HC Deb 20 July 1989 vol 157 cc550-2 5.10 pm
Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration.

It is certainly specific, as you know, Mr. Speaker, because I sent you a copy of this letter. It is a preposterous letter which has been issued by Conservative Central Office, setting out its plans to subvert the Government's own education legislation, which forbids political indoctrination in our schools. In this context, it is worth bearing in mind the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), the shadow Education spokesman, during the European elections, to stop the circulation of certain Conservative documents to our schools.

The matter is important because section 44 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986, which was introduced by this Government, states categorically: the governing body and head teacher"— and I emphasise those posts— of the school shall forbid … the pursuit of partisan political activities … and the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching in the school. Yet in this letter, of which I gave you a copy Mr. Speaker, from Conservative Central Office, a Mr. John Spiers says that he has been appointed to edit, at the request of the deputy chairman of the Conservative party who is a Minister in this Government, a journal for Conservative school governors.

I want to quote one sentence from the letter. It says: We hope that it will equip Governors"— those who are supposed to be monitoring political activity— to manage schools so that head teachers"— who also have the same responsibility— and teachers are motivated to make a Conservative"— and I emphasise that it is spelled with a capital "C"— educational agenda effective in their day-to-day work". Clearly, the letter must be important because the heads of Conservative Central Office—the chairman and vice-chairman of the Conservative party—are both appointed by the Prime Minister. It is important because both were Ministers at the time when the legislation was passed and it is important because they are both Ministers now. It is also important because it aims to subvert and pressurise the very people the Act forbids to allow any partisan politics in our schools and because we need to know exactly how this vindictive and malevolent Government intend to motivate teachers to carry out their political dirty work in schools.

I suggest that it is urgent because on Monday it is quite likely that the present Secretary of State for Education may himself be chairman of the Conservative party and he could be presiding over this attempt to create a Conservative fifth column in our schools.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Three minutes, please.

Mr. Williams

I am making my final point, Mr. Speaker. The matter is urgent because we go into recess next week and it will be three months before we have a chance to discuss it.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Member for Swansea West (Mr. Williams) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely, the implementation of section 44 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986. As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 20, I have to take into account the requirements of the order and to announce my decision without giving reason to the House. I have listened with care to what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but I regret that the matter he has raised does not meet the requirements of Standing Order No. 20 and I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House.

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Your ruling is, of course, accepted by the whole House, but as the matter is plainly unlawful in the light of section 44 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986, as it invites Governments to ensure that head teachers are motivated to make a Conservative education agenda effective in their day-to-day work and as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher) is in his place, can he be invited to make a statement as to whether the letter has the support of Government Ministers?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter for me. We have a heavy day ahead of us.

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