HC Deb 29 January 1992 vol 202 cc1029-41 '( ):—(1) The Chief Inspector may determine that a person who has completed a course of training in accordance with paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 is in need of supervision, induction or probation and he shall maintain a list (the "Conditionally Approved List") of the names of such persons. (2) Without prejudice to the power of the Chief Inspector to register a person subject to conditions under subsection 10(5)(c), the Chief Inspector may in particular impose conditions which determine the circumstances in which a person whose name is entered on the list maintained under subsection (1) may be a member of an inspection team for the purposes of Schedule 2.'.—[Ms. Armstrong.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Ms. Armstrong

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

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 62, in clause 10, page 6, line 32, at end insert— '(6A) Nothing in this section is to be taken as preventing the Chief Inspector from imposing conditions under subsection (5)(c) which determine the eligibility of persons acting as a member of an inspection team assisting the registered inspector in conducting an inspection in addition to the provisions regarding such eligibility mentioned in paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 of Schedule 2 to this Act.'. No. 10, in Schedule 2, page 19, line 17, at end insert— '5A.—(1) The Chief Inspector shall not admit to a course provided or arranged under paragraph 4(1) or 5(1) any person, not being a registered inspector, who in his opinion is not a fit or proper person for the purpose of carrying out an inspection.

  1. (2) Any person admitted to a course provided or arranged under paragraph 4(1) or 5(1) shall be excluded from it if, in the opinion of the Chief Inspector, he is unlikely to qualify for a certificate under sub-paragraph (3).
  2. (3) Any person who has completed a course provided or arranged under paragraph 4(1) and 5(1) and who, in the opinion of the Chief Inspector, is adequately trained for the purpose of carrying out inspections under this Act, shall receive a certificate to this effect.
  3. (4) No person shall carry out an inspection under this Act unless he has received a certificate under sub-paragraph (3).'.

Ms. Armstrong

I may need to catch your eye later, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I hope that you will now catch the eye of one of my hon. Friends.

Mr. O'Hara

I trust that, at the beginning, you will see that I am addressing the subject, Madam Deputy Speaker, as I hope you now accept I was doing in my previous contribution. Perhaps it was not so obvious at the beginning—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be more precise in his presentation.

Mr. O'Hara

I shall, to the best of my ability, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The new clause and the associated amendments are concerned with quality control, which is central to the Government's citizens charter and, I hope, central to the policies of any Government. I therefore appeal to the Government to consider the new clause with sympathy.

There is a fundamental flaw in the Bill—the contradiction in the Tory philosophy of separation of the provider from the monitor. The provider is the master of the monitor—he hires the monitor. As we said earlier, who pays the piper calls the tune. We must have monitors, but if we cannot separate the monitor from the provider, we must at least have effectiveness in the monitor. We are considering the quality control of monitors—in other words, "quis custodiet ipsos custodies".

Clause 10 refers to persons who shall conduct inspections of schools in England and Wales. No person shall conduct an inspection…unless he is registered…for the purposes of this Act. That is fine. It is provided that the chief inspector shall compose the register and shall not register a person except in certain conditions—for example, if it appears to him that the person is a fit and proper person to discharge the functions of a registered inspector and that he will be capable of competent and effective inspection under the legislation.

The clause goes on to deal with the way in which a person might apply for registration. Such a person will have to pay a fee. If one turns to schedule 2 one sees that registration criteria are specified. Paragraph 4 says: No person shall conduct an inspection of a school in England, or act as a member of an inspection team…unless he has completed a course of training". That, too, is fine. There are some criteria for registration. The course of training will be provided by the chief inspector for England or will comply with arrangements approved by the chief inspector. But the provisions peter out when it comes to payment of the fee.

Paragraph 4 of the schedule says simply: Where the Chief Inspector for England provides such training he may charge such fees as are reasonable for the purpose of recovering the whole, or part, of the cost of providing it. But there is something missing. We are told about the length of the training course and about the price, but not about the quality. No standards are set. This is a good example of "Never mind the quality; feel the width and look at the price."

The question of standards will arise only if a person failing takes the matter to appeal. In those circumstances the inspector may give the reasons for failure. That is not satisfactory. In respect of the training courses there is no reference to standards or even guidelines. We need to know by what criteria a would-be inspector will be said to have passed. That is a serious omission. Such guidelines would be helpful to various people. For example, they would help registered inspectors to select suitable team members. Some hard and fast quality criteria would be set. The guidelines would also help team members to secure employment. They would be particularly helpful to lay members of inspection teams—and the Bill makes it very obvious that the Government are anxious to recruit such people.

I understand that there have been disturbing suggestions that certain groups of people may be accredited by the senior chief inspector almost on the nod. That cannot be satisfactory. Surely the Bill should contain some provision setting the standards that must be achieved by would-be inspectors attending these training courses.

One could extend that principle and stipulate—as is done in other professions—a probationary period, particularly in the case of a lay member entering education, to ensure both that the member fulfils the promise that he or she showed during training, and the monitoring of the skills that inspection team members bring to the system. A wide variety of skills will be needed among those recruited to the many teams which are to undertake 6,000 inspections per year.

9.15 pm

It has long been an accepted principle of teacher training—at least until the Secretary of State recently kicked over the table—that the responsibility vested in a teacher is such that he or she must complete a probationary period. That is a common requirement in many other professions. If the responsibility vested in a teacher is so great, how much greater is that vested in an inspector in monitoring the effectiveness of teachers? It seems anomalous that one should be subject of quality control, but not the other.

The Secretary of State may argue that the registered inspector will oversee that aspect. However, one team member will almost certainly serve many teams. Some people will make their living doing that. If quality control is left with the many registered inspectors for which an individual team member may work at any one time, that will be a recipe for chaos.

The principle of a probationary year for teachers marries well with the evident pathological distrust of teacher trainers that the Government have manifested—particularly in recent weeks. However, I cannot understand how that distrust marries with the Government's trust in the capabilities of an untried cadre of registered inspectors in a shifting market of inspection teams.

Schedule 2(2)(a) states that at least one member of a team shall be a person??

  1. "(i) without personal experience in the management of any school or the provision of education in any school otherwise than as a governor or in any other voluntary capacity); and
  2. (ii) whose primary function on the team is not that of providing financial or business expertise".
Schedule 2(4) states: Any experience of a kind mentioned in sub-paragraph (2)(a) which it is reasonable to regard as insignificant, having regard to the purposes of sub-paragraph (2), may be ignored by the registered inspector. There is enshrined in the Bill an ascending scale of insignificance by which the experience of team members will be graded, and their capabilities to perform the job for which they put themselves forward will be forecast by few relevant clues from their past performance and experience.

Mr. McFall

My hon. Friend mentioned the registered inspectors. The registered inspector may have to take on different people for certain schools—for example, schools which teach minority subjects. My hon. Friend mentioned an example of such a school. The inspector will not be familiar with the people in that school. How will the inspector ensure quality control in the inspection of schools? That is an important point. The Bill does not tell us the answer to that question, and certainly the Secretary of State and his Ministers have not explained that point.

Mr. O'Hara

My hon. Friend leads me neatly to my next point—the nature of the skills that the system needs. I maintain, as my hon. Friend implies, that the many registered inspectors are incapable of monitoring what skills the system needs because of the nature of the system.

The system needs a full range of skills. I acknowledge that the Government have shown a commendable commitment to developing and targeting skills and allocating resources so that the skills that the system needs are developed. For example, they introduced the local education authority training grants scheme. I am prepared to concede that the scheme is an improvement on the old free-for-all system of training. I am referring to in-service training in particular but applying the principle to the development of a cross-section of skills for the system.

As a school governor several years ago, I was often worried by the reports of the number of training courses that members of staff had attended. The audit of the training was weighted on the side of those who received training and went on to develop their careers. That was fine—of course, one needs to provide that opportunity for staff—but the new-found skills often contributed little to the curriculum of the school that was effectively supporting the staff training. The LEATGS gave better assurances that the funding allocated to training went on skills that the schools needed and could use.

Mr. Fatchett

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point about the grants and education support and training scheme and LEATGS. I am sure that he has noticed that the amount of money that the Government make available for training is 50 per cent. more for grant-maintained schools than for schools in the maintained sector. That disparity will clearly have an impact on the provisions with which we are now dealing. The ability to train teachers will be considerably reduced in the maintained sector. I wonder whether, in his interesting speech, my hon. Friend was about to come to the unfair differences between the grant-maintained sector and the maintained sector?

Mr. O'Hara

Indeed, that is a good example. If one assumes that the resources for the development of skills in the system as a whole are finite, the disproportionate allocation of resources to the sector which is independent of the LEAs must be at the expense of the maintained sector. That is at a time when, as I said earlier, there is a desperate need for new skills to be developed and for teachers in post to have their skills updated.

Given the Government's commitment to the development and deployment of the necessary skills in teachers, it is difficult to understand their failure to make similar provision for school inspectors. Given the enormous number of inspectors who will be needed to carry out all those inspections every year and the openness to the trade—I use the word advisedly because of the evident desire, judging from Minister's comments, that butchers and bakers be avidly recruited to inspection teams—it is crucial that inspectors recruited have the skills required by the team if it is to be called that.

Mr. McFall

I am interested in my hon. Friend's argument and would like him to give us a greater insight into it. Paragraph 3(2)(a) of schedule 2 contains the butcher and baker clause, which states that at least one member has no personal experience in the management of any school". Given his earlier remarks, and his experience in dealing with probationary teachers who need two years' experience, how does my hon. Friend think that that butcher or baker person can have the proper experience to evaluate his own skills? I have been responsible for liaising with probationary teachers, and for guiding them through the two-year period. My experiences have led me to believe that they need the experience gained in those two years and that assistance. How can butchers and bakers get that when they are drafted into schools straight away?

Mr. O'Hara

It is indeed difficult to see how, and I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution. One of the most important things that those butchers and bakers might learn on a training course is the limit of their prerogative in assessing the effectiveness of a school. Certainly it is a conundrum. Without a course of training and some criteria for assessment of their suitability at the end of it, it is difficult to see how the requirement that my hon. Friend reminds us of could be met.

I must get away from the subject of the butcher and baker because I might be accused of dwelling unfairly on an untypical example, although I do not think so, given the clear and full statement of that provision in the Bill. I am thinking of people who might have skills in one area, but might not be able to transfer them to another.

For example, someone with skills in an academic subject—perhaps a redundant inspector recruited on to an inspection team—might apply the skills that he used in his former existence when on one of the new model inspect ion teams. He might have to make an assessment at a school for special educational needs, a specialised area where he might not be able to make such an assessment. I have come across people who have come from the outside and have come a cropper—and may even cause damage—because they do not understand the subject of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. A special skill is required to deal with that.

Mr. McFall

I know of one example and ask for my hon. Friend's comments. It concerns the pastoral field of education. Educationists who devote themselves to the pastoral care of children have a different perspective of such care than a social worker would have. I have had experience of trying to merge and manage both the social work and educational perspectives. It takes a number of years before that commonality of view is established. That quality is germane to the inspection team in terms of the perspective of the individual when assessing the worthiness of a school.

Mr. O'Hara

I attempted to make that point earlier, when I sought to intervene on my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). He was addressing the difference between efficiency in monetary terms and effectiveness in educational terms.

Cost-effectiveness may be achieved by front-loading the provision of nursery education, as that will save costs later on, especially as it is a sector in which resources should be spent. Likewise, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) has just said, a judicious allocation of resources to the pastoral sector of education provision is money well spent because such pastoral care often leads to savings when a pupil continues his educational career. Such pastoral care is a specialised area of education, and it can identify problems early.

9.30 pm

Given the facility that inspectors will have to tout around for recruitment by different registered inspectors, there must be some quality control over the system. That system should consist of a package which contains, at the very least, a scheme of certification at the end of the course training—which we applaud—and the facility for a provisional or limited right to practise. One could take that even further by including a need for people to acquire new skills if they intend to make inspections of a sector of education of which they have no experience.

The new clause and the amendments could be adapted for the purpose. The underlying point is that there should be provision for a range of skills to be available and some system whereby those skills can be standardised and certified.

Such a responsibility is too great a task to be left to the registered inspectors. In fact, it would be impractical for those inspectors to undertake that task, given the way in which the market is designed to work. That is why new clause 6 states: The Chief Inspector may determine that a person who has completed a course of training in accordance with paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 is in need of supervision, induction or probation and he shall maintain a list (the "Conditionally Approved List") of the names of such persons. Without prejudice to the power of the Chief Inspector to register a person subject to conditions under subsection 10(5)(c), the Chief Inspector may in particular impose conditions which determine the circumstances in which a person whose name is entered on the list maintained under subsection (1) may be a member of an inspection team for the purposes of Schedule 2.'. Amendment No. 10 complements the new clause, and part of it states: The Chief Inspector shall not admit to a course provided or arranged under paragraph 4(1) or 5(1) any person, not being a registered inspector, who in his opinion is not a fit or proper person for the purpose of carrying out an inspection. That responsibility is most effectively and appropriately left in the hands of the chief inspector, so that we avoid the entry into inspection teams of mythical individuals as exemplified in the joke advertisement that I have before me, which says: V. cheapo licensed plumber and HMI schools inspector. All types of schools and drains inspected. Estimates free. Guaranteed customer satisfaction. Very keen prices.

Mr. Matthew Taylor

I apologise to the hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) for being absent at the start of his comments. It was largely because I had expected a vote on the previous new clause.

The new clause and amendment tabled by the Labour party and my amendment on behalf of the Liberal Democrats are all aimed at essentially the same issue, which was debated at length in Committee and which relates to the supervision of team members. Opposition Members are worried that only the registered inspector will be directly controlled.

Ministers have accepted the argument that team members must be suitably qualified. I shall not repeat my discussion with the Minister, when it was suggested that team members' training would be overseen because the registered inspector would have to ensure team members' in-service training and the updating of their skills. I pointed out that, precisely because those teams will not be attached to a particular registered inspector and because people with particular skills may be called on infrequently by different inspectors, the necessary oversight will not Occur.

It is not hard to imagine subjects in which the situation may change rapidly. The most obvious is technology, where changes can be fundamental and relatively sudden. The Bill should provide that the chief inspector ensures that people who carry out inspections in schools under a registered inspector have the necessary skills. Amendment No. 62 proposes that in a way which I hope will meet the objections that the Government raised in Committee. It is not the same as amendments that I moved then, which sought to require, first, control or identification of team members and, secondly, the regular recertification of team members in every case.

The new version would permnit Her Majesty's chief inspectors to take action only where they considered it necessary in particular cases or classes of case, such as when a change in respect of a technology teacher or inspector had taken place and that change was considered fundamental enough to require it, or perhaps where team members should be aware of and understand important changes to the national curriculum. I hope that that introduces the necessary provisions that should have been in the Bill all along, while meeting the desire for flexibility, rather than inserting the over-prescriptive format that the Minister described in Committee.

Mr. McFall

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that without the amendment the Bill contains nothing to validate and assess individual members of the inspection team? That concern is held not merely by Opposition Members but is articulated throughout the country. I have a letter from Alderbrook school in the metropolitan borough of Solihull—a Tory authority, as far as I know. It states that the school is worried about the quality of people who will make up the inspection team under the Bill's proposals, and the basic criteria and consistency of appraisal that will apply.

The letter states: Serious problems will undoubtedly arise if the teams lack credibility with staff and parents. If communications between the inspection team and the staff are flawed from the beginning, that will cause serious problems. The governors of Alderbrook school believe that it is bizarre that one member of the inspection team should know nothing of the educational system. In order to allow for the short, perceptive, searching, professional queries that are currently made by inspectors, it is important that the Government should accept the amendment, or there is nothing to guarantee quality control.

Mr. Taylor

I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. It is the Minister's express concern that the HMI should set national standards. Without the sort of measure proposed in my amendment, it is hard to see how, in a changing world, HMI will be able to ensure that inspections are carried out to that uniform standard.

It is important to stress that, while I think that the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) and I both have strong objections to some of the Bill's principles—the way in which inspections will take place and the private contractual relationship—the amendment is not an attack on the Government's principles. Those arguments have taken place elsewhere. The amendment is designed merely to ensure the quality and standard of the inspection.

I introduced the amendment having listened to what the Minister said in his objections to earlier amendments that tackled the same issue. It responds to the Minister's concerns and I hope that he will take the opportunity and show the same flexibility in meeting the worry which, as the hon. Member for Dumbarton rightly says, comes not just from the Opposition but from many people within the Conservative party at local level and perhaps even at national level. Those people want to ensure, above all else, that the highest quality standards are maintained throughout the inspection team as well as at the level of registered inspector.

Mr. Fatchett

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) on the way in which he spoke to the amendments. He raised a number of important points. Central to the thrust of the debate on the amendments and new clauses is the issue of standards of inspection.

Anyone who has followed the debates with interest will recognise that there is a fundamental division between us. The Government essentially believe in a free market in education and that sensitive and important issues such as inspection can be left to the free market.

Mr. Fallon

That is nonsense.

Mr. Fatchett

The Minister rightly says that that is nonsense—I agree that it is nonsense to hold those views. However, they are underpinned by a philosophy that the flow of information to parents will ensure that, in a free market, free choices are made and parents will be able to guarantee quality of schools on that basis.

That philosophy totally ignores two important factors. First, it assumes that each and every parent is equal in the education market, and has the ability and resources to make an equal choice about which is the best school in the locality. As the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) said on Second Reading, that is far from the case. If a market is operated, it will be inapplicable in rural areas. Those who live in rural areas—this applies to the majority of parents everywhere—want a good neighbourhood school. They are not looking for market provision, which reflects the notion that it is possible to pick and choose. Parents in rural areas want to send their children to a good neighbourhood school. In that sense, the Government are abdicating their responsibilities.

9.45 pm

The Government have refused to recognise that the system has to be managed and that they have a responsibility. The Bill represents the Government washing their hands in respect of standards in the education system. Last week saw the publication of an important report on primary education, which referred to signs of declining standards over the past four years in literacy and numeracy. During those four years there has been substantial change as a result of the Education Reform Act 1988. The committee of inquiry made it clear that the pace and burden of change had been two aspects among others that may have led to a decline in education standards.

It is interesting that during the same period the only body that could achieve the "standardised" approach that my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South talked about—the Assessment of Performance Unit—was disbanded by the Government. We are not able to make comparisons of reading performance and numeracy performance over the years. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) has rightly said on many occasions that it is important that we should be able over a period to make an assessment of standards in the education system. The hon. Gentleman asked earlier for a broader perspective. Indeed, he talked about an international perspective so that we could compare British children with children in France, Germany, Holland and other European Community countries.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

As my hon. Friend knows, my constituency is divided into urban and rural areas. Many small schools in the rural areas have been closed irrespective of their standards. In some instances, the children who attended these schools had a better educational start than some children in urban areas as a result of better teacher-pupil ratios. On the basis of standards, many small schools in rural areas would have remained open. They have been closed because of the Government's financial problems in the education system.

Mr. Fatchett

My hon. Friend has made an interesting and important intervention.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

I am happy to say that, when Lancashire county council tried to close five rural schools in my constituency—they were all of a very high standard—my hon. Friend the Minister did not permit the closures to take place and we still have the schools. The same thing happened in the north end of my constituency. Closure was not permitted, we still have the schools and they have excellent standards.

Mr. Fatchett

I shall pay the hon. Lady a compliment. If I were the chair of the education committee, I would not even dream of closing a school in her constituency. The risk involved would be too great.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay) made an important intervention on the quality of small rural schools. Sometimes their standards can be affected in terms of ability to deliver the national curriculum. I do not know whether this goes wide of the new clause, but it has been brought to my attention that the Under-Secretary of State—we have heard him defend the Roman Catholic community in Darlington—is keen to close small rural schools. That might well bring him into conflict with the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman). It would be a case of the irremovable object meeting the untestable force. It would be an interesting phenomenon.

I was saying that there is a need for some overall assessment and some management of the education system. When the Government disbanded the assessment of performance unit they left their responsibility behind. They said that they had no real reason to maintain assessment figures and no reason to maintain any system of measurement. That is an abdication of their responsibilities. Parents have a right to know what is happening and whether, under this Government's stewardship, standards of education have improved during the last 12 or 13 years.

Mr. Flannery

Does my hon. Friend agree that education standards cannot possibly be maintained without sufficient money and expertise? Reference has already been made to paragraph 3(2) of schedule 2 which says: It shall be the duty of the registered inspector to ensure that— (a) at least one member of the inspection team is a person— (i) without personal experience in the management of any school or the provision of education in any school (otherwise than as a governor or in any other voluntary capacity)". It is bizarre to believe that somebody who knows nothing at all—it almost says that here—about something can become an inspector. I wonder what lawyers and doctors would think about that. Educationists are disgusted about it and wonder who, in God's name, thought it up.

Mr. Fatchett

My hon. Friend makes two important points. He rightly pointed out that in the context of declining and tight resources it is difficult to achieve high education standards. During the last few years, great pressure has been put on many local authority budgets. My hon. Friend knows, from his experience in Sheffield, that this Government's education policies have caused devastating damage.

My hon. Friend was also right to point out, as we must continue to point out, that if standards have declined, they have declined under the stewardship not of a Labour Government, but of a Conservative Government who have invested little in the state education system.

My hon. Friend also raised another important point: in what other context would it be a statutory condition that a person without any suitable qualifications should apply for a particular job? My hon. Friend said that this seemed a little bizarre to him. He referred to what would happen if lawyers and doctors were able to set themselves up as part of a team without any relevant expertise. One might then see advertisements containing words such as "Doctors wanted for a general practice; expertise not required."

Through you, Mr. Speaker, I had intended to ask my hon. Friends to think of any other circumstances in which a person would go to an interview for a job and make it clear that he had no expertise. I can provide an example. Throughout the last 12 years, we have had Ministers with responsibility for education who have no expertise in education. That is a very bad model to work from, particularly for schools.

Mr. McFall

According to paragraph 3(2) of schedule 2, only the registered inspector will have to be validated by the Department of Education and Science. The registered inspector's team will include somebody with the minimum training as outlined in schedule 2 and no or very little expertise in education, but within the inspector's team he will be regarded as an expert. That person's comments will be included in the report and will then be put into the public domain. That could mislead parents, even though the Government say that they do not want that to happen.

Mr. Flannery

More than one person could have no training and expertise in education.

Mr. Fatchett

I intend to deal with that matter, but the framework for my speech is tight and detailed. My hon. Friend would be disappointed if I dealt with these points out of sequence.

Mr. George Howarth

My hon. Friend is looking for examples. One example might be the Prime Minister, who is not sure whether he is qualified to do anything. He cannot remember what qualifications he has. Perhaps my hon. Friend would agree that it sounds very much like an Arthur Daley system of certification that we are contemplating.

Mr. Fatchett

My hon. Friend makes a distinctive and separate point.

Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)

Hon. Members have referred to schedule 2(3), which says: at least one member of the inspection team is a person— (i) without personal experience". There is nothing to say that several members of the team may not be people without personal experience. When someone is setting out in a new business, one problem is pricing a job. That might lead to skimping and to the employment of a number of people without personal experience because they would come cheaper. That is one danger inherent in the provision.

Mr. Fatchett

My hon. Friend was not in the House for the earlier debate on new clause 2, when I talked about a trial and error inspection team. My hon. Friend's notion is close to a trial and error inspection team. Presumably the Government intend to get the price right and will not worry about the quality. In a sense, those remarks were a preamble to the more detailed points which I want to make.

My hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South made strong detailed arguments about four or five central points, including the cost of training inspectors. He wondered how that cost will be met. If you have read schedule 2, Mr. Speaker, as I am sure you have, because you like to keep yourself fully informed of the affairs of the House, you will have seen that in the various paragraphs there is no reference to cost. Particularly in paragraph 4(3) there is no reference to how the system is to be paid for. There is a reference to recovering the whole, or part, of the cost but it does not give the source of the recovery or the nature of the courses which will be provided.

My hon. Friend made the important point that the training of registered inspectors may be expensive. Will that cost be met by the team of registered inspectors, by the new business to which my hon. Friend referred or out of the DES programme? Will the full cost, or only part of it, be met? We need answers to those important questions, because they may affect the quality of the training.

Given that the system is designed to be cheap, coming from a cheap Government, the training that is deemed to be attractive may be cheap for the inspection firm. In setting up the firm, one may look at the possibility of finding cheap initial training. If so, the quality of the training may not be substantial.

We need to know more about the cost of training. We also need to know more about the quality guidelines for the initial training. We have heard that the training of the registered inspector, and the team may not be subject to quality guidelines. The inspection may satisfy the chief inspector but there is no indication about the quality of the inspection and the guidelines to be met.

My hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South has much experience of teacher training. He has great experience with the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, which has set out important and specific guidelines on what is necessary for initial teacher training. Such a model could be used effectively to satisfy the provisions of the Bill. That is essentially what we recommend in the new clause and amendments. We need guidelines to ensure that standards and quality are maintained.

My hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South also talked effectively about the breadth of the inspection team. You may know, Mr. Speaker, that my hon. Friend has a genuine interest and ability in the classics, and that he has a fluency in Greek which is rarely shown in the House.

Mr. O'Hara

My hon. Friend gives me the opportunity to satisfy the Minister, who challenged me in Committee— It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned. Debate to be resumed tomorrow.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I may be able to assist the House. We have a lengthy amendment paper on which we have not made much progress. Since 7 pm, no Conservative Back Bencher has taken part in the debates, although there have, of course, been the usual ministerial replies to debates. It has become clear that the House is unlikely to be able to complete the business at a reasonable hour tonight.

I have been discussing through the usual channels and with my opposite numbers our progress so far, and I have been seeking ways in which, if the Opposition take up less time in debate, we may be able to shorten matters. It is a long time since I have had the experience of feeling myself trying to force an agreement on an opposite number who seems not to be disposed to reach an agreement as the evening goes on. For that reason, the Government decided not to move the business of the House motion at 10 pm. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House proposes to make a business statement on how we shall now proceed.

Mr. Straw

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have just witnessed a Government who have no stomach for a fight. The Bill, which was introduced by the Secretary of State to privatise the schools inspectorate and to dismember HM inspectorate, has no support outside the House and precious little support inside the House. The Secretary of State was right to say that no Conservative Member spoke in support of the Bill after 7 pm. However, there was not even a Conservative Back Bencher sitting in silent support of the measure after 7 pm.

Of a total of 75 amendments and new clauses selected for debate today, 31 have been tabled by the Government. It is the Government's unwillingness to debate the measure through tonight which has forced them to withdraw the business at this stage.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is obvious that the Government, who usually use the protection of a guillotine but who have not done so on this occasion, are disinclined to debate the amendments and new clauses tabled by the Opposition. They are frightened that we shall expose their policies for what they are. The privatisation of the inspectors has gone wrong and people outside the House do not agree with the Government. The Government are frightened of being exposed and that is why they did not move the business motion at 10 pm.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. These are not really points of order for me.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you consider the fact that a Select Committee is considering the hours that the House sits? The Government are pre-empting the Select Committee with their enthusiasm for not moving the business of the House motion when there has not been reasonable discussion on Report.

You will be aware, Mr. Speaker, from your long service in the House that it was fairly common for Report stages to take a considerable time. I understand the lack of morale among Government supporters and their reluctance to stay after 10 o'clock to debate these matters, but when we have serious issues concerning the future of our schoolchildren to consider, it is surely reasonable to expect the Government to be prepared to provide adequate time and not to pre-empt decisions about the hours of the House with precipitate guillotine motions.

Mr. Speaker

These are not matters for me.