HC Deb 08 February 1989 vol 146 cc1081-103 10.14 pm
The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold)

I beg to move, That the draft Precept Limitation (Prescribed Maximum) (Inner London Education Authority) Order 1989, which was laid before this House on 27th January, be approved.

Today's debate concerns the financing of ILEA in 1989–90. [Interruption.]

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is an important debate for London. I do not mean any disrespect to the Minister, but she certainly cannot be heard. I would like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to ask for quiet before she starts.

Mr. Speaker

Once again I say, order. Will hon. Members who do not wish to stay for this debate kindly leave quietly, especially those who are beyond the Gangway?

Mrs. Rumbold

Today's debate concerns the financing of the Inner London education authority in 1989–90. This order limits the precept which may be made by ILEA for 1989–90 to 78.42p in the pound, which on the latest information would raise £960 million.

The precept maximum set out in the draft order has been arrived at after careful consideration. It is the product of a process which has taken six months. During that process, we have taken full account of the representations put to us by ILEA, both in writing and in person. In a moment I shall outline briefly the process which has led to this draft order. Before I do so, it may be helpful to the House if I say a few words about the wider context.

In April 1990, ILEA's functions will transfer to the inner London boroughs; 1989–90 will therefore be the year in which a new structure for London's education service takes shape. The Government have been determined to play their part to ensure a smooth transfer of responsibilities in the interests of pupils, students, parents and teachers. To this end, we are providing a substantial sum by way of specific grant to the boroughs for preparation work in 1989–90. We have increased the £10 million originally announced to £25 million.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has made a separate proposal in relation to the distribution of the capital money order next year in order to assist the inner London boroughs with their education department accommodation costs. As I shall explain, my right hon. Friend has had regard to ILEA's representations about the particular circumstances of 1989–90 in coming to his decisions on the financing of the authority in that year.

Over the past months, I have been struck by the enthusiasm with which the inner London boroughs have tackled the job of preparing for their education responsibilities. All have now made senior appointments to their education departments and carried out programmes of local consultation. Almost all have now published detailed draft development plans. All appear to be on target for publication of the final version of those plans at the end of February. So the foundations have been laid. Of course there is still much to be done. No one is guilty, I hope, of complacency. Some of the boroughs are making faster progress than others, and I believe that that pace of progress will have to accelerate over the coming months. However, so far the work done is encouraging.

The Government believe that the transfer of education to the boroughs is right both for the quality of delivery and value for money in education in inner London. As an example, I shall draw some comparisons of ILEA's unit costs with those of other metropolitan authorities in 1988–89 to illustrate the authority's continued excessive spending. According to figures fom the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, the metropolitan authorities are spending on average £1,036 per primary pupil, excluding support service costs. The outer London boroughs are spending £1,141. ILEA is spending £1,510 on the same basis—32 per cent. more than the outer London boroughs and 46 per cent. more than the metropolitan districts. The metropolitan districts are spending £1,664 per secondary pupil, again excluding support service costs. The outer London boroughs are spending £1,787.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Before the Minister leaves this rather tedious list of statistics, will she add one to it? Will she add a statistic for the costs of building, running buildings and salaries and wages in inner London compared to those in outer London and the rest of the country? Will she give us a reasonable normal statistical base for her assertion, rather than this condemnation of the ILEA?

Mrs. Rumbold

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman does not like the truth revealed by the figures. If he listens carefully to what I am saying he will note that the comparisons I am making are perfectly right and relevant to my argument. I do not think that I need accept any judgment from him about how I present my figures to the House.

Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)

Surely the Minister is aware that inner-city costs are always higher for any kind of service—that is the case on the continent, in the United States and in Britain. Does she also agree that, because of housing costs for teachers and the prevailing salaries, we are faced with a crisis in primary education in ILEA? In the Walnut Tree Walk school in my constituency, classes are being sent home on alternate days because, despite advertisements, no teachers have come forward to take the posts. The Minister is simply not addressing this crisis. Will she do something about it?

Mrs. Rumbold

On the hon. Gentleman's first point, I intend to quote figures that show that we are making comparisons with metropolitan authorities of similar character. All the development plans that we have seen from individual boroughs address the hon. Gentleman's concern about the recruitment and retention of teachers. I hope that those plans will make a difference to the recruitment of staff when the security and attraction of work in smaller authorities appeals to some teachers.

Mr. Simon Hughes


Mrs. Rumbold

No, I must get on.

Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mrs. Rumbold

Very well.

Mr. Ashby

I find the statistics most interesting. Does my hon. Friend intend to tell us whether the examination results are in keeping with the high cost of education in inner London?

Mrs. Rumbold

I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that the examination results from ILEA are, sadly, in no way related to the cost of running that authority. Those results are considerably worse than any other authority in the country.

Mr. Simon Hughes


Mrs. Rumbold

No, I will not give way.

The outer London boroughs are spending £1,141; ILEA is spending £1,510 on the same basis—32 per cent. more than the outer boroughs and 46 per cent. more than the metropolitan districts.[Interruption.] The metropolitan authorities are spending £1,664 per secondary pupil, again excluding the support service costs. The outer London boroughs are spending—

Mr. Corbyn

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It appears that the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) is getting extremely excited and shouting abusive remarks at my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore), who has been behaving himself impeccably. Will you kindly call to order those Members who do not represent inner London constituencies and who are merely being abusive about a matter that many of us take seriously?

Mr. Ashby


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. There is some noise from both sides of the House and I think that it would be better if we had less noise and listened to the Minister.

Mr. Ashby

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was challenged by Opposition Members and it was suggested that I know nothing about inner London education. I should point out that I was a member of ILEA for a number of years, as were a number of my hon. Friends. No one on the Opposition Benches has ever been a member of ILEA. [Interruption.]

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

That is another lie.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Let us call it 15-all and get on with the debate.

Mrs. Rumbold

The outer London boroughs are spending £1,787 on their secondary pupil costs, ILEA spends £2,279, which is 28 per cent. more than the outer London boroughs and 37 per cent. more than the metropolitan districts. Some of them, such as Leeds and Birmingham, have the same features of urban deprivation and high concentrations of ethnic population as ILEA.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The Minister has not yet answered the two separate points made to demonstrate the invalidity of her figures. In London, the costs for the police, health and social services are substantially higher than in other areas, even though the police and the health services are run by Government Departments and the health authorities are appointed by the Government. We have the 10 most deprived authorities in Britain. There is no comparison, and the Minister should not waste the time and intelligence of the House going over an argument that has been proved time and again to be invalid.

Mrs. Rumbold

The hon. Gentleman is not obliged to listen to my arguments.

Looking within those figures, the ILEA is spending twice as much per primary pupil on support staff as are other metropolitan authorities, and more than twice as much per secondary pupil. That is a staggering difference. Even transport costs are two and a half times as much. Almost two thirds of the budgets of metropolitan districts' secondary schools goes on teachers, compared with just over a half for ILEA. Other authorities apparently make their top priority having teaching staff in front of children. That does not seem to be the same case with ILEA.

Looking at other areas in the same set of statistics, ILEA spends three times as much on adult education per head of adult population as Leeds, four times as much as Birmingham and five times as much as Liverpool. However splendid this provision is, it need not be so expensive.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

As another former member of the ILEA—like my hon. Friends the Members for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) and for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden)—may I ask the Minister if she has seen the figures which were published in Hansard last year showing that ILEA came top on spending and 86th on examination results, yet in a parliamentary answer to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) it was made clear that Wigan, which has the same sort of problems as ILEA, came 27th in terms of spending and ninth in terms of exam results?

Mrs. Rumbold

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for providing that information.

ILEA's spending per head of population on administration and inspection is 1.9 times that of the outer London boroughs, 2.4 times that of the metropolitan districts and 2.9 times that of the counties. So much for economies of scale.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Can the Minister give me any reason why I should vote for 32 per cent. more spending on education in inner London compared with my constituency, when my area has just the same problems as inner London, and in some cases has problems which are even more difficult?

Mrs. Rumbold

My hon. Friend makes the point well. There is no earthly reason why he should vote for additional expenditure when the problems in his constituency are similar to, if not the same as, those facing the inner London authorities.

I come to the events leading to the draft order. In July 1988, my right hon. Friend selected ILEA for precept limitation under the Rates Act 1984. He did so because of the authority's continued excessive spending. ILEA's budget for 1988–89 is £1,028 million. That is more than 60 per cent. above its assessed need to spend. It is £43 million more than the £985 million which the precept that my right hon. Friend set for it in that year was intended to raise. I acknowledge that ILEA has instituted a programme of some genuine savings in 1988–89, but that is only a start on what needs to be done.

At the same time as selecting ILEA for precept limitation, my right hon. Friend set an expenditure level for the authority in 1989–90 of £940 million. This was, in effect, a cash freeze on the £985 million level implied by the 1988–89 precept, once allowance of £45 million is made for spending on polytechnics and colleges transferring to the PCFC sector.

That £985 million was £30 million more than the spending level he originally set for ILEA in 1988–89. My right hon. Friend believed that the £940 million for 1989–90 represented a fair and reasonable level, given all the circumstances, including the prospective need to provide for smooth transfer of education functions to the inner London boroughs, and ILEA's budgeted spending in 1988–89. He made it clear, however, that he would consider further representations from ILEA as the process continued.

Since October, ILEA has sought redetermination of the expenditure level. It requested an addition of up to £100 million. My right hon. Friend took careful account of all the material put to him by ILEA. He met representatives of the authority to hear what they had to say. The authority's estimate of its spending needs assumed that the benefits of the cost controls introduced in 1988–89 would continue, but it did not envisage that any further action would be taken in 1989–90.

My right hon. Friend's view is that there remains real scope for new savings. He did, however, decide to add £10 million to the original expenditure level, in the light of ILEA's representations, including its representations about the particular circumstances of the authority's last year of operation, to which I referred earlier. He announced the redetermined level of £950 million on 19 December.

At the same time, my right hon. Friend proposed a precept maximum for ILEA in 1989–90 of 77.61p in the pound, which on the latest information available would enable it to raise £950 million. In January, the authority rejected the proposed precept maximum, and sought to raise an additional £56 million, £44 million less than the original increase it had sought, but nevertheless requiring a precept about 4.5p higher than the Secretary of State's proposal. The ILEA officers had drawn up a package of measures which would save £35 million in 1989–90, but the elected members had rejected that. The authority's revised estimate assumed only £20 million of new savings. The authority had also revised its estimate of its reserves position upwards to £20 million.

My right hon. Friend again considered carefully all the authority's arguments and again met representatives of the authority so that they could put those arguments to him in person. He remains convinced that the authority's estimates do not take account of the scope for greater efficiency and economy in the delivery of the service. He decided, however, to allow a small increase in the precept maximum, from 77.61p to 78.42p, in the light of ILEA's representations, including those relating to advice from the district auditor that ILEA should have regard to the meeting of liabilities under £15,000 when balancing its budget for 1989–90. The revised precept maximum would raise £960 million, £10 million more than the level set in December. The revised precept maximum is 3.38p, or 4 per cent., lower than this year's precept.

My right hon. Friend then laid before the House a draft order which would, if approved, enable him to prescribe a precept maximum of 78.42p. He did so because he is concerned to have the final outcome fixed by 15 February, the date set out in the Rates Act, to avoid the uncertainty associated with the use of interim procedures, and so that there is no cause for ILEA to delay implementing whatever measures are necessary to live within the precept income which the maximum would raise. He made it clear that he was prepared to withdraw the order if agreement on the precept could be reached. The authority has, however, rejected the revised figure.

Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)

The Minister seems to be describing savings that she believes might be possible in ILEA's budget in a way that is wholly unrelated to the needs of children in inner London. What guarantees can she offer that the sums that she and her right hon. Friend propose can meet the urgent needs in my constituency? For example, the roof of Hungerford infants school is in urgent need of repair, and the school cannot be brought back into operation until that is done. ILEA wants to carry out the work. Will it be able to do so with the money the Minister has mentioned?

Mrs. Rumbold

I have said nothing that would prevent ILEA from using its capital allocations to meet the expenses that the hon. Gentleman has outlined. It is a matter on which the Inner London education authority should make decisions and is not a matter on which a Minister standing at the Dispatch Box should arbitrate.

Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)

I am interested in what is being said, because one hears about ILEA gaining extra money from the Government by making representations. Is it possible for other authorities to do the same, and if extra money is given to ILEA, do other authorities lose?

Mrs. Rumbold

No. My right hon. Friend has taken seriously the representations made to him by the Inner London education authority at two points. As a result of that careful consideration, he has given £20 million extra.

Mr. Dobson

No, he has not.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

Will the Minister clarify this point? The Secretary of State has given no money to the Inner London education authority. The order will increase the amount that the Inner London education authority can raise in rates. It is time that the Minister stopped misleading the House, understood the brief and made ILEA's position clear.

Mrs. Rumbold

The hon. Gentleman clearly seeks to make a point. It is true that the limitation rates have been raised so that the Inner London education authority may raise £960 million. As a result of the moves my right hon. Friend has made, the precept maximum in the draft order will allow the authority to raise that sum. [Interruption.] I realise that it is difficult for Opposition Members to grasp these difficult figures. That is £20 million more than the original expenditure level.

The authority has said that that precept maximum will jeopardise the smooth transfer of education functions to the boroughs. I do not accept that. My right hon. Friend has responded positively to the authority's representations at each stage in the process. He has taken full account of the circumstances of the authority in its final year. We are satisfied that the precept maximum is reasonable and achievable, given responsible action by the authority.

We have also given thought to the effect of the precept maximum on ratepayers in inner London. The maximum is 4 per cent. lower than this year's precept. It will ease London rate bills. The authority's estimate of its needs implied an increase on the current year's precept, despite the fact that it will make automatic savings from the transfer of the polytechnics.

To allow such an increase would put additional pressure on rates bills. I do not believe that it would be right to do so, given the existing high level of rates in London, which can, in part, be laid at the door of ILEA's past overspending. That is why this draft order has been laid before the House. I ask the House to approve it.

10.38 pm
Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

The order is bad news for the children of London and for education in inner London. Yet the Minister's speech did not relate to the seriousness of the problems and the reduction in opportunities facing inner London children. All that we had from the Minister, in a lengthy speech, was a repeat of last year's arguments and last year's statistics. One of the sad points about the Minister's speech is that she has clearly learnt nothing from last year's debates about the Inner London education authority. Had she done so, she would have realised that expenditure in London on the police, social services and all other services will be more expensive than in the metropolitan boroughs and district councils. She had not learnt that and all that she did tonight was to repeat the statistics that we dealt with so effectively last year.

Mr. Dobson

Some Conservative Members do not understand why that is. Will my hon. Friend explain to them?

Mr. Fatchett

There are several who fit that description on the Conservative Benches. The simple point is that it is more expensive to run services in London. That comes through in the figures, but the Minister and some of her hon. Friends have failed to understand that point.

It may be useful for the Minister to take her history lesson back not just one year to the debates about the abolition of ILEA but about 80 years to the debate about the London school boards. Given the nature of the Minister's speech, it has probably been recycled a few times in those 80 years. Had she been participating in those debates, she would have said exactly the same—that the London school boards' education was more expensive than in other parts of the country. She would have been right then because the London school boards were costing 50 per cent. more per child 80 years ago than their equivalents in other parts of the country. The argument related precisely to the cost of providing services in London, and it was as right then as it is now.

The Minister's argument is not about statistics, but about her dislike of ILEA and her opposition to spending money on inner London children, investing in their education and extending their opportunities. Her enthusiasm for making cuts is matched by her desire to spend taxpayers' money on assisting the private sector with fees and at levels of expenditure per child far greater than in ILEA. The Minister looks askance, but that is the real world. She approves of higher spending levels for the private sector and the assisted places scheme than for the youngsters in ILEA.

Mr. Bennett

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fatchett

This is a short debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Do not give way."]

Mr. Bennett

It is on this point.

Mr. Fatchett

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman later. He can attend a Welsh debate and make his points then.

This order will undoubtedly hurt education provision and education standards in inner London. The fact that the Minister has the audacity to stand at the Dispatch Box and say that the Government are investing in inner London education shows how little she understands the brief and how little she knows about inner London education. The simple fact is that the Government are not helping with revenue expenditure on those children.

Mr. Bennett

It is correct that inner London costs must be higher than in any other education authority because of inner London weighting, but outer London boroughs also have weighting—it is slightly less than in inner London, but not dramatically different. Can the hon. Gentleman explain why the outer London borough of Bexley charges £900 per child less than ILEA? Or if he prefers to take a Labour-controlled borough as an example, why is Barking £800 per child cheaper than ILEA?

Mr. Fatchett

It was a mistake to give way to the hon.Gentleman. I should have learnt that. My hon. Friends were absolutely right. Perhaps I can throw some figures back at the hon. Gentleman. Can he explain why in Tory-controlled Westminster social services are more expensive than in outer London boroughs? Again, the argument comes down to the nature of provision in inner London. I am delighted that in his opening comments the hon. Gentleman ceded the argument and agreed with us on that point.

These cuts will undoubtedly hurt education, children and education standards. It is no good the Government saying that this happened last year and there was no proof of a reduction in education opportunities. There was indeed a reduction and in the coming year there will be an even greater reduction because ILEA will not have the opportunity to use reserves as it did last year. In this year's budget the cut of £60 million, or more than 6 per cent., will be a real cut which will be felt in the classroom, in the provision of teachers and in the number of books.

Mrs. Rumbold

indicated dissent.

Mr. Fatchett

It is no good the Minister shaking her head. That is the real world of education in inner London and it is time that she understood those points.

No private-sector organisation would take nearly 7 per cent. out of its budget in one financial year without recognising that that would harm its product. The Government are expecting the Inner London education authority to do that, either without recognition of the harm or—nearer the truth, I suspect—without even bothering about the harm to education standards in London. There are real problems, not just in the cuts this year but in the fact that this is the final year of the Inner London education authority. There were Conservative Members who had just one purpose in seeking to abolish the Inner London education authority, and it was not based on argument or logic but on spite and a desire to create chaos in inner London services.

The Minister in her contribution today recognised that Labour and the Labour-controlled Inner London education authority are doing their very best to provide an education service for the future. It is thanks not to the Government or their investment but to Labour London boroughs and Labour ILEA that children have something to look forward to in education. The House does not have to take my word for that. Hon. Members can consider the district auditor's words to the members of ILEA: I am very encouraged by the efforts being made by your officers to assist the successors of the London education authority. Labour is working for London's children. It also recognises, as the district auditor recognises and the Government should recognise, that in the process of handover to the boroughs there will be additional charges and demands on resources. The Minister talks about providing £25 million to help the boroughs to take over the education responsibilities of inner London, but anyone with any knowledge of education in London can tell her that that is simply not sufficient to cover the transfer of responsibilities.

I am not arguing that because of the peculiar problem this year there will be a slippage in expenditure or poor management. We are asking the Government to recognise the scale of the problems that will be created and to help the boroughs and ILEA to ease the process of succession. The present Minister clearly has no interest in that process.

The targets—the maximum rate and level of expenditure—have clear implications for the successor authorities. The safety nets of the future must be related to the redetermined expenditure level set out in the order. This year's squeeze will clearly have a knock-on effect. We spent hours in Committee debating the future financing of ILEA but we have still not had any commitment from the Minister that the redistributive impact and mechanism of ILEA polices will work through in terms of future financing.

In view of the Minister's speech today, what hope is there for youngsters in Tower Hamlets, in Hackney, in the poorer inner London boroughs? What reason is there to believe that the Government will not further squeeze education expenditure in those boroughs? Perhaps when the Minister replies to the debate she can answer one question. I understand that these levels of expenditure do not satisfy the Tory boroughs of Wandsworth, Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster. Will the Minister tell us what representations she has received from those authorities and what the Tories are saying to her privately? I suspect that they are saying that the money is not enough and that they want more to provide education in their own boroughs.

For the next few years education in inner London will face acute difficulties. The order deals neither with the immediate problems nor with those that will be forced on the boroughs, and faced at borough level, by the abolition of the Inner London education authority. That is why, for the sake of the children of inner London and their education, we shall vote against this order.

10.49 pm
Sir Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead and Highgate)

Oh for the Bob Mellishes and Ron Browns of this world, the members of the London Labour party who cared for Londoners, and understood what London was about. The Opposition Members who now speak for London have no representation so far as the electors are concerned. Those Labour Members do not find themselves in the company of those who ran the London county council education committee.

We must remember that the Inner London education authority is a creation of very few years standing. The old LCC education committee had a good reputation. The trouble is that the people in ILEA were told six, seven and even eight years ago that they should rein in their expenditure, but they failed to do so. That is why these major reductions must be made, because they went on blindly in pursuit of their political objectives.

I compliment the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), the new Londoner who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench, on producing some new quotations to enliven the same old dull theories. The Labour party cannot accept the independent figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy which show that ILEA is the most spendthrift education authority in the country, with some of the poorest results. It is no good Labour Members blaming the wicked Tories. In 12 months' time ILEA will have gone like a puff of smoke and will be as unlamented as the Greater London council. The public want education to be run by the boroughs. As my hon. Friend the Minister said—

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

Did the hon. Gentleman see the polls?

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

Yes, I saw the polls.

Mr. Sedgemore

Stop pointing.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

Pointing is better than sitting and shouting from a sedentary position. That is all that the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) seems capable of doing.

As my hon. Friend the Minister said, the position is clear. Ten days ago in Camden there was a by-election in Hampstead Town. We held that ward, although we have lost it in the past. The Conservative candidate increased her majority and the Labour candidate was pushed ignominiously into third place. The Labour candidate was the ILEA member for Camden. After all the nonsense that we have heard about polls and the public attitude, when it came to the vote, the Labour candidate was pushed into third place because the public know that what is being peddled about ILEA is utter rubbish. So long as the Labour party wants to rely on public opinion polls, I am content to rely on the view that electors record at the ballot box.

Mr. Dobson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

No. I do not have much time. I could go on for a long time if I am nettled.

Perhaps I should refer to education in general as it applies to ILEA. We could consider the way in which ILEA has dealt with school meals. Similarly we could consider how, suddenly in the past 12 months, ILEA has discovered that there are bad teachers and has decided to move a bunch of them. Was it electorally difficult for the ILEA leadership to take action over those teachers before'?

Perhaps we should consider the actions of ILEA nominees at the polytechnic of north London, which interestingly enough is in the news today. I spent 25 years as a governor of that polytechnic. Five years were spent under pretty grotty management, although before then the management was good. That polytechnic had been well run because the old LCC did not believe in peddling its philosophies ahead of education.

I ask the House to consider the situation in respect of repairs to inner London schools. To listen to the Labour party, one might imagine that all the repairs now needed have suddenly arisen. However, one recalls that ILEA and its predecessor, the London county council, were under Socialist control almost from the time of creation. It is they who must bear the main responsibility both for inadequate educational standards and for inadequate repairs. They were not prepared to do a proper job.

My hon. Friend the Minister told the House of the reductions proposed by ILEA officers to the members of that body. The hon. Member for Leeds, Central quoted the district auditor's report. I hope that it was not written by Mr. Skinner, because I should not believe much of anything that he writes. He said that he welcomed what the authority's officers are doing—yet they are the self-same officers who were repudiated by the ILEA leadership when, in attempting to meet a sensible target, they presented a package of savings.

Labour Members cannot have it both ways. If they acknowledge—as they have—that ILEA's officers are good and reliable, they must accept also that the officers' proposals are unlikely to be detrimental to the children affected. Basically, they present the most helpful proposals that they can devise. Occasionally, the officers do not choose to cut into their own empires—but other than that, they are helpful. Nevertheless, ILEA's leadership rejected many of their proposals. If they do that, there is little they can grumble about if my hon. Friend the Minister, having twice considered the ILEA figures, arrives at the increases that she has in the permissible amount that the authority can raise.

It is of course true that parents in London are net getting the best possible deal—but it is evident from the results of London local government by-elections that they realise where the blame lies. It does not lie at the door of this Government, but with those—[Interruption.] If the Opposition do not believe that, I am happy for them to continue deluding themselves. The fact remains that the average Londoner knows full well that it is the Government who are making possible a good education system at a realistic cost.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, under the order, ILEA expenditure per pupil will be substantially higher than in outer London boroughs—such as Brent—that are not renowned for their financial rectitude?

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

My hon. Friend is right. It is interesting how suddenly the Labour party changes its tune. Fifteen months ago, its members flooded my constituency with allegations that the community charge. which will eventually be part of an education charge, will be more than £700. The Young Socialists have suddenly revised that figure to more than £600, whereas the rest of the Labour party have changed their minds and altered it to about £500.

The Labour party attempts to scare people. We saw that tactic again this afternoon, when my hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts made his statement about library services. Labour put about the lie that there is to be a charge for those basic services, whereas my hon. Friend made it clear from the beginning that that is not true. Letters were sent out at the behest of local authorities such as Camden, trying to kid the public that charges would be made for the basic library service.

I believe that my hon. Friend is right and that the House should pass the order. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) is also right about why more money is being made available to ILEA. My hon. Friend the Minister has looked at its proposals on two occasions. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North asks whether the same would apply if his local authority also wanted more money. He should be grateful that his county is sensible and sane, and is not rate-capped. That is the difference between the two. I envy my hon. Friend, as, I believe, do many hon. Members.

My hon. Friend the Minister made a fair and clear case based on unimpeachable statistics and on London's education needs. Her comparisons were drawn from a source—the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy—that I do not believe to be Right-wing, and I think that her case is right.

11 pm

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

This is a precept limitation order debate. It is also a debate about a cut of some £66 million in ILEA's budget this year, coming on top of a cut of some £90 million the year before. The effect of the cut must be seen against a background that I think all who are in touch with inner London will recognise—that of a growing and serious increase in the shortage of teachers available to ILEA and, indeed, to its successor authorities.

The reasons for that shortage are, I think, generally understood, although it may be worth pointing out that the ILEA area must compete not only with outer London boroughs but with other, perhaps more attractive, parts of the country for the same supply of teachers coming out of teacher training colleges. The shortage is, in my view, the most serious problem that the House should consider today, and I want to illustrate the difficulties in my own borough of Tower Hamlets.

We do not suffer simply from a shortage of teachers in the general sense. We do not merely have the shortage of maths, physics and chemistry teachers that is so familiar to most hon. Members. My local division 5 education officer told me in a letter only a few weeks ago that he could not recall a problem as acute as today's occurring at any time during the eleven and a half years in which he has occupied his present position. He mentioned a shortage of 102 teachers in the borough's secondary schools, 92 in the primary schools and more than four in the nursery schools. He goes on to say—and the House should think seriously about the implications: As far as the position of children out of school is concerned the number currently registered is about 470". In other words, 470 counted kids are roaming the streets—or perhaps many are kept indoors with their parents—who should, under the law, be receiving education but who cannot find a place at school in the borough of Tower Hamlets.

There are two reasons for that. First, in the past there has not been an adequate supply of building for extended classes and new schools, although the present position has now been overtaken by the chronic teacher shortage. The letter to which I have referred itemises ILEA's plans to deal with the perceived and growing shortage of primary school places.

The Wessex street school was to be opened in January and was to provide initially for up to 60 children. The Halley street school was also to be opened early in January. That school was to take up to 150 children. A third school, at Hermitage wall, Wapping, was supposed to take up to 110 children.

The headmaster, his deputy and two supply teachers have been recruited for the Wessex street school. Only the headmaster has been appointed to the Halley street school, and only the headmaster and his deputy will arrive at the Hermitage wall school by Easter. The most recent information that I have from the borough is that the headmasters of those schools say that they will have to close classes and send children home because the teacher shortage is growing worse month by month. The primary schools in the borough depend almost entirely on Australian and New Zealand teachers who come to Europe for a few years.

Mr. Holland

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that both in his borough and in the borough of Lambeth, which covers my constituency, we cannot get even supply teachers for primary schools and that has caused a crisis? Children are being sent home from schools that are only a few hundred yards from here.

Mr. Shore

That is the nature of the crisis. It is not a question of the authority making and mending with supply teachers. They are not there. If anything goes wrong the class has to be sent home. Nobody is available to provide cover, either on a temporary or on a slightly longer-term basis. I have illustrated that point by referring to three new schools that cannot be opened to take pupils who should be in full-time education because teachers are not available to man them. In her astonishingly complacent and arithmetical speech the Minister of State showed no concern, but she does not have to cope with the problems that face children and their parents in inner London boroughs.

The crisis in my borough is likely to become even more serious. Population growth is rapid, almost explosive. It is expected to grow year by year and the demand for teachers will grow rather than diminish. The Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts is taking evidence on the matter. All the evidence points to the fact that the teacher supply problem, both nationally and in London in particular, will grow worse in the years ahead.

A few days ago ILEA passed a resolution that was addressed to the Secretary of State. It was an extraordinary statement for any authority to make. It says: The authority acknowledges that, despite its best endeavours, the crisis in education in Tower Hamlets continues to worsen. After consultation with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets an All-Party delegation should make representations to the Secretary of State to seek to ensure that special attention be given to the educational needs of an area which are now beyond the resources available to either Authority or its successor Borough. That is one of the gravest statements that any education authority can ever have made in the long history of public education. To be presented with an order that reduces by £66 million ILEA's spending ability—above all, its ability to recruit teachers—makes me absolutely sick.

11.8 pm

Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich)

Conservative Members have an advantage in the debate. Among our number are those who have served on ILEA. I served for seven years. My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) also served during that time. He and I have an added advantage. We were both pupils at what were then London county council—the predecessor of ILEA—schools.

Mr. Corbyn

Until what age?

Mr. Bowden

Until the age of 18. If the hon. Gentleman will contain his impatiencse he will hear the full story.

My hon. Friend and I both taught in ILEA schools and were both governors of ILEA schools. Having served on ILEA, we feel that we have been through this budget debate before. When we hear the tired old arguments trotted out by the Opposition we both have a yawning sense of deja vu because we know that, although the problems of London may be greater than those in any other part of Britain, the financial problems are of ILEA's own making. Ten years ago we showed how savings could be made if there was a will to make them. They were not made and the harvest is now being reaped.

I shall deal briefly with one or two matters that are illustrative of the whole malaise. We recognise the education needs of London and know that they will require more than the expenditure in more prosperous parts of the country. However, extravagant expenditure is quite out of hand. ILEA spends a disproportionate amount on administration and on political initiatives and too little on the needs of education.

Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Bowden

In a moment. The hon. Lady is rather impatient. I shall now deal with ways in which money could be saved.

Many years ago we said that the number of buildings was far in excess of what was required for the schooling of London. We suggested that some of the capital invested in those buildings could be realised and devoted to current expenditure. More important, the revenue consequences of retaining and maintaining those buildings meant that money was being spent on non-education needs. There was a need about 20 years ago, or at the latest 10 years ago, to look into how a cost-effective education service could be provided in London. That need was dismissed as being quite inappropriate in looking at future education provision in London.

ILEA has an expensive and inefficient method of providing the necessary transport for children in London to move from school to playing field and from home to school. Perhaps the greatest extravagance, the greatest profligacy, is to be seen in the direct labour force that maintains education buildings. Hardly a school that I visit does not have some complaint about delays in carrying out some fairly minor piece of work. Somebody comes to inspect the work and then somebody comes and measures it. Someone is then supposed to deliver the materials to do the work, but they are not there when the workmen arrive and the process has to be gone through again. A swift and efficient maintenance service cannot be provided using such methods. We need greater priority to education rather than to administration.

Ms. Abbott

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the real measure of Conservative concern for the education of children in inner London is that most inner London Conservative Members have chosen to boycott the debate?

Mr. Bowden

I wonder whether that comment is wholly justified. Perhaps those more numerate than I could calculate the number of Opposition Members who are present. I think that Conservative Members are in the majority, but we shall find out in the Division Lobbies whether there is support for the measure.

ILEA has been profligate and wanton in its extravagant expenditure. The money has been spent not on the education needs of London but on administrative overheads and services that are union-dominated and which the political leadership at county hall is frightened to disband.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Inner London schools have great difficulty in getting repairs done. I have some examples to illustrate the point that my hon. Friend made. Many schools have flat roofs, designed by the absurdly inefficient architects' department. If flat roofs were not built, there would not be so many leaking roofs—a major problem in many schools. To repair the roofs, it is first necessary to call in the architects' department, which in turn calls in consultants. They have to look at the job, and then see the contractors and put out a contract for tender. It took five years for one school to get its badly leaking roof repairecli. This is a serious matter.

Mr. Bowden

In this sector, economies could be made and a more efficient service provided.

The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) spoke about the shortage of teachers. This is a manifestation of the failure to give education needs proper priority. I speak to a number of teachers and ask why they do not apply for the vacant headship posts. I hear that when headships are advertised, the calibre of applicants is disappointing to those who are responsible for drawing up the short lists. The reasons given by the majority of those who could and should be appointed is that they find oppresive the political interference from county hall in education matters. They are not prepared to take this on. [Interruption.] That reaction from Labour Members makes it obvious why such people do not feel comfortable about making their thoughts known. In many cases, they are frightened to explain their fears, but these are made manifest in the fact that they do not apply for vacant posts.

11.17 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

The fallacy of Tory arguments and the complacency shown by the Minister can easily be demonstrated. Throughout its history, voters have not voted for a Conservative ILEA administration. At the last general election, the majority of seats within inner London were not won by Conservatives.

The last ILEA by-election, on 1 December, was in my constituency. The Labour party did not do very well, winning only 5 per cent. of the constituency vote, and the Tory party got only 1 per cent. of the electors of Southwark and Bermondsey to support it. That was out of a turnout of 17 per cent.

When ILEA was abolished last year, it produced more correspondence than any other matter in my six years in the House, and I have never had one letter asking for the rates in my constituency to be reduced so that the precept could be less. Substantial numbers pay, and the debate tonight is about whether the people of inner London should pay for ILEA. We are dealing not with taxpayers' money, or Government-distributed money, but ratepayers' money. It is about whether they should pay what they would wish to pay or have it reduced by 22p per head. The Minister did not give one example showing that the ratepayers of inner London want 22p a head deducted from their contribution for the future of their children's education.

As the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) said when speaking about Tower Hamlets, a cut of £150 million in two years, which is the implication of tonight's order, cannot be sustained by any authority, let alone with the demise of ILEA next year.

I am not defending ILEA's record on thrift. There are certainly areas which have been badly managed and areas where the service delivery has been poor. The results in many areas have not been good educationally. That is not a factor of its administration; it is caused by the amazing diversity and difficulty of the cumulative problems in inner London over many years.

In the last year, ILEA has made mammoth efforts to assimilate cuts of £90 million. The hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) referred to the report of the district auditor, which was written by Mr. Skinner. The hon. Gentleman should have read the report. The district auditor is not critical of the way in which ILEA set about remedying the problem. The slack that has already been taken up has resulted in the pupil—teacher ratio being the same as the Department of Education and Science average. Maintenance costs have been substantially cut, and repairs are not being done.

ILEA did not say that it was unwilling to have restraint. It suggested a not unreasonable cut to 80.99p, more than the Government are allowing, but less than last year. The Government did not accept that. The precept will still be less than 2 per cent. higher than five years ago, even though general price inflation in the same period, irrespective of the increases which affect education provision, such as housing, was 27 per cent.

The Minister's argument that inner London has higher costs is completely invalidated. She should have done the House a greater courtesy than to try that on again. The Government recognised that just the other day. For the first time they have taken Z scores into account in assessing the needs of the National Health Service. With Z scores being taken into account in the country, the suggestion is that RAWP should be abolished. Under the Government's plans for the Health Service inner London will get more, because the Government recognise that it needs more. Yet when it comes to applying the same budgetary and accounting lessons to ILEA, the Government do not come to the same conclusion.

Exactly the same criteria affect educational provision in inner London. The poverty, the deprivation and the ethnicity—the factors which enable the Government to give more money to the Health Service in inner London—apply also to education. We need more language tuition and more special needs provision. The people who are most deprived and most in need will not get the resources that they need next year. The consequences will be larger class sizes, fewer support teachers, less time to spend on the educationally disadvantaged and less ability to cover the curricula.

Hon. Member after hon. Member has said that there is a desperate position because of teacher shortages. I have experience of classes being sent home. At Grange primary school in my constituency there is neither a regular teacher nor a supply teacher. There is not a word from the Minister about that. She is not bothered about whether the kids have a teacher or are getting education. All she is worried about are statistics. Government dogma is applied again and again. We have heard nothing about a broad and varied curriculum or about making sure that standards rise: we just get statistics rolled out to support the dogmatic argument.

The reality is that the cuts have already bitten too hard. Maintenance is not being done. The voluntary sector is being priced out. Scouts, guides and youth groups cannot use schools for the community activities which the Government say they applaud. Discretionary grants to students are being reduced. ILEA cannot fund services which the Government have always said they want to support. The Government argue for increased access to higher education, but they are reducing the number of students who can go on to higher education. Such is the contradiction in their policy.

Now the Government are asking ILEA to cut further in the very year when the boroughs have to take on the responsibility, when officers are leaving, when the finance department of ILEA is under most stress, and when the cost of transfer adds to the costs of ILEA.

The reality is that, when services are cut, they are unlikely to be restored. It is all very well to say that the boroughs can start again, but the reality is that they will not. It is clear that ILEA will be forced to leave a legacy of disadvantage in the years to come. Abolition is causing ILEA problems enough. Abolition, plus the Government's arbitrary imposition of a lower precept limit, at no penalty or advantage to themselves, is a sign of vindictiveness. In substantial measure, the Government do not represent inner London. They do not understand it and they do not care about it. They are clobbering it for the sake of 22p per ratepayer. It is disgraceful. The Minister and her colleagues should realise that they are doing education and their own credibility no service by the ridiculous and unjustified argument that they have advanced this evening.

11.26 pm
Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

I represent inner London and I care about inner London. I have proved that by being elected to represent what was a Labour seat in inner London. That being so, I shall refute the absurd arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes).

Opposition Members have made much of what they have been told by their constituents. I was out last night in my constituency on the borders of Lambeth, in what is known as a divided street. I bumped into someone who I thought was one of my constituents but who happened to be a constituent of the neighbouring borough of Lambeth. The young gentleman said, "I'm sorry that I'm not one of your constituents." I replied, "That's your bad luck, isn't it?" He said, "That's right—I pay twice the rates that I would if I lived over the road in Wandsworth." I responded by saying, "You know why that is, don't you? There is the Lambeth element and the ILEA element." He agreed and said, "The worst is that, come the changeover, I shall still be in a Labour borough when across the road there will be good education run by Wandsworth. I wish I lived there." That is the truth. That is what is happening in inner London.

Mr. Holland

We have just heard an example of Tory party political propaganda based on the two-sides-of-thestreet argument. We have heard such examples on many occasions. In the 10 years that I have been a Member of Parliament I have not heard one constituent in the borough of Lambeth make the complaint that the hon. Gentleman has described. I have travelled around the borough on many occasions—[interruption]—but I have heard the complaint only from Tory Members this evening, and then from a sedentary position.

Mr. Bowis

Perhaps that is why the hon. Gentleman's constituents keep coming to my surgery.

Mr. Gerald Bowden

Should there be any vacancies in Wandsworth schools when Wandsworth children have been accommodated, will my hon. Friend reassure me that the borough would be prepared to accept Lambeth children who might wish to go to them?

Mr. Bowis

If it were in my gift, I should be happy to accede to my hon. Friend's request. I know that my colleagues who are members of Wandsworth council, and who will shortly be running education in the borough, will be opening the doors to the parents of children in Lambeth and elsewhere, and I have no doubt that they will be flooding through them.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett

Is my hon. Friend aware that one of the reasons why the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland), a public school boy, has not been receiving any representations from his constituents about ILEA is that he went on 18 foreign trips last year?

Mr. Bowis

I have no answer to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Holland

Apart from the fact that my Opposition Front Bench responsibilities happen to involve international economic affairs—I am glad to be informed on such matters, unlike Conservative Members—I provide a surgery four Mondays a month in my constituency with few exceptions. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us how often he provides a surgery of his own?

Mr. Bowis

Perhaps I should not allow this debate to develop. It is plain that the hon. Gentleman's attendance at so many interesting international conferences throughout the world, including Florence, means that he is not present to hear the complaints of his constituents about the rates paid by Lambeth residents compared with those paid by Wandsworth residents. Now that the hon. Gentleman is back in London I am sure that he will find time to wander around the streets occasionally to pick up the message that I received yesterday.

We have had our standard debate on ILEA. Sadly, such debates are a diminishing pleasure because we shall shortly be considering the way in which education is organised in the boroughs. Apart from the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) who made some interesting comments about teachers, this has been a waffly debate. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about teacher shortages and I have some sympathy with that. My hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) spoke about the cost management of ILEA, which has helped to cause the problem. The right hon. Gentleman opened up the debate on whether we should have national teacher pay negotiations and I believe that he also hinted at the possibility of attracting subject teachers according to the needs of the market. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will convince some of his hon. Friends of the good sense of that.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

I, too, am concerned about teacher shortage and supply. The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) referred to that shortage, but does my hon. Friend agree that it is a bogus point? When teacher posts are advertised, the money has already been put aside. There are other ways to address the teacher shortage which have nothing to do with the order.

Mr. Bowis

I entirely agree.

Another important factor behind the teacher shortage in inner London is the teaching environment. Over the years, teaching in ILEA schools has become increasingly unpopular. That problem was illustrated by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), who sadly is no longer present. I believe that he described ILTA—the Inner London Teachers Association—as a bunch of warring Trots. That is why teachers do not want to teach in inner London. The blame must therefore lie with the Labour party and the Left in London rather than with the Government.

Synthetic rage has been expressed by Opposition Members. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey said that he had not received any letters calling for a reduction in the rates. I have had no letters from my constituents asking that the rates should be allowed to rise to cater for the increased expenditure and generosity of ILEA. The ratepayers of inner London are grateful to the Government for ensuring that costs are kept under control.

The hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), accompanied by his sidekick the poet—the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore), who sadly is no longer present—once again graced our debates on ILEA. The hon. Member for Leeds, Central referred to the complaints received from Wandsworth, Kensington and other boroughs about the level of spending. I must inform him that no such complaints have been received from Wandsworth—I cannot speak for the other boroughs. If the hon. Gentleman can give chapter and verse about complaints received from Wandsworth, I will give way.

Mr. Fatchett

The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that representations have been made to the Minister by his borough and other Conservative inner London boroughs to ask for a higher spending level for inner London because of the future knock-on effect. It is about time that the hon. Gentleman got in touch with what is going on in his borough.

Mr. Bowis

That is complete nonsense. No complaint has been received from Wandsworth or, so far as I know, from any other borough. His comments are irrelevant to the debate.

The ILEA debate is over. The decision has been taken and the administration of education is to be transferred to the boroughs. That is good news. The problems, however, remain. Many right hon. and hon. Members have referred to the fact that ILEA costs twice as much as any other authority but produces half the results. We accept that it should cost more in inner London, but we cannot accept that it should cost more and not give adequate results in the schools. Yet that is what we have been suffering in inner London in general and in Wandsworth, in division No. 10, in particular.

Perhaps there is some apprehension in Labour inner London boroughs about the takeover of education. I appreciate that, but the ballot box will be available between now and the takeover. That will be the opportunity for people to express their views on the issue. In the borough of Wandsworth there is excitement and anticipation in the air. A great deal of planning is going on and people are getting together to discuss these issues. When one talks to the teachers, the head teachers and all concerned in the schools, one finds that they are looking forward to the education opportunities that will be coming their way. They have not had such opportunities for many years.

A degree of certainty is required as we move towards the changeover date, and this instrument will help to achieve that. As that date approaches, we do not want an inheritance of excessive and wrongful spending, so we must get the costs under control. It would be churlish to suggest that ILEA had not made some progress. It has made some effort to get its spending and priorities under control, but there is still a long way to go. Even in these dying ember days of ILEA, I beg those involved to examine their priorities to see whether some of their decisions are not harming education, students, teachers, schools and colleges prior to their being handed over to the boroughs. Many areas could be examined in terms of rationalisation. I will cite just a few areas where ILEA has got it wrong. One is the whole question of discretionary grants for students, which it seems to have more or less written off. The second is the absurd decision on Wolverstone hall, the boarding school which took children from disadvantaged areas and got far better than average results from them.

Mr. Matthew Carrington (Fulham)

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the silliest decisions taken by ILEA has been to put up the charges to voluntary organisations for the use of school halls? The charges have increased so much as to be self-defeating because voluntary organisations cannot afford to hire them, thus cutting school income rather than increasing it as ILEA presumably intended.

Mr. Bowis

That is an example of ILEA getting its priorities wrong. Another example is the Merchant Navy college. ILEA decided to close the college within a year and made three recommendations when taking that decision. They were that education provision should be preserved, that students should be guaranteed a means of completing their studies and that the interests of the staff should be safeguarded. Sixteen weeks remain before the demise of that college, and the college reports that none of those recommendations has been fulfilled. Attempts to transfer the education provision have failed, students do not know what will happen to them and the staff are uncertain about their future. Timetables for closure have been brought forward, changed, abandoned and brought forward again. Proposals introduced one day are dismissed as unsuitable the next, only to become authority policy the day after. No wonder those at the Merchant Navy college talk about an uncaring ILEA. That is the truth, and that is why we have these provisions before us. We contrast the uncaring ILEA—uncaring in its attitude towards the education of the children and students of London—with the caring attitude of the Government.

11.38 pm
Mrs. Rumbold

With the leave of the House, and within the time available, I will do my best to respond to the points that have been raised by hon. Members.

Mr. Corbyn

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister sought the leave of the House to speak again. I was not aware that you had put that question to the House. Many of us feel—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Is the hon. Gentleman objecting to the Minister having the leave of the House?

Mr. Corbyn


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Minister does not need the leave of the House to speak again. Mrs. Rumbold.

Mrs. Rumbold

I am particularly grateful for your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I want to reply to some of the points made by Opposition Members and by my hon. Friends.

I was surprised, although I should not have been, by the lacklustre speech of the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), who said that anyone on the ground would know that the £25 million allocated to the inner London boroughs for transfer costs next year was inadequate. Does he ever talk to his colleagues in the boroughs? I assure him that not one of them has complained about the level of the grant. Some have gone so far as to say that it has been generous. It is high time he started talking—

Mr. Fatchett

Will the Minister give way?

Mrs. Rumbold

I want to move on—

Mr. Fatchett

I thank the Minister for giving way with such reluctance. Which London boroughs have said that the grant is sufficient? I suspect that none has.

Mrs. Rumbold

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman questions what I said. It was perfectly true. Wandsworth has been one of the authorities—[Interruption.] I am not prepared to go into detail at this stage.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) and his colleagues on a splendid result in the recent local election. He has realised that, although elected ILEA members behave on the surface as though they are trying to help as best they can, they have left it rather late to start tackling the problem of poor teaching in schools—hardly persuasive evidence of a death-bed repentance.

The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) spoke about teacher shortages, and I do not deny that the difficulties in this area are a cause for concern. I have been discussing them with the council and its newly appointed chief education officer. The problem is one that ILEA has allowed to develop over time. I stress that division 5 is not typical in ILEA. HMI reports show schools in other parts of London with high levels of staffing. ILEA has been quite unable to deploy teachers effectively. Fortunately, the boroughs are determined to remedy that when they take over—

Mr. Corbyn

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is a short debate. Five speeches have been made by Conservative Members, two by Labour Members and one by a Social and Liberal Democrat Member—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I realise that a number of hon. Members have not been able to get into the debate, but there is nothing I can do about that.

Mr. Corbyn

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It appears that Conservative Members have had roughly twice as much speaking time as Labour Members, despite the fact that the latter overwhelmingly represent inner London—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have no power to control the length of speeches in the debate.

Mrs. Rumbold

My hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) made an important point about the slow and expensive direct labour organisation making an enormous difference to the authority's expenditure on repairs and maintenance of schools. That has certainly caused a great deal of delay and stress. Fortunately, again, when the boroughs take over education for themselves that will be remedied—

Mr. Fatchett

What representations has the Minister received from the Conservative boroughs about the level of expenditure on ILEA and its implications for the future?

Mrs. Rumbold

Wandsworth, for example, has said that the authority should not seek a redetermination of its expenditure limit—

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 ( Exempted Business).

The House divided: Ayes 192, Noes 98.

Division No. 87] [11.44 pm
Aitken, Jonathan Bendall, Vivian
Alexander, Richard Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bevan, David Gilroy
Amess, David Blackburn, Dr John G.
Amos, Alan Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Arbuthnot, James Boscawen, Hon Robert
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Boswell, Tim
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Bottomley, Peter
Ashby, David Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Atkinson, David Bowis, John
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Batiste, Spencer Brazier, Julian
Buck, Sir Antony Kirkhope, Timothy
Burns, Simon Knapman, Roger
Burt, Alistair Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Butterfill, John Knowles, Michael
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Latham, Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Lawrence, Ivan
Carrington, Matthew Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Carttiss, Michael Lightbown, David
Cash, William Lilley, Peter
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Chapman, Sydney Lord, Michael
Chope, Christopher Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Maclean, David
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) McLoughlin, Patrick
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Cope, Rt Hon John Malins, Humfrey
Couchman, James Mans, Keith
Cran, James Maples, John
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Marland, Paul
Davis, David (Boothferry) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Day, Stephen Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Dickens, Geoffrey Maude, Hon Francis
Dorrell, Stephen Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Mellor, David
Dover, Den Meyer, Sir Anthony
Dunn, Bob Miller, Sir Hal
Durant, Tony Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Dykes, Hugh Mitchell, Sir David
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Monro, Sir Hector
Evennett, David Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Morrison, Sir Charles
Favell, Tony Needham, Richard
Fenner, Dame Peggy Nicholls, Patrick
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Page, Richard
Fishburn, John Dudley Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Forman, Nigel Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Roe, Mrs Marion
Forth, Eric Rowe, Andrew
Franks, Cecil Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Freeman, Roger Ryder, Richard
French, Douglas Sackville, Hon Tom
Gale, Roger Sayeed, Jonathan
Garel-Jones, Tristan Shaw, David (Dover)
Gill, Christopher Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Goodhart, Sir Philip Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Gow, Ian Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Green way, Harry (Ealing N) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Gregory, Conal Soames, Hon Nicholas
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Speller, Tony
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Squire, Robin
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Stanbrook, Ivor
Hanley, Jeremy Stern, Michael
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Stevens, Lewis
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Harris, David Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Hayes, Jerry Summerson, Hugo
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Hayward, Robert Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Heddle, John Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Hind, Kenneth Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Howard, Michael Thome, Neil
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Thornton, Malcolm
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Thurnham, Peter
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Townend, John (Bridiington)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Trippier, David
Hunter, Andrew Twinn, Dr Ian
Irvine, Michael Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Jack, Michael Waddington, Rt Hon David
Jackson, Robert Waldegrave, Hon William
Janman, Tim Walden, George
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Waller, Gary
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Ward, John
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Key, Robert Warren, Kenneth
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Watts, John
Wells, Bowen Yeo, Tim
Wheeler, John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Whitney, Ray
Widdecombe, Ann Tellers for the Ayes:
Wood, Timothy Mr. Alan Howarth and
Woodcock, Mike Mr. Michael Fallon.
Abbott, Ms Diane Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Alton, David Lamond, James
Armstrong, Hilary Lewis, Terry
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Battle, John Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Beckett, Margaret McAllion, John
Beith, A. J. McAvoy, Thomas
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Macdonald, Calum A.
Bermingham, Gerald McFall, John
Blair, Tony McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Boyes, Roland McLeish, Henry
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) McWilliam, John
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Buckley, George J. Marek, Dr John
Caborn, Richard Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Callaghan, Jim Meale, Alan
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Michael, Alun
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Morgan, Rhodri
Clay, Bob Murphy, Paul
Clelland, David Nellist, Dave
Clwyd, Mrs Ann O'Brien, William
Cohen, Harry Parry, Robert
Corbyn, Jeremy Pike, Peter L.
Cryer, Bob Quin, Ms Joyce
Cunliffe, Lawrence Redmond, Martin
Dalyell, Tam Reid, Dr John
Darling, Alistair Ruddock, Joan
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Sedgemore, Brian
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Dewar, Donald Skinner, Dennis
Dixon, Don Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Dobson, Frank Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Doran, Frank Snape, Peter
Fatchett, Derek Soley, Clive
Fisher, Mark Spearing, Nigel
Foster, Derek Steel, Rt Hon David
Fraser, John Stott, Roger
Godman, Dr Norman A. Strang, Gavin
Gordon, Mildred Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Graham, Thomas Wall, Pat
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Walley, Joan
Hardy, Peter Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Wareing, Robert N.
Holland, Stuart Wise, Mrs Audrey
Home Robertson, John Worthington, Tony
Hoyle, Doug
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Tellers for the Noes:
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Mr. Frank Haynes and
Illsley, Eric Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie.

Question accordingly agreed to.


That the draft Precept Limitation (Prescribed Maximum) (Inner London Education Authority) Order 1989, which was laid before this House on 27th January, be approved.

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