HC Deb 19 November 1991 vol 199 cc143-244

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Speaker

I should inform the House that I have not selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing).

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I drew your attention to a series of questions which I tabled for written answer but which the Ministry of Defence refused to answer. You will have seen in earlier exchanges today, in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), that the Minister again refused to answer. As I understand it, there was a convention in the Ministry of Defence that certain questions tabled by hon. Members were not answered.

However, in recent months the Ministry appears to have started the practice of authorising information to be supplied to the press which covers exactly the same ground as the questions tabled. Surely you have always deprecated the possibility that Ministers agree to brief the press but not to give the same information to the House. Will you consider the series of questions and take action to ensure that, if information is provided to newspapers or to television, it should also be provided to the House?

Mr. Speaker

It is not my function—the House knows this—to monitor answers given to questions. I heard what the hon. Gentleman had to say when I called him to ask a supplementary question today. I can say only that if—if—information is given to the press, it should equally be given to the House.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

No point of order arises. It is not a matter for me.

Mr. Rogers

It is when it is impossible for hon. Members and for members of the Opposition Front Bench to obtain answers from the Ministry of Defence. When we table questions, we often receive a monosyllabic "no" or a refusal to answer, but information is given to the press which is not available to hon. Members.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I have heard this said ever since I have been in the House of Commons.

Mr.Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Well, it does take up a lot of time.

Mr. Dickens

Did you notice this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, that the Leader of the Opposition asked one sensible question? Did you also notice how many Back Benchers managed to put a question to the Prime Minister as a result? Would not that be a wonderful practice for the House?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter of order, but it enables more hon. Members to ask questions.

Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Although we all welcome the release of Terry Waite and Tom Sutherland, will the Government make a statement on why they reached a deal with terrorist groups? I understood that the Government would not enter into any deals, so will the Prime Minister or the appropriate Minister make a statement, because it is important that we hear their views?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter for me; it is a matter for the Government.

Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, which is directly to do with you. All of us in the House are great admirers of Sir Winston Churchill. However, before the names of rooms in the House are changed—such as the Harcourt Room being renamed the Churchill Room—is it not right that, as when Ernest Bevin's bust was put in a place to which the whole House agreed, before names are changed willy-nilly to suit some people, the House is asked its opinion? Otherwise any self-appointed or unrepresentative person can change what they like. The House belongs to its Members, and its Members should be consulted.

Mr. Speaker

As I understand it, it was done on the advice of the Services Committee which no longer exists. The hon. Gentleman should raise the matter with the new Finance and Services Committee. I do not know whether the change has taken place, so no doubt it will listen to his views.

I think that we should get on with the debate. I have already said that I have not been able to select the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing).

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

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

The Bill gives effect to the main provisions of the parents charter, which we launched a month or two ago. It represents a further massive step in the direction of giving parents more power and influence over the education of their own children. It will also enable parents to exercise a more effective and a more real choice of school for their children.

Two key points of policy are encompassed by the Bill. The first is to provide for performance tables to be published for every school; the second is to make provision for the regular inspection of every state school, with clear and straightforward reporting of the results of the inspections being made available to the parents of the children who attend each school.

The overall effect of the Bill will be to give the general public and especially parents far more information than we have been able to contemplate before about the performance of our education system. We are opening up a world that has been closed to the general public for far too long. Once the Bill has come into effect, people will begin to ask why they were never previously able to receive the kind of information about their children's schools which we will now put into people's hands.

The provisions are a direct response to the general public's concern about the standards of education. The Government share that concern to the full, and that is what all our education reforms are about. We want to improve the standards of education and training for our young people to the levels that the country will require of future generations. The parents charter provisions in the Bill are a key part of that whole effort.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

If the Secretary of State is serious in saying that the proposals are a key part of the Government's educational effort in relation to the United Kingdom, why have primary schools in Scotland been excluded from the legislation?

Mr. Clarke

The Scottish education system has always varied to some extent from the English system, and matters in Scotland are the concern of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Scottish Office selects the aspects of our policy which seem suitable for Scotland.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)


Mr. Clarke

I will press on. What I am about to say gives an idea of the differences of Scottish attitude and of Scottish provisions.

We are just getting the first provisional results of the tests for seven-year-olds, which were carried out in a more widespread way in England than they were in Scotland.

The first of the provisional results, referred to in the various documents whose contents have been discussed in the public press, are now appearing, and more information will be forthcoming. As we discover from those tests the standards of mathematical and reading ability demonstrated by our seven-year-olds, we can have some cause for satisfaction, because a good proportion of children are shown to have been making very good progress.

However, there have already been some expressions of concern about the disappointingly high proportion of children, both in England and Wales, who at that stage were making very little progress with reading in particular. That information is only the tip of the iceberg—more and more will emerge as the Government's reforms come into effect—but it reveals the purpose of our reforms.

The information itself reveals legitimate cause for public concern, and an aspect of children's performance in school that parents are most anxious we should address. That is why we are acquiring the information, and the information reveals exactly why we are embarking on a vigorous process of school reform. The information and evidence of public concern justify, among other things, the considerable effort that I know we are demanding of schools and teachers.

Looking at those provisional results, I cannot help but remember that, only a few months ago, some people, including some hon. Members, were totally against the whole idea of testing seven-year-old children in schools. A campaign run by the teachers union in Scotland achieved considerable success, and fewer seven-year-olds were tested in Scotland than in England. I assume, therefore, that the Scottish public remain shrouded in ignorance to a much greater degree than the English public when it comes to the exact performance of their schools.

There were people in England, too, who claimed that the tests would not tell us anything that we did not already know. The early reaction to the information that is emerging shows that the public did not know exactly what the situation was. Although, personally, I think that the general public felt a certain disquiet and felt a need to know more about the standards being achieved by seven-year-olds in our schools, there were those in the educational world who were more anxious not to test, or to remain silent about the results.

Mr. Salmond

The Secretary of State cannot have it both ways. He cannot refuse to answer a perfectly legitimate question about Scottish education on the grounds that it is a matter for his Scottish colleagues, while at the same time introducing a Bill, which quite disgracefully shoehorns Scottish education into what is basically English and Welsh legislation. Will he reflect, even at this late stage, on the wisdom of referring the single clause relevant to Scotland to a Special Standing Committee of Scottish Members so that it can be properly discussed?

Mr. Clarke

The Bill follows the perfectly ordinary practice of containing United Kingdom legislation, which, for the most part, will apply to all parts of the United Kingdom and also containing a clause that makes express provision for the information that is given in Scotland. That can be addressed as a Scottish issue in Committee in the ordinary way, and I see nothing in the Bill that is remotely out of the ordinary. The generality of the Bill applies to Scotland. The Government are pursuing the same policy north and south of the border but, quite properly, we are taking account of some differences in provision in Scotland, with the result that one clause applies exclusively to Scotland.

Mr. McAllion

The Secretary of State does not seem to understand the terms of his own Bill, which for the most part does not apply to Scotland. The only part of the Bill that applies to Scotland is clause 17. Why cannot the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way to the reasonable request of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) that the clause be dealt with separately by Scottish Members, because it affects only Scottish Members, and because no other part of the Bill affects Scottish Members?

Mr. Clarke

The policy of giving information about schools applies in its various ways to different parts of the United Kingdom. There is a clause that gives expression to that in Scotland in a way that matches the provisions of Scottish law and Scottish requirements. It is absurd for Scottish Members to say that they want a separate Committee to discuss one clause of the Bill. I am sure that most Scottish people wish their interests to be represented in debates on the education policy embodied in the Bill, and I am sure that their interests can be represented adequately in that way.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

May I move my right hon. and learned Friend off the local and nationalist difficulty referred to by Scottish Opposition Members? Will my right hon. and learned Friend comment on the broader point of the premature judgment of the teachers' unions and the Labour party about the tests for seven-year-olds? Surely that proves that we must beware of premature judgments. The Labour party has also jumped to premature conclusions about grant-maintained schools, city technology colleges and assisted places and it has condemned them. The Conservative party lends itself to more mature conclusions, to the benefit of the youngsters of this country.

Mr. Clarke

My hon. Friend's intervention is relevant. The consistent theme of Labour's approach to education is that it is opposed to innovation. It is essentially a conservative party with regard to public services. If we had had a Labour Government for the past 10 years, nothing would have changed in our education system. It would have remained entirely a matter for local authorities, acting heavily under the influence of the professional trade unions. Labour would not have introduced any of the innovations that we have been and are considering, including seven-year-old tests.

I have conceded that the first year's seven-year-old tests were imperfect in their details, and I have invited the School Examinations and Assessment Council to come back— as it has—with a much improved version of the tests for next year, which will be more manageable in the classroom and give us more detailed results about the precise level of attainment, particularly in reading, that pupils have reached.

The seven-year-old tests already carried out in England have produced most effective reporting to parents about how well their children are proceeding and have provided much more information for the teachers about how their pupils are proceeding vis-a-vis the national norm. We are beginning to get widespread national information about how our schools are performing, and we will get it county by county.

I have described what have been produced so far as provisional figures. I have made it clear that this year I intend to publish the results of the first year of seven-year-old tests local authority by local authority. I will not in the first instance publish them school by school, because we gave an undertaking that we would not do that in the trial year of the first nationwide seven-year-old tests. However, I see no reason why we should not now give proper figures on a local authority basis.

I was surprised and startled to discover, when I first intended to produce that information, that only 22 local education authorities could give me full information about the seven-year-old test results. That speaks volumes about local authority control of education in this country, particularly many Labour local authorities, which simply are not used to measuring the performance of their schools, let alone producing the results. We wait to discover how many of them will be able to produce the results, how many are bothered to collate the information for their own purposes and how many are capable of transmitting it to me.

I believe that the public are entitled to know the breakdown of the results local authority by local authority. As I have said, this first year's information, which has aroused a lot of legitimate public interest, is only the beginning of what we will produce by way of full information for the general public and parents about how well each part of the system is performing.

Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

My county council has collated information, and it has surveyed all the teachers involved in the seven-year-old tests. This is not a political matter. The county council discovered that the vast majority of the teachers disputed the value of the tests because of the impact of the rising sixes and the wide range and disparity of ages, and also because the tests distracted them for so long from classroom teaching, at the expense of the majority of the children they were supposed to be teaching. The conclusion only confirmed what was known about the children. The value of the exercise was completely undermined by the disruption that the tests brought about.

Mr. Clarke

I concede that the hon. Gentleman's second point has some validity, but it is exaggerated. I accept that the first-year tests undoubtedly took far too much time in many classrooms, and that they sometimes held back the proper teaching of classes. It is for that reason that I asked the chairman of SEAC to review the nature of the tests and to make some changes at SEAC. Practising teachers have been appointed to SEAC. For next year, we have devised a more straightforward system of testing, which will take up less time in the classroom and be more manageable but still produce worthwhile results. There will be better results, because more information will be given by more straightforward testing of such matters as reading ability.

I dispute what the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) said about the test not telling teachers anything that they did not already know. Many teachers assert that, but the evidence of Her Majesty's inspectorate and others clearly contradicts it. The teachers' assessment and the result of the test differed in about a third of cases. As I have said, the public information that is being revealed is new, is of value, is something which the public should have had before, and will help teachers to address the standards that they are achieving in their schools.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Clarke

I shall give way in a moment. I must make progress.

The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe takes me back to the point that I was making. I am astonished to find that, a few months later, there are still people such as himself plainly arguing, "Let us find reasons for not testing the children and for not producing the results; it is not something that the general public should know"—opposing the general principles in the Bill.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

On information, is my right hon. and learned Friend willing to comment on reports that the Richmond upon Thames borough council has advised the governing bodies of local schools that they may not legally distribute copies of the parents charter to parents? Is that not absolute nonsense? Is it not monstrous to seek to deprive parents of their right to information on the education of their children?

Mr. Andy Stewart (Sherwood)

indicated assent

Mr. Clarke

My hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) is nodding his head. In our county of Nottinghamshire, the same practice as that in Richmond has been followed. Advice has been given that schools should not distribute the parents charter. I stress that it is only advice. The county councils and borough councils concerned are not entitled to forbid the distribution of that material, which is being distributed only in the way in which successive Governments have distributed material to parents.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel): the behaviour of Richmond upon Thames borough council and that of Nottinghamshire county council shows what Liberal and Labour councils all too frequently believe about exposing their activities and their performance to the general public. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) plainly agrees that councils should be encouraged to take the view that parents should not be allowed to know the results achieved at their schools, and that they should not be allowed more information about how their children are performing. The parents charter is a threat to the closed bureaucratic world in which the Liberal and Labour parties all too often like to cloak the education authorities that they control.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Clarke

The hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) has been trying to intervene for a long time. I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman and then proceed, if I may, for some time before giving way again.

Dame Peggy Fenner (Medway)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I will take the point of order after we have dealt with this matter.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

My point is important. A substantial number of senior figures in Conservative education authorities are not enthusiastic about Government policy. However, does the Secretary of State accept that, although he may be concerned about reading standards in our primary schools, reading standards in primary schools in England today are higher than they were 40 or 50 years ago? Will he therefore make it clear that, if he is to make comments before he has given the matter serious consideration, he will not disregard that important point? The Under-Secretary of State appeared to disagree with me, but I did considerable research on the subject in the 1960s.

Mr. Speaker

I will take the point of order now.

Dame Peggy Fenner

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it either proper or in the traditions of the House for a so-called Opposition Front Bench spokesman to make this gesture with his hand while the Secretary of State is speaking?

Mr. Speaker

I did not see that particular piece of body language, but body language is not unknown in this Chamber.

Mr. Clarke

I was touching on the part of the Bill which deals with the production of performance tables which will include, among other things, the results of national curriculum tests, as we steadily develop the national curriculum and the testing system. It is obvious that the production of such information arouses a great deal of controversy and body language among a large part of the Opposition. The hon. Member for Wentworth is right to say that a few senior Conservative councillors are unhappy about it, too. I regret that. On the whole, the attitude of Conservative councillors is more restrained in places such as Richmond, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and many other councils that are controlled by our political opponents.

I make no apology for the fact that performance tables will produce for the general public information about the performance of schools which local authorities were previously deeply reluctant to let out. I invite the House to give a Second Reading to a Bill that will make it legally obligatory to produce information that is useful to the public and parents.

The hon. Member for Wentworth made a second point, about standards of reading. I accept that he has expertise in the matter. He is a former teacher and has always followed education matters. He claims that reading standards are no worse now than 40 years ago. I often follow such debates. As there was a tradition 40 years ago of not providing generally available or comparable national information, it is difficult to come to firm conclusions.

I notice that, every time Her Majesty's inspectorate produces a report about reading standards today, and every time that there is an inquiry into a school, there is widespread public anxiety about reading standards, and a widespread desire to improve them. That is the key point.

We cannot tolerate people leaving our schools illiterate or innumerate in any significant numbers. I do not understand how we are supposed to tackle that if no one will allow us to test children's progress at key stages or if, when we do, there is resistance from local authority bureaucracy or the National Union of Teachers to allowing anyone to know the results of that testing. We are engaged on a key part of the task that faces us all now. That task is to bring levels of literacy and numeracy and, among older children, academic attainment and vocational training up to the level which today's society requires.

Mrs. Rosie Barnes (Greenwich)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Malcolm Thornton (Crosby)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Clarke

I apologise but, having given way at least half a dozen times in five minutes, I said that I would make a little more progress before I gave way again.

Mr. Thornton

On that point, Sir.

Mr. Clarke

I am sure that I shall not be allowed to get off the point entirely for some time.

I cited the seven-year-old tests as the tip of the iceberg. Of course, we shall have the results of national curriculum tests at the ages of seven, 11 and 14. GCSE results are already available to those who get hold of a school's prospectus. Other public examination results, including A-level results, are usually available if one takes the trouble to obtain the prospectus of the school. Equally key information includes truancy figures, staying-on rates for secondary schools and the destination of pupils when they leave schools. Each part of that set of information is essential if we are to know how our system is performing and to give people any effective influence on schools.

Mr. Thornton

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Clarke

By popular request, I give way to the Chairman of the Select Committee.

Mr. Thornton

Few Members of Parliament, certainly on this side of the House, would dispute the need to give the maximum amount of information to parents by publishing results. However, there are some elements of disquiet, particularly in respect of pupils with special educational needs. This is a point for Committee, but I would like my right hon. Friend to consider it. There can be huge variations in the numbers, even using the Warnock figures. I should like that point to be given some consideration in Committee, to ensure that it is reflected somewhere in a coherent form in the publication of any results from individual schools.

Mr. Clarke

We can certainly tackle that in Committee; my hon. Friend has mentioned the first of many important points. One has to make sensible use of the results and to ask sensible questions about what lies behind them. As I understand it, that is the Opposition's argument. However, if one publishes in tabular form each and every qualification that someone might believe is a necessary addition to the outline results, one is in danger of making all the information completely unmanageable and shrouding it in secrecy simply by making it excessive. I shall return to that subject and to the question of special educational needs.

A few months ago, in the parents charter, we announced that we were going to publish all that information. For years it had been kept secret, and the idea of league tables had been rejected countless times. Almost overnight, we appear to have achieved a widespread public conversion from the Opposition. Although Opposition Back Benchers from Scunthorpe and elsewhere may still be opposed to the whole idea, by and large those on the Opposition Front Bench already lack the nerve to oppose the production of performance tables for schools. The Opposition are criticising them on the basis that all we are proposing is the publication of so called raw data. They have said that there is not enough supporting information to make our proposed tables suitably useful.

We are proposing to publish straightforward, factual, easily obtainable data about each school. I do not accept the view that it will be misused or misunderstood by the public. I do not accept the patronising view that the public and parents do not realise that each school may use perfectly sensible arguments to give the background to its results.

Most members of the public can use straightforward information intelligently. Every time I listen to the comment that the tables will not sufficiently take into account the number of pupils with special educational needs or the different background and circumstances of the population served by a school, I think that the people who make such comments are demonstrating that they are not capable of making intelligent use of that sort of information.

Every member of the public knows that schools' circumstances vary. Once the essential information is published, it is open to everybody concerned to make use of it and to publish it in a local newspaper if they so wish, coupled with sensible comments about the number of pupils, the differences between schools with or without academic selection and the social and economic circumstances of each school. All those matters might properly be regarded as relevant.

Those qualifications are not arguments for not producing the information in the first place. It would be a terrible mistake to allow the inclusion of so many special points of that sort that the league tables would be covered in footnotes or would be a sustained academic thesis, so that very few members of the general public would have the time to read them and digest the information.

Let us trust parents and the public. Most of them can make intelligent use of the straightforward information that they are entitled to.

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)

Does the Secretary of State understand that the crude view that he is adopting is wholly inconsistent with that of his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker)? When we discussed the matter in Standing Committee in January 1988, he said that schools' results should be published in the context of a report about the work of the school as a whole, including a description of its circumstances and catchment area, and a general statement about the broad effect of socio-economic factors on performance. Far from patronising parents, that Secretary of State went on to say: That will allow for an informed interpretation of assessment results."—[Official Report, Standing Committee J, 12 January 1988; c. 425.] Why is the Secretary of State denying that informed interpretation?

Mr. Clarke

A few months ago, the hon. Gentleman was taking the crude view that no information about a school's performance should be vouchsafed to the general public. It is certainly true that a school can set its own examination results in whatever context seems most sensible when a prospectus is issued, including a general description of circumstances.

We are talking about comparative tables. They are an important innovation proposed by the parents charter. I do not understand how one sets out comparative tables when all the figures are surrounded by full descriptions of the circumstances of each school. Every hon. Member knows the schools and colleges in his or her constituency. They know, just as their constituents will when the information is published, the circumstances of each school. They will make allowances for those matters for which they should properly make allowance. In almost every case, they will be considerably surprised by the comparisons that for the first time will be made in performance in key respects between schools of remarkably similar objectives and background.

Other comments can properly be made, and will be made by sensible local journalists and experts of all kinds. For example, the Audit Commission recently made the valid point that added value—that is Audit Commission language—was a relevant judgment of schools. I accept that.

Mr. Straw

But does the right hon. and learned Gentleman understand it?

Mr. Clarke

I understand it entirely.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

If the Secretary of State can understand it, we can.

Mr. Clarke

There is an interesting conversation going on between new-found enthusiasts on the Opposition Front Bench for giving information to the public.

Let us take this through step by step. With the full information that I have described, one can make valid comparisons between schools. One can see how far children have advanced from where they were when they arrived at where they were when they left. That can be used to compare different schools. One might still have to qualify those judgments with judgments about the social circumstances of the school, whether that school was taking a particularly high proportion of children with special educational needs, and so on. Nevertheless, it would be a perfectly sensible study. That study can be made now. One can compare GCSE results with A-level results to judge the progress made by sixth forms. No other form of value added comparison is possible. Until the parents charter, adequate information was not likely to be available about schools.

I am not saying that there is anything wrong with analysing the tables in that way. I have no doubt that it will be done by intelligent commentators, such as the Audit Commission, and local newspapers. If it is suggested that the Bill should require the publication of such detailed analyses in the first place—before anything can be published—members of the Audit Commission and Members of Parliament may find the document familiar and accessible, but many parents may first of all prefer to see the actual information on performance and tables.

Mr. Straw

Who is patronising now?

Mr. Clarke

We are not patronising. All I am saying is that, once we produce the material, these judgments can be made. The Labour party is coming reluctantly to the conclusion that these data must be made available, so it will come up with as many complicating amendments as possible to ensure that as few members of the public as possible get access to straightforward information.

Mr. Straw

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Clarke

I shall finish my allegations and then give way.

At times Labour Members are guilty of allying themselves with that section of opinion in the educational world that wants to make so many qualifications about results that, in effect, it is trying to prove that there is no such thing as one school being better than another. If one thinks of enough footnotes, qualifications, reasons and explanations, one can demonstrate that there is no difference between one school and another.

The Government's duty is to ensure that straightforward information is published, and that is what the Bill provides. People are entitled to analyse and make use of that information to the best extent they can.

Mr. Straw

Yet again, the Secretary of State has shown that he has not done his homework on this issue or, indeed, on the Opposition's position. Our position during the past month is the same one that we have taken for three years. Again and again, we have argued the need for Ministers and local authorities to concentrate on the value added by schools. If one simply relies on the raw data, and not school effectiveness data, it may show the strength of the pupils at the school, not the strength of the school. It is the Secretary of State who, thank God, is now making a deathbed conversion towards school effectiveness, not us.

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Gentleman has two reactions every time we produce a policy. Usually, he agrees with it rapidly, but sometimes he claims that he thought of it first. However, when one re-reads his previous statements, one finds nothing that resembles the parents charter. If the hon. Gentleman is claiming that, had he been in office, a Labour Government would have taken on the educational world and produced, out of the hands of the local education authorities and the testing system, the information that we will acquire, he is asking us to believe in cloud cuckoo land.

The Labour party has no essential policy on this issue. It would not drive through any of our changes against the interests of the educational world, which is strongly represented in it. Normally, the Opposition tow along until the end and then produce footnote detail to try to distinguish their policy from our own.

As a result of the Bill, a much fuller picture of how our schools are performing will be presented. Some newspapers have already produced data according to what information is available—largely, the A-level results for individual schools. That was interesting, but I did not agree with the way in which some of the newspapers presented those data. However, they were perfectly entitled to analyse the results from what they regarded as the 300 best schools, or as many of those schools as would take part in the project.

I believe that such results are almost the least interesting part of what is eventually produced by a school, not least because the schools on that list do not represent a problem. I do not lie awake at night worrying about the performance of those extremely good schools. Those data related to their performance with high-flying pupils.

When we have the full information as a result of the parents charter and the Bill, the public and the House will discover which state schools offer the worst performance. Wait until we see the recorded truancy rates in some of our more difficult schools. Wait until we see the staying-on rates and how they vary from place to place. We will then discover that we have some problem schools. We will also realise that, until the parents charter, the public were not given any straightforward information about the performance of schools.

A much-repeated criticism about the tables is that, once published, all the parents will want to go to the better schools. Some educationists argue that that is a sinful desire on the part of those parents, which will cause considerable problems for the schools that are not regarded as the better ones. However, that will provide those schools with an incentive to improve their performance.

The argument against the information that will be provided as a result of the Bill and the parents charter is sometimes reduced to one that claims that parents should not be allowed to know such information. Therefore, they will send their children to poorly performing schools without realising that, in key aspects, those schools fall below the level of performance that is attained nationally or in their specific locality.

The performance tables that will be published as a result of the Bill will—I apologise to the House for the jargon—empower parents, particularly from deprived backgrounds, to make more informed choices. They will have real influence over schools, because they will be given the information of which they should never have been deprived for so long.

Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro)

I believe that the Secretary of State will find that the House is united in trying to give parents the information that will make them more informed in their choice of school. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has rightly referred to the work of the Audit Commission on value-added information. As I understand it, the right hon. and learned Gentleman objected to the publication of such information because it takes longer to compile than the other information that he wants to publish and might therefore hold up the publication of that other information. However, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman seek to have that value-added information published when it is available? He may publish other information first, but will he at least commit himself to ensuring that value-added information is made available as quickly as possible?

Mr. Clarke

That can be worked out. We are producing data that will, for the first time, make it possible for those value-added tables to be produced. I do not want all the data that is required statutorily by the Bill to be produced in such a way that, instead of a few columns and a few heads of information, we have countless columns with countless footnotes. That would make it difficult to tackle all the information.

I am not being patronising when I say that I prefer, when seeing tables of figures, to see first the key tables and graphs, if one is using graphs, on which one intends to base one's decisions. That is far preferable to going through pages of analyses without the key items being highlighted. I have conceded that value added is a perfectly reasonable analysis to make of a school. The Bill will enable the data to be published so that those value-added calculations can be made.

I was intrigued to hear the spokesman for the Liberal Democrats otherwise say that there is no difference between the parties about giving information to parents. Will the hon. Gentleman deal with the problem to which my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham was referring with Richmond borough council? It is one thing for Liberals to sit powerless on the Back Benches of this House expressing their belief in virtue. Will they, in those rare cases where they have control of the local bureaucracy, take steps to ensure that it is put into practice?

Mr. Matthew Taylor

The issue which Richmond and other councils are addressing centres on the fact that the Government passed legislation saying that local authority employees should not distribute information that is politically contentious. The parents charter is unusual in that respect, in that it sets out in red type information which has not been agreed by the House, which is politically contentious and which may not be introduced this side of the next general election. The advice circulated to those local authorities is that the information may infringe the Government's legal restrictions—[Interruption.] Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will get his officials to clarify the matter.

Mr. Clarke

I join the chorus of "Weasel words" to that intervention. The method of distributing that information has been used by Government for a considerable time and is well precedented. It is not party political information. It has been vetted for that purpose by the processes we have, it has been cleared as suitable information and it is expressed devoid of political bias.

Indeed, the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) said that it was not politically contentious. Although he gives that as his opinion, where we have a borough council in which his party is in control, fatuous political arguments are raised for this information not to be distributed to parents. That is because what Liberals say in the House frequently does not accord with what they do when they take power. Liberals in Richmond are as bad as socialists in Nottinghamshire in believing that parents should not be given this information about their schools, information which they prefer to control through their influence in the town hall.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)


Mrs. Maureen Hicks (Wolverhampton, North-East)


Mr. Clarke

I am anxious to move to the next part of the Bill, having given way probably a dozen times.

Mr. Fatchett

The Secretary of State has based most of his case on the rights of parents to know information. Will he explain why the report on the future of Her Majesty's inspectorate has not been made available either to parents or the House of Commons? Why did the right hon. and learned Gentleman, this so-called champion of freedom of information, give only one instruction to his civil servants, which was to shred the report?

Mr. Clarke

I am about to come to the next part of the Bill. The review that was carried out was advice from my officials to Ministers. I appreciate that Opposition Members have no ideas of their own, but I do not see why they should have access to advice from my officials to give them some. I have not invented the rule that advice from officials to Ministers is not publicly available. It is time-honoured. If Opposition Members are saying that, should they gain power, they would cause the publication of all written advice given to them by their officials, I shall listen with interest to what would be a novel description of the process of government that they propose to carry out.

The hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) is not rising to his usual standards if that is the best he can do on commenting on the first part of the Bill. It will give parents more information about what matters to them—the performance of their children's schools—than anyone would have contemplated before we published the parents charter.

Mrs. Hicks

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider publishing details of the resources that go to local authorities? We have found in the past that, when they run out of excuses for giving information to parents, they revert to the excuse of inadequate resources. We have found in many areas, including mine, that some of the worst results often come from the highest-spending authorities.

Mr. Clarke

My hon. Friend is right. I am surprised that that demand has not been made by some Opposition Members, because they usually blame all shortcomings in the education service on lack of resources. We are now spending 50 per cent. more per pupil than when we came to power. We are also in a year in which standard spending assessments for councils have gone up by 16 per cent., whereas inflation has just gone down to below 4 per cent.

Therefore, not only are more resources going in, but there is no direct correlation between spending and performance. Some of the highest-spending Labour authorities in the country produce some of the worst results in their schools. The parents charter will help to bring that point out and make it more evident. Clearly, we need to spend more money on our children's education —we do so each year—but, as we continually point out, how it is spent and how effectively it is deployed in schools affect the standards attained in those schools, which is what really matters. The late lamented—or not lamented —ILEA was a classic example of a ludicrously overspending council that produced deplorable results for the pupils in its schools.

The other important provision in the Bill is the inspection proposal, which has the same basic purpose as the performance tables. The Bill will produce a dramatic increase in the number of inspections of schools. For the first time, it will produce open reporting to every parent of the results of the inspection of each school, and direct reporting to parents of the governors' plans, explaining how they intend to build up the strengths and tackle the weaknesses in the school in the light of the inspector's report.

The Bill proposes a system with two levels of school inspection: first, Her Majesty's inspectorate, which will be given more independence of the Government and the Department of Education and Science, as well as a more public voice; secondly, a choice of teams of independent local inspectors who will meet standards set by HMI. That is a huge improvement in public information and quality control of our schools.

In the past, HMI's main role has been to advise the Government on policy, which was the main reason for its inspections. It has tended to produce about 150 public reports a year on individual schools. Indeed, HMI's school-by-school inspection was proceeding at such a slow pace that it would have taken about 200 years before every primary school in the country had had an individual inspection and report. Where HMI produced a report, I have so far found no ordinary, "lay" parent who recalls ever having seen one. Most parents never knew that an HMI report had been produced on their school.

The present system entails local authority inspections and is extremely variable in its effectiveness and coverage. In at least 10 local authorities, it is completely non-existent, because they have no inspection policy. Moreover, local authorities never allow reports on individual schools to be seen by parents. Therefore, the old system, which the Labour party would never have challenged. was seen as inspection by professionals for professionals, with parents left out in the cold.

The Bill sets up a new office of Her Majesty's chief inspector.

Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)

Will the Minister give way?

Mrs. Sylvia Heal (Mid-Staffordshire)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Clarke

No. I shall give way in a moment, but I wish to make some progress.

Most of the Bill deals with the important statutory functions of Her Majesty's chief inspector and the system that that new office will oversee. In contrast to the Bill, the Education Act 1944 devoted only two subsections to inspection of denominational religious education and one subsection to the appointment of Her Majesty's inspector, who had no function other than to inspect schools at the request of the Secretary of State of the day.

Her Majesty's chief inspector will have increased independence, a formal role and the power to publish as he or she wishes. He will not be detached from decision making and will have a statutory role of offering advice to the Secretary of State. He will advise as he thinks fit, as well as when requested.

The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) has been extremely critical of the new inspectorate's authority, independence and role, because he is obsessed by the numbers employed in HMI. In a wholly typical fashion, the union objects to the reduction in numbers that I am proposing. If the union objects, the hon. Member for Blackburn objects; he makes his judgment based on the number of employees.

The numbers of staff that we shall employ in the new office will be those needed to discharge the duties set out in clause 2. The numbers that I have given publicly hitherto are the best estimate that the senior chief inspector and I can make—about 175 at the end of the transitional period. I have given that estimate before, and the hon. Member for Blackburn is reported to have said on the strength of a newspaper article that we both read: the Secretary of State has come close to misleading the House of Commons over the numbers required. I utterly refute that. I repeat what I have always said: 175 is the best estimate that the senior chief inspector and I could make of the number required after the transitional period to carry out the duties that I have described.

Mr. Straw


Mr. Clarke

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is rising to withdraw that allegation, because it was totally groundless and misleading.

Mr. Straw

The comparison that I made in The Independent newspaper was based on what the Secretary of State's own review had recommended as the number required to run the system.

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

How does the hon. Gentleman know?

Mr. Straw

The Minister of State asks me how I know. I know from a statement made by the Secretary of State in response to the Independent article, a copy of which I have here. The Secretary of State said that the review team had concluded that a maximum of 380 to 390 HMI inspectors would he needed. That was based on certain stated assumptions and the review team's recommended package.

The Secretary of State must explain how the assumptions of the review team differ from the assumptions that he now makes. What did the review team say that the Secretary of State disagrees with?

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Gentleman made a totally false comparison before he made the totally false allegation that I had misled the House. He had read the article in The Independent and my response to it. The figures in the article were not those that I have ever given to the House. My figures were the best estimates that the senior chief inspector and I could make of the numbers required to carry out the policy that I have laid before the House. It is most unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman does not have the courtesy or good sense to withdraw an allegation based on his misreading of a newspaper article.

Hon. Members


Mr. Straw

The Secretary of State made the statement once outside the House. Will he now agree that the figure of 380 was that recommended by the review?

Mr. Clarke

Last week, the hon. Gentleman was trying to be a lawyer and attempting to make me read out on the floor of the House a document that he wanted me to table. The hon. Gentleman has no ideas and is desperate for the advice of my officials. He thinks that he can lure me into making a statement that will have him attempting to give a poor man's reading of "Erskine May" and saying that he wants me to lay the document before the House. I shall not do so.

The figure that the hon. Gentleman is quoting from the newspaper article bears no relation to the figures that I used, which constituted the best estimate that the senior chief inspector and I could give of the numbers required to carry out the policy. The hon. Gentleman had no basis for saying that I misled the House, and he has no basis for declining to withdraw his allegation. He should stop fooling about and making the barrack-room lawyer performances that are starting to creep into his approach to the HMI review.

Two key assumptions lie behind the senior chief inspector and myself arriving at the figure of 175. Responsibility for the inspection of further education and sixth form colleges will transfer to the Further Education Funding Council under a Bill now before another place. I suspect that it will involve largely the same personnel, but they will no longer be on the strength of Her Majesty's inspectorate and will work for the funding council responsible for further education and sixth form colleges.

The senior chief inspector and I have made the best estimate we can of the savings that can be made in the complement of Her Majesty's inspectorate based in local offices and engaged in the inspection of schools in liaison with local education authorities. Many of those activities will be displaced by the substantial increase in the evidence available from 6,000 reports each year by inspectors registered with Her Majesty's inspectorate.

Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

I want to be helpful, although I shall not stand as a referee between the two Front Bench teams. When the figure of 175 was given, was that simply the clause 2 figure for England, or was the clause 5 figure for the Welsh inspectorate also included?

Mr. Clarke

They are English figures. The Welsh inspectorate is not my responsibility. The Secretary of State for Wales will form his own estimate with his own chief inspector.

The inspections will be carried out at local level by independent inspectors who will be registered with Her Majesty's Inspectorate, which will withdraw the registration of inspectors who are not up to standard. That means that inspectors will be supervised and monitored by Her Majesty's inspectorate and will not be allowed to carry out inspections unless they are up to standard.

Ms. Gordon

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Clarke

No. I have given way many times, and I should like to proceed.

The independent teams and Her Majesty's inspectorate will contain some people who are not members of the teaching profession. I make no apology for that. Of course the vast majority of inspectors will have professional qualifications in teaching, but inspectors should not be exclusively drawn from that stable. Many perfectly sensible and intelligent people could be trained to make a contribution to inspection. People would value lay judgment alongside the professional judgment of information about the inspection of a school.

I shall now deal with how that proposed system is being challenged. The issue between the Government and the Opposition—if there is an issue on the Bill—is that the hon. Member for Blackburn advocates a policy of patsy, unquestioning inspections of schools by people who are well known to those schools. The hon. Gentleman accuses me of doing that, but it is his mechanism. My understanding of his proposal is that inspections should be carried out only by local government inspectors.

The hon. Gentleman also takes the view that only local government should be allowed to run schools. Therefore, Labour's policy, as I understand it, is that only local councils should be allowed to run schools and that those schools should be inspected only by local government inspectors. I cannot think of a more patsy, unquestioning system better designed to produce the cosy relationship about which the hon. Gentleman so frequently speaks.

Some head teachers—a minority, I am glad to say—ask why their schools cannot be inspected by inspectors they know. There are even those who ask why they cannot be inspected by those who advise them. That would not be a desirable system. Under the registration of inspectors advocated by the Bill, local government inspection will be universally up to the standard which at the moment only the very best attain.

I am not the only one criticising local government inspection. The Secondary Heads Association shares my view of the system that the Labour party seems to defend. The general secretary of the association, Mr. John Sutton, in a letter to the Prime Minister on 23 September, said: That some reform is necessary is not in dispute. Schools are very rarely inspected in depth by HMI and there is a need for a more regular and systematic coverage. LEA inspection has not provided an adequate substitute or back-up for HMI. This is because:

  1. 1. They have not been co-ordinated with HMI.
  2. 2. The practice and provision has varied very widely across the country.
  3. 3. There have been no agreed criteria or standards.
  4. 4. The overall calibre of inspectors has been poor.
  5. 5. The functions of inspection and advice have been mixed.
  6. 6. Inspectors have been able to control elements of expenditure, although LMS will largely stop this.
  7. 7. Their procedures have not been seen as being as open and impartial as those of HMI.
  8. 8. With individual exceptions, they have lacked the qualities which have been judged praiseworthy in HMI."
Labour's reaction to that is that local authority inspection should be made the universal norm, with local authorities inspecting the schools which only they are allowed to run. I cannot think of a recipe for diminution of standards that is more likely to succeed.

The association and others criticise what I describe as independent inspectors, but we can reassure them in the Bill and elsewhere by showing how powerful HMI will be in ensuring that standards are up to the required level. [Interruption.] do not know whether the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong) on the Opposition Front Bench agrees with such systematic inspection, but if she does, the Labour party is instantly converted to such inspection and reports to parents.

There are choices. The choices are either that local—

Mr. Straw

We have already proposed that.

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Gentleman must have proposed it so sotto voce that neither I nor any member of the public has heard his proposal. His method of expressing himself often has its imperfections. Ever since I produced my proposals about three months ago, I have thought that he was opposing them. It is absurd, every time we introduce another element of our policy, for him to leap on to the populist pitch and then, as he no doubt will in a few minutes' time, find some detailed reasons for being opposed to it.

If there is to be local inspection of 6,000 schools a year, there are several choices. The first is to have it done by local government. The second is to increase the establishment of HMI so that it employs thousands of people, but I do not believe that a centralised civil service approach is desirable. The third is the one that we are providing—giving the governors of schools the choice of teams of inspectors, who will be up to the standards required by HMI at the centre.

The most important product of this will be the reports to the parents. They will get from the inspectors straightforward summaries saying what the strengths and weaknesses of each school are. They will then get the governors' action plans, which will be the results of all this.

When I say that parents will receive this information, I must make it clear that it will not be available on application to those parents who realise that they can obtain it. It will be sent unsolicited to all parents, so that there will be a great increase in the information available to them about the school.

Teachers will be praised for their achievements and be given incentives and guidance to improve their performance. We will build up pride in individual schools on the back of the influence of parents in what those schools are doing. The Bill will allow for reports, comparative tables and inspectors' reports. It will increase, as all our policies do, parental influence and parental choice in education on a scale on which we have never previously embarked in state education.

I disregard Labour's attempts to agree with part of this. As I have said before, I do not believe that a Labour Government would have embarked on any of this. They would not have challenged any of the interest groups that wish to maintain the status quo. The Bill will let light into the education world. Given the reaction that we are getting, it is probably not for us to defend our policy—it is more for the Opposition to tell us how darkness, secrecy and the protection of a closed professional world will serve the public good in education.

I commend the Bill to the House.

4.37 pm
Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)

We have listened to the Secretary of State speak for an hour and a minute, and during those 61 minutes never once did he utter a word about the central feature of the Bill—the doctrinaire destruction of Her Majesty's inspectorate of schools and the privatisation of the national and local schools inspectorates.

The Conservative party has no mandate for the Bill, which will undermine standards in schools, demoralise the teaching profession and, through the privatisation of the schools inspectorate, deny parents independent information about the education of their children. It will prevent the taking of prompt action to improve failing schools.

In three successive general election campaigns, the Conservative party has promised higher standards in education. After 12½ years of Tory government, anxiety about standards in schools has never been greater. Britain lags behind its competitors in every measure and is bottom of the league table. For four years running, the Government's teachers' pay committee has reported that teachers' morale has never been lower. Investment in education as a share of national wealth has slumped. Parents are being forced to pay more and more out of their own pockets for their children's education.

What is the Secretary of State's response to the overwhelming lack of public confidence shown in every test of public opinion about the Government's education policy and his stewardship of it? It is not to change the policy or feel some humility about 12 years of failure. Instead, it is to send for the advertising man to produce yet another glossy pamphlet—this time, a parents charter which is allegedly embodied in the Bill.

There is nothing new in the idea of a parents charter. It is a device which Conservative central office has used twice before when it was in a hole with its education policy. The spokesman for the Opposition, the then Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas, had one in 1974. The then Secretary of State, Mr. Mark Carlisle, had another in 1980, but both sank without trace.

The idea of a parents charter is not new; what is new is the brazenness with which the Government play fast and loose, spending taxpayers' money on party political propaganda. While teachers are underpaid, schools are crying out for repair and children for books, Ministers' standard answer is to say, "You can't solve problems by throwing money at them." However, when it comes to the central problem faced by the Secretary of State and his colleagues—that of being re-elected—their only solution is to throw money at it, providing that it is not their money or that of their supporters but taxpayers' money.

Although the share of national wealth invested in education as a whole has gone down, taxpayer spending on publicity by the Department of Education and Science has risen in real terms since 1979 by no less than 28 times. This year's spending of £6.5 million is four and a half times the level of two years ago. The parents charter does not merely inform people of the rights that they already have and which are approved by Parliament, but contains a list of proposals on the privatisation of the inspectorate. They are highly controversial and cannot come into force until after the next election, even if the Bill is passed, and then only in the unlikely event of the Conservatives' being returned. In other words, it is a manifesto; the use of taxpayers' money for such propaganda is an utter disgrace and the Secretary of State knows it.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I had not intended to intervene so early, because I gave way several times and we need to make progress. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the figure he quoted for our publicity budget is largely a combination of our staff recruiting campaigns, coupled with increased publishing and printing costs since 1979? If he is attacking the parents charter for being party political —although in his interventions he appeared to claim that he had thought of it first—does he accept that it does not mention privatisation? If he is claiming that it does, what existing public body is he claiming that we intend to put into the private sector, either in the Bill or in the leaflet to which he objects?

Mr. Straw

The document explains about the Government's proposals.

Mr. Clarke


Mr. Straw

Of course, in terribly careful language because the last word that the Secretary of State wishes to utter is "privatisation". These days, it never falls from his mouth, but even The Daily Telegraph used the word about the proposals. As I shall show, the Secretary of State is privatising the work of Her Majesty's inspectorate and of the local schools inspectorate. As he knows, the leaflet contains weasel words about how the new system of inspection of schools will work. The document is not even an accurate representation of the Bill, so it is not an accurate manifesto of what would happen to schools and to parents' rights if the Tories were to be re-elected. Therefore, the Government can be charged on two accounts—first, of spending money on a manifesto and, secondly, of issuing a manifesto that is wholly inaccurate.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

The hon. Gentleman is talking passionately, but he was in the middle of a denunciation of my spending money on political leaflets advocating privatisation. Where are the political words in the leaflet to which he objects and, in particular, which public body does the leaflet say that we shall privatise or transfer to the private sector?

Mr. Straw

I have dealt with exactly that point. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes. Every newspaper understands that the Secretary of State does not wish to admit that he is privatising the schools inspectorate, which is precisely what he is doing. He knows that, and he also knows that the privatisation of public services—of which he was the architect in the health service—is very unpopular with the public. He does not wish to admit the consequences of his actions.

There is no way in which anyone considering the fantastic increase in expenditure on publicity and on public relations in the past two years can come to any other conclusion than that the Government—as in 1987 and in 1983—are spending taxpayers' money on party political propaganda in a desperate attempt to be re-elected.

We cannot judge exactly what educational standards are today because of the Government's inadequate monitoring of those standards. In each manifesto since 1979, the Government have promised higher standards. In 1979, they said: We shall promote higher standards of achievement in basic skills. The Government's Assessment of Performance Unit will set national standards in reading, writing and arithmetic, monitored by tests worked out with teachers and others and applied locally by education authorities. That was what the Conservatives said in 1979, but they did absolutely nothing to implement that manifesto between 1979–83 or 1983–87. They said that the assessment of performance unit would set national standards and would monitor them. Shall I tell the House what they have done with that unit? In 1989, they abolished it. As a consequence, as the Secretary of State's predecessor told the House on 25 July 1990, no national data about standards of reading at seven currently exist. The Labour Government monitored reading standards. The Conservative Government started to do so, but then abandoned the process.

Educational standards could and should be higher. There is too great a variation in the performance of otherwise similar schools with similar teachers and similar resources serving similar areas and similar children. If standards in each school are to be raised, we need a better flow of information about the performance of schools, improved systems of inspection and better means by which action can swiftly be taken when a school is falling down on its job.

The Secretary of State tried to make great play of the suggestion that we had caught up with him. I wish that he had bothered to prepare properly for the debate and had bothered at least to find out what the Labour party's policy was. At the moment, in order to attack us, he must invent our policy and our record. For the past three years, we have published documents about the need to improve standards of inspection and the monitoring of standards. In June this year, well before his conclusions were announced about the review of the inspectorate, we published a document called "Raising the Standard" on which we had worked and consulted for 18 months.

That document—of which I know the Secretary of State has received a copy—states that, drawing on the experience of the Audit Commission, of which the Secretary of State approved in other respects, we would establish a tough and independent education standards commission which would take over the inspectorial work and staff of Her Majesty's inspectorate, and would lead and co-ordinate the work of local authority inspectors.

We have also read and digested the Audit Commission's report on the variability in the work of local inspectors, and we believe that it is too variable and must be reformed. HMI would be held more at arm's length from Ministers because we believe that its role as impartial monitor of the system is compromised by its other current role as private adviser to the same Ministers. Local authorities would have a clear duty to inspect and monitor schools in their areas and to publish comparative data on the performance of schools.

The Secretary of State drew attention to the curious wording of section 77 of the Education Act 1944, which deals with inspection by local authorities. In spite of the Government's claims to be concerned about inspection, they have not during the past 12 years—despite the opportunities provided by three major education Bills—bothered to try to change the current statutory basis of inspection until now.

Under our plans, local authority inspectors would be constitutionally separate from other local authority functions. Local authorities themselves would be inspected by the education standards commission. The Bill contains no such proposal. Parents and governing bodies would get new rights of complaint to the education standards commission and, in certain circumstances, they could force action by the commission in relation to a local education authority and to a school governing body.

Under our proposals, schools would receive a full inspection at least once every five years, but regular monitoring by a team of properly qualified inspectors working in all schools in an area and under the supervision of the education standards commission would provide a flow of information on a consistent basis to schools, to teachers, to parents, to local authorities, to the Department of Education and Science and to Parliament.

Our proposals were carefully worked out over a three-year period and have been widely welcomed, not least by parents and by governors' associations, and by the Secondary Heads Association, which has excoriated the privatising of the schools inspectorate. In contrast, the near-universal condemnation of the plans of the Secretary of State has been overwhelming.

Under the Bill, the inspectorates at national and local level are to be privatised, but only the heads of the private commercial inspection firms will need to be registered with the rump of Her Majesty's inspectorate which remains. The requirement for training of the rest is lax and cannot be implemented unless the training itself is privatised. The only requirement in the Bill about the qualities needed for inspectors is that at least one in any team should be wholly ignorant of education and of schools. The only qualification laid down in the Bill is no qualification at all.

The system is untried and untested. None of the countries with which our education system is adversely compared—France, Germany, Japan and Korea—has privatised its inspectorate or is even contemplating it.

Mr. Philip Oppenheim (Amber Valley)


Mr. Straw

Japan as well.

The scheme is irresponsible beyond belief. None of the claims of the Secretary of State for the new, privatised inspectorate stands up to examination. He says that the inspectorate will be strengthened and all-powerful; in fact it will be severely weakened. He says that it will be independent of Government. It will not be; it will be a creature of Government. He says that handing over school inspection to commercial inspectors will help to raise standards. In fact, it will make the establishment of any consistent standard of inspecting, with the consequent raising of standards, well nigh impossible.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that of the countries with which he made comparison, Japan and Korea, which he appears to extol, do not have a system of inspection as far as I am aware, so can hardly be described as having the Government type of inspection which he proposes?

I remember the hon. Gentleman's old proposal about the standards commission. Is it not the case that, under his proposals, inspection would be carried out only by employees of the Government or of local government—overwhelmingly by local government, which will manage the schools—and that Her Majesty's inspectorate, far from being made more powerful, would be placed under the control of a quango appointed by the hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Straw

The Secretary of State is wrong on the latter point and wholly misunderstands the former. The education standards commission would be nominated by the Secretary of State, but the nomination would be subject to the endorsement of the all-party Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, and the commission itself would appoint the chief officer. If the Secretary of State is serious about guaranteeing the independence of the senior chief inspector, he should adopt that process rather than his proposal, under which he will, in practice, appoint the senior chief inspector.

The Secretary of State is wrong to suggest that only the local authority inspectors would inspect schools, but he is right to say that the inspectors would be public service employees. We do not believe that the inspection of school systems should be handed over to private companies, any more than we believe that the police, the armed forces or the national health service should be privatised. We believe that some things can be dealt with by the private sector, but that public services and the regulation of public services should be maintained within the public sector. Even this Secretary of State adopted that position in respect of the regulation of other public services for which he has been responsible.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

The hon. Gentleman will recall that, during his time with the Inner London education authority, the authority appointed a number of people from outside teaching to be heads of schools, notably Margaret Miles. Those people did remarkably well. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that it is not feasible to appoint people from outside teaching or people who have not been associated with education to inspect schools, as the Secretary of State proposes?

Mr. Straw

With the inspection of classroom practice and what goes on in schools generally, it is not possible for outside observers who have no educational experience to do the job. I visit at least a school a week. The Secretary of State has managed to visit three primary schools in a year, so he will have picked up something of what I am about to say.

I try to develop as much expertise as I can about what is going on in schools, but I have never taught. It would not be sensible to have a lay person such as myself judging what goes on inside a school. One reason why Her Majesty's inspectorate is held in high esteem is that the inspectors have had experience of classroom practice. They are or have been good pedagogues and, as a head teacher said to me yesterday, when an HMI comes inside a school, one knows that one cannot pull the wool over his eyes. If a lay person came in, it would be easy to do so.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I am genuinely trying to clarify the principle on which the hon. Gentleman stands. No one is talking about privatising the education service, the health service, the police or the armed forces, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman concedes. To cut through his language, is the great principle on which he stands that those who inspect on behalf of the customers of the service should be employed by the people who provide the service for each and every case in the public services?

Mr. Straw

The Secretary of State has described the principle with which I disagree. I believe strongly, as I shall show, that the regulator of the services should be separate from the provider. One of the central objections to right hon. and learned Gentleman's plan is that the provider becomes a regulator.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Michael Fallon)

They will be employed by them.

Mr. Straw

As is his wont, the Under-Secretary of State is muttering from a sedentary position. The inspectors will receive their pay cheques from the local authority, but, like environmental health officers, their statutory duties will place them at arm's length from the rest of the local authority. The Secretary of State cannot make a joke of that. The truth is that HMI will continue to be paid by the Crown. The judiciary are paid by the Crown, but that does not mean that they are creatures of politicians. What matters is the constitutional relationship between those individuals and the service that they regulate, not the source of their pay cheques.

Mr. Oppenheim

What about Japan?

Mr. Straw

My understanding, based on better briefing than that of the Secretary of State, is that there are inspectorates in Japan and in Korea. It is no good the Secretary of State looking to the Box for information. Both those countries have public service inspectorates.

The claim by the Secretary of State to be strengthening the power of the inspectorate is laughable. The inspectorate is to be cut to one third of its present size. Many inspectors with years of experience are to be made redundant. Her Majesty's inspectorate will be reduced to a rump which is quite incapable of meeting the tasks imposed on it. That is not just my view, but the view of those who know a little more about the task of inspection —Her Majesty's inspectors themselves. Their association, the First Division Association, said that, far from HMI being made "more powerful and independent", it will be severely weakened and damaged". We know that the secret review of HMI concluded not that 175 inspectors would be needed for the inspectorate's new role, but that at least 380 or 390 would be needed. The Secretary of State wriggled about those figures. He was desperate to avoid mentioning them, for fear that he would then have to produce the review. He knows that the review said that 380 to 390 inspectors were needed. To paraphrase the review, he also failed to explain the difference between the assumptions on which he based his policy and those made in the review.

We know that the 175 inspectors will not be able to do the job that is expected of them. A breakdown of the figures in documents sent to me shows that just 43 inspectors will be involved in the inspection of schools and of educational issues. Just 39 inspectors will be engaged in supervising the army of private commercial inspectors who will have to be registered, trained, monitored and assessed, and who will then have to log their reports. On those figures, there will be just one HMI to cover the 190 school inspections that will take place in any one year in the county of Kent.

It is ludicrous to expect anyone to believe that those 175 inspectors could conceivably monitor the system over which they are supposed to have control. The fact that the task will overwhelm those 175 inspectors is confirmed by schedule 1, paragraph 2 of which states that the senior chief inspector has powers to bring in private, outside, commercial consultants, called "additional inspectors". Scores of such private consultants will have to be brought in to do work currently carried out by Her Majesty's inspectorate if the Bill's scheme is to have the remotest chance of success. Yet the Secretary of State claims that he is not privatising the inspectorate.

The second claim made by the Secretary of State is that the new inspectorate will be more powerful than the one that it replaces. The independence of any institution depends partly on its explicit power and partly on the information and knowledge at its disposal. As an institution, Her Majesty's inspectorate is to be broken up. But its intellectual foundation is also to be demolished. The respect and authority of Her Majesty's inspectorate has been based upon the cohesion, dedication and skill of a single group of men and women and on their day-to-day contact with colleagues from the local authority inspectorate. All that is to go, to be replaced by a fragmented, privatised inspection system.

Aside from its formal inspections, Her Majesty's inspectorate typically visits or inspects 6,000 schools in the course of the year. Local authority inspectors visit and inspect thousands more. Under the proposals of the Secretary of State, total inspection is likely to be less than it is today. Policy issues may not be studied at all and activities such as youth and community work seem to have been forgotten altogether.

At one moment, the Secretary of State showers the inspectorate with hollow compliments, but, when he departs from his script, his true feelings and contempt for the inspectorate become all too clear. This afternoon, he sneered at the way in which, given the ordinary cycle of inspections, it would take 200 years to get through all the schools in the country.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

It is true.

Mr. Straw

We agree that the system ought to be reformed, but to suggest that that is all the work that Her Majesty's inspectorate does is to parody the position, and that was what the Secretary of State sought to imply. On "News at Ten" the Secretary of State sneered at unnamed teachers who felt that inspectors were people who could not teach. On 4 November, the right hon. and learned Gentleman told the House that his objection to the local authorities inspection service was that the inspectors were "ex-teachers".

The Secretary of State has no reason to feel warmly towards the inspectorate. It has damned the city technology colleges programme and criticised the Conservatives' education policy, pointing out that, after 12 years, one in three children gets a raw deal and that 20 per cent. have unsatisfactory reading teaching. It is incredible that the Secretary of State should now expect us to believe that he wants to make the inspectorate more powerful and independent so that it can be even more critical in its conclusions about Government policy.

In any event, the Bill gives the lie to the Secretary of State's claim. Three key lines in the Bill make the senior chief inspector wholly subordinate to the Secretary of State and the Government of the day. Clause 2(5) states: In exercising his functions the Chief Inspector for England shall have regard to such aspects of government policy as the Secretary of State may direct. The Secretary of State is a lawyer. He knows very well that, when an Act directs that someone shall have regard to something, that amounts to a clear direction of that individual.

Under our proposals, as I have already told the Secretary of State, the independence of the inspectorate will be guaranteed, membership of the education standards commission will be subject to endorsement by the Select Committee, and the commission, and the senior officer, will report to Parliament not to Ministers.

The independence and power of HMI will be undermined by the central proposal of the Bill that, in future, school governing bodies alone will pick, choose and pay their own inspectors. That proposal is based on a profound misconception of whom inspectors should be serving. Schools are public institutions, paid by the public to serve a public purpose. The public's responsibility is to the children in each school and their parents, but also to the wider community and the national interest.

The public interests of the consumers of the service are potentially in conflict with those of the providers of the service—the teachers, head teachers and governors of any school. Governors now play a significant role in determining a school's policy and administration. The head should rightly be the most influential member of the governing body and should enjoy the closest relationship with his or her chair of governors. The governors are in no sense at arm's length from the school; in many circumstances they are the school.

In every other aspect of public life, without exception, the Government have recognised that public institutions must be regulated on behalf of the consumers, and that those regulators must be wholly at arm's length from the providers. If Ministers had come here to propose that British Telecom and Mercury could pick and choose their own regulators, there would have been a public outcry. If restaurants were suddenly allowed to pick and choose their own environmental health officers, public confidence in food inspection would plummet. If Ministers came to the House saying that they wished to encourage competition between one set of regulators and another, the country would rightly believe that they had taken leave of their senses. Yet that is exactly what is proposed in the Bill, which imports into school inspection the worst aspects of private auditing of public companies. It is the BCCI solution to the regulation of public bodies.

The Tory party claims to understand human nature, but the Bill shows remarkable ignorance of it. Allowing schools to pick and choose and pay their own inspectorate may gratuitously damage the good reputation of fine head teachers and allow underperforming heads to escape effective scrutiny. Under the Bill, schools must seek at least two tenders from different firms of private inspectors. In practice, the choice will most be influenced by the head and the chair of the governing body. On what basis will they select from those tenders? They will pick partly on price, but they will also pick the firm most sympathetic to their approach. A headmistress told me last week, "The moment that any private inspectors give us a bad report, they will not be reappointed the next time."

The ludicrous idea embodied in the Bill is, moreover, inconsistent with the stand that the Secretary of State has taken on the regulation of public services. Until the early 1980s, local authorities could pick, choose and pay for their own auditors. In 1982, a Bill was introduced to require that, in future, each local authority auditor was chosen not by the local authority but by the Audit Commission. In commending that to the House, the Secretary of State for the Environment said: It is the essence of the audit function that the auditor should be, and be seen to be, independent … because local authorities appoint their own auditors, audit is not seen to be obviously independent of local government."—[Official Report, 18 January 1982; Vol. 16, c. 53.] What is the difference between the appointment by the Audit Commission of local authority auditors and the need for the educational auditors of schools to be externally appointed by bodies external to the schools? The Secretary of State voted for that Bill.

Another example is the position of the NHS opt-out trust hospitals. Few institutions are now so detached from the public service. We have been told time and again how crucial is their autonomy. As Secretary of State for Health, the right hon. and learned Gentleman had the choice of allowing trust hospitals to pick and pay their own auditors or of ensuring that that choice was made for them. He chose the latter course. By his decision, it is not the trusts but the Audit Commission that appoints auditors to NHS trust hospitals because of the self-same need for auditors to be, and to be seen to be, independent. I simply do not understand how, having adopted that position in respect of the appointment of local authorities and trust hospitals, the Secretary of State should now be wriggling to suggest that schools should pick and choose their own regulators.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

At times, the hon. Gentleman seems to come dangerously near to agreeing with my principles. The aim of looking after the customer, as compared with the provider, sounds very commendable, but I do not understand how any of that squares with the hon. Gentleman's proposal that local government should be the only inspector of the schools it runs. The hon. Gentleman is taking away all choice and saying that only local government should provide inspections.

Mr. Straw

The Secretary of State has already received one copy of "Raising the Standard". I shall send him another, which he can use as bedtime reading. He parodies our proposals. What we propose is the establishment of an independent commission, answerable to Parliament and with membership approved by Parliament, to run HMI and supervise the local authorities inspectorate, which itself runs at arm's length from the local authorities, by virtue of constitutional position and legislative power. Local authority inspectors and HMI, which are at arm's length from the schools these days, inspect the schools, but the local authorities are to be inspected by the education standards commission.

It does not lie well in the Secretary of State's mouth for him to complain about local authorities. His scheme for schools to pick and choose their own inspectors is so defective that in the body of the Bill he must make local authorities the inspectors of last resort. He acknowledges that, in the end, the responsibility may have to fall to the local authority when the privatised system fails.

The history of this is clear. Provided that the legislative framework is clear—as it is with social services inspectors and environmental health officers—there is no reason why local authorities should not be able to operate at arm's length. They are not inspecting themselves; they are inspecting schools. In addition, the education standards commission would inspect the local authorities.

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

How can the hon. Gentleman square that? Earlier he admitted that the inspectorate would be paid by the local authority that runs the schools. He who pays the piper calls the tune. That must be perfectly logical. It is not an arm's-length operation. The hon. Gentleman is saying that the inspectorate will inspect schools in which the heads and other staff are paid by the local education authority.

Mr. Straw

The chief constable receives his pay cheque from the local authority, but that does not make him the creature of the police committee or the local authority, because his powers are clearly laid down in statute to guarantee him his independence. The Lord Chief Justice receives his pay cheque from the same computer as the Secretary of State, but that does not make him the Secretary of State's creature. The structure and the powers for inspections are crucial. It is no good the Secretary of State trying to dodge our proposals. His proposals are fundamentally defective, because the schools that are being inspected will be allowed to pick, choose and pay their own inspectors from the ranks of private inspectors.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Straw

No, I will not, because the hon. Gentleman has just entered the Chamber.

One of Labour's criticisms of the present system is the inadequacy of follow-through action. Failing schools might be identified, but even when that happens, action to improve the situation has not always occurred. Labour's proposals deal directly with that problem by ensuring that each local inspectorate agrees in advance with the education standards commission management strategies for intervention so that there is a flow of information between inspections to provide early warning of failings.

The Bill will make follow-through and regular monitoring far more difficult, but the Secretary of State did not refer to that. Local inspectorates as we know them are to be destroyed. Local authority inspectorates that remain will operate as commercial undertakings. According to clause 15(4), the service must be entirely self-financing. The local authorities' general power to inspect is to be removed altogether.

When a school is found to be failing, who will intervene? If that failure is shown up in four-yearly inspections, the responsibility lies with the governors who must produce an action plan. That is an inappropriate task to load entirely onto the shoulders of governors. As the National Association of Governors and Managers has stressed, that ignores the nature of school governors as lay people with limited time and the fact that in most cases the failures identified will be those of the head and his or her senior management team whom amateurs on a governing body will find it extremely difficult to hold to account.

Problems in a school do not conveniently coincide with the one week in four years of a formal inspection. Nor may they be evident from the school's crude performance data. What if a head falls ill and major management problems develop as a consequence some months after the formal report?

Dr. Hampson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way now?

Mr. Straw

I will happily give way to any hon. Member who has taken part in this debate, but the hon. Gentleman has just walked into the Chamber.

Dr. Hampson

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman should retract that remark. In the past 15 minutes, I have listened to all he had to say about the local inspectorate and I simply wanted to make a relevant point about that. It is quite out of order for him to accuse me of not listening to him.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

That is a matter for the hon. Gentleman who has the Floor.

Mr. Straw

As I was saying, who then is under a duty to monitor the school's performance and intervene to ensure that it returns to an even keel? According to the Government's scheme, the answer is, no one. The senior chief inspector will not, in general, know of such problems. Even when he does, he will not have the staff to intervene. The local authority's inspectorate will have no power to intervene off its own bat. There will instead be a great black hole. Standards of education will have been sacrificed in favour of the Bill's bizarre dogma.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

The hon. Gentleman seems to be saying that he would appoint an education commission at the centre which would comprise members appointed by the Secretary of State. It would liaise with local education authority inspectors to discuss strategies for development and improvement. However, if the policy was introduced, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) would be Secretary of State—something which will not happen and I gave up fantasies a long time ago—

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

Why intervene, then?

Mr. Dunn

To put a sock in your mouth. Mind you, it would have to be a very big sock.

A Labour Secretary of State would appoint the membership of the commission which would deal with local authority inspectors appointed by Labour councils. I am not implying that all that is wrong: it may well be right. However, there may be collusion and conspiracy to cover up, as occurred over William Tyndall school 10 years ago, a case that has been vividly etched in my mind. Is there not a fundamental weakness in the hon. Gentleman's policy?

Mr. Straw

I will send the hon. Gentleman a signed copy of our document, and when he reads it he will be reassured. We accept that the current system for inspecting and monitoring schools must be reformed. We have been saying that for far longer than the Government have said it. I accept that local authority inspectors must be placed at arm's length from the rest of the local education authority. We are absolutely clear about that. Those inspectors must be supervised by an independent commission and that is what we are proposing.

That is a great deal more coherent than the Secretary of State's proposal, but it is not too different from the proposal in the 10-minute Bill moved by the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn). There were other defects, but it proposed that the Audit Commission should run the inspectors, and that is more coherent than the Secretary of State's proposal today.

Mr. Cecil Franks (Barrow and Furness)

I want to move the hon. Gentleman away from the constitutional position of his proposals and from the Government's proposals. The prime weakness of the present inspection process is that while the HMI can inspect a school, it is completely powerless to act if it finds bad teaching practice. I have heard nothing in the Opposition's proposals which would remedy that problem.

Mr. Straw

I agree that that is one of the major defects of the current system. With respect to the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks), there is far more in our proposals than there is in the Secretary of State's, although perhaps the hon. Gentleman could not hear what I was saying because of the noise created by the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson).

I explained that, under our proposals, each local education authority would have to agree and have validated by the education standards commission management systems for intervening when a school was found to be failing. There are two problems at the moment. First, there is no proper system of inspection. It is haphazard and varies from local authority to local authority. Some do it well, while others do not do it at all.

The second problem is that, where a school's problems are identified, action does not automatically follow to remedy them. We have thought about this matter a great deal. We have said that every local authority must have in place—not after the event, but before the event—strategies for intervention which will include putting people into a school or perhaps terminating people's employment. Those points must be agreed in advance with the education standards commission.

The problem with the Government's proposals is that, if problems are thrown up during the inspection, the governors must produce an action plan. I believe that it is wrong to put the duty to take action on the governors, because often the problem will be the head, the deputy or the senior management of the school. It is unreasonable to expect lay people to take action against them without any support. If problems occur at any other time than at the formal inspection, in the Secretary of State's system no one will have any duty—few will have power—properly to intervene.

There is another difference between the Secretary of State's system and ours. Under our system, the governing body or parents can, in certain circumstances, require the education standards commission to intervene over the heads of the local authority or school governing body. There is no proposal in the Bill to give parents real rights where they are willing to enter into such a situation to get effective intervention by the inspectorate.

Dr. Hampson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Straw

No, I shall not give way. I need to press on. Because of the restrictions that the Secretary of State seems intent on imposing on the information that local authorities and inspectors will be able to collect and disseminate to parents, the monitoring of schools will be inadequate. Although the Secretary of State spent 50 minutes talking about the issuing of information, the only clause about information in England is clause 16. It is a regulation-making clause devoid of a specific requirement, and we shall examine it in detail in Committee.

We in the Labour party have long had an overwhelming commitment to freedom of information, and our policy review and policy statements have made that clear year after year. Because of that, as a matter of open government and of parents' rights, the Labour party is committed to making available aggregate information about a school's examination results, provided that its reliability is clear.

We have specific and serious objections, which used to be shared by Ministers, about the publication of test data school by school on seven-year-olds—another matter which we shall examine in Committee. The idea that the Secretary of State was peddling again this afternoon, that the effectiveness of schools can be judged solely on the basis of crude league tables, is simply ludicrous. It is as daft as choosing a motor car on the basis of its claimed maximum speed.

The Secretary of State's position is inconsistent with that of his predecessor. If the Secretary of State bothered to read the debates in Standing Committee in January 1988, he would notice that our view is the same as we took then. In his own evidence to the schoolteachers' pay and review body, the Secretary of State issued a caution about the use to which crude league tables should be put. At paragraph 56, he said that league tables were admittedly rather elementary performance measures and they should not be the sole determinant of discretionary pay. If those tables are unreliable even to judge such a discrete issue as heads' pay, how much less reliable are they to judge the overall performance of a school?

I do not understand what the Secretary of State is scared about in providing additional information to parents and governors, as we propose. It is not we who are patronising parents, it is the Secretary of State. If, after all this time, he has been converted to the issue of school effectiveness, I congratulate him. We now need to see some Government investment and leadership on how local authorities and school governing bodies can best provide information on and do research into the effectiveness of schools, into their creation of value added, so that that information can be given to parents and governors alongside the crude raw data.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

If comprehensive education has been such a success, as claimed by the Labour party, why do I receive day by day from senior and highly paid civil servants, doctors and teachers totally illiterate, misspelt and unpunctuated letters?

Mr. Straw

Almost all those letters would have been from privately educated people.

Few measures such as this Bill have been pulled together in such a disgraceful manner. The review—the secret review—was rushed through in two months. Public consultation on it has been a travesty. It did not begin until 2 October, after firm proposals were announced by the Secretary of State, and did not end until 15 November, after the Bill had been published.

This evening, I shall move that the Bill be referred to a Special Standing Committee. That procedure enables there to be a Select Committee hearing to examine the consequences of a Bill before its line-by-line examination. That procedure was used by the Government in respect of the Education Act 1980, which implemented the Warnock committee's report on special needs. It is the only chance of ensuring that the full consequences of the privatisation of the inspectorate are made known before the Bill is railroaded through the House and its damage becomes irreparable.

Underlying the specific gratuitous harm that is done by the Bill's proposals is the profoundly flawed, one-dimensional doctrine of the right wing of the Tory party which has turned competition into a totem. It is an approach which means, as Cardinal Hulme so tellingly put it, that some schools will benefit at the expense of others, some pupils favoured while others are neglected. Like the cardinal and, indeed, Archbishop Carey, we believe in a different ethic. We believe in an education system in which every child is stretched to fulfil his or her potential, but in which he or she is taught that the happiness and success of society and its institutions depend not on self-destructive competition but on co-operation and community.

The Bill is based upon the Government's so-called parents charter, but what parents want and need are real rights for themselves and for their children. They want the right to form home-school associations in every school. They want good information about the effectiveness of their children's schools. They want the certainty of a tough and truly independent national and local school inspection. They want the right to call in the inspectors when they are needed, not once in four years. Parents want the right to a free education for their children and an end to the millions that they are forced to shell out in donations to pay for basic essentials.

Parents want the right to have their children educated in schools with roofs that do not leak and walls that have recently been painted. Above all, they want their children taught by teachers who are qualified in the subjects that they are teaching and who are valued and held in high esteem by the rest of society. They want all that, but they have had none of it from the Government. Parents want an end to the failures of the past 12 years. They want an end to contemptuous gimmicks such as those in the Bill. Parents want an end to this Government. They want a Labour Government who are committed to the education service and are ready to invest in it. We shall oppose the Bill.

5.26 pm
Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

Like many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I am not persuaded by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) that the local education authority's inspectorate will be independent of the LEA. As the hon. Gentleman says, the LEA pays the wages and I have not the slightest doubt that the inspectorate will often consist of former colleagues of the head teachers of the very schools that are being inspected. It is unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman does not have the courtesy to listen as we listened to him. The LEA inspectorate will be a blue-eyed inspectorate, and nothing more.

I welcome this Bill, the latest in a battery of measures designed to improve the quality and standard of the state education system in which the majority of the nation's children are educated. We are already beginning to see the benefits of earlier measures—for example, local management of schools, the national curriculum and grant-maintained schools—which are widely recognised as a major success. We look forward to many more applications for grant-maintained status when we win the next general election.

It is an unfortunate commentary on some LEAs that so many head teachers, governors and staff are not willing for their schools to apply for grant-maintained status. They are concerned that if, God forbid, Labour Members are elected to government, head teachers will have their cards marked. They know that their chances of further promotion, or even continued employment may be much curtailed. We want additional choice, and I believe we will get it with this Bill.

The measure is another major stride forward in providing parents with more information about their children's schools. For parents to make an informed choice, they must have access to as much information as possible about what goes on in their children's school and how much their children are learning.

I welcome specifically the Bill's reference to Her Majesty's inspectorate. In the past there have been long intervals between full inspections of schools. Indeed, some schools have never had the benefit of a full inspection. Inspections highlight not merely the successes of the school but its inadequacies. They present an opportunity to put those inadequacies right, and they enable teachers to identify the shortcomings of the school.

The Labour party seems to think that allowing schools to choose their own inspection teams will reduce the validity of the inspections. I do not support that view. Inspectors will have to be selected from a list which has been approved by Her Majesty's inspectorate. The list will be carefully supervised, and those who fail to meet the rigorous standards imposed by Her Majesty's inspectorate will not remain on the inspection teams.

The Bill will ensure that schools are inspected every four years. Let us compare that with the present system, in which full inspections are infrequent and, in some cases, non-existent.

Mr. Matthew Taylor

The hon. Gentleman intervened earlier to say, in my view correctly, that he who pays the piper calls the tune. That was the hon. Gentleman's own comment. Surely that will apply in the case of schools taking on inspectors. Schools will choose those who will give the best report for the school at the cheapest price.

Mr. Pawsey

First, the inspectorate is not paid by the local education authority that runs the school which is to be inspected. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman somewhat underestimates the intelligence of headmasters and staff, who have an interest in ensuring that the report that they receive has some validity for their school. Headmasters believe that a report will be of some value to the school. I am having difficulty in making my voice last.

Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that I, as a former head teacher of a school, would automatically look favourably on and pay for an inspection team which I knew would give a good report of the school? It is obvious that I would look for the people who would give me the best report. It baffles me that the hon. Gentleman can argue otherwise.

Mr. Pawsey

Whichever inspectors a headmaster selects, they will be from an approved list. All the inspectors on the list will have been approved. The inspectors will be rigorously inspected by the inspectorate. [Interruption.]

Mr. Steinberg

The hon. Gentleman should get himself a drink of water.

Mr. Pawsey

I am doing all right, thank you. If interventions like that are typical of what the hon. Gentleman seeks to do, I cannot help but feel that he would be better employed had he stayed in his former profession.

Ms. Gordon

If there are not enough HMI and LEA inspectors to carry out sufficiently frequent inspections of schools, would not the logic be to increase the number of inspectors, who have maintained standards of excellence for many years, instead of cutting the service from 500 inspectors to 175 and replacing them with commercial firms of amateurs so that, as the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) said, the schools pay the piper and therefore call the tune?

Mr. Pawsey

The logic of the hon. Lady's argument is to leave the inspectorate exactly as it is. Even her Front-Bench team do not believe in that. She referred to taking on as inspectors people who are not qualified teachers. I shall make that point in my speech in my own way, if the hon. Lady will allow me to develop it.

The Bill will enable parents to study the reports. They will be able to read for themselves the truth about their child's school. The reports will help to demystify the education process. At present, parental decision-making takes place on the basis of hearsay—a sort of "what the parents say". The Bill replaces that guesswork with a factual, unbiased report. Naturally, parents want the best for their children. The legislation helps them to achieve that laudable ambition. It encourages more parental involvement in schools, because it makes parents more aware of what is taking place in the school.

I welcome clauses 2 and 6, which give the chief inspector a general duty to ensure that the Secretary of State is advised about the quality and standard of the nation's schools. I am also pleased that the Secretary of State retains his present powers to require the inspectorate to inspect specific schools. At present, Her Majesty's inspectorate fully inspects only about 150 schools a year. The new proposals will ensure that one quarter of all schools—about 6,000—will be inspected every four years. That is extremely important. That is the difference and the benefit. The measure should be widely welcomed by both Conservative and Opposition Members and certainly by parents.

I am also pleased to observe that not all the trade unions oppose the Bill. Peter Smith of the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association wrote in "Report": It is true that schools and teachers may have had a frequently ambivalent attitude towards HMI. Sometimes inspectors have seemed to be lofty theorists, remote from the day to day realities of the classroom, rather than expert practitioners whose inspection reports can be translated into action. Actual success in disseminating good practice—now voguishly termed 'quality assurance'—has not always been obvious. It strikes me that that passage is something of an understatement.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)


Mr. Pawsey

That quotation also helps to answer the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg), who was formerly a headmaster in Durham. Clearly, not all head teachers share his view about Her Majesty's inspectorate. I am firmly convinced that those who genuinely seek an improvement in the quality of state education will welcome the Bill.

Mr. Flannery

I also have the report from which the hon. Gentleman quoted. He neglected to read it all. At the beginning it says: Kenneth Clarke's decision to privatise Her Majesty's Inspectorate and put local schools inspection up for private sector tender has been fiercely criticised. And rightly so. After the part which the hon. Gentleman quoted, it says: Yet HMI has always been justly respected for its professional integrity and political independence. Mr. Clarke's claim that his decision will give the national inspectorate increased autonomy is unconvincing. Some suspect that HMI has exercised its independence all too much for his liking. Apart from the sentence which the hon. Gentleman read out, the article condemns the Bill. Yet the hon. Gentleman chose one sentence without telling us about the rest. That seems a little unfair, even from Rugby and Kenilworth.

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Gentleman says that it is a sentence. It is a long sentence. If he looks at it again he will see that it is a full paragraph.

Mr. Flannery

Read it.

Mr. Pawsey

I have it here and I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has had an opportunity to read it, too. I notice that he does not deny the accuracy of the passage that I quoted. That is the answer to the hon. Gentleman.

It has been said with even more inaccuracy than usual that the Bill privatises Her Majesty's inspectorate. That is an interesting thought, given that most people believe that privatisation occurs when something is transferred from national or quasi-government control to private enterprise. In this case Her Majesty's inspector will have statutory powers and duties as laid down by this House. Contrast that with the present situation, in which his powers and duties are exercised on behalf of the Secretary of State.

The Bill gives Her Majesty's inspectorate greater independence than it enjoys at present. However, that does not mean that we are privatising or seeking to privatise Her Majesty's inspectorate. Frankly, those who take that view have not studied the Bill.

One benefit of the Bill is that it allows those who are not normally regarded as educationists—I am coming to the point made by the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon), if she will listen for a moment—to play their part in the education of the nation's children. Business men and managers will be able to make a practical input into a critical part of the education process. One criticism is that teachers go from school to college and back to school again without having the benefit or advantage of the world of work", as my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) said.

That is a substantial benefit means that people going into the inspectorate will take with them a practical knowledge of the business world, where the majority of the nation's children will be earning their daily bread. That will strengthen, rather than weaken, Her Majesty's inspectorate. There is virtue in bringing to schools the different knowledge, experience and expertise of people who have been in industry and understand its requirements. One seldom finds business men to be "lofty theorists", to use Peter Smith's phrase.

So far, I have referred only to Her Majesty's inspectorate, but clause 16 refers to the collection and publication of information about schools. That is indeed charter country and will ensure that parents will be provided with five important documents: first, an annual report about their children's progress; secondly, a performance table giving information on all schools in a given area; thirdly, a summary of the previous Her Majesty's inspectorate report; and, fourthly, a statement from the school's governing body about how it intends to tackle any shortcomings identified by Her Majesty's inspectorate. I would describe that as a rolling programme of improvement. Finally, it will provide parents with the annual report of the school governors.

It is genuinely revealing to contrast that battery of information with Opposition Members' feeble efforts. They have produced a contract which is an optional extra —a sort of bolt-on goodie, a non-binding, sign-if-you-like bit of paper. Conservative Members have some sympathy with Opposition Members, because they only recently discovered that parents are interested in their children's education and have a material part to play in that process. There are even those who believe that Opposition Members' conversion to parents' rights is due more to the onset of a general election than to any true belief in parent power.

It is also difficult to reconcile their new stance as the parents' friend with their non-acceptance of a parental vote, when expressed through a secret ballot for a grant-maintained school. Clearly, in Opposition Members' eyes, some parents and some votes have greater value than others.

The best description of Labour's proposed, solemn but non-binding agreement comes not from my right hon. and hon. Friends but from a man who formerly sat with Opposition Members. He described Labour's measures as "humiliating and intrusive", a "patronising" policy initiated by "bossy, middle-class know-alls." That is a more accurate description than I could give. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who said it?] Robert Kilroy-Silk, who formerly sat on the Opposition Benches and was a colleague of the hon. Member for City of Durham, who is laughing so loudly. Mr. Kilroy-Silk's description is a valuable and perceptive view of what the Labour party intend to suggest to the House.

Therefore, I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to accept the Bill. The sooner we get it into legislation and improve the quality and standard of education for the nation's children, the better.

5.45 pm
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

It is always sad when someone is driven into a corner and becomes desperate. The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) thought that no one would have read the report that he quoted. He did not say where it came from. It is the editorial from the magazine of the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association, which has 135,000 members, and it was written by Mr. Peter Smith, the general secretary. When the hon. Gentleman stoops to taking a few words which are in headlong collision with the view of an entire article, and tries to convey the impression that the article said what he says it said, it is very sad. It leaves one open to an accusation that we dare not make in this Chamber; otherwise, the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth would hear me say it.

I had marked another part of that article—not the paragraph that I read in an intervention, which was near the paragraph quoted by the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth. Hon. Members should listen to what Mr. Smith said next: The attack upon local education authority inspectorates and advisory services is yet one more example of what has become an obsessive vendetta against local government in all its manifestations. Proper concern about the need for high quality, value for money public services is becoming the increasingly mindless Orwellian chant of 'Private sector good, public sector bad.' That is another paragraph from a report which says the exact opposite of the group of words that the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth quoted.

I can understand that, because the Bill is so complicated and is born of desperation and stridency, it is difficult to explain, especially for Conservative Members who, only a few months ago, were defending the poll tax and saying how good it was. The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth stood up and praised it to the heavens—they all did, calling it the flagship of their policy.

Now the flagship has been sunk, more quickly than the Mary Rose, but unlike that ship it will not come up again, even after a few hundred years. It is gone for ever. I think that the last peasants' revolt was in 1381. The poll tax caused a lot of trouble at that time.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science commissioned a report from the inspectorate to advise him. The report has come out and has been used in the press. One of my hon. Friends mentioned this. However, it was so alarming to the Secretary of State that he issued orders for it to be shredded. That shows his contempt for the inspectorate that he is now destroying. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) told the truth when he said that the Secretary of State, during a 61-minute speech, never got down to the fundamental reason for the Bill, which was the destruction of the inspectorate in the same way that he destroyed and shredded one of its reports to him.

What can one expect from people who do that sort of thing? They are desperate. Suddenly, 20 pages of the report by the Select Committee on Health went missing. There is an inquiry into how Tory Members who agreed those papers suddenly voted to get rid of them because they had been read in the Department of Health.

The Government are in such a fix with all their policies that a moderate organisation such as AMMA talks about their education policy being almost an Orwellian nightmare, with their hatred and vendetta and their praise of everything that is private. Apparently, private is good and all the rest is bad: if it moves, privatise it and if it does not move, privatise it. That is what the Government have got themselves into. The opinion polls will not stir; they have been the same for a year now, telling the Government that they should call a general election. The Government are pushing through all kinds of Bills at a speed that is almost unrecognisable as democracy.

This Bill, although smaller, is to education what the poll tax legislation was to taxation. It is equally daft and will have to be thrown out in time. I appeal to the Tory party to do so now. it is wrong and squalid and, like the poll tax, doomed to fail. It has a death wish within it. That was borne out by the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth, who floundered and did not know which way to turn when a single point was put to him.

The Bill flows from the so-called citizens charter which, of course, is no charter for any self-respecting citizen. The Tory party absolutely loathes the National Union of Teachers. I was one of the first to ask the Secretary of State to give way, but he would not give way to me—no, I am in the NUT. He does not like that. I was a head teacher. He is a lawyer. I might know a thing or two about education.

The NUT described the citizens charter in this document and exchanged letters with the Prime Minister, who was hard put to defend his stance. He is, these days, is he not? He had trouble today. We described the charter as "gloss without substance". The Bill is without substance, and it does not even have gloss. It is a mess, and the Tory party knows it. It is already regarded with fear by teachers, parents and the general public.

It is so silly to start attacking the inspectorate through this Bill, which will be enacted because we do not have enough Members to stop it. It is seen as an attack on state education. It is another classic example of the Government's dogmatic, doctrinaire approach. They talk about Marxism, but I have never seen a group of Marxists as dogmatic and doctrinaire as this lot. When it comes to privatisation, they want to privatise everything. It is their obsession. The word is on the lips of every British citizen. Her Majesty's inspectorate and anybody connected with education knows that.

The Minister of State should go carefully. He got himself into a bit of a mess the other day, did he not, when he made a statement outside the House about the NUT? It sued him. He will have to pay a copper or two, will he not, for not telling the truth about the NUT outside the House? That is a dangerous habit to get into—one that I am sure he will never learn anything about.

Her Majesty's inspectorate is a body of distinguished educationists of profound integrity. They are deeply respected. Anybody who has had contact with the inspectorate knows that its task is arduous—that is mentioned in the article—and that it is difficult to get distinguished people to do the work. They are away from home a great deal. Like all of us, they are seen by the teaching profession, although as dedicated colleagues, as sometimes making a mistake or saying something with which we disagree. Generally, they are people of integrity who want to advance the cause of education but, like the rest of us, they are not always right. Neither are we, and we should admit it.

HMI has become a thorn in the Government's flesh because, year after year, in successive reports, it has told the truth about the Government. It does so in a moderate and restrained way, because it is not in a position to do otherwise. I know that from having served on the Select Committee on Education and Science all these years.

Next week, the Committee will question the Minister. Hon. Members should come and listen to our questions. The Minister knows that the inspectorate is a thorn in his flesh. That is why the Bill has been introduced. As AMMA has said, it is part of a vendetta and an obsession because HMI tells the truth which is not and never has been acceptable to the Government.

Ms. Gordon

I believe that, when the scheme was first announced, the inspectors described it as sinister. May I disagree with my hon. Friend's description of the Bill as a "silly mistake"? It is a sinister conspiracy to move education back to an elitist system, such as existed before the Education Act 1944, under which the majority of the population's children get a second-class education inspected by amateurs.

Mr. Flannery

I agree with my hon. Friend, and I withdraw the words "silly mistake". The silly mistakes to which we politely refer here are often crimes, but we do not attach such a name to them.

Let us look at the background to the Bill. The size of classes is increasing. They are bigger than they were 10 years ago, and they are getting even bigger. We all know the reason: there are not enough teachers or proper schools. Yet 400,000 teachers are not teaching. So many have left the teaching profession that we have been driven to recruit from Australia and even Germany, where people do not speak English. If teachers were paid a proper living wage, we could recruit them all over our own country.

There is a lack of books and equipment. Everyone in the teaching profession knows that. If hon. Members go in and look at the schools, they will see the lack of books and equipment. Dog-eared books are passed around and there is not enough money for major pieces of equipment. Schools lack general resources because they lack money. That is all part of the background.

Mr. Steinberg

May I tell my hon. Friend a little story about the age of books? Recently, a young student from Johnston school in Durham came to see me with a book that he was using for his A-level history. On the first page, it said. "This book belongs to Gerald Steinberg." In other words, that school is still using a book that I used 30 years ago.

Mr. Flannery

That story, which I knew about, is not only a true story and a condemnation of the Government, but a tribute to the way in which my hon. Friend and successive groups of children in state education have looked after their books. Nevertheless, in time, even those books become dog-eared, yet there is no money from the Government to buy more books.

Mr. Pawsey


Mr. Flannery

Not again.

Mr. Pawsey

If the hon. Gentleman's picture of the teaching profession is accurate, can he say why entrance to teacher training colleges has increased by 20 per cent. this year?

Mr. Flannery

Of course I can. I have given an accurate picture. Thousands of teachers have left the profession, and we want them back. However, at a time of mass unemployment—it is steadily heading towards 3 million —there are always people who decide to become teachers.

I was unemployed a long time ago, and I wanted to be a teacher, but it was difficult to get into a college. However, many of my colleagues had been unemployed before they eventually became teachers. When there is a great deal of unemployment, people will go into teaching, but the core of the teaching profession is made up of those who want to teach and who want the dignity of that profession. They want to be properly valued. They do not want to be slandered and abused as they have been by the Government for the past 12 years—hence their low morale. The Minister may smile, but he must try to deal with that fact, just as we will have to deal with it when he leaves all his mess.

Class numbers are increasing because of the insufficient number of teachers available, and schools face other problems because of crumbling buildings. Everyone knows what a mess they are in. Many of the schools have not been painted because they do not have the money to buy that paint.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn said, if a school is in a well-to-do area, there are bound to be plenty of books in each child's house. Their parents will listen to them reading and will take an interest. Those parents can also give more money freely to their child's school. If a school is in an area of high unemployment, the parents of pupils may have difficulty in finding enough money to feed their children, pay the rent and pay the poll tax, as well as all the other things that have been heaped upon them by the Government and then withdrawn when they panic about them. That means that that school will suffer. We will end up with a two-tier system because the school in the posh area will have plenty of money coming in from parents, while the school in the poor area will receive no such funds. Therefore, the children in the poor area will suffer. Ever-increasing class sizes will cause further problems for schools in poor areas.

The other morning, on "Today", the Secretary of State said that it was not always a bad thing to have a large number of pupils in a class. Let him say that to those who have children in the private sector. He should tell us how many children there are in classes in the private sector schools. Conservative Members send their kids to private schools while our children in the state sector take a kicking from the Government.

Teachers perform well, but they are always vilified and attacked by the Government. In the meantime, the specially favoured city technology colleges are absorbing massive amounts of money. Most Conservative Members do not know how much the CTCs and the assisted places scheme cost. I looked up that cost in the Government's own publications and found that it was nearly £700 million. That public money has been taken out of the education system and away from children who urgently need it and given to those who are already rich. We do not need any lessons from the Conservative party.

Private education is flourishing because of the assisted places scheme. Many of those schools receive £1 million and more each year of public money. That money is taken from the state education system.

Morale among teachers is low, and that feeling has been created by the Government. However, now the Government have begun to praise teachers because they know that they have gone too far. Dedicated independent inspectors have repeatedly drawn attention to the problems caused by low morale, increased class sizes and the poor state of school buildings. Their reports are an acute embarrassment to the Government, so HMI must go. However, the Bill is designed to ensure that it looks as though HMI has not gone. That is why the Bill, which will make all the problems worse, is pregnant with chaos. It will create such chaos in our schools, but then that is what will be caused by the new poll tax Bill and all the other Bills.

AMMA has stated that it wants good school inspection arrangements and improved and increased access to information about the quality of the publicly funded education service. The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth should read a little bit further than he did from its editorial. The association also states: We judge that the provisions of the Bill, as printed, are confused and inadequate for their purposes. The hon. Gentleman should read that, and he should talk to the general secretary of AMMA. He should admit how he distorted what was said by neatly picking out a certain part of the editorial, when in fact that editorial was against the Bill.

The National Association of Head Teachers represents 35,000 heads and deputy heads. It is deeply concerned about the Bill, and, in the conclusion to its briefing, states: However, many in the Education Service, and very many Head Teachers, will feel that the correct balance has not been struck by this current piece of legislation. The consequences of the lack of balance, contained within an Act, as currently displayed in the Bill, are potentially very serious. Those head teachers are important people. Conservative Members know that because they always praise head teachers, except me and my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg).

Mr. Pawsey

You can understand why, Martin.

Mr. Flannery

Of course I can, because, in common with HMI, I tell the truth. I am happy to read more of what Conservative Members would consider as "select" truth from leading teachers' organisations.

Mr. Eggar

If the hon. Gentleman always tells the truth, perhaps he can explain to the House his earlier remark that money spent on assisted places and the CTCs goes to those who are already rich. Can he justify that remark? He knows perfectly well that the assisted places money is provided to parents through a proper means test. At least one third of that money goes to parents whose total income is less than £8,000 a year. He knows perfectly well that the CTCs choose pupils who apply to them and ensure that those pupils are representative of the area in which each CTC is based. Will the hon. Gentleman have regard to the truth and withdraw his earlier remarks?

Mr. Flannery

I am content with completely disagreeing with the Minister. He knows as well as I do that the money for the CTCs and the assisted places scheme has been siphoned from the education system into middle-class areas. If he can disprove that, he can do so later.

Mr. Steinberg

Is my hon. Friend also aware that the Minister forgot to tell us that savings are not taken into account in the means test?

Mr. Flannery

The Minister and his colleagues know that I am telling the truth, but they are free to try to disprove what I have said.

What the NUT has said about the Bill will also be denounced by the Government. It states: The proposal that each school chooses its own inspection team could lead to a 'cosy relationship' with Heads and Governors choosing inspectors who will be friendly to existing practice within the school. Given the inevitable wish to guarantee being 'bought in' four years later, inspection teams are liable to play safe in terms of their report. If they do not, a different inspection team may be chosen four years later with no consistency between one inspection and the next. That would be dangerous. At the moment, dedicated inspectors go around the country. I believe that there are insufficient numbers of them and that Her Majesty's Inspectorate needs more personnel, never mind reducing its number, to report properly. That would sink the Government, and they would be shredding a few more reports if that happened.

The NUT also states: The facility for schools to choose their own inspectors is likely to result in parents receiving a report in which they can have little confidence. Inspection should be seen as a contribution to the ongoing process of raising pupil achievement within a particular school, rather than the 'Labelling of that School—. The Government intend to label certain schools as sink schools. They intend to produce a league table as though we were talking about football teams. That cannot be done in education, because education does not allow for it. An important lesson lies ahead for those who intend to do that to our children and teachers.

The briefs which hon. Members have received from many of the teachers' organisations accentuate a number of points. One is that teachers have immense respect for the existing inspectorate and suggest ways not of privatising it but of improving and expanding the inspectorate and giving parents improved access to information about the public education system.

Next, they are immensely fearful of the Bill and consider it to be confused, inadequate and fraught with peril for the education service. Provision for the majority of pupils is getting worse, the teacher-pupil ratio has worsened for the first time in 26 years and the average size of primary class is larger than it was in 1981. City technology colleges receive £150 per pupil more than local authority schools, grant-maintained schools average £187,000 by way of capital grant, and LEA schools get only £18,000.

We need a real citizens charter, standing for the rights of education. Such a charter should lay down enforceable standards of education, with maximum class sizes, so that there are not huge classes in one school or in one part of a school and smaller classes elsewhere.

Mr. Pawsey

If the hon. Gentleman believes what he is saying, will he explain why his own contract does not set out what he is aiming at?

Mr. Flannery

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I mean every word I say. I would answer his question if I knew what it meant. That intervention was about as clear as his speech.

We must have maximum class sizes so that we know where we stand and minimum levels of resourcing for books and equipment so that there is enough money in the public sector to provide our children with good equipment and books, items that are to be found in all private schools. There must be minimum standards of provision for support staff. In other words, there must be cover for teachers who are ill or who need to be on courses. Perhaps Conservative Members do not appreciate that, in schools generally today, only the lucky teachers can go on courses, particularly in primary schools. It is clear from the blank looks on their faces that they are not aware of that.

Many primary school teachers cannot attend courses because teachers are not available to take their classes when they are away. In addition, most of them have no free time or marking time. They come to school early in the morning, work through lunch time and leave later at night than they used to. Change is imposed on them with undignified haste, and it contributes to lowering teacher morale. Supply staff must be guaranteed to cover teacher absences. When teaches are away ill, other teachers are not available to take their classes, particularly in the primary sector, but increasingly in the secondary sector.

Those are all matters which, in a moderate and restrained way, HMI has pointed out over the years to successive Conservatives Governments. The result is that the Government have introduced a ghastly Bill to get rid of awkward people who keep telling the truth about what the Conservatives have been, and are, doing to education.

The Government have embodied in this pitiful measure their contempt for our excellent and improving, but grossly underfunded, state education system. Just as the NHS is not safe in their hands and is being steadily privatised, so our education system, which is also now being steadily privatised, is not safe in Conservative hands. The whole nation is unsafe in their hands. The Bill is a major warning to all. It must be fought and ultimately thrown out, as it will be, and soon, by a Labour Government.

6.14 pm
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

The debate provides us with a timely opportunity to take stock of what is happening in our schools, to speak of the success to date of some of the reforms introduced in the last five years —the Education Act 1956 and the Education (Reform) Act 1988—and to examine the changes outlined in the Bill to improve still further the education arrangements for our children.

Concern about education was a major motivation for me to enter politics. I was elected to North Yorkshire county council in 1985 and served, albeit for only a couple of years, on the education committee and schools committee. I was a governor of several schools, including two large comprehensives, a large junior school, a special school and the York college of art and technology, a further education college.

It was a pity that I was not able to serve longer on those bodies. My service was interrupted because I was elected to this place in 1987, and I admit that education has not been an avenue into which I have channelled in my party activities. But I visit many schools in my constituency regularly and particularly keep closely in contact with the school that my children have attended. Two of my children have left school and gone on to college and my youngest is still there. I shall say more about that school later.

One might believe, listening to some hon Members' speeches and from reading the newspapers, that the whole of our school system is crumbling. I cannot speak for other parts of Britain—I will not speak for what I have not seen —but I know what is happening in North Yorkshire schools. The education system there is delivering a first-class system of schooling for our children. There is much of which we can be proud in our schools. Parents and the public at large can be proud of our schools and of the achievements of our young people.

In the 1986 Act—I was serving on the local education authority at the time—the Government introduced a requirement for reports to be presented to parents and introduced parent governors. Last week I received, as a parent, the annual report for Huntington school in my constituency on the outskirts of York. I spotted in it only one factual error. It referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) as having been promoted to Minister of State, Department of Education and Science, when he is still the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. That must be a prophecy that he will retain his seat in the general election and will later be promoted to Minister of State.

There is a genuine concern lest, in giving information and promoting the results of examinations, reports to parents may neglect other important areas of educational activity—that, in the pursuit of better examination reports, some of those areas may be left behind. That does not appear to be happening at Huntington school, so we must examine some of the issues examined in its annual report.

There is, first, a detailed report about events earlier this year when the 25th anniversary was celebrated. The school does not have a long history, but it has some excellent examination reports to which I shall refer. Clearly, the school's social life is extremely active. The report includes a long section on how the school has implemented the proposal to have its own budget. I supported the measures in the Education Act 1988 to introduce such a system.

Indeed, North Yorkshire already had a pilot scheme in place before the last election. The report shows that the school has benefited greatly from controlling its budget and resources. It has made improvements by creating a new post of office manager, upgrading stock in the library, extending and reorganising the office for clerical staff, creating new areas for sixth-form students, including a BTEC facility and an additional seminar room, significantly upgrading technology and audio-visual equipment, implementing an extensive programme of internal decoration and providing additional departmental resources for text books and equipment.

The report states: The governors' broad policy is to use the increased funds wisely, both in the provision of the best up-to-date facilities and equipment for pupils and for enhancing the school environment with emphasis on security, safety and energy efficiency. Certainly, we are very pleased with the extra flexibility and benefits we now have over purchasing, decorating and maintenance". That sentiment has been echoed by other head teachers. When I visited another large comprehensive school only a couple of weeks ago and addressed the sixth form, the headmaster told me that the school has now been able to carpet and curtain some of the noisiest classrooms, creating a much better environment for teaching the children.

That was one of the schools that took part in the pilot project for LMS in 1986–87. Although the LMS initiative has brought considerable benefits, problems with the funding formula for junior schools and some smaller comprehensive schools still exist. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister of State and the North Yorkshire education authority will continue to consult to ensure that the best arrangements are made and that some schools do not suffer as improvements are made in others.

The annual report also deals with the school's budget, which was £2 million in 1990–91 and has increased to more than £2.2 million in 1991–92, the current academic year. The report says that 1,316 pupils are now on the roll and that the staff consists of 80 teachers. [HON. MEMBERS: "What has that to do with the Bill?"] It has everything to do with the Bill, because it proves that it is possible to provide comprehensive information for the benefit of parents. That is what the parents charter is about and it goes to the heart of the Bill.

I have not yet referred to the publishing of examination results, which is the main concern about which we have heard this afternoon. A conclusion which I, as a parent, draw from the information that I have just given is that the school is spending £1,671 per pupil—a 10.3 per cent. increase on the figure for the previous year. We must bear in mind the fact that the education authority still has responsibility for some expenditure. That figure represents the best bargain that exists in public spending.

I sincerely believe that the money that we are spending on our schools provides an excellent return, and it must continue to be one of the key areas for growth in public expenditure. The past 12 years under this Government have seen a growth in public expenditure and it is for local education authorities and county councils to decide on the priorities for their expenditure. The Government and North Yorkshire county council have done that. No one can argue that expenditure per pupil provides anything other than value for money, provided that we look at the other side of the coin and consider what we can achieve with that money in terms of successful education.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) referred to school numbers, and I am sorry that he is no longer in the Chamber to hear my remarks. The figure in the annual report shows that the school roll of 1,316 and 80 teachers is a pupil-teacher ratio of less than 17:1. I think that, in 1979, the figure was about 19:1. My hon. Friend the Minister is nodding, so I seem to have the statistic right.

Examination successes are a major concern. The annual report points out that last year's A-level results were the best that the school had achieved and this year's were even better. It says: 17.6 per cent. of all passes were at A grade and 60.3 per cent. of all grades were at C or above". That was a commendable result. As for the results of the GCSE examinations, the report says: Bearing in mind that our policy is that all students are generally entered for GCSE examinations in all the subjects they are studying"— no picking and choosing those most likely to succeed— it reflects great credit on staff and students that only 26 of the 1,780 examination entries were ungraded. At the other end of the scale, 53.9 per cent. of students achieved five or more grade C passes compared with 49.3 per cent. in 1990. As a proud father, I can tell the House that my son Anthony was included in that 53.9 per cent.

It is well known that schools in North Yorkshire achieve considerably above-average results. North Yorkshire does not spend above-average amounts on resources—its resourcing is about the national average. Some hon. Members wish to point out that North Yorkshire is a relatively affluent area, and I willingly accept that. However, affluence does not ensure that children will do better.

Comparative figures for other schools in North Yorkshire show that the number of grade A and B passes range from 18.8 per cent. to 51 per cent. Some head teachers were grossly offended when figures in the Sunday Times survey omitted state schools in North Yorkshire, because some of those state schools have performed considerably better in their A-level results than some of the best independent schools in the United Kingdom. Therefore, even in an affluent county some state schools do better.

As for the publication of a more detailed breakdown of results, I commend to my hon. Friend the Minister of State another document that came with the annual report. It gives a breakdown of the number of students entered in each subject at GCSE and A-level in 1990–91 and 1989–90, and the number of passes obtained at each grade. I used my marker pen to mark the grades that my sons had attained in the examinations. I found nothing offensive in publishing such information.

I was pleased to hear my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State say earlier that we should persist in trying to devise ways of making value-added judgments about children's progress. It seems that some comprehensive schools do not have sixth forms, so the child moves on to a sixth form college to take A-levels. The child may have poor GCSE results or good ones. We should also address the issues of how he or she performs at A-level or on a business studies course at a further education college.

One benefit to be derived from testing seven, 11, 14 and 16-year-old pupils is that, over time, we shall be able to monitor their progress and give parents the information that they need on their children in a way that they can understand and—the key issue—to help them to feel encouraged that they are working with teachers, head teachers and the governing body to the benefit of their children's education. That is happening increasingly in schools in my constituency. They may be performing in the best way—I perceive that to be so—and we should work towards attaining that standard in all our schools across the length and breadth of Britain. To do so we must introduce new regulations, and the Bill does that.

The first of my pleas to my hon. Friend the Minister is to take care that, in drafting the regulations to improve standards in sectors where that is needed, we do not undo good work or create unnecessary difficulty for schools that already provide the very best. We should allow the necessary flexibility. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister would agree and I shall send him the report to study. If we can ensure that all schools send such reports to parents and include the performance of each individual child, it will lead to greater parental involvement in our children's education.

Ms. Gordon

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the publication of raw materials in league tables will mean that schools considering their position in the league will become increasingly reluctant to accept children with special needs? Consequently, those children will, to their detriment, be educated in sink schools. The hon. Gentleman approves of the testing of seven-year-olds. Does he know of the concept of reading readiness? Many children are not ready to learn to read until the last term of infant school, and if they are tested and pushed too early by teachers and parents, it can undermine their confidence, preventing them from becoming readers, not helping them. Therefore, the test could prove to be a two-edged sword.

Mr. Greenway

I listened with interest to the hon. Lady and am not out of sympathy with her concern. However, there is no evidence that children with special needs will not be accommodated in schools at all levels. In 1986, I was a governor of a junior school which was one of four schools competing for pupils under a shared catchment area policy. That was before the Education Reform Act 1988 and parents could choose which school their child would attend. My school specialised in educating children with special needs and enjoyed great success.

On the hon. Lady's second point, on the telephone today I asked the chief education officer of North Yorkshire, Mr. Fred Evans, about the parents charter. He suggested that we should consider it the other way round. He said that, based on the current performance of schools in the county, parents sending children to schools in North Yorkshire could expect that more than 95 per cent. of seven-year-olds would achieve the reading ability laid down in the test and there was an 82 per cent. chance that the child would be ahead of chronological development. Therefore, I do not believe that the hon. Lady's assertion is borne out by the facts.

We have heard much claptrap this afternoon about the Government's proposals on the vexed question of inspections. There will certainly be controversy when the issue is discussed in Committee. Yesterday, North Yorkshire education authority discussed the issue. It resolved that the council supports the principle of independent inspections of schools. It is important that the House should accept that principle. There is great benefit to be derived from having independent inspectors who are properly trained and monitored by Her Majesty's inspectorate.

I have sympathy with the two reservations expressed by the county council. It said, first, that the education authority would wish to maintain a school advisory service to help schools to remedy faults found in inspections. Secondly—this lies at the heart of our proposals—the authority would want to be able to take action to remedy faults when governors are inactive and fail to take any action on inspections. It would be wrong and unwise of us to rely totally on the willingness of parents and governors to ensure that action considered necessary following an independent inspector's report is carried out.

I do not suggest that we should retain the inspectorate as it is now; we are absolutely right to bring in an independent inspectorate and allow Her Majesty's inspectorate more of a monitoring role. However, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will give careful consideration to the crunch issue.

Ultimately, if local education authorities are retained, their role must be to decide policy, provide resources and play a part in monitoring the progress of policy implementation. I am not advocating that a local education authority inspectorate should be sent in on a regular basis, but it would be wise to consider ensuring that there remains a reserve power. Perhaps we should not abolish section 77(3) of the Education Act 1944, and the education authority should reserve the power to send its own inspectors into a school which remains under local education authority control and in which there are clearly management problems.

During the last election campaign, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary came to my constituency. At a public meeting, there was a lively debate on education reforms—a key issue in that election campaign—and I said that I strongly suspected that, by the time of the next election, there would not be one school in North Yorkshire that was grant-maintained. That is the case. [Laughter.] Opposition Members laugh. I predicted that none of the schools would think it necessary to seek that status. However, schools in other parts of the country have done so, and that says rather a lot against the education authorities from which those schools have escaped. Many of those authorities are Labour-controlled.

Ms. Hilary Armstrong (Durham, North-West)

I do not like to have to confront the hon. Gentleman with facts, but I must tell him that the overwhelming majority of grant-maintained schools are in Tory areas.

Mr. Greenway

If that is the case, I stand corrected. One or two schools in the North Yorkshire education authority area have expressed interest, but none has taken the step of becoming grant-maintained. That speaks volumes for the education service provided by the North Yorkshire authority.

I hope that in winding up the Minister will be able to answer my questions and will confirm that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent a local education authority from forming its own independent inspectorate which schools may prefer to use. Of course the authority will have to tender for the contract along with private inspectors in the normal way, but the matter should be carefully considered.

When the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon), came to North Yorkshire, he found a great deal which pleased him. If we want to make the best education service available everywhere, it behoves Ministers to come to North Yorkshire more regularly to see what it is doing to get education right. That will ensure that the benefits of our success can be passed to schools in other parts of Britain.

6.41 pm
Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro)

I was pleased at the way in which the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) commented on the high quality of much of the state sector. In debates that tend to focus on faults, there is an inevitable tendency to forget about what is good in education. Teachers sometimes feel that they suffer from general and unfair criticism. The hon. Gentleman spent so much time commenting on the school which I understand his children attend that he gave the impression that he was standing as a parent governor and was making the opening speech of his campaign.

Mr. John Greenway

I have been a governor of the school.

Mr. Taylor

In that case, perhaps the hon. Gentleman is on a re-election campaign. We agree with much of what he said about the Bill's proposals, because, although I do not think that he intended it, what he said amounted to criticism. He supported much of what we have said, not least in his succinct and accurate description of what an LEA should do and the need for it to have the power, in some instances, to inspect what is going on in schools and help put matters right.

As I have said, much of what happens in the state sector is good, but there are clear problems. It is not politically divisive to say that, because that view is held on all sides. Teachers complain of difficulties in education and blame the Government, just as much as the Government tend to put the blame on teachers.

In the past few days, a series of problems have been reported in the press. Yesterday's issue of The Guardian reported on an NUT survey showing that over a quarter of primary school classes contain more than 30 pupils. Sunday's issue of The Observer reported that, in the past three years, parents have spent £75 million on basic books and equipment for schools to make up for underfunding by the Government. The Times Educational Supplement reported on Friday that instrumental music teaching provided by schools has in some areas been cut by more than a third. We read of parental concerns about the shortage of qualified science teachers, the lack of nursery places and the poor condition of many school buildings.

The initiatives presented by the Government, after 12 years in office, in this Bill and in the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Bill do not address one of those multitudinous concerns. The so-called parents charter offers only the promise of regular school inspections and more information for parents. No one would deny the importance of regular school inspections or of information to parents, but much else is needed which the Government do not offer. Inspection must be thorough and must be followed by good advice. Parents need meaningful and helpful information and action to put right what is discovered to be wrong. The Bill offers none of those things.

How will the Bill improve standards when it reduces the number of Her Majesty's inspectors from 480 to 175 and reduces the role of HMI to that of a supervisory body? It farms inspection out to private companies to be bought in by schools which will be offered choice only on the basis of who offers the most easy-going report at the cheapest cost. It does not specify how information will be provided, but grants unlimited power to the Secretary of State to require whatever he wishes, when he wishes it, without consultation.

If the Bill is supposed to be about raising standards and giving full information to parents, it will fail. I shall later explain why in more detail. If it is about winning votes by taking a populist platform—which I suspect is the case—it will likewise fail, because parents will become increasingly concerned when they look at the Bill's detail. Parents are well aware that the problems created in schools by the Government are too far-reaching to be solved by the Bill's provisions.

Liberal Democrats have deep-seated concerns about the Bill and will oppose it and seek detailed and comprehensive amendments in Committee. Our main worry is about the fragmentation of the inspectorate. The Bill says that the chief inspector for England will have the duty to keep the Secretary of State informed about the quality of education and standards in schools. However, his power to do that is seriously limited by the reduction in the number of inspectors from 480 to 175. That reduction will mean a loss of many specialist skills, and the time of inspectors will be largely taken up by the new regulatory function.

The Government introduced the Education Reform Bill, now the Education Reform Act 1988, and other major education reforms, but they are now breaking the back of the one body that could effectively report on how successfully those reforms are working in the nation as a whole. If the Government really want to know how the system is performing, they should strengthen Her Majesty's inspectorate, not weaken it.

How will competition between inspection teams promote higher standards? If the basis of competition, which the Government have adopted from the private sector, is offering a good product at a low price, what choice does that leave schools except to choose inspection that is likely to offer an advantageous report at an advantageous price? Even if that were not so, financial constraints on schools could mean that they will have little choice but to opt for the cheapest teams. Small schools, of which there are many in areas such as mine, are likely to suffer most from the cost of that process.

The chief inspector is required to advise the inspection teams, but who will advise schools on who to call in, the kind of contract to draw up and the qualities to be sought in the inspection team? What advice will there be about the form that inspection should take? There are no details in the Bill about that, and that gives rise to justifiable fears that inspections will not even be of current quality. Frequent but poor inspections are not an improvement on infrequent but good inspections. Will there be the ability to deliver detailed departmental inspections? Will there be an examination of how effectively cross-curricular subjects such as environmental education are taught?

The Government are foolish to underestimate the value that schools place on a local education authority's continuing and knowledgeable role and its knowledge of an area's background. Where in this Bill is the opportunity for follow-up advice and further inspections to be called in when that is necessary? The benefits of on-going support and advice will be lost, to the detriment of our schools, and the Government have little to say about that.

We risk more than the inspection system. Because it is so tightly worked in with the advisory system, there is a fear that, in the process of sorting out, we could lose much that is of value in the advisory system as well. The Government have not explained how they envisage that process taking place in such a way as to prevent that.

If the HMI can have a role in organising private inspection teams, why not keep local inspections but have them monitored by the HMI rather than having them purely subject to LEA supervision? That would ensure the strength of a locally based system linked into advice, but with monitoring from a national body to ensure that standards of independence and rigorous inspection are upheld. If the Government were coming forward with that proposal—it would not require substantive amendment to change their present proposal into that one—there would be a broad welcome for it. Instead, because of an ideological commitment to privatisation and competition in a sector where it is inappropriate, the Government are leaving us with a Bill for which they claim many advantages but in which all those commenting on it can see only disadvantages and ultimately falling standards.

If the Government do not accept that that will be the result, are they prepared to publish the results of the consultation exercise on the inspection system that is to be embarked on? I very much doubt it. So far, the process has attracted damning criticism, and praise has been hard or impossible to find.

Who will make up the inspection teams? We have the requirement that a lay member be included, but how about the rather more important principle that, for example, there should be a member with expertise in special needs education to examine what is happening on that? Will there at least be an assurance that training given to would-be inspectors will include training in assessing the quality of special needs education?

Among my deep misgivings about the Bill is a fact that is obvious to anybody who looks at the Bill—there is no detail in it. The Government are giving themselves sweeping powers to set up a system, but they have refused to give details of how it will work in practice. The Secretary of State has said repeatedly that he understands the problems of pupils with special needs, but he has refused to make provision for the concerns that we have expressed.

The Secretary of State spoke about league tables and his understanding of the value-added principle, but he has refused to do anything about incorporating it. As is so often the case with the Government, particularly when they frame education legislation, they are asking Parliament to grant the Secretary of State wide powers and are leaving him, unfettered by proper debate or restrictions on what he does, to prescribe the details of what will happen.

The part of the Bill dealing with the publication of information by schools gives the Secretary of State many powers, but few details of how he proposes to use them, and gives parents no powers to get something done about what that information reveals. We understand that the Government's intention is that LEAs should publish league tables, including exam results, truancy rates and figures on the numbers continuing education or entering employment on leaving school.

The Secretary of State says that he wants straight, understandable information, not cooked figures. However, the limited information that he proposes to give will mean confusion rather than clarity and will lead to unfair comparisons between different schools. If the Secretary of State wants to help parents to choose the right school for their children, this is not sufficient.

Simplistic league tables will discourage schools from admitting pupils with special needs and so reduce opportunities for those pupils. They will encourage teachers not to enter pupils for exams in which they are not certain that the pupils will score highly, and so reduce opportunity for those pupils. They may tell parents, rightly or wrongly, that the school is under-performing, but they do nothing to give parents or pupils any opportunity to do anything about it.

Few would disagree that information for parents is important. Those parties committed to a freedom of information Act have already committed themselves to a far broader measure than is proposed in the Bill. There must be enough information to give a fair reflection of the achievements of the school. If the Government are insistent on compelling LEAs to draw up league tables, why can they not also insist on the giving of background information?

Why are the Government pressing ahead with their plans so determinedly despite the fact that the Audit Commission has said that it is possible to measure the performance of schools by showing the progress made by pupils rather than raw results? For the first time, the Secretary of State showed some signs of beginning to understand that principle, but he refused to make any provision to ensure that such information is published in a form that is accessible to parents. On the other hand, he still has an over-abundance of enthusiasm for raw data that do not provide anything like the same information for parents.

A school with an intake of high achievers does nothing more than we expect if they leave as high achievers. A school whose intake is of low achievers has achieved something truly remarkable and worth while if at least some of them leave as high achievers. Why demolish the reputation and self-confidence of such a school with crude league tables that would relegate that excellent school to the also-rans?

If the Government want an alternative, would it not make sense to give the job of establishing performance measures and the task of specifying the form in which the information is to be published to the Audit Commission, which specialises in such measures? If they are not prepared to take that step, they should at least make a commitment in the Bill, or even across the Dispatch Box in the way that they refused to earlier, to ensuring that value-added information is made available alongside the crude information.

If the Secretary of State wants to ensure that parents can make important decisions about schools, he should give them the information that he said earlier that he believes is a helpful part of any analysis of how a school is performing. Nothing in what the Audit Commission said would require detailed intricate information at the bottom of every list to help the average parent to understand it. The Opposition parties might want more to be added about children with special needs, but that is not my point. I am asking only that the Government adopt the Audit Commission policy and show the value added by a school.

It is obvious from the Minister's unwillingness to come forward that the Government's aim is not to give useful information to parents but to create lists that will distort and deceive. I may be in a stronger position to say this than Labour Members, but, above all, lists will show schools in deprived areas—often those with the greatest numbers of pupils who do not have English as their first language—as under-performing. Uniformly, those schools are in LEAs run by the Labour party or in some cases by the Liberal Democrats. The Government are creating a political weapon that, in its present form, will do nothing to help parents to make rational choices. We are not arguing that this information should not be made available. We are saying that all the information—not just that which suits the Government—should be made available. When there is evidence that the value-added approach to providing information is possible, and will provide for fairer assessment of a school's quality, as the Secretary of State admits, why not use all the available options?

What do the Government envisage with these league tables? Such choice as the Government offer, if choice it is, will be meaningless to most parents in rural areas such as mine, as they do not live within easy travelling distance of several schools from which they can make a choice. Even in urban areas it will not be long before schools that show up at the top of the league tables are full and, again, parents will have no choice but to send their children to schools which the Government are creating league tables to rubbish but for which they are providing no resources to solve the problem.

For most parents in Cornwall there is no option but the local school. Parents want to know that that school is providing a good education for their children, not that there is a better school at the other side of the county to which they have no hope of sending their children. If there are weaknesses, parents want to know that resources will be provided to put right those weaknesses, but the Bill does not provide for that. Above all, no one wants a local school to be labelled a failure if it is a success in terms of value added and of improving a poor child's education.

My comments reveal what I hope will be raised in detail in Committee, and I shall certainly raise such issues. I hope that the Secretary of State will participate in the Committee. He portrays the Committee as dealing with a Bill that is a Government flagship, one that is vital for the nation, a principal aspect of the Prime Minister's citizens charter and fundamental to the parents charter. However, there is little chance that the Secretary of State will attend the Committee to defend the proposals in detail, and no wonder now that we have seen how weakly he performed when trying to do so in the debate.

I also support the request that the Bill should be brought to a Special Standing Committee. One of the abiding features of the Government's reform process has been a lack of consultation and the infliction of rapid change on schools, followed by a rapid reversal of those changes. The lack of consultation has been raised by the Secretary of State to the status of high art in his proposals for the inspectorate. If the Bill were dealt with in a Special Standing Committee, we could call the people who will be directly affected by and who are most knowledgeable about the issues. At that late stage, we could at least have a genuine consultation and debate with everyone involved.

It is hypocritical for the Government to argue that the Bill is about freedom of information, about making available to parents and to the wider public information on which to judge schools and about making available what they regard as an improved inspection system, but then to refuse hon. Members permission to see the evidence presented to the Secretary of State about the inspectorate and to refuse to publish the consultation responses about proposals for the inspectorate.

Mr. Eggar

I know that the hon. Gentleman has not been in government and that he is not likely to be, but will he confirm for the record whether it is the Liberal party's official policy that internal advice to Ministers will always be released to the public?

Mr. Straw

The Rayner scrutiny on the HMIs.

Mr. Taylor

The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) says that the Rayner scrutiny on Her Majesty's inspectors was published, but there is a more fundamental issue. If Ministers seek to justify their policies by referring to information and advice made available to them, not to allow that information and advice into the wider public arena so that people can judge for themselves whether Ministers are telling the truth suggests that they are not telling the full truth.

In those circumstances, my party believes that the information should be made available, and that would be the aim of a freedom of information Act. The Government try to have it both ways. They say that the advice from civil servants is impartial and that it must not be seen because it is private to Ministers who make the decisions, but when they are questioned about their decisions, they refer to the private advice that they will not publish. That is a deceit. It is not democratic and it comes ill from a Government who propose the Bill in the name of freedom of information.

7.3 pm

Mr. Alan Amos (Hexham)

I begin by congratulating my right hon. and learned Friend on introducing the Bill which is a logical and sensible next step in the implementation of the citizens charter. Its two underlying aims are to raise standards and improve the quality of our educational system and also to widen choice which will be an informed choice and, with open enrolment, real and meaningful.

The Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association said: We … support the broad aims which underly this Bill —improved school inspection arrangements and increased public access to information about the quality of the publicly-funded education service. We believe that proper steps towards these aims would contribute to securing further improvement in the quality of children's education. The National Association of Head Teachers said—

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

Read the rest.

Mr. Amos

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) read from the same brief. As he is a natural pessimist and I am a natural optimist, I quoted the good and he quoted only the bad.

Mr. Fatchett

The hon. Gentleman quoted the first paragraph of AMMA's report. I know that he would not like to do any injustice to the report, but if he were to read the second paragraph, which contains its judgment on the Bill, he might come to a different conclusion. To put the record straight, I shall read the second paragraph: We judge that the provisions of the Bill, as printed, are confused and inadequate for their purposes. We therefore ask Members to seek very considerable revision to the Bill in Committee, in order to secure more confidently that the reforms will realise their intentions. If the hon. Gentleman is to be consistent with his opening sentence in which he quoted AMMA's report, he must proceed to argue—rightly—that the Bill is confused and inadequate for its purposes and he must tell us what revisions he will seek. If not, I suggest that he withdraws his reference to AMMA.

Mr. Amos

I was a member of AMMA for eight years and I understand its concerns, but I have quoted the brief which shows its support for the Bill's underlying aims. Therefore, it seems logical to support Second Reading and to debate the details later.

The National Association of Head Teachers said: There is undoubtedly a need to improve the regularity of formal school inspections, as well as a strong case for the provision of detailed information about schools to parents. That is an example of another highly respected teaching organisation which supports the principles behind the Bill. Therefore, I assume that the Opposition will want to give the Bill an unopposed Second Reading.

On the question of raising standards, the Bill will increase the frequency and regularity of school inspections. It will lead to about 6,000 inspections a year compared with a measly 150 last year under the present system. I was a teacher in a state comprehensive school for eight years and I never saw an inspector. Perhaps my lessons were so good that they did not need to be inspected, but I never saw an inspector. Every school will in future be inspected every four years.

The Government are rightly concerned with not only the relevance of what is taught, but the quality of how it is taught. Hitherto, inspectors' reports have been kept secret from parents and from the public, but under our proposals every parent will automatically receive a readable and understandable summary of the report with a concrete action plan from the governors telling parents how they will act on the findings.

The method and procedure of the inspection will mean that HMI will develop new powers, duties and responsibilities and that it will become more powerful and independent of central Government, as it should be. However, its role as guardian of educational standards will not change. It will regulate the standards of the new inspection teams and only those registered by HMI will be allowed to operate. The work of the new teams will be carried out to agreed national standards, properly and carefully monitored and enforced by HMI.

The inspectorate will continue to be responsible to the Secretary of State. Even though LEA inspectors and advisory staff will probably be part of many of those teams, it is right to end the role of the local education authorities in inspection, because of the inherent conflict of interest. To have a dual role as advisor and inspector is incompatible, just as we agreed that it was in the water industry. It can never be right to be both judge and jury.

The Bill provides for a logical and sensible extension of local management of schools and the greater independence that we have given to our schools. Parents should have the right to independent information about their children's schools. They can still choose the local education authority if they want, but—importantly—they have the choice not to. If the local education authority team is better and cheaper, the school can choose it if it wishes.

It is wrong to suggest that schools will be able to choose an easy inspection team. With the enhanced and more meaningful quality control function of Her Majesty's inspectorate, it will not be possible for that to happen. It would not be in the professional or career interests of the inspectors. The leader of each inspection team, a registered inspector, will be licensed for a renewable fixed period, so his professional status would be at risk.

I agree that we must strive for as much consistency as possible in the new system. There are real problems under the current arrangements which the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) wishes to preserve for all time. He was not here a moment ago, but I see that he has now run hot foot into the Chamber. The Liberal Democrats want to retain the present system.

On the current arrangements, an Audit Commission report in 1989 entitled "Assuring Quality in Education" revealed wide variations in the size of the local education authority inspectorate services. It criticised their monitoring role as uneven and in some LEAs disturbingly small. On 28 June this year, The Times Educational Supplement published a brief summary of the data available on LEA inspectors. The article said: Workloads varied considerably and between authorities … An Audit Commission survey of 67 authorities in 1988 showed that some inspectors spent less than 10 per cent. of their week observing in classrooms, whereas others spent more than 60 per cent. of their time in the classroom. A National Foundation for Educational Research survey found that only 40 per cent. of LEAs required inspectors to write any sort of report on all or most of their school visits. Consistency is important, but equally and possibly more so are rigour and regularity.

Under the Bill, more information will be provided to parents and to the public generally. I am pleased that the proposal has widespread support among parents and within the profession.

Mr. Flannery


Mr. Amos

I just quoted AMMA and the NAHT, which are two highly respected organisations. Both have accepted the broad principles that underline the Bill. The hon. Gentleman should not be so pessimistic. He looks only for bad news, but there is a lot of good news around.

The National Association of Head Teachers—I did not rise to the dizzy heights of headship, but was merely a classroom teacher—says that it is strongly in favour of the principle of providing information on schools to parents. It accepts the principle underlying the Bill.

I do not know what all the fuss is about. When I was the chairman of Enfield education committee in 1981, I decided to publish all the schools' public examination results, despite strong and sustained opposition from the educational establishment. I took the view, which I still hold, that parents and taxpayers had a right to that information. It was not for me to justify the release of the information, but for others to justify their demand that it should remain secret. The real reason was that they could not trust anyone to have the statistics, and that is the Labour party's view today.

There may have been a genuine fear that as a result of the release of information, there would be a widespread movement of pupils between schools—from the less popular to the good schools. That did not happen. There was no dramatic sea-change and there will be no dramatic sea-change under our proposals, which involve public examination results, national curriculum test results, truancy rates and the destinations of school leavers.

The vast majority of people know their local schools, but the parents who do not or who want to make a carefully considered choice of all the schools in the area are entitled to as much information as possible. The information should be provided as of right so that they can make as informed a choice as possible. Parents should not have to extract the information from unwilling local councils, which do not have a monopoly right to the information.

I understand the concerns about the examination league table. That is why contextual information will be available in the schools' prospectuses and in the governors' annual report. Together with the annual written report on the pupils' progress and our other reforms, we are building up a profile of pupil achievement. All good schools should already give annual written reports especially at a time of regular testing and with the measurable progress and benchmarks that we have built into the national curriculum.

Other hon. Members have referred to value added information. How can that be provided practically? As the National Association of Head Teachers—perhaps the hon. Member for Hillsborough would like to contradict this—rightly said: attempts to build in weightings according to social circumstances are almost certain to be unsuccessful and are likely to be ignored. The concept of value-added information sounds fine, but in reality there are practical problems.

Mr. Matthew Taylor

The hon. Gentleman is confusing two issues. Social background is one possible measure and there are difficulties with that. The value-added proposals of the Audit Commission take as the fixed point what the child has achieved, whether GCSE or other level, and consider the point to which the child has moved at the next examined level. That could be done comprehensively, as the Secretary of State agreed. I hope that the hon. Gentleman accepts that that could be published.

Mr. Amos

That is perfectly possible. As the results are published over a period of years and over the pupils' time in the school, the information will be built up and available, but one cannot have all the information immediately. One has to start the tests and start to produce the information before there can be a comparison. The hon. Gentleman's point is valid. I have always supported measuring and testing pupils as early as possible so that, as they go through school, one can measure how they are performing in relation to their potential. Unless one has the information at the beginning, one cannot measure later progress and thus identify those in need to whom help should be channelled.

The hon. Gentleman is right. We want as many tests as possible early on so that the information can be used for later comparisons. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, who is a perfectly reasonable man, supports that principle.

Mr. Eggar

indicated assent.

Mr. Amos

I shall develop the point. Does one add 10 per cent. for children from single-parent families? That would be wholly wrong. When I was teaching, two of my best students came from single-parent households. Does one add 15 per cent. for ethnic minorities? We are told constantly of the high achievement rates of Asian pupils. The proposal is nonsense in practice. With the publication of the list of examination results in comparison with capital spending and with the list of LEAs showing what percentage of their potential schools budget has now been delegated to the schools to spend for themselves, we have already established the principle.

I do not believe that a convoluted system attempting to justify and explain the results would do anything other than add confusion to a situation in which we can safely trust the parents. Parents properly take many factors into account in choosing schools, including discipline, school uniform and the ethos of the school. The annual report and the prospectus contain all the relevant information about the school, including academic and non-academic activities, so parents have access to a complete profile of what is on offer at the school.

It is a pity that the Labour party is so misguided in its obsession with input into education. It judges everything by the amount of money spent—even though expenditure is at record levels—rather than according to how effectively that money is used and the quality of output. Northumberland came 63rd of 96 in the per capita spending league, whereas, in the exam results league table, it came 15th. That is a commendable result. What matters is how the money is spent, and we should not pour money in regardless.

The examination league tables published in the Sunday papers recently left out many good schools because trendy left-wing councils refused to co-operate and hand over the information. That simply proves how important it is not to publish partial information but to publish comprehensive data in a standardised format for all schools. That is exactly the purpose of the Bill.

For the past four and a half years, I have had to listen to the whingeing and whining of the Labour party while it has opposed every single measure that we have introduced to raise standards and widen choice. Usually, the Opposition have been confused, incoherent and inconsistent, as witness their stance on the pay review body. They take the view that, if something is not done by the state bureaucracy, it should not be done at all. On the provision of more information, the Opposition clamour for open government and open access to education, yet they do not, and cannot, trust parents and the public to be given the information, let alone to interpret it sensibly.

I trust parents and I believe that they have the right to information. Unlike Labour Members, I believe in competition and incentives. I do not fear the facts; the whole point of establishing them in the first place is to find out where help is needed and to direct help to the schools that need it. The Bill is all about raising standards and it does not pretend that schools do not vary in quality. I strongly support it and commend it to the House.

7.21 pm
Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)

The Bill will dismember and privatise Her Majesty's inspectorate of schools. It will privatise the local inspectorate system, so that schools themselves will choose who is to inspect them. It is proposed that Her Majesty's inspectorate be vastly reduced in size. The Secretary of State told us today that the Government propose to cut the number of inspectors from 500 to 175. The inspectors will continue to carry out certain inspections at the instruction of the Secretary of State and, in advising the Government, will supposedly draw on a large number of inspection reports by independent inspectors,. Schools will now buy in inspections. Regulators will be chosen and paid for by the schools being inspected. What a crazy idea. That certainly cannot provide HMI with a proper basis on which to advise the Government.

The proposal that each school should choose its own inspection team could lead to what has already been described as a cosy relationship, with heads and governors choosing inspectors friendly to existing practice within the school. That seems to me a fair assessment of what will occur, because the bought-in inspectors will inevitably wish to guarantee that they are bought in again four years later. They are bound to play safe in their report. If they do not, a different inspection team may be chosen four years later, and that will mean that there is no consistency between one inspection and the next.

It is incredible that much of the work will be done by audit inspectors, who will obviously include private money-making firms. That means that the quality assurance inspectors will be able to observe the work of the new independent inspectors only once a year. Some of HMI's work will have to be curtailed or stopped altogether. In the longer term, the capacity to provide district school inspectors will also be doubtful.

The Government argue that, as a result of the changes, HMI will be much more independent. That is nonsense, because the Bill explicitly gives Ministers power over HMI. In fact, it is clear that the Government are determined to silence HMI, because each year HMI has produced a damning report on the state of our education service, and each year the Government have simply ignored it. Every year, HMI says that our schools are crumbling and that many children do not get a proper education. Every year, the Government ignore such reports. Recently, they have not only ignored them; they have actually shredded them.

Now, they plan to get rid of the inspectors, so that they can no longer produce damning reports. Instead, the job will be given to private firms, which will have every reason not to make accurate reports about schools. Consequently, the Tories' undermining of our education system will be swept under the carpet. The Government talk about freedom of information and about parents' having all the information they need. We have heard about that in speech after speech, but the Bill proves that it is bunkum. The Government do not want parents to have information. They want it swept under the carpet because they know what they have done to our education system over the past 12 years.

How can anyone trust criticisms made or reports written under a system that allows inspection teams chosen by school governors to inspect schools and report on them? Inspections will be carried out by private consultants. How in the name of heaven can one allow a school to appoint its own inspectors and then expect an accurate unbiased report? For that matter, how can one expect schools to chose an unbiased consultant?

If any system of inspection is to work properly, those who carry out the inspection must be totally independent of those who are being inspected. They should also be seen to be independent. How can the public have any confidence in an inspection service under which schools will pick and chose their own inspectors? It is a mockery; it is ludicrous.

In my view, the inspectors should have a role that will ensure and support effective change and development within schools. Surely, under the Bill, it will not be in the business interests of the inspection team to encourage schools to develop better systems of self-evaluation and review. The new inspectors will be primarily responsible to the school rather than to the local education authority, and half the local education authority resources currently allocated to inspection, advice and advisory teachers will be delegated to schools to buy in their chosen inspectors. The reduction in resources will drastically curtail the ability of each LEA to monitor provision and provide support services to schools. More incredibly, it will remove LEA's right to inspect any school that they maintain.

To make matters worse, the inspection reports that the schools will receive will be anything but useful. They will be inconsistent and unreliable. The emphasis will be placed on inspections based on single schools rather than work on trends or issues, phases or subjects, such as Her Majesty's inspectorate's important recent work on the introduction of a national curriculum. As I have already said, the Bill will lessen the quality of advice that Her Majesty's inspectorate can give the Government.

The inspectorate should be free to investigate and to instigate reports on the effectiveness of Government policy, and not just to act on the direction of the Secretary of State. I am sure that most parents would welcome a broad picture of schools' strengths and weaknesses. Independent inspection teams are unlikely to have sufficient knowledge of the local community, a school's history and of other local schools to be able to provide reliable information about the effectiveness of that school. The result is that parents will receive a report in which they can have little confidence. Inspections should be regarded as a contribution to the continuing process of raising pupil achievement in a school rather than as labelling that school.

Perhaps the most objectionable thing about the private inspectors is the proposal that the inspection teams must provide a lay member. The criterion is that they must not be involved in education. That is absolutely appalling. How in the name of heaven can someone with no background in education make a valid judgment or criticism of a school? That is like asking a layman to go into a hospital operating theatre and make a judgment of how the doctor or surgeon is operating. That is a crazy and appalling system and it is the most disgraceful part of the proposals. How on earth can an inspection team function if it is not based on expertise and experience? The team can have expertise and experience only if its members have been involved in education at some point in their careers.

We have heard much about parents in this debate, and the views of parents should be paramount. Those views must come from representative parents such as governor parents or parent association officers, and they must be based on clear terms of reference. If teacher morale is not to be further undermined, there must be an absolute guarantee that individual members of staff should not become subjects of discussion. There must be an obligation to discuss a serious complaint with the head teacher and staff before the complaint is included in the report.

The Government introduced a national curriculum supposedly to develop a nationwide education strategy. However, the measures in the Bill are contrary to that aim. The Government are doing away with the mechanism by which national standards can be measured and improved. It is clear to me that the proposals in the Bill will make it easier for poor standards to go unnoticed. It will be much more difficult for parents to exercise rights in relation to their children's schools. So much for the Prime Minister's citizens and parents charters.

The second part of the Bill can be summed up as "league tables". The Bill gives enabling powers to the Secretary of State relating to information about the performance of schools. There are likely to be league tables giving examination results, truancy rates and leaver destinations for every school in a particular area. It is desirable for parents to receive meaningful information about their children's achievements and for schools to be able to monitor how effective they are. However, the publication of raw assessment and test results will not achieve those aims. Such publication would be divisive and meaningless.

Without a fuller analysis of value-added information, the publication of results will simply reflect the difference between schools in terms of cultural and socio-economic profiles of their pupil intakes. By comparing raw data with pupil intake and weighting achievements, if necessary, the information will not give the true picture at any school. The publication of results will not take account of the influence of the proportion of pupils with educational disadvantages, learning difficulties and other variables such as pupil mobility, teacher turnover and resourcing levels.

Monday's edition of The Northern Echo, the local paper for the north-east of England, carried an article about school standards. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) must have shares in that paper, because he seems to appear in every edition. That paper does not particularly support Labour's point of view, but, the article by the education correspondent stated: Education standards are rising as more pupils in County Durham schools get top marks in GCSE and A-level examinations. But the statistics vary considerably from school to school, demonstrating the difficulty of compiling league tables just as much as they may indicate problems in some schools. The article quotes Keith Mitchell, the director of education for Durham. I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State has a tremendous relationship with him and agrees with almost everything he says—as we read in the paper virtually every week. Keith Mitchell stated: the difficulties of judging school performance through examination statistics are notorious. He presented a report to the county council in which schools were referred to in alphabetical order rather than in statistical order. He said: exam results are of great importance, but they arc only one measure of a successful school. Results tend to reflect the social and economic background of pupils and their different expectations. Instead of having an alphabetical league table, The Northern Echo decided to produce a league table according to GCSE results. It was no great surprise that that league table showed that four of the top five schools in the county of Durham were located in the university city of Durham, where a significant number of pupils' parents are academics. The city is also reasonably affluent.

In that area, the number of children receiving free school meals is considerably lower than in seven of the 10 schools at the bottom of the league, 20 per cent. or 30 per cent. of whose pupils come from deprived homes. The Northern Echo stated: Although this table highlights schools with a high percentage of O-level passes, we could produce a league table putting Carmel ahead of Park View, Belmont and St. Leonards"— schools within the city— and promoting Wolsingham from 27th place to fifth place since over 90 per cent. of the pupils gained five or more GCSEs. The point is that league tables can show anything we want them to. We cannot depend on a league table to show how well a school is doing. A league table can prove anything.

The Northern Echo then stated: The permutations are endless and the county council must pursue them so schools are fairly placed on the Government's examination league tables next year. That proves conclusively that league tables are absolutely worthless. They provide information that should already be known if the job is being done properly.

Mr. Fallon

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and for his kind references earlier. I should have thought that the example that he has just given proves almost exactly the opposite. If he is capable of interpreting, as he has just demonstrated he is, the league table that showed that four of the top five schools are in his constituency, why are his constituents incapable of interpreting the table in that way?

Mr. Steinberg

With respect to the Minister, my constituents already know that. They do not need a league table to tell them that they have very good schools. The league table gives a false impression of the schools below the top five in the table. The table seems to imply that those schools are inferior, but they are not; they are just as good. In many respects, they could be doing a better job, but because of the raw results and the permutations, the statistics can prove anything at all.

Mr. Flannery

Is it not clear from the outbursts from Conservative Members, and especially from the Minister, who clearly does not seem to understand education, that they really believe in elitism in education and the devil take the hindmost? That is why they want league tables.

Mr. Steinberg

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. League tables do not show anything more than we already know. We do not need them.

The publication of results will cause schools and pupils who are identified as failing in comparison with others to be demotivated and undermined. That is what league tables will do. It is also obvious that the publication of results will mean that, because such a huge significance will be given to the assessment of certain parts of the curriculum and to academic aspects of achievement, teaching to the test will actually be encouraged. The consequence will be the narrowing of the curriculum. In the long term, that will mean the lowering, not raising, of standards and the demotivating of many pupils.

The assessment of pupils' progress is important because it should encourage pupils to learn, inform teachers and pupils of progress, and provide feedback on achievement. If assessment becomes dominant—in other words, teaching to the test—curriculum aims are unlikely to be achieved. The effectiveness of a school is measured by what is taught in the whole curriculum and by the quality of life in that school.

Mr. Dunn

The hon. Gentleman speaks with sincerity and knowledge about education, because he was a professional before he came to the House. However, I am a little confused by the drift of his argument. He said that, in his constituency, all the information that went out was known to parents, so there was no need to publish. Surely the need to publish a league table is obvious. The hon. Gentleman's constituents might think that they know which are the best schools and which are the worst schools in his constituency, but the league tables might show a different picture and might enable parents to make a positive, defined, sophisticated choice about the school to which they may want to send their children. The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Steinberg

The hon. Gentleman does not understand league tables and the results of league tables. Parents know the performance of the school to which they send their children. Many of them would not have sent them there in the first place if they did not know how the school was performing. Many parents have no choice—it is the school within their area. Parents know how a school performs. They do not need league tables showing the top, bottom or middle. It is wrong to argue that league tables would give that information. I have already explained that league tables can be jiggled. They can be based on fewer results and on many other things. League tables do not give reliable information.

The Bill will do nothing for education. It is a further step in reducing standards in schools and lowering the morale of school teachers. We should have had a Bill that defined maximum class sizes and the minimum level of resourcing of books and equipment. Incidently, the school that is top of the list according to The Northern Echo is using books that are 30 years old. It must scrimp and save and use books that are 30 years old.

We should have had a Bill that defined the minimum standards of provision of support staff, guaranteed standards for school buildings, and guaranteed provision of supply staff to cover for teacher absences. That would have been helpful for education. That would have helped to improve standards.

The only policies that will help all our children are those designed to limit class sizes, provide the books and equipment that are needed, and replace crumbling schools. The Government could have introduced a Bill that did just that, because that is what is needed. However, the Government gave us this Bill which, once again, will undermine the education service and teachers, and not help one iota to improve standards.

7.44 pm
Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

In supporting a very important measure for raising standards in schools over the next few years, I wish to refer to three points, two of which have already been mentioned. My hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) related an educational idyll of his constituency, and very impressive it was too. Educational standards in my hon. Friend's constituency have risen considerably over the past 12 years. However, that rise is not peculiar to his constituency. Spending per pupil has gone up by 40 per cent. over the past 12 years. We have already heard that the pupil-teacher ratio has also improved. Evidence shows a significant improvement—about a third—in the number of those who attain levels A to C in their GCSE results. There has been a significant improvement in the number of those attaining two or more A-levels. However, it must be said that there is improvement across the education spectrum.

I could take my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale to my constituency and show him a middle school which has spent £1 million on capital improvements over the past four years. I could take him to a secondary school in my constituency where the staying-on rate, which is a good index of educational achievement, has risen from 28 per cent. of the relevant age group to 55 per cent. over the past five years. Obviously, that success does not apply only to my constituency, where we have a relatively low-spending Conservative-controlled county council with, nevertheless, good examination results. It also applies to schools in inner-city areas. Over the past 12 years, great progress has been made under this Government in respect of educational standards and investment in education.

Secondly, my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Amos) said that we need no strictures from the Labour party on making education more parent-friendly. Here we have the Johnnies-come-lately who, when we were examining the Education Reform Act 1988 in Committee, opposed open enrolment which allowed parents to choose schools, certainly opposed the national curriculum because they thought that it was too centrist, and certainly did not like the idea of assessment. They now seem to think that they were all their own ideas all along and would like to adopt them with enthusiasm. I am absolutely certain that, in three years' time when we have another Conservative Government, Labour Members will still claim parentage of this measure, because they will then think that it will raise educational standards.

Thirdly, if we are to succeed in an economically competitive world in which technological advances are taking away the manual jobs that have been available for people who did not succeed at school, we have a duty to make sure that not only GCSE A to C achievers but every pupil has a rigorous education and attains the necessary qualifications for a job. Staff at the employment training centres in my constituency say that the problem is that 40 per cent. of the people on their schemes have no basic education achievement, despite spending 11 years in the state school system. That is a fair cause for concern, at which the Bill is aimed.

A good education rests on a rigorous curriculum that is clearly understood, taught by well motivated teachers and has parents' support because they know what the curriculum is intended to achieve and what its results are likely to be.

The problem in Britain during the past 15 to 20 years has been that we have shied away from objective results in education. We have been too child-centred. We have not liked the idea of relative standards.

I can give an example of the problems that that attitude causes. I remember a parent coming to me about two years ago. She had just found out that her little nine-year-old, who had just gone into middle school, was two years behind on his reading age. I asked why she had not found out earlier. She said that she had asked the teachers and attended teacher sessions, but had been told that her son was fine. I asked whether she had received reports in the previous school. She said that she had never received any reports. Because that woman had no way of assessing what her child was doing, she had no idea of his achievement. The requirement in the Bill to publish results, including examination results, and provide written reports will help to alleviate that problem.

During the past 15 years, education has too often not been regarded as a body of knowledge to be imparted from teacher to pupils in an objective way. That was well put by Dr. Anthony Daniels earlier this year: There was a supposedly libertarian revulsion against 'bourgeois' standards of grammatical language: … That two and two make four is considered an intolerable insult to human freedom. He says that the trouble is: scores are the young people I have encountered who left employment after a few days, simply because, on their own admission, they could not endure taking orders. They have never known what it is patiently to grow in skill and knowledge. They have been taught that what they already know and do is 'equally valid'. That is the result of too great an adherence to a subjective, child-centred theory of education. The results are obvious.

Although at the top end of the scale more people than ever go to university—280,000 additional students every year in the past 12 years—a quarter of our seven-year-olds cannot give the result of the sum three multiplied by 10p plus four multiplied by 1p. Just in case anyone does not know, the answer is 34p.

The National Foundation for Educational Research in England and Wales shows that too many of our seven-year-olds cannot achieve a satisfactory standard of reading. [Interruption.] I am referring to education methods. The bottom range of ability in the population is often affected by the lack of rigour in the education system.

Just as the Education Reform Act 1988 led, as Robin Wilson, the headmaster of Trinity school said recently in The Times Educational Supplement, to a phenomenally rapid and healthy change in schools, so the Bill will be crucial in bringing about improved standards in the classroom.

We have heard much debate tonight about whether the data on a school's performance should be given on a raw basis or a value-added basis. The reason why I support using raw data is not practical but philosophical. Through my associations with schools, I have found that if one concentrates on value-added data and takes into account what pupils knew when they entered a school, too often their basic education problems are obscured. Too often it institutionalises low achievement and therefore leads to unreasonably low expectations among teachers for the pupils whom they teach. That produces a downward educational spiral which it is difficult to stop.

For a long time I have been associated with a school called Perry Common, which is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker). It is true that no less than 40 per cent. of the entry at age 11 have some special educational needs. I do not know whether that is due to their basic level of ability, poor teaching in the previous school or whatever. The problem is that because teachers know that, they have a disincentive to aim for the highest possible standard among the children they teach. That is not to say that the teachers are unprofessional. They are a good lot, but their standards and expectations are lower than they otherwise would be.

We did some interviews recently for a new head teacher. There were 40 applicants from all over Britain, of whom we interviewed 10. It was significant that all 10 spoke about the low expectations that teachers at the school seemed to have of pupils. The publication of raw data will act as an antidote to that problem and maintain the highest expectations. However, that does not mean that I am in complete agreement with what the Bill proposes should be published. In some schools BTEC is an important part of the curriculum, and the Government should consider whether those results should be published too.

Mr. Morley

The hon. Gentleman says that he has reservations about the publication of raw data, although they seem to me to be limited. Will he take into consideration the fact that there is great danger in publishing league tables produced on the basis of raw data? Unless the method by which data are compiled is taken into account, schools will discourage borderline pupils from sitting examinations. If the school ensures that its best pupils go in for exams, it will have a higher percentage pass rate. In a league table, that factor may hide a poorly performing school. It might look good in a league table, but the school could be under-achieving. How would it improve teachers' expectations if pupils of average ability were discouraged from sitting examinations?

Mr. Coombs

There is a variety of answers to that question. The main one is that I have more faith in the professionalism of teachers and their ambitions for their pupils than the hon. Gentleman appears to have. Most teachers want their children to improve and show what they can do in examinations. Therefore, teachers will enter pupils for examinations for which they think that the pupils are fit. That is why I argue that BTEC should be included in the examination results which the Bill requires schools to publish. Many schools do well in BTEC and do not lower standards or expectations as a result.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham was right to say that, under the Bill, there will be 6,000 inspections a year rather than the measly 150 full inspections that have taken place in the past. My attitude to inspections in schools stems from my experience as chairman of schools in Birmingham for two years. I set up a working party on standards. It was sad that the Labour party did not want to co-operate in the working party, at least initially, because it felt that it might have to "put the finger", as it put it, on schools which were under-performing.

The problem with inspections in Birmingham was, first, that they were too rare to be of any real use. Full inspections, which will happen every four years under the Bill, happened every 20 years if one was lucky under the old system. The second problem was that the results of the inspections were rarely known outside the education department. They were not conveyed adequately to governors and if the governors received them, they were couched in such jargon that the governors could not take action on them.

Thirdly, the inspections were never discussed by the education committee—except when I became chairman and set up the working party. That is why we set it up. It is very sad that, when we lost power in 1984, the first thing that the Labour did was to abolish the standards working party, so the inspections were never discussed. The Bill requires the results of inspections to be made available to parents through governing bodies. Because of local management of schools, governing bodies will be able to do something about them, so inspections will be extremely valuable.

The reservations about inspections that have been expressed in the debate have not been objective and do not carry a great deal of weight. It appears that I have more faith in school governors than have many Opposition Members. School governors will be going for the best and most objective inspections, because that will add to the school's credibility. If inspections are sufficiently rigorous—with raw data or not—well motivated teachers, with good head teachers, will find that they are an incentive to improve standards in schools rather than the opposite.

I know of a school where only 6 per cent. of students passed the GCSE level with a grade between A and C. That is appalling. The national average is 30 per cent. Faced with those results, the teachers did not put their heads down and hope that the problem went away; they got stuck in. That proportion was built up to 12 per cent. in one year.

The Opposition have said that the publication of raw data will act as a disincentive, but, in most cases, it will act as a significant incentive for educational improvement.

Therefore, the Bill will give parents the knowledge that they need to become an effective part of the partnership between parent and teacher upon which all good education is based. As an extension of the parenthood charter, the Bill proves that the Government—through measures that they have already taken, such as open enrolment, local management of schools, greater control of governing bodies for parents and now through the publication of exam results, better school reports and better inspections —represent the party that takes parents' interests seriously. That is the way to better standards in education.

8.2 pm

Mrs. Rosie Barnes (Greenwich)

First, I shall discuss that part of the Bill which deals with testing and the publication of results. As I have made clear on the Floor of the House and in letters to Ministers, I am not opposed to testing, as long as it is done sensitively and used properly. I spent a considerable amount of time observing the testing of seven-year-olds in schools in my constituency. The tests were carefully designed and appropriate for seven-year-olds. By and large the youngsters seemed to be enjoying the tests immensely, and I felt that there was much advantage in them.

I was worried about the length of time that the tests were taking and the demands that they made of teachers because of the lack of additional classroom support. I am glad that that problem is being taken seriously.

I have been concerned about the way in which some of the test results have been used almost immediately in the political arena. Although I do not wish to focus wholly on the testing of seven-year-olds, the way in which those tests have been used has much relevance for how we use testing in general. I was worried about the dramatic announcement that 25 per cent. of seven-year-olds are illiterate and about the equally dramatic announcement by the Opposition spokesman. The Opposition were castigating lack of resources and the Government were implying that teaching methods left much to be desired. That may be the case, but it is certainly not proven. It is not fair to children or to teachers to dismiss 25 per cent. of seven-year-olds as illiterate.

The important thing is that both young children and those in secondary schools are on a learning curve and are making progress. Many children, who were only six when they took the test and were perhaps on the brink of achieving that, would be illiterate according to those criteria.

My son is six and will be taking the tests in the coming year. I have observed his reading progress. As with walking, talking and many other developments, children often make steady progress followed by a great surge. My six-and-a-half-year-old would just about pass that test now, whereas two months ago he would not. What matters is not where he was on the day he took the test, but the fact that he is making steady progress and can be expected to read confidently and with comprehension in the next year or so. That is the important thing and that is what must be addressed. Dismissing children as illiterate because of a fixed test on one day is a great mistake.

Crude league tables, based on raw data, have a number of major disadvantages. I have listened carefully to Conservative Members' arguments that such tables are effective and valuable. One hon. Member said that as much information as possible should be given to parents, not partial information. That information should include some idea of the standard of the child to start with—it is not merely a question of ensuring that results are assesed fairly and meaningfully—as that is important for parents of children with certain qualities when they decide where to send their child.

When I was considering the choice of school for one of my children, who was assessed as band 2 under the local education authority system, I looked at the league tables differently. I was interested to know which school in my area did well with band 2 children—at which schools such children went on to achieve. I chose the school with those criteria in mind and I have not been disappointed.

The results of the different schools were interesting. In many schools in my area, comparing intake with GCSE results and subsequently A-level results, band 1 children went on to do remarkably well, but band 2 and 3 children disappeared without trace. I was not interested in those schools. I wanted a school where band 2 children were achieving, expectations were high and they were making progress. That is an important consideration.

Parents of children with special needs need to know where they will be well catered for. That may never show up on the sort of league tables that we are talking about.

There is a danger that the Bill will encourage some schools, although certainly not all, to be rigorous in excluding pupils who they think might have a downgrading effect on their league tables, or that schools might discourage children with only a marginal chance of succeeding in an examination, not allowing them to take it because it will depress the school's results. That is not pie in the sky. In my area, two comprehensive schools have been vying in the local popularity stakes for some time. Although it is going back a considerable time, when the results of one school were analysed on the same basis as the results of the other it became clear that the school had presented its statistics in a misleading way. It also became clear that the numbers of pupils allowed to take some exams were different. That is of particular importance.

Falling standards and substandard school performance must be identified and tackled. The raw data will not necessarily give that information. We are looking not for raw results or a fixed result, but for progress, development and what schools have achieved with the pupils in their area. I hope that the Government will think again before deciding to publish raw data without any additional information. I recognise that we could get into a confusion of innumerable value-added dimensions, but there must be a balance between sensible, additional information on which to make an informed judgment and obscuring the important results.

The inspectorate has proved to be a critical aspect of the debate. Before the Government's proposals on how the inspectorate might operate in future, there seemed to be general agreement that inspectors were trusted and respected and had integrity and objectivity. So far as I can gather, the only criticism of inspectors is that there are not enough of them, so they cannot produce as many thorough, formal reports as desirable. Their advice to Ministers and schools has generally been accepted as invaluable and of the highest calibre. I fail to see how the new system can be an improvement on that.

Schools are to employ an inspecting agency. Educational consultants will vie to be chosen for that task. Those people, living in the real world of the free market, of competition, failed businesses and bankruptcies, as human beings, will look for renewed contracts and recommendations to other schools that they are the sort of inspecting agency with which a school likes to deal. There may not be consistency, but that anxiety pales into insignificance beside the considerable worry that the new system will be fraught with temptation to load, flatter or mislead in presenting a report. Obviously, word will go round that certain agencies are particularly critical and venomous while others are softer and gentler. That is what will happen in the real world, and we must resist it at all costs.

The hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) said that governors would exercise far more sense and, given a level playing field, I am sure that they would. But governors, too, will be making decisions in a tough climate. Many of them face critical financial decisions. No more than a couple of weeks ago, I had a letter from the parent governors of one of my children's schools about opening a special fund to make good the shortfall in the main budget. The school is in Lewisham which, the Minister will be aware, has particular financial problems, so perhaps it is not entirely typical. Nevertheless, governors who have to perform a difficult juggling act to make ends meet and who are looking for some approval for their decisions may be unduly biased.

Nobody can fail to agree with some of the Government's recommendations. At present, two out of five local education authorities do not systematically inspect and seven out of 10 do not publish results. We all know of the extraordinary inspection frequency, which results from the present level of the inspectorate, of a 200-year cycle for infant schools and a 60-year cycle for secondary schools. That is nonsense. Any intention to make formal inspection a four-yearly event must be right and must be applauded. There is no argument about that.

There is argument about who should carry out the inspection and who is best suited to it. I believe that a bolstered, more independent HMI would be the best vehicle. We understand from the review that we can read about only in leaked reports to The Independent that a number of head teachers and principals to whom we spoke said that the characteristics of independence, objectivity and breadth of experience … were best exemplified by HMI. If that is the case, I fail to see why we are lurching off at a tangent and appointing a separate set of bodies which may lack consistency to do this vital job.

I do not share some of the anxieties raised by Opposition Members about lay members of inspectorates. Education must be examined by people other than simply the providers. It is easy to get too immersed in education practice and too involved in one's own educational philosophy to make an objective assessment of what is happening in a given school. I do not object to a degree of laymen representation, but I have great anxieties about the changes in the Bill.

We are told that the idea of expanding HMI has been dismissed because, it is claimed, the inspectorate could not deal with the 8,000 school assessments each year. Yet, paradoxically, we understand that it will be able to monitor those 8,000 inspections by other inspections teams each year. That seems extraordinary and something of a duplication of tasks. The lack of logic in that must be apparent to all. We can only plead that the necessary resources for it to conduct those 8,000 reviews a year will be made available. That is the only safeguard in the current form of the proposals against the possibly skewed results from inspection teams with a natural eye on their future commissions and business viability.

All the inspection in the world, however perfectly done, is academic, as is testing, if there are no means of following up the recommendations, tackling the weaknesses or making good any shortfalls. A few months ago, a constituent came to see me with a boy of 14 who could not read. She was a working-class mother who had been worried about that since she had become aware of his reading problem when he was seven. Each year various schools and teachers told her, "We'll give it another year and see how it goes." Now he is 14 and still cannot read. If problems relating to particular teachers or pupils are identified within schools or in subject areas within schools, they must be dealt with. Otherwise, the whole exercise is simply academic.

We recognise that there are shortfalls in the educational system relating to nursery provision, special needs provision and the number of educational psychologists in post. There are also teacher shortages in certain subjects and in certain geographical areas where teachers are unwilling to apply for vacancies. Without tackling those fundamental problems, the rest of our debate will be of little value towards improving standards in our schools

. The shortcomings appear to have been diagnosed only recently and I fear that there is a tendency to go for alternative forms of educational practice that may be no more tried and tested than those which we are leaving behind. There has been a lurch back to the blackboard style of teaching, with all children facing the same direction, having the same lesson at the same time. That change, together with the abolition of project work in schools, is a dangerous move and must be resisted. Education does not have to be miserable to be effective. A good teacher can make education enjoyable and effective.

I was alarmed to hear one Conservative Member say that education had become too child-centred. What an extraordinary statement. I accept that we must look to the outside world and the end product as well as considering what the child experiences during his school years. However, to be effective, education must be child-centred. I accept that some education has been ideologically based and I do not defend that. However, when pupils work according to their own ability, in different ways and on different subjects in the same classroom, that is extremely effective—as long as the teacher is good.

I have said on many occasions, and no doubt I shall do so many times again, that education depends on good teachers who are well motivated and well paid. They must enjoy the right status and they must feel that they are regarded with considerable esteem by society. That is not the case now.

A small number of teachers caused a great deal of misery for the rest of the profession when they lurched into industrial action in the 1980s. My older son, who is 18, suffered three years of disruption to his secondary education because of that industrial action. I recognise that many of his friends from less fortunate backgrounds have never recovered. They do not have the type of parents who can pick up the pieces and who can say, "Have another year or two at school to make good." Those children have been failed for life by those three years of industrial action, and I do not defend it. However, I hope that the pay review body will redress the imbalance in teachers' pay and that marked improvements will occur.

I conclude by repeating an anecdote that I recently heard at a prize-giving day in a school in my constituency. The headmaster told us about a school in America where the results were extremely poor. Its headmaster decided that something had to be done, so he selected a group of pupils and a group of teachers. He told them that they were earmarked for special achievement, he gave them extra resources and extra study time. The expectation that they would do well was evident to all. The pupils went on to do very well in their subsequent examinations and everyone was pleased.

The teachers held a small party to celebrate and, after the pupils had left, the headmaster said, "You must realise that I did not select those pupils according to any particular criteria. They were selected at random from the rest of the pupils." When the teachers heard that, they congratulated themselves wholeheartedly and said, "Well, we did extremely well if you did not pick the best to achieve those results." The headmaster replied, "Well, you were not selected either as especially good teachers. You were selected at random from the teaching staff."

That story shows what can be achieved when the expectations of teachers and pupils are high. As the education debate proceeds, we must examine each issue according to such expectations.

8.24 pm
Mr. David Evennett (Erith and Crayford)

I welcome the opportunity to speak in this important debate. As someone who came through the state school system and benefited from the investment that previous taxpayers spent on our schools, I believe that it is vital that today's children and their parents get value for money from the present state school system.

I believe passionately in the state school system, and I want the very best for our children and our country. A great deal of work is done in our schools, and we must not underestimate it. However, there are also many problems. Despite the vast increases in expenditure on education in real terms recently, the public are not satisfied with the performance of our schools. Pupils are dissatisfied, and industry and commerce remain somewhat dismayed at the results from our schools. Therefore, something must be done.

In the past few years, the Government have introduced a number of beneficial educational reforms, which will definitely improve matters. I believe that the Bill continues that process. It should and will be welcomed by the vast majority of people, and it proves that the Government are continuing their endeavours to improve our schools and our education system.

The Conservative party believes in choice and opportunity for people in terms of how they spend their money and their time. We believe in providing people with the opportunity to utilise their talents to the full. Education is a passport to a full and fulfilling life. However, in some schools, in some areas, many children are being denied that passport. That is unacceptable to the Conservative party, and further action must be taken to improve the situation. I am sure that the Bill will improve the standard and quality of educational provision.

I must preface my remarks about school performance by stating that school provision in general is extremely good in my borough of Bexley. We have a varied mixture of good schools—grammar, technical, comprehensive and single sex. We also have a bilateral school in Erith in my constituency. Therefore, parents in my area have a true choice. I admit that our schools are so good that parents from neighbouring boroughs such as Greenwich, Lewisham and Bromley want to send children to our schools in Bexley. My hon. Friend the Minister knows only too well that that desire has caused concern to parents in Bexley. We have urged him to legislate to reverse the Greenwich judgment, so that priority is again given to children of our borough.

Although I welcome the Bill, I fear that publication of performance tables could make our problems in Bexley worse. Unless the Greenwich judgment is overturned, parents in Greenwich and other neighbouring boroughs —once they see how good and how well our schools perform—will be even more enthusiastic in their attempts to get places in Bexley schools. That would be detrimental to children in my constituency, unfair to parents and unacceptable to me. I hope that the Minister will note that.

On a positive note, I welcome the fact that schools will have to disclose their GCSE and A-level results. That is a big step forward, because parents will then be able to use examination results to challenge schools to improve. The educational establishment likes to keep up an old-fashioned mystique on such matters, and I believe that that establishment is one of the problems we face. It believes that it knows best and what is good for us and for our children. It believes that it alone can analyse, comment and advise.

It is amazing how dominant the educational establishment has been for so long, which is totally unacceptable. Today the Opposition revealed themselves as dinosaurs because they acted as mere apologists for the old established order.

Just as the old order has fallen in eastern Europe, so it is falling in educational establishment circles in Britain. There is a new mood afoot. Parents will no longer accept being fobbed off by the so-called experts. After all, parents are concerned about their children. They have a right in today's society to as much information as is available.

Let us remember that parents are making choices about their children and their future. They want to know how school examination results compare, about the level of truancy and about the staying-on rate after 16. Many parents also want to know what pupils do and where they go after leaving school—how many go into further education, to university or into employment.

The facts that will now be provided will give parents the missing information which will allow them to judge a school overall. Good schools will have nothing to fear. Weak schools will be encouraged to improve. Children and education will be the winners. The idea that information should be hidden from or denied to parents, as apparently advocated today by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and the Labour party, is amazing. It is also insulting to parents.

Mr. Straw


Mr. Evennett

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman shortly. He spoke for a long time.

Most parents of children at poorer schools already know about those schools, though they do not have the information to confront the governors, teachers and heads to urge them of the need to improve the school.

Mr. Straw

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will look at the Official Report tomorrow and tell me where I said that information should be hidden from parents. At no stage did I say that, nor do we believe it.

Mr. Evennett

The hon. Gentleman implied it in what he said during his very long speech.

Parents need more information about their children. The jargon, the mystique and the experts have dominated in the recent past. As a public service, schools should provide each year a written report on each child's progress. That would be helpful to parents in the task of continuing their children's education at home. Opposition Members seem constantly to forget that parents, not teachers, are the primary educators of children. The teacher is the professional, so the teacher should report on the child's progress. The aim must be to help the child and keep the parents fully informed and advised. That is why the reports will be most helpful.

Inspection has come in for much discussion today as a major part of the Bill. Inspection in schools must be considered a vital part of the education system. It is essential if we are to know how schools, teachers and pupils are progressing, highlighting areas of concern and problems, while praising and congratulating areas where good practice and work is being carried out. A radical reform of HMI is long overdue.

As a former teacher with a wife who is a teacher, and as one who was a school governor throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s, I have always been surprised and disappointed at the way in which most schools are infrequently inspected. Educational fashions change. Over the years, teaching fashions have changed and have become less formal. The results were often not good, yet only in a few severe cases did HMI go in and make an impact with its report.

Investigations are not meant to condemn but to evaluate, suggest and recommend. Yet with such infrequent investigations, there is often considerable disadvantage for the schools and the children. Four-yearly inspections must be good news; I warmly welcome that part of the Bill.

A result of the Government's proposals will be more inspections and reports. HMI will still have a vital role to play, despite the remarks of the hon. Member for Blackburn. Indeed, it will have an enhanced role. It will have a new independent statutory role, not only to inspect and produce reports, as now, but to advise and monitor the new system for schools with delegated budgets.

There will, of course, continue to be local council inspectors to inspect schools without delegated budgets. Regrettably, over the years local inspections have varied widely in quality, for many reasons. But to the Labour party, it seems that the solution always lies in having more ex-teachers, more ex-educationists and more establishment figures who alone, Labour thinks, are capable of doing the necessary inspections in our schools.

I find that view absolutely amazing. We need a breath of fresh air in school inspections. We must look at the standards and work in schools from an objective standpoint, and that should involve some outsiders, which means non-educationists, looking, inspecting and reporting. As I say, we must introduce a breath of fresh air into the inspection system. So long as HMI monitor and control the standards of the inspections, the changes proposed will bring many positive benefits. The most important will be better education provision for our children and the nation.

During the last five years, we have highlighted the problems and brought forward many reforms in the schools system, to the benefit of education and the children. It is vital that our children have the best possible education to allow them not only to have the best possible standard of life and maximise their opportunities, but for the benefit of Britain, so that we can compete in the world in trade and industry.

We must not simply retain the old-fashioned, traditional ways. It is clear from the remarks of Labour Members that they do not like change, even though they have no ideas about what should be done to improve the education system. They are mere apologists for the existing system. They believe that it will be fine so long as more money is put into it. That is clearly not the solution to the problems of education in Britain. Over the years, more money has been put into education, but regrettably in certain areas little has been achieved. More money was spent in ILEA than in any other authority, yet the results were a disaster.

A basic amount of money must be provided, and the Conservatives have put more money than ever in real terms into education. We need an improved education system, and the Bill will go a long way to achieving that for the benefit of our children.

8.36 pm
Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

It is said that those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad, and it is clear that Tory Ministers are mad. If they seriously believe that in the context of the present constitutional crisis between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom they can introduce what are crude and dangerous league tables into Scottish education—and do so by means of a single clause tacked on at the end of an English and Welsh Bill which is otherwise wholly irrelevant to Scotland—they have taken leave of their collective senses. They will have to pay a further political price for their insensitive treatment of Scotland.

Some hon. Members believe that the Tories have got themselves into a spot of bother in Scotland, and we are not referring to the occasional by-election disaster such as occurred in Kincardine and Deeside recently, or even to the reduction of Scottish Tory representation in the House to the completely inadequate level of nine. We are talking about a spectacular slide in support for Conservatism in Scotland, which has taken the Tories from the high point of being the majority party in Scotland in the mid-1950s to the point today when they are on the edge of extinction as a serious and significant force in Scotland.

One might think that, in those circumstances, Ministers would begin to ask themselves a few basic questions, such as, "Where have we gone wrong in Scotland? What are we doing or not doing in Scotland that is alienating from us our natural Scottish supporters?" It is not for me to help Scottish Tories in those circumstances, but I suggest to them that it may have something to do with the way in which the Government treat Scotland in legislative terms. The Government treat Scotland as an afterthought and something to be tacked on at the end when the serious business has already been dealt with.

I can imagine the scenario that must have taken place before the Bill was introduced. A team of Education Ministers will have been locked up together for days or even weeks on end to thrash out the details of the Bill. They will have gone into detail about Her Majesty's inspectorate for England and for Wales and about the powers of the chief inspector for England and for Wales. They will have discussed the supply of information for grant-maintained, state and private schools in England and Wales. Then, just when they thought that they had finished and were about to leave the room, up pipes a small Scottish voice in the corner which says, "What about Scotland?" The Government had forgotten all about Scotland.

The Secretary of State was so ignorant that he believed that the Bill applied to Scotland. He was unaware that 20 of the 21 clauses and all the schedules had nothing to do with Scotland. In answer to a question from me, he suggested that the Bill affected all areas of the United Kingdom in the same way, with additional provision for Scotland in clause 17. He appeared to be completely at sea again when I asked why primary schools in Scotland were excluded from the Bill, and did not seem to know that Scottish primary schools had been excluded.

It is contemptible for a Government to behave in that way about an important and constituent part of the United Kingdom. They treat Scotland as no more than a mere appendage of England, and seek to impose on Scotland an educational agenda that is irrelevant to the real needs of Scottish education. Indeed, the Bill is aimed primarily at England, rather than at England and Wales.

The Bill is contemptible in practical terms because, when it is debated in Committee, there may be only one Scottish Member on the Committee. The Labour party will ensure that Scottish Labour Members are represented, but will the Government ensure that there is Scottish representation in the Conservative party? The Minister of State, Scottish Office was present during the opening speeches of this debate but he has since disappeared and has not returned since. Nor is he likely to wind up the debate as I understand that the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon), or some other English Minister will do so.

In any case, a concurrent Bill will involve the Scottish Office Minister, so there is unlikely to be a Scottish Minister in the Committee. There are unlikely to be any Scottish Conservative Back Benchers either, not only because there are so few of them but because none of them has participated in this debate, apart from a brief intervention by the hon. and learned member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) that could hardly have been described as serious participation.

Mr. Straw

He was drunk.

Mr. McAllion

He may have been drunk, but his participation was not serious.

A Scottish Labour Member could find himself isolated on the Committee and virtually speaking to the walls of the Committee Room, because he will get no reasonable or logical answers from Ministers who have no responsibility for Scottish education and will be unable to deal with the criticisms and questions which that Labour Member may raise.

For the House to deal with Scotland in that manner shows nothing but contempt for Scotland and the Scottish people. Clause 17 should be dealt with separately, if not by a Bill in its own right then at least by the Scottish Grand Committee, which should sit separately to consider clause 17, as it applies only to our country. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) will apply for an early sitting of the Scottish Grand Committee to deal with clause 17. He will have the support not only of Labour Members but of all Scottish Members who are genuinely concerned about Scottish education and keen to see it debated properly in the House.

Like Scottish plays, Scottish clauses will become famous in Westminster and a Scottish clause will now be added to every Bill to deal with Scotland as an afterthought. Clause 17 provides for the publication of crude league tables showing exam results, truancy rates and the destination of pupils once they have left school in Scotland. Ministers claim that the clause is designed simply to convey more information to parents and give parents a choice about the educational future of their children. That is so much bunkum, as every Labour Member knows. The tables are designed to exclude from comparison all the factors that influence examination results, particularly the social class make-up of a school.

It has long been known in education circles that a clear correlation exists between social class background and examination success. League tables that do not take that correlation into consideration distort reality and are inaccurate. The league tables published under the Bill will distort and be inaccurate and, to that extent, they will be useless as a guide to parents on how to choose a school.

Much more important is the use to which those league tables will be put. Parents will naturally clamour to get their kids into schools at the top of the performance tables. Those schools will then be in the fortunate position of being able to pick and choose between applicants. They will be aware that the reason for their educational success in the first place was the high proportion of their intake coming from social classes 1 and 2. Therefore, they will be predisposed to choose applicants from those social classes, thereby reinforcing their examination success and leading them on to greater success than ever.

The Bill will reinforce the marked differences that now exist between schools in terms of the social class make-up of school populations. Successful schools will have a higher proportion of pupils from social classes 1 and 2. Pupil rolls will be full to bursting and staff will be of the highest standard because of the large school rolls. Additional pupils bring additional resources, which will create yet more success.

The other schools will have fewer pupils from social classes 1 and 2. Fewer pupils will attend the schools and they will thus have fewer teachers. The schools will have fewer resources and a narrower range of subject options and, as a result, their relative failure will be reinforced. The old senior-secondary and junior-secondary divide will be re-established in Scotland, like the old grammar-secondary modern divide that used to exist in England and Wales. Tory Governments have always been about creating a two-tier educational system.

Mr. Pawsey

indicated dissent.

Mr. McAllion

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head in disagreement. I refer him to a pamphlet that was published in the mid-1980s by an obscure group of Back-Bench MPs called the No Turning Back group. The pamphlet was called "Save our Schools" and its authors included the right hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Lilley), who is now the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo), who is now the Minister of State, Department of the Environment, the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh), who is Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), who is the Scottish Office education spokesman, the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth), who is now at the Department of Trade and Industry, the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon), who is sitting on the Front Bench now, and the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Chope), who is now a junior Transport Minister.

The pamphlet described the system of comprehensive education under local education authority control as a "monolithic system" that was impervious and insensitive to parents. It said that it was an impossible system, inside which able teachers had become imprisoned—a system that thwarted those who genuinely care about pupils and education. It referred disparagingly to "comprehensive conformity" and bemoaned the departure of grammar schools, which it described as having taught rigorously, maintained discipline and specialised in the production of excellence.

That was the attitude of those hon. Members when they were obscure Back Benchers and I am convinced that it remains their attitude now that they are Ministers at the very heart of the Government.

Mr. Fallon

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. May we return to his attitude? Is he arguing —as he seemed to be before he lurched off into the quotation—that no examination result should be made available to Scottish parents? Is that the position of the Scottish Labour party as distinct from the English Labour party?

Mr. McAllion

The Minister is naturally anxious to get me off the subject of the "Save our Schools" campaign, the No Turning Back group and his views on comprehensive education. I shall answer his question directly: we do not believe that the information should be denied to parents, but we believe that crude performance tables should not be used to distort the choices that parents make between different schools in Scotland, as would be the case if the Bill were implemented. The Minister's attitude reveals a clear determination to break up the system of comprehensive education in this country and replace it with something different.

When one of the Scottish education Bills was in Committee earlier this year and the Minister of State, Scottish Office—who is no longer present—was leading for the Government, he said that the Tory party was the revolutionary party of Scotland. The Secretary of State for Education and Science echoed those sentiments today when he referred to the Labour party as the conservative party with a small "c", and to the Conservative party as the truly radical revolutionary party. It did not seem to matter to him that the last right winger to claim to be a revolutionary in European history was Adolf Hitler. The Conservative party has taken on the mantle of right-wing revolutionaries.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

Too subtle.

Mr. McAllion

It may be too subtle, but it may be too true.

All those years ago, the right-wing revolutionaries sketched out in their pamphlet a series of three critical reforms that they said would dismantle the comprehensive education system, all of which the Government have implemented in their legislation. First, there was to be the creation of a new sort of school. In Scotland it is called the self-governing school; I do not know what it is called in England and Wales. Secondly, there was to be direct funding of those schools by central Government, which would not only free them from local education control, but allow the Government to favour them over schools that remained under local education authority control. Thirdly, there was to be the creation of an internal education market through the publication of examination results to allow parents to choose between schools and decide, through the marketplace, which schools would survive and which would fail.

Unfortunately for the Minister and his friends, the revolution never got off the ground in Scotland. I served on the Committee that considered the Bill on school boards which was introduced in the first year of this Parliament. At the time, great claims were made about the Bill. It was said that it would lead to tremendous parental power and parental involvement in education, but it ended in disarray. There was widespread apathy at this year's elections to school boards in Scotland. In parts of Scotland such as Grampian, up to 40 per cent. of schools received no parental nominations to their boards because parents did not want to be involved in what was essentially a foreign idea imposed on them by a Government based in Westminster.

The second stage of the revolution involved a Bill to introduce self-governing schools. I remember that the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh), now Under-Secretary of State for Industry and Consumer Affairs, was confident about the Bill's implications. In Committee he framed what he called the "Gainsborough question" asking how many schools in Scotland would opt out. He kept demanding that question of the Labour spokesmen because he was confident that, under the legislation, plenty of schools in Scotland would opt out.

So confident were Ministers that the Scottish Office Minister with responsibility for education authorised the expenditure of £12,510 to produce 12,000 copies of a booklet on how to become a self-governing school, but that money, time and effort were wasted because not one school in Scotland has opted out. The Under-Secretary of State has the answer to his question, as do the Government. Scotland is not interested in opting out of local education authority control.

The Bill relates to the third of the critical reforms: the publication of league tables to allow schools to be set against schools, and the operation of the internal education market. It forms the third part of what was initially a three-part revolution. However, as the first two parts of the revolution have collapsed in disarray in Scotland, it can hardly be argued that it is necessary to impose the third part of the revolution on a country which simply does not want it.

Publication of primary school examination results in Scotland have been excluded from the Bill. Reform of the inspectorate, which formed a large part of tonight's debate, is also excluded from Scotland. The self-governing schools reforms have fallen flat on their face in Scotland. School boards in Scotland have been increasingly ignored by uninterested parents. The last thing that we need now is the importation of an English idea that we in Scotland do not want to know about.

It is time that the true education agenda was addressed in Scotland—the lack of statutory nursery provision, which exists not only in Scotland, but elsewhere in the United Kingdom, the crumbling buildings in which too many of our children in Scotland have to receive their education, the chronic underfunding of equipment and materials in Scottish schools and the oversized and composite classes. All those problems must be tackled by a Government who genuinely support the system of education in Scotland. This Government do not, but the next Government will, because it will be a Labour Government.

8.56 pm
Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Gedling)

I have listened with great care to all the speeches in today's debate and have concluded that the Bill is better than I thought it was when I entered the Chamber. It is an excellent Bill which, outside the House, will be seen as a measure of great common sense and a necessary and important addition to the education reforms that the Government have already implemented.

The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), although he made a good debating speech, showed that he did not oppose much of the Bill. He reserved his strongest attack for the level of the Government's education advertising budget. However, it is clear that, apart from a good bit of 1960s stuff from the Opposition and a truly unrevised speech from the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor)—who demonstrated that he is a genuine socialist—opposition to the measure is pretty thin.

I have a specific reason for welcoming tonight's measure. In March, a number of my hon. Friends and I introduced a Bill on the publication of exam results in which the hon. Member for Blackburn was kind enough to take a small interest and to which he was not entirely opposed. The Bill was supported by many people, but, unfortunately, one Friday an Opposition Whip consigned it to oblivion by objecting to it. Today, the Government have brought back the entire contents of that Bill, about which I am delighted.

Since then, the support of the hon. Member for Blackburn for the principle of the Bill has increased. Recently, in a front-page interview in The Guardian, the hon. Gentleman was reported to have said: Let 1,000 league tables bloom", thus demonstrating that he is not opposed in principle to the measures discussed tonight.

Two arguments are advanced against the league table principle. The first is that parents cannot be trusted to interpret the information satisfactorily. When we introduced our ten-minute Bill, I said that such attitudes were odiously patronising to the majority of parents, and everything that we have heard since supports that view. I do not think that parents want to hear excuses about the performance of schools: they want to see them reformed and made better to give greater opportunities to their children.

In a patronising letter to a local newspaper, Nottinghamshire education authority stated: Raw exam results unrefined for socio-economic factors give a false impression of performance. That is absolute nonsense. Even in Albania, socialists no longer believe such rubbish.

The other argument advanced against league tables—it has been made tonight—is that they will do nothing to help sink schools. However, league tables will at least identify the depth of the difficulties of those schools which means that we can place much greater focus on them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) makes an important point when he speaks about the Gujerati community in his constituency. That community does not have many inbuilt advantages, but achieves well above average results. That demonstrates that there is little correlation between home background and intelligence.

Parents want objectivity and do not want subjective results that have been tampered with and to which socio-economic factors have been added. They do not want results that have been massaged to suggest that there is no such thing as a good or a bad school, just schools. Parents know perfectly well that that is not true. They also know from gossip at the school gate the subjective pluses and minuses in schools and are able to consider those in interpreting examination results. That enables them to see whether a school is good at art or music, to define its degree of community awareness and determine its emphasis on values and so on. Parents have a right to receive detailed information based on the objective results of schools. Such a measure was not dreamed up by the Conservative party. I responded to the wishes and representations of my constituents in Nottinghamshire and my ten-minute Bill received widespread and positive support.

I know that the Secretary of State has carefully considered the argument by the Audit Commission about added value. I accept his point that he does not want results tampered with and made more socio-economic but wants them raw. That is the right approach. However, I hope that he will accept that there is a powerful case for value-added information as a second stage. Value-added information will enable us to demonstrate the improvements in local schools that have been achieved one compared with another and also against the national average.

When the system envisaged in the Bill is up and running, I hope that the Secretary of State will seriously consider promoting, not necessarily through legislation, the concepts in the Audit Commission report. Such added-value information is important not only to parents but to teachers, because it will enable them to see how well they are doing.

I agree with the Secretary of State that the system of inspection envisaged in the Bill is a great improvement on the current system. Above all, this is a matter of management. Perhaps it is worth considering further a Bill presented some time ago which included a proposal for an education audit commission. The methodology of the Audit Commission and the way in which it subcontracts work and co-ordinates and polices proper assessment are important. The commission has a proven track record in this area and although it could not itself carry out the work that I have suggested, it provides some useful pointers to the way ahead.

Some hon. Members have spoken about "croneyism" between head teachers and inspectors—the fear that a school would tend to stick with a group of inspectors which produced a favourable report. It is incumbent on the Government to make clear in Committee why they believe that there are no grounds for such fears. They should at least quieten existing fears.

What we have so far heard about the new system of inspection does not make it sufficiently clear that it will give the necessary independence and will accept the purchaser-provider split that we have put in place in the national health service and the enabler-provider split in local government. There must be a clear differential so that inspections can be respected as impartial and accurate.

If the Secretary of State is not convinced by that argument, I urge him to accept the need for tight guidelines on inspection and a clearly defined code of practice, because such safeguards would make it clear that the fears that I have expressed would not materialise. The Secretary of State has spoken about the composition of the inspection teams. Those teams should be a healthy mix. There is bound to be a role for management consultant skills, to which the Audit Commission frequently refers, and for the value-for-money skills, which it has. I am sure that the mix of inspection teams envisaged by the Secretary of State is absolutely right.

The Bill undoubtedly extends choice and opportunity for parents. It builds on the changes that we have already made and on the citizens charter process. When the Prime Minister said recently that the trendies have had their say and their day, there were cheers in many houses all over the country as people welcomed what he had said. Schools and teachers must be more answerable to parents. I am delighted that the Government intend to publish truancy rates and school leavers' destinations, because such information will give a useful steer to parents. It is an excellent idea that lay assessors will now appear on appeals committees.

The process of schools opting out of LEA control will continue with remarkable intensity. Perhaps the Minister can say whether his Department will be able to cope with that flood after the election.

The Minister should also give a hearty vote of thanks to governors. On a recent—greatly appreciated—visit to my constituency, he spent the best part of the day with teachers and governors at two schools and met all six headmasters in the secondary sector. The teachers and the staff were delighted that he came, and it was noticeable that he listened to their concerns and was able to reassure practically all of them.

The correlation between spending and academic results shows that we have made enormous progress. It is not true that one needs to spend more money to get academic results. In Japan, the average 16-year-old reaches a standard in maths that is reached by only 2 per cent. of the equivalent pupils in this country, but the Japanese spend less per head on education than we do. Therefore, the problem is not necessarily one of money. Some of the highest-spending LEAs produce the worst results.

I welcome the Bill. It is an excellent step forward, although I have one or two reservations that we can discuss in Committee. I trust that it will rapidly reach the statute book.

9.5 pm

Mr. Eddie O'Hara (Knowsley, South)

The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) spoke scathingly of experts, and I accept that it is as well to be sceptical in the face of experts. However, I remind Conservative Members of the saying of Werner Heisenberg: an expert is someone who knows what are the greatest mistakes that can be made in his specialism and, even more, knows how to avoid making them.

I have risen to speak against the Bill because I feel that it is pregnant with error. The most marked feature of the Government's management of the state education system is the ever-whirling wheel of changes that are so frequent and frenetic that one could be forgiven for not being able to judge whether the result is change or progress. Perhaps the eye is meant to be deceived.

I shall deal with the proposed change in the inspection of schools through the reduction in numbers, and change in the role, of HMI. I regard this as a whimsical, wanton, rushed and misbegotten change. Her Majesty's inspectorate has a distinguished history in the service of state education. Its aim was set out when the first two inspectors were appointed in 1839. They were to carry on the inspection of schools and to convey to … teachers a knowledge of all improvements in the art of teaching. They had also to convey to the Privy Council progress in education.

HMI has performed this dual role with distinction for more than one and a half centuries. It produced the classic handbook for teachers in 1905. It was involved in the great advances in pedagogy between the wars. It had an input into the policy for reconstruction of the education service after the second world war. In the 1970s, a Labour Prime Minister, now Lord Callaghan, in his Ruskin speech, initiated the great debate in education and recognised the important role of HMI.

Her Majesty's inspectorate undertook a major report on primary and secondary schools in the 1970s and produced great pamphlets on the curriculum, such as the red book published on 16 November 1977. It carefully prepared the ground for more uniformity of provision. It prepared the way for the national curriculum with its notion of a common core of entitlement. It did all this alongside its inspection role, and it also protected standards.

I refer here not only to the role that HMI played in the payment-by-results system in the latter part of the 19th century—a system so detested by that great inspector, Matthew Arnold—but to the courageous stand taken by Senior Chief Inspector Sheila Brown in the early 1980s, when she insisted on reporting to the House the damaging effect on schools of cuts in funding. I am surprised that it has taken the Government, in this case, so long to shoot the messenger—a talent that they have.

It appears that HMI is to be reduced to a rump of 175, if I understand the Secretary of State correctly. I leave aside his coyness about the numbers recommended in the review which he apparently dare not lay before the House. It also appears that half that number will have the impossible task of monitoring the 6,000 inspections per annum which are to be carried out by the new breed of licensed inspectors. HMI's other task is to issue the licences and to produce national reports—so much for its great achievement and traditional role in the past 150 years. Why cannot the House be enlightened by the evidence and arguments of the review document to the effect that it is not a stultification of HMI's role? We have been told only that 175 is the best possible estimate of the acting senior chief of HMI, an internal temporary appointment of the Secretary of State.

The role of HMI as envisaged in the Bill is Mission Impossible. It would be ameliorated if the job of inspection were assigned to local education authority inspectors, as appears to have been envisaged in the late 1980s following the recommendations of, for example, the Taylor report and as chronicled in the important study by the Foundation for Education and Research in 1989 entitled, "The LEA Adviser—A Changing Role", which showed that more than three quarters of local authority advisers were already involved in inspection. There were reorganisations and reappointments all over the country and it seemed that the Government were prepared, through the local education authority training grants scheme, to put money into the training of local authority advisers to enable them to become more inspectoral in their role.

The Opposition could have lived with the trinity of a strong initiating HMI—as it has traditionally been—an education standards council and a strong local inspectorate. The Secretary of State referred to the LEA's system of inspecting schools for which it is responsible as a system designed to guarantee a failure to insist on adequate standards in schools. I leave aside the disgraceful insult to the integrity of local government inspectors and the fact that they are responsible to local government representatives, Conservative as well as Labour, but what evidence has the Secretary of State that the proposed system of licensed inspectors—a privatised system of inspection—offers a better guarantee?

It has been said that to ask for advice is nine times out of 10 to tout for flattery. The proposed system is an invitation to schools to buy flattery. Given that we presume the lowest common denominator of integrity, which is what the Secretary of State suggested with reference to local authority inspectors, what reliability can we expect in reports purchased in a competitive market? What guarantee can the Secretary of State offer that the relationship developed between schools and their hired inspectors will be any less cosy than that which he suggested would exist between schools and their parent LEAs?

Will the spirit of Miss Jean Brodie stalk the land? What assurance can be given that all pupils in the 6,000 schools will not be described as la creme de la creme? Reductio ad absurdum perhaps, but there is no more hyperbole in my criticism of the basis of a privatised system of inspection than in the Secretary of State's flippant dismissal of the LEA inspectorate.

I prefer to address my remarks not to the likely integrity of private inspectors or, indeed, of head teachers and governors, but to their ability to do the job. I leave aside the amazing criterion that each team must contain someone who knows nothing about education. There is no requirement that the teams should have any local knowledge. Is not that important to inform their judgment of the schools that they inspect? If a different team is parachuted in every four years, what guarantee is there that it will have any effect on the needs and development of the school?

The carousel of change does not represent progress; it is a change too far. In the words of Sean O'Casey, the Government are reducing education to a "state of chassis".

9.14 pm
Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

I give total and unqualified support to the Bill. The hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) gave an account of the speech by Lord Callaghan, who was then Prime Minister, on 18 October 1976 at Ruskin college. It is true that his speech started the education debate, which was the good side of it. The bad side was that nothing was done by the Labour party between 1976 and the election of this Government in 1979. Lord Callaghan made three points. The first concerned teaching methods, the second concerned standards and monitoring, and the third concerned education and industry. Under the second point, he raised the related issue of the proper role of the inspectorate and emphasised the need to find the best means of monitoring the use of resources to maintain a proper national standard of performance. The unease that Conservatives—and, I suspect, some Opposition Members—have today about the role of Her Majesty's inspectorate was shared by Lord Callaghan when he was Prime Minister. All of us, whichever party we represent in the House—

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dunn

No, I will not give way, although I usually give way to the right hon. Gentleman because I have waited to speak and I have only four minutes. The right hon. Gentleman will understand that I must finish speaking at 9.20 pm.

Before I was so politely interrupted, I was about to say that Lord Callaghan made the point about the need for a refocusing of the inspectorate. We believe that the Bill will achieve that, although not in the way that the Labour party's proposals would do. The Labour party seems to imply that there was a golden age for the inspectorate. I suspect that, in 1966 and again in 1976, when circulars 10/66 and 10/76 were introduced by Labour, the inspectors were leaned on by Labour Education Ministers so that they would support the Government policies of the day.

During my time at the Department of Education and Science, I saw no record of protest by Her Majesty's inspectorate of schools about the loss of the grammar schools to the British people. There was no golden age and no independence. The hon. Member for Knowsley, South referred to the time when Sheila Brown was senior chief inspector. The end of her time in the post overlapped with my first two years at the Department of Education and Science. I can remember no occasion on which a Conservative Secretary of State doctored, altered or refused to publish the report of the senior chief inspector. It has always been a matter of principle and of honour that the reports have gone forward.

What comes out of the debate tonight is that the Labour party's policies are the same as those in 1976. The Labour party still believes that the education service should be used as a means of social engineering. The Labour party still states that its fundamental objective is to establish a comprehensive system of education from nursery schools up to and beyond school leaving age.

Mr. Morley

indicated assent.

Mr. Dunn

Labour Members nod. The Labour party criticises the publication of examination results because it believes that that will reinforce social division. In the future, it is likely to restate its long-term aim to eliminate all forms of variety and all forms of education apart from that provided by the state.

I note that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion), who chastised hon. Members for not being here, is now no longer here himself. He referred to the Conservative party's shortage of representation in Scotland. I would point out to the hon. Gentleman, and to Labour Members generally, that, in England, the Conservative party's majority over all the other parties combined is 200. That was true at the time of the 1987 election, and it will continue to be true. It is plain that, if the Conservative party's writ does not run in Scotland, the writ of the Labour party does not run in England.

I commend the Bill to the House, and I assume that it will attract the majority that it deserves.

9.20 pm
Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

The hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) finished his speech with an uncharacteristically churlish comment. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) had been here throughout our proceedings. He had spoken and had listened to the subsequent speech before nipping out of the Chamber for a few moments. My hon. Friend followed the normal conventions and was absolutely right to say that at no stage has a Scottish Conservative Member been willing to participate in the debate. We have seen today the sort of opposition that we can expect from Scottish Conservatives after the next election—non-existent.

The Bill supposedly enacts the parents charter, but there is one substantial omission from the parents charter: it makes no reference to the adequacy of resources for our education system. Not one Conservative Member has had the courage to argue about the adequacy of resources. No Opposition Member would say for one moment that the management of public resources is not important, but what we should like to hear from Conservative Members is a defence of the current inadequate level of resources allocated to our state education sytem.

Last week, we had four pieces of evidence—

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

What does this have to do with the Bill?

Mr. Fatchett

The right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke for 61 minutes almost without referring to the Bill introduced by his own Government, so he can hardly criticise me in the first two minutes of my speech. If he would listen for a few minutes, he would realise that resources go to the heart of the quality of our education system. That is probably why the right hon. and learned Gentleman bought private education for his children while allowing the rest of us to have our children educated in a system that lacks resources.

In the past few days, four pieces of evidence have appeared. The first was a survey produced by the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations telling us that parents are donating £75 million from their own pockets to provide schools with basics. We are not talking about luxury items; we are talking about basics such as the maintenance of schools buildings, decorating and the provision of an adequate supply of books. My hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) told us that a textbook that was used in his school is still there, a generation later. That is how up-to-date we are in our commitment to resources. My hon. Friend said that the book was still in good condition, and I suspect that that is because it was largely unused.

The second piece of evidence was a report about music from the National Foundation for Educational Research in England and Wales—an organisation with an impeccable, objective record—saying: Children in deprived inner city areas are likely to find it particularly difficult to learn musical instruments as schools divert funds to what they see as more important needs". The quality of our children's education is being undermined.

No wonder HMI is under attack. We were told by the inspectorate last week that schools had had difficulty in introducing the national curriculum. Some 85 per cent. of secondary schools reported difficulties because of the shortage of staff in specialist subjects, and the whole of the primary sector reported difficulties with primary technology and primary science. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Bill?"] All this relates to the parents charter.

On Monday, a survey by the National Union of Teachers referred to class size. We all heard the Secretary of State say on the "Today" programme that large classes do not matter and that they are not important to the quality of education. That is absolute rubbish. Why do Cabinet Ministers buy private education for their children? They do not want large classes; they want small classes and preferential treatment for their children. The parents charter does not refer to the adequacy of resources for our education system.

The Secretary of State said that this is the flagship Bill this Parliament for his education policies. I understand that it is the first flagship Bill where the captain will not serve on the Standing Committee. The captain has left the bridge before the Bill leaves the dockyard. That is typical of the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State said that he did not want to be confused by the data published about school performance. He said that many of the electorate do not understand such complicated issues. He went so far as to say that the issues that we are discussing today may be beyond the reach of the electorate.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

indicated dissent.

Mr. Fatchett

The Secretary of State's argument was patronising.

The Secretary of State may be interested in the figures. When questioned, 10 per cent. of the electorate recognised the term "HMI". When asked to identify a photograph of the man trying to run the education system—in other words, the Secretary of State—7 per cent. of the electorate recognised him. Perhaps that 7 per cent. should have been asked whether they understood what HMI stood for.

Opposition Members have presented a sensible and sound argument today. We have begun to persuade all Conservative Members, with the exception of the Secretary of State, that the so-called raw data is misleading, confusing and potentially damaging. There are many examples of that. If we publish the results of seven-plus assessment, what will happen in inner-city schools like those in my constituency? Are we going to make judgments about those schools when some of the youngsters do not have English as their first language and will have been in this country for only a short time? How are we to judge those data?

On the Government Benches, only the Secretary of State believes that we should not present more than the raw data. Several of my colleagues referred to special needs. If only crude raw data are published, schools will be reluctant to take on youngsters with special needs.

Mr. John Greenway


Mr. Fatchett

The hon. Gentleman may say, "Rubbish," but what I have described is a fact of life, which is already happening under local management of schools because budgets make it difficult for head teachers to take on special needs youngsters. That is what will happen with the publication of league tables.

Mr. Rees

My hon. Friend is aware that I have a personal interest in the problems of dyslexia. The Dyslexia Educational Trust has stated that, if we proceed with raw data, Such a measure would be to make head teachers and governing bodies unwilling to accept any child with a learning difficulty because of the effect on the local community and the judgments they would have to make because they would not appreciate problems like dyslexia. I am greatly concerned about that, but nothing seems to have been done about that problem.

Mr. Fatchett

My right hon. Friend's point has also been made by Deaf Accord and Mencap and a range of organisations representing youngsters with special needs of all kinds. If we adopt crude league tables, the needs of those youngsters will not be taken full account of.

Several of my colleagues reinforced the point that it is always possible to produce good league tables if a head teacher in a particular school limits entry to examinations. That is clear from the league tables published in the national press. We should be trying to persuade more youngsters, not fewer, to enter examinations, and more youngsters, not fewer, to push up standards instead of simply maintaining league tables.

I realise that the Minister of State has problems with his Secretary of State, but we must make sure that we invest in the notion of added value that the Audit Commission was talking about. We need that added value to judge the performance of a school. We need information that tells us about the quality of school life, and the availability of music, art, drama and sport in schools. All that is relevant to parents, but none of it has been discussed by any Conservative Member. All that is crucial in providing us with the necessary information.

The crucial aspect of the notion of league tables is that the Government are abdicating management of the education system and leaving its standards to the market. The Government's position assumes that each parent has equal and absolute freedom to move his or her child from one school to another. That is the thesis behind the publication of league tables—one moves one's child from the school with a poor record to another school, and then levers up standards by that process.

That might happen in the private sector, and it might happen for the children of Ministers, but for the vast majority of parents, that is not a proposition. As the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) said, that is not a proposition for parents in Cornwall, because they relate to the neighbourhood school. They want the standards of the neighbourhood school to be improved.

Also, it is not a proposition for many inner-city schools. Many parents do not have the personal and financial resources to shop around and move from one school to another. That is why the proposal to privatise the inspectorate means that the Government have abdicated their responsibility for the general improvement of standards. It means that the Government have decided that they are concerned not with opportunity but with the education of a few. That outdated philosophy will leave Britain unable to compete economically and educationally in the 21st century.

The proposal to privatise will lower standards and will be expensive, but the real reason for the proposal to privatise the inspectorate comes from the Government's vendetta against the inspectorate. My hon. Friends the Members for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) and for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) said that, time after time, the Government have been embarrassed by the reports of Her Majesty's inspectorate. It is typical of the Conservative party that, faced with criticism and embarrassment, it does not take up the arguments: it simply wipes out the source of the embarrassment. That is the reason for privatisation.

That applies to what the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon), said in criticism of the educational establishment. I fear that he will regret the phrase if he is looking for promotion, but he referred to the educational establishment as "men in suede shoes". The only difference is that we have replaced one pair of suede shoes with another, and the latter pair carries a series of prejudices with it.

There is concern about standards, because this is the first time that we have a system embedded in law which states that the people who are to carry out a particular task will be best qualified for it if they have no skill whatsoever. That job advertisement states, "Apply if you have no ability in this matter." It is like advertising a job for a long-distance lorry driver and saying that the best qualification is not to be able to drive a car or lorry of any description.

It is a peculiar notion of the Government that people who are to make professional judgments of others are to be without expertise. The point is even deeper than that, because the choice will be made by governors and by head teachers. The system will be incestuous, because it will enable reports to be produced which are satisfactory and which reflect well on schools. That is not to question the integrity of those who become inspectors.

But what will happen? Let us say that, after the next election, the hon. Member for Dartford has some spare time on his hands and chairs a school governing body. He has various views about the education system.

Mr. Straw

He might be an inspector.

Mr. Fatchett

As my hon. Friend says, the hon. Gentleman could offer his views as an inspector. He would certainly qualify as someone with little or no expertise—that is clear from his record as a Minister. He may go to a school and say that he had a particular view of the education system. Will not school governing bodies and head teachers ask for a report from that inspection team to ensure that their work is reinforced?

For the sake of an ideological belief in the market and privatisation, the Government are getting rid of a system that has maintained standards. They are getting rid of a system that has worked and are replacing it with one that will be confusing, chaotic and expensive. It will be expensive, because the economies of scale that is currently possible with local inspectors and in Her Majesty's inspectorate will disappear under the new contractual system.

But we will lose more. We will lose the ability of HMI to produce reports on sectors of education such as special needs, primary education and the delivery of certain subjects. For simple ideological reasons, the Government are throwing away what has been good in our education system, yet again because they want change for change's sake. They have given away the opportunity to lever up standards. They care only about a certain belief and a certain dogma.

During the debate, Opposition Members have suggested a set of proposals based around Labour's education standards commission which are designed to lever an improvement in general education standards. They are designed to enhance opportunities and not only to work but to ensure that opportunity exists across the whole of our education system.

The proposals in the Bill have gained no widespread support. There has been no process of consultation. But the Secretary of State held himself forward as the champion of free speech and information.

Mr. Dunn

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fatchett

I will not give way at this stage.

Mr. Dunn


Mr. Fatchett

No. I have only three minutes left.

The Secretary of State keeps referring to the report which reviewed the functions of the inspectorate. Yet the same Secretary of State has denied that information to the House, parents and the country. The Secretary of State uses that report as an objective, impartial report. If he wants to use it in evidence, every other Member of Parliament should have the right to see it.

That is why we argue that the Bill should be referred to a Special Standing Committee. We want to have the right to weigh up the evidence and the arguments and find out what support there is in the country for the proposal to privatise HMI.

It was R. H. Tawney who said: What good parents would want for their own children, so the state should wish for all its children. Ministers decide what they want for their own children. They opt out of the state system. They go to the private sector. They want to use the rest of our children, the 94 per cent. of children who use the state sector, for one ideological experiment after another.

Change for change's sake: that is the point about the Bill. It is further change for change's sake and further experimentation. It is for that reason, and because the Bill throws away good standards and does not give us the ability to improve standards, that we shall reject it. We shall vote against it this evening. We shall campaign against it and ensure that parents throughout Britain see the Bill as deeply damaging, because it is an ideologically driven privatising measure. We will vote against the Bill and we will win the argument, because parents want better. They want a change of Government—they want a Labour Government.

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

Normally we expect better and get better from the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett). Was it not interesting that not one Labour Member paid tribute to the excellent results being achieved by so many of our schools? My hon. Friends the Members for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) and for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) did, as did the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor). But Labour Members are interested in only one thing—

Mr. Steinberg

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Eggar

Labour Members are interested only in—

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is a point of order. What is it?

Mr. Steinberg


Mr. Speaker

Order. I cannot hear.

Mr. Steinberg

The Minister deliberately misled the House. He said that not one Labour Member paid tribute—[Interruption.]

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I ask the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) to withdraw the phrase "deliberately misled the House".

Mr. Steinberg

I withdraw the word "deliberately". The Minister misled the House.

Mr. Eggar

Of course, if the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) claims that he made such tributes in his speech, I am happy to accept it. The trouble is that the hon. Member for City of Durham made exactly the same speech as he usually makes. As usual, it was incomprehensible and perhaps I could be forgiven for failing to pick up his argument.

Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. What is it? [Interruption.] I must hear the point of order.

Mr. Haynes

You must understand, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister made a mistake with my hon. Friend, and he made a mistake with the National Union of Teachers. It goes on and on with this Minister and it is time you did something about it.

Mr. Speaker

I often hear that hon. Members make mistakes in this place, but I am not responsible for what they say, provided that it is in order.

Mr. Eggar

The greatest mistake of the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) is his retirement from the House at the next election. We really shall miss the court jester of the House, who has contributed a great deal to our debates.

Mr. Dunn

I think that my hon. Friend the Minister will find my remarks helpful. The hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), who is an apprentice chair of the worst order, said that the Government had not consulted on this legislation. With his infinite knowledge of education, will the Minister of State remind us that, when the Labour party introduced the Education Act 1976, which led to the abolition of grammar schools—

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Not all of them.

Mr. Dunn

It led to the abolition of almost all the grammar schools. Is there a commitment from the Labour party that it would consult if it came to power and introduced legislation to abolish grammar schools? The answer is no, not then and not for the future.

Mr. Eggar

As usual my hon. Friend is right. It is extraordinary that the Opposition appear to be worried about standards and have been talking about them at some length, but they are committed to destroying grammar schools, to withdrawing the assisted places scheme and to scrapping grant-maintained schools, city technology colleges and much of what is excellent in our existing system.

What is more, despite all this business about consultation, in which the Opposition claim to be interested, they have told us that they will introduce a public inquiry system on school closures. Are the Opposition committed to a public inquiry on CTCs, grant-maintained schools and grammar schools?

It is appropriate now to turn to the particular crusade of my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Mitchell), who has played such an important part in bringing to the attention of the House the vital need to publish exam results in a readily understandable way. He is clear, but the Labour party is far from clear. Indeed, at one stage during the speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) I thought that he was getting near to saying that the Labour party was committed to publishing examination results; but no, he did not quite come out with that. I noticed that for at least 10 minutes of his speech the hon. Member for Leeds, Central was desperately trying to haul back the various commitments that the hon. Member for Blackburn may or may not have given. As usual, the Labour party is trying to have it both ways.

The Labour party has come to admit that testing pupils is an essential aid to learning—not something that it admitted as recently as a couple of years ago. Although testing may now be accepted within a socialist state—

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

Not in Scotland.

Mr. Eggar

Not in Scotland, as my hon. Friend admits, but at least south of the border, the Labour party has not gone on to accept that the results of those tests should be made available to the public.

Apparently the only sort of publication that Labour Members will allow is one that is so hedged around with correction factors, socio-economic variables and explanatory footnotes that only a parent with a PhD in statistics and a specialisation in sociology could understand it. Under that system parents would be seen but not heard.

What sort of corrections are to be made to the basic examination data? We can take our pick. There are as many views as experts in the field. Should we expect less of a pupil because she or he has only one parent—however supportive? Should we assign a pupil a negative correction factor just because, for whatever reason, he qualifies for free meals? Conservative Members do not think so.

Perhaps we should look beyond pupils to the characteristics of their schools. Perhaps we should not expect too much of pupils who are educated in older buildings. Perhaps we should have a factor that takes account of the old Victorian high ceilings. Another factor that we could introduce might take account of buildings with 1960s flat roofs. Or we could introduce a factor relating to the quality of the environment. We could knock off a few points for trees, grass verges and clean pavements and top up the scores of those whose schools are in grimy streets—mainly, I might add, in socialist boroughs.

An adjustment which, I am sure, would commend itself to Labour Members is one that would take account of poor local education authority practice. The hon. Member for Leeds, Central will recognise the need to do that. After all, he represents a seat where primary pupils have been illserved by their LEA's imposition of a particular primary practice. Perhaps he could devise for us a correction factor—

Mr. Fatchett


Mr. Speaker

Order. One at a time, please.

Mr. Eggar

—for not being educated at Leeds. That is the sort of issue that the hon. Gentleman should address—

Mr. Fatchett


Mr. Eggar

But in his own time.

Mr. Fatchett


Mr. Speaker

Order. Get him to sit down, please. One at a time, please.

Mr. Eggar

The hon. Gentleman would not give way, so I see no reason why he should make inroads to the limited time available to me. The basic fact is that a youngster will not get a job armed with a socio-economic factor or a correction factor. A youngster will not move on to further or higher education with a correction factor. What counts in the outside world is real achievement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We must ensure that every child, from every background and in every school, does as well as he or she is capable. We must not cover up under-achievement with fiddled figures, whatever the various arguments from the Opposition.

The Opposition have not sought to deal with one question: what is the reason for depriving parents of information about examination results? Why should parents be kept in the dark? Why should they not be able to make their choice of schools with the full benefit of the relevant information?

The hon. Member for Blackburn made quite a lot of the document, "Raising the Standard", Labour's plan for an education standards commission. The Opposition told us that parents would be misled by simple examination result information. In the document of which the hon. Member for Blackburn is so proud, we are promised that the standards commission would publish detailed information on how to judge a school's performance. In other words, the standards commission would be telling parents how they should interpret information. Doubtless it would doctor that information in one way or another according to the diktats of the Labour party.

Parents already know how to judge schools. What they want is the one thing that the Labour party would keep from them—the information on which to base their judgment.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)


Mr. Eggar

I will not give way.

The hon. Member for Blackburn tried to claim that his document on inspection offered clarity and a way forward to real quality control. I have had a careful look at that document and some things are clear. First, the Labour proposals destroy the independence of Her Majesty's inspectorate. It is placed under the overall control of an appointed quango and that quango will control Her Majesty's inspectorate's priorities, its inspection programmes and its reports. Her Majesty's inspectorate has a great deal more independence now than Labour would offer, and it will have even more when the Bill is passed.

Mr. Straw


Mr. Eggar

No, no.

Mr. Straw


Mr. Speaker


Mr. Eggar

HMI would be gratuitously split under Labour's proposals, with the larger part of it under the control of the quango and the lesser part reporting to the Secretary of State. In other words, those in HMI who inspect would not advice and those in HMI who advise would not inspect. As the former senior chief inspector, Eric Bolton, said: This would ensure that HMI would cease to exist. It would cease to exist as a powerful force offering advice based on observation and inspection. In contradistinction to that, the Bill retains the integrity of HMI and strengthens its constitutional position.

Mr. Straw


Mr. Eggar

No, I have not finished with the—

Mr. Straw


Mr. Speaker

Order. I ask both hon. Gentlemen to sit down. If the Minister does not give way, the hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.

Mr. Eggar

I have not finished with the hon. Gentleman yet. I have done him the courtesy of reading his document. The fact that he does not appear to have done so recently and that he was giving a very fanciful interpretation of the document does not deter me from going on to make my point. It is clear that the hon. Gentleman has not read his own policy document.

Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman says, that document simply offers validation by the new standards quango of LEAs'—not inspectors'—policies and guidance and "close informal links", to quote from the document. It does not offer what the hon. Gentleman claims it offers, which is direct control by the quango of the local inspectors.

The Labour party does not propose a model for external quality control. Under the hon. Gentleman's system, the true controller of quality remains the LEA, and the LEA decides who may or may not be an inspector. Under the Bill, that crucial decision—and it is crucial—remains with HMI. In the Labour party document the decision rests with LEAs. But there is another point—

Mr. McFall

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Clause 17 refers directly to Scotland. No mention has been made of Scotland. In view of the debilitating—[Interruption.]—political situation facing Conservatives there, that is a further slight on the people of Scotland.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have five minutes to go. Perhaps some comment will be made about that.

Mr. Eggar

Absolutely nowhere in the Labour party policy document is there anything about the publication of inspection reports. Labour Members appear to be converts to regular inspection, but only if it is secret and not available to parents.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) made clear, much of the Bill is about strengthening Her Majesty's inspectorate's position. Her Majesty's inspectorate will have a clear duty to advise the Secretary of State and the ability to publish whatever, whenever and however it wishes. It will be in charge of the new system of inspections. It will decide who may and who may not inspect.

Mr. Straw


Mr. Eggar

No, I will not give way.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker


Mr. Eggar

Her Majesty's inspectorate will be making a direct impact on over 6,000 inspections each year, far more than at present. The numbers of Her Majesty's inspectors will be reduced, it is clear, but their influence and effect will be much greater.

Labour Members have only recently been converted to the case for school inspections. That interest was not manifest between the publication of the Audit Commission report and June this year. Indeed, between December 1989 and May 1991, the occupants of the Labour Front Bench did not ask one parliamentary question relating to inspection. That is how much they were concerned with inspection.

But it is far worse than that. Let us examine the practice and experience of LEAs on inspection and consider some of the authorities that Labour Members know. In Lancashire, for example, the hon. Member for Blackburn will know that the authority does not believe in inspection. It employs only advisers, not inspectors. The advisers' role in Lancashire is to "validate schools' self-evaluation"—not to go into the classroom to see what is going on, but to hear from staff how they would like things to be—[Interruption.] That is a Blackburn model of inspection. That is the Labour party really in action.

The vociferous hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) had much to say about inspection, but he did not refer to the lack of inspection in Sheffield, where only an advisory service is on offer, the policy guidance of which is unclear and where written reports are not produced.

I could go on at some length, but the examples that I have given are typical of Labour local education authorities. The Bill is good for parents and standards. I urge the House to vote for it.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 264, Noes 219.

Division No. 12] [10.00 pm
Adley, Robert Amos, Alan
Aitken, Jonathan Arbuthnot, James
Alexander, Richard Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Ashby, David
Allason, Rupert Aspinwall, Jack
Amess, David Atkinson, David
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fox, Sir Marcus
Batiste, Spencer Franks, Cecil
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Freeman, Roger
Bellingham, Henry French, Douglas
Bendall, Vivian Fry, Peter
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Gale, Roger
Benyon, W. Garel-Jones, Tristan
Bevan, David Gilroy Gill, Christopher
Biffen, Rt Hon John Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Blackburn, Dr John G. Goodhart, Sir Philip
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Goodlad, Alastair
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Boswell. Tim Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Bottomley, Peter Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n) Gregory, Conal
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Bowis, John Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Grist, Ian
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Ground, Patrick
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Grylls, Michael
Brazier, Julian Hague, William
Bright, Graham Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Browne, John (Winchester) Hampson, Dr Keith
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Hannam, John
Buck, Sir Antony Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Budgen, Nicholas Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Burns, Simon Harris, David
Butcher, John Hawkins, Christopher
Butler, Chris Hayes, Jerry
Butterfill, John Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Hill, James
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hind, Kenneth
Carrington, Matthew Hordern, Sir Peter
Cash, William Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Chapman, Sydney Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Chope, Christopher Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth) Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hunter, Andrew
Colvin, Michael Irvine, Michael
Conway, Derek Jack, Michael
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Janman, Tim
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Jessel, Toby
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Cormack, Patrick Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Couchman, James Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Cran, James Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Currie, Mrs Edwina Key, Robert
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Kilfedder, James
Davis, David (Boothferry) King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Day, Stephen Kirkhope, Timothy
Devlin, Tim Knapman, Roger
Dickens, Geoffrey Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Dicks, Terry Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Dorrell, Stephen Knox, David
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Latham, Michael
Dover, Den Lawrence, Ivan
Dunn, Bob Lee, John (Pendle)
Durant, Sir Anthony Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Eggar, Tim Lightbown, David
Emery, Sir Peter Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Evennett, David Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Lord, Michael
Fallon, Michael Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard
Favell, Tony Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fenner, Dame Peggy MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Maclean, David
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey McLoughlin, Patrick
Fishburn, John Dudley McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Fookes, Dame Janet Major, Rt Hon John
Forman, Nigel Malins, Humfrey
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Mans, Keith
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Maples, John
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Marland, Paul
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Shersby, Michael
Maude, Hon Francis Skeet, Sir Trevor
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Speller, Tony
Mellor, Rt Hon David Squire, Robin
Meyer, Sir Anthony Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Miller, Sir Hal Stevens, Lewis
Mills, Iain Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Miscampbell, Norman Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Sumberg, David
Mitchell, Sir David Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Moate, Roger Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Monro, Sir Hector Taylor, Sir Teddy
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Temple-Morris, Peter
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Moss, Malcolm Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Moynihan, Hon Colin Thorne, Neil
Neale, Sir Gerrard Thornton, Malcolm
Nelson, Anthony Tracey, Richard
Neubert, Sir Michael Tredinnick, David
Nicholls, Patrick Trippier, David
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Trotter, Neville
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Twinn, Dr Ian
Norris, Steve Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Oppenheim, Phillip Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Page, Richard Walden, George
Paice, James Waller, Gary
Patnick, Irvine Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Warren, Kenneth
Patten, Rt Hon John Watts, John
Pawsey, James Wheeler, Sir John
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Whitney, Ray
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Widdecombe, Ann
Porter, David (Waveney) Wiggin, Jerry
Portillo, Michael Wilkinson, John
Powell, William (Corby) Wilshire, David
Price, Sir David Winterton, Mrs Ann
Raffan, Keith Winterton, Nicholas
Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Wolfson, Mark
Redwood, John Wood, Timothy
Rhodes James, Sir Robert Yeo, Tim
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Young, Sir George (Acton)
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Tellers for the Ayes:
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Mr. Tom Sackville and Mr. Nicholas Baker.
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Callaghan, Jim
Allen, Graham Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Alton, David Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Anderson, Donald Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Canavan, Dennis
Armstrong, Hilary Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Carr, Michael
Ashton, Joe Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Clelland, David
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Cohen, Harry
Barron, Kevin Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Battle, John Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Beckett, Margaret Corbett, Robin
Beith, A. J. Corbyn, Jeremy
Bell, Stuart Cousins, Jim
Bellotti, David Cox, Tom
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Crowther, Stan
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Cryer, Bob
Benton, Joseph Cummings, John
Bermingham, Gerald Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bidwell, Sydney Cunningham, Dr John
Blunkett, David Dalyell, Tam
Boateng, Paul Darling, Alistair
Boyes, Roland Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Bradley, Keith Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Dewar, Donald
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Dixon, Don
Caborn, Richard Dobson, Frank
Doran, Frank McLeish, Henry
Duffy, Sir A. E. P. McMaster, Gordon
Dunnachie, Jimmy McNamara, Kevin
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Madden, Max
Eadie, Alexander Mahon, Mrs Alice
Eastham, Ken Marek, Dr John
Edwards, Huw Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Enright, Derek Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Martlew, Eric
Fatchett, Derek Maxton, John
Fearn, Ronald Meacher, Michael
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Meale, Alan
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Michael, Alun
Fisher, Mark Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Flannery, Martin Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Flynn, Paul Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Foster, Derek Moonie, Dr Lewis
Fraser, John Morgan, Rhodri
Fyfe, Maria Morley, Elliot
Galloway, George Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Mowlam, Marjorie
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Murphy, Paul
Godman, Dr Norman A. Nellist, Dave
Golding, Mrs Llin O'Brien, William
Gordon, Mildred O'Hara, Edward
Gould, Bryan O'Neill, Martin
Graham, Thomas Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Parry, Robert
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Patchett, Terry
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Pike, Peter L.
Grocott, Bruce Prescott, John
Hain, Peter Primarolo, Dawn
Hardy, Peter Quin, Ms Joyce
Harman, Ms Harriet Radice, Giles
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Randall, Stuart
Haynes, Frank Redmond, Martin
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Richardson, Jo
Henderson, Doug Robertson, George
Hinchliffe, David Robinson, Geoffrey
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall) Rogers, Allan
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Rooker, Jeff
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Rooney, Terence
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Howells, Geraint Rowlands, Ted
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Ruddock, Joan
Hoyle, Doug Salmond, Alex
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Sedgemore, Brian
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Sheerman, Barry
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Illsley, Eric Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Ingram, Adam Short, Clare
Janner, Greville Skinner, Dennis
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Kennedy, Charles Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Kilfoyle, Peter Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Kirkwood, Archy Snape, Peter
Kumar, Dr. Ashok Soley, Clive
Lambie, David Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Leadbitter, Ted Steinberg, Gerry
Leighton, Ron Stephen, Nicol
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Straw, Jack
Lewis, Terry Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Litherland, Robert Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Livingstone, Ken Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Livsey, Richard Turner, Dennis
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Wallace, James
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Walley, Joan
Loyden, Eddie Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
McAllion, John Wareing, Robert N.
McAvoy, Thomas Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
McCartney, Ian Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Macdonald, Calum A. Williams, Rt Hon Alan
McFall, John Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Wilson, Brian
McKelvey, William Winnick, David
Wise, Mrs Audrey Tellers for the Noes:
Worthington, Tony Mr. Jack Thompson and Mr. Martyn Jones.
Young, David (Bolton SE)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills), That the Bill be committed to a Special Standing Committee. —[Mr. Straw.]

The House divided: Ayes 223, Noes 259.

Division No. 13] [10.13 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Dunnachie, Jimmy
Allen, Graham Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Alton, David Eadie, Alexander
Anderson, Donald Eastham, Ken
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Edwards, Huw
Armstrong, Hilary Enright, Derek
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Evans, John (St Helens N)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Ashton, Joe Fatchett, Derek
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Faulds, Andrew
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Fearn, Ronald
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Barron, Kevin Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Battle, John Fisher, Mark
Beckett, Margaret Flannery, Martin
Beith, A. J. Flynn, Paul
Bell, Stuart Foster, Derek
Bellotti, David Fraser, John
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Fyfe, Maria
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Galloway, George
Benton, Joseph Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Bermingham, Gerald Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Bidwell, Sydney Godman, Dr Norman A.
Blunkett, David Golding, Mrs Llin
Boateng, Paul Gordon, Mildred
Boyes, Roland Gould, Bryan
Bradley, Keith Graham, Thomas
Bray, Dr Jeremy Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Grocott, Bruce
Caborn, Richard Hain, Peter
Callaghan, Jim Hardy, Peter
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Harman, Ms Harriet
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Canavan, Dennis Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Henderson, Doug
Carr, Michael Hinchliffe, David
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Clelland, David Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cohen, Harry Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Howells, Geraint
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Corbett, Robin Hoyle, Doug
Corbyn, Jeremy Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cox, Tom Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Crowther, Stan Ingram, Adam
Cryer, Bob Janner, Greville
Cummings, John Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Cunningham, Dr John Kennedy, Charles
Dalyell, Tam Kilfoyle, Peter
Darling, Alistair Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Kirkwood, Archy
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Lambie, David
Dewar, Donald Leadbitter, Ted
Dixon, Don Leighton, Ron
Dobson, Frank Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Doran, Frank Lewis, Terry
Duffy, Sir A. E. P. Litherland, Robert
Livingstone, Ken Reid, Dr John
Livsey, Richard Richardson, Jo
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Robertson, George
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Robinson, Geoffrey
Loyden, Eddie Rogers, Allan
McAllion, John Rooker, Jeff
McAvoy, Thomas Rooney, Terence
McCartney, Ian Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Macdonald, Calum A. Rowlands, Ted
McFall, John Ruddock, Joan
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Salmond, Alex
McKelvey, William Sedgemore, Brian
McLeish, Henry Sheerman, Barry
McMaster, Gordon Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McNamara, Kevin Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Madden, Max Short, Clare
Mahon, Mrs Alice Skinner, Dennis
Marek, Dr John Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Martlew, Eric Snape, Peter
Maxton, John Soley, Clive
Meacher, Michael Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Meale, Alan Steinberg, Gerry
Michael, Alun Stephen, Mr. Nicol
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Straw, Jack
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Morgan, Rhodri Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Morley, Elliot Turner, Dennis
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Wallace, James
Mowlam, Marjorie Walley, Joan
Murphy, Paul Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Nellist, Dave Wareing, Robert N.
O'Brien, William Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
O'Hara, Edward Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
O'Neill, Martin Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Parry, Robert Wilson, Brian
Patchett, Terry Winnick, David
Pike, Peter L. Wise, Mrs Audrey
Prescott, John Worthington, Tony
Primarolo, Dawn Young, David (Bolton SE)
Quin, Ms Joyce
Radice, Giles Tellers for the Ayes:
Randall, Stuart Mr. Frank Haynes and Mr. Eric Illsley.
Redmond, Martin
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Adley, Robert Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Aitken, Jonathan Bowis, John
Alexander, Richard Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Allason, Rupert Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Amess, David Brazier, Julian
Amos, Alan Bright, Graham
Arbuthnot, James Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Ashby, David Buck, Sir Antony
Aspinwall, Jack Budgen, Nicholas
Atkinson, David Burns, Simon
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Butcher, John
Batiste, Spencer Butler, Chris
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Butterfill, John
Bellingham, Henry Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Bendall, Vivian Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Carrington, Matthew
Benyon, W. Cash, William
Bevan, David Gilroy Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Biffen, Rt Hon John Chapman, Sydney
Blackburn, Dr John G. Chope, Christopher
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Boswell, Tim Clark, Rt Hon Sir William
Bottomley, Peter Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Colvin, Michael
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n) Conway, Derek
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hind, Kenneth
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hordern, Sir Peter
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cormack, Patrick Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Couchman, James Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Cran, James Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Day, Stephen Hunter, Andrew
Devlin, Tim Irvine, Michael
Dickens, Geoffrey Jack, Michael
Dicks, Terry Janman, Tim
Dorrell, Stephen Jessel, Toby
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dover, Den Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dunn, Bob Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Durant, Sir Anthony Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Eggar, Tim Key, Robert
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Kilfedder, James
Evennett, David King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Kirkhope, Timothy
Fallon, Michael Knapman, Roger
Favell, Tony Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Fenner, Dame Peggy Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Knox, David
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lawrence, Ivan
Fishburn, John Dudley Lee, John (Pendle)
Fookes, Dame Janet Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Forman, Nigel Lightbown, David
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Fox, Sir Marcus Lord, Michael
Franks, Cecil Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard
Freeman, Roger Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
French, Douglas MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Fry, Peter Maclean, David
Gale, Roger McLoughlin, Patrick
Garel-Jones, Tristan McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Gill, Christopher Major, Rt Hon John
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan Malins, Humfrey
Goodhart, Sir Philip Mans, Keith
Goodlad, Alastair Maples, John
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Marland, Paul
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Maude, Hon Francis
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Gregory, Conal Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E') Mellor, Rt Hon David
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Grist, Ian Miller, Sir Hal
Ground, Patrick Mills, Iain
Grylls, Michael Miscampbell, Norman
Hague, William Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie Mitchell, Sir David
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Moate, Roger
Hampson, Dr Keith Monro, Sir Hector
Hannam, John Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Harris, David Moss, Malcolm
Hawkins, Christopher Moynihan, Hon Colin
Hayes, Jerry Neale, Sir Gerrard
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Nelson, Anthony
Hill, James Neubert, Sir Michael
Nicholls, Patrick Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Taylor, Sir Teddy
Norris, Steve Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Oppenheim, Phillip Temple-Morris, Peter
Page, Richard Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Paice, James Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Thorne, Neil
Patten, Rt Hon John Thornton, Malcolm
Pawsey, James Tracey, Richard
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Tredinnick, David
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Trippier, David
Porter, David (Waveney) Trotter, Neville
Portillo, Michael Twinn, Dr Ian
Powell, William (Corby) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Price, Sir David Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Raffan, Keith Walden, George
Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Waller, Gary
Redwood, John Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Rhodes James, Sir Robert Warren, Kenneth
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Watts, John
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Wheeler, Sir John
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Whitney, Ray
Sackville, Hon Tom Widdecombe, Ann
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Wiggin, Jerry
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Wilkinson, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Shersby, Michael Winterton, Nicholas
Skeet, Sir Trevor Wolfson, Mark
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wood, Timothy
Speller, Tony Yeo, Tim
Squire, Robin Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Stevens, Lewis Tellers for the Noes:
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Mr. Nicholas Baker and Mr. Irvine Patrick.
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Sumberg, David

Question accordingly negatived.

Bill accordingly committed to a Standing Committee.