HC Deb 05 February 1992 vol 203 cc366-80

'The Secretary of State shall ensure that inspection is made from time to time by Her Majesty's Inspectors of provision for students with learning difficulties in Colleges of Further Education.'.—[Mrs. Margaret Ewing.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 63, in clause 1, page 1, line 13, at end add— '(2A) In discharging his duty under subsection (1) above, the Secretary of State shall ensure that no student under the age of 25 who has learning difficulties shall be required to pay a fee for Further Education.'. Amendment No. 58, in clause 2, page 2, line 16, at end add '; and in exercising such power they shall have regard to the requirements of persons over school age who have learning difficulties.'.

Government amendments Nos. 16 and 21.

Amendment No. 67, in clause 8, page 5, line 24. leave out 'disabled students and staff' and insert 'students with learning difficulties and disabled staff.'.

Government amendments Nos. 22 and 28.

Amendment No. 68, in page 16, line 30, at end insert 'including the educational provision made or proposed to be made for persons with learning difficulties and the facilities made or proposed to be made to meet the needs of disabled students and staff.'.

Government amendments Nos. 83, 29 and 48.

Amendment No. 74, in schedule 1, page 40, line 31, at end insert— '(1A) Where the number of students with learning difficulties at a College of Further Education exceeds such number as may be prescribed, the Board shall establish a Special Needs Advisory Committee, including persons with experience of the needs of students with learning difficulties.'.

Mrs. Ewing

Those of us who served in Committee will recall the debate on the inspection of courses offered at colleges of further education whereby the courses for youngsters with special learning needs or any disability would have to be inspected. The Minister undertook to consult the chief inspector about such matters as regularity of inspection.

The new clause focuses on special needs in colleges, a subject which was not debated in Committee, when the debate was about inspection in general. There is some reason to be concerned that at present the inspection of special needs courses is less than adequate, in that it has been added to the remit of one or two inspectors who are already over-burdened. That is understandable. I am not trying to demean the work undertaken by inspectors; I am trying to draw attention to the fact that they are asked to take on an additional burden in a difficult job. I hope that consideration will be given to appointing others or ensuring that time is made available to them to undertake the training and qualifications necessary to execute this important task.

We are speaking against a background of the recent development of courses. Many of them have been established at the initiative of individual colleges or education authorities, or a combination of both. Sometimes voluntary organisations have been involved. They have not been set up because of central Government policy.

I wish to ensure that, when further education colleges are devolved, as suggested in the Bill, the Scottish Office Education Department takes the same approach as it does to other areas of education. which is not just a monitoring role but one of spreading and promoting good policy, and presumably identifying the need for staff training purposes. I referred to that extensively in Committee, because I believe that many colleges throughout Scotland have set up substantial and effective programmes of education for people with special learning needs or specific handicaps.

It seems ridiculous that many colleges are trying to reinvent the wheel. Given the pressures on staff time and resources, including financial resources, it is an important aspect of the inspectorate's job to ensure that good practice, wherever it is encountered, is taken up by other colleges, with the recommendations of those who invented the courses. I hope that the Minister will take that seriously.

As was also brought out in Committee, the inspectorate is seen, generally speaking, as a positive and valued force. The whole tenor of the new clause is to ensure that that is in no way diminished by the changes proposed in the Bill. Students with learning difficulties, and staff working with them, will inevitably form a comparatively small part of any college. I refer the Minister to the statistics given in Committee. An inspectorate with a specialist but wide-ranging role will be able to assist in keeping them up to date with developments elsewhere. All of us would endorse that aim, because, as Members of Parliament or even in our families, we know of people with particular needs which should be recognised and given the respect which they require.

As well as new knowledge about such matters as educational techniques. new technologies are coming into existence to assist students with various types of handicap. An inspectorate could provide a valuable source of information and assistance, as well as ensuring the maintenance of standards.

I do not want to go through all the amendments which are being considered with the new clause, save to say that we are all striving for the same goal. Hon. Members on both sides have spoken at length and with great sincerity on previous occasions about their wish to see students with special needs given recognition. New clause 15, with the amendments, would bring about that wish. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will give us the good news that he will accept the new clause.

Mr. Tom Clarke

The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) has been most persuasive. Where there is a demand for positive discrimination, an inspectorate such as she described seems appropriate. I think that she made a good case. The Scottish Society for the Mentally Handicapped agrees with the new clause, and I hope that the Minister will address himself seriously to the points which have been made.

I should like to refer to amendments Nos. 63, 67, 68 and 74 which have been tabled by my hon. Friends and myself. It will come as no surprise to the House and to my hon. Friends who served so well in Committee to learn that we are dealing with the important point of access. We have been very much aware of the importance of access throughout our consideration of the Bill. In both further and higher education, we want to improve access for a much larger number of people than our education system has been able to deal with so far.

Earlier this evening, the Minister referred to the Scottish wider access programme. I hope that he will feel that these constructive amendments, which reflect our arguments in Committee, are not inconsistent with what we were told were the objectives of that programme, even though they may not yet have been achieved.

Amendment No. 63 is designed to provide for students with learning difficulties who require longer to complete their courses precisely because of their disabilities. I have been paying great attention to debates in another place and particularly to a debate on 14 January on the analogous English legislation. So far, the English Bill has focused much more clearly on this matter than we have managed with the Scottish one. If our colleagues dealing with English further education have managed to persuade themselves—rightly—that new bodies should seek adequate provision for the under-25s, there must also be a duty to provide free further education for people with disabilities and learning needs. That case is argued for in the amendment.

9 pm

The Government have given a commitment that students between 16 and 18 will not be required to pay fees for further education—a welcome reassurance. We seek to extend that to the world in which such students actually have to live. It is self-evident that students with learning difficulties are willing and able to learn but inevitably often do so more slowly. Students with cerebral palsy, for instance, have communication difficulties. The expectation that they should complete difficult courses despite their difficulties at the same pace as their fellow students seems both unreasonable and unrealistic. Many of these people continue to develop for several years after they reach the age of 18, and they would derive considerable benefit from completing a course of further education that students without disabilities would usually complete before 18.

Students with physical disabilities may also need to take longer over their courses. I witnessed the problems of physical access in my local college in Coatbridge last Friday. Despite an excellent determination to ensure that facilities are available there, the problems of physical access remain self-evident.

Disability sometimes means that students have to use special aids or techniques to carry out course work—not always an easy task, as we agreed in Committee. Computer aids can he excellent tools for disabled people, but they are often laborious to operate, especially for people who are physically disadvantaged. People with visual handicaps do not enjoy the easy access to written materials that sighted people enjoy. The Government must accept that these people need longer; they often cannot earn money, and they experience real poverty.

Many people with disabilities have associated health problems that may require them to take time off from a course of further education. All hon. Members have personal experience of such cases. Despite personal heroism by the sufferers, their health problems often mean that they have to break off for treatment or to recharge their batteries. No one should disregard that point.

It would be helpful if the Government told us their views on the bursary system. It is doubtful whether it provides the complete answer, although the Minister depended on it a great deal in Committee. Bursaries may vary across Scotland, and they provide no guarantee that the problem will be properly dealt with.

The Government have given us some welcome commitments about disabled students but it is most important for many disabled students to be sure that it is worth starting a course because they will be able to finish it in their own time. They cannot be expected to afford fees if they have been taking further education courses since leaving school.

Funding is certainly a complex issue, and the Government have a number of mechanisms for deciding whether fees are charged and whether they are paid by students. Rather than leaving this matter to the vagaries of the bursary system, with all its complexities, the Government should give disabled students a clear commitment: those who require longer to complete their courses will be able to do so.

Through amendments Nos. 67 and 68, we seek not only to tidy up the wording but to introduce some sophistication. Our view is shared by the Scottish Society for the Mentally Handicapped and by people such as Hugh Stewart, Colin Mackay, Brian Lamb and Pauline Graham of the Spastics Society, who feel that our terminology in legislation should be brought up to date, especially remembering our links with Europe.

Amendment No. 74 seeks to ensure that the boards are properly advised about the needs of students with learning difficulties. Our argument here is absolutely consistent with the main thrust of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986, which accepted that people with disabilities had the right to have an input in policy formulation when decisions were taken which influenced the quality of their lives.

Although the duty of colleges to have regard for students with learning difficulties is welcome, it must be remembered that the colleges will be run largely by business people. I do not want to be too harsh on them, and we shall see what happens. However, it must be said that the quota system—

Mr. Ernie Ross

It is 3 per cent.

Mr. Clarke

The quota is 3 per cent., yet it has never been achieved. We seem to be asking the same people to accept that there should be positive discrimination within the college system, which has not been the case so far.

Mr. Ross

My hon. Friend's point is significant. In industry, we have discovered that there has been a lot of pressure on individuals either not to label themselves as disabled or to say that they are disabled simply to try to help the employers in their minimum commitment to the 3 per cent. quota. Those same employers could be on the boards of governors and might adopt the same attitude, which would put on students the pressure which is put on employees in industry. That would not be acceptable.

Mr. Clarke

As always, my hon. Friend makes his point extremely well. The boards, with the problems of cash limits and budgets, would not, on the evidence so far, see a commitment to people with special needs as a priority.

If we have not persuaded the Minister of our case for representation, it is important that at least he gives some thought to the amendments. There is no guarantee that business people will know anything about the real needs of students with learning difficulties, which creates the danger that the boards will fulfil the responsibility to people with special needs in a token and ill-informed way. That is unacceptable, especially in view of the recent education review.

In Committee, as the Minister will recall, the Government rejected an amendment that the college boards should be required to include a person with suitable experience. The Minister argued that one person could not be expected to represent all the different types of student with learning difficulties. Even if that argument has merit, an alternative is that the whole board could be advised by a committee which would include disabled students and their representatives. That is a reasonable request.

During the debate on the Further and Higher Education Bill in the other place, the Government stated, as the Minister will be aware, that the new funding councils would be required to obtain specialist advice on the needs of disabled students as a condition of their grants. In Scotland, the lack of a similar funding council seems to place a greater responsibility on individual colleges. It is important, therefore, to ensure that any college that caters for a significant number of students with learning difficulties should have a source of specialist advice about the needs of those students. In that spirit, I commend the amendments to the House.

Mr. McMaster

I shall be as brief as possible. Although I support the case that has been put for new clause 15, I want to devote my remarks to the three amendments Nos. 63, 68 and 74. They deal with the three barriers to disabled people and those with learning difficulties entering further education—financial, physical and psychological. The amendments would help to break down those barriers.

I echo the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Monklands—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Hon. Friend."] If my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) is not a right hon. Member, he should be. He said that we welcomed the Minister's commitment to not charging fees to people with learning difficulties aged between 16 and 18. I support amendment No. 63, which would extend that provision to the age of 25. By definition, people with learning difficulties have special reasons for being slower and having to work at their own speed with student-centred learning. Again by definition, disabled people are likely to be poorer because disablement costs money in all sorts of ways, not least in transport costs. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) mentioned Oatridge agricultural college, which does valuable work in horticulture and agriculture. However, people have to travel to get there, and those costs have to be met by disabled people who come from a large catchment area.

The same applies in Glasgow. Woodburn house is part of Landside college, and its catchment area is practically the whole of Strathclyde region. People have to travel from a wide area to get there. Money should not be a barrier to disabled people and those with learning difficulties entering college. There is an untapped pool of talent among disabled people. It is not only a crime against those people not to tap into their talent; it is a crime against society.

There is another benefit from further education for disabled people, and that is the respite provided to their carers and families—[Interruption.] I am trying to be brief, but there are important points to be made.

On amendment No. 68, my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West said that, under the new set-up, colleges will be run by business men. Business men and women have no great record in serving the needs of disabled people. The quota system was mentioned earlier. Only 24 per cent. of organisations in this country achieved the 3 per cent. quota, and Government Departments are not among them. The Scottish health service achieves only 0.2 per cent. and the House of Commons only 0.6 per cent. The Minister shakes his head, so I must tell him that those figures come from a parliamentary written answer from him. [Interruption.] The figures could be doubtful, of course.

Those who argue that in dealing with the learning needs of disabled people persuasion will work and that colleges will somehow serve them without any statutory obligation to do so should understand that all the evidence of legislation on the disabled shows that that is not the case. Where such legislation has been voluntary in its implementation, most have chosen not to implement it.

9.15 pm

If performance measurement systems are to be introduced, and if they are to be based purely on the quantity of students who come through the door rather than on the quality of training that they receive, the day on which those systems are introduced will be a sad one. Disablement resettlement officers, through no fault of theirs, have been measured according to the number of disabled people whom they help to enter employment; they are therefore naturally likely to go for people who have lost the tip of a pinkie in an industrial accident rather than the disabled people who need help most.

My hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West said, when introducing what became the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986, that disabled people should not constantly be "done unto". That is what amendment No. 74 is all about. It is essential that a special needs advisory committee be set up: after all, if there are 6.5 million disabled people in the United Kingdom, about 10 per cent.—roughly 650,000—will be in Scotland, and those people deserve to have their voices heard.

I do not think that there will be a shortage of people who could be called on to serve on an advisory body. There are, for instance, the voluntary bodies, which do such valuable work. A constituent of mine, who is also a friend—a girl called Morag Clunas, who has been disabled from birth—has fought a battle to get through the education system. She is now working for Renfrew district disability council, and is campaigning on behalf of other disabled people. She has seen the education battle from all sides, and was recently given an award by Commissioner Milian for her achievements.

We must emphasise ability rather than disability. If the Minister can come some of the way with us, he will be seen to be paying lip service, at least, to the education needs of disabled people—and we want more than that.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I congratulate the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) on moving new clause 15. She concluded an earlier speech with a quotation from Burns. Like much that comes from her party, it was a misquotation: according to my memory of "Tam O'Shanter", the advice relayed by her national bard was given to a husband by his wife, not by an Opposition to a Government. Perhaps I may reciprocate by commending a quotation from Burns to the hon. Lady. In "The Dumfries Volunteers", Burns writes:

  • "Be Britain still to Britain true,
  • Among oursel's united!
  • For never but by British hands
  • Maun British wrangs be righted!"
The hon. Lady might care to memorise that quotation, and recite it to herself in the weeks and months to come.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing

I am grateful to the Minister. I do not wish to turn this into an entirely cultural debate, because serious issues are at stake. Does the Minister agree, however, that those words were written under duress, at a time of great difficulty for the bard? Perhaps he wrote more effectively when he spoke of such a parcel o' rogues in a nation".

Mr. Forsyth

I agree with the hon. Lady's analysis of the time when the piece was written. Another line may commend itself to her: O let us not, like snarlinghe tykes, In wrangling be divided". In view of that, perhaps I should return to the subject of new clause 15, which would require the Secretary of State to ensure that Her Majesty's inspector of schools inspects provision in further education colleges for students with learning difficulties.

The Secretary of State already has power, under section 66 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, to cause inspections to be made of any educational establishment. Those inspections are carried out by Her Majesty's inspectorate. The provision of further education for students with learning difficulties is covered by the inspectorate, which will advise the Secretary of State on the exercise of his duty for further education, including the requirement to have regard to the needs of those with learning difficulties.

I shall be happy to give the hon. Lady an undertaking that I shall discuss with the senior chief inspector appropriate arrangements in that regard. As a first step to add to the Department's knowledge of the extent of the provision and existing good practice, it is intended to appoint soon, on secondment, an expert from a college to report on the matter.

Mrs. Ewing

Can the Minister tell me how many reports have been submitted from the inspectorate specifically on the needs of youngsters with special learning difficulties at further education colleges and what impact that has had on central Government thinking, in terms of planning? When the Minister has spoken to the inspectorate about the content of my new clause, which is supported by other hon. Members, will he consider introducing an amendment in the other place to take account of the genuine concerns of all of us on this side of the House, which have been endorsed by all the societies and organisations that work with handicapped people, be they mentally or physically handicapped?

Mr. Forsyth

After my discussions with the senior chief inspector, I shall ensure that the hon. Lady is provided with that information. It is unnecessary to amend the Bill to ensure good practice by the inspectorate. They work very hard to ensure good practice. We discussed in Committee an amendment similar to amendment No. 63. I said then that I do not consider that there is a strong case for accepting the amendment. Students over 18 are able to apply for bursaries. The bursary scheme allows colleges to give special consideration to disabled students. In my view, these arrangements provide a sufficient safeguard for students with learning difficulties.

I was puzzled by what the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) said about the differences between England and Scotland. The position seems to me to be absolutely identical, so I was puzzled by the suggestion that he might want to elaborate on the point that he made in his speech.

In addition, boards have the power, in clause 8(2) (c) to provide to students of the college such assistance of a financial or other nature as they may consider appropriate".

Government amendment No. 20 to clause 8, which I hope we shall discuss later, makes it clear that this includes the ability to waive or grant remission of fees. For students with or without learning difficulties, some boards may well exercise that power. Each case is likely to be very different. The boards will be best placed to make judgments rather than the blanket provision that the amendment would introduce.

As for amendment No. 58, 1 have no doubt that local authorities will take account of the needs of those with learning difficulties when judging when to use their powers to provide further education. The Bill is about the transfer of further education from local authority management and establishing boards of management. It is not about extending obligations on local authorities. They must decide how to exercise their functions within their duties and powers.

Mr. Tom Clarke

As this is a serious point, I want to be absolutely clear about where the Government stand. 1 referred to the discussions in another place on 14 January when clearly Government Ministers accepted that, if a funding council in England was unable to secure provision for such students, a duty was placed upon them to find places and to make sure that the cost was met. I am not aware, though I invite the Minister to clarify the point, of a similar provision having been included in the Bill. If there is such a provision, I hope that he will reassure me. It is important that he should answer my question.

Mr. Forsyth

I have no direct responsibility for the arrangements in England, but I am advised that there is no provision in England and Wales for students with learning difficulties between the ages of 18 and 25 not to be charged fees. The position in England and Wales, therefore, is identical to that in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman is, I believe, referring to an amendment that was accepted: that the funding council can secure provision for those with learning difficulties outside the further education sector. That is not required in Scotland, as there is no upper age limit on the Secretary of State's duties or on the bodies that he can fund, including organisations other than the boards. The position, therefore, is identical. Does the hon. Gentleman want to intervene on that point?

Mr. Clarke

I cannot agree with the Minister that the position is identical. I realise that perhaps understandably he has not had as much time to consider the matter as he would have wished. However, I spent a lot of time last night with Scottish and English organisations which work in this field and the one issue on which they all agreed was that the two positions are not identical.

Mr. Forsyth

That is probably right, but the positions are identical in terms of effect, although the reasons why they are identical may differ north and south of the border.

Mr. Clarke

So they are not identical?

Mr. Forsyth

From the point of view of a student with learning difficulties who is aged over 18 the position is identical, but the means by which that commonality has been achieved is different. I should have thought that people would not be specially concerned about the statutory basis on which that has been achieved.

Mr. Clarke

With respect, the Minister is uncharacteristically confused about the facts. He has not had time to get the facts together. He is wrong and, given that fact and the fact that he has not had time to do his homework, will he at the very least hold his hand until the Bill is dealt with in another place?

Mr. Forsyth

If I am wrong, it is because I have been advised in a way which is not in accordance with the advice to the hon. Gentleman. I think the advice that I am receiving from officials is perhaps more likely to be authoritative than that to the hon. Gentleman, but I am happy to consider the point he has raised. However, he must not chide me for not being up to date on English legislation. The Bill is a Scottish Bill and the provisions in it—

Mr. Douglas


Mr. Forsyth

If the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) will allow me to deal with the hon. Member for Monklands, West, I shall give way to him.

It seems that the arrangements being made in the Bill for students with learning difficulties are perfectly adequate. Existing powers provide for bursaries to be made available and that seems to be the best way of approaching the matter.

Mr. Douglas

I hope that the Minister can help me by clarifying this matter. Is he saying that he is resisting the new clause because the first of the powers sought is covered in other legislation? If so, what valid reason has he for not putting that aspect of the new clause into the Bill? Why can he not do that?

Mr. Forsyth

We do not as a matter of practice put into legislation that which we already have powers to secure. The new clause would require the Secretary of State to ensure that the inspectorate inspected in further education colleges the provisions for students with learning difficulties. The means already exist whereby the Secretary of State can require those functions to be carried out, and I think it is an unfair attack on the inspectorate to suggest that it would not carry out those functions unless they were written into statute. The inspectorate is perfectly capable of assessing the provision for children and students with learning difficulties in schools and colleges of further education in Scotland.

I have already given the hon. Member for Moray an undertaking that I will discuss this issue with the chief inspector and will ensure that the sentiments expressed in support of the new clause are dealt with. That is why it is not necessary to include this new clause in the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 16, 21, 22, 28, 83, 29 and 48 fulfil—

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)


Mr. Forsyth

May I just deal with the amendments and then I shall come back to the hon. Lady.

The amendments fulfil commitments that I gave in Committee to strengthen the provisions of the Bill which deal with students with learning difficulties. The Bill places a requirement on the Secretary of State to have regard to the requirements of persons over school age who have learning difficulties in exercising his duty to secure adequate and efficient provision of further education in Scotland. I regard that as an important new statutory safeguard.

9.30 pm
Mrs. Fyfe

I hope that the Minister will not interpret our concerns as an attack on the inspectorate. We are expressing genuine concern. It may be helpful if I tell the Minister that I worked in FE in Glasgow for 11 years, and although inspectors came and gave my department good reports, I do not remember questions about the needs of disabled students ever being asked. I do not blame the inspectors. I am sure that they must have had a lot of pressures on them, and I am taking account of that. Nevertheless, my personal experience does not bear out the Minister's confidence in that respect. I am glad that he is undertaking to check with the chief inspector, but I hope that he will adopt a more helpful attitude to what Opposition Members are saying.

Mr. Forsyth

I take that as something of an attack on the local authority responsible for the administration of the colleges concerned. The hon. Lady must not misquote me in the way that the hon. Member for Moray misquoted Burns. I said that to suggest, as did the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West, that the only way of making sure our aim was achieved was to include a requirement in the Bill was something of an attack on the inspectorate. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman did not mean to put it in those terms. Perhaps we can agree that the principles that the hon. Member for Moray sought to uphold can be secured by the administrative means that I suggested.

Amendment No. 28 will ensure that, where the Secretary of State has made regulations under clause 21 requiring boards of management to publish information about the education provision made, or proposed to be made, for students of the college, that includes students with learning difficulties. I attach importance to appropriate provision being made in FE colleges for students with learning difficulties. I believe that requiring colleges to publish such information will be an important factor in maintaining quality and in concentrating minds on the provision made for those with learning difficulties.

Amendment No. 29 seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State's power by regulations to require boards of management to publish information extends to such information as may be prescribed as to the facilities provided, or to be provided, for students with learning difficulties. Although it will be for each board of management to decide what special facilities are appropriate for their students and staff, information on the facilities that each college provides should be freely available.

Other amendments are textual, or improve the drafting of the Bill.

I said that some of the points that we discussed in Committee would best be dealt with by guidance circulars. I am still of the view that those should also cover matters such as how boards might call on expert advice—through committees, with non-board members or otherwise.

I hope that the House will recognise that we have listened to the debate in Committee, and to the debate tonight, which has re-emphasised the same points. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Member for Moray will feel able to withdraw her new clause and support the Government amendments.

Mrs. Ewing

The Minister has put the Opposition in a difficult position tonight. We would not have tabled the new clause had we felt that existing legislation was adequate. If the Minister says that existing education provision is adequate, why is he so afraid to write on the face of the Bill a simple new clause, which would take care not only of the anxieties of the hon. Members who have spoken, but of those of other organisations such as the Scottish Society for the Mentally Handicapped, which has asked that this simple straightforward new clause be incorporated in the Bill?

The Minister's response to questions by my hon. Friends and myself, and by the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), who is also an expert on the subject, was wrong-footed. He could not tell us how many reports have been lodged on the specific issues that we have raised, and he said that he would forward information to us at an appropriate stage.

However, we all know that once the Bill leaves the Chamber tonight it will quickly go to another place, because the Government want it on the statute book before the general election. That gives no time whatever for the other place to consider in detail the issues that we have debated tonight, and the Minister has not given us a concrete reason for not pressing the clause to a vote.

Is the Minister prepared to give us a time scale in which he will join me and other interested Members in meeting the inspectorate to discuss the matter in detail and introduce an appropriate amendment in the other place? If not, I am afraid that we shall have to press the matter to a vote. I do not think that any of us really wants to do that, but we do want an assurance that our concerns for youngsters with learning difficulties in our colleges of education, and for the inspectorate, which has to deal with the problem, will be taken into consideration and all the positive arguments that I have advanced on behalf of the inspectorate—not against it, as the Minister tried to imply—will be met. We want some assurance right now or we shall press the clause. I give the Minister an opportunity to respond.

Mr. Tom Clarke


Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has already spoken. Does he have the leave of the House to speak again?

Hon. Members


Mr. Clarke

With the leave of the House, Mr. Speaker.

We are dealing with an extremely serious matter, on which the Minister failed to satisfy the House in his response. He said that he would be getting advice, and I fully understand that, but, as the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) said, civil servants advise and Ministers decide. If the Minister is deciding simply to sweep the matter under the carpet, it is simply not acceptable.

The simple question is whether we accept that people over the age of 18 with disabilities find that, in the very nature of things, it takes longer for them to communicate and to follow particular courses, and that financial problems often result.

The Minister and I disagree on the debates in the other place and on the attitude to the English Bill. In the past few minutes, I have re-read the proceedings in the other place —I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I shall not read them out —which confirm what I have said rather than what the Minister has said. Far from the hon. Gentleman's advice being accurate, local authorities already have discretion in some cases to decide whether to waive fees.

All we ask for Scotland is that the Minister should consider whether he can agree that, in the case of students up to the age of 25, no fee will be charged. The House had expected some concession from him. We have had none whatever, and unless he returns to the Dispatch Box with a much firmer undertaking, I shall certainly urge my hon. Friends to divide the House.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 131, Noes 248.

Division No. 72] [9.37 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Fraser, John
Allen, Graham Fyfe, Maria
Alton, David Galloway, George
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Godman, Dr Norman A.
Ashton, Joe Golding, Mrs Llin
Barron, Kevin Gordon, Mildred
Beggs, Roy Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bellotti, David Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Benton, Joseph Grocott, Bruce
Blunkett, David Hain, Peter
Bradley, Keith Haynes, Frank
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Hinchliffe, David
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Home Robertson, John
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Hood, Jimmy
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Canavan, Dennis Howells, Geraint
Carr, Michael Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Clelland, David Illsley, Eric
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Ingram, Adam
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Janner, Greville
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cryer, Bob Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Cummings, John Kennedy, Charles
Cunliffe, Lawrence Kirkwood, Archy
Dalyell, Tam Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Leadbitter, Ted
Dixon, Don Leighton, Ron
Dobson, Frank Lewis, Terry
Duffy, Sir A. E. P. Litherland, Robert
Dunnachie, Jimmy Livsey, Richard
Enright, Derek Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Loyden, Eddie
Fatchett, Derek McAllion, John
Fearn, Ronald McAvoy, Thomas
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) McCartney, Ian
Flannery, Martin Macdonald, Calum A.
Flynn, paul McLeish, Henry
Foster, Derek Maclennan, Robert
McMaster, Gordon Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Madden, Max Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Soley, Clive
Marek, Dr John Spearing, Nigel
Martlew, Eric Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Maxton, John Steinberg, Gerry
Meale, Alan Stephen, Nicol
Michael, Alun Strang, Gavin
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Morgan, Rhodri Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Morley, Elliot Turner, Dennis
Mullin, Chris Vaz, Keith
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wallace, James
O'Hara, Edward Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
O'Neill, Martin Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Patchett, Terry Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Wilson, Brian
Primarolo, Dawn Winnick, David
Quin, Ms Joyce Wise, Mrs Audrey
Randall, Stuart Worthington, Tony
Robinson, Geoffrey Wray, Jimmy
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Ross, William (Londonderry E) Tellers for the Ayes:
Rowlands, Ted Mr. Dick Douglas and
Salmond, Alex Mr. Andrew Welsh.
Skinner, Dennis
Adley, Robert Devlin, Tim
Aitken, Jonathan Dickens, Geoffrey
Alexander, Richard Dorrell, Stephen
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Dover, Den
Allason, Rupert Dunn, Bob
Amos, Alan Dykes, Hugh
Arbuthnot, James Eggar, Tim
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Emery, Sir Peter
Ashby, David Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Aspinwall, Jack Evennett, David
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Fallon, Michael
Baldry, Tony Farr, Sir John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Favell, Tony
Batiste, Spencer Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Fishburn, John Dudley
Bendall, Vivian Fookes, Dames Janet
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Benyon, W. Forth, Eric
Blackburn, Dr John G. Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Boscawen, Hon Robert Freeman, Roger
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) French, Douglas
Bowis, John Gardiner, Sir George
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Gill, Christopher
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Brazier, Julian Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Bright, Graham Goodhart, Sir Philip
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Buck, Sir Antony Gorst, John
Burns, Simon Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Burt, Alistair Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Butcher, John Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Butler, Chris Gregory, Conal
Butterfill, John Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Grist, Ian
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hague, William
Carttiss, Michael Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Chapman, Sydney Hampson, Dr Keith
Chope, Christopher Hannam, Sir John
Churchill, Mr Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth) Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Harris, David
Colvin, Michael Haselhurst, Alan
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hawkins, Christopher
Couchman, James Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Currie, Mrs Edwina Heatcoat-Amory, David
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Davis David (Boothferry) Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Day, Stephen Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Hill, James Pawsey, James
Hind, Kenneth Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Porter, David (Waveney)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Powell, William (Corby)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Price, Sir David
Hunt, Rt Hon David Raffan, Keith
Hunter, Andrew Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Irvine, Michael Redwood, John
Jack, Michael Rhodes James, Sir Robert
Jackson, Robert Riddick, Graham
Janman, Tim Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Rost, Peter
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Sackville, Hon Tom
Kilfedder, James Sayeed, Jonathan
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Shaw, David (Dover)
Kirkhope, Timothy Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Knapman, Roger Shelton, Sir William
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Sims, Roger
Knowles, Michael Skeet, Sir Trevor
Knox, David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Speller, Tony
Latham, Michael Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Lawrence, Ivan Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lee, John (Pendle) Squire, Robin
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Stanbrook, Ivor
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Steen, Anthony
Lightbown, David Stern, Michael
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Stevens, Lewis
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Lord, Michael Stewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard Sumberg, David
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Summerson, Hugo
Maclean, David Tapsell, Sir Peter
McLoughlin, Patrick Taylor, Ian (Esher)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Taylor, John M (Solihull)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Taylor, Sir Teddy
Madel, David Temple-Morris, Peter
Malins, Humfrey Thompson, Sir D. (Calder Vly)
Maples, John Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Marland, Paul Thorne, Neil
Marlow, Tony Thornton, Malcolm
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Thurnham, Peter
Maude, Hon Francis Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Tracey, Richard
Mellor, Rt Hon David Tredinnick, David
Meyer, Sir Anthony Trotter, Neville
Miller, Sir Hal Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Mills, Iain Viggers, Peter
Miscampbell, Norman Walden, George
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Walker, Bill (T'Side North)
Moate, Roger Walters, Sir Dennis
Monro, Sir Hector Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Watts, John
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Wells, Bowen
Moss, Malcolm Wheeler, Sir John
Moynihan, Hon Colin Whitney, Ray
Neale, Sir Gerrard Widdecombe, Ann
Needham, Richard Wiggin, Jerry
Nelson, Anthony Wilkinson, John
Neubert, Sir Michael Wilshire, David
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Winterton, Mrs Ann
Nicholls, Patrick Winterton, Nicholas
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Wolfson, Mark
Norris, Steve Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Yeo, Tim
Oppenheim, Phillip Young, Sir George (Acton)
Page, Richard
Paice, James Tellers for the Noes;
Patnick, Irvine Mr. Tim Boswell and
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Mr. Timothy Wood.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Speaker

We now come to new Clause 21.

Mr. Worthington

Not moved.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There has been a misunderstanding about new clause 21, which some of us wish to ask questions about.

Mr. Speaker

If the Front-Bench spokesman does not move it, it is not moved.

Mrs. Fyfe

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) inadvertently withdrew new clause 21.

Mr. Worthington

It might have been a misunderstanding.

Mr. Speaker

It might have been, but, unhappily, we have moved on now. We cannot go back.

Forward to