard to flexibility in the curriculum. My right hon. Friend has rightly stressed the need for a modern foreign language. I believe that that should lead to non-legislative reform and development of the teaching of languages. I believe that the way is now clear for the establishment of language centres where the medium of instruction is the foreign language taught in the curriculum. That could be a way of attracting more language teachers into the education service. It could also bring schools together and provide welcome experiment and development regarding an extremely important part of the curriculum.

The Government have rightly laid stress on the training of heads and deputy heads. Much of the responsibility for implementing the Bill will fall on them. As a result of the Bill I hope that regional centres will be set up for training. I hope that those centres will make full use of what industry can offer with regard to management training for heads, especially as there will now be such an overlap between those heads and the managers of industries.

I believe that it would make sense to establish an umbrella body to stimulate management development policies within local education authorities. The coordinated provision of such a body should make full use of the many existing business schools. It is also essential for heads that governors are trained. The leaflet from the Department of Education asks: What qualifications do school governors need? It goes on to say that training is available.

At present schools simply do not have the people with the technical competence to judge what is a good buy with regard to high technology equipment or maintenance agreements. That is something that is dear to my right hon. Friend's heart because he got the country to concentrate on information technology. The increasing use of the education support grants, help from the Open University and the links with industry that I have suggested should lead to a vital improvement in the training of governors without which the Bill will not work properly.

With regard to grant-maintained schools, I believe that the challenge is for the LEA to see that its relationship with its schools is in good order. Whether schools do or do not opt out depends on whether there is peaceful co-existence between county hall and the schools for which it is responsible. It should be remembered that if pupils are expelled from a grant-maintained school the responsibility then passes to the LEA. I do not see why an LEA should pay for the education of a pupil expelled from such a school. I do not believe that the LEA would want to put that pupil into one of its schools. Such a pupil would need some form of home tuition, which is expensive, and I do not believe that it would be asking too much for it to be directly funded from the Department of Education and Science.

A considerable time will elapse before the full effects of the Bill are felt. In common with many other things that the Government have done or are doing, this is a major upheaval. There is a great reliance within the education system on teachers and we desperately need a full commitment from them to make the Bill work. The Government have been in power for almost 10 years. Certainly they are a reforming Government, sometimes a restless Government. When the Bill is implemented, I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department will consider educational institutions and simply use the apt saying, "If it isn't broken, don't mend it."

8.54 pm
Mr. John Fraser

There are many things in the Bill that disturb me, but I speak against it on Third Reading most passionately, bitterly and feelingly because of the abolition of ILEA.

I cannot help but remark on the opening speech of the Secretary of State who has brought to the golden principles of education the ideas of competition, choice and the market philosophy that are currently endorsed by the Conservative party.

In my borough of Lambeth people theoretically have choice about the type of transport they use. Theoretically they have choice about the type of housing they get and about the type of health service they receive. They are supposed to have choice in other matters as well, but in reality choice is determined by the resources available to them. The effective operation of the market should be about where one applies what one already has, not where one acquires that which one does not already have. For that reason, a system of choice will not work in a borough such as Lambeth.

I believe that the proposals in the Bill are a vandalistic and malicious attack upon a system that has served the less-endowed parts of London well. The attack on ILEA is an attack not on failure but on success. It is an attack upon an authority that would like to give to its pupils, particularly in boroughs such as mine, the same type of expenditure and advantages that the Secretary of State would like to bestow upon his children. ILEA would like to bestow upon the children of inner London the same type of advantages that the Government want to bestow upon privileged children under the assisted places scheme. I believe that what will be constructed in inner London will be a first class and second class system of education.

If the Government want to see how the market operates, how choice and competition operate in the provision of education, they should go to any large American city. They should look at the schools for whites on the periphery of the city, guarded with people with rifles, that are provided for one set of children and they should also look at the slum, sink schools guarded with steel doors. The teachers rush out of those schools at one minute past the end of classes. The Government would then see the enormous contrast between the opportunities available to the privileged and less-privileged in the American cities as a result of the exercise of choice.

Mr. Tony Banks

That will happen over here.

Mr. Fraser

Yes, indeed.

Dr. Hampson


Mr. Fraser

I believe that in debates such as this giving way and interventions are a self-indulgence that should not be afforded to other people who want to speak.

The problems will be made worse in London as a result of the imposition of the poll tax and changes in local government finance that are intended to coincide on 1 April 1990. The average contribution of a ratepayer aged over 18 in my borough is currently £270 a year. Under the poll tax, the average contribution will be £547 per person a year, double the existing rate. If we consider the way in which that figure has been calculated — or probably miscalculated as a result of a failure to understand what has been spent under capital rather than under revenue —it is likely that contributions will rise to about £650 per person or more as a result of the abolition of the ILEA.

That means that we will impose a terrible choice on the poorer people in boroughs such as Lambeth, Southwark and Hackney between the impoverishment of parents for the time being through very high rates and the impoverishment of their children in future. That is the awful choice and dilemma which the abolition of ILEA represents and it is a terrible choice between the interests of the parents and the interests of the child.

Of course, such choices will exist in other aspects of the poll tax with the 20 per cent. contribution. A mother will have to choose between sending her child to school without shoes or a coat and paying the 20 per cent tax to the local authority. This Bill will add to the disadvantages of parents and to the denial of opportunity to the less advantaged in inner London.

Even worse is likely to occur if the Government impose their grant-related expenditure assessments on the children of inner London. We already know that the Government intend to impose a further reduction of expenditure of about 30 per cent. on ILEA. That means having only seven teachers instead of 10 or seven nursery school assistants in place of 10. That will happen if the Government embark on their present course of action. However, if they really want to drive boroughs like Lambeth down to the level of GREAs, that would mean a cut in resources of 44 per cent. in my borough. That would practically halve the staffing levels in my schools and career services.

Boroughs such as Lambeth, Hackney and Southwark are presented on the one hand with a diminution of resources for education caused by the way in which money is to be raised under the poll tax and on the other hand the diminution of resources by orders of Government through poll tax capping or the present capping arrangements for ILEA. That is not much of a choice or an operation of the market for my constituents.

The Bill will leave my constituents in despair. During the passage of the Bill I have attended many meetings in my constituency and in Streatham. I have attended meetings where as many as 500 people were present, yet I rarely saw more than one or two hands raised in support of the Bill. Very often no hands were raised in support. The Government are imposing an enormous financial constraint upon the resources available for children in boroughs like Lambeth.

The Bill may be all right for boroughs like Westminster and Kensington. Some boroughs have as many as 10 adults per child at school compared with six adults per child at school in Lambeth. If we want to expand education in Kensington or Westminster, there are more adults from whom resources can be gained to support the children. There is also a wealthier and more affluent base from which to draw the money and the resources for education can be increased in the more privileged parts of London without any mishap. However, if we want to expand education in Lambeth, Hackney or Southwark, every 1 per cent. added to poll tax expenditure will increase the poll tax contribution by 3 per cent. That means that the children, their parents and the poor will become the hostages of local authorities.

In every local government debate that I have attended in the House my borough and the other boroughs to which I have referred have been vilified for their incompetence. The Department of the Environment wants to take away their housing and to privatise their services. It describes them as overmanned and overspending. Yet, for this Bill, they are regarded as competent to take over education functions. The consequence of those boroughs taking over those functions with the constraints on finance will be that we will preserve a first class education service in inner London for some children and a second class service for others.

Under this Bill, the Government are welding more bars on to the inner city cage to prevent the children whom I represent from escaping to begin to develop themselves. There are two ways in this world in which we hold on to power: through inherited wealth or through education. The chance for the people whom I represent to acquire and hold power is being denied by the Bill.

9.5 pm

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

I hope that the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) will forgive me if I do not pursue his remarks too closely. He referred to welding bars on cages—but I think that it would be more appropriate to talk about the opening of doors of cages and admitting freedom of choice.

I am sure that hon. Members on both sides will agree that this is one of the largest and most important Bills to have been discussed in the House in recent years. It will have far-reaching consequences and its impact will be felt well into the next century. I believe that it will stand favourable comparison with the measure introduced by Rab Butler, the Education Act 1944.

Concern about education is not new and is not a figment of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's imagination. It was Lord Callaghan of Cardiff who started the great education debate about 12 years ago when he was Prime Minister. Justification for the Bill can be found in the recently published statistics, which show that 6 million of our fellow countrymen have difficulty in reading, writing and doing simple arithmetic. That is after 11 years of compulsory schooling.

The Bill will do much to improve the quality and standard of state education. I have been concerned, however, about the lack of reference to religious education and I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has accepted the need for change. The reference to religious education in the national curriculum is welcome. It will do much to put the collective mind of the churches at ease.

Secondly, I am concerned about the lack of reference to discipline in schools. Hon. Members will be aware that learning best takes place in a reasonably disciplined environment. It is clear that discipline in some of the nation's schools is suffering to a marked extent. I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement that he is setting up an inquiry. I trust that it will be wide-ranging and will report early. If it is prevented by its terms of reference from discussing corporal punishment, I hope that it will come forward with some viable options.

The Bill increases the power and responsibility of parents and requires them to play a much greater part in the education of their children and in the running of their children's schools. This is a major step forward, for generally parents know best what is right for their children. Parents will do much to ensure that the education of their children has a greater relevance to the world of work. The involvement of parents is essential to the success of the Bill. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take the opportunity that is presented on Third Reading to reinforce that fact. Incidentally, I can commend the leaflets which have been produced by the Department of Education and Science that seek to encourage more members of the public to come forward to act as governors.

I refer briefly to the most controversial measure in the Bill. It is my firm view that relatively few schools will decide to opt out of local authority control, but those that do will exercise a far greater influence than their numbers suggest. They will be used as a benchmark against which other schools in the area might be judged.

The schools that opt for grant-maintained status will be of the utmost importance in certain inner city areas where education provision is subordinate to the teaching of dogma. These are the areas, where education is not preparing children for adult life, these are the areas where grant-maintained schools will come into their own. The problem, however, is that in these areas parents, for various reasons, may be diffident about coming forward in support of the proposal.

In my view, my right hon. Friend should set up directly as part of his Department, or alternatively by means of a trust, a group that can provide the expertise that is necessary to guide parents into the establishment of grant-maintained status schools. It should be available thereafter to ensure that grant-maintained status schools do not fail for want of expertise. It will be necessary for those seeking grant-maintained status to overcome a number of hurdles, for the process starts, not ends, with the secret postal ballot of parents. If the ballot produces a majority in favour, the governors will then be in a position to apply to the Secretary of State for grant-maintained status. If only a relatively small number of parents are involved in the ballot, producing only a small vote in favour, that will be taken carefully into account by the Secretary of State. He will additionally be bound to listen to the majority of parents, to governors, to trustees where appropriate, to the local education authority, to head teachers, to staff, and, not least, to the local community. I have some difficulty in believing that any Secretary of State would approve an application for grant-maintained status if faced with such an overwhelming body of opinion.

Grant-maintained status will, however, provide a fail-safe procedure for parents. If they are so alienated from the local education authority that they wish to opt out, it is surely better that they do so. That point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South-West (Mr. Madel).

Earlier, I said that the Bill increased the power and responsibility of parents. However, education is a partnership, and the other principal partners are the teachers. I have said before in the House, and I say again now, that the overwhelming majority of our teachers are dedicated both to their profession and to the children in their charge. My right hon. Friend will understand that for this radical legislation to succeed we require the good will of the teacher force. I am not certain that we have given that aspect the emphasis that it warrants.

I am aware of the substantial pay increases that teachers have recently received. If, however, they are to regain their former status in society, they will require adequate remuneration, and an appreciation of their work —which is arguably among the most important in our society.

There will be a major transfer of power and responsibility from local education authorities to parents, head teachers and governing bodies, which will require heads and governors to have a better understanding of their powers and duties. That, in turn, must mean that they require more training than is currently the position. Head teachers and their deputies must be better trained than at present, with additional emphasis being given to management skills.

The Bill is both imaginative and dynamic. My right hon. Friend is to be commended on bringing forward proposals that he knew would be controversial. He recognised the problems, and has come up with the answers. I have no doubt that these measures will receive the support in the Lobby tonight that they will receive in the country tomorrow.

9.12 pm
Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

I shall endeavour to be brief. I have not spoken frequently on education, because, as the House will appreciate, hon. Members develop a variety of interests. I feel, however, that I should say a few words, because I have quite a lot of professional qualifications. I was a senior teacher for a long time; I was chairman of governors; I was an examiner when we introduced CSE, and I have remained in close touch with education. But I am also a parent. Those things qualify me to make a short contribution to the debate. However, I did not serve on the Standing Committee, and I should like to pay tribute to the efforts of my right hon. and hon. Friends who secured some amendment of the Bill.

A moment ago, the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) said that the Bill might be an historic construction. If he considers the history of education, he will see that educationally and socially significant landmarks have been provided by education legislation—for instance, the Elementary Education Act 1870, and Butler's 1944 Act. Those Acts were symbolic and significant; they marked and fitted education within the society and context of its time. This Bill—the Baker Act, as it will become—will not mark the optimism of 1944, but will be seen as a turning point in the moral and social decline — and, for most people, the economic decline—with which areas such as mine are faced.

The Secretary of State compared our schools with German schools. But did he compare the level of provision in German schools and British schools? If he did, he would perhaps understand why there are certain deficiencies in secondary education, but it would have been better if he had gone to see success in British schools rather than cart himself around to look at schools abroad. The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny that the improvement in standards in primary schools has been demonstrable.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

The hon. Gentleman claims that the comparison is not fair. We spend approximately — within 0.1 per cent. — the same amount of GNP on education as Germany, so the comparison is fair. The hon. Gentleman knows that a country has only its GNP, and we must stimulate the growth of our GNP. Our education reforms will do much to stimulate that growth.

Mr. Hardy

I do not disagree with the Secretary of State, but over the past 10 years the German Administration has seen its GNP increase by an amount that we could have equalled and, therefore, we could have properly funded British education.

Conservative Members often indulge in a canard about the standards of British education. When I started teaching in a secondary school, about 20 of the 49 boys in my class were completely illiterate or had a reading age below six. If I went to the same school today—it is not in my constituency—I should find scarcely any children below that reading age. There may be parts of some of our larger cities in which difficulties arise, but over the past 20 or 30 years there has been an enormous improvement in the standard of teaching reading. Unfortunately, one will not read of that in the national media. The Secretary of State has been looking for the blackest possible picture to serve the cause of political greed and to apply market forces to the British education scene.

I have been very angry since a recent Question Time when I told the Minister of State that I hoped that, if the national curriculum were developed, it would he better funded, better founded and arranged than the GCSE. The hon. Lady had the audacity to say that the GCSE was one of the finest funded educational developments in British history. I have kept in close touch with the GCSE's development in my constituency, partly because I was an examiner, partly because I have a remaining professional interest and partly because my son is in the first year of GCSE — the year group that the Government have sacrificed in the cause of political dogma. There is not a teacher in a secondary school in Britain who could disagree with me when I say that what additional funding there was came far too late. Enormous anxiety was caused in our schools because they were started on this course without proper preparation. The first year was over in some subjects before a decent book was available and before the syllabus had been properly established. Yet the Minister of State had the gall to tell the House and the country that we were well prepared.

Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)

Is my hon. Friend aware of the difficulties of children who are now taking their GCSE? I have had to buy for my (laughter, who is in the Strangers' Gallery, her French, German and biology books because the Government did not make available enough resources for GCSE in the first year. As my hon. Friend has said, those students are guinea pigs.

Mr. Hardy

My hon. Friend is fortunate. He can afford to buy those books, whereas other parents cannot. My hon. Friend is fortunate also because, apparently, the books were available.

In some subjects the syllabus had not even been established when the first year of the course was two thirds of the way through. Teachers and parents will long remember this example of fecklessness, but they will remember the Bill much longer. Unlike the Butler Act, which marked the advance and confidence of Britain in the post-war period, this legislation marks a period of political and social decline, in which the Secretary of State has played his shameful part.

9.18 pm
Sir Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead and Highgate)

All I should like to say on the speech of the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) is that the Bill does mark a turn by bringing back the importance of examinations. That is one issue on which employers will judge those who come to them for jobs.

I very much agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) that it is important that one Minister is given responsibility for seeing through everything that arises from the Bill in terms of the Inner London education authority. We saw the difficulties over the abolition of the GLC when responsibility was split between various Ministers. Things were not sufficiently easy for them and there were difficulties.

I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill, in particular the abolition of ILEA, because I am one of the very few people who, from the inception of ILEA, felt that it was wholly wrong. When I gave evidence to the Herbert committee back in 1960 I said that the London boroughs were perfectly capable of running their own education. When the Herbert committee reported, it made it clear that there were different views on the information that was available. The tragedy was that in the other place influence was exercised which created the Inner London education authority which has been a disaster.

I should like to warn my right hon. Friend that there is now the same sort of scare campaign about the abolition of ILEA as there was about the abolition of the GLC. The same lies are being told, and the same fears are being whipped up among parents. Hundreds of letters are being written at the behest of tutors in adult education saying that adult education is at risk as a result of the legislation. That is a complete fabrication. The tragedy is that people have not learnt that the stories put to them by the Labour party are without foundation. Most hon. Members remember the horde of postcards sent to us by pensioners, sadly at their own expense, saying, "Save our bus passes" when there was never any danger of bus passes being removed when the GLC was abolished. I urge my right hon. Friend to be robust in repeatedly producing information that will kill that.

I hope that from the beginning there will be more cooperation between the Inner London education authority and the boroughs that will receive the powers than there was when the GLC was abolished, because if there is not co-operation it will harm only the children.

I was disturbed to receive a letter dated 23 March from the Secondary Heads Association saying: Of course there are criticisms of the ILEA. Headteachers would share some of these. There are examples of wasteful use of resources, of too much policy direction from the centre and of over-bureaucratic procedures. Nevertheless there is an immense wealth of experience in the ILEA of running an inner city education service. This contrasts starkly with the complete lack of such experience in the inner London boroughs. That sounds as if the transfer of the teachers and staff of ILEA to the boroughs will not cover that very important point. That document would lead one to believe that all those people will disappear into limbo and never be seen again. Such deception is worrying parents.

I should like to say a word about the parents ballot. Of course the views of parents are important, but they represent a minute percentage of the residents and ratepayers of the inner London education area. Those views must be taken very much into account. If we had taken into account the phoney public opinion polls conducted at the ratepayers' expense by the Greater London council which told us that 78 per cent. of those questioned wanted the GLC to be retained, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would not be on the Front Bench today and I would not be here either. Those were phoney in exactly the same way.

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

No. I shall follow the example of the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) who is no longer in the Chamber. I shall take his good advice by not giving way.

I hope that parents will realise that of course their views are important, but it is much more important that we get on with making certain that the education system in inner London will be good because it needs great improvement, as is clearly shown by ail the impartial figures.

I did not have the good fortune" to serve on the Committee that dealt with the Bill. However, I am certain that the Bill that has now emerged from Committee is immeasurably better than the Bill that went in. That is normal. Every Bill that goes into Committee emerges better, whether by the help of the Opposition, the help of one's own supporters or simply by items that come forward. However, in the end, one thing is clear: let nobody in the outside world think that the provision abolishing the Inner London education authority will disappear. The other place will try to remove it at its peril.

9.25 pm
Mr. Sedgemore

I belong to the school of political thought that believes that big issues can be seen only from the perspective of the high peaks of the Prescelly mountains. These words came to me when I was in that area in west Wales: GERBIL 1988 Dream to Nightmare While I gazed on yonder mount I thought Of former times and life that brought For all its sorrow, woe and painful toil Education which Gerbil could not spoil. Thence slowly by nostalgic dreams I was o'ercome Those dreams so sweet, so pure my listless mind did numb. But in a while my heavy heart cried out to me Oh why, oh why should life all trouble be? Gerbil, Gerbil, long live Gerbil is the cry. Kill the wretched Gerbil, others sigh. I love it, I hate it. It's good, it's bad Poor Ashdown, mixed-up stupid boy, so sad. Confusion reigns, declares a scribe for MHT His mistress wonders what's the point of NCC. What clot created SEAC? What's it for? Why waste money just to educate the poor? Miffed, peeved, distraught Baker mutters privately Oh God, dear God, what kind of fool is she? My time wasn't come, I fear. She won't resign Decripit woman: paid-up philistine. The Pope decrees amendments he will need Basil Hume warns Baker to take heed Of opting out from doctrine and morality Laid down in writ divine, Vatican supremacy. Oh Holy See your bidding I will do Prostrate upon my knees I worship you. I grovel at your feet, shameless, and ask For the blessing of God's vote in my task. Who's that I spy, two thugs along the way— Tebbit, Heseltine. Never ones to play, They mug poor Baker, jab him in the crutch With the Mace, would you believe! It is too much. Parent power is what I want, shrieks Baker Though not for ILEA: there I'm a faker. With Angie by my side of course I twitch She's worse than Thatcher. Dammit, she's a witch. Academic freedom yes, but not tenure Demands Sir Mark, wily bird, who's still not sure Of votes from Leeds, North West and its High Peak— Duplicitous and soggy so to speak. Gloom and doom loom as Peers get ready for the Bill. Our culture's in decline, the struggle is uphill. Cry freedom God, a better world to make For parents, teachers and our children's sake. Create for them, schools literate, and free From Gerbil, clause on clause of agony. Give us a breadth of understanding and of truth With time and space to hear the voice of educated youth. Pray, save us God, from hapless tyranny The executive, Bob Dunn and misery. Raise our eyes to the skies in hope that we Through this abyss can yet find victory. Let's burn the Gerbil at the stake Unholy witch we've come to hate. And bury Baker, Thatcher and their Bill— Son and bitch—in the cairns of yonder hill. For those reasons, we ought to decline to give the Bill a Third Reading.

9.28 pm
Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

After that, I am tempted to recite the "Jabberwocky", but I am not sure that it would add to the sum of knowledge.

There is, I believe, much agreement about what our ambitions in education should be. What a wise parent would wish for their children, so the State must wish for all its children. Thus Jim Callaghan quoted Tawney in his Ruskin college speech, and who can dissent from that ambition?

The goals of an education, from nursery school through to adult education, are clear enough, said Callaghan. They are to equip children to the best of their ability for a lively, constructive place in society and also to fit them to do a job of work. Not one of the other but both. We can all agree on that purpose. We can all agree on the goals. I fervently believe that this Bill will better provide the means of achieving that purpose and of achieving those goals.

The Education Reform Bill is the realisation of Rab Butler's Education Act 1944. It achieves a better balance of all those involved in our children's education. The Bill will give parents more influence over their children's education—a principle enshrined in the 1944 Act, which states that pupils are to be educated in accordance with their parents' wishes. Alas, in drafting his Act, Rab Butler failed to take into account sufficiently two important and closely related factors. First, he did not seem to recognise fully the natural instinct within every parent to strive to do his or her best for his or her children and, at the same time, create the right conditions for children to maximise their potential. Secondly, he did not recognise that the type of organisational structure needed to deliver the promise could serve to stifle that natural instinct. For the 1944 Act to work at the time enormous powers had to be vested in local education authorities to support and deliver the promise of secondary education for all.

In common with much of the rest of the welfare state established at or about the same time, the 1944 Act made no provision for consumer influence, little for real choice and none for participation by parents in the running of the education service. Incredibly, it was not until more than 30 years later that the anomalies started to be addressed, with the wide-ranging recommendations of the Taylor committee in 1977, implemented in due course in the Education Act 1980. Gone was the practice whereby school governing bodies were merely an offshoot of the local education authority; for the first time parents and teachers were given a limited right to be represented on governing bodies. In due course came the Education (No. 2) Act 1986, which gave to parents and other governors wider rights, duties and responsibilities.

The Education Reform Bill will simply help enforce the principle clearly set out in the 1944 Act that, so far as practicable, children should be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents. The Bill creates a partnership and gives parents the proper role in their children's education envisaged in the 1944 Act but not delivered hitherto.

The role of the local education authority has been, and will continue to be, crucial in the running of schools. However, the time has come to give recognition to the equally important role that parents, parent-governors and, indeed, the whole community now have to play in education.

Just as the Bill provides a proper partnership involving parents, so, too, does it give new opportunities to schools. Henceforth, education will be focused on individual schools rather than centred on county halls. It is no wonder that only this weekend the general secretary designate of the Secondary Heads Association, John Sutton, said that the rightness of the Government's aim of making schools more accountable should be accepted and that heads should seize with both hands the opportunities afforded by the proposals to delegate school management responsibilities from local authorities to individual heads and governors.

Every teacher's union supports the principle of local financial management that the Bill will achieve. All too often the attitude has been as one head teacher described it: Those who live in scholastic realms share a simple cosmological view of their financial world. They seem to believe that the source of all finance is mysterious, beyond their control and almost their understanding; as if somewhere in the fiscal heavens there is some celestial creature from whose udder financial nourishment descends. Sometimes the flow falters and they must tweak until it resumes. In recent years interruptions to the precious stream have become more serious, but this has not fundamentally affected the prevailing, comforting belief. Such attitudes are changing very fast, as all involved in education appreciate that the quality and relevance of education can be markedly improved by delegating decision-making to heads and governors. This Bill will enable the governors and heads of each school to make the most effective use of the resources available to them and give each head flexibility within an agreed budget to manage his own school. I have no doubt that that will lead to better and more effective schools. The other measures in the Bill will also reinforce our ability to have better and more effective schools.

The provision for a national curriculum is a long-overdue reform. At present, too many pupils give up too many subjects at too early an age. For far too long, too many schools have muddled along without any clear focus or objective standards. The national curriculum will give both focus and objective standards, to be delivered locally.

A system of testing and assessment will enable pupils' progress to be recorded and, most important, will enable teachers and parents to identify, from the age of seven, those who need help because they are falling behind. As the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) said late last year, There is no doubt that the parents want some objective yardstick against which to measure their children's achievement in education. As to the opportunities for grant-maintained schools, no opponent has answered adequately the question posed by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), when he said: Why should not a new category of public funded mixed ability but independent schools be at worst tolerated and at best encouraged within a mixed pattern of schooling? Our children are all our futures. There is a duty on us all to ensure that schools help them to acquire the skills that are necessary to tackle the challenges of the 21st century and to develop inquiring minds and a thirst for further knowledge that will last their lifetime. The Bill seeks to ensure that what every good parent would want to provide for his children, our state schools should be able to provide for all our children.

9.36 pm
Mr. Steinberg

The Bill is as radical as the Education Act 1944. The difference is that it has been born out of the division and dogma of the extreme Right wing of the Tory party. It sets out to differentiate and to segregate our education system. It will create divisions in our society.

My hon. Friends and I have fought for children with special education needs and we have won a few battles. We obtained some concessions from the Government, but not enough. In many respects we have failed children with special education needs, but not only have Opposition Members failed those children because we did not obtain the concessions that we need, but the Government have failed them because they have failed to cater for and protect those children. How have they failed? They have done nothing to protect the child with special education needs in the open admissions battle that will take place. Some schools will be regarded as "good" schools. They will be bursting at the seams and eventually they will look for ways in which to select their children, and children with special education needs will be debarred from those schools.

There will be elitist and grammar type schools, which is the last thing in the world that we want. We need schools that provide for a cross-section of our school population. All schools should be well resourced, with extra specific funds allocated for children with special education needs. That would not only encourage the right mix of children, but ensure that children with special education needs had access to the "best" schools—I say that guardedly.

We must ensure that children with special education needs go to schools with the best environment. Children must have the opportunity to attend schools that are supposedly the best. That includes children with physical disabilities. A child in a wheelchair or a deaf child must have the same opportunities to attend the school of their choice as other children. They must not be turned away because they cannot cope or because the school says that they cannot cope. The Bill does not take those needs into account. It is perhaps more important that a child with special education needs has a choice of school than a child without those needs. The Bill will not protect that choice.

The proposals to enable schools to opt out could have exactly the same damaging consequences on children with special education needs. Everything that we have gained since the 1981 Act could be ruined by the Bill. Careful links between special schools and local education authority schools could be ruined. The same arguments against open admission can be used for grant-maintained schools. Will those schools admit children with special education needs? We shall have to wait and see, but my guess is that they will not. My guess is that they will become elitist schools and the children whom I want to see getting a good education—those with special education needs—will be debarred from them.

I shall be brief because I have been told that I have only two or three minutes to speak, as usual. That has happened all the way through the debates on the Bill. I was always told to say a few words and sit down.

Education standards have not declined as the Secretary of State would have us believe, but integration since 1981 has made tremendous progress. Again I say "but" because the problem lies in the inadequate resources that the Government have given to education. Despite the fine words of the Secretary of State about all the resources that he has given to schools over the years, the fact is that the majority of schools are starved of resources. I speak from experience, because if I had had more resources as a head teacher I could have done more with the children in my care. I spent half my time trying to raise funds rather than getting on with the job and educating children. Other head teachers will tell the same story and give the same opinion.

The Government could have solved the vast majority of our education problems by giving more resources. The Government did not need to introduce this divisive, harmful and damaging Bill, which will not improve our education system but only divide it.

9.40 pm
Mr. Fatchett

One thing is clear from this Third Reading debate—those who were not members of the Committee can now understand why our proceedings upstairs were enlivened by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore). He has improved over time and I genuinely feel that there is a need for another substantial Bill so that he can improve further. I should like to make a suggestion to the Secretary of State and to my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch. When the Secretary of State writes another edition of "I have no gun, but I can spit", my hon. Friend deserves not a mention but some words in that great volume.

Hon. Members who sat through the debates upstairs have been delighted by the degree of consensus about special education needs. We would all wish to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) for the way in which he brought his professional expertise to bear in Committee. More than anyone he was responsible for the small number of amendments that have improved the quality of the Bill and the quality of life, particularly for children affected by the relevant clauses.

On Second Reading we argued strongly that the Bill would centralise and divide our education system. Nothing that has happened subsequently has changed that opinion; indeed, it has reinforced it. What has happened subsequently is interesting. The Government's performance in Committee can be characterised in three ways —inefficiency, the internal division about education that is now widespread in the Conservative party, and the attack on freedom and, in particular, certain aspects of individual freedom.

As to inefficiency, on Second Reading the Secretary of State claimed that he had a blueprint for this country's education system to take it into the 1990s and the next century. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. No such blueprint existed on Second Reading or exists at present.

The Secretary of State proudly announced that he had a national curriculum. Even at this late hour he does not know how that national curriculum is to be made up. He cannot tell us the weight of the component parts of the national curriculum. He cannot tell us about the resource implications for the delivery of the national curriculum. What a position for a Secretary of State to find himself in five months after producing the Bill and five months after persuading the House that he had a national curriculum.

The Secretary of State has brought forward proposals for the abolition of ILEA. At no stage has he provided the House, parents of children in London or the London education system with a detailed analysis of the educational or financial implications of the abolition of ILEA. On both counts — the national curriculum and testing and the abolition of ILEA — the Secretary of State stands condemned for proposals that do not add up at this stage.

It would be unfair to accuse the Secretary of State of rivalling the inefficiency of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. Those of us who have had the pleasure of reading today's news will know that the Secretary of State for the Environment has been convicted yet again. He is once more a recidivist. Planning permission for county hall has now been overturned in the High Court because the Secretary of State for the Environment got it wrong again. The Secretary of State for Education and Science has a record that is not quite as bad, but I suspect that he will make one or two mistakes as time goes on.

The Bill has also been characterised by internal division in the Tory party. We are told that the Centre for Policy Studies—in other words, the Prime Minister—feels that the curriculum is too prescriptive and restrictive and that all we need is a core curriculum. So the right hon. Gentleman's curriculum certainly does not match the wishes of the Centre for Policy Studies. We were told in Committee and on Report that Conservative Members were worried about the ballot procedues for opting out. Many have said privately and some, more courageously, in public that they want a provision that includes the need for more parental support than a simple majority.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch well predicted the tale of the Secretary of State's woe over the abolition of ILEA. When that appeared, the right hon. Gentleman's stock fell and fell, and he has now plummeted to being Mr. Two Per Cent.

There is a division between the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister on testing too. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) suggested to me that I was harsh on the right hon. Gentleman, and said that my judgment that the Secretary of State would carry the Cabinet and Prime Minister with him was correct. My hon. Friend pointed out that he had money on the right hon. Gentleman, seeing him as a good long-term bet. My hon. Friend has not picked too many winners over the years, but I hope the Secretary of State will carry those good wishes with him.

However, I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow that I have one fear about his description of the Secretary of State's performance in terms of a political race. When the right hon. Gentleman gets to the first hurdle in that race he will be immobilised because these days he only jumps when the Prime Minister tells him to—

Dr. Hampson


Mr. Fatchett

I cannot give way as I have only three minutes.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

To an hon. Member representing Leeds, at that.

Mr. Fatchett

Not even for that.

Another deeply worrying aspect of the Government's case is that they show contempt for those who oppose or wish to oppose them. That is why they will not listen to ILEA parents and come out with their specious arguments to undermine the legitimacy of the inner-London parents' ballot. They know they will be defeated in that ballot, which is why they are not prepared to take note of what the parents have to say.

The same is true of individual academic freedom. We have heard no greater weasel words from the Secretary of State than when he has tried to pretend that he favours individual academic freedom. If he were committed to that he would have put it on the face of the Bill, but he has turned down many opportunities to do so.

So the Bill is characterised by inefficiency, division and contempt for others. It has been sold by the Government on the grounds that they are greatly concerned about the state education system. What hypocrisy. Over eight years in office the Government have systematically denigrated our teachers, the performance of our children and our education system. Over eight years the Government have failed to invest in education and have penalised local authorities prepared to invest in the education of our children.

The Secretary of State and the Government have much legislative time, yet they have failed to bring forward the important reforms that are necessary for our education system. We need better education for our pre five-year-olds and proper education for post 16-year-olds, and all our schools should be properly resourced so that one of my hon. Friends does not have to send his child to a school with insufficient resoucces for the GCSE examination. Those things form the real agenda and presented an opportunity, but the Secretary of State and the Government have failed our education system and our children.

Mrs. Rumbold

I pay tribute to my right hon. and hon. Friends who have contributed to the debate on the Floor of the House and in Committee. In this debate my right hon. and hon. Friends have spoken with great conviction. Earlier, in introducing this Third Reading the Opposition gave us more of what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State charmingly called the flimsy persiflage of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). [Interruption.] That phrase may be difficult for some Opposition Members.

We had another poem from the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore). I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman because it was a good poem. I hope that he will take up a third career of writing poetry and perhaps he and my right hon. Friend can compete in producing great works to be read by future generations in our schools. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) who has persistently and rightly spoken about the special education needs of our children. We have noted what he said and he was perfectly correct to draw that matter to our attention. I hope he feels that many of the improvements that he has persuaded the Government to make have been due to his own hard work.

The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) made a speech that was not quite as good as those that he made in Committee. Much of his speech was ranting and that was perhaps due to his ambition to become the leader of his party. I commend to the hon. Gentleman a speech made in an earlier debate by the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mrs. Barnes). Although I did not agree with all of them, he should read her sensible views. However, they were well thought-out and the hon. Lady made an excellent speech. The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) is not in the Chamber. I am grateful for his advice that it would be foolish and an indulgence to give way in a debate such as this.

I shall now turn to the contributions made by my right hon. and hon. Friends. My right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) rightly identified the areas of great advance, especially in the national curriculum. We noted with great interest his pursuance of the point of history which, I am sure he will know, is a subject that is close to the heart of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. For that reason my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury does not have to worry too much. He said that the polytechnics have grown sufficiently to leave the local authorities and become independent. He identified further areas for advance and rightly paid tribute to the dedicated teachers in our schools and colleges.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury spoke about the Horniman and Geffrye museums. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is concerned about the future of those two museums and is having urgent discussions with all concerned about how best to arrange for them to continue effectively. We certainly agree entirely with the analysis by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury about the future of the universities. Discussions on that will continue. I was especially interested in his views on grant-maintained schools. Those schools will be of great benefit to our new system. I can assure my right hon. Friend that as a consequence of grant-maintained schools becoming part of our schools system there will be no likelihood of the Government wishing to see other schools run by local education authorities being demoralised in any sense.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South-West (Mr. Madel) also gave us his views, and I thought that his point about training of heads was particularly important. I listened carefully to the way in which he thought that we should take note of the business schools and I noted his views on grant-maintained schools. He is right to perceive that local education authorities should work in peaceful co-existence with these schools.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) made another of his vigorous speeches, and I pay tribute to him for the way in which he has supported my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself in debates in Committee and on the Floor of the House. He is right to identify parents as the key influence on their children in education.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) made good points about the possibility of a campaign being spuriously raised, on the part of people in London, to preserve ILEA. We are well aware of the kind of scare campaign and scare stories that may be raised, and we shall take note of them.

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Rumbold

No, I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for Norwood described interventions in these debates as self-indulgent, and I shall take that advice.

I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) described the history of our education very well, and his point that this Bill will add greatly to the partnership between parents and children was well made.

Ever since the first documents were issued, followed by the Education Reform Bill, the cohort of the education establishment and its camp followers have been gnawing away at the Bill and its provisions like rats in a cellar. Acres of print in the education press, or on the education pages of the heavy newspapers, have been written and read, in the main, by exactly the same people. Like the local councillors who scan local newspapers for their letters, which is the curious and lucklustre way that local government has devised for talking to itself, so the education world has chattered away, leaving the rest of us to go on about our daily business, more or less unscathed.

Out of all the debates in this place and elsewhere, the issues of substance, the settlement with the Churches on the place of religious education and the matter of the funding of institutions of higher education have been successfully negotiated between my right hon. Friend and the relevant leaders of Churches and universities. For the rest, there is a sense of muted satisfaction that the Government are addressing the shortcomings of the education system. The national curriculum is seen as a great advance. The introduction of attainment targets and testing are seen as both necessary and rational in achieving improved expectations and achievements in our schools.

The involvement of parents and the local community in the running of schools and the opportunity to increase their influence is welcomed by all except the local power-brokers who are infuriated at the loosening of their stranglehold. I have not spoken to many heads who would not welcome the move towards local autonomy, only to heads who cannot wait for their turn to have local autonomy. The opportunity provided by the Bill for greater freedom through grant-maintained status is met with outright hostility by the education establishment, and small wonder. Such a possibility heralds the end to a monopoly which, on the one hand, has produced much excellent work and education but has, on the other, produced disgraceful schools that have allowed pupils to pass through their hands with a minimum of impact, to a life of emptiness.

Both further and continuing education have been addressed in a similar way to give impetus to the urgent need to ensure properly co-ordinated educational opportunities for all over the age of 16 who seek them. The realigning of our institutions of education from the maintained sector into independence will be warmly welcomed and is now entirely opportune.

The Education Reform Bill marks an enormous stride forward for the children of today, for their parents and for the children of tomorrow. It sets the scene for much improvement and positive change. If this country wants to move into the challenges of the 21st century, we must educate our children so to do. The reforms will take the country well down the road towards that goal and I commend the Bill to the House.

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

The House divided: Ayes 323, Noes 224.

Division No. 235] [10 pm
Adley, Robert Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Aitken, Jonathan Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Alexander, Richard Carrington, Matthew
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Carttiss, Michael
Allason, Rupert Cash, William
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Amess, David Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Amos, Alan Chapman, Sydney
Arbuthnot, James Chope, Christopher
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Churchill, Mr
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Ashby, David Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Atkins, Robert Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Atkinson, David Colvin, Michael
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Cope, John
Baldry, Tony Cormack, Patrick
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Couchman, James
Batiste, Spencer Critchley, Julian
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Currie, Mrs Edwina
Bellingham, Henry Curry, David
Bendall, Vivian Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Benyon, W. Day, Stephen
Bevan, David Gilroy Devlin, Tim
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dickens, Geoffrey
Blackburn, Dr John G. Dorrell, Stephen
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Dover, Den
Bottomley, Peter Dunn, Bob
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Durant, Tony
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Eggar, Tim
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Emery, Sir Peter
Bowis, John Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Fallon, Michael
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Farr, Sir John
Brazier, Julian Favell, Tony
Bright, Graham Fenner, Dame Peggy
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Forman, Nigel
Browne, John (Winchester) Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Forth, Eric
Buck, Sir Antony Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Budgen, Nicholas Fox, Sir Marcus
Burns, Simon Franks, Cecil
Burt, Alistair Freeman, Roger
Butcher, John French, Douglas
Butler, Chris Fry, Peter
Butterfill, John Gale, Roger
Gardiner, George Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Gill, Christopher Lord, Michael
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir lan Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Glyn, Dr Alan Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Goodlad, Alastair McCrindle, Robert
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Gorman, Mrs Teresa MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Gorst, John Maclean, David
Gow, Ian McLoughlin, Patrick
Gower, Sir Raymond McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Madel, David
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Major, Rt Hon John
Gregory, Conal Malins, Humfrey
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E') Mans, Keith
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Maples, John
Grist, Ian Marland, Paul
Grylls, Michael Marlow, Tony
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Hampson, Dr Keith Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Hanley, Jeremy Mates, Michael
Hannam, John Maude, Hon Francis
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Mellor, David
Harris, David Meyer, Sir Anthony
Haselhurst, Alan Miller, Hal
Hawkins, Christopher Mills, Iain
Hayes, Jerry Miscampbell, Norman
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hayward, Robert Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Moate, Roger
Heddle, John Monro, Sir Hector
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Moore, Rt Hon John
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hill, James Morrison, Hon Sir Charles
Hind, Kenneth Morrison, Hon P (Chester)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Moss, Malcolm
Holt, Richard Moynihan, Hon Colin
Hordern, Sir Peter Neale, Gerrard
Howard, Michael Nelson, Anthony
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Neubert, Michael
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Nicholls, Patrick
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Oppenheim, Phillip
Hunter, Andrew Page, Richard
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Patnick, Irvine
Irvine, Michael Patten, Chris (Bath)
Irving, Charles Patten, John (Oxford W)
Jack, Michael Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Jackson, Robert Pawsey, James
Janman, Tim Porter, David (Waveney)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Portillo, Michael
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Powell, William (Corby)
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Price, Sir David
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Raffan, Keith
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Rathbone, Tim
Kirkhope, Timothy Redwood, John
Knapman, Roger Renton, Tim
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Riddick, Graham
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Knowles, Michael Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Knox, David Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Lang, Ian Roe, Mrs Marion
Latham, Michael Rossi, Sir Hugh
Lawrence, Ivan Rost, Peter
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Rowe, Andrew
Lee, John (Pendle) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Ryder, Richard
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Sackville, Hon Tom
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Lightbown, David Sayeed, Jonathan
Lilley, Peter Scott, Nicholas
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Shaw, David (Dover)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Thornton, Malcolm
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Townend, John (Bridlington)
Shelton, William (Streatham) Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Shephard, Mrs G (Norfolk SW) Tracey, Richard
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Tredinnick, David
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Trippier, David
Shersby, Michael Trotter, Neville
Sims, Roger Twinn, Dr Ian
Skeet, Sir Trevor Waddington, Rt Hon David
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Waldegrave, Hon William
Soames, Hon Nicholas Walden, George
Speed, Keith Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Speller, Tony Waller, Gary
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Walters, Dennis
Squire, Robin Ward, John
Stanbrook, Ivor Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Steen, Anthony Watts, John
Stern, Michael Wells, Bowen
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Wheeler, John
Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N) Whitney, Ray
Stokes, John Widdecombe, Ann
Stradling Thomas, Sir John Wilkinson, John
Sumberg, David Wilshire, David
Summerson, Hugo Wolfson, Mark
Tapsell, Sir Peter Wood, Timothy
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Woodcock, Mike
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Yeo, Tim
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Young, Sir George (Action)
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Temple-Morris, Peter Tellers for the Ayes
Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley) Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Abbott, Ms Diane Coleman, Donald
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Allen, Graham Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Alton, David Corbett, Robin
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Corbyn, Jeremy
Armstrong, Hilary Cousins, Jim
Ashdown, Paddy Cox, Tom
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Cryer, Bob
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Cummings, John
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Cunliffe, Lawrence
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Dalyell, Tarm
Barron, Kevin Darling, Alistair
Battle, John Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Beckett, Margaret Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Beggs, Roy Dewar, Donald
Beith, A. J. Dixon, Don
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Dobson, Frank
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Doran, Frank
Bermingham, Gerald Douglas, Dick
Bidwell, Sydney Duffy, A. E. P.
Blair, Tony Dunnachie, Jimmy
Boyes, Roland Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Bradley, Keith Eastham, Ken
Bray, Dr Jeremy Evans, John (St Helens N)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Buchan, Norman Fatchett, Derek
Buckley, George J. Faulds, Andrew
Caborn, Richard Fearn, Ronald
Callaghan, Jim Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Fisher, Mark
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Flannery, Martin
Canavan, Dennis Flynn, Paul
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Cartwright, John Foster, Derek
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Foulkes, George
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Fraser, John
Clay, Bob Fyfe, Maria
Clelland, David Galbraith, Sam
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Mowlam, Marjorie
George, Bruce Mullin, Chris
Godman, Dr Norman A. Murphy, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin Nellist, Dave
Gordon, Mildred Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Gould, Bryan O'Brien, William
Graham, Thomas O'Neill, Martin
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Grocott, Bruce Patchett, Terry
Hardy, Peter Pendry, Tom
Harman, Ms Harriet Pike, Peter L.
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Prescott, John
Heffer, Eric S. Primarolo, Dawn
Henderson, Doug Quin, Ms Joyce
Hinchliffe, David Radice, Giles
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Randall, Stuart
Holland, Stuart Redmond, Martin
Home Robertson, John Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Hood, Jimmy Reid, Dr John
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Richardson, Jo
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Howells, Geraint Robertson, George
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Robinson, Geoffrey
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Rogers, Allan
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Rooker, Jeff
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Rowlands, Ted
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Ruddock, Joan
Illsley, Eric Salmond, Alex
Ingram, Adam Sedgemore, Brian
Janner, Greville Sheerman, Barry
John, Brynmor Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Johnston, Sir Russell Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Jones, leuan (Ynys Mdn) Short, Clare
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Skinner, Dennis
Lambie, David Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Lamond, James Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Leadbitter, Ted Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Snape, Peter
Lewis, Terry Soley, Clive
Litherland, Robert Spearing, Nigel
Livingstone, Ken Steel, Rt Hon David
Livsey, Richard Steinberg, Gerry
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Stott, Roger
Loyden, Eddie Strang, Gavin
McAllion, John Straw, Jack
McAvoy, Thomas Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
McCartney, Ian Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
McCusker, Harold Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Macdonald, Calum A. Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
McFall, John Turner, Dennis
McKelvey, William Vaz, Keith
McLeish, Henry Wall, Pat
McNamara, Kevin Wallace, James
McTaggart, Bob Walley, Joan
McWilliam, John Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Madden, Max Wareing, Robert N.
Marek, Dr John Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Wigley, Dafydd
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Maxton, John Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Meacher, Michael Wilson, Brian
Meale, Alan Winnick, David
Michael, Alun Wise, Mrs Audrey
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Worthington, Tony
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Wray, Jimmy
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Young, David (Bolton SE)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Tellers for the Noes:
Morgan, Rhodri Mr. Frank Haynes and
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Mr. Allen McKay.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.