HC Deb 13 November 1990 vol 180 cc466-547
Mr. Speaker

I must announce that I have selected the first amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and that furthermore today, because of the large number of right hon. and hon. Members who wish to participate in the debate, I propose to put a 10-minute limit on speeches between 7 pm and 9 pm. I should have liked to put the limit on somewhat earlier, but we have two maiden speeches today and that would have been unnecessarily harsh and perhaps unfair to those hon. Members. Therefore, I ask hon. Members who are called before 7 pm to bear it in mind that I should be most grateful and the whole House would applaud them if they could keep their speeches to approximately 10 minutes in length.

4.38 pm
Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)

I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:

But humbly note the increasing anxiety of parents and employers that the education and training policies of Her Majesty's Government have seriously undermined choice and opportunity and placed standards at risk; express anxiety and concern that Britain's investment and achievement in education and training is leaving the country further behind its major European and other competitors; condemn Her Majesty's Government for its incompetence towards, and mismanagement of, the education service and its profound failure to fulfil its proper and necessary role in improving and upgrading the skills base of the nation; and believe that standards will only be raised and opportunities increased by a change of administration to a government committed to serious investment in the nation's future. It is customary to congratulate a new Secretary of State on his appointment to office, and that I do. The presence of a new Secretary of State at the Dispatch Box results from the deep political crisis that faces this broken-backed Administration. It is not only a crisis about the future role of Britain in Europe but a crisis of confidence in the Government's ability—indeed, their inability—to provide the standards of education and training enjoyed by our major competitors in Europe and beyond. Never has public anxiety about the state of Britain's education system been greater. Never has public confidence in the Government's ability to deliver a decent standard of education been lower.

In last week's Gallup poll in The Daily Telegraph,82 per cent. of respondents said that Britain was not giving enough attention to education; 73 per cent. believed that the quality of education in Britain was declining. 'When asked who was to blame, just 10 per cent. blamed the Government's usual scapegoat, the local education authorities; 4 per cent. blamed the teachers' unions and 68 per cent. blamed the Government. So much for the Prime Minister's claim in February: The education service is in better shape than it has ever been."—[Official Report, 6 February 1990; Vol. 166, c. 757.] If the Government had set out on a deliberate strategy to ensure that Britain fell further and further behind its major competitors in education and training, they could hardly have done better. In the early and mid-1980s, the Government undermined the foundations of the education service by deep cuts in spending and continuous abuse of the teaching profession. Then the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) put intolerable pressures on the system by imposing contentious and ill-conceived changes on all schools without consultation.

Then came the previous Secretary of State for Education and Science, who is now the Leader of the House. I believe that he recognised the damage and havoc caused by his predecessor, but he lacked the political clout to do much about it and was consistently and publicly undermined and humiliated by Downing street, the chairman of the Conservative party and central office. So now we have the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke). The man who, at the Department of Health, increased hospital waiting lists, closed wards and alienated health workers and patients alike is now to be responsible for the education of our children. How long will it be before the Secretary of State who derided professional ambulance personnel as mere drivers calls professional and highly trained teachers just minders?

The Secretary of State may be new to the Department of Education and Science, but he is not new to Conservative education policy. In his speech 17 months ago he proudly admitted part authorship of the education section of the Government's 1987 manifesto. In that speech he claimed that in education and health the Government were not opposed by left or right and that the only opposition to the Government's education policies were the forces of pure reaction and the resistance to change of the trades unions—the middle class and professional trade unions in particular—who represent the deliverers of the service … the teachers. He concluded in a spectacular passage: The National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers are now looking like powerless spectators as Kenneth Baker's reforms sweep on past them to mounting public approval. Even as the Secretary of State spoke, what little public approval had existed for the promise of the Baker reforms evaporated as their desperate practice dawned. It even dawned on many Conservative associations. In a resolution the Conservative association of Doncaster, North complained of

the manifest failure of the Baker education reforms to improve standards of learning. The simple truth is that after 11 years the Government's education policies have collapsed.

The Government lack ambition for the nation's children and have failed to provide the leadership, funding and effective management which the education and training services so desperately need.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

I must admit that I do not know what goes on in Doncaster. However, I have made a wide-ranging tour particularly of the primary schools in my constituency. The heads of those primary schools are almost unanimous in their approval of the recent changes to the system under which they have to operate.

Mr. Straw

I can only say to the hon. Gentleman that his experience is not that of almost any other head teacher in the country. Nor is it the experience of the chairman of the Kent education committee who recently wrote to parents condemning the Government's proposals for

The Government's lack of ambition is shown most emphatically by their failure during 11 years significantly to increase the proportion of young people aged between 16 and 19 in full-time education and high-quality training.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Straw

I shall give way in a moment.

Recent figures from the DES show that, at 35 per cent., the proportion of young people staying on at 17 in Britain is lower than in any of our major competitors—half the rate of most. What an incredible disregard of human potential to accept that 60 per cent. of our children leave school at 16 while in our competitor countries that number is 10 per cent. or less. So said Peter Morgan, the director general of the Institute of Directors, earlier this year.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Straw

I shall give way in a moment.

There is no strategy to tackle that disregard of human potential, only ministerial confusion and contradiction. The former Secretary of State for Employment, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), said in his speech last December that on behalf of the Government he would set stretching targets under which by 1992—just two years away—the number of young people obtaining the equivalent of five 0-levels or GCSEs grades A to C would be doubled to more than two thirds, and that in three years 25 per cent. of our young people should reach the national vocational qualification level 3, equivalent to two A-levels or more.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Straw

I have told the hon. Lady that I shall give way in a moment.

That was the promise made by the Secretary of State on behalf of the Government. Within four weeks, he had left the Government, and every word that he said in that speech was repudiated by the Prime Minister and his successor.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Straw

If the hon. Lady does not sit down, I shall not give way to her. I have told her that I shall give way. She must simply wait her turn.

What the right hon. Gentleman said should be stretching targets were totally repudiated by the Prime Minister in a letter to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. She said that those stretching targets could not be "specific Government targets." The whole policy was simply dumped within four weeks of being formulated. In contrast to the shambles of the Government, Labour will set targets and those targets will be achievable. They will have the support of both sides of industry.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

The hon. Gentleman referred to opted-out schools. I have two of those in my constituency and they are doing exceedingly well. The first has already appointed four extra members of staff and is about to appoint two more. The schools have been given 25 per cent. more cash in every subject department for equipment. They are managing their affairs infinitely better than Lancashire county council did on their behalf. We now hope that others will follow their excellent example.

Mr. Straw

I shall deal with the detail of opting-out policy later, but the hon. Lady should know that opted-out schools have had more money because of the deliberate fiddling of the formulae. Opted-out schools are being bribed and given extra cash, for which the ratepayers and poll tax payers of Lancashire have to fork out.

The Government's lack of ambition is also shown in nursery education. Britain has the lowest pre-school and child care provision of any of our major competitors and the Government have no strategy whatever for tackling it. In many Conservative areas, there is no choice or opportunity for nursery education for thousands of children, because there are insufficient nursery schools or nursery classes. In contrast to the Government, Labour will ensure that the Prime Minister's pledge of 1972 of nursery education for all is turned into a reality.

Good leadership requires clarity, consistency and consent, but the education service has had none of them. Instead, it has been subjected to a lurch in one direction and a retreat in another. The right hon. Member for Mole Valley was told by everyone who knew anything about education that an inflexible, 10-subject national curriculum and associated testing would not work. Reality dawned on his successor. He set about a retreat, but it was never clear where that retreat would take him.

As a result we got decision-making on the hoof, with different Ministers saying different things. In a speech in July, the former Secretary of State announced one series of so-called solutions to the problems left by his predecessor. Then up popped the new Minister of State, anxious for a headline, with another prescription. On 30 October he told The Daily Telegraph that the Government were planning radical changes in secondary schools to allow less academic children to concentrate on vocational education from 14. It is not remotely clear whether that is to be the start of a great new reform along West German lines, some variant of the French system or, as I suspect, the introduction by the back door of a grammar stream to an unreformed A-level, and a secondary modern stream for the rest.

The chaos in the curriculum before 16 is replicated post-16. The reform of education and training opportunities beyond 16 is of profound importance to the creation of real choice for young people and to secure the skills base of the economy. The present range of vocational qualifications and courses is, as the senior chief inspector of schools put it, a jungle in which talent and opportunity are lost", while A-levels as an examination are outdated and outmoded.

The argument is, indeed, about standards. A-levels cause pointless over-specialisation which leads to the under-education of each generation, especially in science and technology. A-levels are even failing on their own terms. The number of entrants for A-levels in physics and mathematics, for example, has declined markedly. This country cannot possibly compete until the jungle at 16-plus is sorted out, as Labour has proposed. Everyone bar the Government knows that. There is no coherence from the Government, just confusion.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

What the hon. Gentleman has said is extremely serious. The country will want to know now what alternatives he proposes to A-levels. He cannot undermine A-levels, which are valuable to a great many pupils, without proposing alternatives. That should be done in the same breath.

Mr. Straw

If the hon. Gentleman had waited, both would have been almost in the same breath. He knows as well as anybody that we have spoken a thousand times and published documents about our alternatives to A-levels and the reform of 16-plus education. Everyone bar the Government knows that there must be changes to 16-plus examinations.

In 1988 the Government established a committee, under the chairmanship of Professor Higginson, with the remit to reform A-levels. Two weeks before it published its report, the members of that committee were privately told that the Government would accept their recommendations for a sensible system of a five-subject, slimmer but no less rigorous A-level qualification. Two weeks later, the report was publicly rejected as a result of a prime ministerial veto of the wishes of the previous Secretary of State. It is not just on European policy that Downing street disrupts Cabinet government. It is on educational policy and in many other areas. Two years were then wasted as various groups tried to salvage something from the mess. A-levels, AS-levels and some core skills were to be combined.

In the summer, near-anarchy broke out on the ministerial corridor at the DES. The Secretary of State went on holiday, leaving the shop to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon). On 17 August The Independent announced: Minister rules out A-level changes. There were to be no changes to A-levels and no five-subject examination. Then the Under-Secretary went on holiday and the Secretary of State returned. MacGregor hints at big A-level changes", he announced to The Independent on 11 September. He continued: Major changes might be needed to A-levels to increase the number of pupils staying on. The Secretary of State was summoned to Downing street. The Under-Secretary of State returned from holiday, started up the war of words against his Secretary of State, attacked his advisory body and accused those who want reform of having been "hijacked" by progressive elements.

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

Be serious.

Mr. Straw

I am serious.

The Government's indecision, chaos and failure of leadership is beyond belief. The shambles is all too characteristic of a Government who treat the education service like a plaything and experiment with the education of other people's children as though they were animals in some laboratory. What kind of lead can be given when the service has had three Secretaries of State in 15 months and when not one of the present ministerial team has held his present job for longer than four months?

There is similar incoherence on the critical issue of vouchers—the scheme by which the Conservative party would end free state education. The Under-Secretary of State is a member of the No Turning Back group of right-wing Tory Members of Parliament. Eight weeks ago, the group published from Conservative central office a pamphlet calling for vouchers. As we well know, the Prime Minister said at the Conservative party conference that she hoped that the training voucher scheme would not be the last". As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition mentioned just an hour and a half ago, the Secretary of State takes a different view. On television at the weekend he said emphatically of vouchers: I don't think they play any part in the Government's plans. I do not know whether he was present for the exchange between my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister, but when the Prime Minister was asked three times whether she endorsed those words, she three times denied her Secretary of State.

I offer him this chance to intervene in my speech. Will he tell us not what he thinks but what he knows about whether vouchers will play any part in the Government's plans? Will vouchers be in the next Conservative manifesto? Does he have the Prime Minister's approval of his answer?

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

Plainly they will not. As my right hon. Friend and I have explained frequently, we have set out to achieve choice and money following the pupil. We have done that by open enrolment, local management of schools and the formula allocation of funds to children who go to those schools. As a result, all the aims pursued by those who advocated vouchers are being achieved by our present reforms. The idea of vouchers for schools is not on the Government's agenda,. It need not be arid will not be on the agenda, because we have found a better way of pursuing those highly desirable objectives.

Mr. Straw

I am glad to have that categorical undertaking. It begs the questions why the Prime Minister did not say so and where it leaves the Under-Secretary of State, who does not remotely take that view. The No Turning Back group has written a pamphlet proposing the extension of the education voucher system to all parents.

The Government have shown a fundamental lack of ambition and a failure of leadership, alongside a failure to provide funding and management. When the Secretary of State comes to the Dispatch Box, he will probably tell us what a priority education spending has been for the Government. Since 1979, the Government have allowed the share of national income spent on education and science to fall by one eighth, from 5.5 per cent. in 1979 to 4.8 per cent. last year, which is equal to £3.5 billion at today's prices. The Secretary of State has been muttering that national income has increased. If so, why could not education have enjoyed an increased share of it, instead of its being flung away in tax cuts for the rich?

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Under the Labour Government, when national income was not rising so quickly, the proportion of gross domestic product spent on education fell. The records of the two Governments show that we have given higher priority to education in our spending plans, and we continue to do so. The success of our economic policies has enabled us to increase spending in real terms per pupil by almost half as much again.

Mr. Straw

That is simply not correct. The Secretary of State knows that the proportion of spending under the Labour Government rose, and that under the Labour Government previous to that, for the first time education took a greater share of the budget than defence. If the Secretary of State is so proud of the Government's record, perhaps he could explain why teachers have had to suffer real cuts in pay for each of the past three years. Why, since 1979, has the central Government share of educational spending been cut by more than a quarter in real terms?

Why will the latest poll tax settlement mean enforced cuts in education budgets in areas such as Avon, where the local Conservatives are pushing for a £10 million cuts package for next year?

The figures in last week's autumn statement for current spending will not even make good the 10 per cent. inflation with which local authorities have had to cope. As to capital spending, there is a £4 billion backlog of repairs and renewals. The Government's latest allocation means that urgent schemes will be put off yet again, and that pupils must continue to receive their education in crumbling schools. Last week's allocation is less in real terms than that made by the Labour Government in 1979. As a result of that measly allocation, in the summer the former Secretary of State banned church schools even from applying for money to build nursery classes, and suddenly announced that school building regulations passed by the House in July 1981 and due to be enforced next year were to be deferred for another five years.

Those regulations are of great importance, as they lay down minimum standards for teaching areas for junior and middle schools and for sixth forms, and stipulate better changing accommodation for all schools, and separate recreation and play areas for nursery children. When those regulations were introduced, the then Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson), said: it is intended that in 10 years"— that is, next year— all schools should be under the minimum regulations." —[Official Report, Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, 28 July 1981; c. 21.] They will not, because 10 years of accumulated neglect by the Government will mean, on the Government's own admission, that millions of children will continue to receive their education in substandard accommodation.

The Secretary of State referred to local management. It has become a terrible embarrassment for the Government, and in a characteristic effort to pass the buck, Ministers spent the summer claiming that wicked local education authorities have withheld thousands of pounds that should have been delegated to schools' budgets. Today's Daily Mail carries three pages of complaints about the red tape that is strangling our schools, the scandal of missing teachers, the growing army of bureaucrats who do not teach even one child, and the fact that the number of non-classroom teachers has doubled in eight years.

The Daily Mail quotes the Secretary of State as saying: The Daily Mail has done a service to education by exposing this burgeoning bureaucracy. The right hon. and learned Gentleman would be well advised in future to look before he fires, for by making that comment, he has shot his foot off. The number of non-classroom teachers has increased, but does the Secretary of State understand why, and who is responsible? That increase is the direct result of Government policies. Through the education support grant and training grant schemes, the Government are paying local authorities for non-classroom teachers to provide training in the national curriculum and testing, and to support all the other Government programmes.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that his explanation does not excuse the disparity between the different local education authorities cited by the Daily Mail. Is he really leaping to the defence of bureaucracies such as that in Newcastle upon Tyne, where the proportion of non-teaching, non-classroom staff at 54 per cent. exceeds that of classroom teachers? If the hon. Gentleman will examine the league table in the Daily Mail, he will discover that Labour councils in particular spend more on bureaucracy than they do on their classrooms, which is the Labour party's consistent approach to public services.

Mr. Straw

The Secretary of State should also examine his Department. Bureaucracy has increased over the past three or four years because of the massive growth in the demands made on the education service by Government policies. The number of civil servants in the Secretary of State's Department has increased by 131 over the past three years, and the number of inspectors has risen by 22 per cent., to cope with the unrealistic demands on it.

Labour-controlled Lancashire county council says: We have checked the position in the summer term. We had 70 advisory teachers, 59 of whom are funded by programmes initiated and paid for by central Government, mainly the education support grant programme. Where non-classroom teachers in the Daily Mail survey are not paid by central Government, many are supply teachers used to cover vacancies caused by teacher shortages which have in turn been created by Government policies.

I will explain to the Secretary of State why many Labour authorities have a higher proportion of non-teaching staff. It is because those authorities run nursery schools, which use a high proportion of such staff, including nursery nurses. Increasingly in Labour-controlled areas, nursery nurses are used in reception classes, to release primary school teachers to train in running the Government's national curriculum and assessment system. Labour areas also provide school meals services, which need people to run them.

The level of holdback has been endorsed by every Education Minister in respect of all education authorities. It was endorsed by the former Secretary of State and by the right hon. and learned Gentleman's new colleagues. The Government complain that one authority has a percentage holdback of X, and another of Y—but the Government approved that power being given to local authorities. Holdback is higher in some authorities than in others because they have done what the Government asked in respect of competitive tendering for cleaning and catering services, and the proportion of holdback greatly increases in those cases.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

The hon. Gentleman dodged all my questions about comparisons. The city having the highest proportion of non-classroom staff is Newcastle upon Tyne, and the city having the lowest is Leeds. Both are Labour-controlled. The same variations occur in the percentage holdback for local management of schools. It betrays the hon. Gentleman's real instincts to leap to the defence of authorities that are employing most people away from the classroom, and who are holding back a bigger proportion of their budget. He defends bureaucracy rather than classroom spending.

Mr. Straw

I do not defend bureaucracy, and the Secretary of State has every reason to know that. We did not create the massive bureaucracy in town and country reorganisation: the Government did, by making repeated changes. Can the Secretary of State imagine the extent of the chaos created in an education dept by all the changes, made one after the other, to the national curriculum? Does he not appreciate that the reorganisation of local schools management—which may achieve in the long run a reduction in the number employed in the town halls and country halls—is bound to impose greater pressure initially? The Government circular acknowledges with one voice that it will mean an increase in the number of so-called bureaucrats about whom the Secretary of State complains.

As to the variations, I believe in local democracy and that different boroughs should have the right to determine how much is spent on their local education service, and to sort out that matter with their own electors. That is for local authorities, not central Government.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to intervene on that point?

Mr. Straw

No. Many other hon. Members want to speak, and I have already given way several times.

Mr. Dunn


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) has made it clear that he will not give way.

Mr. Straw

Not only is the whole education system short of money, but the Government have squandered money on irrelevant and doctrinaire projects that have mocked the needs of the 93 per cent. of children in the maintained sector. I refer to policies such as the assisted places scheme, opting out and city technology colleges. The worst favour that the right hon. Member for Mole Valley did for his party's supporters in Bradford was to site a city technology college in that city.

Mr. Dunn

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. Straw

No. I have already given way six times, and many other hon. Members want to speak. The hon. Gentleman knows that I am usually generous in allowing interventions.

Mr. Dunn


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) must not persist when the hon. Gentleman who has the Floor has made it clear that he does not want to give way.

Mr. Straw

Twelve days ago, the former Secretary of State said on television, that he could not understand why there is such opposition in Bradford to a city technology college. As I watched him on television, I was struck by the fact that he genuinely did not understand. Had he done so, he would never have agreed to the official opening of the CTC just a week before polling day in Bradford, North. The teachers and parents of Killingholme first school in Bradford understand why the children are housed in temporary buildings, and so do those not far away at St. Augustine's Church of England school—I visited it last week—where the ceiling has fallen down and the school has therefore closed. They understand that, had it not been for the £7 million squandered on the CTC, their schools would have been renewed. There would still be £4 million left to spend on other crumbling schools in Bradford.

Opting out has palpably failed as a policy. It is known that Ministers do not want it to succeed. On 13 October, the then Secretary of State was reported in the Financial Times as believing that if a majority of the nation's schools did opt out, the result could be an administrative nightmare for central government, which would have to supervise and fund thousands of schools. The failure has been so complete that that Secretary of State abandoned categorical pledges that he and his predecessor had given to the effect that opt-out schools would be treated no better financially than were LEA schools. Instead, at the Conservative party conference, the right hon. Gentleman brazenly announced a series of bribes for schools that left a local education authority. How can that bribery possibly be squared with the repeated undertaking made by one Secretary of State after another that there would be no difference between the financial treatment of local education authority and of opt-out schools?

Although opting out has failed, it has paralysed the ability of LEAs to do what the Government say they want —to remove surplus places. The number of surplus places has shot up to more than 1,700,000, while the number of places removed by statutory closures in this Parliament is running at half the level achieved in the previous Parliament. The cost of that waste is at least £360 million. That money has been deliberately denied to our children while Ministers seek cynically to trap LEAs into naming schools for closure. The aim of the policy is not to improve the efficiency of the service, but to trigger opting out. Similar perverted priorities have been followed in higher education.

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Gentleman referred to the importance of good education and said that that required clarity and consent. Does he agree that grant-maintained schools represent clarity and consent? It is necessary to have a ballot before opting out. What greater consent can one have than that? Will he give a commitment from the Dispatch Box that he will not abolish grant-maintained schools in the event of Labour coming into office?

Mr. Straw

I am delighted to tell the hon. Gentleman that, on taking office, one of the first steps of the Labour Government will be to take opt-out schools back into the local community and the LEAs. I am glad to say that that policy has the full support of the Conservative chairman of education on Kent county council.

Mr. Dunn

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Straw


Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Will he give a further commitment that CTCs will also be taken back into LEA control?

Mr. Straw

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, as he has given me a chance to find the letter written by the Conservative chairman of Kent education committee, Mr. Ronnie Norman, who has protested about the evils of opting out. In a letter to the parents of those attending Wilmington grammar school for boys, he opposed opting out, and the argument that he advanced is exactly the same as ours. He stated: We also want our schools to be open to the whole community and to be part of it. Schools which opt-out frustrate these aims. That argument applies to opt-out schools as well as to CTCs. Contrary to what the Prime Minister said, we will not close the CTCs or opt-out schools, but we shall bring them back into the local community through the LEAs.

Mr. Dunn


Mr. Straw

No, I shall not give way.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman referred to a school in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn). Would not it be in order, or at least good manners, for him to give way to my hon. Friend?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is a matter for the hon. Member for Blackburn. I remind all hon. Members that a large number of Members want to take part in this debate.

Mr. Straw

The deliberate disruption practised by Conservative Members simply reduces their chances of participating.

The Government have also followed perverted priorities when it comes to higher education. The former Secretary of State but one announced plans in January 1989 to expand higher education, but without announcing plans for paying for it. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of extra pounds have been allocated to the student loans scheme, which has managed to impoverish students in need while costing the taxpayer much more than the grant system that it is designed to replace. What has happened? The loan scheme is another embarrassing failure, with fewer than one student in 25 taking a loan while the administrative costs of the scheme rocket. At the same time, the university funding system has all but collapsed and one university after another is now forced to announce the imposition of top-up tuition fees.

I hope that the new Secretary of State will tell us whether it is Government policy that we should abandon the central principle of free tuition in higher education. Are students on normal undergraduate courses expected to pay additional top-up tuitional fees?

Overall, the Government's record is one of incompetence on an unbelievable scale——

Mr. Dunn


Mr. Straw

I have already explained to the hon. Gentleman that I shall not give way.

The Government's record is marked by no ambition, no leadership, inadequate funding and wholly ineffective management. The prime duty of the Secretary of State is to manage sensibly those 400,000 people, teachers, on whom the quality of education depends.

Mr. Dunn


Mr. Straw

In place of management——

Mr. Dunn


Mr. Straw

Are you going to do anything about this, Mr. Deputy Speaker?

In place of management, we have had nothing but complacency and abuse. The Government are totally complacent about the shortage of teachers. The previous Secretary of State told the House on 24 January: There is no evidence that teacher shortages are dramatically worse than they were in previous years or that we are facing a nationwide crisis."—[Official Report, 24 January 1990; Vol. 165, c. 917.] However, the Government cannot guarantee that pupils will not be sent home because of a shortage of teachers.

The Government cannot even introduce, as we would, a national system of teacher appraisal, because that would require the full-time equivalent of about 1,800 additional teachers. The new Secretary of State has got off to a typical start. Faced by a detailed, carefully researched survey published last week which reveals that teacher shortages have yet again increased, his response was as ignorant and aggressive as ever. He accused the six teacher associations that published the report of being alarmist and he said that it was ludicrous to include in the definition of a vacancy those covered by supply teachers.

The only ludicrous thing about that remark was that the Secretary of State should make it. Has he any idea what can happen to a class of children when they have no permanent teacher and when they are taught by a succession of teachers? It is completely different for children to have a succession of supply teachers rather than one permanent teacher.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Tim Eggar)

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that his party does not support giving maternity leave to teachers? The supply teachers who cover maternity leave were counted by the unions as being equivalent to temporary vacancies.

Mr. Straw

We do not propose to restrict maternity leave, but when the Minister was at the Department of Employment he resisted any extension of that leave under the social charter or any other measure—[Interruption.] The fact that we have a major shortage of teachers is no laughing matter. The vast majority of long-term supply teachers are covering permanent post vacancies. it was entirely legitimate for the teacher associations to include in the definition of a permanent post one that is not filled by a permanent teacher.

The great error of the Conservative party is to believe that the creation of some sort of market in education can be a substitute for the proper management of the service. The Queen's Speech includes a Bill to restore teachers' pay bargaining rights. That restoration is long overdue, since the imposition by diktat of pay rises denied teachers their fundamental trade union rights and greatly worsened morale.

The Bill will include proposals to break up national pay bargaining by allowing local education authorities, such as Westminster and Wandsworth, and grant-maintained schools, to opt out of national negotiations—to asset-strip experienced teachers from neighbouring schools and from local authorities with no funds to enhance teacher salaries.

Will the Secretary of State explain how that would improve the management of the service and the quality of education for each child? Perhaps he will explain how this shambles which passes for a policy—these market mechanisms—will do something to increase the choice and opportunity of the one third of children—according to Her Majesty's senior chief inspector of schools, over 2 million children—who are getting a raw deal at school.

What proposals does the Secretary of State have to match our proposals to reorganise the education inspectorate nationally and locally, to establish an independent education standards council, to ensure that choice and opportunity have a reality beyond their mouthing by Conservative politicians, and to ensure that every child is guaranteed the best education that the country can offer?

In education and training, as in so much else, the Conservatives have failed. The quicker the Government leave office the better for our nation and our young people. In their place will be a Labour Government with the clear ambition to make Britain the best educated and trained nation in Europe. With the policies to make that ambition a reality, that Labour Government will be determined to invest in the only resources on which we can rely—the skills and talents of our people.

5.21 pm
The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

I come to my new office determined to produce improvements in the state education service of this country. I am as dedicated to the pursuit of high standards in state schools as I was completely wedded to the creation of a better national health service.

The aim of the whole Government in their third term has been to deliver a great programme of improvement in our public services. We will deliver that programme, particularly in the key areas of health and education, so that future generations will have a better NHS and better schools. The Prime Minister, the present chairman of the party, the present Leader of the House and several others have all had a hand in our education reforms. I was on the policy group chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) that looked at our manifesto on education before the last election. Shortly afterwards, I found myself Secretary of State for Health.

A deal of controversy has surrounded both fields since the last election, as one can appreciate, since the prospect of change causes concern in any large organisation and it is easy to arouse fears among people working in services when one is embarking on such changes of culture and objectives. But the present situation is different. The present Secretary of State for Health, my successor in that office, and I find ourselves past the worst of the controversy and the pain of the debate in both services. We are charged with the steady bringing into practice of the reforms and the delivery of the main benefits for pupils, parents, patients and the public.

Modernising and improving British education means giving the public more choice, with which the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) agreed today, and giving them more influence over how their children are taught. It means setting standards and then measuring the success of the pupils who achieve them.

It means restoring the morale and self-esteem of the teaching profession by mapping our clearly the sensible curriculum that they should teach and the testing of their pupils' achievements as they progress through that curriculum. It means the delegation of responsibilities so that the management of each school is in the hands of the governors, head teachers and staff who can account directly to the parents for the achievements of that school.

Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)


Mr. Clarke

I will give way to the hon. Lady shortly.

It means dismantling bureaucratic barriers, not defending—in the way that the hon. Member for Blackburn did—those barriers against parental choice so that popular schools can admit pupils to fill all the available places.

We all realise the background, and I believe that we share many of the aims, although they are more clearly and coherently presented and addressed by Conservative Members. As we know, the background to it all is he fact that the state education system, to which we are committed on both sides of the House, has been in danger of losing the confidence of the public.

Rightly or wrongly, many parents undoubtedly feel that the standards of education that their children are getting are not as good as they used to be or as they should be. The public are suspicious of new teaching methods and of today's systems of examination and grading. Some fear that, at worse, too many children are still leaving school who cannot express themselves clearly, who cannot read or write adequately, who cannot count and who behave in an anti-social fashion. That is the problem that the public ask us to address.

It is almost impossible to measure accurately, and to everybody's satisfaction, whether standards generally have been rising or declining. But everyone is, or should be, agreed that standards of education and training in Britain must be raised to higher levels than they have ever been in the past. Tomorrow's world will require Britain to give much higher real priority to education and training than ever before. We must give better quality teaching and training to our children and young people to prepare them for jobs and to be citizens in a more attractive society.

The Opposition amendment catches the flavour of that public concern and then makes the absurd proposition that a return to a Labour Administration will satisfy public expectations. In education, apparently, we and the public are asked to believe that the party that abolished, for example, direct grant schools is now committed to quality and achievement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hear Labour Members chanting, "Hear, hear," but the Labour and trade union movement has for years been closely identified with less formal teaching methods, all ability classes and attacks on academic standards, which they usually describe as elitist and divisive. That has been the whole ethos of the Labour party for years on this subject.

I would guess that half the present Members of the House of Commons, including myself, are 11-plus products of the former system of education. The Labour party set about changing education in the 1960s and 1970s in such a way that they destroyed most of the opportunities that the 1944 Act had opened up for working-class children in Britain.

Mr. Richard Tracy (Surbiton)

At the heart of the whole argument about standards is the fact that about two thirds of education authorities are controlled by Labour. In other words, when the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) say that a future Labour Government would lift standards, he means that that Government would achieve the same standards as are being reached by authorities currently controlled by his party, and they are low standards by any measurement. They are bumping along at the bottom of the league.

Mr. Clarke

One could make an extremely good base for saying that, on average, Labour-controlled local education authorities achieve lower standards than Conservative-controlled authorities. That is in part because they often draw from different populations, but it is not the complete explanation. It was not even the one chosen by the hon. Member for Blackburn. The hon. Gentleman criticised central Government on standards, and he then leaped to the defence of local government by, for example, defending their right to spend the majority of their budgets outside the classroom on advisers and staff at headquarters; and he defended their right to withhold immensely high proportions of their budgets from the local management of schools to provide for central costs. That approach, combined with the traditional ethic of the Labour party—the traditional belief in attacking academic standards—explains a great deal of where we are at present in education.

Ms. Gordon

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's fine words about freedom and choice are all very well, but what does he intend to do for Tower Hamlets—where people are unable to pay the poll tax—to provide us with more money? About 160 children there—the number would probably be as high as 300 if we could discover all those who have not been registered—have no school places. What will he do to ensure that places are provided for them and that money is made available to meet the rapidly increasing birth rate and the influx of children from refugee families?

Mr. Clarke

I am told that Tower Hamlets has received extra money to cover its rising rolls. Further, all local government is benefiting from the settlement, announced recently, which has greatly increased the standard spending assessment for schools way ahead of inflation, a subject to which I shall return.

We espouse the same views, have the same commitment to the public education system and believe in choice and higher standards, but the hon. Member for Blackburn sets about it in a different way, as I have said. Incidentally, I am grateful to him for his welcome to me in my post and for his courtesy in giving way to me frequently during his speech. He was not so friendly when I was first appointed. Always a man of fashionable opinions, he did not seem to know that Rottweiler jokes had gone out of fashion—better that than being the poodle of the National Union of Teachers, which he is likely to become if the Labour party gets into office. He is a parlour socialist in the tradition of Shirley Williams and others, who have done more to damage educational standards in this country recently than most other groups of people.

Mr. Dunn

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Clarke

I shall in a moment.

If we take the sentiments of the hon. Member for Blackburn at face value, it seems that he has perhaps changed. It he changing the Labour party's tradition? The amendment says that he and his right hon. Friends are committed to serious investment in the nation's future. That is all that the amendment says about policy. It is designed to give the totally false impression that he is committed to spending more money on state education—but he is not. The Labour party has made two hugely expensive promises on child benefit and retirement pensions. Its Treasury spokesmen have made it clear that there is no commitment to any spending promises in any other sector.

Last week, we had the autumn statement, often best described as the real Budget, it comes before the House to announce the public spending round. Last week, it announced a 16 per cent. increase in standard spending assessments for schools and 10.5 per cent. more central expenditure on higher education—real-terms increases, ahead of inflation, of 10 per cent. and 4.5 per cent. respectively. The Labour party could not outbid that, and to be fair to it, it did not seriously attack the public spending settlement for education or health.

I read an account of an interview that the hon. Member for Blackburn gave Brian Walden. When questioned about how much he would spend on education, I hate to say it, but the hon. Gentleman was reduced to incoherent waffle. He is usually quite lucid, but he sounded on this occasion like the Leader of the Opposition on the subject of Labour's policy towards Europe. It was quite impossible to follow what he was trying to say. He was evading the fact that he knew that he was not in a position to promise more money. However, the problem is not only money.

During one section of the Walden interview, the hon. Gentleman tried to get away from the fact that he was not promising to spend more on education, although the Labour party likes to imply that it would, as we see in the amendment. He said, and I agree: I think the most challenging issue in education is not so much the issue of resources but how you manage the service and if I have one overwhelming criticism of the government it is for their incompetence in monitoring and managing the service. I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman will manage. Given his remarks on expenditure on central costs of local government, I do not think that management is his strong suit. If the House will allow me one final comparison, he takes the same approach to education as the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) took when speaking on health. The hon. Member for Blackburn cannot promise to spend more public money because our record is not outbiddable with any credibility, and he does not have any original policy of his own on how to maximise choice and raise standards with the extra resources that we are putting in.

I now give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Dunn

I thought for a moment that I was invisible today.

The Labour party has attempted to steal our clothes by talking about consumer choice and raising standards. How can choice be improved and standards raised with a commitment to take CTCs and grant-maintained schools under local authority control and abolish grammar schools? I would have said to the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), had he not been so churlish and refused to let me intervene, that the Labour party is not prepared to place on record the fact that it will close down the grammar schools in Dartford and other parts of the country.

Mr. Clarke

I am grateful to my hon. Friend—as usual, I need a haircut, and the eyes in the back of my head are not working with their usual accuracy. My hon. Friend has caused more problems for the Labour party.

The speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn began with references to more choice and vague commitments, given with great solemnity, of how grant-maintained schools and city technology colleges would be taken back into the local community. What the devil does that mean? It is about as meaningful as what the Leader of the Opposition says in his more evasive moments. We know that it means that the hon. Gentleman would put such schools back under the control of local authorities and their bureaucracy. A great failing of British public service is that it is smothered in bureaucracy, most of it created by the Labour party in local town halls and defended by it.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)


Mr. Clarke

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, and then, as I have accepted several interventions, I shall try to make more progress.

Mr. Hughes

I am grateful to the Secretary of State and, by definition, I hold no brief for the Labour party.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain how his Government, at one and the same time, spend £10 million on a city technology college in a borough such as mine—a private sector-supported enterprise with limited entry—while the local education authority, which happens to be Labour, suffers a £7 million cut in education and the hospital schools in Guy's, the Bethlem royal hospital and the Maudsley hospital are at risk because there is no local authority funding for them? How can that be described as the commitment to state education with which he opened his speech?

Mr. Clarke

Expenditure on state education is rising rapidly, and pupil numbers are dropping.

Mr. Straw

They are not dropping.

Mr. Clarke

They have dropped over the decade, and the standard spending assessment has risen 16 per cent., 10 per cent. ahead of inflation. We are not cutting back on state schools to make way for the CTCs. They are drawing in a great deal of private sector support from the business community that wants to help us raise standards in schools and place in our state education system, schools that are attractive to parents and teachers.

We hope that the generality of state education will respond to the incentive and example of good practice where it is achieved in the city technology colleges. which is already happening. Some £40 million-worth of private investment is being brought into state education by the city technology college system.

With the greatest respect, the argument, "We cannot have such investment in my constituency because there is another school that would like some more money," is a policy of equal misery for all, whereas our policy is to spend more money on existing state schools, within the economy's ability to afford it, but also to go in for a partnership between the public and private sectors to bring excellent and popular new schools into the state system.

Mr. Straw

The Secretary of State is new to his job, but he should look at the disgraceful and seedy history of the development of the city technology college programme. He would discover that the original proposition was that all, or a substantial part of, the capital costs should come from business sponsors, but that today well over 80 per cent. comes from the taxpayer. Contrary to what Sir Cyril Taylor, who is not a man to be relied on, may have said, cash paid over by businesses is not £40 million, but £7 million.

That compares with a budget from the taxpayer of £130 million, which is plainly money denied those children and schools most in need in inner cities. If the system's funding is so good, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman now claims, will he here and now give a guarantee that, if the Interim Advisory Committee on School Teachers' Pay and Conditions makes a recommendation within its terms of reference, he will fund it fully?

Mr. Clarke

That is a sudden change of subject, but I do not mind.

Of course I realise that the original estimates of the proportion of public spending on CTCs have not always been borne out. There is a CTC in Nottingham, supported by Harry Djanogly and others, who have put in a great deal of finance. There is public sector investment in it and the others too, and private investment has been drawn in. It will be regarded as churlish by the people who live in these cities to resist investment in what are obviously great new schools. The Labour party commits itself to taking them all back under local authority control, because local authorities resent the fact that there are great new schools in their patch. They are hugely popular—the one in Nottingham is heavily over-subscribed. It is an attractive place to teach. I am told that the one in Croydon recently held a open day for parents which caused traffic jams because so many people tried to get to the site.

Private sector involvement in the CTCs is anathema to the Labour party. What does its commitment to quality mean, given that it is against some of the most popular new schools in the country, in unattractive parts of our cities? The Opposition are against them. The teachers and the unions do not like them; neither do Labour councils, because they are not controlled by the bureaucracy which is the main source of the Labour party's advice. So the Opposition attack some of the most popular schools in the country by trying to undermine them, by seeking to discourage future sponsorship, and by the sort of commitment that we heard from the hon. Member for Blackburn a moment ago.

Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

Is it not evidence of the Labour party's destructive attitude to standards that, after criticising the A-level system which has been in place for 30 years and been the cause of more people going to university and successfully completing their course than ever before, the Opposition spokesman made absolutely no reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), who asked him about Labour's alternative policies?

Mr. Clarke

I agree. Perhaps I should say something about A-levels and post-16 education and training.

I hope that we all agree that A-levels are a successful and trusted part of our education system. The numbers of A-level students are increasing, despite a demographic decline in the number of young people aged 16 to 19. But A-levels are not the whole picture. I shall certainly strive to increase dramatically the number of people receiving some form of education and training after the age of 16.

I realise that more breadth and variety of academic study and vocational training are required if we are to achieve this, but it is foolish to start by dismantling the A-level system, which has served the needs of people going into higher education so well. I am certainly not persuaded that we need one system of examinations and qualifications for everyone after the age of 16. Too often in the past, reform in education has started by dismantling existing systems of higher academic quality and then submerging them in untried broader arrangements.

I agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) received no sensible reply. This image of the new Labour party trying reform is terribly reminiscent of what it tried in the past. In the name of breadth and wider opportunity, it latches on to the one proven and tried system which is valuable for admission to higher education and calls it a failure, under the guise of making the obvious point that we need to look again at the breadth of study and extend the number of people going in to higher education. The Labour party is specific only when attacking an extremely popular and well-tried system of exams which ensures good quality intake——

Mr. Straw

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not understand that virtually everyone who has to use the products of the education service, from the vice-chancellors of the universities through to the CBI, has said that A-levels are no longer appropriate? What they have sought and we have proposed is to implement what the Government wanted to do—the Higginson proposals for five-subject A-levels. If that is so bad, will the Secretary of State explain why, in Scotland, which has a broader system, a much higher proportion of young people stay on through higher education?

Mr. Clarke

We are out to consultation on this with the School Examinations and Assessment Council at the moment. I do not share the Labour party's starting point, which is to begin by abolishing A-levels and then move towards other ideas for widening the system. I also do not believe that there is universal acclaim for Higginson's proposals, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North that getting rid of A-levels before we have a satisfactory replacement should not be a high priority.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

I hesitate to intervene in this English debate, but will the Secretary of State devote at least part of his speech to the part of higher education that Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland all share—the universities? There is a crisis in our universities and they are anxiously waiting to know what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is going to do to resolve it.

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Gentleman rightly urges me to get on with my speech by ceasing to give way——

Mrs. Rosie Barnes (Greenwich)


Mr. Clarke

I shall not give way again, even to the hon. Lady. I intend to move on the universities and to our reforms in higher education.

More young people than ever before are entering higher education. One in eight of the relevant age group entered higher education before we came to office. Today it is one in six, and the number seems likely to be one in five by next year. I believe that we should aim at one in four by the end of the century. That is a result of equality of opportunity, and it is a great asset to this country. More of our young people than ever before are entering our universities, polytechnics and colleges, which achieve excellent academic standards.

I do not think that most people appreciate the extent to which student numbers have spectacularly risen, especially in the past two or three years. I realise that morale in higher education is not as high as it should be. We have some of the best higher education institutions in the world. Britain's universities, polytechnics and colleges are among the most efficient in Europe and the west. We have higher standards for admission, and about 90 per cent. of entrants to higher education gain proper qualifications.

This is an amazing contrast with other countries which appear to have high levels of access. As an extreme example, in Italy, only 1.7 per cent. of entrants to higher education manage to obtain degrees within four years. A rising proportion of our young people enter higher education, and they have a much better success rate in their courses. The hon. Member for Blackburn has conceded as much. At 33 per cent., the proportion of the college-going age group achieving higher education qualifications in the United Kingdom is one of the highest in Europe. It is exceeded only by France, at 36 per cent. So we get out of our system a higher proportion of young people with qualifications than all but one of the other European Community member states.

As we increase participation, which is our policy, we must not lower academic standards. And we must continue to raise our efficiency. That depends on the dedication and commitment of our academic staff. I shall make it a high priority in my new high office to deal with their concerns, with which I am reasonably familiar from my work as a Member of Parliament. Incidentally, I am delighted to note how well the polytechnics are doing since we gave them and their directors freedom from local government control. Lord Glenamara, a Labour peer and former deputy Prime Minister, who is committed to the polytechnic movement, was quoted this morning as saying what a difference the Government abolishing local government control of polytechnics has made.

In the schools, the national curriculum is the most important element of reform of state education since 1944. It will raise standards by giving pupils an all-round education in a sensible range of subjects. It sets clear targets for what children should know, understand and be able to do in all these subjects at different stages of their schooling. Children and their teachers and parents will know more clearly what they are aiming to achieve. The delivery of good quality service of any kind—not only in education and health—requires the setting of clear objectives and standards at the outset.

Secondly, it requires the measurement of success in delivering those standards and clear reporting of the results to the consumer. All schools will report to parents with a clear assessment based on tests of children's progress in reaching levels of attainment in each subject of the national curriculum as appropriate. That is an extremely valuable and important reform. It is wholly negative for the hon. Member for Blackburn to describe as rubbish a change which is being increasingly recognised as valuable by those who work in the service and which will certainly be recognised as valuable by the parents.

Full implementation of most of the proposals is still a matter for the future. The national curriculum will steadily be put into practice in the 1990s and by 1992 the framework will be complete. Thereafter, it will evolve in the light of experience. The improvements in standards are beginning and will steadily emerge throughout the next decade. My predecessor recently announced that standard assessment tests for the core subjects to be taken by seven-year-olds in 1991 will focus on the basics of literacy, numeracy and scientific skills. I trust that the results of those tests will be given with clarity to parents who are anxious to know what progress is being made by their children. Tests for II-year-olds and 14-year-olds and changes to the GCSE for 16-year-olds will all be steadily tried out and introduced over the next few years.

We have already talked generally about local management of schools and about grant-maintained schools, which take the matter to its logical conclusion. One of the most important effects of more local management public services of this kind is the effect on morale and motivation of the staff who work in them. One of the reasons for the holding back of our 1940s-style public services was their smothering by bureaucracy. As I have said, great central administration was imposed on the schools. It is difficult for those who work in the service to feel that they are in contact with day-to-day decisions and can influence them. Key decisions are taken by somebody who works in county hall or in Whitehall.

The local management of schools enables people to know who is making the decisions because they are working at first hand. That enables the governors and the teachers to know exactly where the key choice is being made and to have some chance of exerting an influence. Obviously, that raises the involvement of parents with governors and teachers, and it is important for parents to know that such people are able to run the school efficiently.

We have already discussed the fact that some local authorities are holding too much back for their central services and administration. It is a disgrace for the Labour party to defend that. It is also extremely foolish, and Labour will be unpopular if it keeps defending county council control vis-a-vis local governor, parent and teacher control.

Grant-maintained schools are rapidly becoming more popular. Labour may laugh at them now, but it will weep thereafter over its unpopular commitment. Opposition Members, when they visit places in which grant-maintained schools are popular, will walk into the same elephant trap that has caught them over national health service hospital trusts. A year ago, there were 18 grant-maintained schools in operation. By September, the number had grown to 44, and 54 applications have now been approved. I am determined to encourage many more.

City technology colleges have been discussed. It is impossible for the Labour party to pose as a party of choice and standards while at the same time engaging in a bitter political battle against new colleges that are a welcome introduction to the education system.

I have set out a policy. I do not think that the hon. Member for Blackburn has a policy. He has a series of carping complaints and seeks to capitalise on a public mood without having the first idea of what he would do about it. He nearly found a policy recently, when he went on about teacher appraisal. He did that vigorously, and tried to set himself up as a man who might break away from the controlled teachers' unions. He did that because some of the teacher unions agreed with the system that he proposed. We have an open mind on the matter. We shall put teacher appraisal out to consultation and see where we go from there.

Mr. Straw

The previous Secretary of State said quite categorically in his announcement that the Government would not establish teacher appraisal by statutory regulation. Is this Secretary of State now saying that he might introduce it by statutory regulation?

Mr. Clarke

My predecessor was minded not to at that moment. He has put it out to consultation. I will address that question when it comes back and shall give the hon. Gentleman's opinion the regard that it deserves, on this matter as on others. His only reason for his remarks was that he thought he was disagreeing with my predecessor. That appears to be the only basis for his policy. He has no commitment to money. Not only has the Labour party made no promises about money, but it does not look credible when it tries to get rid of its past traditions of the wreckage that it created in the state education system. It does not appear to have a vision for the future.

The Leader of the Opposition recently attended our debate. At his party conference, he held up France as a model of the education system that the Labour party would like to give Britain. It is always easy to think that the grass is greener on the other side. I am a great francophile and an admirer of French peaks of academic excellence, such as the polytechnique and the ecole normale. But Britain spends more in current expenditure per pupil than does France. The purchasing power of teachers' salaries is higher in the United Kingdom under a Conservative Government than it is in socialist France. Only 67 per cent. of the posts were filled at the 1990 teaching entrance competition in France.

This morning's edition of The Times has an interesting story of what is going on in Paris, in this model country whose education system is to be emulated by an Opposition that aspires to government. I shall read the first sentence. This is the model to which the Leader of the Opposition aspires: French riot police used tear gas and water cannon to disband hundreds of stone-throwing youths as they rampaged through the streets of Paris yesterday, marring a mass protest by thousands of students over falling standards in their schools. On past performance, the Labour party only comes to life over the public services when there are strikes or disturbances. It would be interesting to know on which side of the barricades various Opposition Members would find themselves when we reach this dream scenario.

Obviously, the rather vacuous nature of Opposition policies is not our principal concern. Our concern is to press on with positive steps to a better state education system for all our children and our young people. The Government remain firmly committed to that, and we shall deliver that better education system over the next few years.

5.57 pm
Mr. Edward O'Hara (Knowsley, South)

I confess to being slightly abashed at having opted to make my maiden speech, a significant occasion for me, in this debate, because I find that I am very much a supporting act to the grand main event which we witnessed earlier today. I am at least gratified if that means that there is still a slightly wider audience to hear my speech about my constituency. One might say" sic transit gloria Knowsley. I shall make sure in future in less privileged circumstances that the attention of the House to Knowsley, South is more than transient.

It is fitting for me to make a brief but hearfelt tribute to Sean, my predecessor, who I know was widely respected by all hon. Members. Sean Hughes was a man of conscience, courage, dignity and quiet humour, and he was an excellent and well loved constituency Member of Parliament, whose promising career in the House and, quite likely, in government was so tragically cut short. I mourn the passing of a close friend and colleague of half a lifetime. Mutual friends may be interested to know that my family continues to have a close and affectionate relationship with Tricia and baby Charlotte.

I chose to make my maiden speech during this debate on education because education in Knowsley has been spoken about in uncomplimentary terms. I welcome this privileged opportunity to balance the record. I recognise the obligation that goes with that privilege—that I should refrain from polemic and controversy. I shall respect that obligation, although it is difficult for me to do so if I am adequately to represent the mood that I detected among the electorate of Knowsley, South, an overwhelming proportion of whom voted for me. I shall be content to have adequately represented them if, when I sit down, hon. Members on both sides of the House better understand the circumstances that inspired that mood.

The people of Knowsley, South include some old rural communities, in Whiston, Tarbock and Cronton, but overwhelmingly we are Scousers, resident in large pre and post-war overspill housing estates from Liverpool. The people exhibit the well-known Scouse qualities of humour, fortitude in adversity and a strong sense of community. A topical example of Scouse humour came recently when the deputy Prime Minister resigned and it was suggested that, as the main qualification for his successor was a lack of consuming desire to go into Europe, the Prime Minister might go on a recruiting drive to Everton football club.

I hasten to say that that joke was told to me by an Evertonian and it is a typical example of Scouse humour. We laugh at ourselves and each other unmercifully but woe betide anyone who laughs at us. Had the joke been made by an outsider, it would have been seen for the gross calumny that it is—a calumny that will be confounded soon when Everton once again starts winning trophies.

That humour is needed to sustain the people's fortitude in adversity—a commodity that is in abundant supply in Knowsley, South. In Knowsley as a whole, unemployment is sticking at twice the national average, no matter how it is calculated and in Knowsley, South, 47 per cent. of those who are unemployed have been out of work for over a year. Knowsley suffered disproportionately in the general shake-out of jobs in the early 1980s. Although there has been a recent nascent recovery in the economy, helped by an excellent and effective economic development unit run by the local authority, I share the fear of many locally that that delicate bud will be shrivelled by the frosts of entry into the exchange rate mechanism. I am trying not to be controversial. I have avoided the r word. At no point have I said r-e-c-e-s-s-i-o-n and I look forward to less privileged occasions when I shall be able to do so. I appeal to appropriate Ministers to note those concerns.

I shall explore the margins of licence by respectfully asking hon. Members on both sides of the House to reflect that market solutions, which may well work in other circumstances, may not work as well in certain environments, such as for industrial development in an area of underdeveloped infrastructure, for housing where the residual land values are negative and speculative investors may lose their investments, and for health provision in an area where there is both a disproportionate endemic incidence of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer and a depressed economy. In many ways, it is as if the rules that may work well elsewhere do not work in the special circumstances of Knowsley, South.

This is true of education as well. Knowsley is notorious for one statistic—its position in the league table of selected examination results. It is sad that too seldom is there reference to the excellent achievements of schools and pupils in Knowsley and I shall not miss this once-and-for-all chance to draw attention to them. That statistic ignores the result of our tertiary college institution, the excellent Knowsley community college. Education for most of our pupils is organised on a primary, secondary, tertiary basis and the GCSE and A-level results in that college are better than the national average, but are never included in the statistics.

I was interested to hear the Secretary of State speak about the concept of added value and I accept it as a valid one. It is the weighting of raw examination results by taking account of various measures of deprivation. When measured by such criteria, Knowsley has been placed in the top 20 most efficient local education authorities. That is no wonder when it has been placed 456th out of 456 local education authorities on measures of deprivation. In the heart of Huyton there is a church parish that has achieved the astounding Z score of seven, and that is with hardly any ethnic minority families within its boundary.

The adverse comparisons ignore various vocational examinations achievements such as those validated by the City and Guilds, the Royal Society of Arts, the Business and Technician Education Council and various regional education boards. There are other examples of excellence in Knowsley, South. With the technical and vocational education initiative—an initiative which I know will be respected by Conservative Members—Knowsley was the first local authority to have its extension bid not only approved but held up as an example to the nation.

Another example of excellence is the use of computers in Knowsley. In any school there, one can see not only secondary school pupils but infants and children with special education needs manipulating keyboards and software in a way that puts us adults to shame. Leading Japanese educationists, no less, came to Knowsley, as one of two authorities which they chose to visit last year, to observe and learn from practices there.

Portage—the involvement of parents in the education of children in their early years—is something in which Knowsley is a national leader. That example, and the 70 per cent. provision of nursery places, mean that, at a time when there is national concern about declining reading standards at seven-plus, those standards are rising in Knowsley.

We are also justly proud of our youth orchestras and choirs. One of each were the only two invited to perform together in the national festival of music for youth, and they have an outstanding repertoire, ranging from Duke Ellington's "Caravan" to the "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi" from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. It brought tears to the eyes to hear the children of Knowsley

The House will know that curriculum awards are prestigious, are made every four years and are rather scarce. There are eight county comprehensive schools in Knowsley and three of them have received these awards, as has one of the special schools. There has been an interesting achievement in special education and Knowsley finds itself a national leader in educating and caring for children with physical disabilities. It has attracted considerable attention as a result of its achievements in toilet control for spina bifida children. These achievements have increased the confidence of such children and, as a result, their education attainments. Their life expectancy has also been increased. That is the sort of achievement in education that we value in Knowsley, and it is unfortunate that it is not recognised in the league tables to which I have referred.

Perhaps the most striking success of the education service in Knowsley was the massive vote of confidence that was shown in the opting-out ballot held for Ruffwood comprehensive school. In a 75 per cent. turnout, 97.4 per cent. of parents voted in support of the local authority. I believe that that is still a record. Some hon. Members might think that that was a flash in the pan. It might have come to their notice, however, that recently the Boundary Commission for England came up with the bright idea that Knowsley might be abolished. It was overwhelmed by 80,000 letters of protest. There are only about 160,000 people in Knowsley, 88,000 of whom are in Knowsley, South. What clearer demonstration of a strong sense of community could there be?

The teaching force of Knowsley was among the many sections of the community that came out overwhelmingly in support of the future of the authority. We have a loyal and dedicated teaching force and we have never felt the need for local pay bargaining to retain its loyalty, although we must wonder whether such loyalty may be undermined if other local authorities start making money talk.

I have presented a picture of a proud, distinctive and deserving community in Knowsley, South, with responsible civic leaders who are respected—my people, whom I am proud to represent. They and their civic leaders need and deserve the sympathy, confidence and full support of hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber. In the context of the debate, the education service of Knowsley, South needs more adequate recognition than it has had in the past. I pledge myself to be vigilant and diligent on behalf of my constituents. If I am half successful, that will be my best tribute to Sean Hughes.

6.14 pm
Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

It gives me great pleasure to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) in his maiden speech. I think that we all remember the great feeling of elation and relief once that moment is over. I am sure that everyone would agree that that hon. Gentleman spoke with great pride, charm and eloquence. I congratulate him on having overcome the ordeal of his maiden speech.

The hon. Member for Knowsley, South paid a tribute to Sean Hughes which was generous, worthy and justified. I am sure that we all join with him in expressing sadness for the reasons for which he finds himself in this place. The hon. Gentleman spoke extremely well and I hope that we shall have the pleasure of hearing him on other occasions. He was right to be non-controversial. I am sure that he will have many opportunities to attempt to beat the hell out of the Government as time goes on. His return to the old custom of non-controversial maiden speeches is one that many other new Members may like to follow in future.

I welcome enormously the decision to have a debate on education today. I wish to draw the Government's attention to what I consider to be a serious crisis in education in Cumbria, which includes my constituency. It arises from the introduction of the local management of schools—LMS. That move, which was made by the Government, was generally welcomed by parents and governors. Most governors were eager to play a much greater part in the management of their local schools, and they began their new work with a great deal of enthusiasm and dedication. Already, however, many are disillusioned. Almost all schools in Cumbria suffer from a considerable shortage of cash as many schools are seriously underfunded.

The reason for underfunding is not difficult to find. The problem is traceable directly to Cumbria county council's distribution of funds to schools from its education budget. I tabled a question shortly before the prorogation of Parliament and I received a reply on Wednesday 31 October. It appears that the shire county's average distribution from its potential schools budget to schools for LMS amounts over the county as a whole to an average of 77.4 per cent. If Cumbria were able to distribute that average of its £130 million potential school budget, the schools would receive £101 million. That is the sum that the schools would receive if Cumbria county council were in line with the average.

Unfortunately Cumbria does no such thing. It distributes only 71.2 per cent. of the potential schools budget, and that is only £93 million. It means that the schools are being underfunded by £8 million. That is the sum that they would receive if Cumbria had a distribution that was as generous as only the average for shire counties. On average, the 360 schools in Cumbria each receive £22,000 less than they would receive if the county made an average distribution. Unfortunately, Cumbria distributes the lowest percentage of its education budget to schools for LMS of any shire county. Cumbria is therefore the meanest education authority in Britain, and that meanness affects governors, staff and children.

It will not have escaped the memory of many of my colleagues that Cumbria county council is controlled by a consortium of the Labour and Liberal parties. It is that consortium, and that alone, which is responsible for the underfunding. Its decision to hold back excessive sums to prop up a top-heavy administration means that school governors have been placed in an impossible position.

At the beginning of his speech, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State spoke of education being smothered by local bureaucracy. If he wants to see an example of that, he should look only to Cumbria. The independent Audit Commission examined Cumbria county council's education administration and inspection system and its costs earlier this year. The commission demonstrated that, compared with a group of similar shire counties—far-flung and scattered areas—Cumbria county council spends between £1.2 million and £2.1 million more on education administration and inspection than the average sum for counties that are similar and within its own family, as it were. It is a tragedy that those Liberal and Labour councillors—who have been made fully aware of the meanness and the inefficiency that have resulted from their policies—have not knocked heads together and put Cumbria at the top of the league table for generosity towards schools. Instead, they are content for Cumbria to languish at the bottom.

Some governors of some schools have been thinking seriously whether it would be in the best interests of their schools, the children and the parents to seek grant-maintained status. For example, Kirkbie Kendal school has almost unanimously decided to move towards grant-maintained status. One reason for that—there are several—is that, instead of the current £30,000 deficit on its budget, on gaining grant-maintained status, its financial affairs would turn round and it would have an £80,000 surplus. That would make a tremendous difference to the school. That decision has been taken objectively, in the interests of the school, the parents and the children. I am not aware of any political pressures being applied on the governors to make such a move.

The purpose of my speech is to urge Ministers at once to force Cumbria county council to be more generous to its schools. During past months, Ministers have made various noises about the unsatisfactory distribution of money to schools, but there has been no action. The governors, parents and pupils in Cumbria are fed up with their schools being starved of cash, and they want help. They are turning to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State because he is the one person who can unlock the till and be more generous. I hope that he will listen.

6.22 pm
Mr. John Garrett (Norwich, South)

I compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) on an eloquent and articulate maiden speech. We were deeply hurt by the loss of Sean Hughes. I thought that my hon. Friend's speech showed an excellent understanding of the conditions in his part of the world and a deep feeling for the people. We look forward to his long and successful career in the House.

The sole education proposal in the Gracious Speech is for new negotiating machinery for the pay and conditions of teachers. In a way, that was overshadowed by the autumn statement the next day, which revealed that the increase in spending on education—of which much was made at the time—was not even sufficient to meet the backlog of building maintenance necessary in our schools. On the face of it, the Gracious Speech removes the teachers' long-standing grievance about the removal of their negotiating rights since the 1987 dispute. However, there is a real fear that the break-up of national bargaining will drive down salaries and lead to a free-for-all in which teachers will be no better off.

The observations that I wish to make on education will relate to the county that I represent. Norfolk is a typical Tory shire county, although its policies are made by Tories that we could describe as being of the primitive tendency. Such examples that I cite will be homely, but they will be drawn from the council's figures and will therefore be hard to dispute.

In Norfolk, one in five secondary school teachers are expected to leave their posts this year. The number of primary school teacher resignations has also soared this year. In 1987, the turnover of Norfolk teachers was below the national average. In two years, it has risen from 8 per cent. to almost 20 per cent. In primary education during those two years, the turnover has risen from 8 per cent. to 13.5 per cent. It is not a high wage area, so it is not as though treachers are being poached by high-paying local employers.

We do not have to look far for the reason for that rapid upsurge in the level of teacher resignations. Their average salaries are now 40 per cent. below the level of the 1974 Houghton award. Year after year since then, teachers' pay has lagged behind other settlements. It is not surprising that the Department of Education and Science has projected a national shortfall of 12,000 teachers in the national curriculum subjects. There is a crisis in teacher supply. Fewer graduates are entering the profession, which is not surprising because the starting salary is significantly below the average wage offered by industry to a graduate. More teachers are leaving the profession. Education can no longer compete for top-quality graduates. The enormous load on teachers following the Education Reform Act 1988 has not been recompensed and the teaching service is being irrevocably damaged.

In Norfolk, the arrangements for the local management of schools will lead to more teacher redundancies. According to headmasters in the county—16 of them met recently to discuss the matter—some schools have lost up to £40,000 a year in funding. As I believe that it is proper that we should represent the grass roots feeling on these matters, I wish to refer to the Angel road middle school in my constituency. Its head, Mr. Holman, wrote to parents: You may have heard that the Government are in the process of handing the entire responsibility for school finance to the Head and Governors. In theory, this should give us greater flexibility to provide the right education for your children. However, what has happened is that the Local Education Authority have drawn up a formula by which they allocate money to schools. Based on the Authority's formula we stand to lose a colossal amount of money compared to this present financial year. So great is the deficit that we are having to look at terminating the employment of two full-time teachers and one part-time teacher. The effect on your child's education will be very serious. There will be no help given to children in small groups. Maths, Science and Craft groups will have to stop. All children will be in classes of over 30 pupils and indeed some may have to be vertically grouped. This means mixing older and younger children together in the same class. That is in a county which has always been a notorious low spender on education.

The Eastern Daily Press said: NORFOLK came bottom of the class in the whole of England for the number of youngsters who left school without a single GCSE qualification. Out of every 100 Norfolk pupils to leave county-run schools last year, 13 had no GCSE qualifications—the worst record of any shire county in England, according to statistics produced by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. It is also the case that in Tory Norfolk an average of 1.9 per cent. of under-fives receive nursery education, compared with a national average of 6.8 per cent. There are a mere 195 pupils in four nursery schools in a county with a population of 600,000. There are just 200 places in nursery classes and 3,000 places in under-five reception classes. Education is grossly underfunded. It should be a matter of shame that there are still 60 schools with outside toilets. Children of the county are ill-served. Conservative Members would not want to send their children to schools with outside toilets, so I do not understand why my constituents have to do so.

It is outrageous that, nationally, 65 per cent. of our young people end their education at 16. There are plenty of studies—for example, those by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research—that show that our relatively low productivity as a nation results in the low level of spending on education and vocational training. The institute has carried out countless studies of British productivity compared with German productivity, and time and again the disparity—the German superiority—in productivity can be directly traced to the level of education and vocational training of its workers.

There is plenty of evidence that our spending nationally on post-school education directly affects our competitive economic performance. I have spent my life working in management in industry and I know that the inferiority of a company's productivity is often due to the lack of qualifications of its supervisory and managerial staff.

We have the lowest proportion of 18-year-olds in part or full-time education in Europe—about 20 per cent. in Britain compared with 80 per cent. in Germany—in full-time education. Our education system produces an elite, but fails to provide anything for the bulk of school leavers. That is not new. That disparity was pointed out more than 100 years ago. In the 1880s, Lyon Playfair on the Board of Education referred to it and studies throughout the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s showed the effect of the neglect of higher and further education.

My constituency has the extremely successful university of East Anglia, the planning provision for which has been thrown into chaos by the disaster of the University Funding Council's planning exercise for 1991–95 and its decision to withdraw from long-term planning. Commenting on that, the university of East Anglia's vice-chancellor, Professor Derek Burke, said: It is ironic, to say the least, that after encouraging universities to produce coherent, sensible plans for the next five years the UFC has been unable to do the same. A-level scores at all universities are rising, applications to UCCA are booming and it is clear to me that we have a high quality and much sought after product. However, without a firm basis for planning it is quite possible that we shall be unable to offer many able young people the opportunity to benefit from the higher education they deserve. That will be a tragedy and the blame for that tragedy will lie squarely with the Government and their agents in this matter—the UFC. I could not have put it better.

Our education system is not adequate to support an advanced technological economy. It fails to make the best use of the talents of our people, which are criminally wasted. The Government are not committed to the development of educational excellence. That is not surprising when we have a Prime Minister whose only accomplishment as Secretary of State for Education and Science was to take milk from schoolchildren. The Government's education policy is a thing of shreds and tatters and it fails our young people disgracefully.

6.32 pm
Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

I listened with some interest to the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Garrett). He devoted a considerable part of his remarks to teachers' pay and teacher shortages, to which I shall also refer. I suspect that he will not be unduly surprised to discover that I draw rather different conclusions from his.

The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) is well intentioned and I would not be at all surprised to hear that he was against sin and generally in favour of motherhood. But he is something of a blackbird in a shadow Cabinet full of vultures. Whenever he says that he would like to increase spending on schools, buildings and advanced education, one can always hear the vultures in the background croaking, "Only as resources allow." That was the catchphrase which those of us who have served on Standing Committees considering education Bills with the hon. Gentleman will recall. As hon. Members will know, the way to improved education is not paved with qualified promises.

However, by contrast, I can tell the House that the Government have made resources available to education and in 1991–92 we shall be spending some £17.5 billion—16 per cent. more than in the preceding year. That truly is an enormous sum, which gives the lie to those who seek to claim that the Government are cutting education. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Spending on education is probably equalled only by the growth in admissions to advanced education. For example, in 1989 some 350,000 full-time students were in higher education. But even that truly enormous figure has improved this year, with admissions being increased by a further 7 per cent. That underlines two points. First, it shows that the prophets who claimed that the Education (Student Loans) Act 1989 would mean the end of advanced education as we have known it were wrong. It has not proved to be a disincentive.

Secondly, the higher number of admissions to advanced education could take place only if a sufficient number of properly qualified young people were coming forward. A larger student population must be based on a greater number of our young people taking A-levels, not only in the right subjects but to the right standards. That was a point made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State.

That brings me quite naturally to the first of my cautionary notes to my right hon. and learned Friend he Secretary of State, whom I welcome to his new post. It is critical that we maintain the rigour and quality of A-levels. As my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) said, they set the gold standard. He was right to draw specific attention to that. If we seek to devalue the quality of A-levels we shall in turn undermine the quality of degrees. Therefore, it is of greatest importance that my right hon. and hon. Friends resist the blandishments of he so-called reformers, who apparently include the hon. Member for Blackburn, who seek to undermine the discipline and standards of A-levels.

My second cautionary note refers to the Education Reform Act 1988. It is fair to remind the House that that has been in place for only two years and it will take time for the reforms to work through. My right hon. and learned Friend referred to grant-maintained schools, about 50 or 60 of which exist. That is nothing like enough. The reason why there are not more such schools is not that they are unpopular but that we built too many obstacles into the Act. Therefore, I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to make it easier for schools to opt out.

I was grateful to the hon. Member for Blackburn for clarifying the Labour party's policy in response to my intervention. Its policy, so far as it has one, is one of abolition. It would abolish the remaining grammar schools, the city technology colleges, the assisted places scheme and grant-maintained schools. It is the party of the abolitionists. As I said earlier, the hon. Gentleman confirmed that grant-maintained schools would be abolished despite the fact that each and every grant-maintained school has a ballot in which parents are required to express their preferences. Despite that, Labour Members would take choice away from those parents.

Labour Members would seek to introduce a uniform greyness across the nation's schools, with all excellence and brightness being extinguished. But Conservative Members want grant-maintained schools to survive, and if we are to guarantee that, we need more grant-maintained schools to emerge. Labour Members will abolish grant-maintained schools at their peril, because they will be denying parents the right freely to express their opinion. The greater the number of grant-maintained schools, the harder and more difficult it will be for Labour Members to destroy those schools if they should ever come to office.

My third cautionary note relates to vouchers. I substantially with what my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State said at the weekend, and again today at the Dispatch Box. I am convinced that the Education Reform Act 1988—specifically, in its references to open enrolment, local management of schools and grant maintained schools—takes us a long way down the road signposted by the proponents of the voucher. The voucher is not a panacea, but I believe that it might have a place and I therefore urge my right hon. and learned Friend to consider the introduction of the voucher system for pre-school education—for the non-statutory sector of education. Vouchers could be used by parents to obtain good nursery or playschool education for their children.

I wish to reflect for a moment—that is all that it will take—on the comments of the Leader of the Opposition at the Labour party's recent conference. Evidently, the right hon. Gentleman believes that we should be following the educational example of France and Germany. As he was the Opposition spokesman in the days before the hon. Member for Blackburn came to the House, I assume that he knows that Germany has the system that we once had in the United Kingdom, which the Opposition and some of their supporters in the teacher unions did so much to dismantle.

The system was based on three different types of schools—grammar schools, technical schools and elementary schools. That system works as well in Germany as it once did in the United Kingdom. I find it ironic that the leader of the party that did so much to wreck what was so good should now have the impudence and cheek to mourn its passing. As I said earlier, Opposition Members even now wish to abolish the remaining grammar schools. Evidently, in Opposition Members' minds, grammar schools are acceptable only in Paris or Bonn. They are not acceptable in London, Sheffield or Coventry. It is a remarkable example of how distance lends acceptability. The latest initiative by the Leader of the Opposition is simply a smokescreeen designed to disguise the Opposition's complete lack of policy.

The present Government have not so far reaped the credit for increasing spending or educational reform.

Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East)


Mr. Pawsey

It is all very well for the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South-East (Mr. Turner) to laugh. He is a stranger to our debates on education. His ignorance about education is matched only by his ignorance about other matters. [HON. MEMBERS: "] Withdraw."] I will not withdraw. I do not believe that education——

Mr. Turner

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Gentleman can wait a moment. He must contain himself. I shall give way to him, but he will have to be patient. I have to say to him that I do not regard education as in any way a laughing matter.

Mr. Turner

The hon. Gentleman says that I do not take an interest in education. He is mistaken. I am very keen on education, but I am not keen on listening to his Luddite remarks.

Mr. Pawsey

I look forward to the hon. Gentleman's showing more interest in educational issues in future.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Pawsey

No. I am dealing with the hon. Gentleman, and he requires dealing with. If hon. Members care to take part sensibly in our debate, we shall hear their contributions.

Given time, our reforms will substantially improve the quality and standard of state education and that is the sector in which the majority of our children are educated. One reason why we have not been given the credit that we deserve is that we have not so far captured the hearts and minds of the teaching profession. It is true that teachers feel isolated, and the reasons are not hard to see. One has only to remember the recent trade union conference, at which the general secretary was shouted down by his own members. Such spectacles—together with recent demands for industrial action—tend to undermine public confidence in the profession as a whole.

Most hon. Members will know that the majority of teachers are committed both to their profession and to the children in their charge. The problem is that many of those teachers are content to be led by the militants in the teachers' unions. The Opposition should be aware that, if teachers wish to be treated as professionals, they must act as professionals. Can anyone remember the last time that a doctor or lawyer debated taking industrial action against his own client group?

Teaching is a genuinely important job, although the remuneration for it does not always reflect that importance. It is true that there have been substantial improvements in teachers' pay in the past few years. Teachers' pay will have risen by more than 50 per cent. on average in cash terms since March 1986. That is a substantial amount, but, to some extent, it underlines the fact that teachers' pay has drifted behind that of comparable professions. I believe that we need a method of targeting—I hate to use the word—the best and most committed teachers so that they receive additional remuneration, commensurate with their abilities, talents and enthusiasm for their work. Those who should not be in the profession and could not care less about the children in their charge should be treated far less generously than those who have a genuine commitment to the children.

I welcome the proposals in the Queen's Speech for a new negotiating machinery for teachers' pay, which will allow direct negotiations between local authorities and teachers' unions. In addition, the Government have undertaken that they will not normally override a settlement in the range between the bottom 25 per cent. and the top 25 per cent. of settlements in the non-manual private sector. There is also provision, in the event of disagreement, for a reference back to a type of interim advisory committee. The new negotiating machinery is not "son of Burnham". It does not take us back to the appalling days when there was no agreement in the profession but only chaos.

I should like to close—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"]—by referring to teacher shortages. I am interested that hon. Members are so anxious that I should bring my remarks to a close; goodness knows, we certainly have to suffer their remarks.

I have recently read that the teaching unions believe that there is a teacher shortage of about 10,000. That contrasts sharply with the results of the Department's September 1990 vacancy survey. In the 104 LEA areas that supplied the figures for that survey, more than 24,000 posts were filled during the summer, leaving only 1,400 posts unfilled as of 3 September, and temporary arrangements have been made to cover all but a very few of those vacancies. Only three of the 104 LEAs reported a larger number of vacancies than they had had in January.

I wish my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State well in his new post. I have no doubt that his will be a firm hand but that that firmness will be tempered by his well-known and customary charm and courtesy.

6.49 pm
Mr. David Bellotti (Eastbourne)

I am grateful for your tolerance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in calling two hon. Members to make their maiden speeches today.

I am only the third Member of Parliament to represent Eastbourne in 55 years. Sir Charles Taylor represented Eastbourne for 30 years from 1935—a record of service rarely equalled in the House. Ian Gow represented Eastbourne for 16 years from 1974 until that despicable act of terrorism, which we all equally condemn, so tragically took him from us. Ian Gow's record of service was also rarely equalled, due to his dedication, concern and loyalty, which were so freely given. We will always remember him, and I know that all hon. Members will join me in recording our expression of deep sympathy to his family and friends.

Two of the issues that Ian Gow raised in his maiden speech remain important today—the fight against the centralisation of power and to the need to secure investment in British industry. I shall continue to raise those concerns in this House.

Eastbourne is a marvellous constituency. It has the benefit of an excellent climate, a wonderful shoreline and the south downs as a backcloth. As many hon. Members already know, it is a first-class tourist resort. Its people are truly friendly and about one third of them are retired. However, we are a growth area and large increases in the under-14 and the 25-to-44 age groups are planned in the coming decade. By the turn of the century, the proportion of Eastbourne's people who are retired will have fallen to 25 per cent.—a significant change.

Our local economy has in the past been hugely dependent on tourism, but that is now supplemented by the development of an industrial estate, an active business services sector, and a growth in retail outlets. The importance of those activities was much in evidence during the recent election.

Of course, we received many visitors during the election. It may amuse or interest the House to know that the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) was among them and that my right hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick, and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) commented when we met that he was the first definite Conservative we had met all day.

Another visitor was the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), who accompanied his visit with a personal letter to me, inviting me to join his party. I am sure that the House will acknowledge my good judgment in declining that invitation and staying with a party that is increasing in the polls day by day, with a leader to whom we give our unanimous support. I am sure that even the Prime Minister is now aware that our squawk is getting louder and louder day by day.

We also received a visit from the Leader of the Opposition, who saw one of our excellent schools, which has the benefit of extra teachers who were appointed following a Liberal Democrat initiative, which was supported by Labour, when I was chairman of the education committee.

My constituents made it clear during the election that they will always welcome visitors but, of course, their main concerns were the real issues that affect their lives. They and I now look upon the Gracious Speech to see whether it addresses those issues and concerns.

Our local economy has suffered in recent years. We have seen large-scale redundancies from local companies. We have empty hotels boarded up on the sea front and many local shops are standing empty. What we need in our economy is what the country needs—a massive fall in interest rates to get the economy going again. Without investment, there is no hope of turning the tide of local recession, and without a healthy economy, how can we pay for the essential public services?

My constituents are also concerned about the 28 per cent. increase in burglaries that they have seen this year. The Gracious Speech states that the Government will "vigorously pursue … policies" to fight crime, but will they agree to the repeated requests from the Sussex police authority to employ more police officers on the beat? Nearly all the extra officers who have been employed in recent years have had to be used to police Gatwick airport, for which the Government are reimbursed.

My constituents are also concerned about health care. The number of hospital beds availabe has decreased while the waiting lists for many operations have increased. Mentally ill patients have been discharged into the community with less than the support that they deserve. The Gracious Speech states that the Government will improve the quality of Health and Social Services", yet the Government proceed with the opting-out proposals in adjoining areas which do not, to my constituents, address the key issue of quality. When my constituents visit their local district general hospital, they are charged 40p to use the car park. That is nothing but a disgrace and a tax on the relatives of the sick and the dying. I hope that that can be changed if there is any semblance left of a caring society.

The Government's proposals for care in the community are vital for Eastbourne. The postponement of the provisions for care of the elderly, when some local authorities were ready for their responsibilities, was not a good start. The test will come when the level of resources is agreed. Already in East Sussex, we are not happy about the financial proposals for the mentally ill from April 1991. I shall watch the arrangements for the transfer of care in the community to local authorities very carefully, and the Government will be given a hard time if they fail to deliver their promises.

Parents in Eastbourne are very concerned about the education of their children. They perceive the Government passing the buck back to them for the management and funding of schools. The Gracious Speech refers to action to improve quality in education", yet there cannot be improvements in quality when a service is so under-resourced and its professionals so regularly attacked by the Government. When I was listening to the Secretary of State for Education and Science earlier, I realised just how out of touch the Government are with the delivery of education at a local level.

There is no large-scale bureaucracy in our county hall in Lewes in East Sussex. The staff there are working flat out to meet the demands placed on them by central Government. The Government's proposal for a city technology college in Sussex led to the loss of an important proposal for a new secondary school, which had been put forward by the Church. The CTC then withdrew, and the county council was left to mop up the consequences. Class sizes in our county continue to rise because we do not have the funds to employ the teachers to bring those sizes down. Yes, we need to improve quality, but that is not achievable under the current Government's policies.

There are no proposals on housing in the Gracious Speech, yet we have a problem with homelessness in Eastbourne. There are homeless people on our streets every night. The ability of the local authority to respond to that crisis is hampered time and again by central Government. The recent Government proposal to change the subsidy determination relating to leases has very serious implications for our area. I ask the Government to think again on that matter. Surely it makes sense for empty properties to be used to house homeless families rather than to use expensive bed-and-breakfast accommodation. Unless the Government change their mind, in Eastbourne alone over 100 families every year will not be housed.

I was interested in, and I welcome, the reference in the Gracious Speech to promoting efficiency in transport. I trust that that extends to the time that journeys take. Eastbourne has one of the busiest railway level crossings in Europe. The Hampden park crossing costs industry dear, as lorries from the nearby industrial estate queue time after time, wasting precious work hours. If the Government are serious about efficiency, they will address that local concern, affecting my constituents, immediately.

At the core of many of the issues that I have raised lies the delivery of local services. The quality of those services has declined during the past decade. The whole of the blame for that lies at the door of this Government. In 1981, when I joined the East Sussex county council, we received a grant from the Government to cover 40 per cent. of our costs. In 1990, that grant is just 16 per cent. of our costs. Local services cannot be delivered with quality in mind when central Government have such an appalling disregard for local services. Instead of curbing the powers of local government and centralising power in their own hands, the Government should work in partnership to deliver services which our local communities need and deserve.

As the Government reduce their services, further burdens are placed on the voluntary sector. In many cases voluntary organisations have become the lifeline for local people. But the very curbs on public expenditure which reduce local services hit the voluntary sector too. While greater reliance is placed on them, funding from local and central government is reduced. In Eastbourne we have 10,000 carers. Our community depends on them and without their dedication there would be great suffering. But I see nothing in the Gracious Speech to give them the support that they so richly deserve.

My constituents raise with me matters such as the future of our planet, the suffering of animals in transit abroad for slaughter—I welcome the RSPCA's initiative today on that matter—the unjust burden of the poll tax and the poor level of pensions compared to our colleagues in Europe. I shall return to some of those matters in future speeches.

Unlike the Government, I was elected with the support of over 50 per cent. of those who voted. The message from Eastbourne is loud and clear. Over a wide range of policies, the Government have got it wrong. The Gracious Speech offers very little comfort to my constituents. They can only look forward to the day when the Government are replaced by a caring and compassionate Government who will begin to address the real needs of the community that I now proudly represent.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

I remind the House that the 10-minute limit on speeches is now in operation.

7.1 pm

Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant)

The House has been entertained by two most distinguished maiden speeches. I offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) on not only the wit and humour that he brought to this place—that is never in sufficient supply—but the generous tribute that he paid to Ian Gow, a man who was greatly respected on both sides of the House. The beginning of the hon. Gentleman's speech had the complete agreement of every party and every hon. Member.

Bismarck once said that his respect for a man was based on what was left when all his vanities were stripped away. In this place our respect tends to be based on what is left when all invective is stripped away. As the hon. Members for Eastbourne and for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) will discover, invective is a popular and fashionable tool. What we hope for and sense that we may have from them is more rationality and sound information in their speeches. Of course they will be challenged in due course on many matters, but this evening they got away with it.

This may be the last occasion on which I have the privilege of speaking in the debate on the Address although it is just possible that it may be the last but one. I begin by confirming my broad support for the content of the Gracious Speech. I shall concentrate on a relatively narrow matter which is neglected by not only this Gracious Speech but virtually every one that I have heard since 1964. If there is one profound regret that I shall carry away with me in due course, it is that our system of political allegiance and loyalty seems to preclude our ever asking the most important and significant question that we should ask ourselves from time to time—"What components of our national failure in any sphere continue to endure under all political Administrations?"

Corelli Barnett asked that question in his most fascinating book entitled "Audit of War", but it seems that we have not learnt to ask it in times of peace. I suspect that the reason why we do not ask it is that the answer is too embarrassing, for it deprives some of us—indeed, all of us—of our raison d'etre. In the long term, if we do not govern by reason, mankind will fail. In the short term, alas, if we do not respect political emotion, prejudice and the ignorance which is often entrenched by that process or by vested interests, the democratic system will never hand us the levers of power. That dilemma underlies, if it does not at times undermine, the democratic system.

It is to an area of national failure that I now turn. The subject of today's debate is described as education and training. Those are topics of immense importance with a high political profile. All politicians in all parties have been educated and, therefore, are prima facie experts on the subject and have strong views on it. Moreover, today's "educorate", to coin a term, is tomorrow's electorate. The Jesuits knew a thing or two when they said, "Give me the child and you may have the man." Both my hon. Friends and Oppositon Members say, "Give me the child and you may have the voter."

It is astonishing and disturbing that nowhere in the Gracious Speech or the programme for debate is the word "science" mentioned. It was not even mentioned by Ministers in the Department which theoretically carries responsibility for it. Yet the Prime Minister rightly and with genuine conviction repeatedly emphasises its importance. Industry recognises its dependence on science. Document after document and report after report consider our national research and development in the general scheme of things and express continuing anxiety. That follows from one Administration to another, one inquiry to another and one failure of industrial performance to another. Like the double bass, it is in every symphony orchestra. It provides a deep and disturbing accompaniment to every theme. Yet we ignore it. Why? Many hon. Members will have their own explanations but I shall not give mine. My purpose is to focus on a central issue. I hope to demonstrate the significance of the Procedure Select Committee's recommendation that: science and technology is too important to be absent from the agenda of the House of Commons. I have no wish to appear unduly alarmist or to suggest that the Government's approach to the problem of global warming is necessarily wrong or inadequate. However, I have followed the matter closely for some years, and each time I return to it the circumstantial evidence is more alarming, the scientific unanimity, although not complete, is greater, and the tocsin sounds with ever greater urgency. As there should be, a worldwide debate is in progress in scientific, governmental and other conferences, such as that recently hosted by the Canadian Government and the Council of Europe in Ottawa. At many such conferences we read papers which not only pose formidable policy options but with ever greater frequency confront us with the terrifying phrase, "the extinction of the human race". I cannot confirm that prediction with any authority, but I find some of the papers both convincing and disturbing.

Three important conclusions can be drawn. First, we shall not have scientific proof before the end of the century, if then. Secondly, whether we do anything or not, the proof may arrive too late. Thirdly, we must contain the deterioration of the atmosphere, and technology alone, based on the best available science, can provide us with the means to avoid the collapse of the atmosphere.

There are no national solutions for global problems. The mechanisms for agreeing, let alone implementing, solutions are weak, primitive and unlikely to be effective. There is no agreement about the allocation of responsibility, causes and effects, who is to pay for what, how soon targets may be achieved or whether the targets will be adequate. Within the next decade there is at [east a probability that we shall have to agree, first, that the Chinese should not increase their coal burn by 400 million tonnes per annum, as their energy plan contemplates; secondly, that massive carbon taxes will have to be placed on fossil fuels not only in this country but worldwide; thirdly, that the priority given to energy efficiency will have to be raised to unprecedented levels; fourthly. that non-fossil fuel energy technology will have to be both developed and transferred to the third and fourth worlds; and, finally, if, as a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study concluded, the most efficient method of capturing carbon dioxide and fossil fuel power increases the cost of that power by 80 per cent., no less, we shall have to accept and legislate for the economic and social consequences of massive increases in the real cost of electricity.

In case the House concludes that there is no evidence to justify such conclusions, I put the following facts before it. First, examination of the Antarctic ice cores shows that throughout history the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide has never exceeded 0.03 per cent. or been less than 0.018 per cent. Since the 1930s it has risen to 0.035 per cent. It will reach 0.4 per cent. by the year 2010 and 0.6 per cent. by the end of the next century.

In a 2,300 page report on the subject the Bundestag has concluded that the rise in the earth's temperature will probably be three times higher than the ecosystem can withstand. It has proposed an international trust fund of £7 billion to deal with Third world industrialisation, and another fund of £3 billion per annum to preserve tropical rain forests. Much will depend on whether the feedback processes are positive or negative.

We are looking at policy options which involve expenditure on a scale never hitherto conceived by the human race, if the deterioration exceeds the case and scale predicted. One estimate, which is based on predicted increases in energy consumption and fossil fuel burn, implies massive reafforestation and afforestation programmes which could cost £10,000 billion a year, or $1,000 per capita of the human race. If our population rises to 10 billion, as is predicted, and by then gross world product rises to $4,000 per capita, which is double the present, the cost of saving the world's atmosphere could rise to 25 per cent. of gross world product.

Politicians generally are criticised for being too alarmist about this, but that charge cannot be sustained. If the political implications of scientific research are little understood, the scientific implications of political neglect will feed back into the political arena rapidly and possibly with devastating consequences. Starving, freezing or flooded communities will not show much sympathy or tolerance for political leaders who in the coming critical decade put the subject at the bottom of their agenda.

Nor will they respect those who starve science of the funds needed to attach significant assessments of probability to various technical options, and who concentrate on deploring the erosion of national sovereignty, when it is becoming an irrelevance, or on redistributing national wealth, when the energy systems on which wealth creation depends have been shown to cause unacceptable damage to the planet as a whole wherever and whenever that energy is created by consuming fossil fuels or producing chlorofluorocarbons.

Where does that leave our priorities? [Interruption.] I see that I have run out of time. Science is consuming less than 0.5 per cent. of our national public expenditure. The analysis of that in the document$$

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. I am sorry, but I must call the hon. Gentleman to order after 10 minutes.

7.12 pm
Mr. Bill Michie (Sheffield, Heeley)

I realise that we are all short of time and I shall endeavour to limit myself to 10 minutes. First, I must congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) and the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) on their excellent speeches. It is clear that they will make good contributions to our debates and, no doubt, they will become accustomed to the idea of being restricted to 10 minutes at this time in the evening.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) made it clear that we face a crisis in education. It comes at a time when both the Government and the Opposition are saying that we have a desperate shortage of skills, whether in engineering, science or other areas. The only way in which the country can change that is by investing more in the education of our children and young people from nursery school onwards. It is important that we get the equation on educational funding right.

Our country is losing out because of a lack of competitiveness. Our European Community partners and most of our competitor nations are far ahead of us in new technology, marketing and the rest. We can hold our own only by educating our people to higher standards than those we have at present. Despite that, the Government seem unable to put the matter right.

The Queen's Speech mentions that the Government will strengthen parental responsibility for children and improve quality in education. Obviously it is a short speech and does not say how that will come about. I have listened to other speeches and I am not convinced that the Government will do that. We undoubtedly need to strengthen parental responsibility for children, but when will the Government accept their responsibility for educating children to the necessary standards?

The Government claim that they will improve the quality of education, yet local authorities—mine as well as many others—are continually starved of funds. They are massively underfunded. That affects school buildings, which is bad enough in itself. How can we have a successful education system when the buildings are dilapidated? One school in my constituency must be closed every time there is a heavy rainfall. What sort of modern system do we have when our children and teaching staff must tolerate that sort of condition? It is no good the Government blaming local authorities. Clearly, they are underfunded for buildings, books, appropriate teacher-pupil ratios and youth provision. There is also a lack of funding for nursery and rising-five provision.

I have received letters, as I am sure most hon. Members have, from institutes of higher education as well as heads of primary schools pleading for the Government to wake up to the problems of our schools and colleges. Not long ago the previous Secretary of State for Education and Science received a letter from the South Yorkshire, Humberside and North Derbyshire in-service advisory committee, pleading for more funding. Its full-time and part-time courses are inadequately funded, which means that we shall not have the skills necessary to compete. That does not bode well for our economic future.

It is not just education that suffers from underfunding. It is apparent in all local authority services. It is estimated that next year Sheffield will be at least £35 million short on its budget. That means that it will be £12 million to £14 million short on its education budget. What sort of a future do we have when we start off with such a shortfall?

I have here an article from The Star in Sheffield on the funding of local government and education. It is headed, "The dark ages". I could not put it better myself. Education and services are indeed almost back in the dark ages. I know that the Prime Minister wants Victorian values, but I am not sure that she intends a return to poor educational facilities for our children and students. Perhaps she does. The article states that there will be less cash for schools, libraries, parks, swimming pools, sports halls, concerts, road sweeping, refuse collection, housing and social services.

Social services are near and dear to my heart. How can we claim to care for our children and elderly when our social workers are under tremendous strain? How can we say to the parents of this nation who are looking after their children that they are to go back to work to make their contribution when child-care facilities are not available? They are not backed up by the resources that should be provided.

Social workers, like teachers, are under tremendous strain. Occasionally, things go wrong. Then some case of child abuse or neglect hits the headlines. Immediately the judges and politicians, particularly Tory politicians, ask what the social workers were doing. We know what they were doing—working with twice as many clients as they should have been.

Time and again legislation has forced local authorities to carry out certain services, yet they have not been given the resources to do so. That applies to the educational curriculum. We do not need to be reminded that people need to be taken care of. Every authority knows that, and asks only for the resources that it needs. I am concerned about children not being properly cared for from the age of four or three, or even younger. Unless we care for them from the very beginning, they can never hope to achieve the standards and skills that this nation needs.

The Government have squandered billions and billions of pounds. They threw that money away or, as in most cases, gave it to their fat friends. Meanwhile, the very fabric of our society and democracy, and our country's future prosperity, are disintegrating before our eyes. The Government's bigotry has ruined opportunities for thousands of our citizens.

I make this special plea. Teachers, social workers, local government officers and councillors are willing and able to undertake the work that is necessary to develop Britain's schools and the skills of our people, but they cannot do that without the right resources. I hope that the Government will one day get it right.

7.20 pm
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

On behalf of Unionists, I congratulate the hon. Members for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) and for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) on their maiden speeches.

As we debate this evening, Ulster is burying her dead. Northern Ireland's present security situation can be described in only one word—carnage. This week marks five years of living under the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Those concerned may note that before it was signed, there was a welcome tapering down of terrorist killings, as was evident in the Chief Constable's report. However, on the signing of the agreement, that agonising and ugly spiral of killings rose sharply.

In 1985, when the agreement was signed on 15 November, there were 54 killings when the year was almost ended. The following year, 1986, there were 61 killings; in 1987 there were 93 killings; in 1988, there were 93 killings; in 1989, 62 killings, and so far this year, 1990, there have been 71 killings. Who can measure the agony, sorrow, heartbreak, hurt and loss behind every innocent victim? We see that heartbreak in the form of a long and ever-increasing procession of maimed and bereaved mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives daughters, and sons, of all religions—for terrorism has no respect for age, creed, or class.

Last weekend, a speech was made by a Roman Catholic priest called Faul in Dungannon, who said that the RUC is full of rogues who are in cahoots with Protestant paramilitaries. At the weekend, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) said that we would soon see the consequences of that allegation—and we did, in the form of four killings.

The figures show that there have been 346 murders in the past five years. Of those, 74.5 per cent. were slaughtered by the Irish Republican Army. Of that number, 119 were Roman Catholics and 41 per cent. of these were slaughtered by the IRA. Those figures are not mine but are official. Forty-one per cent. of all murders by so-called loyalist organisations resulted in court appearances and charges being upheld by the courts—but of all the IRA atrocities, only 11 per cent. resulted in court appearances and charges being upheld.

What can I say about the past few days? On 23 October, a Protestant taxi driver was shot at the Royal Victoria hospital. On 24 October, human bombs at Londonderry killed five soldiers and a civilian driver who had been strapped to his van by the terrorists. Another soldier died in a human bomb attack the same day at Newry checkpoint. Also on 24 October, a Roman Catholic taxi driver was shot in Dungannon. On 26 October, a Sinn Fein member was shot dead in Cookstown, and on 2 November, Albert Cooper, an Ulster Defence Regiment officer, was blown up in his garage in Cookstown. On 7 November, a Roman Catholic was shot in New Lodge, Belfast, and the next day another Roman Catholic was shot at a garage near Stewartstown. On 9 November—a sad day for Ulster—four men were shot dead returning from wildfowling. They were RUC Inspector William Murphy, Reserve Constable Thomas Taylor, former UDR member Norman Kendall, and Keith Dowley, a Department of the Environment water service official.

I listened with interest to the remarks of the right: hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) at the memorial service for Ian Gow at St. Margaret's, Westminster, when he took credit for the Anglo-Irish Agreement—although he did not do so in his speech today—as one of its architects and initiators, and was thus prepared to part company with Ian Gow over that issue. Today, he spoke of the supposed nightmares that would come with Britain's closer association with the rest of Europe.

We in Ulster have had the nightmare, and we are still having that nightmare. I have read of the night of the long knives, but in the House today, we witnessed the day of the long bayonets. I have no respect for a man who did not tell the House today of the contribution that he made to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The right hon. and learned Gentleman may be severe in denouncing others, but, as a spokesman for Northern Ireland, I indict the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East. The blood is upon him and upon his skirts, for the part that he played in what has happened.

I am glad that the people of the south of Ireland are learning, and that the Republic now has a president who repudiates the Anglo-Irish Agreement. That alone may give this House a message, which I hope it will heed. I hope also that the Government will convene the meeting that was postponed on 5 July, when the long hand of the Irish Government stretched into this House and a Minister of the Crown was not permitted to make the speech that he had promised my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and myself. I trust that there will be negotiations soon on replacing the Anglo-Irish Agreement with one that will bring some hope and a future to the people of Northern Ireland.

7.27 pm
Mr. Robert Litherland (Manchester, Central)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara), who moved us all with the kind sentiments that he expressed about his predecessor, Sean Hughes. My hon. Friend spoke with passion and knowledge about his constituency, and by tradition, Knowsley has returned a first-class Member of Parliament, who will certainly look after his constituents' interests.

We join the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti), in condemning the evil act that took Ian Gow's life, and we wish him well. He displayed a good sense of humour.

I want to confine my contribution to the subject of infant schools in my constituency. The Gracious Speech stated: My Government will continue to take action to improve quality in education. Her Majesty would be extremely embarrassed if she realised the emptiness of those words, and if she knew the true state of primary education in the inner cities, I am sure that those words would have frozen on her lips. However, Her Majesty does not write the Gracious Speech, so the blame must be laid elsewhere. My postbag leaves not the slightest doubt about where the blame lies. The letters that educate me of the reality of the situation come from the frontliners—the teachers themselves.

Many aspects of Government policy affect education, and I want to advance the protestations made to me by head teachers from all parts of my constituency because of their concern about the quality of education in primary and infant schools. The pressures and problems facing those schools, teachers and children are of crisis proportions.

A former Secretary of State, now chairman of the Conservative party, when informed of the difficulties experienced in schools in the state sector, said, "Show me the evidence." There was a response to that challenge, and the effects of Government policy on those who work to educate our children have been placed before the Secretary of State. That last magician created the illusion that something would be done, but that was before he vanished into obscurity. There is no doubt that those arguments will also be placed before the new Secretary of State who must provide some answers to the serious problem of quality of education and how teachers can address that without adequate resources to meet the needs of the children.

I sincerely trust that the present Secretary of State will pay heed to what the teachers are telling him. However, if he brings to the Department of Education and Science the same arrogance that he displayed against the nurses, doctors and patients in the health service, the situation will become even more desperate. At least the former Secretary of State listened, if nothing else.

Many head teachers stress that the problem has nothing to do with low pay awards. They are not griping about self-interest but expressing deep concern for a profession in which they take pride. Regrettably, that profession is suffering from the negative effects of the stress and low morale felt by teachers.

The pressures are unremittingendless DES circulars demanding immediate response and implementation, demands on top of the national curriculum that have created an increased work load and disruption for all children, hastily organised courses and workshops and weekly governors' meetings. Teachers' partners have complained that family life has been affected by the amount of time that their spouses are having to spend in the evening and at weekends on school work—all at the expense of their family commitments.

One head teacher wrote to me: In twenty years of teaching I have never known morale to be so low and so widespread. Staff at all levels, both young and experienced alike, feel that they are being swept helplessly along by a tide of change which threatens their integrity and status as professional educators. I am left with a team of demoralised colleagues who are mentally and physically unable to give of their best in the classroom Other head teachers describe numerous and valid problems including lack of teaching support for teachers who have up to 30 children in a class, lack of non-teaching support, lack of support for children with special needs as well as a lack of administrative and clerical support. The list is endless.

Stress becomes more acute in an inner city with all its inherent problems. Teachers suffer from stress-related illness because of the extra burdens placed upon them. They are losing heart and seeking jobs elsewhere. They are losing interest because the Government do not appear to have grasped the seriousness of the problem.

Teachers in the inner city are suffering from a growing disillusionment, especially in those schools in which there are added stress factors. The head teacher of an inner-city special school where the majority of children come from a deprived and disadvantaged background and suffer complex emotional and social problems recently informed me of that disillusionment among his staff. He wrote: One very experienced teacher has, despite being a valued and committed teacher, reluctantly requested early retirement, solely because of the increased stress and pressures he feels under the new regime. It cannot be beneficial to the well-being of our children and of the state education system if our more experienced teachers cannot cope or are 'burned out' by these pressures. The response from the Secretary of State has been pathetic and insulting. He made no attempt to answer the letter in detail. His reply to me and that teacher was patronising in the extreme. He said: The teaching profession deserves gratitude, recognition and respect … I value their commitment to the pupils and so he whines on. They were empty words and empty gestures because at the end of the letter came the inevitable sting—the end of term report. He stated that the Government are providing the necessary resources and support for the introduction of their reforms. He said that he was confident that teachers will strive to raise standards in the schools, in other words, they must try harder.

A similar reply was given to the head teacher of Varna street primary school in Openshaw after he had taken the trouble to explain his dismay to the Secretary of State. He wrote: I do this as an experienced and highly qualified headteacher who is increasingly angered and frustrated by the apparent lack of care the Government has for the young children in this country and the total ignorance it displays about the true conditions in which they and their teachers have to work in the schools. Varna street school is housed in a 90-year-old building on a cramped inner-city site, sandwiched between a railway station, a scrapyard and an old mill. The roof leaks, the windows and door frames do not fit well and water has penetrated through the walls. Despite those appalling physical conditions, the staff, parents and children care for their school.

Children are our future and our greatest asset and best investment. Those who serve the educational needs of the country urge the Government not to destroy the seed corn, but to invest in our kids before it is too late. My speech is a protest from all the head teachers in my constituency who have written to me. The Government must do something, or make way for another Government who do care.

7.35 pm
Mr. Malcolm Thornton (Crosby)

I join in congratulating those two hon. Members who made their maiden speeches tonight. I welcome them to the House, but I am sure that they will forgive me if I say that that welcome is slightly tempered because they replace two hon. Members who were widely respected and whom we miss very much.

We have wanted a full day's debate on education for some time. It is a matter of regret that little in the way of constructive educational comment has been made in this debate so far. I should like to add some constructive thoughts and to address the problem we face in education.

The reforms that have been introduced—or certainly the principle behind them—have received a large measure of support. We must recognise, however, that the work required to implement them has had a serious effect on our educational system. I welcome the new Secretary of State, and urge him to reflect upon what his predecessor started to do—he recognised that the momentum of the reforms could be increased by slightly easing the pressure placed upon schools.

It was no coincidence that, in the first few days after the long recess, many colleagues told me that, during the course of their constituency work in the summer, they had received encouraging reports from teachers in many of their schools. Those teachers said that they were getting to grips with the reforms and were starting to implement them and that, in that respect, things were getting easier. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will take that on board.

The education reforms can only be delivered by teachers. In the past, I have said that all the political rhetoric in the world does not alter the fact that it is the teacher in the classroom who will deliver those reforms. Much of what we do to develop the education service must centre upon the teacher in the classroom.

As I have told the House before, I have had the great privilege of being chairman of one of the largest primary schools in the country, a group 8 primary school, for 17 years. I am very much a hands-on chairman. I am also married to the head teacher of a group 6 primary school, so I have had considerable day-to-day involvement with education at the sharp end.

I am a great believer in primary education and I have seen as recently as last week, in Liscard primary school, the marvellous work that is being done to improve standards and implement the essential parts of the Government's reform programme. The work being done on that score is not limited to that one school. Many schools are delivering the commitment, by teachers, of the Government's reforms.

But it would be futile to pretend that the reforms will happen without recognition of the fact that teachers need the support that extra resources into their profession demand. Unless those resources are allocated, as I have said before, the Government's reforms will not be implemented. Successive HMI reports have shown clearly that non-contact time in primary schools is virtually non-existent. If we are to give the amount of preparation time, over and above the time that is already being given by dedicated teachers, there must be an increase in non-contact time, and that has clear resource implications.

I have no brief for LEAs that seek to build empires or create ever more advisory services, but LEAs can have a more dynamic and proactive role in future than they have had in the past, and they should be examining what they provide by way of in-service courses and support services and the amount of support that they can give to the qualitative improvement of the delivery of education in their areas. That does not mean that the warnings of Her Majesty's inspectorate should not be heeded. LEAs should look closely at the balance between the numbers in their administration departments and teaching in the schools.

There has been too much short-termism in education. I have heard much today about the failure of the Government to bring about educational reforms. Nobody can pretend to know anything about education without accepting the leads and lags in education. It takes a long time, perhaps two decades, for policies to work through, and the problems that were sown by woolly thinking and political dogma in the 1960s and 1970s are with us today. They will not be solved by successive Acts that have been passed since the Conservatives came to power. It will take perhaps another 10 years before we reap the full rewards of those benefits. But reap them we shall, and improvements will be seen to be working through the system.

The last HMI report showed that up to 40 per cent. of newly trained teachers felt that education studies had received too much emphasis, while the more practical aspects such as teaching methods, classroom observation and teaching practice had received too little. Much expertise exists in the classrooms of many of the nation's schools. It is more important for the next generation of teachers to be trained by on the job experience, picking up the theory of education when they need it, rather than the other way round.

Initiatives such as the articled teachers scheme can offer much to education. The Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts identified in its work the fact that it is pointless dropping such schemes into the education system and just hoping that it can cope. If teachers are to be mentors and tutors—call them what one will—they must be given the extra resources to benefit from that qualitative aspect of on-the-job training.

The two-year, classroom-based, on-the-job training which the articled teachers scheme gives means that 80 per cent. of time is spent in schools observing, assisting and teaching. What is more, the pay will be better than the one-year PGCE, and that will result in three times more supervised teaching practice, with less indigestible educational theory. That is a practical way forward, which will do much to improve the quality of our teaching force.

Unless we devote the resources necessary to those who deliver education—I am not speaking of ever more resources; perhaps we should be thinking of the better deployment of existing resources—we shall not get the quality of teachers who will deliver the quality of education that the nation needs. They must have support in the classroom. If we give them the necessary support, they will deliver the reforms, remembering that we are speaking of reforms of which hon. Members in all parts of the House approve. Everybody who believes in education wants the reforms to be implemented. There is a practical way forward, and I commend it to the House.

7.45 pm
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

I agreed with much that was said by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Thornton), but first I pay tribute to the elegant and interesting maiden speeches made by my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) and by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti). We look forward to hearing them speak in other debates.

In the 10 minutes allocated to me, I shall speak about education generally before dealing with some specific aspects of education. The hon. Member for Crosby, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, and I have worked together, with other hon. Members who are present, for many years. I regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Turner), also a member of the Select Committee, was accused of not taking part in education debates. I assure the House that, as a member of the Select Committee, he is a frequent participant in debates on educational issues.

Naturally, we differ on many issues when we debate education. The hon. Member for Crosby did not mention those differences. He simply spoke about the reforms, many of which, in the view of many of my hon. Friends and myself, are deforms rather than reforms, a subject to which I shall return.

Like the economy, the British education system is in deep crisis because of the policies of the Conservative party. They have done so much that is wrong that the Government are now dithering under the attack that is being launched against them. Conservative Members are split in a terrible way, and that split, we now discover, has been reflected in all their policies during the last 11 years.

Parents, local education authorities, which Conservative Members loathe, and governors, many of whom will never be able to carry out the tasks that are allocated to them, are all complaining. I prophesy that many governors will give up their posts because of the responsibilities that the Government are placing, and will increasingly place, on them.

Teachers and their employers are worried because they have too much to do. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) came into the Chamber to take part in a debate just before the last Recess carrying a pile of books perhaps 2 ft high and placed them on the Opposition Front Bench. They represented reading material for teachers. Teachers do not have time to read that amount of literature. Many teachers have told me that it is absolutely insane to expect them, with all the work that they have to do, to read guff in that quantity.

Hon. Members, especially those with an understanding of education, appreciate that we receive from the Department of Education and Science almost daily a dozen or so pieces of advice on what should or will be done in the future. There is no time to read that amount of stuff. How dare Conservative Members talk about bureaucrats, when that state of affairs has existed throughout the 11 years when they have been in power, during which time they have maligned and abused the teaching profession?

Only when they have seen the degree of damage that they have caused have they begun to change their tune when referring to teachers, who are being worked to death. They are doing more hours than ever before, working during their lunchtimes, having to come in early in the morning and to stay late at night. Not only do many Conservative Members know that what I say is true, but I believe that I see some of them nodding in assent.

The Government say teachers have choice and opportunity, but the Government have constantly undermined their freedom. Teachers feel undervalued and underpaid and have had no negotiating rights for years. The United Nations condemns the British Government for taking those rights away. Resources are short and getting shorter, books and equipment are lacking, hundreds of schools—possibly thousands—are crumbling due to lack of repairs, and the Government blithely deny it. The Government have received £100 million from North sea oil and gained another £30 billion to £50 billion by selling off the family silver. That money has been frittered away, instead of being used for education and kindred problems. Major and minor authorities up and down the country complain bitterly about the so-called local management of schools.

As hon. Members know, the Select Committee produced an important report on the lack of teachers, which the Conservative party would not accept at the time. Local management of schools means that large numbers of teachers have to leave the profession. When the Government talk about putting one body in front of each class, they should remember that, whereas there were often 30 or 40 applications for some of those posts, now there are only one, two or three and the school has to accept a teacher who may have no knowledge of the relevant subject, merely so as to put a body in front of the class.

No previous British Government have ever engaged in such dogma or taken such a doctrinaire attitude. The assisted places scheme and the so-called city technology colleges are two methods of siphoning off millions of pounds of public money into semi-private education, which is private education by the back door. Any idea that a Labour Government would keep those systems is a dream. We shall not keep methods that have cost all that money, at the expense of others. City technology colleges that should have been paid for by private industry are being paid for by us, and the money is taken away from the rest of the education system.

It will be useful if I state how much money the assisted places scheme costs. In the first year, 1984–85, it cost £22 million, in 1985–86 it cost £30 million, in 1986–87 it cost £38 million, in 1987–88 it cost £46 million, in 1988–89 it cost £51 million, and in 1989–90 it cost £59 million. That is £246 million spent on the assisted places scheme. That was public money spent for private education. The Government plan to spend another £62 million in 1990–91, £60 million in 1991–92, £70 million in 1992–93—making a total of £438 million.

The Minister has been boasting about getting £500 million, as though that were wonderful. Do the Government know how much the assisted places scheme and the city technology colleges will cost? By 1993, they will have cost £625 million. The figure is steadily heading towards £ 1 billion. That is public money siphoned off from the education of 95 per cent. of our children. That is no way to run an education system for 95 per cent. of our children.

The education of the vast majority of our children is in the hands of people who never use the state education system. They can always boast that one or two of them did, but the reality is that they are the same people who would have destroyed our national health service, were it not for the struggle that we have put up, and they never use that service either. They do not understand what ordinary people need. Therefore, they are about to fall because of what they have done to our people—we have seen that coming this afternoon.

The only real hope for this country's education system is to get rid of the Government so that we can work for the education of all our children. The Government have so little faith in the national curriculum that they do not even impose it in all private schools. The law does not say that such schools have to have it. We would put the national curriculum, which we think is good if looked into carefully, into private as well as state schools, to improve the whole of our education system.

7.54 pm
Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

I pay tribute to the hon. Members for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) and for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) for their excellent and erudite maiden speeches. I am sure that we shall hear more from them in future.

It is sad, particularly for people who wish to see standards raised throughout the British education system, to see the vacuous and hypocritical amendment tabled by the Labour party. The amendment was followed up by a speech by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) which did not contain one constructive idea about how to raise education standards in primary or secondary schools. The only major proposal he made was that he would vandalise the high standards now achieved by the grant-maintained schools by bringing them back into the local authority sector. He failed to recognise that, during the past 10 years, spending per pupil in Britain's schools has risen by 40 per cent.—twice as fast as the rate achieved under the last Labour Government, when spending rose by only 11 per cent.

The hon. Member for Knowsley, South spoke of the number of computers in primary and secondary schools, which is indicative of the sort of resources going into schools. Under the Conservative Government, teachers' pay has risen by 30 per cent. in real terms. Under the last Labour Government, it rose by only 4 per cent. in real terms. We have not heard much about training today, but the Government are spending three times more, after inflation, than was spent 10 years ago. We have the largest employment training scheme in Europe.

Opposition Members talk of a crisis in the education service, but the vast majority of teachers in our schools provide good education. I see that every time I go into schools in my constituency, and to say anything else is a gross calumny on their efforts. Between 1976 and 1988, the proportion of pupils who achieved five 0-levels at grades A to C or more, rose from 23 to 30 per cent., the number of 16-year-olds continuing education, either at school or at further education establishments, rose from 42 to 56 per cent. The number of people attending full-time or part-time courses in higher education at present is at a record all-time high of 1 million. That is not prima facie evidence of a crisis of standards in our schools, albeit some of them need to be improved.

As evidence of the durability of the Government's reforms, the agenda is changing. Whereas the national curriculum was once opposed, we now hear those in the Labour party talk about the need for annual pupil appraisals; whereas once the secret garden occupied by members of the educational establishment in the teaching profession was something that nobody could enter, now we hear about the need for statutory appraisal for teachers; whereas open enrolment was once attacked, we now hear of the benefits of competition between schools.

During the passage of the Education Reform Bill, the Labour party attacked the local management of schools, but now many of its authorities, such as Birmingham, are in the forefront of bringing forward pilot schemes to ensure that the allocation of more resources is decided at school level, so achieving greater efficiency and involvement by parents and teachers, and thus higher standards.

The Government recognise that increasing choice for parents and giving them greater control over how their schools are run will inevitably lead to higher standards. That choice is anathema to the Labour party which, as we have heard, wants to abolish grant-maintained schools, strangle the independent sector and abolish the grammar schools, despite the fact that parents in Birmingham are forcing the Labour authority to set up another grammar school. The Opposition would like to abolish CTCs and have even called A-levels—the linchpin of educational standards for the past 30 years—into question.

I wish to offer two examples of how our reforms, leading to greater spending control at a local level, have led to higher standards. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Thornton) I am the chairman of a large comprehensive school—in my case in Birmingham. Since we achieved local management of schools we have been able to increase the teaching force by two teachers and increase the equipment, tools and materials budget by no less than 50 per cent. in one year.

I do not wish to discuss the success of grant-maintained schools in terms of academic results or statistics; I want to discuss them on the basis of what I know from people who are daily involved in them. In Birmingham, the first midlands school to go grant maintained was Baverstock—despite a campaign of vilification by the local education authority and its purblind governing body. Now, according to the headmaster, a school that used to be the local skinhead school, surrounded by competition in the shape of two former and one existing grammar school, has turned the corner and become a place which provides proper education and marvellous opportunity. Grant-maintained status has benefited the school; it has six more staff members than it did when under the education authority. It has a new science technician and even a new school nurse. Every teacher who wants to go for in-service training—teachers pay for it out of the school's budget—can do so. The school has increased its equipment, tools and materials budget by four times. Whereas before it was grossly undersubscribed, a sink school to which no one wanted to go, there are now 400 applications a year for 240 places. Most importantly, whereas before the school had babysitters foisted on it—people who took over from absent teachers—now there are 20 applications for every science post that the school advertises for one week only in The Times Educational Supplement.

Given the parental involvement and improved standards made possible by grant-maintained status at Baverstock school, without extra resources and in a deprived area of Birmingham, I should have thought that the Labour party would embrace the idea as one that gives hope to people who could not otherwise attain high educational standards. Instead, the Opposition reject it out of hand.

It is a matter of regret that so far only 44 grant-maintained schools have been set up. I am sure that there will be more and the Government should consider reforms under which governing bodies, after a positive vote to opt out by parents, would have a statutory duty to co-operate with the opting-out procedure, instead of seeking to delay it, as has happened so often.

Greater devolution for education and the higher standards that it brings hold lessons for our national curriculum. Although it is good that more 16-year-olds are staying on at school and that more people are achieving higher standards than ever before in GCSE, there are still anxieties in many urban schools, such as the one that I chair, about the fact that truancy rates of 14 and 15-year-olds, particularly less able pupils, remain high. In our school we have a clear policy of providing BTEC courses, oriented to the world of work and therefore seen as more relevant by less able pupils.

I was glad to hear the previous Secretary of State say in Norwich on 20 October that he was looking at developing policies of more vocational qualifications after the age of 16. There is a strong case for developing BTEC qualifications to run alongside the national curriculum for less able pupils after the age of 14. I hope that the Government will give that serious consideration.

Finally, I make a plea to the Under-Secretary of State for Employment. There is a strong case for giving greater tax relief to people who provide training out of their own——

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman must leave it there.

8.4 pm

Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)

As we are all aware, the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act became law early in 1987 and at the time the Government insisted that it was a temporary measure, but it has been extended year by year to 1991. The Government were condemned in May 1988 by the International Labour Organisation for denying teachers their negotiating rights. They have not complied with international law and they have flouted international conventions that they ratified. During the period in which the interim advisory committee has been in operation, and certainly by the end of March 1990, teachers' pay had increased by 2.5 per cent. less than inflation, and a teacher at the top of the main professional grade was more than £400 a year worse off. During the existence of the IAC the pay scale of a teacher at the top of the main professional grade, with an allowance, will have increased by almost 14 per cent. less than the increase in average earnings.

Is not this one of the major reasons why we have a shortage of teachers? A detailed survey of vacancies carried out by the six main teaching unions made it clear that schools have about 10,000 vacancies, yet still the Government will not listen. The Secretary of State refused to listen even before he had sat down at his new desk—for that matter, before he knew where it was. We all know that graduates are not opting for teaching as a career in anything like the numbers needed. Only by removing the IAC and giving teachers back their negotiating rights can the restraints on them be lifted.

The patience of teachers is almost ready to explode, and their morale is at its lowest for years. Proposals in the Gracious Speech to introduce a Bill to establish permanent negotiating arrangements covering teachers' pay and conditions will be very much welcomed, but to be a success any Bill must restore direct pay bargaining between employer and employee. Before I congratulate the Government too much, I want to study the Bill carefully, because I suspect that it will contain a number of stings in the tail.

However quickly teachers get back their negotiating rights, like everything else in this country education and training are in a dreadful mess, thanks to 11 years of this Government. In the 1990s Britain spends less of its national wealth on education than it did in 1979. We are in danger of becoming the worst educated and trained nation in Europe. Beyond the age of 16, Britain's young people have half the opportunities for high-quality education and training that their counterparts in West Germany, the United States and Japan enjoy. That is a disgrace.

Good quality training and education are the best ways of building a flexible and effective work force with high levels of skills which enable everyone to reach his or her full potential. Of all the imbalances in our country, no deficit is more damaging than the gap between the need for and the supply of modern skills. Just one third of 17-year-olds stayed on in full-time education in 1988, compared with two thirds in most European countries.

The amount spent by the Government on training 16 to 19-year-olds is to be cut by £159 million between now and 1992. Surely this is a chance to expand quality, not to make savings. If the Government continue this policy, more opportunities will be lost.

Although 16 to 19-year-olds are undoubtedly the most neglected group in the education system, the problem is wider than that and begins with the basic entitlement to education. Every child should be entitled to pre-school education. Nursery education gives youngsters a good start in life, and after nursery school the under-fives are better prepared both educationally and socially for primary school. Tragically, less than a quarter of Britain's three and four-year-olds get a chance of a place in a nursery school. Fortunately, in my local education authority area of Durham we have a good record because more than 40 per cent. of our children have nursery places. Each year that is increasing, because the county has seen the necessity for such education. Over the next three years there will be a great expansion of nursery provision.

Four-year-olds are being admitted early to primary school, but as a recent HMI report on the education of children under five states: Children under 5 in nursery schools and classes generally receive a broader, better balanced education than those in primary classes. Nursery education is the answer, but the Government refuse to promote it. It is left to Labour-controlled local education authorities to advance the cause of nursery provision. A child in a Labour area has twice the chance of a nursery place than a child in any other area. However, it is no longer enough to rely on the whim and the good will of local education authorities. We need a strategy to increase the opportunity for quality education for all three and four-year-olds whose parents want it. There is nothing in the Gracious Speech to improve that situation.

Half Britain's children are educated in sub-standard accommodation. For a quarter of them the buildings are so bad that Her Majesty's inspectorate says that the children's education is suffering. The previous Secretary of State for Education's £500 million so-called victory means that each school might just get an extra coat of paint. We need between £3.5 billion and £4 billion just to put schools in the right condition. My local education authority in Durham needs £50 million for necessary repairs to schools in the area. This year, only emergency repairs will be carried out because the authority is so short of finance.

I should like to read from the minutes of a governors' meeting at a school in Neville's Cross in Durham. The minutes were sent to me and they state under general comments: It was agreed that efforts should be made to have the high ceilings decorated, and the plastering work, carried out professionally. We could then seek the services of volunteers to paint the classrooms etc. and attempt to obtain the paint at favourable rates, free it possible. Mr. Dodsworth, Mr. Fenwick and myself would like to thank wholeheartedly Mr. Hudson and other members of staff who have given up their holidays to redecorate their classrooms. We would like the Governors to record this appreciation. Where is education going when teachers have to come into schools during their holidays to carry out decorating? That is a dreadful state of affairs.

Her Majesty's inspectorate recently said that 30 per cent. of our children receive a sub-standard education. The Prime Minister's response was that 70 per cent. were therefore okay. That is a dreadful and uncaring response of the sort that we have come to expect from the Government. The next Labour Government will repeal the opting-out clauses of the Education Reform Act 1988 and will return all such schools, along with CTCs, to the local education authorities. That will start to cut the privilege that the Government so readily hand out. We also need to amend the local managers scheme so that local education authorities can plan more easily the distribution of the resources that are needed and will be needed. It is plain that at present the system favours the big and already better financed schools, although that is still not saying much for the resources.

On my way here on the train this morning, I read an incredible little article in the Daily Mirror. The heading was "Schools Kept Going by Raffles." The article states: Teachers and parents with kids at Britain's hard-pressed schools are learning about a new version of the three R's … raffles, raising money and redecorating. They are digging more and more into their own pockets to help schools starved of cash by local councils. It is incredible that teachers have to spend more time trying to raise money than they spend teaching our kids. That is disgraceful.

There can be little argument about the importance of raising education and training opportunities and standards for 16 to 19-year-olds. In Britain it is the norm to leave school at 16. It should be the norm to obtain as many qualifications as possible. The number of 16 and 18-year-olds in full-time education or college-based training must be doubled and opportunities widened, thereby increasing the number of youngsters with access to higher education.

While the Government speak of doubling the numbers in higher education in 25 years, they reverse direction——

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry to have to stop the hon. Gentleman. It is amazing that I have had to call so many hon. Members to order this evening. There is just half a minute left once the digital clock changes.

8.16 pm
Sir David Mitchell (Hampshire, North-West)

As a preliminary to what I wish to say about education, I should like to speak about the benefits of choice and competition. Ten years ago, our internal air services were a British Airways monopoly and the service was known as the shuttle. It was utilitarian in the extreme. There were no meals, tea, coffee or papers. Then we licensed British Midland to fly in competition with British Airways. That gave choice to the user and ended the British Airways monopoly. Overnight, the shuttle service died and in its place was born super-shuttle. On that service passengers receive a newspaper when they arrive. There is a hot breakfast, free tea, coffee and drinks throughout the day and passengers count as people of importance.

Five years ago, buses were utilitarian, moribund local monopolies. There were shrinking services, huge subsidies and no innovation. At that time no one outside Exeter had seen a minibus. We deregulated and introduced competition. Costs tumbled, services improved, and minibuses appeared in countless towns all over Britain. That was innovation for the benefit of the customer.

A year ago, the doctors' new contract provided for per capita pay. The more patients a doctor had, the more he was paid. That was the start of competition in the national health service. Now the average doctor spends four hours a week more with the sick, the elderly and the dying than he did a year ago, and 75 per cent. of doctors have started or increased preventive health clinics.

Choice and competition put suppliers of goods and services on their toes and they constantly seek to improve the standard of what they provide. Choice and competition are the great motivators for improving the lot of the customer, the user and the consumer.

However, when choice and competition are proposed there is opposition from the monopolists. The workers, the unions and their political friends and the owners and management all fiercely defend the retention of the status quo and oppose the opportunity for competition. Every ingenious argument is produced, and withering scorn is poured on those who dare to attack the concept of a continuing monopoly.

If courage is shown and the monopoly is challenged, the benefits to the user are immense. That leads me to my argument that choice and competition is a valuable aid to education. We now have or will soon have the national curriculum defining what a child ought to know. We have testing at the ages of seven, 11, 14 and 16 to monitor whether a child knows the subjects that he or she is studying. That also provides an opportunity for extra teaching and coaching where such a need is shown to exist. There are objective data for comparing one school with another and there is parental choice. We do not yet have enough state schools offering free state education but run independently of the local education authority monopoly. We need more of these grant-maintained schools. In practice, they have substantial benefits such as more cash under the control of the governors; on average some 15 per cent. more.

I have here a tale of administrative overheads. There is a dramatic difference between those in the private sector and those in the public sector. Hampshire is one of the better counties in terms of its costs and overheads, but over one third of the staff employed by the local education authority are not employed in teaching—a fact that is both unbelievable and staggering. The private sector in education would have nothing remotely like that proportion taken up by non-teaching personnel. Grant-maintained status would also give governors the opportunity to trim their overheads and have a higher proportion of their staff as teaching staff.

Grant-maintained status will also give governors greater freedom of action, will improve teacher numbers and ensure self-management by staff and governors who are answerable to parents. I pay a tribute to the teachers in my constituency who are exceedingly professional. I have great respect for the standard of their dedication. Many of the schools in my constituency are so good that they would stand up well in a fully competitive system as grant-maintained schools.

Mr. Paul Boateng (Brent, South)

How many have opted out?

Sir David Mitchell

I am coming to that. It is wholly desirable to raise standards, using the spur of choice and competition. Already, applications for school places al grant-maintained schools have increased by 40 per cent. That is a sign of parental confidence in the system.

I come now to the point that was half raised in a seated intervention. I warn any who seek to follow this path that they will need as much political courage as those who have tackled other monopolies and secured large benefits elsewhere. Experience teaches that there will be fierce condemnation at county level, just as unscrupulous, ingenious and determined as any in industry in which we have broken monopolies. Even officials, who should be neutral in this matter, leaving policy to be made by the elected representatives of the people in the county, will in many cases be directly involved in campaigns of twisting arms of governors and frightening parents to ensure that a school does not go down that road.

Should a school go down that road, what huge benefits there will be for the children and for the standard of education. Grant-maintained status will ensure that those concerned will have in their own hands the management of the school, which will be answerable to the parents and which will set standards that will be higher than those anywhere else.

8.22 pm
Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)

I add my congratulations to our two maiden speakers, who made excellent speeches. Listening to them, I wondered what would happen when the gloves were off, given that these were supposed to be non-controversial speeches. I shall welcome such speeches.

I recognise that those who instigated this debate and therefore chose its title had in mind a debate on education and training in its narrow context. I shall broaden the meaning of training and refer to an important need in training provision, which has been highlighted by the social services inspectorate in its report on the Rochdale child abuse cases. The Gracious Speech committed the Government to improve the quality of the health and social services. The inspectorate's report made it clear that the resources allocated to the training of our social workers is woefully inadequate.

I welcome the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie), who spoke passionately on this subject. Those of us who have witnessed, as we all have, I dare say, the heartbreak of parents deprived of their children in such cases know how vital it is that tight codes of practice are in place for those social workers, police, education authorities and medical professionals involved at the sharp end of this difficult and sensitive problem. Recently, I had two fathers in my surgeries who were quite distraught at how they had been handled during the delicate process of investigation that surrounds such cases. I know that social workers would welcome extra resources and help in this sector. It must be a top priority.

National vacancy rates for social workers average 10 per cent., with 14.5 per cent. in London and up to 30 per cent. in some boroughs. The Government have accepted figures produced by Professor Adrian Webb for a local government training board working party that argue that, although there is an output of 4,300 social workers a year, this still leaves a shortfall of around 700 a year. However, that is way below the figure envisaged by the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work, which estimates that, if we are to meet the needs of the statutory, voluntary and private sector, we need at least 5,000 new holders of the diploma in social work. This qualification trains students to develop and demonstrate a defined knowledge base, core skills, professional values and competence to practise as a social worker. It is a two-year course, which was introduced in 1988 following the Government's rejection of proposals, made by the council, for a comprehensive three-year course.

The Government's refusal to accept that three-year course has had major consequences. The British Association of Social Workers, for example, tells me that the United Kingdom is the only EC country where social work training fails to meet the Commission's directive on higher education diplomas and qualifications. That is a scandal which needs addressing. In the absence of a three-year course, it is imperative that the existing qualification is fully resourced, improved where necessary and given the backing required to meet the needs arising from the vast increase in statutory duties that results from the 50 Acts passed since 1970.

The British Association of Social Workers is asking for signs of the Government's commitment to the profession. The Government must take at least three steps to allay its fears. First, they could publish a target figure to make up the shortfall in numbers of social workers and to make an early announcement of that target number of social workers to qualify each year. Secondly, they should commit additional resources to assist in providing adequate practice teaching opportunities. Thirdly, they must support an advertising programme showing social work as a career in the same way as nursing or teaching. By these measures, the Government would show some commitment to higher standards of treatment and care by social workers and training and resources for them.

The reference in the Gracious Speech to improving the quality of health and social security would be laughable if it were not such a serious commitment. How can the Labour party, or the country at large, take that pledge except with a pinch of salt, when we see how Ministers dodge and weave and alter rules and regulations to avoid paying legitimate claimants their just deserts? I have a case with which to illustrate my point.

My local authority, Tameside, firmly believes that the Minister of State is playing cat and mouse with severely disabled people. Its principal welfare rights officer, Alan Franco, has told me that, on behalf of the council, he was the first to highlight the Government's inconsistencies under the Social Security Act 1986. He successfully represented a 26-year-old Tameside man who is severely handicapped. When he applied for another 150 such cases to be paid in the borough, he was firmly told that DSS officials had instructions to refuse all further claims but to pay any claims that were successfully pursued in local tribunals. In effect, this meant that only severely disabled people with a knowledge of social security law and access to expert advice would be paid the severe disability premium.

The local authority lodged a test case with the Social Security Commission to settle the issue. Unfortunately the cat, in the shape of the Minister with responsibility for severely disabled people, noticed that the mouse, Simon Crompton, a man with Down's syndrome, might succeed in setting a precedent for severely disabled people. Therefore, he chose to amend an obscure proscriptive regulation, the net result of which was to limit the implications of the eventually successful test case to the period April 1988 to October 1989. Nevertheless, arrears of up to £1,955 became due to similar claimants. Once again, the Government cat moved to frustrate the hopes of severely disabled people throughout Britain.

Paragraph 7 of schedule 6 to the Social Security Act 1990 came into force on Friday 13 July, the intention being to bar claimants who approached the Department of Social Security after that date from receiving the arrears due to them. Local DSS offices were instructed, however, to review all the cases known to them before that date and to pay the arrears due. The performance of local offices in carrying out this instruction can be judged from the reply to my parliamentary question by the Minister of State, who is laughingly called the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People, on 15 October.

First, I congratulate the staff of the Mansfield office, who identified and paid 145 claimants. That office was top of the league. Can the Minister account for the 55 local offices that could not find one severely disabled person on their case loads? The generosity of the Wilmslow office should not go unnoticed. It found one eligible claimant, and then paid him or her £3.75. That example alone illustrates how the Government do not look after the disabled. The reference to the disabled in the Gracious Speech must be seen in that light. Whoever we finish up with as Prime Minister in the next few days will make no difference. The disabled will be looking for the entire Government to go, and soon.

8.31 pm
Dr. Ian Twinn (Edmonton)

Having listened to Opposition Members, I am left with a nagging doubt whether they have any positive contribution to make to a debate on education. We have heard nothing but a diatribe of baseless criticism. It seems that they have nothing positive to offer. The Government's reforms i n the Education Reform Act 1988 have, however, been based upon positive and firm principles. First, they were designed to introduce nationally agreed higher standards in our schools. Secondly, they were designed to give parents freedom of choice for their children and teachers freedom of choice professionally to run the sort of schools they want, with parental support.

I hope that our reforms will not be about prescribing too much from the centre—from the Department of Education and Science and from education establishments—how schools should be run, given the broad aims which the Act is designed to achieve.

Nor should our reforms be about the structure of education. Good schools—successful schools that bring out the best from all their pupils, whatever the quality and the education of the pupils going into them—will be found in inner cities in Victorian buildings just as much as in single-class rural schools. They will be found in traditional grammar schools, in comprehensive schools and in secondary modern schools such as the one which I attended. Regardless of the structure and the name of the school, much will depend on the quality of leadership from the head, the governing body and the staff, and on support from parents. Our reforms are aimed at allowing that to happen in our schools.

Freedom in schools has been enhanced by local management. I was distressed to hear this evening that Opposition Members want to end, to control or to rein in all local management and to claw back funds to the centre again, to allow bureaucrats in our city halls and county halls to take more money away from the teaching of pupils, so that more money can be spent on advisers and the friends of the education establishment, who offer so little that is constructive to help our schools.

It is true that many head teachers and other members of staff are worried about local management of schools. That was true in my constituency. My ear was bent on many occasions when I visited schools. It was felt that those concerned did not have the skills to manage their schools properly. That is not surprising, because for many years head teachers have been denied the opportunity to manage their schools. Our reforms have set them free to do that. In my experience, heads are struggling, but they are on a learning curve. They do not want to return to the time when they did not control their budgets.

Mr. Boateng

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Twinn

No. The hon. Gentleman will have to contain himself.

Head teachers will not want to return to the period when they could not control their budgets, when they had to ask county hall or city hall—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I cannot hear the hon. Member speak.

Dr. Twinn

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is typical of Opposition Members that they should want to stifle a debate when an attempt is made to draw attention to what happened in the past.

When I was the manager of a primary school that came within the Inner London education authority, my colleagues and I had time and time again to go to county hall to ask for a simple repair to a window, for example, to be performed. We had to ask the head to spend all her time trying to get such repairs made. A head can now get a window repaired himself or herself. Heads can save money from their own budgets. They are able to control their budgets so that they can increase investment in their schools by having the staffing that they want.

The Daily Mail has done us a favour today in exposing what has gone wrong in education authorities. It has drawn attention to the ratios of teachers to education staff. The neighbouring authority to Edmonton is Haringey, and it is not surprising that each day refugees troop over the borough boundary from Haringey into Edmonton to get away from the destructive elements in Haringey schools. Parents vote with their feet whenever they can in moving into my constituency. I am proud of that, but I want to see schools in Haringey set free from the local authority and given the freedom to manage themselves.

The problem is not confined to local level; it is to be found also at national level. There is a problem with the education establishment trying to hold on to too much control. I think that it is nervous about losing the grasp that it now has on education policy. I am concerned, however, that the national curriculum is too detailed. It does not leave enough freedom for teachers to develop their professional skills and to use their own experience to teach what they need to teach.

I am concerned that testing is too burdensome. I feel that it goes well over the top of what is necessary for teachers and parents to understand what children are learning in school. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. MacGregor), who was Secretary of State for Education and Science and who is now Leader of the House, on his action in cutting down the testing of seven-year-olds. I hope that the DES will continue to simplify some of the excesses with the implementation of our reforms.

A reform of the A-level system may come in future. I believe that A-level examinations provide a high standard of testing for those who are academically gifted. They provide, as far as possible, a means of testing which is independent of the school in which a pupil has been taught. They are independent of the ability of teachers and of their assessments. It would be a tragedy if we lost the independence of the A-level system.

I was not especially impressed by the arguments that led to the disappearance of 0-level examinations and the introduction of the general certificate of secondary education. After experience with the GCSE system, it is doubtful whether one examination can usefully test all ability ranges. It is fundamentally dishonest of us to try to fudge together systems which pretend to do that. Let us not make the same mistake with A-levels.

Study in depth at A-level standard of two, three or four subjects provides the basis of our higher education system. If we destroy the level of knowledge and development and depth of study at A-level, we are in grave danger of finding ourselves with four-year degree courses. There is nothing to be gained by students remaining in higher education for four years. I spent much of my time as a higher education lecturer engaged in four-year degree courses. A three-year course is perfectly adequate for undergraduate training. I do not think that money is available for us to introduce widespread four-year degree courses. It is a warning not to meddle with a system of 16-plus examinations that works well. Certainly it could be improved, and there is room for course work assessment, although I hope not too much. There is still a place for final examination assessments that, as far as possible, provide a benchmark of ability across the nation.

Sixteen-plus examinations need to be expanded. The A-level examination is not suitable for everyone. There is a strong need for vocational training within schools, not just within colleges. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) arguing for the wider use of BTEC in schools and the introduction of more BTEC training running parallel with the A-level in the sixth form. My authority has a collegiate sixth form system for the borough, under which colleges and schools come together to provide a much wider range of vocational and academic training. It is a useful model for urban areas where that sort of co-operation can work.

The Labour party has not offered the House very much, whereas my hon. Friends have offered positive and constructive ideas on how the reforms can be put into practice, how they are already working to improve choice in our schools, and how they are providing freedom for parents and for teachers. All we have heard from the Opposition is that they want to destroy the remaining grammar schools, end assisted places and scrap the grant-maintained schools and the city technology colleges. Let them explain how that intolerance of choice will enhance education.

8.41 pm
Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

This has been a remarkable parliamentary day and I regret that there is such a sparse number of Members now present. Labour Members have clearly said that whoever becomes head of school, if they had a free vote they would support the present headmistress. There is no doubt that it is in their interest to retain the headmistress.

There was a statement about the abandonment of the duopoly, but one of the duopolies most irritating to Back-Benchers like me is the monopolising of time by Front-Bench spokesmen in their opening and closing speeches. They made more than two-and-a-half hours of speeches when opening today's debate, yet Back-Bench speeches have been curtailed by the 10-minute rule. It is a ridiculous misallocation of time.

Whatever the insularity of this place, it is the English Parliament. There has been a great deal of talk about changes in education, but hardly a word about universities—I think that the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) mentioned them in passing—and hardly a word about education and training. I intend to spend most of my time dealing with further and higher education, with particular regard to Scotland. I make no apology for that. If Scotland gains its independence in Europe, we will make higher and further education a top priority—[ Interruption.] The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) may laugh, and I do not pretend that I would not have been sceptical about that some years ago. But I say to him, "Watch Paisley, my boy, because that will wipe the smirk off your face."—[ Interruption.] The hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) should not mumble from a sedentary position.

Scotland has more young people going into higher education than any other part of the United Kingdom—more than one in five. It is an essential part of that structure that we retain and advance the essential features. First among them is the relative openness of our centres of higher and further education to all classes in society. Some Conservative Members spoke about choice, but that depends very much on the locality in which one is horn. I am one of the few hon. Members who left school at 14. My choice was not to go into further or higher education, but to go into the shipyard. I left school on the Friday and started work on the Monday. It does not make me better than anyone else, but it illustrates the limitation on choice. If choice is to be extended, the opportunities must be expanded by keeping higher and further education as free as possible.

One of the other features of choice in Scotland is the method of attaining the relevant educational qualifications in the post-compulsory school years which has operated in harmony with the general openness. We cannot oppose the setting up of the Howie committee to review the aims and purposes of such qualifications, but it would be a retrograde step to place any additional disincentives in the path of students who wish to attain the appropriate qualifications to go on to higher education.

I am surprised that most English Members drew no comparison with Scotland's qualifications for going into higher education. We are jealous of the Scottish higher. As has been said, it is as certain as anything can be in social science that at least part of Scotland's advantage over England and Wales can be attributed to the fifth-year higher. That is possibly under threat. Any recommendations emanating from Howie must be examined against the need of Scotland to expand access to higher and further education and against the background of a decline in the numbers of the relevant age group coming forward in the immediate future and the possible increasing attractions of going straight into the labour market.

During the past 20 years, Governments of all colours have imposed restrictions on universities, and they have had a severe impact on the ability of our centres of higher learning to retain their place as attractive employers and as leaders in fundamental research—an area in which we are living on the seed corn. I have no intention of speaking for the universities in England and Wales. I should declare an interest as I am a member of the court of Stirling university. Any of the principals and vice-chancellors of Scotland's eight universities would say that they were worried about the status of their institutions as centres of research.

I know that universities are teaching institutions, but research is fundamental, not only for them as institutions of higher learning, but for retaining people of the appropriate calibre that will provide a spin-off to the teaching function. If research disappears, so do other aspects. I accept that an increasing amount is being provided for the research budget, but let us compare it with the £2 billion that is spent on defence research and development. That is under attack, and if it is cut, the effect will be felt in the south-east and the midlands. The shortfall will not be made up by private institutions. They will not fund fundamental research in the universities because they mainly fund applied research. Therefore, the universities will continue to be severely worse off in fundamental research funding.

It is no exaggeration to state that a whole generation of suitable lecturers and researchers have turned their backs on academic life and found employment elsewhere. Industry has proved much more attractive. If anyone doubts that, he should examine the continued decline in the proportion of academic staff under the age of 35 in universities. It is clear that they have failed to attract sufficient numbers of men and women of the appropriate calibre since the Government came to office.

Even with North sea oil and gas, the regeneration of Scotland's industry and commerce will demand more skills and more training. That means that education and training must be a top priority, and Scotland's priorities cannot be set by English standards.

There is no Scottish Minister present, so I hope that what I am about to say on education and training will be passed on. I am concerned that Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the local enterprise companies are employer dominated. If employers of an appropriate calibre are to be involved, they will not be able to devote enough time to running their businesses. That is the quandary. If they devote time to education and training, they will desert their businesses. The danger of such an employer-dominated organisation is that employees will be trained for jobs that are in decline, not the jobs of the future. For example, shipbuilding employees who dominated an LEC might have trained people to be riveters when welding was coming in or shipbuilding was in decline.

I have recently been talking to entrepreneurs, stalwarts in industry, particularly Clydeside. I shall not mention names for fear of embarrassing them. Their training was almost non-existent, but they are real men of character. One told me that he went to night school five nights a week as well as studying at the weekend. He is a man of great repute in shipbuilding. He was trained by an antiquated process, but we in Scotland cannot afford to retain such a process and we will not do so. An independent Scotland would set its own priorities which will meet the challenge of 1992. An independent Scotland within the EC would build on the standards and devotion of the education establishment. We will not be curtailed by the laggardly approach that has been adopted south of the border.

8.51 pm
Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding)

The Labour party has recently targeted education and training for the coming election campaign. It has been wisely said—the adage is one that we all intuitively believe has much good sense in it—that the best and most sincere form of flattery is imitation. Therefore, Conservative Members would be less than human if they did not derive some gratification from the fact that, albeit somewhat belatedly, the Labour party has followed us down a path that we have been taking steadily for a number of years.

When history comes to be written in future centuries, one of the great achievements of this Parliament will be the Education Reform Act 1988, which is quite the most thorough educational reform since Butler's Education Act in 1944. That was some three years before the Labour party apparently woke up to the enormous importance of education. That Act followed many years of internal discussion in the Government and in the Conservative party among interested professional groups and educationists on exactly the detailed form that those reforms should take.

Fully a year before the Labour party woke up to the enormous importance of training, we had introduced the TECs, a completely new, radical and promising structure for managing the country's future training effort and the Government's important continuing contribution to that.

I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench will not spend too much of their valuable time worrying about what the Labour party is saying, because its judgment in these areas has often proved to be wrong. Nevertheless, for what it is worth, we may take some encouragement from the Labour party's attitude in recent months. We should not be so churlish as not to welcome it. We should be extremely glad that it now sees the good sense of devoting effort and energy to these two areas of policy, as we have been doing, certainly since I have been a Member of the House and for a number of years before that.

I take this opportunity to dwell on some of the essential principles of our reforms and the programme to which I have referred. Our education policy had essentially three aims. The first was to improve standards up to, and we hope, beyond the best international levels. Secondly, we thought that the best way to achieve that improvement in standards was to increase parental choice and competition between schools to ensure that schools felt that they were responding to a genuine market place, living up to the expectations of their consumers, the parents. The third great aim that completed the essential structure was to devolve powers from the local education authorities to the schools.

All our reforms—whether strengthening the powers of head teachers and governors; open enrolment and abolition of the previous pernicious system of catchment areas, to which the Labour party has been wedded for a long time; the introduction of the national curriculum and assessment tests at seven, 11 and 14; or the introduction of GCSE—relate directly to one of those three aims, which hang together as an essential and coherent whole. That will, I believe, be the formula for a major secular improvement in Britain's education standards.

I make one point which might serve to underline the importance of the two elements of devolving power to individual schools and opening up schools to parental choice. We sometimes hear from the Opposition that independent schools enjoy an advantage over maintained schools. I do not believe that that is or has been generally true. Nevertheless, we are now enabling schools, where they so wish, to become essentially independent schools, responsible to their own governing bodies and dependent on the continuing support of the parents whose children they continue to attract.

The only essential difference between a grant-maintained school and an independent school will be that, instead of the parents sending a cheque at the beginning of term, the Government will send a cheque. Under that structure, it will be possible for a number of different educational institutions to emerge, all of them holding their heads high—affording priority to different aspects of education, no doubt, but building their own authentic traditions, which will become proud traditions, and setting their own standards. That is, and has always been, the way to nurture educational institutions. That is how our great grammar schools emerged in the late middle ages. I have no doubt that we can look forward to a new era in education—an era holding enormous promise.

I have already said that one of our great reforms in this Parliament has been in training. Conservative Members are the first to acknowledge that the key decisions on training—and, indeed, the key contributions to the costs of training—must come from the private sector. I do not know whether the Opposition believe in the private sector; we receive conflicting signals on the subject. But if they believe in the private sector, and if they believe that it is a fatal mistake to think that bureaucrats can second-guess the decisions of those involved in an enormously disparate market, they should welcome what we have done with the training and enterprise councils.

We should welcome the fact that we are moving away from a bureaucratically driven training system under which the Government are supposed to take the lead not merely in providing but in directing resources. I hope and trust that the Opposition will welcome the establishment of the TECs—a system for focusing the initiatives of local businesses on the training programmes undertaken in their areas. That is an enormously important change.

It is well known, I think—increasingly well known, I hope—that the Government are spending about twice as much public money on training as the Labour Government were spending when they left office. No Conservative Member is likely to fall prey to the illusion that is so prevalent among Opposition Members that simply by spending more one gets more value—that increased input automatically yields proportionately increased output. That is a fatal—and, I fear, a simple-minded—illusion. It is also a very dangerous illusion and one that can be very expensive. We should be the first to acknowledge that it is not enough to increase the training spend. We must ensure that money is spent as effectively, or more effectively, than it has been in the past.

The first stage of that process has been to ensure that employers direct the spending of the Government's contribution to the national training effort. That is being achieved already and I can testify that, in Lincolnshire, the. TECs are taking up their new powers with great enthusiasm.

The second stage in the process is to enable individual trainees increasingly to drive the system—hence the importance of the pilot scheme for training vouchers. It is a pilot scheme and it would be quite wrong to prejudge the results of it, although personally I am confident that those results will be positive and that that, too, will form a permanent part of the training efforts of the future and will give new hope to millions of our young people.

9.3 pm

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)

This is not the first occasion on which I have had to follow the hon. Member for Stamford and Spalding (Mr. Davies). My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) and I are somewhat notorious for our response to the hon. Gentleman's views on the marketplace. The hon. Gentleman has had the pleasure of serving with me on almost every Standing Committee on which I have served. Tonight, he has plumbed new depths in his pursuit of market philosophy: he has turned schools into warehouses and children into commodities.

In the previous two Committees on which we have served, the hon. Gentleman has set great store by the privatisation of electricity and housing. He now seeks to apply market philosophy to education, turning children into commodities and saying that schools should operate according to the rules of the marketplace. He is not merely turning the clock back to Victorian times: as he suggested, he is taking us back to mediaeval times. That says a lot about the Conservative party.

Today has been historic and not only because my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) made a compassionate and telling speech both about our friend, his predecessor who died so young, and about the work that is being done in deprived areas such as Knowsley by Labour local authorities to provide training and educational opportunities for many young people and children. Today is also historic because I believe that, for the first time in parliamentary history, the resignation speech of a Prime Minister was delivered by the deputy Prime Minister.

In this debate, my party has been painting a picture not only of where we are today in terms of Government policy towards training and education, but of where we want to go, as a political party, after the next general election, and of the opportunities that await my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) in that new Government as he takes forward our training proposals.

Labour Members are not new to this subject. We not only have the experience of lifetimes spent in industry, but many of us in the past decade have been running successful training schemes on behalf of local authorities and in partnership with the private sector, the public sector, voluntary organisations and trade unions. Through those partnerships we have brought back new jobs, new opportunities and new skills into areas of dereliction that have been rejected by the Government.

That has been done in partnership with local authorities with resources provided by them at a time when the Government have consistently reduced the resources available for training. Let us look at the Government's sorry record. According to the latest Government expenditure round this year, there will be a cut of £365 million in the training budget. Apparently, the Minister who will reply to the debate is happy and is rejoicing in the fact that his own budget has been cut by £365 million. Next year the cut will be £350 million and in 1993–94 it will be £357 million. We are seeing the "zero option" in the Government's training policy because, by 1994, the Minister's Department will be spending almost nothing on employment training projects for people such as the long-term unemployed and those with special needs.

As I have said, many of us have spent the past decade working in local government and trying to provide training resources in our areas. My own Wigan metropolitan borough and Newcastle are the only two boroughs to have been chosen by the EEC Commission to set up pilot projects for developing training initiatives with the private sector, local authorities and other public bodies. We have built on the experience of that original initiative several years ago by developing new TECs, information technology centres and the new centre that is now being set up under Metro TEC.

Our view of training is quite different from that of the Government. We believe that any training system must first be effective at a local level. There must be strong local participation from industry and commerce; the public and the voluntary sectors; local authorities, including local education authorities; colleges, and women's organisations. It must involve the unemployed, especially those with special needs and the long-term unemployed, which is the very group that the Government are rejecting out of hand, as can be seen from the massive cuts in the already meagre budget. We want to see training at a local level which will identify the needs of the local community, both in terms of business and those people who require training, whether to move into industry, to make a new start in industry or to enter industry direct from education.

We want to promote the principle and philosophy of training. Britain is saddled with an industry—this applies to both large industries and small businesses—in which training is not regarded as a major component of a company's philosophy. We want to promote and identify the benefits of training, not only to the community, but to the company and to its long-term needs in terms of its employees. We want to prioritise training because the Government's policy on training—I am talking not only about cuts in the budget, but about the schemes themselves and the changes made in them, year in, year out—has not only resulted in our being an unskilled nation, but has led to organisations in both the public and private sectors not knowing about the schemes that they can provide from year to year. For that reason we cannot develop a training network nationally, regionally or locally which meets the needs of industry and the community.

We cannot train for the 1990s and the next century by changing the system according to the financial requirements of the Treasury year in and year out. There must be an absolute commitment to the training needs of the nation, especially young people, women returning to industry and special groups within the community. Unless that is recognised and there is a commitment to training over not one year or five years but a decade, the changes that we need to see will not take place and we have a continued piecemeal relationship between training in the community and the needs of industry.

We must take serious measures to help the short-term unemployed. It is the view not only of the Opposition but of the Confederation of British Industry and other bodies independent of the Government that we are heading for a recession deeper than that of the early 1980s. Unless we take measures to help the short-term unemployed, they will quickly become an ever-increasing pool of long-term unemployed. Therefore, we must provide resources at the local level to deal with the short-term unemployed.

We must also consider the interests of people with disabilities. That means providing specific resources to encourage large and small employers in both the public and private sectors to employ disabled people. It is no good simply setting a national norm for the employment by private companies and local authorities of people with physical or mental disabilities unless we provide the financial incentive to allow that to happen. We must include in the training programme incentives for companies to employ disabled people.

We must also widen access to women who wish to return to the workplace. From now until the turn of the century and beyond, there will be a growing need to encourage women back into the work place—not to work on the tills at Asda or Tesco but to do increasingly skilled work. That work should not be part-time but part of a growing spectrum of jobs for women. To do that, we require resources to give women access to training and employment. That means providing resources at local level to examine the provision of child minding. Unless child minding is part and parcel of the local philosophy of training, many women will be locked out of the labour market and prevented from taking advantage of local training schemes.

There is much that needs to be done. We need a national consensus on training. Without a consensus between those employed in industry and employers and unless the needs of young people who want to enter industry are met, all that we shall see is a growing spiral of unemployment and a pool of short-term unskilled labour. That will increasingly enable our overseas competitors to steal our markets.

The position is dire, but an incoming Labour Government will not only tackle the issue but turn it round. That is what the public want. They want to get rid of this Government and have a Government committed to training and education.

9.13 pm
Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East)

If we needed any evidence of the paucity of the Government's arguments in response to our amendment opposing the measures in the Gracious Speech on education and training—I suppose that we should call it education, training and employment—we were given it in the speeches that we heard tonight.

We heard from the hon. Member for Stamford and Spalding (Mr. Davies). He was the ideologue called upon to tell us all about competition, the marketplace and all the doctrinaire attitudes which he contends are part of the Government's philosophy. I am sure that the Ministers on the Front Bench must have been extremely embarrassed by that speech. Clearly, that is not what they want the general public and the world at large to hear. They want the presentation to be more subtle and appealing.

The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) spoke about the terrible militancy of teachers and their organisations. He said that they had adopted unprofessional and unethical tactics. Another hon. Member talked about bureaucrats as those little people in town halls up and down the country who were causing unimaginable problems for our education service. That has been the tenor of the speeches from Tory Members. In a word, it is called scapegoating. That have no answers to the problems.

We have seen through the Government's Education Reform Act 1988. We reject most of the arguments on which they have based their policies. We reject opting out, open enrolment and other measures in the Act as being divisive. The Government have ideological reasons for their policies—to divide and rule. Many of their policies are based on that premise.

Parents, teachers and governors all tell us of the daily problems facing them. I cannot cover the whole education service, but there is no greater problem than that of post-16 education. Even the Government agree that that must be tackled. The whole area is fragmented. I asked the previous Secretary of State for Education and Science to create a royal commission to evaluate all the problems and the missed opportunities that should be grasped in the post-16 education sector.

I make no apologies for being in favour of tertiary education. It comprehensively delivers the great benefits of vocational and academic learning. It assists youngsters over 16 to stay with it. Nevertheless, 50 per cent. of our youngsters decide at 16 to take no further part in higher or further education.

Would it not be possible tonight just for once to hear from a Minister his appreciation of the teachers and lecturers in our schools and colleges who deliver education to our youngsters? Could a Minister couple with that an appreciation of those who have again been attacked tonight who work in our civic centres to provide services to our population? Welfare officers, school psychologists, school staff and those who sort out the grants that must be made to further and higher education institutions give of their time and energy to help create the education system that we all claim we need.

Turning briefly to training, I hope that the Minister does not equate 82 individual training enterprise councils with the provision of a unified, co-ordinated, national, training plan, because that certainly is not the case. I know from my constituency of the contribution that employers are making in that training and enterprise plan and of how they are assisting the Government in their objectives. However, those councils, which have employers placed on them, will have appeal for the well-motivated youngsters who are capable of achieving qualifications.

I ask the Minister what is to happen to the broad swathe of youngsters who are not so highly motivated. I have in mind the 16-year-olds who need to be personally encouraged to undertake further education. Under the Government's plan, they are likely to be left on the sidelines.

You have appointed in Wolverhampton a chairman of the training enterprise council who is chairman also of the health authority. I ask a question that I have asked you before.

Madam Deputy Speaker


Mr. Turner

How can a person who has been appointed to those two major posts contribute sufficient time and energy to them both? When will you say——

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I call the hon. Member to order, to remind him that he should observe the common courtesies when referring to other hon. Members.

Mr. Turner

I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker. I ask the Minister again to examine that situation. In Wolverhampton, one person has responsibility for both the training and enterprise council and the town's health service. It is impossible for one person to do both jobs adequately. If the Minister takes his plans seriously, he should carefully examine the situation to which I have drawn his attention.

9.21 pm
Mr. Tony Blair (Sedgefield)

I have pleasure congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) and the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) on their excellent maiden speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South made, by common consent, a superb contribution. He began by paying a moving tribute to his predecessor, Sean Hughes. As my hon. Friend knows from his conversations with many right hon. and hon. Members, Sean Hughes was very highly regarded by the House, and his loss is felt not only by the Labour party but throughout the country.

I was delighted to support my hon. Friend at one of his press conferences during the by-election, at which he demonstrated his total command of the constituency, when the most taxing question he was asked washow large his majority should be, and he showed his good sense by refusing to answer. In fact, he had an excellent majority, which is a tribute to him. My hon. Friend spoke well on the subject of education, in which he has a distinguished record. He spoke with passion, intelligence, conviction and knowledge of his locality, and we look forward to hearing many more contributions from him.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne united the House by expressing strong sentiments about his predecessor, Ian Gow. We all felt sadness at his loss, and outrage at the manner of his death. The hon. Member for Eastbourne spoke about the needs of his constituents in education and community care, and argued his case well from the point of view of his own locality. The hon. Gentleman also made a distinguished contribution to our debate, and we look forward to many further speeches from him.

There is a consensus in Britain today that the 1990s should be the age of the trained, and that we will succeed or fail by the skills and learning of our people. The debate was about whether the mood of the country is matched by the commitment of the Government. We start from weakness, not strength. Last year, the Confederation of British Industry called for a skills revolution, and in its evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee in May this year, it described as "a considerable challenge" the skills crisis that Britain faces, and warned that the skills gap "may even be widening."

Less than a year ago, the Department of Employment itself published its "Training in Britain" study. That study not only found that one in five employers provided no training, but that two thirds of the carefully taken sample of almost 3,000 people had received no training at any time in their employment., or none within the past three years. Almost half identified training needs that were not met, and 40 per cent. expected to receive no further training for the rest of their adult lives.

That report has been borne out by all other subsequent reports on skill shortages and their extent. In September, the Training Commission, shortly before it was wound up, conducted interviews with some 4,000 establishments employing more than 25 people. Two things stuck out from that report. The first was that almost half those enterprises experienced recruitment problems in 1989—for 40 per cent. it was a severe problem—and that nearly all of them expected their problems to continue. Secondly, the areas in which the skill shortages existed were engineering—mechanical and electrical—vehicle manufacturing and textiles, and, for those enterprises in the public sector, shortages were encountered in the health service.

Those shortages have been confirmed by virtually every subsequent report. The Manpower Employment Agency found just a few weeks ago that 44 per cent. of all employers claimed skill shortages—that figure rose to 100 per cent. in the construction industry. Technicians and engineers are most in demand.

A recent survey of small businesses and their skill shortages showed that one fifth had experienced severe skill shortages and one in 10 said that that was the most important problem they faced. Those shortages were identified in manufacturing, construction and financial services. Chambers of commerce have also recently drawn attention to our skill shortages.

Our analysis of jobcentre vacancies for the latest quarter showed that in 60 key occupations—in science, technology, manufacturing and production processes—jobs took much longer to fill than on average—sometimes several months. In the past few days, another group of independent consultants published a review of engineering skills in Britain. It found a staggering 8 per cent. annual shortfall in engineering graduates. By 2000, the Engineering Council believes that we shall require another 200,000 engineers to cope with advances in technology. That report also showed that, by contrast, in Germany there was already a surplus of engineers. Surely that is what is crucial. The skills gap is not just a tragedy for the individual whose potential is unfulfilled but a crisis for the nation that needs that potential to succeed.

It is not merely the absolute level of training in Britain that should concern us, but the level relative to our main competitors. A few months ago, a report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research compared us with Germany. It showed that we were behind in virtually every category of skills, from metal manufacturing through to kitchen furniture and the training of shop assistants.

In August, Hilary Steedman published a study of workplace qualifications in Britain and France between 1979 and the present day. In 1979, France had similar levels of intermediate vocational qualifications to Britain. Now France has pulled ahead, so that 40 per cent. of its work force have those qualifications compared with 26 per cent. in Britain and 64 per cent. in Germany. As a result of fewer young people staying on at school in Britain, and poor vocational training when they leave school, the number of young people who obtain craft qualifications has remained constant in Britain, but increased by 50 per cent. in France.

Report after report demonstrates the extent of the problem. In October 1990, the Institute of Manpower Studies published a report that showed how many fewer 16-year-olds there were in full-time education in Britain than there were in France, Germany or even Spain. A recent report in relation to Germany showed that it may have as many as 10 million more qualified people than Britain.

What can we see from those reports? We see, first, that we suffer major skill shortages in Britain and, secondly, that they are in the very areas where Britain's balance of payments problem is at its most acute. There could be no more established link than between the failure to invest in training and the failure of our overall economic performance.

There may be signs of change in the attitude of employers. We are pleased that the latest CBI survey shows that employers are not cutting training investment. There may be signs of improvement in the attitude of individuals, showing a greater awareness of the benefits of training. But the question is whether the Government are prepared to make that commitment to training and skills.

Even before the autumn statement, Government programmes were in major difficulties. There were cuts often of 15 to 20 per cent. in youth training programmes, and that happened right across industry. Hon. Members have received representations about national bodies cutting training places and making trainers redundant in youth training. In that sector, there is already a serious crisis.

In recent weeks, the Industrial Society has published a report saying that, four years after the National Council for Vocational Qualifications was set up, 58 per cent. of personnel managers had not heard of the new national vocational qualification system, let alone taking part in it.

As for the industry training bodies, the sectoral bodies vital for Britain's future, a report published by the Department showed that only just over half of them were fully effective in their sectors. Yet the former Secretary of State correctly said, when setting the targets for the upgrading of skills, that all those sectoral bodies should be fully effective by the end of 1992.

The Select Committee on Employment said in its May report in relation to training for the unemployed that nobody even knew the number of employment trainees who got proper qualifications, and that there should be an increase in spending per trainee. So before coming to the autumn statement and considering the response of the Government, we see that Britain has a low level of skills, that it is experiencing major skill shortages, that that is an absolute phenomenon compared with competitor countries, and that, although individuals and employers are showing additional commitment, the Government are already experiencing difficulties with their programmes.

That is the background against which we review the autumn statement. What is the Government's response to the skills crisis? In the coming two years, they will cut training in Britian by £500 million. It is scarcely conceivable to imagine anything less responsible or less in the future interest of the country; £300 million, 10 per cent. of the budget, will be cut in the next year alone. Altogether, from 1987 to 1992, we estimate that £1.6 billion, or one third of the entire budget, will have been cut. Taking account of inflation this year, not even the Department's budget will stand still compared with last year's plans. Even worse, the cuts will be targeted on the long-term unemployed, the most vulnerable in society.

The Secretary of State says that he simply wishes to change the shape of the employment training programme, but the criticism of employment training was that it was not overfunded but underfunded. Employment training was set up not because people did not believe training to be essential for the unemployed but because they thought training was critical to enable them to get back to work.

A recent OECD report called for an increase in the training budget devoted to the long-term unemployed. To replace employment training with a better scheme would be one thing; to cut employment training and put nothing in its place is a cruel betrayal of the most vulnerable in society.

Those cuts will be profoundly damaging to training. Even if they were justified in the programmes, as the Minister said, and we could save resources in existing systems, surely any sensible Government would not use that as an excuse to take that money out of the training budget, but would use it in the training budget to upgrade the skills of people in this country.

Let us think of the uses to which, with a little imagination, we could have put that additional £500 million. We could have had a new initiative to improve the quality of training and the system of national qualifications, and a programme to target women returners and extend child care facilities. We could have revitalised the sectoral training organisations that are not effective at present.

We could have had a proper, in-depth analysis of skill shortages, and a crash programme to deal with them, a system of incentives to upgrade the training of those already in work, an initiative to improve management training, one of the core skills that we so desperately need to improve in this country.

Those are some of the missed opportunities of the autumn statement. The stark hypocrisy of the Government's position is surely shown by the fact that the very advice they tender to industry—"When in a recession, don't cut your training budgets"—is advice that the Government have ignored.

Reading ministerial comments, one might think that our competitors were ahead but that we were catching up. That is a fundamental error. Our competitors are not standing still. Italy is increasing its spending on training this year. Germany has conducted a review of its dual system of apprenticeships to see how it can be made more flexible, major changes are being made with the active consent of unions and employers, and standards are being set even higher than before. The French intend to increase spending on training in the next two years by more than 35 per cent., and are launching new initiatives for people in work and young people.

Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Blair

I am sorry, but I must get on.

We must be the only country in the EC that will be cutting investment in training in the very year before the single European market. In Japan, the face of training is undergoing another transformation. The technology revolution is being replaced by the people revolution, in which the development of the individual at the workplace, of which his or her learning is merely a part, becomes the pivot on which each enterprise turns.

To inculcate that new culture in Britain requires a new approach, a revolution in attitude. We believe that it must have at its heart two principles. First, it will require the active involvement of Government, in partnership with industry. Training and enterprise councils cannot become a means of passing responsibility from Government to industry but should be a means of sharing that responsibility within a national training policy. Secondly, it cannot be achieved by a Government dogmatically wedded to a purely voluntary approach. Tory Ministers will exhort, but not oblige. They are cheerleaders, but not players.

Every year, 100,000 or more young people leave school and go into work without any training. In France or Germany, that would be unthinkable, if not unlawful. What is good enough for France or Germany should be good enough for Britain.

Mr. Butcher


Mr. Blair

Our belief is that training cannot be left to market forces. On the contrary, the failure to train has been a failure of the market, and that failure needs urgent action not complacency.

Less than a year ago, the previous Secretary of State described Britain's skills crisis as a mountain to climb, but such language has gone. Instead, we are told by the new Secretary of State that we face "a golden decade". I confess that when I first heard the Secretary of State say that on the "Today" programme, I thought it was a mere passing eccentricity, a piece of early morning exuberance, but he repeats it every time he speaks.

Presumably a golden decade starts with a golden year, which presumably starts with a golden month. Let us look at the autumn statement this month: falling investment, falling output, rising unemployment and a cut in the Department's budget. What a way to start a golden decade. That sort of hyperbole is the final refuge of a failed Government who have lost the will to tackle our problems and who fall back on denying their existence. A golden decade cannot be begun by a party which, as we saw earlier in the speech by the former deputy Prime Minister, is fundamentally and irrevocably split on the issues of the day. This is no longer just a party of competing personalities; it is a party of warring factions locked into internal conflict, while the interests of the country go unattended.

If it were merely that the Prime Minister was isolated from her party, the solution for the nation would be clear: remove the Prime Minister. But when the Prime Minister is seen as the leader of a wing of a party divided and isolated from the country, then the only solution is to remove that party from government. That is why I say that this Government in all their policies—not only in education and training, but in the health service, rising interest rates, inflation, the balance of payments and rising unemployment—have created no social cohesion and no economic prosperity. They are no longer fit to govern the country. They are out of step abroad and out of touch at home, and the sooner they are out of office the better for the country.

9.40 pm
The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Michael Howard)

I begin by congratulating the hon. Members for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) and for Eastbourne (Mr. Bellotti) on their excellent maiden speeches. All hon. Members will want to associate themselves with the tributes that they paid to their predecessors, Ian Gow and Sean Hughes. We miss them both deeply and they will continue to be missed for as long as there are Members in this place who remember them.

It is always sensible to consider the charges and counter-charges that we hear in debates such as this in context and proper perspective. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science outlined at the start of the debate the great strides forward that we have already made in education and the foundations that we have laid for further radical improvements in the near future. Most speeches in the debate were directed to education, and my right hon. and learned Friend will want to give them careful consideration.

In training policy, too, despite the objections of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), we have made great progress in recent years. We are the only Government in the whole of Europe to guarantee a two-year training place to every young person who needs it. Investment in training by employers has risen to record levels. In recent years, employer contributions to youth training have increased fourfold and the number of employees receiving on-the-job training has risen by 70 per cent. in five years. A higher proportion of our young people have degrees than do those of France, Germany or Japan. We have attained a rate of productive growl h over the past decade which outstrips that of every other major country except Japan, and we have achieved a record number of jobs—2 million more than in 1979.

Of course, none of this means that we can rest on our laurels. We have secured a sharp increase in the proportion of our youngsters who go into further education or training at the age of 16, but we need to do better still. So we shall introduce a world first next April—training vouchers. [Laughter.] Opposition Members laugh, but training vouchers for young school leavers are designed to achieve precisely what we were asked to consider by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Turner). They are designed precisely to enable 16 and 17-year-old school leavers to take advantage of the training opportunities that are available to them. In 11 pilot areas next year, school leavers will each be issued with a voucher that they can use to purchase training of their choice for the career of their choice. Each voucher will have a face value, typically of about £1,000, and the value of some will be considerably more than that. Those vouchers will entitle young people to training at further education colleges or with other training providers, at the workplace during the day or elsewhere during the evening.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford and Spalding (Mr. Davies) appreciated, this voucher initiative will give young people the choice, the buying power and the incentive to train. I hope and expect that the 11 pilot projects will succeed, giving us an opportunity to consider expanding them to other parts of the country.

Mr. Turner

I should not like to be excommunicated from my beloved movement. Will the Secretary of State confirm that I never gave him any reason to believe that I support vouchers? No hon. Member could say that in my speech I said that I supported that part of the Government's policy. I hope that all hon. Members will note that.

Hon. Members


Mr. Howard

I did not accuse the hon. Gentleman of favouring vouchers. He did what his party always does. It identifies the problem but never identifies a solution. The hon. Gentleman waxed eloquent on the problem. We have a solution to that problem and we are implementing it. We shall deal with the important problem that the hon. Gentleman was entirely right to identify.

The amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition speaks of choice and opportunity. We are creating choice and opportunity of a kind and to an extent that young people in this country have never had before. The vouchers will be issued by training and enterprise councils. Right across the country, more than 1,200 top business leaders, all of them chairmen or chief executives of their own companies, have come together to form training and enterprise councils. Those TECs represent an unprecedented degree of co-operation between Government and employers who are dedicated to the cause of transforming attitudes towards training and enterprise in their areas.

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-East was right when he said that 82 local training and enterprise councils do not represent a unified approach to training. We think that training should reflect local circumstances and that the way to tackle the problem is to give local training and enterprise councils the discretion that they need to meet circumstances in their own areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Stamford and Spalding was entirely right to emphasise the role of employers in this exercise.

Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that one of the ways that young people will use these welcome vouchers will be for computer training? Does he further agree that the creation of information technology centres is one of those excellent training initiatives that the Labour party is determined to abolish?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend is right. The quality of training is steadily increasing and, as employer contributions to it steadily increase, the quality will improve even more.

All 82 training and enterprise councils in England and Wales have now entered at least the development phase, completing the national network a full two years ahead of schedule. Half of them are now fully operational. I pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), who is in his place. This was his initiative, and we owe him a great deal for the striking progress that has been made.

Training and enterprise councils will ensure that decisions about training policy are taken in the most responsive and effective way, because they will be taken at local level by employers who know the jobs that are available, those that will become available and the sort of skills that are needed to fill them. They are bringing into this sector the enthusiasm, the dynamism and the efficiency of the private sector. They will ensure that employer commitment to training continues to increase, that the training provided for young people and the unemployed leads directly into jobs, and that small and growing businesses receive the local support and advice they need as they get off the ground.

The hon. Members for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and for Sedgefield referred to the CBI's target. Both of them were sadly out of date. Last month, the CBI published its consultative proposals on targets. It expressed the hope that the Government would welcome this initiative. Within days, I had issued my strategic guidance for the—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Will those hon. Members having private conversations please take them elsewhere?

Mr. Howard

In that guidance, I welcomed the CBI's initiative. I did what it suggested would be appropriate and I defined the responsibilities of all those who have a role in this sector—Government, employers, the TECs, and training providers.

The hon. Member for Sedgefield waxed indignant about the autumn statement. Let me put the record straight. Next year, the Government will be spending broadly as much on training, enterprise and vocational education as we are spending this year; two and a half times as much, in real terms, on training as the last Labour Government and a considerably higher proportion of GDP on Government investment than the United States, Germany or Japan.

Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Howard

The hon. Member for Sedgefield did not give way once, I have given way twice, and I must get on.

We shall be increasing planned spending on youth training and the technical and vocational education initiative, and providing £18 million more for the areas piloting training vouchers for young people.

We have secured major increases in the financial flexibilities available to training and enterprise councils, reflecting the major priority of the TECs themselves, and ensuring that they will be able to secure significant increases in value for money for the taxpayer.

They will, for example, be paid by results—by the number of people they train who get jobs or qualifications—for at least 25 per cent. of their youth training and employment training work.

There will no longer be any limits on the periods of training in ET or YT, and they will have a single flexible budget for encouraging enterprise in their local area.

We have also significantly increased the responsibilities of the TECs. They will take charge of our £105 million work-related further education programme. They will be able to bid for some additional resources to launch or extend education-business partnerships. TECs will have a powerful influence over the way in which the TVEI develops in our schools. This package reflects and protects the priorities that the training and enterprise councils wanted themselves.

We have also reviewed the provision of our services to the long-term unemployed. Recent detailed surveys show that up to half of the long-term unemployed already have qualifications, often matching those required to fill local vacancies. We have taken into account sharp falls in the level of long-term unemployment by 60 per cent. since 1986 and by 20 per cent. over the last year alone. Against that background, we have given fresh consideration to the ways in which we can best help the unemployed back to work. We are widening the range of services available to them. We are creating 100,000 new job opportunities to help people back into work. We have stressed that we will fully honour our guarantees under youth training and employment training. We have gone further, expanding the aim group to include for the first time unemployed people with disabilities.

The hon. Member for Sedgefield has been very agitated about these changes. So let me ask him this: is he saying that we should never review the ways in which we can best help the unemployed back to work? Is he saying that, if the results of that review show that we can help them more effectively at lower cost, we should not implement it? Is he saying that we should have ignored the clear evidence that training is not always the right means to help the long-term unemployed back into work? Should we encourage people to go on training courses that may not be appropriate for their needs, when other more effective programmes could be offered to help them?

There are clear choices about training policy facing this country, and the Government's view is clear. If the Opposition are to carry any credibility, they must tell the House where they stand. For example, do they believe in a voluntary or a compulsory approach? For 20 years, we had a compulsory approach to training in this country. We had levies, we had training boards—we had all the panoply of coercion. It failed. Does the Labour party want to return to that? Labour Members appear to be incapable of making up their minds on the issue.

Last year, the Opposition's policy review was clear and explicit on these matters. It stated that a Labour Government would introduce a jobs tax of 0.5 per cent. of payroll to be paid "by all enterprises". On 6 February, the Leader of the Opposition made a speech in which he said that the Labour party would listen to the views of business men in making up its mind about the jobs tax. The CBI then made its view of the jobs tax very clear. It said that it would be a nuisance and an irrelevance. On 12 March, the hon. Members for Sedgefield and for Blackburn launched a policy document on training which did not mention the jobs tax. Two weeks later, on 26 March, the commitment returned. When I challenged the hon. Member for Sedgefield on it in the House, he even said that it would be a policy of "sanctions" against employers. Then the Leader of the Opposition made a speech which we were given to understand meant that the commitment to a levy had been dropped.

The Labour party brings to this issue a huge amount of confusion. I hope that the hon. Member for Sedgefield will take every opportunity to explain to the House and the nation exactly where it stands on this issue.

I have already described to the House the initiative that we have taken in setting up training and enterprise councils throughout the country. The hon. Member for Sedgefield has said that he supports the TECs because—I quote his welcome words— there is one great advantage and that is that they have managed to generate an awful lot of enthusiasm among employers". That, the hon. Gentleman says, is "essential".

The essence of the TECs, and the reason whey they have generated such enthusiasm among employers, is that they are employer-led bodies. That is because employers are best placed to identify the training and enterprise needs of their areas. Does the hon. Member for Sedgefield support this approach, or does he support the view which is set out in his policy document that these bodies should be representative? Does he support the view of the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney), who said that these bodies should be representative and that they should be packed with trade unionists, local authority delegates and others, to dilute the leading role of employers?

The hon. Member for Sedgefield cannot have it both ways. Will he commit himself to support TECs as they are now composed or does he intend to change their very nature? Will he tell us today where he stands?

The policy document of the hon. Member for Sedgefield states that TECs are to be the arms of a centralised training organisation called Skills UK, which the Opposition propose to set up. It is the essence of TECs, however, that they should be independent. Does the hon. Gentleman support this approach? Or does he support his party's policy document, in which it is stated that TECs should be the arms of Skills UK? Will he tell us today where he stands? Will he tell us now? I hope that he will disown his policy document. I hope that we can have consensus on this vital issue. These are crucial questions and we are entitled to have them answered.

The Labour party's record on training is a lamentable one. That applies to the record of Labour Governments and to the Labour party's record in opposition. The Opposition have opposed every training initiative that the Government have introduced. They opposed YTS, YT and ET.

A few days ago, I had a constructive encounter with the hon. Member for Blackburn. The hon. Gentleman came to see me because he was concerned about the funding of TVEI in his constituency. He was concerned that his constituents should not be deprived of the benefits of this excellent programme. Happily, I was able to set his fears at rest. But what happened when we introduced TVEI? The Labour party conference passed a resolution condemning it as a divisive new form of educational segregation". The Opposition's shadow education spokesman of the time went throughout the country denouncing it because he said it was fit only for hewers of wood and drawers of water". That shadow spokesman is now the Leader of the Opposition.

The Opposition amendment speaks of choice and opportunity. We have provided an unprecedented range of choice and opportunity. Each choice and each opportunity has been opposed by the Opposition——

Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 225, Noes 337.

Division No. 1] [ 10 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Battle, John
Allen, Graham Beckett, Margaret
Alton, David Beith, A. J.
Anderson, Donald Bell, Stuart
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Bellotti, David
Armstrong, Hilary Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)
Ashton, Joe Benton, Joseph
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Bermingham, Gerald
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Bidwell, Sydney
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Blair, Tony
Barron, Kevin Blunkett, David
Boateng, Paul Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Boyes, Roland Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Bradley, Keith Hoyle, Doug
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Buckley, George J. Illsley, Eric
Caborn, Richard Ingram, Adam
Callaghan, Jim Janner, Greville
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Johnston, Sir Russell
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Canavan, Dennis Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Cartwright, John Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Kennedy, Charles
Clay, Bob Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Clelland, David Kirkwood, Archy
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Lambie, David
Cohen, Harry Lamond, James
Coleman, Donald Leadbitter, Ted
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Leighton, Ron
Corbett, Robin Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Corbyn, Jeremy Lewis, Terry
Cousins, Jim Litherland, Robert
Cox, Tom Livingstone, Ken
Crowther, Stan Livsey, Richard
Cryer, Bob Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cummings, John Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Cunliffe, Lawrence Loyden, Eddie
Cunningham, Dr John McAllion, John
Dalyell, Tarn McAvoy, Thomas
Darling, Alistair McCartney, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Macdonald, Calum A.
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) McKelvey, William
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) McLeish, Henry
Dixon, Don Maclennan, Robert
Dobson, Frank McNamara, Kevin
Doran, Frank McWilliam, John
Douglas, Dick Madden, Max
Duffy, A. E. P. Mahon, Mrs Alice
Dunnachie, Jimmy Marek, Dr John
Eadie, Alexander Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Eastham, Ken Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Martlew, Eric
Fatchett, Derek Meale, Alan
Fearn, Ronald Michael, Alun
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Fisher, Mark Moonie, Dr Lewis
Flannery, Martin Morgan, Rhodri
Flynn, Paul Morley, Elliot
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Foster, Derek Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Foulkes, George Mowlam, Marjorie
Fraser, John Mullin, Chris
Fyte, Maria Murphy, Paul
Galloway, George Nellist, Dave
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
George, Bruce O'Brien, William
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John O'Hara, Edward
Gordon, Mildred O'Neill, Martin
Gould, Bryan Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Graham, Thomas Paisley, Rev Ian
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Parry, Robert
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Patchett, Terry
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Pendry, Tom
Grocott, Bruce Pike, Peter L.
Hardy, Peter Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Harman, Ms Harriet Prescott, John
Haynes, Frank Primarolo, Dawn
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Quin, Ms Joyce
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Radice, Giles
Henderson, Doug Randall, Stuart
Hinchliffe, David Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall) Reid, Dr John
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Richardson, Jo
Home Robertson, John Robinson, Geoffrey
Hood, Jimmy Rogers, Allan
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Rooney, Terence
Rowlands, Ted Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Ruddock, Joan Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Salmond, Alex Turner, Dennis
Sedgemore, Brian Vaz, Keith
Sheerman, Barry Wallace, James
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Walley, Joan
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Warded, Gareth (Gower)
Short, Clare Wareing, Robert N.
Skinner, Dennis Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury) Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E) Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam) Wilson, Brian
Snape, Peter Winnick, David
Soley, Clive Wise, Mrs Audrey
Spearing, Nigel Worthington, Tony
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David Wray, Jimmy
Steinberg, Gerry Young, David (Bolton SE)
Stott, Roger
Strang, Gavin Tellers for the Ayes:
Straw, Jack Mrs. Llin Golding and Mr. Allen McKay.
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Adley, Robert Cash, William
Aitken, Jonathan Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Alexander, Richard Chope, Christopher
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Churchill, Mr
Allason, Rupert Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Amess, David Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Amos, Alan Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Arbuthnot, James Colvin, Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Conway, Derek
Arnold, Sir Thomas Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Ashby, David Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Aspinwall, Jack Cope, Rt Hon John
Atkins, Robert Cormack, Patrick
Atkinson, David Couchman, James
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Cran, James
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Critchley, Julian
Baldry, Tony Currie, Mrs Edwina
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Curry, David
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Beggs, Roy Davis, David (Boothferry)
Bellingham, Henry Day, Stephen
Bendall, Vivian Devlin, Tim
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Dickens, Geoffrey
Benyon, W. Dicks, Terry
Bevan, David Gilroy Dorrell, Stephen
Biffen, Rt Hon John Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Blackburn, Dr John G. Dover, Den
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Durant, Tony
Body, Sir Richard Dykes, Hugh
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Eggar, Tim
Boscawen, Hon Robert Emery, Sir Peter
Boswell, Tim Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Bottomley, Peter Evennett, David
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Fallon, Michael
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Favell, Tony
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bowis, John Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Fishburn, Dudley
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Fookes, Dame Janet
Brazier, Julian Forman, Nigel
Bright, Graham Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Forth, Eric
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Fox, Sir Marcus
Budgen, Nicholas Franks, Cecil
Burns, Simon Freeman, Roger
Burt, Alistair French, Douglas
Butcher, John Fry, Peter
Butler, Chris Gale, Roger
Butterfill, John Gardiner, George
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Gill, Christopher
Carrington, Matthew Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Carttiss, Michael Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Goodhart, Sir Philip McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Goodlad, Alastair Madel, David
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Major, Rt Hon John
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Malins, Humfrey
Gorst, John Mans, Keith
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Maples, John
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Marland, Paul
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Marlow, Tony
Gregory, Conal Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Grist, Ian Mates, Michael
Ground, Patrick Maude, Hon Francis
Grylls, Michael Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Hague, William Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Mellor, Rt Hon David
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hampson, Dr Keith Miller, Sir Hal
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Mills, lain
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Miscampbell, Norman
Harris, David Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Haselhurst, Alan Mitchell, Sir David
Hawkins, Christopher Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Hayes, Jerry Monro, Sir Hector
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hayward, Robert Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Morrison, Sir Charles
Heathcoat-Amory, David Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Moss, Malcolm
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Moynihan, Hon Colin
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Mudd, David
Hill, James Needham, Richard
Hind, Kenneth Nelson, Anthony
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Neubert, Michael
Holt, Richard Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hordern, Sir Peter Nicholls, Patrick
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Norris, Steve
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Oppenheim, Phillip
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Page, Richard
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Paice, James
Hunter, Andrew Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Patnick, Irvine
Irvine, Michael Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
Irving, Sir Charles Patten, Rt Hon John
Jack, Michael Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Jackson, Robert Pawsey, James
Janman, Tim Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Jessel, Toby Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Porter, David (Waveney)
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Portillo, Michael
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Powell, William (Corby)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Price, Sir David
Key, Robert Raffan, Keith
Kilfedder, James Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Redwood, John
Kirkhope, Timothy Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Knapman, Roger Rhodes James, Robert
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, Sir Wyn (Conwy)
Lang, Ian Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Latham, Michael Rossi, Sir Hugh
Lawrence, Ivan Rost, Peter
Lee, John (Pendle) Rowe, Andrew
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Ryder, Richard
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Sackville, Hon Tom
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Sayeed, Jonathan
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
McCrindle, Robert Shaw, David (Dover)
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Shelton, Sir William
McLoughlin, Patrick Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Tracey, Richard
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Tredinnick, David
Shersby, Michael Trippier, David
Skeet, Sir Trevor Trotter, Neville
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Twinn, Dr Ian
Soames, Hon Nicholas Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Speed, Keith Viggers, Peter
Speller, Tony Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Walden, George
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Walker, Bill (T"side North)
Squire, Robin Walker, Rt Hon P. (W"cester)
Stanbrook, Ivor Waller, Gary
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Walters, Sir Dennis
Steen, Anthony Ward, John
Stern, Michael Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Stevens, Lewis Warren, Kenneth
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Watts, John
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Wells, Bowen
Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N) Wheeler, Sir John
Stokes, Sir John Whitney, Ray
Sumberg, David Widdecombe, Ann
Summerson, Hugo Wiggin, Jerry
Tapsell, Sir Peter Wilkinson, John
Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford) Wilshire, David
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Winterton, Nicholas
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Wolfson, Mark
Temple-Morris, Peter Wood, Timothy
Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley) Yeo, Tim
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Younger, Rt Hon George
Thornton, Malcolm
Thurnham, Peter Tellers for the Noes:
Townend, John (Bridlington) Sir George Young and Mr. David Lightbown.
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.