HC Deb 15 December 1992 vol 216 cc317-59

12. In this Order— allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day, provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day; the Bill" means the Education Bill; Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee; Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.

I do not intend to detain the House long, but clearly the House will expect me both to explain the background to this timetable motion, and to say something about the arrangements for which the motion provides. The House is, of course, familiar with the purpose and content of the Bill itself, and it would in any case not be appropriate for me to describe it at length as if this were a Second Reading debate.

I will therefore merely remind the House that the Bill provides in part I for the setting up of new funding authorities for schools in England and Wales; sets out in part II arrangements for grant-maintained schools; reforms in part III the existing provisions affecting children with special educational needs—as a matter of great importance to many parents; lays down in part IV provisions designed to help ensure pupils attend school; provides in part V for education associations to be set up to run schools that fail to provide an acceptable standard of education; and provides in part VI for the establishment of the school curriculum and assessment authority. Those purposes clearly command considerable support in the country; indeed, they follow commitments given in the election campaign earlier this year, and in the White Paper "Choice and Diversity: A New Framework for Schools", published in July, which people rightly expect to see implemented. The aim of the motion is to facilitate that, in what I believe to be an entirely sensible and responsible way.

To explain why we have thought it right to table the motion, I need do little more than set some simple facts before the House. So far, after 65½ hours of consideration —including this morning—the Committee has dealt with only 14 clauses, and at the end of its sitting this morning was still debating clause 15. That leaves 230 clauses still to be considered in Committee. As my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Mrs. Knight) noted when I announced the timetable motion in my business statement last Thursday, at this rate of progress the Committee stage could occupy around 1,500 hours.

The same point can be put still more graphically. I am told that, if we assume that progress in the other place —given that, at this rate, it ever reached the other place —proceeded at the same pace as the Committee stage in this place until last Thursday, the Bill would not reach the statute book until the year 2001. No doubt some of my hon. Friends who have had the opportunity—I hesitate to call it a privilege—to witness these deliberations at first hand will wish to add their own observations if they catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I think that I have said enough to show why I have absolutely no doubt that, whatever may be said in the debate this afternoon, any Government—and certainly the previous Labour Government, with their record of five guillotines in a single day—would now be inviting the House to consider the position in a similar way. There was, perhaps, one alternative—to let the process that I have described drag on for several more weeks, come forward with some even more striking figures on the protraction of proceedings, and then provide for a very short timetable to bring it to a conclusion. I do not believe that that would have been right, not least because it would inevitably have meant—as with a number of such timetables in the past—that there might have been little or no discussion of some parts of the Bill.

Opposition Members will no doubt argue that this is a large, important and complex Bill. There is no dispute about that: indeed, we signalled our recognition of it, and of our wish to see the Bill properly discussed, by providing—very unusually—for a two-day debate on Second Reading.

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

Will the Leader of the House set the record straight, and correct the impression given by the Under-Secretary of State in Committee? Will he acknowledge that the request for a two-day debate came from the Opposition? When I asked the Secretary of State to support that suggestion, he said: I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to seek to influence that".

Mr. Newton

I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—who was very supportive of the idea of a two-day debate—did no more than acknowledge the accepted fact that such decisions are matters for discussion in the usual channels. Indeed, it was following discussion in the usual channels that the Government responded by providing the two-day debate that had been requested.

It is for precisely the same reason—our acknowledgement of the Bill's importance, against the background of developments in the Standing Committee--that we decided to take a motion that does not impose some immediate, drastic curtailment, but rather provides a sensible framework for the considerable further discussion that can legitimately be sought. The motion provides for a further full month in the new year for the Committee stage alone, with Committee not being asked to report to the House until 9 February. Within that period, we have not sought to dictate to the Committee how it should divide its discussion. It will be for the Standing Committee itself to decide how much of the considerable additional time it chooses to spend on which parts of the Bill.

The same approach is reflected in the motion's provision for Report and Third Reading, for which two full days are allocated, with the first of them running until midnight. In the same way as we have not sought to dictate the pattern of discussion in Committee, the motion does not seek to determine, at this stage, the pattern on Report. I entirely accept as reasonable the argument that, when we do not know how the remaining discussion in Committee will go, we cannot say with the necessary certainty where we might want dividing lines—knives, as they are sometimes known in jargon—to fall. Instead, and entirely in line with the normal practices of the House, the motion provides for a Business Committee to consider how best to divide up the time allocated for Report, with its recommendations to be put for approval by the House at the commencement of the Report stage.

In conclusion, without attempting to pre-empt the speeches that we may hear from Opposition Members, I say that any suggestion that we are acting in a draconian or dictatorial fashion or are trying to prevent adequate discussion simply will not stand up. The proposals in the motion are reasonable and sensible, and provide appropriate time for further consideration of this important Bill. As I have said, we have already provided, in a departure from precedent, two full days for Second Reading. We continue to approach the Bill in the same spirit, recognising that the House should have a proper opportunity to debate its provisions. The motion clearly provides for that, and I commend it to the House.

4.40 pm
Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

I beg to move, as an amendment to the motion, in paragraph 2(1), to leave out 'two' and insert 'three'.

The amendment proposes three days on Report. The Leader of the House said that he wanted sensible arrangements, but he did not refer to our amendment. It would have been helpful if he had said whether he intends to accept it as a contribution to more sensible arrangements for this most unsatisfactory state of affairs.

The speech of the Leader of the House, brief though it was, was a half-hearted attempt to justify what the Government are doing. He showed little awareness of the proceedings in Committee. Perhaps he was briefed by the Secretary of State, who knows very little about the Bill, not least because he has never attended the Committee.

I almost felt sorry for the Leader of the House, who had to try to defend the indefensible. As the business manager of the House, he probably has an eye on the problems that he may encounter later in the year, which might be one of the reasons for today's motion.

The Leader of the House acknowledged that the Bill is important. We therefore suggest that it should have proper and full scrutiny. That is one reason why we are very unhappy with the timetable motion. As the right hon. Gentleman said, two days were allowed for Second Reading as a mark of the Bill's importance—but at the request of the Opposition.

The Secretary of State—I am glad to see him this afternoon; we see him so rarely—claimed that the Bill is the most important education Bill since 1944, that it is the longest and that it will set the scene in education for the next 25 years. Indeed, he went so far as to say that it is the last piece in the jigsaw of Conservative education reforms. If so, it is obvious that the Government do not want us to see clearly the picture that will be revealed when the jigsaw is complete, because they do not want us to scrutinise the provisions of the Bill in detail.

I accept that guillotines have a part to play in our constitution, but they should be used only when there is a good reason, and that is not true of the Bill. I remind the Leader of the House that, when in government, the Labour party has never guillotined an education Bill in Committee. The Bill went into Committee on 17 November. The guillotine was announced, with the usual lack of courtesy to the Committee, on 10 December. We have had 58 hours of work.

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kennilworth)

The hon. Lady is incorrect when she says that her party has never guillotined an education Bill.

Mrs. Taylor

I said "in Committee".

Mr. Pawsey

That is an interesting and fine point. I recall that, when Michael Foot guillotined five Bills, one of them was an education Bill.

Mrs. Taylor

The hon. Gentleman does not show his usual accuracy. He should re-read his brief from Conservative central office, and perhaps read the Library's figures. The only time that a Labour Government guillotined an education Bill was on remaining stages, after considerable debate on the Floor of the House and in Committee. A Labour Government have never guillotined a Bill in Committee. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that correction.

The Leader of the House spent some time complaining that we have debated the first chapter of the Bill at length, yet on previous occasions the Government have boasted that the first chapter contains all their key measures. I do not understand how Ministers can boast about the purpose and importance of the Bill yet complain when we spend time scrutinising it.

Our job in Committee has been made more difficult by our not having all the information that was promised earlier, such as details on formula funding arrangements for grant-maintained schools—I suspect that an announcement will be made in the next day or two, with a barrage of other statements. When there is bad news to announce, the Government always do it in a package, and preferably in the run-up to Christmas.

Despite those problems, the Committee has made progress. Indeed, we have raised problems that the Minister has acknowledged as legitimate. He has promised to consider several of our points and to table amendments —for example, on the need for local authorities to take the lead in the provision of nursery provision and on the need to ensure compliance with legislation on racial discrimination. Indeed, more than once he has promised to consider amendments to meet our arguments about special needs. If we had not raised those issues, there would have been gaps in the legislation. The Minister has acknowledged the positive contribution that Labour Members have made in Committee.

In Committee, we have had the kind of debate that is essential if parliamentary democracy is to work properly. Yet, here we are in December, with 10 months of the parliamentary Session remaining—ample time for the Bill to have a proper Committee stage without resort to a timetable motion.

I should have hoped that some Conservative Members would agree with us: after all, some of them have not found time to make their maiden speech in Committee. They have come to life only when we have discussed corporal punishment, which seems to have excited the attention of several Conservative Members.

The Opposition have taken the Committee very seriously and have attended assiduously. We were shocked when on one occasion Conservative Members and Ministers placed the Chairman of the Committee in a very difficult position, because not one Minister was present when the Committee was due to resume after a Division in the House. That shows the casual approach of Ministers to the Bill. I must pay tribute to my colleagues on the Committee, who have highlighted so many problems and drawn on their own experience as parents, governors and teachers to try to improve the Bill. There can have been few occasions when so many new Members made such a contribution to a major Bill.

That may be one reason for the motion. The Under-Secretary, who has been carrying the Bill in the absence of the Secretary of State, obviously does not like being put on the spot. Time and again, he has not been able to answer the questions asked. Clearly, after only four weeks, he has had enough.

However, I doubt whether the junior Minister carries enough clout to secure a guillotine, however uncomfortable life may have been for him in the past four weeks. We must look for other reasons for the guillotine. Why have the Government chosen to curtail debate now? What debates and issues might they fear?

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Before my hon. Friend reaches that point, may I, as a non-member of the Committee, suggest that the Government may have their eye on other Bills in Committee, too? Does my hon. Friend not agree that the Government have no case on the Bill? If they allocated two hours for each clause—half the time that they say has been taken—that would amount to 500 hours' debate. At 10 hours a day, which is going some, that would mean as long as 50 days. But taking one hour per clause, forgetting the schedules, would give 250 hours of debate—or about 25 days. At two days a week, that would mean just over 12 weeks. Surely that is too little time, if anything—yet the Government want even less. So, as my hon. Friend says, there must be another reason why the Government want a timetable. They have specified a date, but not necessarily the hours to be spent in Committee.

Mrs. Taylor

My hon. Friend is right. I believe that he may have a particular interest in one of the reasons why the Government are so keen to move quickly, and I shall come to that later.

I was wondering which aspects of the debate due over the next few weeks worried or frightened Ministers. It is interesting that the guillotine has been introduced just as we reach the clauses on grant-maintained status, which is supposed to be one of the main planks of Government policy yet which is clearly one of their main failures. We are keen to highlight that failure, and the facts that while 1.5 per cent. of schools have gone for grant-maintained status, 24,500 schools have not done so, and that in an increasing proportion of the ballots people are voting no.

We want to highlight the anti-democratic nature of the proposals—for example, the proposal to allow a resolution for grant-maintained status to be taken at a governors meeting.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Mr. Eric Forth)

I am sure that the hon. Lady does not intend to mislead the House, but I remind her that current statistics suggest that almost 80 per cent. of ballots decide in favour of grant-maintained status. I hope that she will consider withdrawing, or at least rephrasing, the rather misleading statement that she has just made.

Mrs. Taylor

I shall not withdraw the statement, because I said that an increasing proportion of ballots were going against grant-maintained status. That statement is true, and has been recently checked. I understand why Ministers are so touchy on the subject—

The Secretary of State for Education (Mr. John Patten)


Mrs. Taylor

No, I shall not give way to the Secretary of State. If he wanted to participate in the debate, he should have come to the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman seems to be taking an unusual interest in the Bill. We would have welcomed his interest in Committee, but obviously he was not sufficiently interested to spend 60 hours with us.

I was saying that I was unhappy with the anti-democratic nature of the Bill, and the fact that, at a governors meeting, a resolution for grant-maintained status can he taken under any other business, with no advance notification. I was also about to mention the intimidation about which members of the Conservative party have complained. Conservatives who do not want to promote grant-maintained status have been put under pressure by other Conservatives. Apparently, Councillor Jenny Langston, the Conservative who chairs the education committee of East Sussex county council, complained recently that a right-wing member of her own party should advocate local authorities, such as hers, should employ strong-arm tactics to beat off opposition in the parental and governing body lobbies. Councillor Langston said: We prefer to let parents make the decision and I think it's important we don't push them either way".

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Hastings and Rye)

I hope that the hon. Lady was present when I spoke on Second Reading—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] She probably was not. I cited letters from East Sussex county council which made it palpably clear that the education authority was distinctly unkeen on schools being able to choose grant-maintained status, and was encouraging schools, governor and parents not to consider the subject.

Mrs. Taylor

I am interested in the hon. Lady's view of local democracy—and I am sure that many Conservative councillors will be interested in it, too. Conservative councillors are complaining about what they consider to be intimidating letters from other Conservative party members warning them what may happen to them if they do not start promoting grant-maintained status. So much for local democracy.

The next section of the Bill, which we were hoping to debate in detail over the next few weeks, aims to boost the chances of more schools becoming grant maintained. In the week before Second Reading we heard that parents at the Prime Minister's old school, Rutlish, had rejected grant-maintained status. But the last straw for the Government, which meant that they could not face long discussions on the Bill, may have been the ballot last week at Warberry Church of England primary school in Torquay—hardly in Labour's heartland. There was an 86 per cent. turnout, and the result was: those against grant-maintained status—399; those in favour—five. Perhaps that was the last straw for the Government.

Other parts of the Bill, too, need time for proper scrutiny. The problems of children with special educational needs, which were mentioned by the Leader of the House, are important. As we made clear on Second Reading, we welcome some parts of the Bill, and we hope that the special need provisions can lead to an improvement in the provision for many children.

However, we are worried, and we want to explore the likelihood that without proper resources, either the new proposals will not work, or they will work for children with statements, at the expense of most children with special needs, who do not have statements but who nevertheless have considerable needs. Such serious and essential issues should have proper consideration, and we fear that they will not be fully explored if the Bill is guillotined.

We need time to discuss other issues, too, such as the Government proposals for specialisation. Specialisation increasingly seems to be the Government code word for selection. In Committee the Under-Secretary spoke in less coded language than is sometimes used. He talked about the "dead hand of comprehensivisation"; clearly he favours selection—[Interruption.] Conservative Members are saying, "Quite right." Obviously it would have been worth while to discuss the matter in great detail, so that we could find out exactly what the Government mean and bring it out into the open.

We need time to discuss the issue of surplus places. I understand that the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth), the Under-Secretary of State for Education, had what may have been a constructive meeting on surplus places yesterday with representatives of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities. We should use our time in Committee to try to build on that.

There are complex issues associated with clause 244, which concerns the provision of goods and services by local authorities. Everyone in local government, on both sides of the political divide, regards that as an important issue, and one which will need a great deal of clarification. I suggest that those are serious matters which require serious consideration.

There is another reason why the Government are moving the guillotine motion, and that reason has nothing to do with education. The Government are so desperate to keep time on the Floor of the House for the European Communities (Amendment) Bill that they will sacrifice the scrutiny of any other legislation. Debate on the Education Bill is being sacrificed because the Government cannot manage their business properly. It is being sacrificed regardless of the impact on the education system. It is remarkable that Ministers, who are only too keen to interfere in the day-to-day running of our schools, are not prepared to embark on a day-to-day defence of their education policies. We oppose the guillotine.

4.51 pm
Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me so early in the debate. I shall speak in support of the timetable motion.

As a result of the Opposition's tactics, time for debate has already been severely curtailed. The timetable motion will ensure that there will be better scrutiny of the Education Bill than would otherwise have been the case. No amount of argument from the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) will convince anyone listening to our debate to the contrary. There is no doubt that the Opposition's tactic is to oppose the Bill by all means possible. As I am sure everyone will accept, that is not the same as scrutinising the Bill thoroughly and properly, which is what the Government intend. That is why Conservative Members will support the Government and vote for the timetable motion tonight.

If the Committee continues as it has during the many hours so far, there is no way in which the Bill will have proper scrutiny.

Mr. Spearing

Like myself, the hon. Gentleman has a past professional interest in the matter. Did he notice that Ministers did not challenge my arithmetic in an earlier intervention—[Interruption.] They did not. I said that 12 weeks would be reasonable on the basis of giving one hour to each clause. Does the hon. Gentleman realise that he is supporting a motion that will mean 20 minutes per clause? Can he really sustain that timetable? Can he defend it to parents and to teachers in his constituency?

Mr. Thompson

What I cannot defend to my constituents and to my former colleagues in the teaching profession—like the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), I was a teacher for many years—is that it could be right for us to spend four hours in debate on every clause of a Bill that contains 255 clauses. How could anyone defend three and a quarter hours of debate on clause 4 when the Opposition failed to table an amendment to it? That is indefensible, and that is the answer to the hon. Gentleman's arithmetic. I do not accept his point. The point is that we shall have better scrutiny of the Bill by accepting the timetable motion.

I am not surprised that the hon. Member for Dewsbury has been so impatient with the proceedings. There has been so much unnecessary talk that the hon. Lady—I know that she has been very busy—has not been able to spare very much time for the Committee. Not everyone in the House is aware of that. I wonder whether she has not been able to spare much time for the Committee because she has found great difficulty in coming to terms with the Labour party's U-turn on the issue of grant-maintained status. I remember well the statements made a month or so after the general election. I know that the hon. Lady has great difficulty with the topic in the light of what has preceded the Bill.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will check the record and that he will confirm that I have missed two sittings of the Committee. The reason was that I was visiting schools, which is apparently a legitimate exercise for the Secretary of State. I also remind the hon. Gentleman that I was one of the Committee members present at 10.15 pm when the sitting resumed after a Division. Only two Conservative Members were present and the hon. Gentleman was not one of them.

Mr. Thompson

I took a careful note of the amount of time that the hon. Lady spent in Committee this morning. I watched the Opposition Front Bench and I know that she was absent for the vast majority of the morning.

Mrs. Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East)

The hon. Gentleman has spoken for four minutes so far, including two minutes for interventions. Will he tell the House when he last spoke for that length of time in Committee?

Mr. Thompson

I shall come to the way in which I believe a Bill should he properly scrutinised a little later, and I shall talk about the support that I and many hon. Members of all parties have for considering the possibility of introducing procedures to timetable Bills from the outset. The way in which Bills are conducted now is nonsense and the hon. Member for Dewsbury knows that. Hon. Members of all parties know that.

Mr. David Jamieson (Plymouth, Devonport)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Thompson

No, because I want to proceed with my speech. I realise that time is short and I want to allow time for other hon. Members to speak.

No amendments have been tabled by Labour or by Liberal Democrat spokesmen which would improve the education system.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Thompson

I shall give way when I have completed this point. If I do not make progress, there will not be enough time for everyone.

I have listened to the debates carefully. Perhaps I should pick and choose between Opposition Members, but I should rather make the general point. I will then give way to the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster).

The Bill is about the education of our young people. Opposition Members have failed to appreciate in their lengthy speeches on the Bill that what really matters in education is the quality of the work by our teachers in the classroom. There are many highly skilled teachers whose work in the classroom should be better recognised in the House because that is what counts in education. Education is about the leadership provided by head teachers in good schools and in schools where there are difficulties where head teachers do a magnificent job. That is what education in our schools is about, along with the wisdom and good sense of our governors.

I will give way to the hon. Member for Bath, because I think I know the point he is about to make.

Mr. Don Foster

The hon. Gentleman says that the Bill is about education. Indeed it is. Does he agree that it is not really about the quality of education?

Mr. Thompson


Mr. Foster

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can intervene at this stage.

Does he agree that that concerns the quality, rather than the structure, of education and that the Bill will do nothing to improve the quality of education? Further, the hon. Gentleman's claim that Opposition amendments have done nothing to improve the Bill is not borne out by the Minister, who has acceded to a number of our amendments.

Mr. Thompson

My hon. Friends and I have listened carefully to the contributions of Opposition Members in Committee and, taken as a whole, the quality of argument concerning education in general and the provisions of the Bill in particular has been deficient. In more than 65 hours of debate, we have heard little from them about the intentions of the Bill, which are designed to increase choice and variety in schools and provide incentives for good schools.

Mr. Don Foster


Mr. Thompson

I shall not give way again.

I welcome the statement today by the Under-Secretary on ways to increase variety in schools by allowing in pupils who want to study particular subjects, such as the arts, music and so on. In other words, increasing choice and variety is fundamental to the Bill, which is why I support it and want it to receive proper scrutiny.

The evidence shows that in grant-maintained schools there is a feeling of freedom. Staff turnover has gone down, especially in primary schools, and staff of high quality are applying for jobs. That is no reason to point to one type of school and set it against another, but those are the sort of points we should be raising as we discuss the Bill. Opposition Members say much about the structure of education. When discussing structure, we should examine the effect that funding, structure and mechanism have on the quality of education. I hope that we shall debate the matter in those terms once the motion has been approved.

When I first entered the House, I served on the Standing Committee which examined what finally became the Telecommunications Act 1984. That measure was in Committee for many hours, and as a new Member, I had the impression then that that way of conducting our business had to be changed. The same procedure has occurred with the Education Bill in recent weeks, with long, time-wasting speeches. I hesitate to use the word "filibustering" to describe those speeches—[interruption.] —even though my hon. Friends think that I should describe them in that way.

That cannot be the right way to scrutinise a measure of such importance. It is why I support the idea of timetabling Bills from the outset. That would enable measures to be properly scrutinised, for the way in which the Education Bill has been scrutinised so far has been a sham and a disgrace. The Opposition's tactics have done nothing for education. I am pleased to see the Leader of the House in his place. I hope that a reformed system will be introduced without delay.

5.14 pm
Mr. Stephen Byers (Wallsend)

We have been told of the importance of the Bill. The Under-Secretary described it as a landmark piece of legislation. The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) called it a Christmas cake of a Bill. The Secretary of State referred to it on Second Reading as a far-reaching measure that would affect the framework of education, especially for primary and secondary schools, into the next century. For those reasons, the Bill needs detailed consideration and scrutiny, the sort of treatment it has been receiving in Standing Committee.

Opposition Members are anxious to scrutinise the Bill in detail, because we recognise its implications for education. There is a danger that, as drafted, it will create in Britain an educational underclass made up of disappointed and disillusioned parents, rejected and bitter children and blighted and failed schools.

So far, we have spent nine sitting days examining the Bill, involving 55¼hours of debate. Those are the figures that matter, so it is clear that the Government want to work in the fast track for this piece of legislation. After all, the White Paper was published on 28 July, the Bill was published in October, it had its Second Reading in November, and it is now being guillotined in December. Why the haste? Is there some coincidence—is it written in the stars?—which necessitates the Bill being considered in that way, particularly given the significance attached to it by the Secretary of State and most informed commentators?

The Government do not want the measure to be scrutinised in detail, and they have not been prepared to embark on real consultation with those in the service who will be responsible for its implementation, because they are not prepared to discuss their proposals in public. The Secretary of State in particular, and the Government in general, will not defend the Bill in public. The Secretary of State has failed in his responsibilities by not serving on the Standing Committee, even though he claims that the measure will lay the foundations for education into the next century.

The right hon. Gentleman has refused to meet deputations from a range of organisations which want to discuss the Bill with him. He has shovelled off responsibility on to the shoulders of his Parliamentary Under-Secretary. Indeed, the Secretary of State has acquired a reputation for declining invitations to speak at important education conferences—[Interruption.]—or, when he has accepted invitations to speak, he has cancelled them, often at short notice.

The body representing local education authorities met in Liverpool in July. The Secretary of State was to have spoken there, but cried off. The European Trade Union Committee for Education met a couple of weeks ago. The right hon. Gentleman cancelled the speech that he was to have made there. A north of England education conference, to be held in January, was expecting the right hon. Gentleman to address it, but received a note recently to the effect that he would not be keeping that speaking engagement.

Mr. Forth

I remind the hon. Gentleman that this debate is about the timetable for deliberations of the Bill here in Parliament. I fail to see the possible relevance to that discussion of the matters to which he is now referring.

Mr. Byers

I appreciate the Minister's sensitivity. He is having to bear a heavy responsibility for the measure. The Bill needs careful scrutiny because there has been no real consultation. The Secretary of State has not discussed the detail of the measure with those who will be responsible for its implementation. Indeed, he is not even prepared to stand on a public platform and defend the policies in this Bill in front of an audience that will know what he is talking about.

Mr. Spearing

Of course, this is in direct contrast to the late R. A. Butler and the 1944 Bill. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that Bill was taken in a Committee of the whole House and that Mr. Butler saw it right through?

Mr. Byers

I thank my hon. Friend for that information. I believe that one of the reasons why the Butler Act has stood the test of time is precisely because of the detailed consultations that took place before the Act appeared on the statute book and on the Floor of the House.

The Secretary of State has a responsibility, and he has opted out of it. We have a Secretary of State who has had more cancellations than Network SouthEast in the last few months. The nine sitting days that we have had scrutinising the Bill have already been deeply embarrassing for the Government. The Under-Secretary has had to accept that the Government can no longer support parental choice; he has had to acknowledge that all the Government can now talk about is allowing parents to express a preference for a school. That is a fundamental difference between Conservative rhetoric and what happens in practice.

The Under-Secretary got into some difficulties last week on the question of selection—whether it is on ability or aptitude, whether it should be 10 per cent., or more, or less, and what we mean by a significant change of character which would require a request under the statutory provisions to the Secretary of State. Such difficulties did the Under-Secretary get into that yesterday the Government had to publish a consultation document so that people could consider the options available to the Government. At last some consultation was to take place, but too little, too late, and consultation only because of the difficulties the Under-Secretary got himself into in Committee. It is the detailed scrutiny in the Committee that is throwing up these difficulties and problems.

A third problem identified very clearly in Committee was the funding of grant-maintained schools. What are the Government's intentions with regard to the future when schools opt out of local education authority control? Will those schools continue to be funded on the basis of the present levels of spending by the individual local education authorities, or will the link be broken?

Just a few weeks ago, the Under-Secretary made a very important statement, when he said that the link could not be retained. That is bad news for those schools in the 65 local education authorities that spend above their Government standard spending assessment on education. If the link is broken, those schools, if they achieve grant-maintained status, will get less money under the funding agency than they get under their local education authority.

We also saw revealed the absurd position whereby, in some cases, the funding agency would have dual or parallel responsibility with the local education authority, even though only a handful of parents would have had the opportunity to vote on whether the school should opt out of local authority funding.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) gave an important example in Committee—that of the Jewish free school in Camden, where only 54 pupils out of 1,000 live in Camden local authority area. If that school were to opt out—they are about to start the balloting process, I understand—the funding agency, under the Bill as it stands at present, would share the responsibility with Camden for the strategic planning of education within that area, although only 54 Camden parents would have been able to vote in that ballot. So much for democracy; so much for parental choice.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury has said, it is no accident that the guillotine is to be introduced just as the Committee begins detailed scrutiny of the provisions relating to the opting-out procedures. It is because the Government are only too aware that opting out, whether in principle or in practice, has not been the success that Ministers would like it to be. Indeed, in many cases., we have seen intimidation of parents, and schools facing very real difficulties in terms of meeting the requirements with regard to their funding budgets.

The position is this, and I will give just a couple of examples. In Codsall school in Staffordshire, those who were supporting opting out wrote to individual parents saying that, if they did not vote—

Mr. Rod Richards (Clwyd, North-West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I cannot for the life of me see what these examples have to do with the motion that we are debating.

Mr. Byers

I can understand why Government Members are finding the details difficult. The hon. Gentleman may have an opportunity to contribute to the debate, which is more than he has been able to do in the Standing Committee.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

I have taken about as much of the intimidation angle as I can. Last week:, a school in my constituency voted to go grant-maintained. Over 57 per cent of the parents voted in the ballot, and 85 per cent. of those who voted were in favour of going grant-maintained. There was no intimidation as far as that school was concerned, but there certainly was blatant intimidation from the Labour-controlled Lancashire county council, which threatened all sorts of things if the school went grant-maintained. I am pleased to say that the parents ignored that intimidation: they voted to put the pupils first and go for grant-maintained status.

Mr. Byers

That is an interesting contribution, but it is unfortunate that, in the example just given, less than half the parents entitled to vote voted in favour of opting out. Nevertheless, had the hon. Gentleman been in the Chamber at the beginning of the debate, he would have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury giving some recent examples of the way the ballots have gone against opting out in the last few days.

I return to the position on intimidation, and I am relying on a reply I received to a question I put to the Under-Secretary. The reply was very clear and simple, and it is worth having it on the record in this debate.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. I have been very tolerant so far with the hon. Gentleman, but he is not referring very much to the motion. I should be grateful if he would get back to it.

Mr. Byers

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was trying to reveal the importance of the detailed scrutiny which has thrown up some of these difficulties, but I will, of course, take your guidance on that.

The important point which the House needs to recognise is that the timetable motion before us today will restrict the detailed scrutiny that can be given to the Bill as at present before the Standing Committee. The timetable allows about 20 minutes per clause. I do not believe that that sort of time will allow the detailed scrutiny that is essential if we are to get legislation on to the statute book that will meet the challenge of the future.

We will not have the opportunity to debate in detail the whole question of special education needs. I believe that most hon. Members recognise that the Education Act 1981, which did so much to raise the issue of special education needs, now needs to be amended. This Bill is an opportunity to do that. Many of us have reservations about whether, as at present worded, it would meet existing needs. Many of us feel that it will not.

A matter which has been little debated is the proposed merger of the School Examinations and Assessment Council and the National Curriculum Council to bring into one body not only examinations and assessment but the decisions about what happens in our schools. Under the Bill, that body will be appointed solely by the Secretary of State, which causes many of us great concern. It smacks of the 1984 thought police of George Orwell rather than an enlightened democracy of the 1990s.

The parliamentary procedure that we are debating will not deceive parents. They will know that no additional money is being made available under the Bill. They will also know that the Bill does nothing to reduce class size, repair leaking roofs or provide new textbooks, and that it does nothing to raise standards.

Parliament cannot discharge its responsibilities under the timetable. It may be politically convenient for the Government, given their difficulties over the Maastricht treaty, but it puts at risk the education opportunities of future generations. It represents a triumph of dogma over reason, for which the Government will rightly stand condemned.

5.30 pm
Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

However important the Bill is—and there is no doubt that it is a major plank of the Government's legislation for this Parliament—this debate is unnecessary. I say that with due modesty. It would have been unnecessary if the House had had the wisdom or foresight to adopt the recommendations of the Select Committee on Procedure, which were made as long ago as July 1986.

The Opposition no longer need to prove their virility by forcing the Government into timetable motions on the Floor of the House. The present system of timetabling is old-fashioned and archaic, and a major waste of prime time. In the previous Parliament, 14 half days were wasted on debates such as this which do nothing to help Bills or to create press publicity. In the early 1960s, the House was absolutely crowded for a timetable motion. It was a full day's debate and caused massive uproar. Today it is dealt with like any other minor procedural matter.

I quickly remind the House how the recommendations of the Select Committee on Procedure would apply to the Bill. This is a good opportunity to show how the methods which we suggested and which, thank goodness, were approved by the Jopling Committee, would work on such legislation.

First, I shall rid the House of a major procedural shibboleth—the concept that the one option which the Opposition have to beat the Government is time, especially time in Committee. Since 1945, no piece of legislation introduced by a Government of either party and which has appeared in the Queen's speech has failed to reach the statute book in a full Parliament. The Telecommunications Bill did not get through and had to be introduced in a new Parliament, but that was because the election was in May—if it had gone to a full Parliament, it would have been passed.

It is false to believe that a delay in Committee wins anything for the Opposition. It merely means that poor Back Benchers and Opposition spokesmen spend a great deal of time trailing through hours of what I regard as unnecessarily lengthy debate on major matters.

How would the Procedure Committee's recommendations have applied in this case? Paragraph 16(a) on page vii of the Committee's report of 9 July 1986 states: Proceedings in standing Committee should not continue beyond 10 pm". But the most important point is: A Business Sub-Committee of nine Members or one third of the standing committee's membership (whichever is the greater) should be nominated by the Committee of Selection when a standing committee is nominated and should be chaired by the Chairman of the standing committee". If that had happened, the Under-Secretary of State for Schools and my hon. Friends the Members for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay), for Battersea (Mr. Bowis), for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) and for Westbury (Mr. Faber) and the hon. Members for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy), for Wallsend (Mr. Byers) and for Bath (Mr. Foster) might have been nominated as members of the business sub-committee.

The report continues: The Business Sub-Committee should meet after the sixth sitting of the standing committee and should report to the standing committee … the date by which the standing committee should report the bill". That describes exactly the current situation. What is more, anyone who knows anything about the workings of this place will know that from the moment the Queen's Speech is announced, the authorities have named dates by which time all legislation must pass out of Committee to go to another place. There is no secret about that. If the Opposition force a guillotine, they do not put back the date any further but reduce the time available for debate on the remainder of the Bill.

The Select Committee's recommendations continue: the number of sittings which would need to be allotted to the consideration of the Bill should also be decided by that Committee in order to ensure that there would be time for all parts of it to be adequately scrutinised". That means that it is up to the people serving on the Committee to decide in the time set for the reporting of the Bill exactly how much time they want to spend on it. It gives power to the usual channels, and the usual channels think that they are best at negotiating the length of that time.

The Opposition must realise that once the Government know that a Bill is to reported by a certain date, they are happy to hand over to the Opposition all the subjects of debate and whatever time scale the Opposition may wish. That gives considerable extra power to the Opposition who frequently do not realise it.

The Select Committee recommended: No motion to approve a report from the Business Sub-Committee should be made until … after the first appearance of the terms of its report … Such a motion would be debatable for 1½ hours". If, after a further six sittings, the sub-committee should meet again and if it is considered that progress is still not satisfactory, exact slots or knives could then be negotiated between members of that Committee.

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is the hon. Member speaking to the motion?

Sir Peter Emery

Indeed I am.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have been listening with interest and I have been tempted two or three times to intervene to suggest that the hon. Gentleman should refer directly to the guillotine motion rather than the guillotine procedure in general.

Sir Peter Emery

In order to allow many hon. Members to participate, I was trying not to refer to the fact that at every stage what I am suggesting is ruled out by the present motion. The weakness of the timetable motion needs correcting. If the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) and the Chair wish it, I shall be delighted to continue in that vein.

One of the Committee's recommendations which is not mentioned in the motion is that every part of the Bill should be adequately discussed. That must be what the House wants if legislation is to be fully considered. It is equally the case that the present system does not mean that there will be adequate discussion of all sections of a Bill. However, the recommendations of the Procedure Committee achieve that. They strengthen the timetable motion and improve it. They make it a more sensible procedure than that which exists at present.

There is a definite view to move away from the present procedure. The all-party House of Commons reform group found that 72.8 per cent. of the 323 hon. Members who replied to a questionnaire were in favour of all Bills being timetabled in advance.

Mr. Martlew

On a point of order. Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is the hon. Gentleman speaking to the motion before the House?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I advise the hon. Gentleman that it has been traditional to allow reference to past and future procedures that might benefit future guillotine motions. That is what the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) is doing, and that is why I am allowing him to continue.

Sir Peter Emery

The comments of the hon. Member for Carlilse (Mr. Martlew) are a bit hot. We have heard many references from Opposition Members to outside meetings not being right and about Ministers not doing this or that outside the Chamber. However, we have heard little about the motion or about the Bill. I do not know how the hon. Member for Carlisle has the nerve to interfere in the debate in that way.

Paragraphs 67 and 69 of the Jopling Committee report make it clear that the majority of hon. Members are interested in improving the current system of timetabling Bills. The then shadow Leader of the House, the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip and the Leader of the House were unanimous in the belief that we should find a better way to carry out the procedure.

I hope that I have been allowed to show that the Opposition lose none of their power by adopting the recommendation of the Procedure Committee rat her than adopting the current procedure or amending it. If it is properly used, the Procedure Committee's recommendation should allow the Opposition to call the tune in respect of what they want to debate in Committee. It will also ensure that all sections of a Bill are considered in Committee.

All that can be achieved without having to spend an exaggerated length of time in Committee as was the case before this timetable motion was tabled. No one can say that the speeches Upstairs were concise, short or to the point. We want to try to ensure that we can consider all parts of a Bill and not waste time on the early clauses. That can be achieved, and if it is achieved it will benefit the House.

5.42 pm
Mr. Don Foster (Bath)

The hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) has made several interesting points, and perhaps I might refer to them later in my speech. However, I want to begin by referring to the introductory comments of the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor). She rightly made the point that the Leader of the House has not made a strong case to justify the guillotine motion, particularly not at this stage in the Committee proceedings.

The Secretary of State for Education told us that the Bill is intended to last for 25 years. While I do not believe that that is likely as the Government have in 13 years had to introduce 17 major Education Bills, it is likely that the Bill might last 10 months—if the Government are right, it is a pity that they have decided to guillotine the discussion on the Bill less than 25 weeks after the publication of the White Paper; after less than 25 working days since Second Reading; and after fewer than 25 Committee sittings.

Many Opposition Members have referred to the unseemly haste of the guillotine procedure. The unseemly haste in which the Bill was cobbled together has meant that it has many flaws. It was necessary in Committee for Opposition Members to identify the various flaws in the Bill for Conservative Members. It is sad that, in addition to Opposition Members, Conservative Members are also finding flaws in the legislation. As a result, the Minister and Conservative Members have had to table a large number of amendments.

After the guillotine motion has been passed, there will be time only to consider the Government amendments and amendments tabled by Conservative Members. As I am a new Member, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be more aware than I that "Erskine May" states in the 21st edition of "Parliamentary Practice" that guillotine motions are the most drastic method of curtailing debate … it cannot be denied that they are capable of being used in such a way as to upset the balance, generally so carefully preserved, between the claims of business and the rights of debate. I believe that on this occasion, that balance is truly being upset.

Reference has been made to earlier guillotine motions. Many Conservative Members will be aware that the Education Reform Act 1988 was debated in Committee for 88 hours before the guillotine fell. Although that Bill was important, it had far fewer clauses than the current Bill. It had only 147 clauses, in comparison to the 255 in this Bill.

I accept what the hon. Member for Honiton said. It is not always necessary to have a guillotine motion, even on important issues. The vital Education Act 1944 has already been referred to. That legislation was debated in Committee for 60 hours and then progressed to its subsequent stages without any need for a guillotine.

The important point is that there is a huge difference between the 1944 Act and this Bill. There had been considerable and detailed consultation for a long period in the run-up to the preparation for the 1944 Act. As a result, there was great consensus on both sides of the House. The only area of major disagreement related to religious education.

There has been no extensive debate of this Bill. Many of us have often levelled that criticism at the Bill. There is definitely no consensus on both sides of the House in respect of the Bill. As a result, we are in difficulty. Quite properly, we must oppose the guillotine motion.

The hon. Member for Honiton referred to the debate in the House in the mid-1980s—long before I became a Member of this place—about guillotine and timetable motions, and the need to find a better way to address such business in the House. Speaking personally, I believe that there is great merit in the proposals in the report that was debated in 1986. In broad terms, my agreement stretches as far as major Bills which are contentious. The proposal that a timetable should be established before the Bill goes into Committee has a great deal of merit.

We must not have some of the perhaps synthetic crocodile tears about guillotine motions. After all, Governments of all persuasions have used guillotine motions. Certainly this Government, since they came to power in 1979, have introduced about 30 major Bills on which the Committee debate has been guillotined. On those occasions, it is interesting to note that the average time for debate before the guillotine was 78 hours, which is much more than the 55¼hours of debate that we have had on this lengthy Bill. Nevertheless, I accept that in principle there can be a case for timetable motions.

However, I do not believe that this timetable motion is justified. The outrage sometimes expressed about timetable motions is justified on this occasion. I hope that I do not repeat comments by other hon. Members, but there are several reasons why we should genuinely be outraged about the motion. One is purely selfish and personal—simply that I have enjoyed the deliberations in Committee. I have certainly learnt a great deal from them. [Laughter.] Those hon. Members who are laughing are clearly not members of the Committee.

Who can forget the Minister's wonderful joke when he described the Bill as "a landmark cake"? Who can forget the great erudition of the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright), who has taught us so much about grammar and pronunciation? I am sure that we have all learnt a great deal.

I for one am sad that the debate will come to an end relatively rapidly. Earlier, the Under-Secretary of State for Education, whom we have already welcomed to his position, said that he was concerned about his inability to speak so fluently and so on as he might like. I assure him that, after a few days in Committee listening to the hon. Member for Hemsworth and many other hon. Members, he will be rapidly up to speed with his Front-Bench colleagues.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

As the hon. Gentleman is referring to our good friend and entertainer, the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright), who has entertained us at great length, he will recall the occasion when the hon. Gentleman announced that he was coming to his peroration which, because he was a supporter of Demosthenes, was likely to last two hours. That is the problem that we have had in Committee: we have not had time to discuss the amendments that the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members have tabled, because many hon. Members have talked ad nauseam—with great respect to the hon. Gentleman: "nausea" was another Latin tag. [Interruption.] I think that Frankie Howard was a friend of the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mrs. Prentice).

As an example, the hon. Gentleman will recall, because he was in Committee this morning, that we spent the entire sitting on one amendment to one clause, and did not even reach the end of that.

Mr. Foster

The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) will recall the intervention that he referred to in which the hon. Member for Hemsworth threatened to speak for two hours. Fortunately, that did not happen. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman is smarting because of the interventions from the hon. Member for Hemsworth. Perhaps he will recall the interesting debate that we had on the phrases which introduced clause 1(1) of the Bill. I have no doubt that he will have an opportunity to check that point in the debate.

As I have said, there are several reasons for feeling outraged about the guillotine motion. I have referred to that reason which is perhaps personal and somewhat selfish, although there are many others which are much more important. The basic reason is the issue of the importance of parliamentary scrutiny. The motion will not give us an opportunity for the proper and detailed parliamentary scrutiny which a Bill of this size and importance rightly deserves. There is no opportunity for us to scrutinise, criticise and improve the actions of the Executive—which, after all, is what the role of the legislature is meant to be. Just as the Government have made a mockery of consultation on the Bill, so they are making a mockery of the concept of parliamentary rule.

The hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Byers) referred to the unwillingness of the Secretary of State to listen to almost anybody. It is clear that the Government have no desire to listen. They do not want to listen to parents, governors, teachers or any other educationists. Indeed, they do not want to listen to their own supporters. They seem to be totally deaf to many people who are traditional Conservative supporters. There were many references in Committee to the Conservative Education Association.

The Government also seem unwilling to listen to the views of the hon. Member for Crosby (Sir M. Thornton), who is the Chairman of the Select Committee on Education. He is quoted as describing the Bill as a recipe for at best confusion and at worst chaos". I wanted to record that phrase because of the effect that it might have on the Under-Secretary. Recently in Committee he said that, if he heard that phrase once more, he would go even more dotty than he was, so we look forward to seeing how he behaves a little later.

I am sad that, because of the speed with which the Government are rushing the Bill through, Conservative Members have not had an opportunity to listen to the views of the new Minister about the important issues in the Bill.

Reference has been made to the fact that we do not appear to have made much progress on the Bill. The hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) said that there had been slow progress. That is perfectly understandable, because the Government have placed all the important and complex issues in the early part of the Bill. I propose that we resolve the problem by changing the order in which we consider the Bill.

Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that one of the main reasons for slow progress—if I may refer to one of the speeches made by the hon. Member for Hemsworth—is that he managed to introduce into a debate on the 10 per cent. and 75 per cent. trigger points topics such as the history of old school boards, the ethos of schools in West Yorkshire and Severn, how he crossed swords with the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sheffield, star-gazing, "Pilgrim's Progress" and the Slough of Despond.

Mr. Foster

All those issues are vital to education. More importantly, I am amazed that the hon. Member for Norwich, North has admitted that he is attacking the integrity of the Chair. Surely, if the points were out of order, the Chairman would have so ruled, just as I am sure you would have done, Mr. Morris.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

I merely wish to make a correction. Undoubtedly, not all Conservative Members have learnt to read accurately. It was the Bishop, not the Archbishop, of Sheffield.

Mr. Foster

I am grateful for that clarification. Nevertheless, the point is important.

To pick up part of the point raised by the hon. Member for Honiton, if there had been an opportunity to plan the debate properly in the way I proposed at the beginning of the Committee's discussions, perhaps we would not have got into the state which the hon. Member for Norwich, North and other hon. Members believe we are in at present.

Mrs. Bridget Prentice

Despite what the hon. Gentleman said about reorganising the order of the debate, is he aware that, along the Committee Corridor, other Bills were being discussed, some of which had no more than 15 clauses? One which had 15 clauses has just completed its Committee stage today. To reach clause 15 of a long Bill such as this is good progress. [Laughter.]

Mr. Foster

It is clear that Conservative Members believe that the detailed consideration that has been given to the important clauses with which we have dealt merits only laughter. Opposition Members have made a serious attempt to find ways of improving a very bad Bill. That is demonstrated by the fact that we have not only debated the clauses of the Bill but tabled amendment after amendment to impove them.

The only accusation about a particular clause was in respect of clause 4. Reference was made to the fact that the Opposition had not tabled any amendment to clause 4. That is hardly surprising when one discovers that clause 4 says: The Secretary of State may make grants to any funding authority of such amounts and subject to such terms and conditions as he may determine. It would be difficult to table an amendment which was acceptable to the Committee Clerk but would not be seen as a wrecking amendment and therefore rejected. That is the only way—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. Decisions on amendments rest with not the Committee Clerk but with the Chairman of the Committee.

Mr. Foster

I apologise, and I am grateful for that comment.

Mr. Patten

I hope that the hon. Gentleman has learnt his lesson.

Mr. Foster

I have learnt, and I am grateful to learn. I said that I would undoubtedly learn a great deal in Committee.

Our other problem with the timetable motion is that it does not give the Government time to get their act together. Hon. Members who are not members of the Committee will not be aware that we had the somewhat unedifying sight of Ministers competing with one another to explain different parts of the Bill and coming up with contradictory views of what was going on.

For example, we had a major debate on clause 7, about the relationship between the local education authorities and the funding authorities. Every time Ministers attempted to explain the difference we received different answers. We wanted to know whether they had a dual function, whether they would operate in parallel or whether their responsibilities would be shared. For days we waited. Finally, we received an answer. The Minister said: there is a shared responsibility exercised by parallel duties." —[Official Report, Standing Committee E; c. 517.] We were told that that was the Government's definitive answer. I wonder whether it will be changed, because that definition is at odds with the definition given by the Secretary of State on Second Reading.

We have many other examples of Ministers being at odds. On Second Reading, the Secretary of State said: Grant-maintained schools and local education authority schools must operate on equal terms."—[Official Report, 9 November 1992; Vol. 213, c. 651.] In the second day of the same debate, the junior Minister said: There can never be a level playing field between grant-maintained schools and local education authority maintained schools".—[Official Report, 10 November 1992; Vol. 213, c. 836.]

Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)

I should be grateful to know whether the purpose of the hon. Gentleman's speech is to illustrate the farcical nature of the proceedings, as so well described by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery).

Mr. Foster

The point of my speech is to show that inadequate time has been given for consideration of what the Government have said is an important Bill. It is to demonstrate that the Government have not got their act together and are still making contradictory statements about elements of the Bill. Even if no one else needs additional time to get the Bill right, the. Government certainly do.

I also wish to show that the Government are clearly not interested in rational debate. They are interested only in rationed debate.

Mr. Richards

The hon. Gentleman has just referred to the kernel of the debate. Several days were spent discussing what my hon. Friend the Minister said in Committee—that local education authorities and the funding agencies would work in parallel. I recall the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson), who unfortunately has now left the Chamber, spending some considerable time discussing the matter. He told us at length that he was a mathematics teacher, so he assumed, as Opposition Members do, that he must relate everything that happened in the Committee to his specialisation. He spent some time telling us how parallel lines never meet or get closer.

I put it to the hon. Gentleman that, when my hon. Friend said that the two bodies would operate in parallel, he might no Opposition Members thought of this have been talking about an electrical circuit. Two bulbs might be connected in parallel and burn equally brightly. Socialists seem to believe that everything must be connected in series.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is performing brilliantly, but out of order, I fear.

Mr. Foster

I am most grateful for that intervention from the hon. Gentleman. You may be interested to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that that was the longest contribution that the hon. Gentleman has made on the Bill. As a former physics teacher, I was particularly interested in his analogy. He will know that two bulbs in parallel are such that, if one is taken out, the other continues to burn. Many of us would like to take out the funding authority and leave the local education authorities.

Mr. Richards

The point that I wished to make is that socialists insist on connecting things up in series. As one adds things in series, so they get dimmer. As one adds socialists, so one gets dimmer and dimmer.

Mr. Foster

The hon. Gentleman still fails to grasp that the Government wish to add something. It is not the wish of the Opposition to add something to the system.

The interventions from the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Mr. Richards) and others show that they are not interested in the serious debate that the Bill truly deserves. There is an urgent need for more detailed consideration than the timetable motion will allow. The Secretary of State is showing unseemly haste to get his hands on the new powers which the Bill will give him. As we all know, it confers significant additional powers on the Secretary of State.

I am well aware that the Secretary of State is a regular reader of the Catholic journal The Tablet. It is a pity that he has not taken notice of a letter in that journal of August this year, which says: The Secretary of State for Education now has powers —over the opening and closing of schools, over what should be taught within them, over the information that should be published and by whom it should be published, over how the schools should be funded, over admission policies and over specialisation (a euphemism for election)—which are probably unprecedented in the Western world. All this is proclaimed under the banner of choice. Given the distinctive role that the Church has played in the development of education in this country, Catholics should be alarmed by what is happening. That is the nub of the matter. We should all be alarmed by the Bill and by what it contains. The Government have been in power too long they have begun to—[Interruption.] I am grateful for the Minister's seated intervention.

The Government have failed to remember the importance of listening to the electorate and to the views of people with knowledge of the various issues. They have not been willing to listen. I hope that we shall oppose the guillotine motion and accept the amendment tabled in the name of the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) so that we can continue the debate on a vitally important issue.

6.9 pm

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) earlier accused me of quoting from a Conservative central office brief. I now have the information to hand. She may be pleased to know that I was referring to a letter sent to me by the home affairs section of the House of Commons Library, which reads:

"Dear Mr. Pawsey,

Guillotine You put two questions to me on the use of the guillotine. The answers are as follows: It is true that Michael Foot, as Leader of the House, set a record by guillotining 5 Bills in one day, 20 July 1976. They were the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, the Dock Work Regulation Bill, the Health Services Bill, the Rent (Agriculture) Bill, and the Education Bill. The guillotine was applied to the report and third reading stages except in the case of the Health Services Bill where the committee stage was also guillotined after 18 sittings. The others had had, respectively, 58, 36, 12 and 35 committee sittings. All 5 Bills were subsequently guillotined for Lords amendments, again all on the same day, 8 November 1976. The decision to guillotine so many Bills in one day aroused considerable annoyance and, in particular, the groupings of the Bills into 3 rather than 5 separate motions was challenged. The Speaker, however, ruled that this was in order. I hope that the hon. Lady will forgive me if I remind her that the brief came from the same source as hers—from the House of Commons Library.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for confirming the information that I gave to the House. He obviously did not read his brief carefully. As I said, a Labour Government have never guillotined the Committee stage of an Education Bill.

Mr. Pawsey

The hon. Lady said, presumably with some form of defective second sight, that I was using a central office brief, but it came from exactly the same source as hers, from the Library.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

I share the hon. Gentleman's view that central office briefs are simply not worth quoting.

Mr. Pawsey

Central office briefs are always precise, accurate and to the point, unlike those that Opposition Members receive from their sources.

If a justification for the Bill were required it could be found in the fact that, although Standing Committee E sat for about 65½hours, we have so far only reached clause 15.

I suspect that the hon. Member for Dewsbury was in the House in 1976 when that guillotine was in motion. She is protesting about the use of a guillotine on one Bill, when five Bills were guillotined—[interruption.] As I am reminded by my hon. Friends, she voted for them. The hon. Lady is not the great democrat that she pretends to be.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Pawsey

Opposition Members are queuing to intervene. I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman whose name always reminds me of the Catholic church.

Mr. Greg Pope (Hyndburn)

As the hon. Gentleman clearly has the information, can he inform the House how many sittings there had been on the Education Bill in 1976 when it was guillotined, so that we may compare it with the number of sittings on this Bill?

Mr. Pawsey

As it happens, I can provide the hon. Gentleman with that information. Again I am quoting from the letter to me from the House of Commons Library —in order that there be no misunderstanding about the source—which states: You also asked for how many hours the Education Bill of that session had been debated before it was guillotined. As mentioned above the Bill was considered at 35 standing committee sittings and according to Burton and Drewry these were 'spun out to 86 hours'". The hon. Gentleman will recall that the Bill received two days consideration at Second Reading and that it will receive two days on Report. As far as I know, that is unprecedented. I have no knowledge of any Education Bill receiving that amount of time on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Pawsey

I shall give way and then all three Opposition Front-Bench Members will have intervened in my speech, even though I have only reached the first paragraph.

Mr. Griffiths

That merely shows how controversial the speech is. First, may I point out that the Education Bill that the hon. Gentleman seeks to malign us with was only 10 clauses long, whereas this Bill has 255 clauses? He and I served on the Committee of the great Education Reform Act 1988, which had three-day Report and Third Reading stages. That is what our amendment seeks and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support it as he did on that previous occasion.

Mr. Pawsey

That merely shows my independence of mind.

I must continue with my speech, as I know that Conservative Members want the opportunity to address the Chair on what we consider to be a genuinely important matter.

In the view of my hon. Friends, the Bill will do much to enhance the quality and standard of state education. For that reason, we want it to be enacted as soon as possible. However, our enthusiasm, our sense of urgency, is not shared by Opposition Members. We want the maximum number of the nation's children to benefit as soon as possible from the measures proposed in the Bill.

As a sign of the delaying tactics employed by Opposition Members, on 1,3,and 8 December we devoted 17 hours and 43 minutes to the discussion of clause 7. There are 255 clauses in the Bill, and if each were debated for that length of time, the Committee would need to spend 4,157 hours and 45 minutes debating the Bill in Committee.

I am certain that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker will find that figure as incredible and as intolerable as I do. Incidentally, the figure that I quoted does not include time to debate the schedules.

Ms. Estelle Morris (Birmingham, Yardley)


Mr. Pawsey

If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I have given way several times and I know that many Conservative Members wish to speak.

We have been reminded that the Second Reading lasted about 11 hours and 51 minutes over two days.

I have referred to the fact that timetable motions are not new to the House. I do not believe that Conservative Members need to take any lectures from Opposition Members about guillotines, democracy, or even the scrutiny of Bills.

Some of our debates have been genuinely illuminating. For example, on 1 December we discussed the implications of the Bill for various sections of the Education Act 1944. I hope that in the timetable an opportunity will be found to re-examine those sections of the 1944 Act that gave local education authorities a senior role in the provision of education. That role will change with the growth of the grant-maintained sector, as envisaged in the Bill.

The Bill promotes grant-maintained schools and I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has come out so clearly in favour of them. He is right—such schools do much to enhance the quality and standard of state education. The Bill provides for a funding agency for grant-maintained schools and seeks to ensure that local education authorities do not stifle would-be grant-maintained schools under a mass of adverse propaganda. Conservative Members have argued for greater fairness and have long believed that some LEAs might be prejudiced against grant-maintained schools. We do not believe that the local education authority is the only vehicle able to deliver good education to the nation's children.

In Standing Committee, the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) gave the game away. He used the word "hostile" to describe the attitude of some LEAs to the idea of grant-maintained schools. It became clear in Committee that he was not alone in that view. That declared hostility is one reason why it is necessary to introduce the Bill. Where LEAs are hostile to grant-maintained schools, that hostility must be curtailed and controlled.

I found it significant that Opposition Members could boast with pride that there were some LEAs in which no grant-maintained schools had emerged. I believe that that is due not so much to the excellence of the LEAs, as to the propaganda and intimidation waged against schools considering grant-maintained status.

Mr. Enright


Mr. Pawsey

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman, but if the hon. Member for City of Durham wants to intervene, I shall give way.

Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I was not going to intervene, as I hope to make a speech in the next few minutes, but I must ask the hon. Gentleman how he explains the fact that many local education authorities do not even contain a school that wants to ballot to leave the authority.

Mr. Pawsey

I can easily explain. That is because of the barrage'of black propaganda that has been waged against grant-maintained schools by people such as the hon. Gentleman and his Labour party friends.

I appreciate that not all the Committee's deliberations are studied by parents or members of the public. The Committee's deliberations have been long and sometimes, dare I say it, boring. I hasten to add that only the contributions of Opposition Members were boring. However, debates on the Floor of the Chamber attract substantial public attention. One hour spent debating on the Floor of the Chamber is so often worth dozens of hours in Committee Room 10 listening to the thoughts on meditation, puppy training and the diary extracts of a head teacher. We even heard some teachers described as flibbertigibbets—not by a Conservative Member. I am glad that the example of the Education Reform Act 1988 will be followed when we discuss the Bill on Report, and that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has found time for a two-day debate on the important Bill.

On Second Reading I asked the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) whether, if the Labour party were to be returned to office—an unlikely event—grant-maintained schools would be taken back into LEA control. The hon. Gentleman said that he would respond the next day. I have read his speech—hard work it was, too—but I could not find an unambiguous statement on that important issue. Therefore, I repeat the challenge: if the Labour party were to be returned to office in some far distant future Parliament, would grant-maintained schools once more be part of LEAs?

Mr. Win Griffiths

What I said in Committee was very clear. I suggest that we look at the speech together and, if the hon. Gentleman is not satisfied, I shall later make a statement on which we can both agree.

Mr. Pawsey

As the hon. Gentleman has asked me a direct question, I can tell him that I am not satisfied with his reply. I read his speech, which did not contain an unambiguous statement on grant-maintained schools. I have given the hon. Gentleman the opportunity to answer from the Dispatch Box the question that I have once again asked him, and again he has fudged the answer—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The debate is on the timetable motion. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will relate his comments to it, but it is not immediately clear to me how he proposes to do so.

Mr. Pawsey

I think that I have made my point absolutely clear.

Conservative Members want the Bill to be enacted. There have been about 72 hours debate in Committee and on the Floor of the House, during which time we have covered only a modest number of clauses. We believe that honest discussion has become deliberate obstruction. Therefore, I support the motion and urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to do the same.

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

I oppose the imposition of the guillotine on this Bill, as I believe that the Secretary of State has shown an inconsistency of purpose. He presented the White Paper and the Bill as a coping stone of 10 or so years of Conservative legislation on education—a blueprint for the 21st century. To do that and then seek to stifle debate on this important Bill reveals his inconsistency. It would surely be more consistent for him to allow debate commensurate with the importance of the matters contained in the Bill.

The only consistency that I can see relates to the practice rather than the purpose of the Secretary of State in trying to impose the guillotine after a cursory consultation process on a White Paper that was published at the end of July, modified and presented, almost as a Bill, at the end of October.

I shall confine my remarks to three important issues in the Bill that need more discussion than will be allowed if debate is stifled by the guillotine: first, clauses 169 to 179, which refer to school attendance; secondly, the inadequate treatment given to provision for special needs; thirdly, the many sections of the Bill relating to its main purpose—opting out.

Clauses 169 to 179 refer to the important issue of school attendance, but will not be given adequate debate if the Bill is guillotined. School attendance is mentioned in a key passage of the White Paper, at paragraph 1.22, which states: There is little point in having good, regularly inspected schools, first-rate teachers, a national curriculum that is well taught and assessed, if all our children do not attend school, remain there and learn throughout the school day. Last year I had the privilege of addressing the Association of Chief Educational Social Workers, so I was interested to see in the White Paper the hearty endorsement of the work of educational social workers, who share a common concern with the Secretary of State.

However, when I discussed that important subject with members of the association, I found them cautious about the new registration requirements imposed on schools. They felt that those requirements could lead to excessive use of unauthorised absence. They offered some interesting suggestions for the Secretary of State to consider genuinely to improve school attendance, instead of cooking the books to suit the league tables of school attendance. I feel saddened that an issue described in the White Paper as being so important should not be adequately discussed merely because of the guillotine.

In one of the most noted passages in the White Paper the Secretary of State suggested that parents know best the needs of their children. But clauses 169 to 179 give the lie to such a fatuous suggestion; they are all about parents who do not know what is best for their children.

As for special educational needs, I know that Ministers will boast of examples of good practice in such provision in grant-maintained schools—I have heard them do so. That does not alter the fact that the Bill provides no mechanism to protect SEN provision in schools that opt out. It is irresponsible of the Secretary of State to engineer a situation in which discussion of such an important issue cannot go on. It is bad enough under the present system of delegated budgets—local management of schools, under which funding is devolved and there is no control over schools' spending.

I shall draw my examples from provision for the hearing impaired, a handicap in which I take a close interest. For instance, a school with eight children who were hearing-impaired was given a slice of budget which the headmistress did not feel justified in spending on so few children—it came to several thousand pounds. It was intended to be used to buy eight radio hearing aids, quite expensive items. Instead, the headmistress chose to buy a perimeter fence and some benches.

Another school with a hearing-impaired unit found that the relevant teacher left and was not replaced, so parents who had placed their children in the school on the understanding that they would be provided for were no longer guaranteed that provision.

Things are even worse under the grant-maintained system, and we should of course be given time adequately to discuss them. Under the GM system, a chunk of funding earmarked for special needs by an LEA is allocated to a GM school. Hearing impairment is a low-incidence handicap which is expensive to service. Schools find it extremely difficult to pay for it, and even if they could, they would not necessarily know what resources to provide without the expertise of the LEA.

I know that the latest missive from the Secretary of State to school governors—it is undated, but I received my copy last Friday—offers an assurance that GM schools may still purchase special provision of various kinds, including provision for hearing-impaired children, from the local education authority. But how can the LEA provide that if its resource base is chipped away, opt-out by opt-out? This issue was discussed in Committee, but we have as yet received no satisfactory answers.

I have described the process of privatisation, fragmentation and diminution of service. A Conservative Member has referred to a system of provision connected in series in ever smaller fragments, becoming dimmer and more diluted as the series progresses. How, then, is parental choice to be guaranteed, especially if provision for children's special needs is so expensive? A child's statement may refer to such provision, but neither parent nor child will have any range of choice. It is irresponsible and reprehensible not to allow enough time adequately to examine matters of that sort.

My main anxiety is about the new procedures in the Bill to speed up the process of opting out and to rig the system in favour of those in a school who want to trigger an opt-out ballot. It is cavalier of the Secretary of State to rush into this before he has published evidence that GM schools deliver a higher quality of education. The evidence has not yet been forthcoming, and the case needs closer examination.

Even on the right hon. Gentleman's distorted and narrow criteria—I suppose that they equate to crooked criteria—of publishing tables of five 0–level results, graded A to C by year groups, one would not be surprised to find that GM schools score higher than the 98.5 per cent. of schools which have not opted out. Twenty-five per cent. of GM schools, after all, are selective, compared with only 5 per cent. in the system generally.

A published list of 200 schools in the Merseyside and Cheshire area shows that selective schools cluster near the top of the league table. That is not surprising; those schools select their intake on the basis of pupils' likely aptitude for the examinations to which the league tables are confined. It is not surprising, either, to find that the non-selective schools cluster near the bottom of the 200, because they do not select their intake according to these criteria.

Her Majesty's inspectorate has inspected a representative sample of GM schools, so the Secretary of State has the necessary information. Why not publish it before rushing this important legislation through the House?

My greatest anxiety is directed at what can happen if the Secretary of State rigs the opt-out process in favour of those who support opting out. I refer to recent events in my constituency and to the opt-out ballot at Thomas Becket school in Knowsley. I am pleased to say that the first two attempts to opt out of Knowsley LEA were resoundingly rebuffed: at Ruffwood school by 97 per cent. —still a record opt-out rejection—and at Prescot school—I was chairman of the board of governors for 15 years there—by 67 per cent., or more than two to one. Now it is the turn of Thomas Becket in Huyton. I am confident that the parents at that school will match the good sense shown by the parents of children at the other two.

Mr. Nigel Evans

By 1995, more than 1 million parents will have children in grant-maintained schools—[Interruption.]—on current trends. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that, come the next general election, he will tell those parents that their children will no longer be educated at grant-maintained schools because they will be taken over by the local education authority?

Mr. O'Hara


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not be tempted to answer that question. It has little to do with the guillotine.

Mr. O'Hara

I do not, anyway, accept the assumption that the question makes—and neither, I understand, does the Secretary of State.

What appals me, having spoken to the parents of children at Thomas Becket, is the way that the head teacher and staff at that school have drawn the children into the issue—I would not dignify the description "debate". It is hardly an overstatement to talk of indoctrination and certainly of emotional blackmail. Children have been addressed in assembly and further harassed by teachers, with tales that, unless the school opts out, specific teachers will be sacked and specific pupils will not be able to complete specific O and A-level courses. I use the word "harassed". I heard of one teacher pointing to a pupil in the corridor and saying—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That equally has nothing to do with the guillotine. The hon. Gentleman was keeping in order, but he is now drifting out of order.

Mr. O'Hara

I could give further examples, but I shall not do so, of attempts to stifle debate on an opt-out ballot by a particular school in my constituency. Likewise, the Secretary of State is trying to stifle debate on the opting-out processes in the Bill.

In my opening remarks, I referred to the indecent haste with which the Bill appeared, in stark contrast to the stature claimed for it. I allowed myself a wry smile when the Secretary of State, after a small number of weeks in purdah, emerged with his so-called blockbuster White Paper, which has become a Christmas cake of a Bill. I was reminded of the poet Horace. I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not in his place, because I would have addressed him as a scholar. I trust that my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) will listen carefully.

Boasting of one of his literary productions, Horace observed: Exegi monumentum aere perennius"— that is to say, I have wrought a monument more lasting than bronze. However, Horace also said that when one has produced something, one should put it away and suppress it for nine full years— Membranis intus positis: delere licebit". If the Secretary of State was not prepared to allow his White Paper to mature in the wood of consultation, he ought to allow the Bill to mature in the wood of full and proper debate in the House.

6.43 pm
Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

Having witnessed 65 hours of self-indulgent humbug and virtual incessant verbal incontinence from Opposition Members, and having served on the Standing Committees of three major education Bills, I cannot think of a more appropriate motion than the one before the House.

The situation was exemplified by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster)—sadly, he is not in his place—who, after 26 minutes speaking tonight, said that he was just coming to the nub of his argument. If any of our constituents saw the shenanigans involved in dealing with such an important Bill for the past two months, they would be appalled.

The Committee debated 15 clauses in 65 hours. There are another 240 to go—and the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dowd) said, "I think that is good progress." At that rate, we will not complete the Committee stage for another two years, and the Bill would reach the statute book some time early in the next millennium, if we were lucky.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge)

I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's definition of progress. Does he measure progress as getting through the clauses or, as my right hon. and hon. Friends do, by the number of amendments that we persuade Ministers to accept?

Mr. Coombs

I measure progress by the proper and rational scrutiny of the Bill's important clauses. According to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson), the Opposition, without any self-criticism but with pure cynicism, have filibustered an important educational measure. I find that quite reprehensible. The Committee took a whole morning to consider the sittings motion. Even then, the Opposition did not want to meet in the afternoons. The kind of timetable I gave would have been made twice as worse.

Mr. Mike Hall (Warrington, South)

Does not the hon. Gentleman recall that, in the sittings debate, Conservative Members said that they would like a flexible approach to be taken? There has been 65 hours of debate and now a guillotine is being imposed. Is that flexibility?

Mr. Coombs

I suspect that the majority of my constituents would resoundingly answer, "Yes." Three and one quarter hours were spent on clause 4 without amendment. We saw Opposition Members, obviously organised by their Whip, queuing up—in some cases, rather reluctantly—to give us the sparse edge of their views on this important measure. It has not been an exercise in discussion or democracy, but a deliberate exercise in frustration by Opposition Members.

Clem Attlee said: Democracy means government by discussion, but it is only effective if you can stop people talking. Trying to get that Duracell lot to stop talking is quite something. The hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Byers) actually accused my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of being unwilling to defend his own Bill. When my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth)—the Minister in charge of the Bill and I held a public meeting in my constituency, we were condemned in an Opposition early-day motion for doing so—[Interruption.] Suddenly, we hear that the hon. Member for Wallsend did not append his signature to that particular motion. I am sure that he did not.

This is a classic example of the kind of procrastination that arises when there is no agenda or guidelines as to how discussion ought to proceed. I would not mind if it were just a question of wasting parliamentary time—albeit that parliamentary time is paid for by the taxpayer. I am concerned, however, that the longer that we debate the Bill, the less time educational institutions—whether they be grant-maintained schools or local education authorities —will have to plan for the inevitably changing relationship between schools and LEAs over the next few years.

Some dinosaur-like Opposition Members and those in district councils in particular will say, "We do not want any change in the relationship between local education authorities and schools." On 13 November—a Friday, appropriately enough—The Times Educational Supplement reported that the so-called intelligent vice-chairman of Birmingham's educational authority said of his planned relationship between that LEA, which is the biggest in the country, and the funding agency: Let the bastards sack us. That is his idea of the kind of co-operation that is necessary to maintain proper education standards for all our children.

Fortunately, local education authorities—both Labour and Conservative—take a more constructive view. There is no doubt that many will want to amalgamate their education committees with leisure committees or child services committees—as some are already doing—recognising that the future role of local education authorities will be enabling rather than merely executive, as it has been over the past few years. The longer that the House debates in a futile way, the less we provide such bodies with a framework that allows them to plan for the future.

However, my main objection to the disgraceful way in which the Bill is being discussed—or, rather, not discussed —relates to its direct impact on some of the measures that we should take to improve education standards for children in failing schools. One of the Bill's most important aspects is the way in which it deals with education associations. Such associations will go into schools that are plainly failing; we know where many of those schools are, and we know that local education authorities are not taking enough action against them to assist their improvement and, as a result, to improve the education of children.

Whenever I discuss education matters, I remember something that I have always kept in my mind: children go that way but once. They do not have a second chance. If we get things wrong in a failing school, a child's life will be blighted. Even if there is only one class in one school whose teacher is not using maximum potential and giving a child the education that he needs, that is one class too many. The House of Commons cannot procrastinate and allow that to happen.

We have already heard of schools in the same authority, one of which is—according to one measure—far more deprived than another, but obtains significantly better results. That is because such schools have a sense of direction: teachers will have high expectations—that always comes out in HMI reports—and there will be an appropriate differentiation in the kind of education that is offered, according to the ability of individual pupils. All too often, in certain schools that are under-performing, that reveals a performance gap.

As I pointed out in Committee, Professor Nuttall, a professor of curriculum at London university, said: However, even when you take account of the value added, there are still…substantial differences between schools. We have got to close the performance gap. One way in which to close that gap is to allow education associations to visit schools that are failing their pupils.

What is Labour's reaction to all that? Labour Members continue to make excuses and to talk about funding. They condescend to parents who have not much money, and who want their children to succeed; they do everything to protect the producer interests with which they have been identified too often in the past. Anyone who wants to see an example of that need only read an extract from a report produced by—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I do not think that that is relevant to the motion.

Mr. Coombs

I was merely seeking to point out the urgency of passing some measures in the Bill to improve children's education.

The Socialist Education Association said: Gramski's vision is correct—if you want the revolution to succeed you must teach the peasants to read and write". Can hon. Members imagine any more condescending and disgraceful statement? The hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths), and a number of his hon. Friends, claim to be proud to be members of that association. That, I think, emphasises the Labour party's appalling attitude to consideration of the Bill, and that is why I think that we should pass the guillotine motion with alacrity.

6.54 pm
Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

I believe that it was always the Government's intention to table the guillotine motion at the earliest possible moment that, by their lights, was respectable. The Committee's second sitting was kept going until midnight, and the third until 2 am. Personally, I should not mind if we kept long hours every time we met, provided that that gave us an opportunity to discuss in full all the serious issues that are highlighted in the Bill.

The so-called great Education Reform Bill 1988—I had the pleasure, if the word can be used in such a context, of sitting on the Committee with a number of Conservative Members—was debated for 88 hours before the imposition of a guillotine. Moreover, on Report and Third Reading the timetable motion allowed three days for debate. Our amendment seeks to put the Bill on a par with the "GERBIL". We believe that, as this Bill has far more clauses and deals with many important and diverse matters in relation to schools, the Government could at the very least ameliorate the damage that is being done to its consideration by allowing a three-day debate on Report.

Some of us recall the debates in 1987 and 1988, and the forecasts that the Education Reform Bill would set a pattern for the next generation. It is salutary to reflect that, after only four years, the Government have had to bring in "son of GERBIL" to correct all the shortcomings that they now see in the original.

Some Conservative Members have made much of the time spent on the first 15 clauses of this Bill. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. Byers) pointed out —along with the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster)—the first part of the Bill lays the foundations of a completely new structure for education funding. The point between the Secretary of State and the school—which at one time was filled by the democratically elected local education authority—will pass to an unelected, undemocratic, non-accountable body appointed by the Secretary of State, which will work to rules laid down by him. We thought it only right to request a detailed scrutiny of the first 15 clauses: those relating to the Funding Agency for Schools in England and the Funding Council for Schools in Wales.

We have been labouring under a considerable difficulty, which has been identified by my hon. Friends the Members for Wallsend and for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor). We have debated fundamental issues relating to funding and the exclusion of pupils from schools, without the benefit of consultation papers that the Government say they will announce shortly. We have had to discuss important matters without even knowing the Government's own thoughts. These, after all, are serious problems.

Hon. Members have referred to the length of time taken to debate amendment No. 235, which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg). The amendment was as important as the clauses that introduce the funding agencies. My hon. Friend sought to define the way in which the funding agency would operate and what duties would be placed on schools to make reasonable provision for books and equipment and to ensure that class sizes were reasonable. Such fundamental responsibilities were worthy of a full debate.

One of the suggestions that have been bandied about is that, if we continue to consider the Bill at the present rate, it will require another 1,500 hours to complete its Committee stage. Everybody knows that that is a tendentious use of statistics, but if there had been a reasonable attempt to discuss the Bill, I am sure that we could have reached agreement on considering it at sufficient length and within a time scale that would have satisfied the Government.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere)

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that his scrutiny of the Bill so far has been unreasonable, because it sounds like it?

Mr. Griffiths

I am not saying that scrutiny of the Bill has been unreasonable. I am saying that to conclude from our scrutiny so far that the remaining clauses will be taken at the same speed is a spurious use of an argument for the sake of a motion that is unnecessary.

Mr. Clappison


Mr. Griffiths

I shall continue, because the debate is subject to a guillotine, and I have dealt with the point accurately.

The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) referred to the considerable time that we spent on clause 7, which the Tory-controlled Association of County Councils believes raises significant constitutional implications. We took its warning seriously and considered all aspects of the clause.

Part II of the Bill will be controversial, and we should have wanted to spend time considering it. Given the conciliatory and helpful attitude of the Minister in accepting two important amendments about children with special needs, we could have reached agreement on the amendments that are necessary to improve part III.

We suggested the amalgamation of the National Curriculum Council and the School Examinations and Assessment Council in the Education Reform Bill, yet the Government insisted on establishing two separate bodies. I am sure that we could have reached agreement on that. If what the Minister told the Association of Metropolitan Authorities yesterday was representative of his approach, we could have reached agreement on reasoned amendments to that part of the Bill. Again, I am sure that we could have reached agreement on amendments to improve school attendance.

In short, there could have been a reasonable approach to the non-controversial parts of the Bill where the Minister has shown that he is willing to reach agreement, but we had no chance to reach such agreement. As a final appeal, I hope that he will accept our amendment and let us know when the exclusions consultation paper and the paper on the formula funding for GMS schools will be issued. If he does so, despite some of the acrimony in the debate, we might be able to leave the Chamber happy this evening.

7.5 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Mr. Eric Forth)

As hon. Members well know, these occasions, which occur from time to time, are part ritual and part humbug. We have had plenty of both tonight.

Hon. Members who have sat for hours in Committee can characterise the flavour of the debate well because this has been a mirror image of what has taken place for the best part of about 60 hours upstairs. I characterise it best by quoting the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), who took 26 minutes of our time to say, most memorably, "I quite enjoyed the proceedings of the Committee and learned a lot from it." He certain has a lot to learn, but why he should be doing it at the expense of the Committee is beyond me.

I suppose that that sums up resonably well why we find ourselves in this position. The hon. Gentleman went on to ask—helpfully, I thought—"Why do not we plan the debate properly"? Perhaps he has not noticed, but the purpose of the motion is to plan the debate properly. My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) summed it up better than I could—but that is often the case—when he said that honest discussion had become deliberate obstruction. That was the burden of my hon. Friend's comments this evening, which were expressed with understandable frustration.

I can illustrate that point, if it needs illustrating, by pointing out that 70 times the Chairman of the Committee has had to call Opposition Members to order for straying from the subject—for being out of order. That took place no fewer than eight times on the first sitting alone, when the Chairman had to say, I hope that he will relate his remarks directly to the sittings motion", and Discussions about my past are not in order this morning. That is the Chairman's past, not mine. He continued, This is not in order."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 17 November 1992; c. 6–9.] I could quote in extenso, but I will not. In the eighth sitting —I pick it simply at random—on another five occasions—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. I am afraid that I cannot see the hon. Gentleman's face. Will he address the Chair?

Mr. Forth

I am sorry. Moreover, I shall smile for you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as I speak.

The reality of the debate was mirrored in this morning's deliberations when, in Committee, as ever we are on a Tuesday, we spent nearly two and a half hours on one amendment to a clause but did not manage to dispose of it.

The importance of the Bill is agreed by all hon. Members, and at least half of its clauses are essentially re-enactments of previous statutes—a fact which we should bear well in mind. The proposed timetable motion, which I hope the House will support, allows nine more Committee days—more than we have already had—and 18 more sittings—more than we have already had—and up to 70 or more hours of debate. The proposal will allow us to ensure that all parts of the Bill are properly and adequately covered. That cannot be said of our debates up until now. We have spent more than 60 hours in Committee, covering only 14 or 15 clauses, yet the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) says, "Trust us and we shall allow proper progress to be made in future." That does not wash.

Having sat through all those hours with so little progress being made on the Bill, on what basis could we proceed? It is not good enough. Our duty is not only to the people who elected the Government, with their mandate based on the programme so clearly set out in April—and set out not only in the White Paper that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State so elegantly wrote and introduced to us in July, but in the Bill. Our duty is also to make progress on the Bill in order to provide a proper framework for the growing grant-maintained schools sector.

If Opposition Members had shown an element of desire to make progress on the Bill earlier, we should not now be in this position. But we owe the House as a whole a rate of progress on the Bill; we owe the education world progess on it, so that people can see that each clause is being properly considered. We cannot allow the sort of frustration, obfuscation and dilatory tactics employed by Opposition Members. Those tactics have slowed the Bill down so much that my right hon. Friends have had to decide that in order to protect the business of the House and the business of the Government, in order to make proper progress with the Bill, we must put this reasonable, realistic and positive timetable motion before the House. It allows more than adequate time and gives us the opportunity to sit down with the Opposition and discuss ways in which we may now proceed properly. I hope that we shall do that.

That has been done with all reasonableness—but the reasonableness has come only from the Government side of the House and of the Committee. We have allowed Opposition Members the maximum latitude, and they have failed us, they have failed the education world, and they have let everybody down, by wasting the time available and making so little progress on the Bill. We shall correct that with the timetable motion. If the House supports the motion, as I now ask it to do, we shall make proper progress on the Bill and be able to scrutinise it properly. The Bill will come out of Committee in better shape and the House will be able to proceed in proper order with its business. I ask the House to support the motion.

Question put, That the amendment be made:

The House divided: Ayes 260, Noes 290.

Division No. 102] [7.11 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Corston, Ms Jean
Adams, Mrs Irene Cousins, Jim
Ainger, Nick Cox, Tom
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Cryer, Bob
Allen, Graham Cummings, John
Alton, David Cunliffe, Lawrence
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Armstrong, Hilary Dafis, Cynog
Ashton, Joe Dalyell, Tam
Barnes, Harry Darling, Alistair
Battle, John Davidson, Ian
Bayley, Hugh Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Beggs, Roy Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Denham, John
Bennett, Andrew F. Dewar, Donald
Benton, Joe Dixon, Don
Bermingham, Gerald Dobson, Frank
Berry, Dr. Roger Donohoe, Brian H.
Betts, Clive Dowd, Jim
Blair, Tony Dunnachie, Jimmy
Blunkett, David Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Boateng, Paul Eagle, Ms Angela
Boyce, Jimmy Eastham, Ken
Bradley, Keith Enright, Derek
Bray, Dr Jeremy Etherington, Bill
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Evans, John (St Helens N)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Faulds, Andrew
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Burden, Richard Fisher, Mark
Byers, Stephen Flynn, Paul
Caborn, Richard Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland)
Callaghan, Jim Foster, Don (Bath)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Foulkes, George
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Fyfe, Maria
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Galbraith, Sam
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Galloway, George
Canavan, Dennis Gapes, Mike
Cann, Jamie Garrett, John
Chisholm, Malcolm Gerrard, Neil
Clapham, Michael Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Godsiff, Roger
Clelland, David Golding, Mrs Llin
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Gordon, Mildred
Coffey, Ann Graham, Thomas
Cohen, Harry Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Grocott, Bruce
Corbett, Robin Hain, Peter
Corbyn, Jeremy Hall, Mike
Hanson, David Mudie, George
Hardy, Peter Mullin, Chris
Harman, Ms Harriet Murphy, Paul
Harvey, Nick Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Henderson, Doug O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Heppell, John O'Hara, Edward
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Olner, William
Hinchliffe, David O'Neill, Martin
Hoey, Kate Parry, Robert
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Patchett, Terry
Home Robertson, John Pendry, Tom
Hoon, Geoffrey Pickthall, Colin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Pike, Peter L.
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Pope, Greg
Hoyle, Doug Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Prescott, John
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Primarolo, Dawn
Hutton, John Purchase, Ken
Ingram, Adam Quin, Ms Joyce
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Radice, Giles
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Randall, Stuart
Jamieson, David Raynsford, Nick
Janner, Greville Reid, Dr John
Johnston, Sir Russell Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Rogers, Allan
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Rooney, Terry
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Rowlands, Ted
Jowell, Tessa Ruddock, Joan
Keen, Alan Sedgemore, Brian
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Sheerman, Barry
Khabra, Piara S. Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Kilfoyle, Peter Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Kirkwood, Archy Short, Clare
Leighton, Ron Simpson, Alan
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Skinner, Dennis
Lewis, Terry Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Litherland, Robert Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Livingstone, Ken Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Loyden, Eddie Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Lynne, Ms Liz Snape, Peter
McAllion, John Soley, Clive
McAvoy, Thomas Spearing, Nigel
Macdonald, Calum Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
McFall, John Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
McKelvey, William Steinberg, Gerry
Mackinlay, Andrew Stevenson, George
McLeish, Henry Stott, Roger
McMaster, Gordon Strang, Dr. Gavin
McWilliam, John Straw, Jack
Madden, Max Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mahon, Alice Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Mandelson, Peter Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Marek, Dr John Tipping, Paddy
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Trimble, David
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Turner, Dennis
Martlew, Eric Tyler, Paul
Maxton, John Vaz, Keith
Meacher, Michael Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Meale, Alan Wallace, James
Michael, Alun Walley, Joan
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Wareing, Robert N
Milburn, Alan Watson, Mike
Miller, Andrew Wicks, Malcolm
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Wigley, Dafydd
Moonie, Dr Lewis Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Morgan, Rhodri Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Morley, Elliot Wilson, Brian
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Winnick, David
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Wise, Audrey
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Worthington, Tony
Mowlam, Marjorie Wray, Jimmy
Wright, Dr Tony Tellers for the Ayes:
Young, David (Bolton SE) Mr.Eric Illsley and
Mr.Jon Owen Jones.
Adley, Robert Duncan, Alan
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Duncan-Smith, Iain
Aitken, Jonathan Dunn, Bob
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Durant, Sir Anthony
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Dykes, Hugh
Amess, David Eggar, Tim
Ancram, Michael Elletson, Harold
Arbuthnot, James Emery, Sir Peter
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Ashby, David Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Atkins, Robert Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Evennett, David
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Faber, David
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Fabricant, Michael
Baldry, Tony Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bates, Michael Fishburn, Dudley
Batiste, Spencer Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bellingham, Henry Forth, Eric
Bendall, Vivian Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Beresford, Sir Paul Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Body, Sir Richard Freeman, Roger
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fry, Peter
Booth, Hartley Gale, Roger
Boswell, Tim Gallie, Phil
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Gardiner, Sir George
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Garnier, Edward
Bowden, Andrew Gill, Christopher
Bowis, John Gillan, Cheryl
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Brandreth, Gyles Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Brazier, Julian Gorst, John
Bright, Graham Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Browning, Mrs. Angela Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Grylls, Sir Michael
Budgen, Nicholas Hague, William
Burns, Simon Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)
Burt, Alistair Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Butler, Peter Hampson, Dr Keith
Butterfill, John Hanley, Jeremy
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Hannam, Sir John
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hargreaves, Andrew
Carrington, Matthew Harris, David
Carttiss, Michael Haselhurst, Alan
Cash, William Hawkins, Nick
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hawksley, Warren
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Churchill, Mr Hendry, Charles
Clappison, James Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hicks, Robert
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Coe, Sebastian Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Colvin, Michael Horam, John
Congdon, David Hordern, Sir Peter
Conway, Derek Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Cormack, Patrick Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Couchman, James Hunter, Andrew
Cran, James Jack, Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jenkin, Bernard
Davis, David (Boothferry) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Day, Stephen Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Devlin, Tim Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dickens, Geoffrey Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dicks, Terry Key, Robert
Dorrell, Stephen Kilfedder, Sir James
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James King, Rt Hon Tom
Dover, Den Kirkhope, Timothy
Knapman, Roger Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Sackville, Tom
Knox, David Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Shaw, David (Dover)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Legg, Barry Shersby, Michael
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lidington, David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lightbown, David Soames, Nicholas
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Speed, Sir Keith
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Spencer, Sir Derek
Lord, Michael Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Luff, Peter Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Spink, Dr Robert
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spring, Richard
McLoughlin, Patrick Sproat, Iain
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Madel, David Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Malone, Gerald Steen, Anthony
Mans, Keith Stephen, Michael
Marland, Paul Stewart, Allan
Marlow, Tony Streeter, Gary
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Sumberg, David
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Sweeney, Walter
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Sykes, John
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Tapsell, Sir Peter
Mellor, Rt Hon David Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Merchant, Piers Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Milligan, Stephen Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Temple-Morris, Peter
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Thomason, Roy
Moate, Roger Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Monro, Sir Hector Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Moss, Malcolm Thurnham, Peter
Needham, Richard Tracey, Richard
Neubert, Sir Michael Tredinnick, David
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Trend, Michael
Nicholls, Patrick Trotter, Neville
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Twinn, Dr Ian
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Norris, Steve Viggers, Peter
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Oppenheim, Phillip Walden, George
Ottaway, Richard Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Page, Richard Waller, Gary
Paice, James Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Patnick, Irvine Waterson, Nigel
Patten, Rt Hon John Watts, John
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Wells, Bowen
Pawsey, James Wheeler, Sir John
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Whitney, Ray
Pickles, Eric Whittingdale, John
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Widdecombe, Ann
Porter, David (Waveney) Wiggin, Jerry
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Wilkinson, John
Powell, William (Corby) Willetts, David
Rathbone, Tim Wilshire, David
Redwood, John Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Wolfson, Mark
Richards, Rod Wood, Timothy
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Yeo, Tim
Robathan, Andrew Young, Sir George (Acton)
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Tellers for the Noes:
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Mr. Andrew MacKay.

Amendment accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 298, Noes 258.

Division No. 103] 7.27 pm
Adley, Robert Duncan, Alan
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Duncan-Smith, Iain
Aitken, Jonathan Dunn, Bob
Alexander, Richard Durant, Sir Anthony
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Eggar, Tim
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Elletson, Harold
Amess, David Emery, Sir Peter
Ancram, Michael Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Arbuthnot, James Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Ashby, David Evennett, David
Atkins, Robert Faber, David
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Fabricant, Michael
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Fishburn, Dudley
Baldry, Tony Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Forth, Eric
Bates, Michael Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Batiste, Spencer Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Bellingham, Henry Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bendall, Vivian Freeman, Roger
Beresford, Sir Paul Fry, Peter
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gale, Roger
Body, Sir Richard Gallie, Phil
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gardiner, Sir George
Booth, Hartley Garnier, Edward
Boswell, Tim Gill, Christopher
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Gillan, Cheryl
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Bowden, Andrew Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bowis, John Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Gorst, John
Brandreth, Gyles Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Brazier, Julian Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bright, Graham Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Grylls, Sir Michael
Browning, Mrs. Angela Hague, William
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)
Budgen, Nicholas Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Burns, Simon Hampson, Dr Keith
Burt, Alistair Hanley, Jeremy
Butcher, John Hannam, Sir John
Butler, Peter Hargreaves, Andrew
Butterfill, John Harris, David
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Haselhurst, Alan
Carrington, Matthew Hawkins, Nick
Carttiss, Michael Hawksley, Warren
Cash, William Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Heathcoat-Amory, David
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Hendry, Charles
Churchill, Mr Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Clappison, James Hicks, Robert
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Coe, Sebastian Horam, John
Colvin, Michael Hordern, Sir Peter
Congdon, David Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Conway, Derek Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Cormack, Patrick Hunter, Andrew
Couchman, James Jack, Michael
Cran, James Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Jenkin, Bernard
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jessel, Toby
Davis, David (Boothferry) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Day, Stephen Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Devlin, Tim Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dickens, Geoffrey Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dicks, Terry Key, Robert
Dorrell, Stephen Kilfedder, Sir James
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James King, Rt Hon Tom
Dover, Den Kirkhope, Timothy
Knapman, Roger Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Sackville, Tom
Knox, David Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Shaw, David (Dover)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Shersby, Michael
Legg, Barry Sims, Roger
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lidington, David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lightbown, David Soames, Nicholas
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Speed, Sir Keith
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Spencer, Sir Derek
Lord, Michael Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Luff, Peter Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Spink, Dr Robert
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spring, Richard
McLoughlin, Patrick Sproat, Iain
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Madel, David Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Malone, Gerald Steen, Anthony
Mans, Keith Stephen, Michael
Marland, Paul Stern, Michael
Marlow, Tony Stewart, Allan
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Streeter, Gary
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Sumberg, David
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Sweeney, Walter
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Sykes, John
Mellor, Rt Hon David Tapsell, Sir Peter
Merchant, Piers Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Milligan, Stephen Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Temple-Morris, Peter
Moate, Roger Thomason, Roy
Monro, Sir Hector Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Moss, Malcolm Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Needham, Richard Thurnham, Peter
Neubert, Sir Michael Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Tracey, Richard
Nicholls, Patrick Tredinnick, David
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Trend, Michael
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Trotter, Neville
Norris, Steve Twinn, Dr Ian
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Oppenheim, Phillip Viggers, Peter
Ottaway, Richard Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Page, Richard Walden, George
Paice, James Waller, Gary
Patnick, Irvine Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Patten, Rt Hon John Waterson, Nigel
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Watts, John
Pawsey, James Wells, Bowen
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Wheeler, Sir John
Pickles, Eric Whitney, Ray
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Whittingdale, John
Porter, David (Waveney) Widdecombe, Ann
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Wiggin, Jerry
Powell, William (Corby) Wilkinson, John
Rathbone, Tim Willetts, David
Redwood, John Wilshire, David
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Richards, Rod Wolfson, Mark
Riddick, Graham Wood, Timothy
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Yeo, Tim
Robathan, Andrew Young, Sir George (Acton)
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Tellers for the Ayes:
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Mr. Andrew MacKay.
Abbott, Ms Diane Allen, Graham
Adams, Mrs Irene Alton, David
Ainger, Nick Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Armstrong, Hilary
Ashton, Joe Gerrard, Neil
Barnes, Harry Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Battle, John Godman, Dr Norman A.
Bayley, Hugh Godsiff, Roger
Beggs, Roy Golding, Mrs Llin
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Gordon, Mildred
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Graham, Thomas
Benton, Joe Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bermingham, Gerald Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Berry, Dr. Roger Grocott, Bruce
Betts, Clive Hain, Peter
Blair, Tony Hall, Mike
Blunkett, David Hanson, David
Boateng, Paul Hardy, Peter
Boyce, Jimmy Harman, Ms Harriet
Bradley, Keith Harvey, Nick
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Henderson, Doug
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Heppell, John
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Burden, Richard Hinchliffe, David
Byers, Stephen Hoey, Kate
Caborn, Richard Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Callaghan, Jim Home Robertson, John
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Hoon, Geoffrey
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Hoyle, Doug
Canavan, Dennis Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cann, Jamie Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Chisholm, Malcolm Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Clapham, Michael Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hutton, John
Clelland, David Ingram, Adam
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Coffey, Ann Jackson, Helen (Shef"ld, H)
Cohen, Harry Jamieson, David
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Janner, Greville
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Johnston, Sir Russell
Corbett, Robin Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Corbyn, Jeremy Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Corston, Ms Jean Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Cousins, Jim Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Cox, Tom Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Cryer, Bob Jowell, Tessa
Cummings, John Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cunliffe, Lawrence Keen, Alan
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Dafis, Cynog Khabra, Piara S.
Dalyell, Tam Kilfoyle, Peter
Darling, Alistair Kirkwood, Archy
Davidson, Ian Leighton, Ron
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Lewis, Terry
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Litherland, Robert
Denham, John Livingstone, Ken
Dewar, Donald Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dixon, Don Loyden, Eddie
Dobson, Frank Lynne, Ms Liz
Donohoe, Brian H. McAllion, John
Dowd, Jim McAvoy, Thomas
Dunnachie, Jimmy Macdonald, Calum
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth McFall, John
Eagle, Ms Angela McKelvey, William
Eastham, Ken Mackinlay, Andrew
Enright, Derek McLeish, Henry
Etherington, Bill McMaster, Gordon
Evans, John (St Helens N) McWilliam, John
Faulds, Andrew Madden, Max
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Mahon, Alice
Fisher, Mark Mandelson, Peter
Flynn, Paul Marek, Dr John
Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Foster, Don (Bath) Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Foulkes, George Martlew, Eric
Fyfe, Maria Maxton, John
Galbraith, Sam Meacher, Michael
Galloway, George Meale, Alan
Gapes, Mike Michael, Alun
Garrett, John Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Short, Clare
Milburn, Alan Simpson, Alan
Miller, Andrew Skinner, Dennis
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Morgan, Rhodri Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
Morley, Elliot Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Snape, Peter
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Soley, Clive
Mowlam, Marjorie Spearing, Nigel
Mudie, George Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Mullin, Chris Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Murphy, Paul Steinberg, Gerry
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Stevenson, George
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Stott, Roger
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Strang, Dr. Gavin
O'Hara, Edward Straw, Jack
Olner, William Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
O'Neill, Martin Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Parry, Robert Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Patchett, Terry Tipping, Paddy
Pendry, Tom Trimble, David
Pickthall, Colin Turner, Dennis
Pike, Peter L. Tyler, Paul
Pope, Greg Vaz, Keith
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E) Wallace, James
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Walley, Joan
Prescott, John Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Primarolo, Dawn Wareing, Robert N
Purchase, Ken Watson, Mike
Quin, Ms Joyce Wicks, Malcolm
Radice, Giles Wigley, Dafydd
Randall, Stuart Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Raynsford, Nick Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Reid, Dr John Wilson, Brian
Robertson, George (Hamilton) Winnick, David
Roche, Mrs. Barbara Wise, Audrey
Rogers, Allan Worthington, Tony
Rooney, Terry Wray, Jimmy
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Wright, Dr Tony
Rowlands, Ted Young, David (Bolton SE)
Ruddock, Joan
Sedgemore, Brian Tellers for the Noes:
Sheerman, Barry Mr. Eric Illsley and
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Mr. Jon Owen Jones.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Education Bill.

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